Page:What will he do with it.djvu/185

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175
WHAT WILL HE DO WITH IT?

He, too, has a child whom he would save from famine. He, too, has nothing left to sell or to pawn for bread—except—oh, not this gilded badge, see, this is only foil and card-board—except, I say, the thing itself, of which you respect even so poor a symbol—nothing left to sell or to pawn but Honour! For these I have pleaded this night as a showman; for these, less haughty than the Frenchman, I stretch my hands towards you without shame; for these I am a beggar."

He was silent. The dog quietly took up the hat and approached the Mayor again. The Mayor extracted the half-crown he had previously deposited, and dropped into the hat two golden sovereigns. Who does not guess the rest? All crowded forward—youth and age, man and woman. And most ardent of all were those whose life stands most close to vicissitude, most exposed to beggary, most sorely tried in the alternative between bread and honour. Not an operative there but spared his mite.




CHAPTER XIII.

Omne ignotum pro Magnifico—Rumor, knowing nothing of his antecedents, exalts Gentleman Waife into Don Magnifico.

The Comedian and his two coadjutors were followed to the Saracen's Head inn by a large crowd, but at respectful distance. Though I know few things less pleasing than to have been decoyed and entrapped into an unexpected demand upon one's purse—when one only counted, too, upon an agreeable evening—and hold, therefore, in just abhorrence the circulating plate which sometimes follows a public oration, homily, or other eloquent appeal to British liberality; yet, I will venture to say, there was not a creature whom the Comedian had surprised into impulsive beneficence who regretted his action, grudged its cost, or thought he had paid too dear for his entertainment. All had gone through a series of such pleasurable emotions that all had, as it were, wished a vent for their gratitude; and when the vent was found, it became an additional pleasure. But, strange to say, no one could satisfactorily explain to himself these two questions—for what, and to whom had he given his money? It was not a general conjecture that the exhibitor wanted the money for his own uses. No; despite the evidence in favor of that idea, a person so respectable, so dignified, addressing them, too, with that noble assurance to which a man