Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/47

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silky voice that could make thunder of a whisper and turn every woman in the pit white with the stilled passion of its love-sighing. What a Romeo he had been—the beautiful noble face of him! And then his Richard, which had turned the affrighted city madams faint; had made them forget who wrote that Richard. Acting in the same play with Burbage, Shakspere reflected whimsically, he had often acted better than he could—that voice had made him. Dick, Shakspere reflected, had had his problems too. Should he have acted or painted? And had he chosen acting—Shakspere had often pondered this—because of that old debt, or because it was easier drifting. . . .

Beaumont, on the other hand, presented always one aspect to the world, albeit a noble and beautiful one. He was the handsomest man of them all, tall and fair, golden-bearded, with wide-opened, strangely set green eyes; statuesquely cut as to figure. No one of them really knew Francis Beaumont, except it be Fletcher; and Shakspere had his moments when he doubted if even John knew his partner and collaborator. It was not his university education that held them off from Beaumont or him from them; for both Fletcher and Jonson had equal learning. Or his court connections, for the Mermaid circle had the imperviousness to rank which associated genius often begets. No, it was a quality of remoteness from which nothing in life or any degree of living could ever free Beaumont. . . . What had dragged Beaumont down from those mental mountain fastnesses to go to play-writing?

Fletcher was as different from Beaumont as he well might be; little, dark, tousled-looking, effeminately made; of an extraordinary silver-wittedness, mental warmth and, above all, creative fecundity. John spawned plots as he talked. It was a perfect collaboration, Shakspere had always thought; for Beaumont supplied judgment, taste, a sense of proportion, constructive ability, workmanlike scrupulosity, and a real poetic quality. Fletcher, on the other hand, brought to their work a virgin forest of thought and idea, plot and plan. Shakspere admired and respected Beaumont, but he had a strange mental affinity with Fletcher.

“You’d remembered Moll Frith, had you seen her, John,” Burbage informed Fletcher, dryly. “She’s as tall as Frank and I’ll not say as big, but bigger. She can hold two lads