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6 In the close of the evening we entered the principal inn at Lyme. The dust and heat had not improved our original appearance; on the contrary, from the side glances of the waiter, when we ordered supper and beds, I suppose we looked rather queer; however he made a supercilious kind of bow, and said, he would send his master.
“ Not conscious that any suspicion could attach to eight dusty pedestrians, we waited the master's arrival without apprehension, though a good deal mortified at the looks of the waiter.
“ The landlord attended our summons, and, in a very civil key, begged to know what we would like for supper, at the same time saying, ' his house was so full, he could only accommodate us with one bed;' this we appropriated to Ann and Miss Stanley, and made shift ourselves with sophas and chairs.
« After breakfast I informed the landlord of our business in Lyme, and requested him to recommend some lodgings; this he did, and sent a boy with us to several; but alas! they were upon a scale of expense too enlarged for our finances. Dismissing the boy, we sauntered about the place, and in a little back street saw, in characters almost unintelligible, the following words, pasted on a window, 'this ous to lette reddy furniched.'
“ The very thing we want,” said Dowton, “a house ready furnished; here we shall find an establishment at once.'
« The idea of a house! a furnished house! in our circumstances, was more than my power of face could hear with gravity. "A house!' said I, a cottage! a hovel! the first floor of a barn! that would be more suitable to the narrow scale of our circumstances?'
“ An old woman, who was watching our movements from the house opposite, now came forward. Dowton inquired the rent, and what number of beds? To our surprise and joy, she answered, there were three beds, and the rent was twelve shillings per week. What began in joke, now appeared a matter of the first importance.
.« 'Three beds would, upon a pinch, accommodate us, and twelve shillings per week, divided by five, would be more moderate than any thing we could possibly expect. We entered the premises, and closed the bargain instantly. To increase our satisfaction, there was a small quantity of coals, for which we were to pay four shillings at the end of the first week. A fire was lighted, and we commenced housekeeping with my three shillings. The inmates
were Mrs. R. and myself, Miss Stanley, and Messrs. Warren and Dowton; Jonathan Davis procured a room in the neighbourhood. It was two hours past meridian, and hunger became oppressive. The exercise of the morning, joined to the sea breeze and change of air, were at woful enmity with my purse; its contents were swallowed up in providing a single meal, and that of the plainest kind; however we ate our bread and cheese in thankfulness, and washed it down with a draught of excellent porter.
“ Leaving my companions, I strolled about in search of a pawnbroker; but so useful a personage was unknown in Lyme. The three balls were never even heard of. Wandering through some of the poor narrow streets, I espied the cart containing the stage property, on the top were seated Mesdames Bridges and Hall, who, from a too frequent application to their favourite stomachic, seemed in evident danger of quitting their elevation. Not very anxious to be claimed as an acquaintance, I made a precipitate retreat, and took my course towards the sea, in a fit of melancholy despondency, meditating upon the past, and looking forward with little hope of the future. In all my distress, I had never hitherto wanted the common necessaries of life; but now that idea was attended with a degree of horror so painful, that I sat on the beach listening to the rolling surge, and comparing my once affluent and respectable state, to my present pennyless, friendless, and degraded one. The beach was at this moment deserted, for the inhabitants were poor, and had few leisure intervals; the local visiters were in the height of gaiety and happiness seated round the dinner table; and I, who used to be first of the cheerful throng, was now_not without a house, but without the means to support that house;' without the means of providing even another meal; and the theatre would not be ready to open for several days.
« Walking with my arms folded, and my eyes fixed upon the • sand, I inadvertently ran against somebody, and looking up, dis
covered a servant in livery, whom I recognised as a domestic of Sir
from the neighbourhood of Worcester, with whom I had been in habits of intimacy, some months before, as far as theatrical chit-chat in the box lobby and other occasional attentions. Humbled and ashamed, I was going to avoid him; but taking off his hat, he inquired, in a soft tone of voice, after my health, and added his master, who was just arrived, would, he was sure, be glad to see me.
“ Thomas,' said I, times are strangely altered with me since I had the honour of your master's notice.'
“ What, sir-money is not so plentiful; these small towns are not so good as Worcester for plays.'
“ I then informed him, that so far from money being plentiful, I was literally without a shilling, and would be obliged if he could lend me one. The poor fellow shook his head, put his hand into his pocket, and, with the tear of sensibility in his eye, produced three pence halfpenny, as the whole of his worldly stock. This I would have refused, as perhaps inconvenient for him to part with, and would be of no essential service to me; but he pressed it upon me, and requested me in tones of sympathy to keep up my spirits, times would mend; then inquiring my residence with a respectful bow, left me.
My sea side reflections and adventure I kept to myself; Ann was, like the rest, a foe to melancholy, and as I had nothing, either pleasant or profitable, to impart, the communication would answer no desirable purpose.
6 Six o'clock, our usual tea hour, arrived; but, for the first time since I can remember, it passed by us unnoticed. The cheerful rattle of the cups and saucers, the social bubble of the tea kettle, the enlivening conversation that pleasant beverage never fails to produce, this day greeted not our ears.
“ The hours passed heavily with me till nine o'clock; though my companions had their occasional repartees, but no scheme occurred for • raising the wind, as Jonathan Davis called it, and a gnawing pain at the stomach gave notice, that the supper hour could not be passed over with that philosophy which marked the hour of six, • I have not tasted food for three long days,' said Dowlon, in a tragedy accent.
"Let us have no lying; it ecomes none but tradesmen,' replied Jonathan Davis.
* Is it for this I left my father's shop?' rejoined WARREN, Oh, that he were here to write me down an ass!'
• To go, or not to go? that is the question! Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the pressing calls of hunger, or by an effort end them?' This was said by Miss Stanley, but no one gave a reply. After a few minutes' silence, she suddenly rose, put on her bonnet and cloak, which were of the most fashionable kind, and sallied forth. We looked at each other. Dowton, whose partiality
was apparent, became restless and wondered where she was gone. Ann wished one of the party had attended her; it was late, and a young woman, in a strange place, was subject to insult. I felt uneasy; she had talked of an effort to end our present wants! What effort a beautiful young creature could make, I trembled to think of. Every one gave his opinion, which ended in a determination to go in search of her. We were preparing to put our resolution in practice, when in Walked the object of our inquietude. To our questions she gave no direct answer, but taking off her bonnet, sat down as before. We were relapsing into melancholy, when a thundering knock at the door awakened our attention. What could it be? Jonathan Davis answered the appeal, and in rushed two waiters-one laden with a tray containing a variety of eatables, the other carrying six bottles of porter, and two of wine: the crazy oak dining table was drawn from the wall; the cloth was laid; the dainties spread. The waiters bowed, 6 any further commands 10-night, maʼm? No; tell your master I shall call upon him.' All this was the work of a moment; we gazed with amazement; no one uttered a word; and even after the waiters had retired, we could scarcely persuade ourselves that such things were. The comfort of a good supper we were not prepared to expect, and, as a stranger, we made it welcome.
“ I dare say, there never were six people more truly happy; we enjoyed the present moment without anticipating the future. Take no thought for to-morrow, for sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,' seems to be a maxim which predominantly governs the sons and daughters of Thespis. We were more anxious to hear by what means our caterer had provided the present entertainment than troubled for the future.
“ After this truly comfortable meal was over, she said. As one of the weaker vessels, I found my fortitude sinking under the painful necessity of going to bed supperless, especially as our meals, this day, have not been of a nature to overload the digestive faculties. A good supper is to me at all times a luxury; but this evening it was absolutely a necessary. With this impression strong upon my mind, I went to a strange hotel, marked in our morning's progress, and desired the waiter to send a handsome cold supper, for half a dozen, to my lodgings, with the necessary appendages of porter and wine. You see how it answered; there is plenty left for dinner toi morrow, and for breakfast we must shift as well as we can.'
“ Jonathan Davis promised to exercise his wits to procure the morning's repast, and we separated in perfect amity amongst ourselves, and in charity with all mankind.
“We had scarcely assembled in the morning when Jonathan Davis rushed into the house, crying out, “ Tea and muffins for six directly! towards which here are two hog, my masters, and all acquired by my knowledge in surgery. I bow with reverence to the first inventors of toothdrawing; for by extracting one, I shall be the means of giving employment to many—so to breakfast, my boys, with what appetites you may!"
What a picture! So many persons endowed with genius, liberal spirits, and with information and taste far above the level of the society they lived in, reduced to such a precarious state of existence. But let us leave Ryley's narrative, and resume our own.
Sir John de la Pole happening to come to Lyme, visited the theatre; and, after seeing some of the performances, recommended it to Davis to pay a visit to Colliton, where he lived, and made an offer to the company of a large barn on his estate to perform in. Colliton lay close to Beer and Seaton, both of which being eminent places for contraband trade, were at all times full, not only with smugglers and seamen, but with revenue officers and dragoons stationed there to aid them in executing their duty; circumstances which sir John observed would in all probability insure, for some time at least, full audiences to the performances of the company. Davis and his people gladly accepted the proposal, and carrying with them so much of the scenery and wardrobe as sufficed to make up a hasty stage for a few performances, took possession of sir John's barn, and commenced a regular series of exhibitions of twice a week. This answered much better than Lyme: the company did pretty well for a time:—that is to say, they were able to live and to pay charges as they went along. They had however the advantage, and it was a very considerable one, of paying no rent for their theatre. Had Biggs been manager, instead of poor Davis, it would have fared differently with the actors; for it was his custom to charge the company a very heavy rent for the very public rooms, with the use of which he was accommodạted by the gratuitous benevolence of the magistrates and other gentry. Even at that early stage of his life, Warren was actuated by a spirit of independence, which dictated strict frugality and forbade every kind of unnecessary indulgence attended with expense, and which made him regardless