When fifteen years later Irving, at the Garrick Club one night after supper, asked me what I thought of this new "business"; I replied that if Shylock had done what he did, Gratiano would probably have spat in his face and then kicked him off the stage. Shylock complains that the Christians spat upon his gaberdine.
My boyish, romantic reading of the part, however, was essentially the same as Irving's, and Irving's reading was cheered in London to the echo because it was a rehabilitation of the Jew, and the Jew rules the roost to day in all the cities of Europe.
At my first words I could feel the younger members of the audience look about as if to see if such reciting as mine was proper and permitted; then one after the other gave in to the flow and flood of passion.
When I had finished everyone cheered, Whalley and Lady W . . . enthusiastically, and to my delight, Lucille as well.
After the rehearsal, everyone crowded about me: "Where did you learn?" "Who taught you?" At length Lucille came. "I knew you were someone", she said in her pretty way, "quelqu'un", "but it was extraordinary! You'll be a great actor, I'm sure."
"And yet you deny me a kiss", I whispered, taking care no one should hear.
"I deny you nothing", she replied, turning away, leaving me transfixed with hope and assurance of delight. "Nothing", I said to myself, "nothing means everything"; a thousand times I said it over to myself in an ecstasy.
That was my first happy night in England. Mr. Whalley congratulated me and introduced me to his daughter who praised me enthusiastically, and best of all the Doctor said, "We must make you Stage Manager, Harris, and I hope you'll put some of your fire into the other actors."