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Madame Flirt A Romance of 'The Beggar's Opera'   By: (-1924)

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MADAME FLIRT

A ROMANCE OF "THE BEGGAR'S OPERA"

BY

CHARLES E. PEARCE

"Why how now Madam Flirt" Lucy.

AUTHOR OF

"STIRRING DEEDS IN THE GREAT WAR," "A QUEEN OF THE PADDOCK," "CORINTHIAN JACK," ETC.

LONDON STANLEY PAUL & CO. 31, ESSEX STREET, STRAND, W.C.2.

Printed in Great Britain at the Athenæum Printing Works, Redhill

FIRST PUBLISHED IN 1922.

CHAPTER I

"IF YOUR NAME ISN'T POLLY IT OUGHT TO BE"

"As pretty a wench as man ever clapped eyes on. Wake up, Lance, and look at her."

The portly man of genial aspect sitting in the corner of the bow window of the Maiden Head Inn at the High Street end of Dyott Street in the very heart of St. Giles, clapped his sleeping friend on the shoulder and shook him. The sleeper, a young man whose finely drawn features were clouded with the dregs of wine, muttered something incoherently, and with an impatient twist shifted his body in the capacious arm chair.

"Let him alone, Mr. Gay. When a man's in his cups he's best by himself. 'Twill take him a day's snoring to get rid of his bout. The landlord here tells me he walked with the mob from Newgate to Tyburn and back and refreshed himself at every tavern on the way, not forgetting, I warrant you, to fling away a guinea at the Bowl, the Lamb, and the 'Black Jack' over yonder, and drink to the long life of the daring rogue in the cart and the health of the hangman to boot."

"Long life indeed, my lord. A couple of hours at most. Not that the length of life is to be measured by years. I don't know but what it's possible to cram one's whole existence into a few hours, thanks to that thief of time," rejoined John Gay pointing to the bottle on the table.

The poet's placid face saddened. John Gay had always taken life as a pleasure, but there is no pleasure without pain as he had come to discover. Maybe at that moment a recollection of his follies gave his conscience a tinge. Of Gay it might be said that he had no enemies other than himself.

"Oh, the passing hour is the best doubtless, since we never know whether the next may not be the worst," laughed Henry St. John, Lord Bolingbroke. "I'll wager Jack Sheppard's best was when the noose was round his neck. The rascal will trouble nervous folks no more. After all he was of some use. See that drunken rabble. But for the brave show he made at Tyburn yesterday, would those ladies and gentlemen be merry making, think you, and would the tavern keepers and the gin sellers be putting money in their pockets?"

Gay turned his eyes to the open window.

"I don't want to think of the rascally knave or the rabble either. My thoughts are on yonder pretty little jade. Look for yourself, Bolingbroke. You're not so insensible to beauty as Lance Vane is at this moment."

"Faith, I hope not. Where's the charmer?" said Bolingbroke walking to the window.

"Stay. She's going to sing. She has the voice of a nightingale. I've heard her before. Lord! to think she has to do it for a living!"

"Humph. She has courage. Most girls would die rather than rub shoulders with that frousy, bestial, drunken mob."

"Aye, but that little witch subdues them all with her voice. What says Will Congreve? Music has charms to soothe a savage breast? Listen."

A girl slight in figure but harmoniously proportioned had placed herself about two yards from the bow window. She fixed her eyes on Gay and her pretty mouth curved into a smile. Then she sang. The ditty was "Cold and Raw," a ballad that two hundred years ago or so, never failed to delight everybody from the highest to the lowest. She gave it with natural feeling and without any attempt at display. The voice was untrained but this did not matter. It was like the trill of a bird, sweet, flexible and pure toned... Continue reading book >>




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