Monthly Archives: December 2012
‘I’m afraid I cannot give any narrative of a humorous or touching nature. My life has been, as is necessary for the art I follow, an unexciting one. Perhaps it has been just as well; for art requires a measure of calmness if not of isolation for its higher manifestations. Perfection was never achieved amid the silent tumult of conflicting thoughts.’
‘Pip-pip’ came again from the young man from Oxford. The Tragedian started to his feet – in his momentary passion he forgot to be slow.
‘I protest against this unseemly interruption. This intrusion into the privacy of our artistic life of hooligans without soul: this importation to the inner heart of refinement, of the coarser vulgarisms of the world of decadent ineptitude. And when, in addition, the perpetrators of this ignoble infamy seem to be ignorant of the very elemental basis of the respect due to recognised personal supremacy in a glorious art and an honoured calling. Bah! Never mind, Turner Smith. I suppose all the fine arts are to be assailed in turns. Your time will come, however. You can, later, turn this painful episode to professional advantage. I understand that you are doing the scenery of the panto at Poole; why not take for the subject of your opening scene, the gloomy one, The Home of the Hooligan. The audience will show at once their detestation of that offensive class. Doubtless the Costumier will rise to the occasion, and show a peculiarly offensive fiend with a marvel of ill manners. The Musical Conductor, too, can enhance the satirical effect by introducing into his score as a motif the Pip-pip whereby the Hooligan proclaims himself.’ Then the Tragedian retired into himself with a victorious air. In the constrained silence that followed the Wardrobe Mistress was heard to whisper to the Sewing Woman:
‘Mister Wellesley Dovercourt giv it him in the neck that time. It’ll be a lesson to Cattle what he won’t forget.’ Cattle was the nickname of the young man from Oxford, given to him soon after his joining the company. The occasion had been his writing his name in a landlady’s ‘book’ and putting after it, Oxon. This was looked on by his comrades not as cheek but as bad spelling. The Scene Painter saw his chance to continue, and so resumed his narrative:
‘I was Scenic Artist at one time to old Schoolbred, the impresario. It was a special engagement, and just suited me, for at that time I had undertaken a lot of work of various kinds, and was looking about for a painting room. Schoolbred had then a long lease of the Queen’s Opera House, which had, as some of you may remember, a magnificent atelier. Old Schoolbred paid me a good salary – that is, he promised it, for he never paid any one if he could help it. I daresay he suspected that I mistrusted him, for he also put it in the agreement that I was to have full use of the painting-room for my own purposes from the time of my signing until I should start at his work. It was then that my solicitor did a wise thing. He, too, knew from old experience that there was sure to be some trouble with Schoolbred, and insisted that I should have a lease of the painting rooms. “Otherwise,” he said, “your own property is not safe. If he goes bankrupt the creditors will seize all of yours that is on the premises.” When I objected he said:
‘”Surely it is all the same to you. You will give him each week a quittance for salary, and he will give you one for rent. It is as broad as it is long; and you wouldn’t touch money anyhow.” As he found all materials and paid wages I was on velvet, for I should have no expenses. All I risked was my time; and against that I had the use of the finest frames in London. Schoolbred’s work was only touching up the old scenes belonging to the Opera House and painting the new opera by Magnoli, Il Campador. My assistant, whom he paid, could do most of the re-painting, and as I knew that his work did not come on till September I had nearly six months rent free, and my time my own.
‘When I had moved in my traps I got to work at once. It took me half a day going over the scenery book with Grimshaw, who was then the Stage Carpenter, and off and on a couple of days more examining the scenes before we could get to work. The scenery was old-fashioned – nearly all flats; hardly a cloth, let alone a cut-cloth, in the lot. Heavy old framed stuff that wouldn’t fold; and as much messy old timber about it as would furnish a ship-yard. Old Schoolbred had ordered the scenes to be made workable, so that when the time should come of bringing the operas on the road they should be all ready. There would, I saw, be a fine old job for Grimshaw to cut and hinge that mass of scenes so that they would double up for transport. However, Grimshaw was a good man, and work was no terror to him. He got his coat off, and once he was started with his own men I couldn’t overtake him. Schoolbred was in a hurry to have the work done – in such a hurry that he didn’t even grumble when I had to get a second assistant and two more labourers. Mind you, that meant a lot to him, for weekly wages means ready money; and out-of-pocket expenses have to be paid every Saturday. There were seventeen operas, so that it was no slouch of a job to get them all into moving trim. But there is, I must say, this about a carpenter’s job that when the “production” is simplified it means saving labour afterwards. But the more scenes there are – not built scenes, but flats and cloths, wings and borders – to keep in order for nightly use and travel, and the taking to and from the storage, the more the poor scenic artist gets it in the neck.
‘However, when we had once got started and I had explained to my assistants what I wanted and roughed out sketches to guide them I was able to get a bit of my own work in hand. I had a whole batch of such at the time. As you know, it was just when I was starting on my own, and every scene that was done was just so much in my pocket. I tell you I worked hard to get a bit ahead and give myself room, so that I wouldn’t have to be always pulling the devil by the tail. We all worked day and night; as old Schoolbred didn’t grumble at overtime the men were content to do twenty-four hours in the day. Our work has long waits; and as the labourers have to be on hand whenever they are wanted they did themselves well in the way of sleep. At first they had old sacks and such like to lie on; but presently they got luxurious, and nothing would do them but ticking and fresh hay and army blankets to cover them. I didn’t mind. Indeed, I never even let on that I noticed.
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A Moon-Light Effect at bramstoker.org
“When I was apprenticed to theatrical carpentering my master was John Haliday, who was Master Machinist – we called men in his post ‘Master Carpenter’ in those days – of the old Victoria Theatre, Hulme. It wasn’t called Hulme; but that name will do. It would only stir up painful memories if I were to give the real name. I daresay some of you – not the Ladies (this with a gallant bow all round) – will remember the case of a Harlequin as was killed in an accident in the pantomime. We needn’t mention names; Mortimer will do for a name to call him by – Henry Mortimer. The cause of it was never found out. But I knew it; and I’ve kept silence for so long that I may speak now without hurting anyone. They’re all dead long ago that was interested in the death of Henry Mortimer or the man who wrought that death.”
“Any of you who know of the case will remember what a handsome, dapper, well-built man Mortimer was. To my own mind he was the handsomest man I ever saw.”
The Tragedian’s low, grumbling whisper, “That’s a large order,” sounded a warning note. Hempitch, however, did not seem to hear it, but went on:
“Of course, I was only a boy then, and I hadn’t seen any of you gentlemen – Yer very good health, Mr Wellesley Dovercourt, sir, and cettera. I needn’t tell you, Ladies, how well a harlequin’s dress sets off a nice slim figure. No wonder that in these days of suffragettes, women wants to be harlequins as well as columbines. Though I hope they won’t make the columbine a man’s part!”
“Mortimer was the nimblest chap at the traps I ever see. He was so sure of hisself that he would have extra weight put on so that when the counter weights fell he’d shoot up five or six feet higher than anyone else could even try to. Moreover, he had a way of drawing up his legs when in the air – the way a frog does when he is swimming – that made his jump look ever so much higher.”
“I think the girls were all in love with him, the way they used to stand in the wings when the time was comin’ for his entrance. That wouldn’t have mattered much, for girls are always falling in love with some man or other, but it made trouble, as it always does when the married ones take the same start. There were several of these that were always after him, more shame for them, with husbands of their own. That was dangerous enough, and hard to stand for a man who might mean to be decent in any way. But the real trial – and the real trouble, too – was none other than the young wife of my own master, and she was more than flesh and blood could stand. She had come into the panto, the season before, as a high-kicker – and she could! She could kick higher than girls that was more than a foot taller than her; for she was a wee bit of a thing and as pretty as pie; a gold-haired, blue-eyed, slim thing with much the figure of a boy, except for. . . and they saved her from any mistaken idea of that kind. Jack Haliday went crazy over her, and when the notice was up, and there was no young spark with plenty of oof coming along to do the proper thing by her, she married him. It was, when they was joined, what you Ladies call a marriage of convenience; but after a bit they two got on very well, and we all thought she was beginning to like the old man – for Jack was old enough to be her father, with a bit to spare. In the summer, when the house was closed, he took her to the Isle of Man; and when they came back he made no secret of it that he’d had the happiest time of his life. She looked quite happy, too, and treated him affectionate; and we all began to think that that marriage had not been a failure at any rate.”
“Things began to change, however, when the panto, rehearsals began next year. Old Jack began to look unhappy, and didn’t take no interest in his work. Loo – that was Mrs Haliday’s name – didn’t seem over fond of him now, and was generally impatient when he was by. Nobody said anything about this, however, to us men; but the married women smiled and nodded their heads and whispered that perhaps there were reasons. One day on the stage, when the harlequinade rehearsal was beginning, someone mentioned as how perhaps Mrs Haliday wouldn’t be dancing that year, and they smiled as if they was all in the secret. Then Mrs Jack ups and gives them Johnny-up-the-orchard for not minding their own business and telling a pack of lies, and such like as you Ladies like to express in your own ways when you get your back hair down. The rest of us tried to soothe her all we could, and she went off home.”
“It wasn’t long after that that she and Henry Mortimer left together after rehearsal was over, he saying he’d leave her at home. She didn’t make no objections – I told you he was a very handsome man.”
“Well, from that on she never seemed to take her eyes from him during every rehearsal, right up to the night of the last rehearsal, which, of course, was full dress – ‘Everybody and Everything.'”
“Jack Haliday never seemed to notice anything that was going on, like the rest of them did. True, his time was taken up with his own work, for I’m telling you that a Master Machinist hasn’t got no loose time on his hands at the first dress rehearsal of a panto. And, of course, none of the company ever said a word or gave a look that would call his attention to it. Men and women are queer beings. They will be blind and deaf whilst danger is being run; and it’s only after the scandal is beyond repair that they begin to talk – just the very time when most of all they should be silent.”
“I saw all that went on, but I didn’t understand it. I liked Mortimer myself and admired him – like I did Mrs Haliday, too – and I thought he was a very fine fellow. I was only a boy, you know, and Haliday’s apprentice, so naturally I wasn’t looking for any trouble I could help, even if I’d seen it coming. It was when I looked back afterwards at the whole thing that I began to comprehend; so you will all understand now, I hope, that what I tell you is the result of much knowledge of what I saw and heard and was told of afterwards – all morticed and clamped up by thinking.”
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A Star Trap at bramstoker.org
CHAPTER I. – A HAPPY HOME.
“I wonder will any of them come, Jerry?”
The pretty little woman’s face got puckered all over with baby wrinkles, more suitable to the wee pink face that lay on her bosom than to her own somewhat pale one, as she made the remark.
Jerry looked up from his newspaper and gazed at her lovingly for a moment before he answered, his answer being a confident smile with a knowing shake of the head from side to side as who should say– “Oh, you little humbug, pretending to distress yourself with doubts. Of course, they’ll come–all of them.”
Katey seemed to lose her trouble in his smile–it was wonderful what comforters love and sympathy are. She drew close to her husband and held down the tiny bald pink head for him to kiss, and then, leaning her cheek against his, said in a soft cooing voice, half wifely, half motherly, “Oh, Jerry, isn’t he a little beauty.”
Children are quite as jealous as dogs and cats in their own way, and instinctively the urchin sprawling on the hearth-rug came over and pulled at his mother’s dress, saying plaintively, “Me too, mammy–me too.”
Jerry took the child on his knee. “Eh, little Jerry, your nose is out of joint again; isn’t it?”
A mother is jealous as well as her child, and this mother answered–“Oh, no, Jerry, sure I don’t love him less because I have to take care of the little mite.”
Further conversation was stopped by a knock at the door.
“That’s some of them stayin’ away,” said Jerry, as he went out to open the door.
As may be seen, Jerry and his wife expected company, the doubts as to whose arrival was caused by the extreme inclemency of the weather, and as the occasion of the festivities was an important one, the doubts were strong.
Jerry O’Sullivan was a prosperous man in his line of life. His trade was that of a carpenter, and as he had, in addition to large practical skills and experience gained from unremitting toil, a considerable share of natural ability, was justly considered by his compeers to be the marking of a successful man.
Three years before he had been married to his pretty little wife, whose sweet nature, and care for his comfort, and whose desire to perfect the cheerfulness of home, had not a little aided his success, and kept him on the straight path.
If every wife understood the merits which a cheerful home has above all other places in the eyes of an ordinary man, there would be less brutality than there is amongst husbands, and less hardships and suffering amongst wives.
The third child had just been christened, and some friends and relatives were expected to do honour to the occasion, and now the knock announced the first arrival.
Whilst Jerry went to the door, Katey arranged the child’s garments so as to make him look as nice as possible, and also fixed her own dress, somewhat disturbed by maternal cares. In the meantime little Jerry flattened his nose against the window pane in a vain desire to see the appearance of the first arrival. Little Katey stood by him looking expectant as though her eyes were with her brother’s.
Mrs. Jerry’s best smile showed that the newcomer, Mr. Parnell, was a special friend. After shaking hands with him she stood close to him, and showed him the baby, looking up into his dark strong face with a smile of perfect trust. He was so tall that he had to stoop to kiss the baby, although the little mother raised it in her arms for him. He said very tenderly–
“Let me hold him a minute in my arms.”
He lifted him gently as he spoke, and bending his head, said reverently:–
“God bless him. Suffer little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven.”
Katey’s eyes were full of tears as she took him back, and she thanked the big man with a look too full of sacred feeling for even a smile.
Jerry stood by in silence. He felt much, although he did not know what to say.
Another knock was heard, and again Jerry’s services were required. This time there was a large influx, for three different bodies had joined just at the door. Much laughter was heard in the hall, and then they all entered. The body consisted of seven souls all told.
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The Primrose Pate at bramstoker.org
‘Of course, you all remember Wolseley Gartside -‘
‘Rather!’ This was from the Tragedian. ‘I remember when he took that name. Indeed, I was not pleased with him about it; it clashed with the name I had taken myself – or, rather – ahem! – which my sponsors took for me at my christening. I consoled myself with the reflection that Wolseley was a later name historically than Wellesley.’ The Advance Agent went on:
‘Gartside, like many others who have risen from the ranks – the ranks of his profession – was, well, a wee, tiny bit over-sensitive in matters of public esteem. In fact, he did not like to be neglected -‘
Here the Second Heavies interrupted with a rapidity and acerbity which left an impression that indignation was founded on aggrievement:
‘”Over-sensitive in matters of public esteem!” I like that. He had got the swelled head bad, if that be what you mean. He wanted the earth, he did! The way he hustled other people off the posters was indecent! And the size of type he clamoured for was an inducement to blindness and an affront to the common sense of an educated community.’ The Advance Agent went on calmly:
‘- did not like to be neglected. This was all bad enough when he was engaged by someone else; but when he was out on his own with nothing to check him except the reports of his treasurer, he became a holy terror. There wasn’t any crowding of names off the bill then; there were simply no names at all. Names of other people, I mean; his name was all right so long as the paper was up to the biggest stands, and the types were the largest to be had in the town. Later on he went even further and had all his printing done in London or New York from types cut special.’ The Second Heavies cut in again:
‘No! Mr Wolseley Gartside didn’t mean to get neglected so long as there was a public Press to be influenced or a hoarding to be covered.’
‘Exactly!’ said the Advance Agent drily. He was beginning to fear that his pitch would be queered by the outpouring of the grievances of the Second Heavies. The professional instinct of the audience made for peace. They were all trained to listen. Mr Alphage seized the opportunity, and went on:
‘When he was arranging his first American tour he wanted to get someone who, as a persona grata, could command the Press; who understood human nature to the core; who had the instinct of a diplomatist, the experience of a field-marshall, the tact of an Attorney-General; the -‘
‘All right, old man. We know you took him in tow.’
‘Thank you, Bones! I understand. Gartside was a tragedian, too, and of course wanted the whole stage. They’re all the same.’
‘Well, of all the -‘ began Dovercourt; but there he stopped. There was a readiness of repartee about the Advance Agent that disturbed his self-serenity.
‘So I took him in tow, as Bones calls it. I thought my work was piloting. But Bones knows; he, too, belongs to the hungry, egotist lot who have to be dragged into publicity – like Wolseley Gartside!
‘Well, before I started out, which he insisted should be a full week ahead of him, he began to teach me my business. At first I pointed out to him that the whole mechanism of advance publicity wasn’t wrong because he hadn’t done it. But he took me up short, and expressed his opinions pretty freely, I admit. He gave me quite a dissertation on publicity, telling me that to hit the public you must tell them plenty. They wanted to know all about a man; they didn’t care much whether it was good or bad; but on the whole they preferred bad. Then he went on to give me what he called my instructions. That I was to have paragraphs about him every day. “Make me out,” he said, “a sort of Don Juan, with a fierce, revengeful nature. A man from whose hate no man is safe; no woman from his love. Never mind moral character. The public don’t want it – nor no more do I. Say whatever you please about me so long as you make people talk. Now I don’t want argument with you. Do you just carry out my instructions, and all will be well. But if you don’t, you’ll get the order of the chuck.” I didn’t want to argue with him. To begin with, a man like that isn’t worth argument – especially about instructions. Instructions! Just fancy an Advance Agent who knows his business being instructed by a Star that he has got to boom, and to whose vanity – no, sensitiveness – he has to minister. Why, compared with even a duffer at my work the biggest and brightest star in the theatrical firmament don’t know enough to come in out of the rain! I was very angry with him, I admit; but in a flash there came to me out of his own very instructions an idea which put anger out of my mind. The top dog isn’t angry – though he may bite! “Very well, Mr Wolseley Gartside,” said I to myself, said I, “I’ll carry out your instructions with exactness. They’re yours, not mine; so if anything comes out wrong you are the responsible party.” Before I went to bed I wrote out a mem of my “instructions.”
‘”The public want to know everything about a man. Tell them plenty – all they want. They don’t care whether it’s good or bad. On the whole, they prefer bad. Give them paragraphs every day. Make me a Don Juan, fierce, revengeful, passionate. No man safe from my hate; no woman from my love. Don’t aim at moral character; the public don’t want it; no more do I. Say whatever you please about me so long as you make people talk. Make things lively before I come!”
To read the rest of this story visit:
A Criminal Star at bramstoker.org