« 上一頁繼續 »
cal skill that has ever electrified a British audience) he has fortunately succeeded, regardless of expense, in prevailing upon the SIGNOR to condescend to accept an engagement for this morning only, being positively his very last appearance here, as he is compelled to leave Little-Pedlington this evening, having received orders from his Excellency the Neapolitan Ambassador to return immediately to his post in
Le Capello de la Roi du Naples.
Upon this occasion SIGNOR RUmbello del SQUEAKI will perform several of the most admired fashionable airs, and will also condescend to accompany the dancing from two o'clock till four, the commencement and conclusion of which will be notified by the Firing of a real Cannon!
"On Wednesday next will be given the Eighth Public Breakfast of the Season, being for the BENEFIT OF SIGNOR RUMBELLO DEL SQUEAKI, and most positively his last appearance."
What! more last words! a third last appearance this morning, off for Naples to-night, and another last appearance on Wednesday next! How are these seeming contradictions to be reconciled? or how is the intended journey to be performed? However, as I never interfere with what does not immediately concern me, I shall ask for no explanation of the difficulty; but merely note it down that the thing seems odd, and that they have a method peculiar to themselves of arranging these matters in Little-Pedlington.
No sooner had I entered the ground than Mr. Felix Hoppy, tripping on tip-toe, came to welcome me to what he called " the Property." He was dressed precisely as I had seen him this morning, at seven o'clock, in the market-place. The loss of two front teeth gave an interesting lisp to his utterance, which (together with what, for want at the moment of any more expressive term, I shall call a mincing manner) was in the highest degree becoming a dancing-master and Master of the Ceremonies. Each word or two was accompanied with a bow. He completely fulfilled the idea conveyed by Hobbleday's brief but forcible description of him-" an elegant creature."
"Highly honoured-paramountly flattered-most welcome to the Property-most exceedingly flattered by your honourable patronage, eminent Sir."
Having thanked him for his polite reception of me, I expressed my regret at witnessing so thin an attendance-at the apparent backwardness of the public to reward his exertions for their amusement: there being, as I guessed, hardly fifty persons present.
"Pray condescend to pardon me, obliging Sir; but this is the fullest attendance of the season-forty-three paying visiters-upwards of four pounds already taken at the door! With such honourable patronage the Property must succeed. At the same time I can credibly assure you, kind Sir, that our expenses are enormous. In the first place there's our great gun
"As to that, Mr. Hoppy," said I (with an obtuseness to the figurative at which, on consideration, I blushed), "as to that, as your great gun is fired only twice, I don't perceive how
Pray condescend once more to pardon me, honourable Sir; by our great gun I mean the Del Squeaki. On his first engagement, we
paid him five shillings a day, double the sum we had ever paid to any musician before; at his second, he insisted upon having his dinner into the bargain; and now, finding he is of some use to us"-(this he added with a sigh)-" now he has advanced upon us to three half
"To the honour of our country," exclaimed I, "native talent, in that department, is less rapacious."
To this remark the Master of the Ceremonies made no reply; and I continued,
"But, doubtless, in proportion to your outlay for the amusement of the Pedlingtonians, you are rewarded by their patronage?"
Sorry I must once more entreat your pardon, considerate Sir; but the fact is, we depend for support entirely upon noble and illustrious visiters from London. The tradespeople and shopkeepers of the place are, of course, excluded from an elegant assemblage like this; and for the gentry, as most of them live in the Crescent, it would be preposterous"-(here again he heaved a sigh, which seemed to proceed from the very bottom of his dancing-pumps)" it would be out of human nature to expect they should come.
Unable to perceive the slightest connexion between the consequence and the imputed cause-to understand why it should be "out of human nature" to expect a person's attendance at a public entertainment simply because he happened to reside in a Crescent-I ventured to the M.C. a hint of my difficulty.
"See there, good Sir," said he (at the same time pointing to the back of a row of houses, the windows of which, occupied by men, women, and children, commanded a view of the skittle-ground); there! a heart-breaking sight it is; and yet one can hardly expect that people should pay to see my dancing and my fireworks, and hear my music, when they can enjoy it all from all their windows, free-gratisfor nothing*."
"But yonder I see Mr. Hobbleday," said I; " with whom, by-thebye, I must presently have a few words of explanation:-he, at least, is, as he tells me, one of your constant patrons.' "Hobbleday?-Gobbleday!" exclaimed Mr. Hoppy, with a fierceness of manner strikingly inconsistent with the previous blandness of the Master of the Ceremonies. 66 'Patron, indeed! He comes in upon a free admission; devours eggs and ham in the most unfeeling manner; finds more fault with the entertainments than our newspaper-critic him
By an association of ideas less remote than that which I have just noted, bethought me of an anecdote related by the grandfather of the present young Earl of D. His Lordship had had some dispute (respecting the right of shooting over certain grounds) with one of his tenants, the back of whose house happened to be close upon his Lordship's preserves. Some time afterwards the good-natured Earl met the man, who was about to pass him with a sulky bow, and thus accosted him: "What! not stop and talk to me, B! Although I wouldn't allow you to shoot, I told you that you might at any time have game for your family by sending to my keeper for it. Why haven't you done so? Never bear malice, man.”—“ Not I, thank you, my Lord," replied the independent farmer; "I'll accept none of your game. Your Lordship's pheasants come and roost o' nights in the trees under my windows; when I want a bird I put my hand out o' window and quietly pull one in by the tail: so you see I'm not the man to be under an obligation to the best Lord in the land. Good day, my Lord."
Extracts from a Journal kept during a
jogoli to zina huol vď 1910. self; and is laid up with a fit of the gout once a year which invariably happens to be on the night of my annual benefit-ball,"
I had the authority of the Master of the Ceremonies himself for the fact, or I could not have believed that such instances of illiberality and unmitigated meanness were to be found in Little-Pedlington 1.
Here our conversation was interrupted by cries from various of the company of Shame! shame!" "Begin begin!", "Mr. Hoppy!" "Master of the Ceremonies!" Mr. Hoppy, looking at his watch, explained to me that it was ten minutes past the time when the Signor ought to have commenced his performance, and that the company were impatient of the delay. Mr. Hoppy left me; and, hat in hand, tripped towards the discontents. He bowed and simpered with overpowering elegance what he said I know not; but almost on the instant of his interference order was restored. From them he went, bowing all the way, to a bench at a short distance, on which was seated Signor, Rumbello del Squeaki himself. The "Principal Pandea-tympanist to His Majesty the King of Naples" was appropriately habited in the costume
f an Italian brigand; though, to my unpractised eye, his dress appeared to be a cast-off from the wardrobe of one of the London theatres. Some minutes elapsed, during which they were in conversation; and, as I guessed from their gestures, and the sulky air of the Signor, in no friendly mood. On approaching, I heard the M. C. in an imploring tone say to the Artiste
"But, my kind Signor, allow me to entreat you consider—it is twenty minutes past time-the disappointment the You may rely on having it after the performance, upon my honour." These latter words he accompanied with a profound bow, and by placing his hand upon that part of his white waistcoat beneath which, he would have the Signor to understand, was to be found a heart incapable of deception../
To this the "unrivalled FOREIGN Artiste" replied,, - A
"Come, come, Muster, 'Oppy, it's o' no use your trying to gammon me. I'm agreed to 'ave three ha'-crowns for playing 'ere, and not a thump o' my drum or a blow o' my pipes do you get till I've got my money safe in 'and."
Astonished at the language of this address, I could not help exclaiming, in the words of Shakspeare" Extant, and written in choice Italian," tubo tatay
"But, my good, Signor," resumed the M. C., if you will but have the condescension to recollect our agreement
"Aye, aye; our agreement ware as I ware to 'ave 'alf my money down, and the rest arterwards; but on second thoughts I'll 'ave it all. I arn't the chap to run no risk, not I. Suppose ven all vos over you vos to pocket the cash and run avay, as Joe Strutty did at Branford Fair? then I mought vistle, you know. So and over the stuff, or you gets no play out o' me."
The visiters again becoming clamorous, and the " unrivalled foreign Artiste" continuing obdurate, Mr. Hoppy was reluctantly compelled to comply with the demand..
The Del Squeaki now adjusted his pipes to his chin, and slung his big drum across his shoulders. Already had he set one foot upon the small platform on which he was to exhibit-there was a profound quiet,
3 pub Iq disturbed only by loud cries of "Silence! silence!"-when he turned to the Master of the Ceremonies, and abruptly declared that he would not begin unless he gave him a pot of ale!
This is perfectly preposterous!" lisped the M. C.; "that is not in our agreement.” to ponto de "No matter for that, Muster 'Oppy; I've just taken it into my 'ed and I'll 'ave it."He withdrew his foot from the platform, and continued Give me vot I ax, or, as sure as my name's Rob Squeaks, I'm off to join my master vot I'm engaged to -that's to say the famous Muster Richar'són, at Vinklemouth Fair-and then there'll be a row! in your garden. You can't do without me; so, you see, give me a pot of ale vot an't in my agreement, or I von't play and then the company vill break your benches and tables-and sarve you right."
Mr. Hoppy now threw himself upon the opinion of his generous patrons, and, in terms pathetic and with imploring looks, entreated them to support him in resisting such impudent extortion-so gross an attempt to take an unfair advantage of his helpless condition. To this his generous patrons unanimously replied, that that was no affair of theirs: that, indeed, they conceived it to be quite in order that an unrivalled foreign Artiste" should be humoured in everything he might desire: that as the Neapolitan Ambassador [id est, according to the Signor's own account, Mr. Richardson] had commanded his immediate return to his post in Le Capello de la Roi du Naples [id est, according to the' same authority, Winklemouth Fair], they would not relinquish the present opportunity of hearing him; and that, in short, having paid their money for that purpose, they would insist upon it that Mr. Hoppy should, by all means and at whatever sacrifice, fulfil his contract with them-Mr. Hobbleday (who had come in with an order) being one of the most strenuous in maintaining the justice of these positions. The Master of the Ceremonies consented to the new demand of the Del Squeaki. As he was proceeding to issue his mandate to one of the waiters to convey a pot of ale to the Artiste, the latter, perceiving that the advantage was on his side, naturally, and as is usual in such cases, made the most of it: accordingly-" And summut to eat also," vociferated the Signor.
This supplementary request being also complied with, the Del Squeaki went through his astonishing performance; and the auditors were delighted, enraptured, ecstacized, &c. &c. &c., as never before had auditors been delighted, enraptured, ecstacized, &c. &c. &c., in this sublunary world!
Found, upon subsequent inquiry, that the liberal entrepreneur, after paying expenses, (including the three half-crowns, &c. to the Del Squeaki,) was a loser of no more than four-and-sixpence by the morning's entertainment. Told also that Mr. Hoppy complained of even this moderate loss. Plague on the man! how much less did he wish to lose? But it is a trite observation that some people are never satisfied. Told, moreover, that the M. C. complains of what he calls the "tyranny and oppression" to which he has been obliged to submit! Now, with submission, this is somewhat unreasonable. Be-praised and be-puffed, even to his own amazement, the "unrivalled Artiste" very wisely doubles his terms: these complied with, he very considerately trebles them: compliance with this begets a natural demand for a pot of ale, although
it be not so nominated ' the bond;" and thence, as was decent and proper, the Principal Pandea-tympanist to His Majesty the King of Naples (or, as it might more truly have been set forth, His itinerant Majesty Richardson, King of Boothia) insists upon being supplied with an unstipulated “summut to eat also." Ah, Mr. Hoppy! if I might venture to perpetrate a profane parody on a line in the immortal "Tom Thumb," I should whisper in your ear
"You make the giants first, and then can't kill them."
"Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast;" and well was it for Hobbleday that there is much truth in this. I had not been unperceived by him, but he was too busily engaged to come to me: being laudably employed in diminishing the labour of the waiters-that is to say, by packing inside himself a quantity of eggs, ham, hot-rolls, and coffee, which, but for such considerate assistance, they must have undergone the trouble of removing. At length, the breakfast-tables being cleared preparatory to the commencement of the dancing, he approached me. His mouth was full; in one hand he bore a huge ham-sandwich which he had constructed for himself, and in the other a cup of coffee.
"Ah! my dear fellow," said he (talking and eating at the same time), "you're here, eh? But not eat anything! How odd! Must pay just the same whether you do or not, you know. I say-little Jack Hobbleday was right, eh? Extraordinary creature that Signor del—”
"That extraordinary creature, Mr. Hobbleday," replied I-(emphasizing every other word or two, as is the practice when one is savagely bent upon cutting a person to the very soul)" that extraordinary creature, Sir, by his 'concord of sweet sounds,' has so calmed my irritated feelings-so completely subdued the rage and indignation that were rising in my breast-that I shall take no further notice of your very-extraordinary-behaviour than just to return you your very flattering letters of introduction to your friends Rummins and Jubb.” And with these words I presented to him both his letters, open.
Conscience-stricken, with some difficulty he bolted the morsel which he had in his mouth-the effort producing a violent fit of coughing, which greatly alarmed me for his safety; and that, in its turn, by the convulsive movement which it communicated to his arms, causing him to jerk the lumps of ham from out their envelope of bread-and-butter, and to spill the entire contents of his cup over his nankeen trowsers. When he was sufficiently recovered to articulate a few words, abashed and confused he thus attempted to excuse himself-crossing his address to me with a disjointed apostrophe to his damaged nankeens:
"My dear fellow-really, my dear Sir-did you ever see such a mess?-Indeed, Sir, if you'll believe me-Wet through and through, as I hope to be saved!-Most improper conduct of theirs to show my confidential letters-It will give me my death of cold.-As for Rummins, his age protects him, else may I perish if-Cost sixteen-andsixpence, and new on only yesterday.-Can take no notice of Jubb; his cloth protects him. They'll wash, to be sure! but their beauty's gone for ever!-But don't set me down for a humbug, don't; if there's one character I despise more than another it's a-Awful accident, indeed! Can't conceive how uncomfortable one feels with one'sNo fault of mine, 'pon my life; and rest assured that next time you