Harriett Jay had appeared onstage with Harry Jackson in A Sailor and His Lass at Drury Lane in 1883. The revival of Lady Clare, which Harriett Jay refers to, opened at the Pavilion Theatre on 24th August 1885. According to the inquest, Harry Jackson had been appearing at the same theatre on the evening before his death.
The Theatre (Part 1: August 1, 1890, p. 68-72. Part 2: September 1, 1890, p. 108-113).
BY HARRIETT JAY.
Author of “The Queen of Connaught,” &c., &c.
TWO minutes later and I should have missed the train. Indeed, as it was, it would most certainly have steamed off without me if I had not been particularly nimble upon my feet, for even as I was taking my ticket I heard the guard blowing his whistle; I rushed out on to the platform, clinging on to the man who had possession of my luggage, and imagining in some vague sort of way that my appearance would cause the train to wait. Whether or not it had that effect I do not know; I was only conscious of being seized and hurried along the platform, of being thrust into a carriage, and of having my luggage thrust in after me, of hearing the door shut with a bang, and of listening again to the shrill whistle of the guard as the train began to glide slowly out of the station.
For a minute or so I sat perfectly still upon the seat on which I had fallen, utterly unable to speak or look or move; the window near which I sat was open, a refreshing breeze blew upon my face, and by degrees it revived me. The loud thumping of my heart ceased, the spinning and whirling which had been going on in my head passed away, and I looked around me to ascertain if I was alone.
I was not alone. My sole companion, a gentleman, sat in a remote corner of the carriage, his legs stretched out and crossed, his head and face completely hidden by a newspaper, in which he was apparently so engrossed as to be quite unaware of my existence. My gaze rested upon him for a moment only, then it wandered to my luggage, which had been thrust so unceremoniously into the carriage after me, as the train had steamed away. There it was, scattered about everywhere, on the seats, and on the floor; rugs and umbrellas, travelling bags, and even a moderately-sized portmanteau, which, in the ordinary course of things, would have been placed in the luggage van, but which, in answer to my cry, the dazed porter had shot into the compartment with the rest. It was certainly a goodly array, and it seemed to be incommoding my fellow passenger, who now shrank into a corner and put his feet on the opposite seat in order to avoid treading on it, so I commenced at once to move some of it out of his way. This I did very quietly in order to avoid disturbing him, but my caution was quite unnecessary, for during the whole of the time that I was so occupied, he never once moved, nor did he show his face. When I had finished I settled myself in a corner as remote from him as possible, and took from my bag a novel, which I began to read. I was to descend at the next station, but as an hour must elapse before that next station could be reached, I arranged myself comfortably. I wrapped a great skin rug about my feet, and, resting my head comfortably on the cushions of the carriage, prepared to enjoy my book.
I had been reading for some little time when suddenly something compelled me to look up, and I turned my eyes to the place occupied by my companion. He had dropped his paper, and was now steadfastly regarding me. He was a middle-aged man, and tolerably handsome. He was tall, square-shouldered, broad-chested, with powerful arms and legs; his eyes were dark, his skin an olive brown, and his hair iron grey.
We regarded each other for a minute or so in silence, then, seeing that he made no attempt to speak, I looked at my portmanteau, which was lying on its side quite near to his feet, and remarked that I hoped it did not incommode him.
“Not in the least,” he replied, never once taking his eyes from my face.
His steady and fixed gaze abashed me. I moved uneasily on my seat, turned half round, and instead of returning to the perusal of my book, I looked out of the carriage window, letting my eyes wander carelessly over the fields, hedges, and ditches, which seemed to be shooting rapidly past, but all the time I felt that the eyes of my companion were fixed upon me.
At last they forced me to turn round and look at him again. This time it was he who spoke.
“You nearly missed the train,” he said. I assented, and was turning again towards the window, when he continued:
“Tell me, how did it happen?”
“How did what happen?” I asked, facing him again.
“How did this happen?” he said. “Why didn’t you start in time?”
“I did start in time,” I replied, “but our cab collided with a van and was disabled; we were compelled to get another. All this took up some time, and nearly caused us to miss the train.”
“Us?” queried my mysterious companion. “You are alone!”
“I hope not,” I replied. “My maid was with me on the platform, and I trust she is in the train somewhere; but really it was such a scramble to get in that I should not be the least surprised if——”
I stopped very suddenly, for my companion had evidently had enough of my explanation, and had returned, without the slightest ceremony, to the study of his paper. “An ill-bred boor,” I remarked inwardly. “I will not open my lips to him again.”
For some time there was silence. I read until my eyes ached, then I looked at the landscape, then I rested my head on the cushions and closed my eyes. I was fast falling into a slight dose when I was rudely awakened.
The train, the speed of which had been momentarily increasing, was going along at express pace, and the carriage in which I sat rocked like a ship at sea. My companion, who had deserted his corner, was busily employed in examining my luggage, in scrutinizing my portmanteau, and feeling the weight of my various bags, a proceeding which astonished me not a little. Utterly at a loss what to say, I sat and silently watched his movements.
Presently he turned to me.
“Do you notice how the carriage is rocking?” he said, raising his voice so as to make himself heard, and holding on to the rack in order to prevent himself from being unceremoniously shot into my lap.
I replied that I did notice it, but that it was easily accounted for, as we were travelling at a great speed.
“It’s not that at all,” he replied. “It’s the impedimenta.”
“Yes, your luggage!” he replied in a still shriller tone. “There is too much of it; the carriage is over-weighted, and will very likely run off the line!”
I looked at my companion more carefully now, to discover, if possible, whether he was given to practical joking. The expression of his face was perfectly serious, but I observed now for the first time that there was an odd look in his eyes. What was it? I had never seen a look like it in any eyes before. I was still looking at him, still wondering in what spirit I should reply to his curious remark, when he spoke again.
“The luggage is much too heavy,” he said in an injured tone. “It will cause an accident.”
This was going a little too far.
“Excuse me, sir,” I said stiffly, “but I think you are talking nonsense.”
With this I turned away again as if to close the conversation, but my companion was not to be so easily put down. Finding that talking was of no avail, he resorted to action. He let down the window nearest to him, lifted my dressing bag from the rack, and deliberately threw it out on to the line.
This proceeding so astonished me that for a moment I could neither move nor speak. Then I saw him make for my Gladstone bag. In a moment I was up, and had laid a detaining hand upon his arm.
“What are you doing?” I cried.
But in a moment, and without a word, he had shaken me off, and had seized my luckless bag. I flew to the window and shut it, then, placing my back against the door of the carriage, I faced him, and angrily repeated my question.
“What am I doing?” replied he in a perfectly unruffled tone. “I am going to throw out this bag.”
“You are going to do nothing of the kind,” I replied, hotly. “I object to having my property disposed of in this way. If your motive is to rob me, all I can say is that you go about your work in a very clumsy fashion. Put down my bag, if you please, or I will pull the check string, have the train stopped, and give you into the custody of the guard.”
“O, you will, will you?”
“Yes, sir, I will. I suppose you think, since we are alone, I am defenceless and bound to submit to any indignity you may put upon me, but let me tell you, sir, that though I am only a woman, I can defend myself!”
I spoke very bravely, but I was gradually growing hysterical; indeed, at the moment, I would gladly have given the half of all my worldly possessions to have found myself standing in safety on mother earth. I still stood blocking the window, and I kept my eyes fixed upon my companion, expecting to see him produce some deadly weapon. All he did, however, was to stand grasping my bag, and request me, in the most polite manner possible, to move aside in order that he might have the pleasure of casting it out.
This I refused to do, whereupon he calmly walked to the opposite window and let it down. Before he could cast out the bag, however, I had seized his arm.
“Are you intoxicated,” I cried, “or mad?”
Scarcely had the words passed my lips when the bag was cast upon the floor of the carriage, and I felt the grip of a tiger upon both my arms. The face of the man, which was now close to mine, had suddenly become livid; the eyes, which had grown wild and bloodshot, glared into mine as he hissed at me.
“Mad? Yes, they all say I’m mad, and now you echo it. They have tried to kill me, and now you are trying to kill me by overloading the carriage. But I will cast all the things out; nothing shall remain, for I don’t mean to be sacrificed.”
So saying he released me, and seizing up my bag, cast it out upon the line without my being able to put out a hand to save it.
I don’t think I am a coward, but the situation was one calculated to appal a braver woman than me. For a moment I felt as if my senses were deserting me, then by an effort I pulled myself together and set about thinking what I must do. I was afraid to look at my watch, but I calculated that it would be fully half-an-hour before my destination was reached. Should I pull the check string and stop the train? No; that was now an impossibility. My companion, having recovered his composure, had quietly returned to his corner, but I could see that he was watching me as a cat watches a mouse, and any attempt on my part to summon assistance, would, I felt sure, be dangerous. The only course open to me was to exhibit a composure equal to that of my companion, to fall in with his eccentricities, in fact, to ward off any further paroxysms of madness until our destination should be reached.
Having arrived at this conclusion, I quietly sat down to await the course of events. The train having slackened its speed, was now running along smoothly enough. My companion, who had now the appearance of being the most amiable, the most sane of men, had re-settled himself in his corner, returned to his paper, and was deeply engrossed in the news.
I opened my book again, but not one word could I read, for my eyes, instead of remaining fixed upon the letterpress, wandered restlessly over the landscape; then I took cursory glances at my companion’s face. I found myself counting the minutes as they dragged wearily along, looking despairingly at the stations as we shot rapidly through them, and praying devoutly that my destination might soon be reached.
Had the train continued, as it then was, to go along smoothly and evenly, I doubt not but I should have reached my destination without further unpleasantness, for now that the rocking of the carriage had ceased, the mind of my companion seemed to be quite at rest. Unfortunately, however, we shot rapidly round a curve, the carriage was violently shaken, my companion dropped his paper, I dropped my book, and we stared at each other. This time he said nothing.
AFTER gazing at me for a moment he turned away, and I saw his eyes wander to my luckless portmanteau. Guessing the thought that was passing through his brain, I rose, left my corner, and sat down opposite to him.
“I am very sorry I spoke as I did just now,” I said in as calm a voice as I could, “but I was so concerned at losing my bags—and I—I really thought you were a robber! I see my mistake now, and apologise.”
I paused trembling, not knowing how my speech would be received. To my intense relief he replied:
“Ladies have strange fancies; but you see now, don’t you, that by casting out those bags, I probably saved your life?”
“Probably,” I repeated, for want of something better to say.
“You agree with me, don’t you, that it’s much better to lose a little luggage than to lose one’s life.”
“Certainly I do.”
“Then permit me,” he continued, taking hold of my portmanteau, “to be of some slight service to you again.”
“Why what are you going to do now?”
“I am going to throw out this portmanteau!”
“Because the carriage is still too heavily laden; don’t you feel the oscillation?”
“I replied that I did, but that I attributed it to the increased speed at which we were travelling.
“That is what you said before,” he continued gravely, “but you know nothing of the laws of gravitation.”
Again he made a movement towards my portmanteau, and again I stopped him.
“Must this go?” I said.
He replied that it must.
“But wouldn’t anything else do as well—there is your luggage for instance?”
He replied that he had none, and on glancing round the carriage I perceived that he was right. It was all mine; he had not even a hand-bag that would hold a clean collar.
“Well,” I continued, “there are plenty of other things without this portmanteau. There are my other two bags, there are my rugs, there are the carriage cushions; take them all if you like—take anything but this!”
“But why?” he asked.
“Because this is of the utmost value to me.”
“Madam,” he replied gravely, “it is the heaviest.”
“Decidedly it is the heaviest,” I said, “but if all these other things were disposed of, perhaps the weight of this one would not matter so much after all.”
This argument seemed to carry conviction with it; at any rate, he was appeased for a time. Abandoning my portmanteau, he turned his attention to my two remaining bags, which had been safely tucked away in the rack. First one, then the other, was lifted down and thrown out of the window; the cushions of the carriage followed, then my rugs, until the carriage became a positive wreck, and nothing was left but my portmanteau, which still lay upon the floor. This work had not been accomplished without considerable difficulty, for so rapid was the pace at which we were travelling, and so violent were the vibrations of the carriage, that my companion could scarcely keep his feet. However, his work of destruction was completed at last, and when all was over he sat down to gaze at the result. Every available light article had been thrown out, but the carriage shook as violently as before. Again he turned his eyes upon my portmanteau.
“You see I was right,” he said, “that portmanteau will certainly have to go.”
I was growing desperate. Determined not to lose this last remnant of my property without a struggle, I used every persuasive means in my power; to no purpose, however. When once my companion had got an idea, he stuck to it with pertinacity. He had resolved to cast the portmanteau out, and nothing I could say or do would alter his determination. At last a brilliant idea struck me.
“Why,” I said, “it is much too big. You couldn’t possibly get that through the window!”
This idea had evidently not occurred to him. He saw in a moment that I was right; but his fertile imagination was not without resource.
“We will open it,” he said, “and throw out the things singly.”
This at first I positively refused to agree to; but at length, seeing that my persistence was beginning to re-arouse his fury, I reluctantly handed him my keys and sat down with a sigh of resignation to watch his final task of destruction.
He took the keys, unlocked the portmanteau, and lifted the lid; then he paused, and gazed with a curious expression at the various articles of apparel which met his gaze.
First there was a wig—a closely-cropped boy’s wig, which was neatly folded and lay flat from the pressure of the portmanteau lid; next came a dress coat, then a waistcoat, then a pair of black trousers. Each of these articles my companion carefully lifted out; then he turned to me with a very puzzled expression on his face.
“Do these things belong to you, madam?” he asked.
“They do,” I replied; “but before this evening, I suppose they will belong to some person or persons unknown.”
“I mean,” he continued in a hesitating kind of way, “do you wear them?”
“Of course I have worn them; but if you carry out your present intention, I shall probably wear them no more.”
Then it was that brilliant idea number two came into my head, and once more I experienced a kind of relief. After all, my sole object now was to gain time. If I could only manage to keep my companion in conversation until the train reached its destination, all further evil might be avoided; if not—I trembled to think what further wild idea might enter the man’s brain.
The speed of the train seemed to increase with every mile we travelled, and the vibration of the carriage was by this time really alarming. Sitting upon the uncushioned seat, I was rocked violently from side to side; while my companion, who was kneeling upon the floor before my open portmanteau, and gazing abstractedly at the curious mixture of garments which it contained, had some difficulty in keeping himself from sprawling on the floor. Suddenly he began to collect some of the things together, a proceeding which I hastened to stop.
“Will you listen to me for one moment?” I said, stretching out my hand and laying it lightly on his shoulder.
He turned towards me at once, and I continued:
“I told you the contents of that portmanteau were of great value to me, that was why I asked you to leave it till the last. Now you understand the reason, don’t you?”
He shook his head.
“I certainly do not. They seem to be an extraordinary collection of articles to belong to a lady.”
I laughed rather hysterically, I am afraid, as I replied:
“Yes, to a stranger they must look odd, but the fact is, I am an actress.”
“Yes. I am to appear to-night at Mumford, and,” I added falteringly, “I am to wear those clothes.”
He seemed to be becoming interested; my spirits rose a little, and I said:
“It is not a regular engagement—in fact, it is not an engagement at all; I am simply to appear to-night in a part I have played a good deal in London. The piece is to be done at the Theatre Royal, with all the original London cast, and as I am one of them, and since it is to be for the benefit of a very old friend of mine, I have come down. I believe it will be a very great affair. If you throw these things out of the window, I don’t know what will happen, as I shall not be able to appear at all.”
I paused, and my companion, without one word of comment, commenced to collect my wardrobe together and roll it into a bundle.
“What are you going to do?” I asked.
“I am going to cast these things out.”
“What, after all I have told you? You will bring a terrible calamity upon my friend!”
“I cannot help that,” he said.
As he spoke I looked at him in wonder. What terrible change had come over him? He rose to his feet for a moment and faced me, fixing his eyes upon my face. As he did so, a horrible feeling of fear came over me, for I felt that the look in his face meant murder. To this day I can never understand how it was that I managed to keep my senses, but I did. I glanced instinctively towards the check string, and he saw the look.
“If you touch that,” he said, “I will kill you.”
He cast out of the window every article which the portmanteau had contained; then he turned to me.
“Now, madam,” he said, “it is your turn.”
“My turn?” I cried.
“Yes,” he continued. “I am going to cast you out now.”
“Good heavens!” I cried, making a brave effort to choke down my fear. “Do you still think the carriage is overloaded?”
“In that case it is you who should go out,” I continued desperately. “You are very much taller than I am, and twice as heavy.”
This view of the case seemed by no means pleasing to my travelling companion. He himself had evidently no wish to join the majority, though he had made up his mind to send me there. Nevertheless, I continued to argue the matter in order to gain time. How long the argument lasted I don’t know; I only dimly remember saying the wildest things. I have a recollection of the horror which overcame me as I saw the face of my companion becoming once more disturbed by mad fury. I saw him come towards me with outstretched hands, as if about to grapple with me; then suddenly the train slackened its speed, the engine whistled shrilly, and I knew that we were nearing the station. I fell back on to the seat, and for the first time in my life I fainted.
When I recovered my senses, I found myself in the waiting-room of the station, surrounded by an eager and interested crowd. My first feeling was one of astonishment at finding myself alive, then I thought of my companion, and asked quickly:
“Where is he?”
“Oh, he’s taken,” was the reply.
“Yes miss, and he’ll be sent back to the asylum by the next train. He only escaped this morning, and they telegraphed his description at once. And now, miss, what has he done to you, and what can we do for you?”
I gave a brief account of what had occurred, and asked them to recover for me, if possible, my lost luggage; then, having ascertained that my maid had been left behind in London, and feeling sure that she would follow by the next train, I got into a cab and drove at once to the hotel, where rooms had been ordered for me. The rooms were ready, and dinner was awaiting me. Before sitting down to it, however, I despatched a message to my old friend, the manager of the Theatre Royal, asking him to come to me at once. I had got half through my dinner when he walked into the room.
“Anything the matter?” he asked, looking anxiously into my face.
“Yes, I am sorry to say there is a good deal the matter,” I replied. “I shan’t be able to play to-night.”
“Not play to-night? In heaven’s name why?”
“For the best of reasons, I have no wardrobe.” Whereupon I gave him a description of what had occurred in the train.
“The madman,” I said, “is by this time on his way back to the asylum, but my clothes are scattered in various places down the line. What am I to do? If I were going to play any ordinary part, I might manage; but to wear boy’s clothes which have not been specially made for me, is quite out of the question.”
Without another word, my friend rose and left me. Half-an-hour later, I received a little note.
“Dear Kitty,” he wrote, “It’s all right. I’ve postponed the benefit. Dormez bien, and don’t dream of the madman. I’ll look round in the morning.
In the morning I was awakened by my maid bringing in my tea and the papers. I sipped my tea, opened the paper, and turned to the advertisement of the Theatre Royal. I found that the benefit had been postponed “in consequence of an alarming accident to Miss Katherine Fane;” while in another part of the paper, I found a long and very flowery description of my adventure with the lunatic, an account winding up with the announcement “that I was at present suffering from nervous prostration, but that I hoped to be able to appear in a few days.”
On going down to breakfast, I found my old friend awaiting me.
“I’ve fixed the benefit for this day week,” he said, “and you don’t move out of Mumford till it’s over. This first adventure has done us good; a second one might have a contrary effect, so, as you are here, you will remain here till it’s all over.”
And I did stay, and a very pleasant week I had on the whole, though before it came to an end, I was a good deal worried by being stared at wherever I went by an excited and eager crowd, for, thanks to the marvellous advertising powers of Mr. Mayland, my adventure was soon pretty well known, and I became as great an object of interest as Marwood was when he came down to execute his labours in the gaol. At length the night of the benefit arrived. As I was making my way to my dressing-room, I met Mr. Mayland, who informed me, with a beaming smile, that the house was magnificent. He was in particularly good spirits, so also was I, for my missing luggage had been recovered, very little, if any, the worse for its adventure. The evening passed off splendidly; the house was packed from floor to ceiling, and the piece never went better. When all was over, Mr. Mayland invited the members of the company to his room, where we found some champagne. Someone proposed the manager’s health, but Mayland laughingly said :
“I propose the health of a much more important person. Here is to our friend and benefactor, THE MADMAN.”
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