WHAT WILL HE DO WITH IT? 639
Phenomenon had vanished and gone, as I was told, to America, where I now wish I was myself, acting Rolla at New York or elsewhere, to a free and enlightened people — then. Sir, the Mania grew on me still stronger and stronger. There was a pride in it, Sir — a British pride. I said to this faithful Hag — ' What — shall I not have the York because that false child has deserted me ? Am I not able to realize a Briton's ambition without being be- holden to a Phenomenon in spangles 'i ' Sir, I took the York ! Alone I did it ! "
" And," said Losely, feeling a sort of dreary satisfaction in listening to the grotesque sorrows of one whose condition seemed to him yet more abject than his own — " And the York Theater alone perhaps did you."
" Right, Sir," said Rugge — half dolorously, half exultingly. " It was a Grand Concern, and might have done for the Bank of England ! It swallowed up my capital with as much ease, Sir, as I could swallow an oyster if there were one upon that plate. I saw how it would be the very first week — when I came out myself, strong — Kean's own part in the Iron Chest — Morti- mer, Sir ; there warn't three pounds ten in the house — packed audience. Sir, and they had the face to hiss me. ' Hag,' said I, to Mrs. Gormerick, ' this Theater is a howling wilderness.' But there is a fascination in a Grand Concern, of which one is the head — one goes on and on. All the savings of a life devoted to the British Drama and the productions of native genius went in what I may call — a jiffy ! But it was no common object. Sir, to your sight displayed — but what with pleasure, Sir (I appeal to the Hag !), Heaven itself surveyed ! — a great man struggling. Sir, with the storms of fate, and greatly falling, Sir, with — a sen- sation ! York remembers it to this day ! I took the benefit of the Act — it was the only benefit I did take — and nobody was the better for it. But I don't repine — I realized my dream : that is more than all can say. Since then I have had many downs, and no ups. I have been a messenger, Sir — a prompter, Sir, in my own Exhibition — to which my own clown, having mar- ried into the tragic line, succeeded. Sir, as prof)rietor ; buying of me, when I took the York, the theater, scenery, and properties. Sir, with the right still to call himself, ' Rugge's Grand Theatri- cal Exhibition,' for an old song, Sir — Melancholy. Tyrannized over. Sir — snubbed and bullied by a creature dressed in a little brief authority ; and my own tights — scarlet — as worn by me in my own applauded part of ' The Remorseless Baron.' At last, with this one faithful creature, I resolved to burst the chains — to be free as air — in short, a chartered libertine, Sir. We have