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´╗┐Title: Stage-Land
Author: Jerome, Jerome K. (Jerome Klapka), 1859-1927
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Stage-Land" ***

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by Jerome K. Jerome
















His name is George, generally speaking. "Call me George!" he says to the
heroine. She calls him George (in a very low voice, because she is so
young and timid). Then he is happy.

The stage hero never has any work to do. He is always hanging about and
getting into trouble. His chief aim in life is to be accused of crimes
he has never committed, and if he can muddle things up with a corpse in
some complicated way so as to get himself reasonably mistaken for the
murderer, he feels his day has not been wasted.

He has a wonderful gift of speech and a flow of language calculated
to strike terror to the bravest heart. It is a grand thing to hear him
bullyragging the villain.

The stage hero is always entitled to "estates," chiefly remarkable for
their high state of cultivation and for the eccentric ground plan of the
"manor house" upon them. The house is never more than one story high,
but it makes up in green stuff over the porch what it lacks in size and

The chief drawback in connection with it, to our eyes, is that all
the inhabitants of the neighboring village appear to live in the front
garden, but the hero evidently thinks it rather nice of them, as it
enables him to make speeches to them from the front doorstep--his
favorite recreation.

There is generally a public-house immediately opposite. This is handy.

These "estates" are a great anxiety to the stage hero. He is not what
you would call a business man, as far as we can judge, and his attempts
to manage his own property invariably land him in ruin and distraction.
His "estates," however, always get taken away from him by the villain
before the first act is over, and this saves him all further trouble
with regard to them until the end of the play, when he gets saddled with
them once more.

Not but what it must be confessed that there is much excuse for the poor
fellow's general bewilderment concerning his affairs and for his legal
errors and confusions generally. Stage "law" may not be quite the most
fearful and wonderful mystery in the whole universe, but it's near
it--very near it. We were under the impression at one time that we
ourselves knew something--just a little--about statutory and common law,
but after paying attention to the legal points of one or two plays we
found that we were mere children at it.

We thought we would not be beaten, and we determined to get to the
bottom of stage law and to understand it; but after some six months'
effort our brain (a singularly fine one) began to soften, and we
abandoned the study, believing it would come cheaper in the end to offer
a suitable reward, of about 50,000 pounds or 60,000 pounds, say, to any
one who would explain it to us.

The reward has remained unclaimed to the present day and is still open.

One gentleman did come to our assistance a little while ago, but his
explanations only made the matter more confusing to our minds than it
was before. He was surprised at what he called our density, and said the
thing was all clear and simple to him. But we discovered afterward that
he was an escaped lunatic.

The only points of stage "law" on which we are at all clear are as

That if a man dies without leaving a will, then all his property goes to
the nearest villain.

But if a man dies and leaves a will, then all his property goes to
whoever can get possession of that will.

That the accidental loss of the three-and-sixpenny copy of a marriage
certificate annuls the marriage.

That the evidence of one prejudiced witness of shady antecedents is
quite sufficient to convict the most stainless and irreproachable
gentleman of crimes for the committal of which he could have had no
possible motive.

But that this evidence may be rebutted years afterward, and the
conviction quashed without further trial by the unsupported statement of
the comic man.

That if A forges B's name to a check, then the law of the land is that B
shall be sentenced to ten years' penal servitude.

That ten minutes' notice is all that is required to foreclose a

That all trials of criminal cases take place in the front parlor of the
victim's house, the villain acting as counsel, judge, and jury rolled
into one, and a couple of policemen being told off to follow his

These are a few of the more salient features of stage "law" so far as
we have been able to grasp it up to the present; but as fresh acts and
clauses and modifications appear to be introduced for each new play,
we have abandoned all hope of ever being able to really comprehend the

To return to our hero, the state of the law, as above sketched,
naturally confuses him, and the villain, who is the only human being who
does seem to understand stage legal questions, is easily able to fleece
and ruin him. The simple-minded hero signs mortgages, bills of sale,
deeds of gift, and such like things, under the impression that he is
playing some sort of a round game; and then when he cannot pay the
interest they take his wife and children away from him and turn him
adrift into the world.

Being thrown upon his own resources, he naturally starves.

He can make long speeches, he can tell you all his troubles, he can
stand in the lime-light and strike attitudes, he can knock the villain
down, and he can defy the police, but these requirements are not much
in demand in the labor market, and as they are all he can do or cares
to do, he finds earning his living a much more difficult affair than he

There is a deal too much hard work about it for him. He soon gives
up trying it at all, and prefers to eke out an uncertain existence by
sponging upon good-natured old Irish women and generous but weak-minded
young artisans who have left their native village to follow him and
enjoy the advantage of his company and conversation.

And so he drags out his life during the middle of the piece, raving at
fortune, raging at humanity, and whining about his miseries until the
last act.

Then he gets back those "estates" of his into his possession once again,
and can go back to the village and make more moral speeches and be

Moral speeches are undoubtedly his leading article, and of these, it
must be owned, he has an inexhaustible stock. He is as chock-full of
noble sentiments as a bladder is of wind. They are weak and watery
sentiments of the sixpenny tea-meeting order. We have a dim notion that
we have heard them before. The sound of them always conjures up to our
mind the vision of a dull long room, full of oppressive silence, broken
only by the scratching of steel pens and an occasional whispered "Give
us a suck, Bill. You know I always liked you;" or a louder "Please, sir,
speak to Jimmy Boggles. He's a-jogging my elbow."

The stage hero, however, evidently regards these meanderings as gems of
brilliant thought, fresh from the philosophic mine.

The gallery greets them with enthusiastic approval. They are a
warm-hearted people, galleryites, and they like to give a hearty welcome
to old friends.

And then, too, the sentiments are so good and a British gallery is so
moral. We doubt if there could be discovered on this earth any body of
human beings half so moral--so fond of goodness, even when it is
slow and stupid--so hateful of meanness in word or deed--as a modern
theatrical gallery.

The early Christian martyrs were sinful and worldly compared with an
Adelphi gallery.

The stage hero is a very powerful man. You wouldn't think it to look at
him, but you wait till the heroine cries "Help! Oh, George, save me!" or
the police attempt to run him in. Then two villains, three extra hired
ruffians and four detectives are about his fighting-weight.

If he knocks down less than three men with one blow, he fears that he
must be ill, and wonders "Why this strange weakness?"

The hero has his own way of making love. He always does it from behind.
The girl turns away from him when he begins (she being, as we have
said, shy and timid), and he takes hold of her hands and breathes his
attachment down her back.

The stage hero always wears patent-leather boots, and they are always
spotlessly clean. Sometimes he is rich and lives in a room with seven
doors to it, and at other times he is starving in a garret; but in
either event he still wears brand-new patent-leather boots.

He might raise at least three-and-sixpence on those boots, and when the
baby is crying for food, it occurs to us that it would be better if,
instead of praying to Heaven, he took off those boots and pawned them;
but this does not seem to occur to him.

He crosses the African desert in patent-leather boots, does the stage
hero. He takes a supply with him when he is wrecked on an uninhabited
island. He arrives from long and trying journeys; his clothes are ragged
and torn, but his boots are new and shiny. He puts on patent-leather
boots to tramp through the Australian bush, to fight in Egypt, to
discover the north pole.

Sometimes he is a gold-digger, sometimes a dock laborer, sometimes a
soldier, sometimes a sailor, but whatever he is he wears patent-leather

He goes boating in patent leather boots, he plays cricket in them;
he goes fishing and shooting in them. He will go to heaven in
patent-leather boots or he will decline the invitation.

The stage hero never talks in a simple, straightforward way, like a mere
ordinary mortal.

"You will write to me when you are away, dear, won't you?" says the

A mere human being would reply:

"Why, of course I shall, ducky, every day."

But the stage hero is a superior creature. He says:

"Dost see yonder star, sweet?"

She looks up and owns that she does see yonder star; and then off he
starts and drivels on about that star for full five minutes, and says he
will cease to write to her when that pale star has fallen from its place
amid the firmament of heaven.

The result of a long course of acquaintanceship with stage heroes has
been, so far as we are concerned, to create a yearning for a new kind of
stage hero. What we would like for a change would be a man who wouldn't
cackle and brag quite so much, but who was capable of taking care of
himself for a day without getting into trouble.


He wears a clean collar and smokes a cigarette; that is how we know he
is a villain. In real life it is often difficult to tell a villain from
an honest man, and this gives rise to mistakes; but on the stage, as we
have said villains wear clean collars and smoke cigarettes, and thus all
fear of blunder is avoided.

It is well that the rule does not hold off the stage, or good men
might be misjudged. We ourselves, for instance, wear a clean

It might be very awkward for our family, especially on Sundays.

He has no power of repartee, has the stage villain. All the good people
in the play say rude and insulting things to him, and smack at him,
and score off him all through the act, but he can never answer them
back--can never think of anything clever to say in return.

"Ha! ha! wait till Monday week," is the most brilliant retort that he
can make, and he has to get into a corner by himself to think of even

The stage villain's career is always very easy and prosperous up to
within a minute of the end of each act. Then he gets suddenly let in,
generally by the comic man. It always happens so. Yet the villain is
always intensely surprised each time. He never seems to learn anything
from experience.

A few years ago the villain used to be blessed with a hopeful and
philosophical temperament, which enabled him to bear up under these
constantly recurring disappointments and reverses. It was "no matter,"
he would say. Crushed for the moment though he might be, his buoyant
heart never lost courage. He had a simple, child-like faith in
Providence. "A time will come," he would remark, and this idea consoled

Of late, however, this trusting hopefulness of his, as expressed in the
beautiful lines we have quoted, appears to have forsaken him. We are
sorry for this. We always regarded it as one of the finest traits in his

The stage villain's love for the heroine is sublime in its
steadfastness. She is a woman of lugubrious and tearful disposition,
added to which she is usually incumbered with a couple of priggish and
highly objectionable children, and what possible attraction there
is about her we ourselves can never understand; but the stage
villain--well, there, he is fairly mashed on her.

Nothing can alter his affection. She hates him and insults him to an
extent that is really unladylike. Every time he tries to explain his
devotion to her, the hero comes in and knocks him down in the middle
of it, or the comic man catches him during one or the other of his
harassing love-scenes with her, and goes off and tells the "villagers"
or the "guests," and they come round and nag him (we should think that
the villain must grow to positively dislike the comic man before the
piece is over).

Notwithstanding all this he still hankers after her and swears she shall
be his. He is not a bad-looking fellow, and from what we know of the
market, we should say there are plenty of other girls who would jump at
him; yet for the sake of settling down with this dismal young female as
his wife, he is prepared to go through a laborious and exhaustive course
of crime and to be bullied and insulted by every one he meets. His love
sustains him under it all. He robs and forges, and cheats, and lies, and
murders, and arsons. If there were any other crimes he could commit to
win her affection, he would, for her sweet sake, commit them cheerfully.
But he doesn't know any others--at all events, he is not well up in any
others--and she still does not care for him, and what is he to do?

It is very unfortunate for both of them. It is evident to the merest
spectator that the lady's life would be much happier if the villain did
not love her quite so much; and as for him, his career might be calmer
and less criminal but for his deep devotion to her.

You see, it is having met her in early life that is the cause of all the
trouble. He first saw her when she was a child, and he loved her, "ay,
even then." Ah, and he would have worked--slaved for her, and have made
her rich and happy. He might perhaps even have been a good man.

She tries to soothe him. She says she loathed him with an unspeakable
horror from the first moment that her eyes met his revolting form. She
says she saw a hideous toad once in a nasty pond, and she says that
rather would she take that noisome reptile and clasp its slimy bosom to
her own than tolerate one instant's touch from his (the villain's) arms.

This sweet prattle of hers, however, only charms him all the more. He
says he will win her yet.

Nor does the villain seem much happier in his less serious love
episodes. After he has indulged in a little badinage of the above
character with his real lady-love, the heroine, he will occasionally try
a little light flirtation passage with her maid or lady friend.

The maid or friend does not waste time in simile or in metaphor. She
calls him a black-hearted scoundrel and clumps him over the head.

Of recent years it has been attempted to cheer the stage villain's
loveless life by making the village clergyman's daughter gone on him.
But it is generally about ten years ago when even she loved him, and her
love has turned to hate by the time the play opens; so that on the whole
his lot can hardly be said to have been much improved in this direction.

Not but what it must be confessed that her change of feeling is, under
the circumstances, only natural. He took her away from her happy,
peaceful home when she was very young and brought her up to this wicked
overgrown London. He did not marry her. There is no earthly reason why
he should not have married her. She must have been a fine girl at that
time (and she is a good-looking woman as it is, with dash and go about
her), and any other man would have settled down cozily with her and have
led a simple, blameless life.

But the stage villain is built cussed.

He ill-uses this female most shockingly--not for any cause or motive
whatever; indeed, his own practical interests should prompt him to treat
her well and keep friends with her--but from the natural cussedness to
which we have just alluded. When he speaks to her he seizes her by the
wrist and breathes what he's got to say into her ear, and it tickles and
revolts her.

The only thing in which he is good to her is in the matter of dress. He
does not stint her in dress.

The stage villain is superior to the villain of real life. The villain
of real life is actuated by mere sordid and selfish motives. The stage
villain does villainy, not for any personal advantage to himself, but
merely from the love of the thing as an art. Villainy is to him its own
reward; he revels in it.

"Better far be poor and villainous," he says to himself, "than possess
all the wealth of the Indies with a clear conscience. I will be a
villain," he cries. "I will, at great expense and inconvenience to
myself, murder the good old man, get the hero accused of the crime,
and make love to his wife while he is in prison. It will be a risky and
laborious business for me from beginning to end, and can bring me no
practical advantage whatever. The girl will call me insulting names when
I pay her a visit, and will push me violently in the chest when I get
near her; her golden-haired infant will say I am a bad man and may even
refuse to kiss me. The comic man will cover me with humorous opprobrium,
and the villagers will get a day off and hang about the village pub and
hoot me. Everybody will see through my villainy, and I shall be nabbed
in the end. I always am. But it is no matter, I will be a villain--ha!

On the whole, the stage villain appears to us to be a rather badly used
individual. He never has any "estates" or property himself, and his
only chance of getting on in the world is to sneak the hero's. He has
an affectionate disposition, and never having any wife of his own he is
compelled to love other people's; but his affection is ever unrequited,
and everything comes wrong for him in the end.

Our advice to stage villains generally, after careful observation of
(stage) life and (stage) human nature, is as follows:

Never be a stage villain at all if you can help it. The life is too
harassing and the remuneration altogether disproportionate to the risks
and labor.

If you have run away with the clergyman's daughter and she still clings
to you, do not throw her down in the center of the stage and call her
names. It only irritates her, and she takes a dislike to you and goes
and warns the other girl.

Don't have too many accomplices; and if you have got them, don't keep
sneering at them and bullying them. A word from them can hang you, and
yet you do all you can to rile them. Treat them civilly and let them
have their fair share of the swag.

Beware of the comic man. When you are committing a murder or robbing a
safe you never look to see where the comic man is. You are so careless
in that way. On the whole, it might be as well if you murdered the comic
man early in the play.

Don't make love to the hero's wife. She doesn't like you; how can you
expect her to? Besides, it isn't proper. Why don't you get a girl of
your own?

Lastly, don't go down to the scenes of your crimes in the last act. You
always will do this. We suppose it is some extra cheap excursion down
there that attracts you. But take our advice and don't go. That
is always where you get nabbed. The police know your habits from
experience. They do not trouble to look for you. They go down in the
last act to the old hall or the ruined mill where you did the deed and
wait for you.

In nine cases out of ten you would get off scot-free but for this
idiotic custom of yours. Do keep away from the place. Go abroad or to
the sea-side when the last act begins and stop there till it is over.
You will be safe then.


She is always in trouble--and don't she let you know it, too! Her life
is undeniably a hard one. Nothing goes right with her. We all have our
troubles, but the stage heroine never has anything else. If she only got
one afternoon a week off from trouble or had her Sundays free it would
be something.

But no; misfortune stalks beside her from week's beginning to week's

After her husband has been found guilty of murder, which is about the
least thing that can ever happen to him, and her white-haired father has
become a bankrupt and has died of a broken heart, and the home of
her childhood has been sold up, then her infant goes and contracts a
lingering fever.

She weeps a good deal during the course of her troubles, which we
suppose is only natural enough, poor woman. But it is depressing from
the point of view of the audience, and we almost wish before the evening
is out that she had not got quite so much trouble.

It is over the child that she does most of her weeping. The child has
a damp time of it altogether. We sometimes wonder that it never catches

She is very good, is the stage heroine. The comic man expresses a belief
that she is a born angel. She reproves him for this with a tearful smile
(it wouldn't be her smile if it wasn't tearful).

"Oh, no," she says (sadly of course); "I have many, many faults."

We rather wish that she would show them a little more. Her excessive
goodness seems somehow to pall upon us. Our only consolation while
watching her is that there are not many good women off the stage. Life
is bad enough as it is; if there were many women in real life as good as
the stage heroine, it would be unbearable.

The stage heroine's only pleasure in life is to go out in a snow-storm
without an umbrella and with no bonnet on. She has a bonnet, we know
(rather a tasteful little thing); we have seen it hanging up behind the
door of her room; but when she comes out for a night stroll during a
heavy snow-storm (accompanied by thunder), she is most careful to leave
it at home. Maybe she fears the snow will spoil it, and she is a careful

She always brings her child out with her on these occasions. She seems
to think that it will freshen it up. The child does not appreciate the
snow as much as she does. He says it's cold.

One thing that must irritate the stage heroine very much on these
occasions is the way in which the snow seems to lie in wait for her
and follow her about. It is quite a fine night before she comes on the
scene: the moment she appears it begins to snow. It snows heavily all
the while she remains about, and the instant she goes it clears up again
and keeps dry for the rest of the evening.

The way the snow "goes" for that poor woman is most unfair. It always
snows much heavier in the particular spot where she is sitting than it
does anywhere else in the whole street. Why, we have sometimes seen a
heroine sitting in the midst of a blinding snow-storm while the other
side of the road was as dry as a bone. And it never seemed to occur to
her to cross over.

We have even known a more than unusually malignant snow-storm to follow
a heroine three times round the stage and then go off (R.) with her.

Of course you can't get away from a snow-storm like that! A stage
snow-storm is the kind of snow-storm that would follow you upstairs and
want to come into bed with you.

Another curious thing about these stage snow-storms is that the moon is
always shining brightly through the whole of them. And it shines only on
the heroine, and it follows her about just like the snow does.

Nobody fully understands what a wonderful work of nature the moon is
except people acquainted with the stage. Astronomy teaches you something
about the moon, but you learn a good deal more from a few visits to
a theater. You will find from the latter that the moon only shines on
heroes and heroines, with perhaps an occasional beam on the comic man:
it always goes out when it sees the villain coming.

It is surprising, too, how quickly the moon can go out on the stage.
At one moment it is riding in full radiance in the midst of a cloudless
sky, and the next instant it is gone! Just as though it had been turned
off at a meter. It makes you quite giddy at first until you get used to

The stage heroine is inclined to thoughtfulness rather than gayety.

In her cheerful moments the stage heroine thinks she sees the spirit of
her mother, or the ghost of her father, or she dreams of her dead baby.

But this is only in her very merry moods. As a rule, she is too much
occupied with weeping to have time for frivolous reflections.

She has a great flow of language and a wonderful gift of metaphor and
simile--more forcible than elegant--and this might be rather trying in
a wife under ordinary circumstances. But as the hero is generally
sentenced to ten years' penal servitude on his wedding-morn, he escapes
for a period from a danger that might well appall a less fortunate

Sometimes the stage heroine has a brother, and if so he is sure to be
mistaken for her lover. We never came across a brother and sister in
real life who ever gave the most suspicious person any grounds for
mistaking them for lovers; but the stage brother and sister are so
affectionate that the error is excusable.

And when the mistake does occur and the husband comes in suddenly and
finds them kissing and raves she doesn't turn round and say:

"Why, you silly cuckoo, it's only my brother."

That would be simple and sensible, and would not suit the stage heroine
at all. No; she does all in her power to make everybody believe it is
true, so that she can suffer in silence.

She does so love to suffer.

Marriage is undoubtedly a failure in the case of the stage heroine.

If the stage heroine were well advised she would remain single. Her
husband means well. He is decidedly affectionate. But he is unfortunate
and inexperienced in worldly affairs. Things come right for him at the
end of the play, it is true; but we would not recommend the heroine
to place too much reliance upon the continuance of this happy state
of affairs. From what we have seen of her husband and his business
capabilities during the five acts preceding, we are inclined to doubt
the possibility of his being anything but unfortunate to the end of his

True, he has at last got his "rights" (which he would never have lost
had he had a head instead of a sentimental bladder on his shoulders),
the Villain is handcuffed, and he and the heroine have settled down
comfortably next door to the comic man.

But this heavenly existence will never last. The stage hero was built
for trouble, and he will be in it again in another month, you bet.
They'll get up another mortgage for him on the "estates;" and he won't
know, bless you, whether he really did sign it or whether he didn't, and
out he will go.

And he'll slop his name about to documents without ever looking to see
what he's doing, and be let in for Lord knows what; and another wife
will turn up for him that he had married when a boy and forgotten all

And the next corpse that comes to the village he'll get mixed up
with--sure to--and have it laid to his door, and there'll be all the old
business over again.

No, our advice to the stage heroine is to get rid of the hero as soon as
possible, marry the villain, and go and live abroad somewhere where the
comic man won't come fooling around.

She will be much happier.


He follows the hero all over the world. This is rough on the hero.

What makes him so gone on the hero is that when they were boys together
the hero used to knock him down and kick him. The comic man remembers
this with a glow of pride when he is grown up, and it makes him love the
hero and determine to devote his life to him.

He is a man of humble station--the comic man. The village blacksmith or
a peddler. You never see a rich or aristocratic comic man on the stage.
You can have your choice on the stage; you can be funny and of lowly
origin, or you can be well-to-do and without any sense of humor. Peers
and policemen are the people most utterly devoid of humor on the stage.

The chief duty of the comic man's life is to make love to servant-girls,
and they slap his face; but it does not discourage him; he seems to be
more smitten by them than ever.

The comic man is happy under any fate, and he says funny things at
funerals and when the bailiffs are in the house or the hero is waiting
to be hanged.

This sort of man is rather trying in real life. In real life such a man
would probably be slaughtered to death and buried at an early period of
his career, but on the stage they put up with him.

He is very good, is the comic man. He can't bear villainy. To thwart
villainy is his life's ambition, and in this noble object fortune backs
him up grandly. Bad people come and commit their murders and thefts
right under his nose, so that he can denounce them in the last act.

They never see him there, standing close beside them, while they are
performing these fearful crimes.

It is marvelous how short-sighted people on the stage are. We always
thought that the young lady in real life was moderately good at not
seeing folks she did not want to when they were standing straight
in front of her, but her affliction in this direction is as nothing
compared with that of her brothers and sisters on the stage.

These unfortunate people come into rooms where there are crowds of
people about--people that it is most important that they should see, and
owing to not seeing whom they get themselves into fearful trouble, and
they never notice any of them. They talk to somebody opposite, and they
can't see a third person that is standing bang between the two of them.

You might fancy they wore blinkers.

Then, again, their hearing is so terribly weak. It really ought to be
seen to. People talk and chatter at the very top of their voices close
behind them, and they never hear a word--don't know anybody's there,
even. After it has been going on for half an hour, and the people "up
stage" have made themselves hoarse with shouting, and somebody has been
boisterously murdered and all the furniture upset, then the people "down
stage" "think they hear a noise."

The comic man always rows with his wife if he is married or with his
sweetheart if he is not married. They quarrel all day long. It must be a
trying life, you would think, but they appear to like it.

How the comic man lives and supports his wife (she looks as if it wanted
something to support her, too) and family is always a mystery to us. As
we have said, he is not a rich man and he never seems to earn any money.
Sometimes he keeps a shop, and in the way he manages business it must be
an expensive thing to keep, for he never charges anybody for anything,
he is so generous. All his customers seem to be people more or less in
trouble, and he can't find it in his heart to ask them to pay for their
goods under such distressing circumstances.

He stuffs their basket full with twice as much as they came to buy,
pushes their money back into their hands, and wipes away a tear.

Why doesn't a comic man come and set up a grocery store in our

When the shop does not prove sufficiently profitable (as under the
above-explained method sometimes happens to be the case) the comic man's
wife seeks to add to the income by taking in lodgers. This is a bad move
on her part, for it always ends in the lodgers taking her in. The hero
and heroine, who seem to have been waiting for something of the sort,
immediately come and take possession of the whole house.

Of course the comic man could not think of charging for mere board
and lodging the man who knocked him down when they were boys together!
Besides, was not the heroine (now the hero's wife) the sweetest and the
blithest girl in all the village of Deepdale? (They must have been a
gloomy band, the others!) How can any one with a human heart beneath
his bosom suggest that people like that should pay for their rest and
washing? The comic man is shocked at his wife for even thinking of such
a thing, and the end of it is that Mr. and Mrs. Hero live there for the
rest of the play rent free; coals, soap, candles, and hair-oil for the
child being provided for them on the same terms.

The hero raises vague and feeble objections to this arrangement now and
again. He says he will not hear of such a thing, that he will stay no
longer to be a burden upon these honest folk, but will go forth unto the
roadside and there starve. The comic man has awful work with him, but
wins at last and persuades the noble fellow to stop on and give the
place another trial.

When, a morning or so after witnessing one of these beautiful scenes,
our own landlady knocks at our door and creates a disturbance over a
paltry matter of three or four weeks' rent, and says she'll have her
money or out we go that very day, and drifts slowly away down toward the
kitchen, abusing us in a rising voice as she descends, then we think of
these things and grow sad.

It is the example of the people round him that makes the comic man so
generous. Everybody is generous on the stage. They are giving away their
purses all day long; that is the regulation "tip" on the stage--one's
purse. The moment you hear a tale of woe, you grab it out of your
pocket, slap it in to the woe-er's palm, grip his hand, dash away a
tear, and exit; you don't even leave yourself a 'bus fare home. You walk
back quickly and get another purse.

Middle-class people and others on the stage who are short of purses
have to content themselves with throwing about rolls of bank-notes and
tipping servants with five-pound checks. Very stingy people on the stage
have been known to be so cussed mean as to give away mere sovereigns.

But they are generally only villains or lords that descend to this sort
of thing. Respectable stage folk never offer anything less than a purse.

The recipient is very grateful on receiving the purse (he never looks
inside) and thinks that Heaven ought to reward the donor. They get a
lot of work out of Heaven on the stage. Heaven does all the odd jobs for
them that they don't want to go to the trouble and expense of doing for
themselves. Heaven's chief duty on the stage is to see to the repayment
of all those sums of money that are given or lent to the good people. It
is generally requested to do this to the tune of a "thousand-fold"--an
exorbitant rate when you come to think of it.

Heaven is also expected to take care that the villain gets properly
cursed, and to fill up its spare time by bringing misfortune upon the
local landlord. It has to avenge everybody and to help all the good
people whenever they are in trouble. And they keep it going in this

And when the hero leaves for prison Heaven has to take care of his wife
and child till he comes out; and if this isn't a handful for it, we
don't know what would be!

Heaven on the stage is always on the side of the hero and heroine and
against the police.

Occasionally, of late years, the comic man has been a bad man, but you
can't hate him for it. What if he does ruin the hero and rob the heroine
and help to murder the good old man? He does it all in such a genial,
light-hearted spirit that it is not in one's heart to feel angry
with him. It is the way in which a thing is done that makes all the

Besides, he can always round on his pal, the serious villain, at the
end, and that makes it all right.

The comic man is not a sportsman. If he goes out shooting, we know that
when he returns we shall hear that he has shot the dog. If he takes his
girl out on the river he upsets her (literally we mean). The comic man
never goes out for a day's pleasure without coming home a wreck.

If he merely goes to tea with his girl at her mother's, he swallows a
muffin and chokes himself.

The comic man is not happy in his married life, nor does it seem to us
that he goes the right way to be so. He calls his wife "his old Dutch
clock," "the old geyser," and such like terms of endearment, and
addresses her with such remarks as "Ah, you old cat," "You ugly old
nutmeg grater," "You orangamatang, you!" etc., etc.

Well, you know that is not the way to make things pleasant about a

Still, with all his faults we like the comic man. He is not always in
trouble and he does not make long speeches.

Let us bless him.


He is very old, and very long, and very thin. He has white hair. He
dresses in the costume of the last generation but seven. He has bushy
eyebrows and is clean shaven. His chin itches considerably, so that he
has to be always scratching it. His favorite remark is "Ah!"

In real life we have heard of young solicitors, of foppish solicitors,
of short solicitors; but on the stage they are always very thin and very
old. The youngest stage solicitor we ever remember to have seen looked
about sixty--the oldest about a hundred and forty-five.

By the bye, it is never very safe to judge people's ages on the stage by
their personal appearance. We have known old ladies who looked seventy,
if they were a day, turn out to be the mothers of boys of fourteen,
while the middle-aged husband of the young wife generally gives one the
idea of ninety.

Again, what appears at first sight to be a comfortable-looking and
eminently respectable elderly lady is often discovered to be, in
reality, a giddy, girlish, and inexperienced young thing, the pride of
the village or the darling of the regiment.

So, too, an exceptionally stout and short-winded old gentleman, who
looks as if he had been living too well and taking too little exercise
for the last forty-five years, is not the heavy father, as you might
imagine if you judged from mere external evidence, but a wild, reckless

You would not think so to look at him, but his only faults are that he
is so young and light-headed. There is good in him, however, and he will
no doubt be steady enough when he grows up. All the young men of the
neighborhood worship him and the girls love him.

"Here he comes," they say; "dear, dear old Jack--Jack, the darling
boy--the headstrong youth--Jack, the leader of our juvenile
sports--Jack, whose childish innocence wins all hearts. Three cheers for
dancing, bright-eyed Jack!"

On the other hand, ladies with the complexion of eighteen are, you learn
as the story progresses, quite elderly women, the mothers of middle-aged

The experienced observer of stage-land never jumps to conclusions from
what he sees. He waits till he is told things.

The stage lawyer never has any office of his own. He transacts all his
business at his clients' houses. He will travel hundreds of miles to
tell them the most trivial piece of legal information.

It never occurs to him how much simpler it would be to write a letter.
The item for "traveling expenses" in his bill of costs must be something

There are two moments in the course of his client's career that the
stage lawyer particularly enjoys. The first is when the client comes
unexpectedly into a fortune; the second when he unexpectedly loses it.

In the former case, upon learning the good news the stage lawyer at once
leaves his business and hurries off to the other end of the kingdom
to bear the glad tidings. He arrives at the humble domicile of the
beneficiary in question, sends up his card, and is ushered into the
front parlor. He enters mysteriously and sits left--client sits right.
An ordinary, common lawyer would come to the point at once, state the
matter in a plain, business-like way, and trust that he might have the
pleasure of representing, etc., etc.; but such simple methods are not
those of the stage lawyer. He looks at the client and says:

"You had a father."

The client starts. How on earth did this calm, thin, keen-eyed old man
in black know that he had a father? He shuffles and stammers, but the
quiet, impenetrable lawyer fixes his cold, glassy eye on him, and he is
helpless. Subterfuge, he feels, is useless, and amazed, bewildered
at the knowledge of his most private affairs possessed by his strange
visitant, he admits the fact: he had a father.

The lawyer smiles with a quiet smile of triumph and scratches his chin.

"You had a mother, too, if I am informed correctly," he continues.

It is idle attempting to escape this man's supernatural acuteness, and
the client owns up to having had a mother also.

From this the lawyer goes on to communicate to the client, as a great
secret, the whole of his (the client's) history from his cradle upward,
and also the history of his nearer relatives, and in less than half an
hour from the old man's entrance, or say forty minutes at the outside,
the client almost knows what the business is about.

On the other occasion, when the client has lost his fortune, the
stage lawyer is even still happier. He comes down himself to tell the
misfortune (he would not miss the job for worlds), and he takes care to
choose the most unpropitious moment possible for breaking the news. On
the eldest daughter's birthday, when there is a big party on, is his
favorite time. He comes in about midnight and tells them just as they
are going down to supper.

He has no idea of business hours, has the stage lawyer--to make the
thing as unpleasant as possible seems to be his only anxiety.

If he cannot work it for a birthday, then he waits till there's a
wedding on, and gets up early in the morning on purpose to run down and
spoil the show. To enter among a crowd of happy, joyous fellow-creatures
and leave them utterly crushed and miserable is the stage lawyer's

The stage lawyer is a very talkative gentleman. He regards the telling
of his client's most private affairs to every stranger that he meets
as part of his professional duties. A good gossip with a few chance
acquaintances about the family secrets of his employers is food and
drink for the stage lawyer.

They all go about telling their own and their friends' secrets to
perfect strangers on the stage. Whenever two people have five minutes to
spare on the stage they tell each other the story of their lives. "Sit
down and I will tell you the story of my life" is the stage equivalent
for the "Come and have a drink" of the outside world.

The good stage lawyer has generally nursed the heroine on his knee when
a baby (when she was a baby, we mean)--when she was only so high. It
seems to have been a part of his professional duties. The good stage
lawyer also kisses all the pretty girls in the play and is expected
to chuck the housemaid under the chin. It is good to be a good stage

The good stage lawyer also wipes away a tear when sad things happen; and
he turns away to do this and blows his nose, and says he thinks he has
a fly in his eye. This touching trait in his character is always held in
great esteem by the audience and is much applauded.

The good stage lawyer is never by any chance a married man. (Few good
men are, so we gather from our married lady friends.) He loved in early
life the heroine's mother. That "sainted woman" (tear and nose business)
died and is now among the angels--the gentleman who did marry her, by
the bye, is not quite so sure about this latter point, but the lawyer is
fixed on the idea.

In stage literature of a frivolous nature the lawyer is a very different
individual. In comedy he is young, he possesses chambers, and he is
married (there is no doubt about this latter fact); and his wife and his
mother-in-law spend most of the day in his office and make the dull old
place quite lively for him.

He only has one client. She is a nice lady and affable, but her
antecedents are doubtful, and she seems to be no better than she ought
to be--possibly worse. But anyhow she is the sole business that the poor
fellow has--is, in fact, his only source of income, and might, one would
think, under such circumstances be accorded a welcome by his family. But
his wife and his mother-in-law, on the contrary, take a violent dislike
to her, and the lawyer has to put her in the coal-scuttle or lock her
up in the safe whenever he hears either of these female relatives of his
coming up the stairs.

We should not care to be the client of a farcical comedy stage lawyer.
Legal transactions are trying to the nerves under the most favorable
circumstances; conducted by a farcical stage lawyer, the business would
be too exciting for us.


She sits on a table and smokes a cigarette. A cigarette on the stage is
always the badge of infamy.

In real life the cigarette is usually the hall-mark of the particularly
mild and harmless individual. It is the dissipation of the Y.M.C.A.; the
innocent joy of the pure-hearted boy long ere the demoralizing influence
of our vaunted civilization has dragged him down into the depths of the
short clay.

But behind the cigarette on the stage lurks ever black-hearted villainy
and abandoned womanhood.

The adventuress is generally of foreign extraction. They do not make bad
women in England--the article is entirely of continental manufacture
and has to be imported. She speaks English with a charming little French
accent, and she makes up for this by speaking French with a good sound
English one.

She seems a smart business woman, and she would probably get on very
well if it were not for her friends and relations. Friends and relations
are a trying class of people even in real life, as we all know, but
the friends and relations of the stage adventuress are a particularly
irritating lot. They never leave her; never does she get a day or an
hour off from them. Wherever she goes, there the whole tribe goes with

They all go with her in a body when she calls on her young man, and it
is as much as she can do to persuade them to go into the next room even
for five minutes, and give her a chance. When she is married they come
and live with her.

They know her dreadful secret and it keeps them in comfort for years.
Knowing somebody's secret seems, on the stage, to be one of the most
profitable and least exhausting professions going.

She is fond of married life, is the adventuress, and she goes in for it
pretty extensively. She has husbands all over the globe, most of them
in prison, but they escape and turn up in the last act and spoil all
the poor girl's plans. That is so like husbands--no consideration, no
thought for their poor wives. They are not a prepossessing lot, either,
those early husbands of hers. What she could have seen in them to induce
her to marry them is indeed a mystery.

The adventuress dresses magnificently. Where she gets the money from we
never could understand, for she and her companions are always more or
less complaining of being "stone broke." Dressmakers must be a trusting
people where she comes from.

The adventuress is like the proverbial cat as regards the number of
lives she is possessed of. You never know when she is really dead. Most
people like to die once and have done with it, but the adventuress,
after once or twice trying it, seems to get quite to like it, and goes
on giving way to it, and then it grows upon her until she can't help
herself, and it becomes a sort of craving with her.

This habit of hers is, however, a very trying one for her friends and
husbands--it makes things so uncertain. Something ought to be done to
break her of it. Her husbands, on hearing that she is dead, go into
raptures and rush off and marry other people, and then just as they
are starting off on their new honeymoon up she crops again, as fresh as
paint. It is really most annoying.

For ourselves, were we the husband of a stage adventuress we should
never, after what we have seen of the species, feel quite justified in
believing her to be dead unless we had killed and buried her ourselves;
and even then we should be more easy in our minds if we could arrange to
sit on her grave for a week or so afterward. These women are so artful!

But it is not only the adventuress who will persist in coming to life
again every time she is slaughtered. They all do it on the stage. They
are all so unreliable in this respect. It must be most disheartening to
the murderers.

And then, again, it is something extraordinary, when you come to think
of it, what a tremendous amount of killing some of them can stand and
still come up smiling in the next act, not a penny the worse for it.
They get stabbed, and shot, and thrown over precipices thousands of feet
high and, bless you, it does them good--it is like a tonic to them.

As for the young man that is coming home to see his girl, you simply
can't kill him. Achilles was a summer rose compared with him. Nature and
mankind have not sufficient materials in hand as yet to kill that
man. Science has but the strength of a puling babe against his
invulnerability. You can waste your time on earthquakes and shipwrecks,
volcanic eruptions, floods, explosions, railway accidents, and such like
sort of things, if you are foolish enough to do so; but it is no good
your imagining that anything of the kind can hurt him, because it can't.

There will be thousands of people killed, thousands in each instance,
but one human being will always escape, and that one human being will be
the stage young man who is coming home to see his girl.

He is forever being reported as dead, but it always turns out to be
another fellow who was like him or who had on his (the young man's) hat.
He is bound to be out of it, whoever else may be in.

"If I had been at my post that day," he explains to his sobbing mother,
"I should have been blown up, but the Providence that watches over good
men had ordained that I should be laying blind drunk in Blogg's saloon
at the time the explosion took place, and so the other engineer, who had
been doing my work when it was his turn to be off, was killed along with
the whole of the crew."

"Ah, thank Heaven, thank Heaven for that!" ejaculates the pious old
lady, and the comic man is so overcome with devout joy that he has to
relieve his overstrained heart by drawing his young woman on one side
and grossly insulting her.

All attempts to kill this young man ought really to be given up now. The
job has been tried over and over again by villains and bad people of all
kinds, but no one has ever succeeded. There has been an amount of energy
and ingenuity expended in seeking to lay up that one man which, properly
utilized, might have finished off ten million ordinary mortals. It is
sad to think of so much wasted effort.

He, the young man coming home to see his girl, need never take an
insurance ticket or even buy a _Tit Bits_. It would be needless
expenditure in his case.

On the other hand, and to make matters equal, as it were, there are some
stage people so delicate that it is next door to impossible to keep them

The inconvenient husband is a most pathetic example of this. Medical
science is powerless to save that man when the last act comes round;
indeed, we doubt whether medical science, in its present state of
development, could even tell what is the matter with him or why he dies
at all. He looks healthy and robust enough and nobody touches him, yet
down he drops, without a word of warning, stone-dead, in the middle of
the floor--he always dies in the middle of the floor. Some folks like
to die in bed, but stage people don't. They like to die on the floor. We
all have our different tastes.

The adventuress herself is another person who dies with remarkable ease.
We suppose in her case it is being so used to it that makes her so quick
and clever at it. There is no lingering illness and doctors' bills and
upsetting of the whole household arrangements about her method. One walk
round the stage and the thing is done.

All bad characters die quickly on the stage. Good characters take a long
time over it, and have a sofa down in the drawing-room to do it on, and
have sobbing relatives and good old doctors fooling around them, and can
smile and forgive everybody. Bad stage characters have to do the whole
job, dying speech and all, in about ten seconds, and do it with
all their clothes on into the bargain, which must make it most

It is repentance that kills off the bad people in plays. They always
repent, and the moment they repent they die. Repentance on the stage
seems to be one of the most dangerous things a man can be taken with.
Our advice to stage wicked people would undoubtedly be, "Never repent.
If you value your life, don't repent. It always means sudden death!"

To return to our adventuress. She is by no means a bad woman. There is
much good in her. This is more than proved by the fact that she learns
to love the hero before she dies; for no one but a really good woman
capable of extraordinary patience and gentleness could ever, we are
convinced, grow to feel any other sentiment for that irritating ass,
than a desire to throw bricks at him.

The stage adventuress would be a much better woman, too, if it were not
for the heroine. The adventuress makes the most complete arrangements
for being noble and self-sacrificing--that is, for going away and never
coming back, and is just about to carry them out, when the heroine, who
has a perfect genius for being in the wrong place at the right time,
comes in and spoils it all. No stage adventuress can be good while the
heroine is about. The sight of the heroine rouses every bad feeling in
her breast.

We can sympathize with her in this respect. The heroine often affects
ourselves in precisely the same way.

There is a good deal to be said in favor of the adventuress. True, she
possesses rather too much sarcasm and repartee to make things quite
agreeable round the domestic hearth, and when she has got all her
clothes on there is not much room left in the place for anybody else;
but taken on the whole she is decidedly attractive. She has grit and
go in her. She is alive. She can do something to help herself besides
calling for "George."

She has not got a stage child--if she ever had one, she has left it on
somebody else's doorstep which, presuming there was no water handy to
drown it in, seems to be about the most sensible thing she could have
done with it. She is not oppressively good.

She never wants to be "unhanded" or "let to pass."

She is not always being shocked or insulted by people telling her that
they love her; she does not seem to mind it if they do. She is not
always fainting, and crying, and sobbing, and wailing, and moaning, like
the good people in the play are.

Oh, they do have an unhappy time of it--the good people in plays! Then
she is the only person in the piece who can sit on the comic man.

We sometimes think it would be a fortunate thing--for him--if they
allowed her to marry and settle down quietly with the hero. She might
make a man of him in time.


There are two types of servant-girl to be met with on the stage. This is
an unusual allowance for one profession.

There is the lodging-house slavey. She has a good heart and a
smutty face and is always dressed according to the latest fashion in
scarecrows. Her leading occupation is the cleaning of boots. She cleans
boots all over the house, at all hours of the day. She comes and
sits down on the hero's breakfast-table and cleans them over the poor
fellow's food. She comes into the drawing-room cleaning boots.

She has her own method of cleaning them, too. She rubs off the mud, puts
on the blacking, and polishes up all with the same brush. They take an
enormous amount of polishing. She seems to do nothing else all day long
but walk about shining one boot, and she breathes on it and rubs it
till you wonder there is any leather left, yet it never seems to get any
brighter, nor, indeed, can you expect it to, for when you look close you
see it is a patent-leather boot that she has been throwing herself away
upon all this time.

Somebody has been having a lark with the poor girl.

The lodging-house slavey brushes her hair with the boot brush and blacks
the end of her nose with it.

We were acquainted with a lodging-house slavey once--a real one, we
mean. She was the handmaiden at a house in Bloomsbury where we once hung
out. She was untidy in her dress, it is true, but she had not quite that
castaway and gone-to-sleep-in-a-dust-bin appearance that we, an earnest
student of the drama, felt she ought to present, and we questioned her
one day on the subject.

"How is it, Sophronia," we said, "that you distantly resemble a human
being instead of giving one the idea of an animated rag-shop? Don't you
ever polish your nose with the blacking-brush, or rub coal into your
head, or wash your face in treacle, or put skewers into your hair, or
anything of that sort, like they do on the stage?"

She said: "Lord love you, what should I want to go and be a bally idiot
like that for?"

And we have not liked to put the question elsewhere since then.

The other type of servant-girl on the stage--the villa servant-girl--is
a very different personage. She is a fetching little thing, dresses
bewitchingly, and is always clean. Her duties are to dust the legs of
the chairs in the drawing-room. That is the only work she ever has to
do, but it must be confessed she does that thoroughly. She never comes
into the room without dusting the legs of these chairs, and she dusts
them again before she goes out.

If anything ought to be free from dust in a stage house, it should be
the legs of the drawing-room chairs.

She is going to marry the man-servant, is the stage servant-girl, as
soon as they have saved up sufficient out of their wages to buy a hotel.
They think they will like to keep a hotel. They don't understand a bit
about the business, which we believe is a complicated one, but this does
not trouble them in the least.

They quarrel a good deal over their love-making, do the stage
servant-girl and her young man, and they always come into the
drawing-room to do it. They have got the kitchen, and there is the
garden (with a fountain and mountains in the background--you can see
it through the window), but no! no place in or about the house is good
enough for them to quarrel in except the drawing-room. They quarrel
there so vigorously that it even interferes with the dusting of the

She ought not to be long in saving up sufficient to marry on, for
the generosity of people on the stage to the servants there makes one
seriously consider the advisability of ignoring the unremunerative
professions of ordinary life and starting a new and more promising
career as a stage servant.

No one ever dreams of tipping the stage servant with less than a
sovereign when they ask her if her mistress is at home or give her a
letter to post, and there is quite a rush at the end of the piece to
stuff five-pound notes into her hand. The good old man gives her ten.

The stage servant is very impudent to her mistress, and the master--he
falls in love with her and it does upset the house so.

Sometimes the servant-girl is good and faithful, and then she is Irish.
All good servant-girls on the stage are Irish.

All the male visitors are expected to kiss the stage servant-girl when
they come into the house, and to dig her in the ribs and to say: "Do you
know, Jane, I think you're an uncommonly nice girl--click." They always
say this, and she likes it.

Many years ago, when we were young, we thought we would see if things
were the same off the stage, and the next time we called at a certain
friend's house we tried this business on.

She wasn't quite so dazzlingly beautiful as they are on the stage, but
we passed that. She showed us up into the drawing-room, and then said
she would go and tell her mistress we were there.

We felt this was the time to begin. We skipped between her and the door.
We held our hat in front of us, cocked our head on one side, and said:
"Don't go! don't go!"

The girl seemed alarmed. We began to get a little nervous ourselves, but
we had begun it and we meant to go through with it.

We said, "Do you know, Jane" (her name wasn't Jane, but that wasn't our
fault), "do you know, Jane, I think you're an uncommonly nice girl,"
and we said "click," and dug her in the ribs with our elbow, and then
chucked her under the chin. The whole thing seemed to fall flat. There
was nobody there to laugh or applaud. We wished we hadn't done it. It
seemed stupid when you came to think of it. We began to feel frightened.
The business wasn't going as we expected; but we screwed up our courage
and went on.

We put on the customary expression of comic imbecility and beckoned the
girl to us. We have never seen this fail on the stage.

But this girl seemed made wrong. She got behind the sofa and screamed

We have never known them to do this on the stage, and it threw us out in
our plans. We did not know exactly what to do. We regretted that we
had ever begun this job and heartily wished ourselves out of it. But it
appeared foolish to pause then, when we were more than half-way through,
and we made a rush to get it over.

We chivvied the girl round the sofa and caught her near the door and
kissed her. She scratched our face, yelled police, murder, and fire, and
fled from the room.

Our friend came in almost immediately. He said:

"I say, J., old man, are you drunk?"

We told him no, that we were only a student of the drama. His wife then
entered in a towering passion. She didn't ask us if we were drunk. She

"How dare you come here in this state!"

We endeavored unsuccessfully to induce her to believe that we were
sober, and we explained that our course of conduct was what was always
pursued on the stage.

She said she didn't care what was done on the stage, it wasn't going
to be pursued in her house; and that if her husband's friends couldn't
behave as gentlemen they had better stop away.

The following morning we received a letter from a firm of solicitors
in Lincoln's Inn with reference, so they put it, to the brutal and
unprovoked assault committed by us on the previous afternoon upon the
person of their client, Miss Matilda Hemmings. The letter stated that
we had punched Miss Hemmings in the side, struck her under the chin, and
afterward, seizing her as she was leaving the room, proceeded to commit
a gross assault, into the particulars of which it was needless for them
to enter at greater length.

It added that if we were prepared to render an ample written apology
and to pay 50 pounds compensation, they would advise their client,
Miss Matilda Hemmings, to allow the matter to drop; otherwise criminal
proceedings would at once be commenced against us.

We took the letter to our own solicitors and explained the circumstances
to them. They said it seemed to be a very sad case, but advised us to
pay the 50 pounds, and we borrowed the money and did so.

Since then we have lost faith, somehow, in the British drama as a guide
to the conduct of life.


It is nice and quiet and it talks prettily.

We have come across real infants now and then in the course of visits to
married friends; they have been brought to us from outlying parts of the
house and introduced to us for our edification; and we have found them
gritty and sticky. Their boots have usually been muddy, and they have
wiped them up against our new trousers. And their hair has suggested the
idea that they have been standing on their heads in the dust-bin.

And they have talked to us--but not prettily, not at all--rather rude we
should call it.

But the stage child is very different. It is clean and tidy. You can
touch it anywhere and nothing comes off. Its face glows with soap and
water. From the appearance of its hands it is evident that mud-pies and
tar are joys unknown to it. As for its hair, there is something uncanny
about its smoothness and respectability. Even its boot-laces are done

We have never seen anything like the stage child outside a theater
excepting one--that was on the pavement in front of a tailor's shop
in Tottenham Court Road. He stood on a bit of round wood, and it was
fifteen and nine, his style.

We thought in our ignorance prior to this that there could not be
anything in the world like the stage child, but you see we were

The stage child is affectionate to its parents and its nurse and is
respectful in its demeanor toward those whom Providence has placed in
authority over it; and so far it is certainly much to be preferred to
the real article. It speaks of its male and female progenitors as
"dear, dear papa" and "dear, dear mamma," and it refers to its nurse as
"darling nursey." We are connected with a youthful child ourselves--a
real one--a nephew. He alludes to his father (when his father is
not present) as "the old man," and always calls the nurse "old
nut-crackers." Why cannot they make real children who say "dear, dear
mamma" and "dear, dear papa?"

The stage child is much superior to the live infant in every way. The
stage child does not go rampaging about a house and screeching and
yelling till nobody knows whether they are on their heads or their

A stage child does not get up at five o'clock in the morning to practice
playing on a penny whistle. A stage child never wants a bicycle and
drives you mad about it. A stage child does not ask twenty complicated
questions a minute about things that you don't understand, and then
wind up by asking why you don't seem to know anything, and why wouldn't
anybody teach you anything when you were a little boy.

The stage child does not wear a hole in the seat of its knickerbockers
and have to have a patch let in. The stage child comes downstairs on its

The stage child never brings home six other children to play at horses
in the front garden, and then wants to know if they can all come in to
tea. The stage child never has the wooping-cough, and the measles, and
every other disease that it can lay its hands on, and be laid up with
them one after the other and turn the house upside down.

The stage child's department in the scheme of life is to harrow up its
mother's feelings by ill-timed and uncalled-for questions about its
father. It always wants to know, before a roomful of people, where "dear
papa" is, and why he has left dear mamma; when, as all the guests know,
the poor man is doing his two years' hard or waiting to be hanged. It
makes everybody so uncomfortable.

It is always harrowing up somebody--the stage child; it really ought
not to be left about as it is. When it has done upsetting its mother it
fishes out some broken-hearted maid, who has just been cruelly severed
forever from her lover, and asks her in a high falsetto voice why she
doesn't get married, and prattles to her about love, and domestic
bliss, and young men, and any other subject it can think of particularly
calculated to lacerate the poor girl's heart until her brain nearly
gives way.

After that it runs amuck up and down the whole play and makes everybody
sit up all round. It asks eminently respectable old maids if they
wouldn't like to have a baby; and it wants to know why bald-headed old
men have left off wearing hair, and why other old gentlemen have red
noses and if they were always that color.

In some plays it so happens that the less said about the origin and
source of the stage child the better; and in such cases nothing will
appear so important to that contrary brat as to know, in the middle of
an evening-party, who its father was!

Everybody loves the stage child. They catch it up in their bosoms every
other minute and weep over it. They take it in turns to do this.

Nobody--on the stage, we mean--ever has enough of the stage child.
Nobody ever tells the stage child to "shut up" or to "get out of this."
Nobody ever clumps the stage child over the head.

When the real child goes to the theater it must notice these things and
wish it were a stage child.

The stage child is much admired by the audience. Its pathos makes them
weep; its tragedy thrills them; its declamation--as for instance when it
takes the center of the stage and says it will kill the wicked man, and
the police, and everybody who hurts its mar--stirs them like a trumpet
note; and its light comedy is generally held to be the most truly
humorous thing in the whole range of dramatic art.

But there are some people so strangely constituted that they do not
appreciate the stage child; they do not comprehend its uses; they do not
understand its beauties. We should not be angry with them. We should the
rather pity them.

We ourselves had a friend once who suffered from this misfortune. He was
a married man, and Providence had been very gracious, very good to him:
he had been blessed with eleven children, and they were all growing up
well and strong.

The "baby" was eleven weeks old, and then came the twins, who were
getting on for fifteen months and were cutting their double teeth
nicely. The youngest girl was three; there were five boys aged seven,
eight, nine, ten, and twelve respectively--good enough lads, but--well,
there, boys will be boys, you know; we were just the same ourselves when
we were young. The two eldest were both very pleasant girls, as their
mother said; the only pity was that they would quarrel so with each

We never knew a healthier set of boys and girls. They were so full of
energy and dash.

Our friend was very much out of sorts one evening when we called on him.
It was holiday-time and wet weather. He had been at home all day, and so
had all the children. He was telling his wife when we entered the room
that if the holidays were to last much longer and those twins did not
hurry up and get their teeth quickly, he should have to go away and join
the County Council. He could not stand the racket.

His wife said she could not see what he had to complain of. She was sure
better-hearted children no man could have.

Our friend said he didn't care a straw about their hearts. It was their
legs and arms and lungs that were driving him crazy.

He also said that he would go out with us and get away from it for a
bit, or he should go mad.

He proposed a theater, and we accordingly made our way toward the
Strand. Our friend, in closing the door behind him, said he could not
tell us what a relief it was to get away from those children. He said he
loved children very much indeed, but that it was a mistake to have too
much of anything, however much you liked it, and that he had come to the
conclusion that twenty-two hours a day of them was enough for any one.

He said he did not want to see another child or hear another child until
he got home. He wanted to forget that there were such things as children
in the world.

We got up to the Strand and dropped into the first theater we came to.
The curtain went up, and on the stage was a small child standing in its
nightshirt and screaming for its mother.

Our friend looked, said one word and bolted, and we followed.

We went a little further and dropped into another theater.

Here there were two children on the stage. Some grown-up people were
standing round them listening, in respectful attitudes, while the
children talked. They appeared to be lecturing about something.

Again we fled, swearing, and made our way to a third theater. They
were all children there. It was somebody or other's Children's Company
performing an opera, or pantomime, or something of that sort.

Our friend said he would not venture into another theater. He said he
had heard there were places called music-halls, and he begged us to take
him to one of these and not to tell his wife.

We inquired of a policeman and found that there really were such places,
and we took him into one.

The first thing we saw were two little boys doing tricks on a horizontal

Our friend was about to repeat his customary programme of flying and
cursing, but we restrained him. We assured him that he would really see
a grown-up person if he waited a bit, so he sat out the boys and also
their little sister on a bicycle and waited for the next item.

It turned out to be an infant phenomenon who sang and danced in fourteen
different costumes, and we once more fled.

Our friend said he could not go home in the state he was then; he felt
sure he should kill the twins if he did. He pondered for awhile, and
then he thought he would go and hear some music. He said he thought a
little music would soothe and ennoble him--make him feel more like a
Christian than he did at that precise moment.

We were near St. James' Hall, so we went in there.

The hall was densely crowded, and we had great difficulty in forcing our
way to our seats. We reached them at length, and then turned our eyes
toward the orchestra.

"The marvelous boy pianist--only ten years old!" was giving a recital.

Then our friend rose and said he thought he would give it up and go

We asked him if he would like to try any other place of amusement, but
he said "No." He said that when you came to think of it, it seemed a
waste of money for a man with eleven children of his own to go about to
places of entertainment nowadays.


Oh, they are funny! The comic lovers' mission in life is to serve as
a sort of "relief" to the misery caused the audience by the other
characters in the play; and all that is wanted now is something that
will be a relief to the comic lovers.

They have nothing to do with the play, but they come on immediately
after anything very sad has happened and make love. This is why we watch
sad scenes on the stage with such patience. We are not eager for them
to be got over. Maybe they are very uninteresting scenes, as well as sad
ones, and they make us yawn; but we have no desire to see them hurried
through. The longer they take the better pleased we are: we know that
when they are finished the comic lovers will come on.

They are always very rude to each other, the comic lovers. Everybody is
more or less rude and insulting to every body else on the stage; they
call it repartee there! We tried the effect of a little stage "repartee"
once upon some people in real life, and we wished we hadn't afterward.
It was too subtle for them. They summoned us before a magistrate for
"using language calculated to cause a breach of the peace." We were
fined 2 pounds and costs!

They are more lenient to "wit and humor" on the stage, and know how
to encourage the art of vituperation. But the comic lovers carry the
practice almost to excess. They are more than rude--they are abusive.
They insult each other from morning to night. What their married life
will be like we shudder to think!

In the various slanging matches and bullyragging competitions which form
their courtship it is always the maiden that is most successful.
Against her merry flow of invective and her girlish wealth of offensive
personalities the insolence and abuse of her boyish adorer cannot stand
for one moment.

To give an idea of how the comic lovers woo, we perhaps cannot do better
than subjoin the following brief example:

     _SCENE:  Main thoroughfare in populous district of London.  Time:
     Noon.  Not a soul to be seen anywhere._

     _Enter comic loveress R., walking in the middle of the road._

     _Enter comic lover L., also walking in the middle of the road._

     _They neither see the other until they bump against each other in
     the center._

HE. Why, Jane! Who'd a' thought o' meeting you here!

SHE. You evidently didn't--stoopid!

HE. Halloo! got out o' bed the wrong side again? I say, Jane, if you go
on like that you'll never get a man to marry you.

SHE. So I thought when I engaged myself to you.

HE. Oh! come, Jane, don't be hard.

SHE. Well, one of us must be hard. You're soft enough.

HE. Yes, I shouldn't want to marry you if I weren't. Ha! ha! ha!

SHE. Oh, you gibbering idiot! (_Said archly._)

HE. So glad I am. We shall make a capital match (_attempts to kiss

SHE (_slipping away_). Yes, and you'll find I'm a match that can strike
(_fetches him a violent blow over the side if the head_).

HE (_holding his jaw--in a literal sense, we mean_). I can't help
feeling smitten by her.

SHE. Yes, I'm a bit of a spanker, ain't I?

HE. Spanker. I call you a regular stunner. You've nearly made me silly.

SHE (_laughing playfully_). No, nature did that for you, Joe, long ago.

HE. Ah, well, you've made me smart enough now, you boss-eyed old cow,

SHE. Cow! am I? Ah, I suppose that's what makes me so fond of a calf,
you German sausage on legs! You--

HE. Go along. Your mother brought you up on sour milk.

SHE. Yah! They weaned you on thistles, didn't they?

And so on, with such like badinage do they hang about in the middle of
that road, showering derision and contumely upon each other for full ten
minutes, when, with one culminating burst of mutual abuse, they go off
together fighting and the street is left once more deserted.

It is very curious, by the bye, how deserted all public places become
whenever a stage character is about. It would seem as though ordinary
citizens sought to avoid them. We have known a couple of stage villains
to have Waterloo Bridge, Lancaster Place, and a bit of the Strand
entirely to themselves for nearly a quarter of an hour on a summer's
afternoon while they plotted a most diabolical outrage.

As for Trafalgar Square, the hero always chooses that spot when he wants
to get away from the busy crowd and commune in solitude with his own
bitter thoughts; and the good old lawyer leaves his office and goes
there to discuss any very delicate business over which he particularly
does not wish to be disturbed.

And they all make speeches there to an extent sufficient to have turned
the hair of the late lamented Sir Charles Warren White with horror. But
it is all right, because there is nobody near to hear them. As far as
the eye can reach, not a living thing is to be seen. Northumberland
Avenue, the Strand, and St. Martin's Lane are simply a wilderness.
The only sign of life about is a 'bus at the top of Whitehall, and it
appears to be blocked.

How it has managed to get blocked we cannot say. It has the whole road
to itself, and is, in fact, itself the only traffic for miles round. Yet
there it sticks for hours. The police make no attempt to move it on and
the passengers seem quite contented.

The Thames Embankment is an even still more lonesome and desolate part.
Wounded (stage) spirits fly from the haunts of men and, leaving the
hard, cold world far, far behind them, go and die in peace on the Thames
Embankment. And other wanderers, finding their skeletons afterward, bury
them there and put up rude crosses over the graves to mark the spot.

The comic lovers are often very young, and when people on the stage are
young they _are_ young. He is supposed to be about sixteen and she is
fifteen. But they both talk as if they were not more than seven.

In real life "boys" of sixteen know a thing or two, we have generally
found. The average "boy" of sixteen nowadays usually smokes cavendish
and does a little on the Stock Exchange or makes a book; and as for
love! he has quite got over it by that age. On the stage, however, the
new-born babe is not in it for innocence with the boy lover of sixteen.

So, too, with the maiden. Most girls of fifteen off the stage, so our
experience goes, know as much as there is any actual necessity for them
to know, Mr. Gilbert notwithstanding; but when we see a young lady of
fifteen on the stage we wonder where her cradle is.

The comic lovers do not have the facilities for love-making that the
hero and heroine do. The hero and heroine have big rooms to make love
in, with a fire and plenty of easy-chairs, so that they can sit about
in picturesque attitudes and do it comfortably. Or if they want to do
it out of doors they have a ruined abbey, with a big stone seat in the
center, and moonlight.

The comic lovers, on the other hand, have to do it standing up all the
time, in busy streets, or in cheerless-looking and curiously narrow
rooms in which there is no furniture whatever and no fire.

And there is always a tremendous row going on in the house when the
comic lovers are making love. Somebody always seems to be putting up
pictures in the next room, and putting them up boisterously, too, so
that the comic lovers have to shout at each other.


They are so clean. We have seen peasantry off the stage, and it
has presented an untidy--occasionally a disreputable and
unwashed--appearance; but the stage peasant seems to spend all his wages
on soap and hair-oil.

They are always round the corner--or rather round the two corners--and
they come on in a couple of streams and meet in the center; and when
they are in their proper position they smile.

There is nothing like the stage peasants' smile in this world--nothing
so perfectly inane, so calmly imbecile.

They are so happy. They don't look it, but we know they are because they
say so. If you don't believe them, they dance three steps to the right
and three steps to the left back again. They can't help it. It is
because they are so happy.

When they are more than usually rollicking they stand in a semicircle,
with their hands on each other's shoulders, and sway from side to side,
trying to make themselves sick. But this is only when they are simply
bursting with joy.

Stage peasants never have any work to do.

Sometimes we see them going to work, sometimes coming home from work,
but nobody has ever seen them actually at work. They could not afford to
work--it would spoil their clothes.

They are very sympathetic, are stage peasants. They never seem to have
any affairs of their own to think about, but they make up for this by
taking a three-hundred-horse-power interest in things in which they have
no earthly concern.

What particularly rouses them is the heroine's love affairs. They could
listen to them all day.

They yearn to hear what she said to him and to be told what he replied
to her, and they repeat it to each other.

In our own love-sick days we often used to go and relate to various
people all the touching conversations that took place between our
lady-love and ourselves; but our friends never seemed to get excited
over it. On the contrary, a casual observer might even have been led
to the idea that they were bored by our recital. And they had trains to
catch and men to meet before we had got a quarter through the job.

Ah, how often in those days have we yearned for the sympathy of a stage
peasantry, who would have crowded round us, eager not to miss one word
of the thrilling narrative, who would have rejoiced with us with an
encouraging laugh, and have condoled with us with a grieved "Oh," and
who would have gone off, when we had had enough of them, singing about

By the way, this is a very beautiful trait in the character of the stage
peasantry, their prompt and unquestioning compliance with the slightest
wish of any of the principals.

"Leave me, friends," says the heroine, beginning to make preparations
for weeping, and before she can turn round they are clean gone--one
lot to the right, evidently making for the back entrance of the
public-house, and the other half to the left, where they visibly hide
themselves behind the pump and wait till somebody else wants them.

The stage peasantry do not talk much, their strong point being to
listen. When they cannot get any more information about the state of the
heroine's heart, they like to be told long and complicated stories about
wrongs done years ago to people that they never heard of. They seem to
be able to grasp and understand these stories with ease. This makes the
audience envious of them.

When the stage peasantry do talk, however, they soon make up for lost
time. They start off all together with a suddenness that nearly knocks
you over.

They all talk. Nobody listens. Watch any two of them. They are both
talking as hard as they can go. They have been listening quite enough
to other people: you can't expect them to listen to each other. But the
conversation under such conditions must be very trying.

And then they flirt so sweetly! so idyllicly!

It has been our privilege to see real peasantry flirt, and it has always
struck us as a singularly solid and substantial affair--makes one think,
somehow, of a steam-roller flirting with a cow--but on the stage it
is so sylph-like. She has short skirts, and her stockings are so much
tidier and better fitting than these things are in real peasant life,
and she is arch and coy. She turns away from him and laughs--such
a silvery laugh. And he is ruddy and curly haired and has on such a
beautiful waistcoat! how can she help but love him? And he is so tender
and devoted and holds her by the waist; and she slips round and comes up
the other side. Oh, it is so bewitching!

The stage peasantry like to do their love-making as much in public as
possible. Some people fancy a place all to themselves for this sort
of thing--where nobody else is about. We ourselves do. But the stage
peasant is more sociably inclined. Give him the village green, just
outside the public-house, or the square on market-day to do his spooning

They are very faithful, are stage peasants. No jilting, no fickleness,
no breach of promise. If the gentleman in pink walks out with the lady
in blue in the first act, pink and blue will be married in the end. He
sticks to her all through and she sticks to him.

Girls in yellow may come and go, girls in green may laugh and dance--the
gentleman in pink heeds them not. Blue is his color, and he never leaves
it. He stands beside it, he sits beside it. He drinks with her, he
smiles with her, he laughs with her, he dances with her, he comes on
with her, he goes off with her.

When the time comes for talking he talks to her and only her, and she
talks to him and only him. Thus there is no jealousy, no quarreling. But
we should prefer an occasional change ourselves.

There are no married people in stage villages and no children
(consequently, of course-happy village! oh, to discover it and spend a
month there!). There are just the same number of men as there are women
in all stage villages, and they are all about the same age and each
young man loves some young woman. But they never marry.

They talk a lot about it, but they never do it. The artful beggars! They
see too much what it's like among the principals.

The stage peasant is fond of drinking, and when he drinks he likes to
let you know he is drinking. None of your quiet half-pint inside the
bar for him. He likes to come out in the street and sing about it and do
tricks with it, such as turning it topsy-turvy over his head.

Notwithstanding all this he is moderate, mind you. You can't say he
takes too much. One small jug of ale among forty is his usual allowance.

He has a keen sense of humor and is easily amused. There is something
almost pathetic about the way he goes into convulsions of laughter over
such very small jokes. How a man like that would enjoy a real joke!
One day he will perhaps hear a real joke. Who knows? It will, however,
probably kill him. One grows to love the stage peasant after awhile.
He is so good, so child-like, so unworldly. He realizes one's ideal of


He has lost his wife. But he knows where she is--among the angels!

She isn't all gone, because the heroine has her hair. "Ah, you've got
your mother's hair," says the good old man, feeling the girl's head all
over as she kneels beside him. Then they all wipe away a tear.

The people on the stage think very highly of the good old man, but they
don't encourage him much after the first act. He generally dies in the
first act.

If he does not seem likely to die they murder him.

He is a most unfortunate old gentleman. Anything he is mixed up in seems
bound to go wrong. If he is manager or director of a bank, smash it goes
before even one act is over. His particular firm is always on the verge
of bankruptcy. We have only to be told that he has put all his savings
into a company--no matter how sound and promising an affair it may
always have been and may still seem--to know that that company is a

No power on earth can save it after once the good old man has become a

If we lived in stage-land and were asked to join any financial scheme,
our first question would be:

"Is the good old man in it?" If so, that would decide us.

When the good old man is a trustee for any one he can battle against
adversity much longer. He is a plucky old fellow, and while that trust
money lasts he keeps a brave heart and fights on boldly. It is not until
he has spent the last penny of it that he gives way.

It then flashes across the old man's mind that his motives for having
lived in luxury upon that trust money for years may possibly be
misunderstood. The world--the hollow, heartless world--will call it a
swindle and regard him generally as a precious old fraud.

This idea quite troubles the good old man.

But the world really ought not to blame him. No one, we are sure, could
be more ready and willing to make amends (when found out); and to put
matters right he will cheerfully sacrifice his daughter's happiness and
marry her to the villain.

The villain, by the way, has never a penny to bless himself with, and
cannot even pay his own debts, let alone helping anybody else out of a
scrape. But the good old man does not think of this.

Our own personal theory, based upon a careful comparison of
similarities, is that the good old man is in reality the stage hero
grown old. There is something about the good old man's chuckle-headed
simplicity, about his helpless imbecility, and his irritating damtom
foolishness that is strangely suggestive of the hero.

He is just the sort of old man that we should imagine the hero would
develop into.

We may, of course, be wrong; but that is our idea.


He says "Shure" and "Bedad" and in moments of exultation "Beghorra."
That is all the Irish he knows.

He is very poor, but scrupulously honest. His great ambition is to pay
his rent, and he is devoted to his landlord.

He is always cheerful and always good. We never knew a bad Irishman on
the stage. Sometimes a stage Irishman seems to be a bad man--such as the
"agent" or the "informer"--but in these cases it invariably turns out in
the end that this man was all along a Scotchman, and thus what had been
a mystery becomes clear and explicable.

The stage Irishman is always doing the most wonderful things imaginable.
We do not see him do those wonderful things. He does them when nobody is
by and tells us all about them afterward: that is how we know of them.

We remember on one occasion, when we were young and somewhat
inexperienced, planking our money down and going into a theater solely
and purposely to see the stage Irishman do the things he was depicted as
doing on the posters outside.

They were really marvelous, the things he did on that poster.

In the right-hand upper corner he appeared running across country on all
fours, with a red herring sticking out from his coat-tails, while far
behind came hounds and horsemen hunting him. But their chance of ever
catching him up was clearly hopeless.

To the left he was represented as running away over one of the wildest
and most rugged bits of landscape we have ever seen with a very big man
on his back. Six policemen stood scattered about a mile behind him.
They had evidently been running after him, but had at last given up the
pursuit as useless.

In the center of the poster he was having a friendly fight with
seventeen ladies and gentlemen. Judging from the costumes, the affair
appeared to be a wedding. A few of the guests had already been killed
and lay dead about the floor. The survivors, however, were enjoying
themselves immensely, and of all that gay group he was the gayest.

At the moment chosen by the artist, he had just succeeded in cracking
the bridegroom's skull.

"We must see this," said we to ourselves. "This is good." And we had a
bob's worth.

But he did not do any of the things that we have mentioned, after
all--at least, we mean we did not see him do any of them. It seems
he did them "off," and then came on and told his mother all about it

He told it very well, but somehow or other we were disappointed. We had
so reckoned on that fight.

By the bye, we have noticed, even among the characters of real life, a
tendency to perform most of their wonderful feats "off."

It has been our privilege since then to gaze upon many posters on which
have been delineated strange and moving stage events.

We have seen the hero holding the villain up high above his head, and
throwing him about that carelessly that we have felt afraid he would
break something with him.

We have seen a heroine leaping from the roof of a house on one side of
the street and being caught by the comic man standing on the roof of a
house on the other side of the street and thinking nothing of it.

We have seen railway trains rushing into each other at the rate of sixty
miles an hour. We have seen houses blown up by dynamite two hundred
feet into the air. We have seen the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the
destruction of Pompeii, and the return of the British army from Egypt in
one "set" each.

Such incidents as earthquakes, wrecks in mid-ocean, revolutions and
battles we take no note of, they being commonplace and ordinary.

But we do not go inside to see these things now. We have two looks at
the poster instead; it is more satisfying.

The Irishman, to return to our friend, is very fond of whisky--the stage
Irishman, we mean. Whisky is forever in his thoughts--and often in other
places belonging to him, besides.

The fashion in dress among stage Irishmen is rather picturesque than
neat. Tailors must have a hard time of it in stage Ireland.

The stage Irishman has also an original taste in hats. He always wears a
hat without a crown; whether to keep his head cool or with any political
significance we cannot say.


Ah! he is a cute one, he is. Possibly in real life he would not be
deemed anything extraordinary, but by contrast with the average of stage
men and women, any one who is not a born fool naturally appears somewhat

He is the only man in the play who does not swallow all the villain
tells him and believe it, and come up with his mouth open for more. He
is the only man who can see through the disguise of an overcoat and a
new hat.

There is something very wonderful about the disguising power of cloaks
and hats upon the stage. This comes from the habit people on the stage
have of recognizing their friends, not by their faces and voices, but by
their cloaks and hats.

A married man on the stage knows his wife, because he knows she wears a
blue ulster and a red bonnet. The moment she leaves off that blue ulster
and red bonnet he is lost and does not know where she is.

She puts on a yellow cloak and a green hat, and coming in at
another door says she is a lady from the country, and does he want a

Having lost his beloved wife, and feeling that there is no one now to
keep the children quiet, he engages her. She puzzles him a good deal,
this new housekeeper. There is something about her that strangely
reminds him of his darling Nell--maybe her boots and dress, which she
has not had time to change.

Sadly the slow acts pass away until one day, as it is getting near
closing-time, she puts on the blue ulster and the red bonnet again and
comes in at the old original door.

Then he recognizes her and asks her where she has been all these cruel

Even the bad people, who as a rule do possess a little sense--indeed,
they are the only persons in the play who ever pretend to any--are
deceived by singularly thin disguises.

The detective comes in to their secret councils, with his hat drawn down
over his eyes, and followed by the hero speaking in a squeaky voice;
and the villains mistake them for members of the band and tell them all
their plans.

If the villains can't get themselves found out that way, then they go
into a public tea-garden and recount their crimes to one another in a
loud tone of voice.

They evidently think that it is only fair to give the detective a

The detective must not be confounded with the policeman. The stage
policeman is always on the side of the villain; the detective backs

The stage detective is, in fact, the earthly agent of a discerning and
benevolent Providence. He stands by and allows vice to be triumphant and
the good people to be persecuted for awhile without interference. Then
when he considers that we have all had about enough of it (to which
conclusion, by the bye, he arrives somewhat late) he comes forward,
handcuffs the bad people, sorts out and gives back to the good people
all their various estates and wives, promises the chief villain twenty
years' penal servitude, and all is joy.


He does suffer so with his trousers. He has to stop and pull them up
about twice every minute.

One of these days, if he is not careful, there will be an accident
happen to those trousers.

If the stage sailor will follow our advice, he will be warned in time
and will get a pair of braces.

Sailors in real life do not have nearly so much trouble with their
trousers as sailors on the stage do. Why is this? We have seen a good
deal of sailors in real life, but on only one occasion, that we can
remember, did we ever see a real sailor pull his trousers up.

And then he did not do it a bit like they do it on the stage.

The stage sailor places his right hand behind him and his left in front,
leaps up into the air, kicks out his leg behind in a gay and bird-like
way, and the thing is done.

The real sailor that we saw began by saying a bad word. Then he leaned
up against a brick wall and undid his belt, pulled up his "bags" as he
stood there (he never attempted to leap up into the air), tucked in his
jersey, shook his legs, and walked on.

It was a most unpicturesque performance to watch.

The thing that the stage sailor most craves in this life is that
somebody should shiver his timbers.

"Shiver my timbers!" is the request he makes to every one he meets. But
nobody ever does it.

His chief desire with regard to the other people in the play is that
they should "belay there, avast!" We do not know how this is done; but
the stage sailor is a good and kindly man, and we feel convinced he
would not recommend the exercise if it were not conducive to piety and

The stage sailor is good to his mother and dances the hornpipe
beautifully. We have never found a real sailor who could dance a
hornpipe, though we have made extensive inquiries throughout the
profession. We were introduced to a ship's steward who offered to do us
a cellar-flap for a pot of four-half, but that was not what we wanted.

The stage sailor is gay and rollicking: the real sailors we have met
have been, some of them, the most worthy and single-minded of men, but
they have appeared sedate rather than gay, and they haven't rollicked

The stage sailor seems to have an easy time of it when at sea. The
hardest work we have ever seen him do then has been folding up a rope or
dusting the sides of the ship.

But it is only in his very busy moments that he has to work to this
extent; most of his time is occupied in chatting with the captain.

By the way, speaking of the sea, few things are more remarkable in their
behavior than a stage sea. It must be difficult to navigate in a stage
sea, the currents are so confusing.

As for the waves, there is no knowing how to steer for them; they are so
tricky. At one moment they are all on the larboard, the sea on the other
side of the vessel being perfectly calm, and the next instant they have
crossed over and are all on the starboard, and before the captain can
think how to meet this new dodge, the whole ocean has slid round and got
itself into a heap at the back of him.

Seamanship is useless against such very unprofessional conduct as this,
and the vessel is wrecked.

A wreck at (stage) sea is a truly awful sight. The thunder and lightning
never leave off for an instant; the crew run round and round the mast
and scream; the heroine, carrying the stage child in her arms and with
her back hair down, rushes about and gets in everybody's way. The comic
man alone is calm!

The next instant the bulwarks fall down flat on the deck and the mast
goes straight up into the sky and disappears, then the water reaches the
powder magazine and there is a terrific explosion.

This is followed by a sound as of linen sheets being ripped up, and the
passengers and crew hurry downstairs into the cabin, evidently with the
idea of getting out of the way of the sea, which has climbed up and is
now level with the deck.

The next moment the vessel separates in the middle and goes off R. and
L., so as to make room for a small boat containing the heroine, the
child, the comic man, and one sailor.

The way small boats are managed at (stage) sea is even more wonderful
than the way in which ships are sailed.

To begin with, everybody sits sideways along the middle of the boat, all
facing the starboard. They do not attempt to row. One man does all the
work with one scull. This scull he puts down through the water till it
touches the bed of the ocean, and then he shoves.

"Deep-sea punting" would be the technical term for the method, we

In this way do they toil--or rather, to speak correctly, does the one
man toil--through the awful night, until with joy they see before them
the light-house rocks.

The light-house keeper comes out with a lantern. The boat is run in
among the breakers and all are saved.

And then the band plays.


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Stage-Land" ***

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