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Cashel Byron's Profession

Chapter 10
Mrs. Byron, under her stage name of Adelaide Gisborne, was now, for the second time
in her career, much talked of in London, where she had boon for many years almost
forgotten. The metropolitan managers of her own generation had found that her success
in new parts was very uncertain; that she was more capricious than the most petted
favorites of the public; and that her invariable reply to a business proposal was that she
detested the stage, and was resolved never to set foot upon it again. So they had
managed to do without her for so long that the younger London playgoers knew her by
reputation only as an old-fashioned actress who wandered through the provinces
palming herself off on the ignorant inhabitants as a great artist, and boring them with
performances of the plays of Shakespeare. It suited Mrs. Byron well to travel with the
nucleus of a dramatic company from town to town, staying a fortnight in each, and
repeating half a dozen characters in which she was very effective, and which she knew
so well that she never thought about them except when, as indeed often happened, she
had nothing else to think about. Most of the provincial populations received her annual
visits with enthusiasm. Among them she found herself more excitingly applauded before
the curtain, her authority more despotic behind it, her expenses smaller, and her gains
greater than in London, for which she accordingly cared as little as London cared for
her. As she grew older she made more money and spent less. When she complained to
Cashel of the cost of his education, she was rich. Since he had relieved her of that cost
she had visited America, Egypt, India, and the colonies, and had grown constantly
richer. From this great tour she had returned to England on the day when Cashel added
the laurels of the Flying Dutchman to his trophies; and the next Sunday's paper had its
sporting column full of the prowess of Cashel Byron, and its theatrical column full of the
genius of Adelaide Gisborne. But she never read sporting columns, nor he theatrical
The managers who had formerly avoided Mrs. Byron were by this time dead, bankrupt,
or engaged in less hazardous pursuits. One of their successors had lately restored
Shakespeare to popularity as signally as Cashel had restored the prize ring. He was
anxious to produce the play of "King John," being desirous of appearing as
Faulconbridge, a part for which he was physically unfitted. Though he had no suspicion
of his unfitness, he was awake to the fact that the favorite London actresses, though
admirable in modern comedy, were not mistresses of what he called, after Sir Walter
Scott, the "big bow wow" style required for the part of Lady Constance in Shakespeare's
history. He knew that he could find in the provinces many veteran players who knew
every gesture and inflection of voice associated by tradition with the part; but he was
afraid that they would remind Londoners of Richardson's show, and get Faulconbridge
laughed at. Then he thought of Adelaide Gisborne. For some hours after the idea came
to him he was gnawed at by the fear that her performance would throw his into the
shade. But his confidence in his own popularity helped his love of good acting to prevail;
and he made the newly returned actress a tempting offer, instigating some journalist
friends of his at the same time to lament over the decay of the grand school of acting,
and to invent or republish anecdotes of Mrs. Siddons.