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Stage-Land by Jerome K. Jerome

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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 convenience.

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

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

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 instructions.

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 fancied.

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 happy.

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

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

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 boots.

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 him.

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 character.

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

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

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! 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 rheumatism.

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 girl.

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

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 it.

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

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 bridegroom.

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 career.

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

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

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

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 difference.

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 boy.

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 heroes.

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 enormous.

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

"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

"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 hobby.

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 lawyer.

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 her.

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

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

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 alive.

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 uncomfortable.

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 said:

"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 up.

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 feet.

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

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 other.

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

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 bar.

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 be 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

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

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

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

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 it.

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 in.

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

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 Christianity.


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 "goner."

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 Machiavellian.

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 health.

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

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 correct{y, 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.


Notes on the editing of this text:

1. Italicized phrases are delimited by the underline character ("_").
2. Hyphens have been left in the text only where it was the clear
intention of the author. For example, throughout the text, "tonight"
and "tomorrow" appear as "to-night" and "to-morrow". This is
intentional, and is not simply a legacy of words having been broken
across lines in the printed text.
3. The pound (currency) symbol has been replaced by the word

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