“And where,” demanded Lady Dolly, in an electric whisper, “did you find that dear sweet little priest? Do introduce him to me—at least by and by, when I’ve thought of something to say. Let me see, wasn’t it Good Friday last week? I’ll ask him if he had hot-cross buns—or do people eat those on Boxing Day? Pancakes come in somewhere, if one could only be sure!”
Stephen clung persistently to the back of the box. His senses were filled for the moment by its other occupants, the men in the fresh correctness of their evening dress, whose least gesture seemed to spring from an indefinite fulness of life, the two women in front, a kind of lustrous tableau of what it was possible to choose and to enjoy. They were grouped and shut off in a high light which seemed to proceed partly from the usual sources and partly from their own personalities; he saw them in a way which underlined their significance at every point. It seemed to Stephen that in a manner he profaned this temple of what he held to be poorest and cheapest in life, a paradox of which he was but dimly aware in his dejection. A sharp impression of his physical inferiority to the other men assailed him; his appreciation of their muscular shoulders had a rasp in it. For once the poverty of spirit to which he held failed to offer him a refuge, his eye wandered restlessly as if attempting futile reconciliations, and the thing most present with him was the worn-all-day feeling about the neck of his cassock. He fixed his attention presently in a climax of passive discomfort on the curtain, where unconsciously, his gaze crept with a subtle interrogation in it to the wide eyeballs of the Sphinx.
The stalls gradually filled, although it was a second production, in the middle of the week, and although the gallery and the rupee seats under it were nearly empty. The piece accounted for both. When Duff Lindsay said at dinner that it wasn’t “up to much,” he spoke, I fancy, from the nearest point of view he could take to that of the Order of St. Barnabas. As a matter of fact, The Victim of Virtue was up to a very great deal, but its points were so delicate that one must have been educated rather broadly to grasp them, which is again perhaps a foolish contrariety of terms. At all events they carried no appeal to the theatre-goers from the sailing ships in the river or the regiments in the fort, who turned as one than that night to Jimmy Finnigan.