When Daniel became enraged, a single fleck of spittle formed on one of his lips, and transferred itself back and forth back and forth from one lévre to the other. Frank watched this process take place now. It soothed him as Thornton bleated himself back into placidity. He was off on one of his about Jimmy’s playing to the top the night before. Lowered the tone, he had said. Undermined the dignity of the office, he had said. Such rot. If it wasn’t for Jimmy’s clowning they wouldn’t have wrangled the audience’s attention worth a damn the entire tour.
-As we were?
Jimmy, sundered to meekness, had retreated the stage. He sat now, beside Frank and leaned in.
-Wasn’t I just saying to myself there, and your man Daniel saying this place isn’t a circus for clowns, and he having a fierce resemblance to a rhino, with the horn on him? Hah?
He wheezed, clapping Frank on the shoulder. Frank chortled, easily, in response.
Finding this insufficient, Jimmy turned instead to Molly, on his right.
-Wasn’t I just saying to Frank there, and yer man Daniel saying this place is to be a circus for clowns, and he having a fierce resemblance to a rhino, with the horn on him? Hah?
Molly had abandoned her expression of polite attentiveness at some point in the course of Jimmy’s sentence. She blinked slowly and then excused herself.
-I believe they’re sweethearts now, Jimmy.
Jimmy was not someone liked, but indulged.
Molly, adjusting herself before the mirror.
Daniel, approaching from behind, slid his hands easily onto her hips, encountering there her ample flesh and encountering there on its surface, no resistance.
She did not turn, but allowed him to continue planting them on her nape.
-I’ll see you there later on.
-My best girl!
–Good old wit of the Dublin small boy ever ready to your tongue!, said the newspaper.
The Freeman’s Journal found little in the play itself to praise and had devoted its document of the performance to the contribution of an audience member leaning over the balcony.
-‘More power to your elbow!’ added another Queen’s Theatregoer to the general merriment of all, the pit, the galleries and even some of the actors onstage.
Frank was sure it was the same man every night, sitting there, his throat itching for the first act to end, knowing his cue better than some of those paid to do so knew theirs, waiting to shout to Major Sirr that Fitzgerald and his bride-to-be had escaped to stage left and he’d better get after them if he hoped to place them under arrest.
Frank thought often of skipping the scene, depriving the man of his opportunity. Thinking of him there, sitting confused in the darkness, gave him pleasure. Frank thought often, in fact, of changing the play in such ways. He had noticed that in the course of a lengthy tour, somewhere around the 9th or 10th performance, things would begin to ossify and the play became stubborn and resistant to change. A shift from a town hall to a proper theatre and back again could upset the younger plays and then upset things in general, resisting this underhanded force of consolidation, but it was often at that point that Frank himself had begun to lose interest. The Queen’s was a general occasion of upset. Audience contributions were to be expected, as was a sore throat.
–Pfui! Like a mine in here.
Frank longed to be the occasion of such upsets himself, to cause them and to once again see the paly acted, no longer enacted, to break its mould in some way, to yield its ripe latency.
It would’ve been no use, these types always fastened onto something.
He could hear Molly’s consolation already. Sceptical of the column she had not read, yet pre-emptively discredited.
-Sure what’s that? Some poet? Couldn’t stage a town meeting, there’ll be no fearing him.
-Sure they see ten Fitzgeralds and Major Sirrs a year, they’ve to keep themselves amused somehow.
He read the initial. G.C.
Much of the cast had either not arrived or had visibly sore heads. He jeered them lightly, and checked the progress of the girl readying the set.
-Have we the country scene ready yet?
-Nearly sir, nearly. It’ll be ready for tonight.
He regarded the canvas. It would not. The castle was tiny and the rhododendrons (were they rhododendrons?) were too sparsely dotted across a distant hillside. She would later decide that they were too difficult to dot individually and would simply do the whole hillside in violet.
Molly did not console him, there had been no need.
-We were up till the wee hours in Hardwicke Street, the landlady was disgusted that we got into the booze. Very proper. But wait till I tell you, we were up and Jimmy blind drunk, starts putting about his one about Daniel with the look of the rhino and the horn, only he was blind drunk and Daniel not hearing the end of it all night, so he makes to be going up to bed but he turns back around on the landing.
-I have, but one piece of business to which I must now attend.
Molly laughed in starts, stuttering phonograph.
-So he punches him one into the jaw! And there’s Jimmy, crying into my lap-
She adopted a most convincing likeness of the man.
-‘Ah jay, jay, my face is ruined altogether, I’ll be off the tour tomorrow, I’ll be off it now!’ And wasn’t I saying to him, ‘Ah mavourneen Jimmy, not to worry, sure you can always do a show as a minstrel, with the shoe polish on you no-one’ll mind your black eye!’
Frank was glad he had lodged elsewhere. Not that his involvement in the scuffle would have been required, but he had avoided having to listen to Jimmy tell the Joe Miller again. It had never been a good joke.
-It is Major Sirr’s men! I hear them approach! O! O! My love he is here, he has come for you!
-I must run, my fate is to be shared with that of my country, not to be wasted in a lonely prison cell!
-But my love, where will I go? I cannot throw myself upon his mercies knowing myself to be pledged to another?
Frank fiddled with the buttons on his uniform, waiting for the couple to escape, then walked onto the stage, to loud hisses from the audience both in the pit and the balconies.