Puppets at Large: Scenes and Subjects from Mr Punch's Show
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DOING A CATHEDRAL
(A Sketch From the Provinces.)
The interior of Dulchester Cathedral. Time ЧAbout 12.30. The March sunshine slants in pale shafts through the clerestory windows, leaving the aisles in shadow. From without, the cawing of rooks and shouts of children at play are faintly audible. By the West Door, a party of Intending Sightseers have collected, and the several groups, feeling that it would be a waste of time to observe anything in the building until officially instructed to do so, are engaged in eyeing one another with all the genial antipathy and suspicion of true-born Britons.
A Stodgy Sightseer (to his friend). Disgraceful, keeping us standing about like this! If I'd only known, I'd have told the head-waiter at the "Mitre" to keep back those chops till Ч
Confused Murmurs. Would you put "Portico Lodge, Camden Road, or only London?"Е Here, I'd better sign for the lot of you, eh?.. They might provide a better pen Ц in a cathedral, I do think!.. He might have given all our names in full instead of just "And party!"Е Oh, I've been and made a blot Ц will it matter, should you think?.. I never can write my name with people looking on, can you?.. I'm sure you've done it beautifully, dear!.. Just hold my umbrella while I take off my glove, MariaЕ Oh, why don't they make haste? &c., &c.
The Verger. Now, ladies and gentlemen, if you will please to follow me, the portion of the building where we now are is part of the original hedifice founded by Ealfrytha, wife of Earl Baldric, in the year height 'undred heighty-height, though we 'ave reason to believe that an even hearlier church was in existence 'ere so far back as the Roman occupation, as is proved by a hancient stone receptacle recently discovered under the crypt and hevidently used for baptismal purposes.
A Spectacled S. (who feels it due to herself to put an intelligent question at intervals.) What was the method of baptism among the Early Christians?
The Verger. We believe it to 'ave been by total immersion, Ma'am.
The Spect.S. Oh? Baptists!
The Verger. At the back of the choir, and immediately in front of you, is the shrine, formerly containing the bones of St. Chasuble, with relics of St. Alb. (An Evangelical Sightseer snorts in disapproval.) The 'ollow depressions in the steps leading up to the shrine, which are still visible, were worn away, as you see, by the pilgrims ascending on their knees. (The party verify the depressions conscientiously, and click their tongues to express indulgent contempt.) The spaces between the harches of the shrine were originally enriched by valuable gems and mosaics, all of which 'ave now long since disappeared, 'aving been removed by the more devout parties who came 'ere on pilgrimages. In the chapel to your left a monument with recumbent heffigies of Bishop Buttress and Dean Gurgoyle, represented laying side by side with clasped 'ands, in token of the lifelong affection between them. The late Bishop used to make a rather facetious remark about this tomb. He was in the 'abit of observing that it was the honly instance in his experience of a Bishop being on friendly terms with his Dean. (He glances round for appreciation of this instance of episcopal humour, but is pained to find that it has produced a general gloom; the Evangelical Sightseer, indeed, conveys by another and a louder snort, his sense that a Bishop ought to set a better example.) In the harched recess to your right, a monument in painted halibarster to Sir Ralph Ringdove and his lady, erected immediately after her decease by the disconsolate widower, with a touching inscription in Latin, stating that their ashes would shortly be commingled in the tomb. (He pauses, to allow the ladies of the party to express a becoming sympathy Ц which they do, by clicks.) Sir Ralph himself, however, is interred in Ficklebury Parish Church, forty mile from this spot, along with his third wife, who survived him.
The Evangelical S. (snuffing the air suspiciously). I'm sorry to perceive that you are in the habit of burning incense here!
The Verger. No, Sir, what you smell ain't incense Ц on'y the vaults after the damp weather we've bin 'aving.
A Plastic S. (to the Verger). What a perfectly exquisite rose-window that is! For all the world like a kaleidoscope. I suppose it dates from the Norman period, at least?
The Verger (coldly). No, Ma'am, it was only put up about thirty year ago. We consider it the poorest glass we 'ave.
The Plast. S. Oh, the glass, yes; that's hideous, certainly. I meant the Ц the other part.
The Verger. The tracery, Ma'am? That was restored at the same time by a local man Ц and a shocking job he made of it, too!
The Plast. S. Yes, it quite spoils the Cathedral, doesn't it? Couldn't it be taken down?
The Verger (in answer to another Inquirer). Crowborough Cathedral finer than this, Sir? Oh, dear me, no. I went over a-purpose to 'ave a look at it the last 'oliday I took, and I was quite surprised to find 'ow very inferior it was. The spire? I don't say that mayn't be 'igher as a mere matter of feet, but our lantern-tower is so 'appily proportioned as to give the effect of being by far the 'ighest in existence.
A Travelled S. Ah, you should see the continental cathedrals. Why, our towers would hardly come up to the top of the naves of some of them!
The Verger (loftily). I don't take no notice of foreign cathedrals, Ma'am. If foreigners like to build so ostentatious, all I can say is, I'm sorry for them.
A Lady (who has provided herself with a "Manual of Architecture" and an unsympathetic Companion). Do notice the excessive use of the ball-flower as a decoration, dear. Parker says it is especially characteristic of this cathedral.
Unsympathetic Companion. I don't see any flowers myself. And if they like to decorate for festivals and that, where's the harm?
The Verger. The dog-tooth mouldings round the triforium harches is considered to belong to the best period of Norman work Ч
The Lady with the Manual. Surely not Norman? Dog-tooth is Saxon, I always understood.
The Verger (indulgently). You'll excuse me, Ma'am, but I fancy it's 'erringbone as is running in your 'ed.
The Lady with the M. (after consulting "Parker" for corroboration, in vain). Well, I'm sure dog-tooth is quite Early English, anyway. (To her Companion.) Did you know it was the interlacing of the round arches that gave the first idea of the pointed arch, dear?
Her Comp. No. But I shouldn't have thought there was so very much in the idea.
The Lady with the M. I do wish you took more interest, dear. Look at those two young men who have just come in. They don't look as if they'd care for carving; but they've been studying every one of the Miserere seats in the choir-stalls. That's what I like to see!
The Verger. That concludes my dooties, ladies and gentlemen. You can go out by the South Transept door, and that'll take you through the Cloisters. (The Party go out, with the exception of the two 'Arries, who linger, expectantly, and cough in embarrassment.) Was there anything you wished to know?
First 'Arry. Well, Mister, it's on'y Ц er Ц 'aven't you got some old carving or other 'ere of a rather Ц well, funny kind Ц sorter thing you on'y show to gentlemen, if you know what I mean?
The Verger (austerely). There's nothing in this Cathedral for gentlemen o' your sort, and I'm surprised at your expecting of it.
First 'Arry (to Second). I spoke civil enough to 'im, didn't I? What did 'e want to go and git the fair 'ump about?
Second 'Arry. Oh, I dunno. But you don't ketch me comin' over to no more cathedrils, and wastin' time and money all for nuthink Ц that's all.
THE INSTANTANEOUS PROCESS;
Or, Fluff Sits for his Photograph
A Photographer's Studio on the Seventh Floor. It is a warm afternoon. Mr. Stippler, Photographic Artist, is discovered alone.
Mr. Stippler (to himself). No appointments while this weather lasts, thank goodness! I shall be able to get ahead with those negatives now. (Sharp whistle from speaking-tube, to which he goes.) Well?
Voice of Lady Assistant (in shop below). Lady just brought her dog in; wants to know if she can have it taken now.
Mr. Stip. (to himself). Oh, dash the dog and the lady too!
The Voice. No, only the dog, the lady says.
Mr. Stip. (confused). Eh? Oh, exactly. Ask the lady to have the goodness to Ц ah Ц step up. (He opens the studio door, and awaits the arrival of his client; interval, at the end of which sounds as of a female in distress about halfway down are distinctly audible.) She's stepping up. (Another interval. The head of a breathless Elderly Lady emerges from the gloom.) This way, Madam.
Elderly Lady (entering and sinking into the first plush chair). Oh, dear me, I thought I should never get to the top! Now why can't you photographers have your studios on the ground floor? So much more convenient!
Mr. Stip. No doubt, Madam, no doubt. But there is Ц ah Ц a prejudice in the profession in favah of the roof; possibly the light is considered somewhat superiah. I thought I understood there was Ц ah Ц a dog?
The E. L. Oh, he'll be here presently. I think he saw something in one of the rooms on the way up that took his fancy, or very likely he's resting on one of the landing mats,†Ц such an intelligent dog! I'll call him. Fluffy, Fluffy, come along, my pet, nearly up now! Mustn't keep his missis waiting for him. (A very long pause: presently a small rough-haired terrier lounges into the studio with an air of proprietorship.) That's the dog; he's so small, he can't take very long to do, can he?
Mr. Stip. The Ц ah Ц precise size of the animal does not signify, Madam; we do it by an instantaneous process. The only question is the precise pose you would prefer. I presume the dog is a good Ц ah Ц rattah?
The E. L. Really, I've no idea. But he's very clever at killing bluebottles; he will smash them on the window-panes.
Mr. Stip. (without interest). I see, Madam. We have a speciality for our combination backgrounds, and you might like to have him represented on a country common, in the act of watching a hole in a bank.
The E. L. (impressed). For bluebottles?
Mr. Stip. For Ц ah Ц rats. (By way of concession.) Or bluebottles, of course, if you prefer it.
The E. L. I think I would rather have something more characteristic. He has such a pretty way of lying on his back with all his paws sticking straight up in the air. I never saw any other dog do it.
Mr. Stip. Precisely. But I doubt whether that particulah pose would be effective Ц in a photograph.
The E. L. You think not? Where has he got to, now? Oh, do just look at him going round, examining everything! He quite understands what he's wanted to do; you've no idea what a clever dog he is!
Mr. Stip. Ray-ally? How would it do to have him on a rock in the middle of a salmon stream?
The E. L. It would make me so uncomfortable to see it; he has a perfect horror of wetting his little feet!
Mr. Stip. In that case, no doubt Ц Then what do you say to posing him on an ornamental pedestal? We could introduce a Yorkshire moor, or a view of Canterbury Cathedral, as a background.
The E. L. A pedestal seems so suggestive of a cemetery, doesn't it?
Mr. Stip. Then we must try some other position. (He resigns himself to the commonplace.) Can the dog Ц ah Ц sit up?
The E. L. Bee-yutifully! Fluffy, come and show how nicely you can sit up!
Fluff (to himself). Show off for this fellow? Who pretends he's got rats Ц and hasn't! Not if I know it!
The E. L. (delighted). There, that's the attitude I told you of. But perhaps it would come out rather too leggy?
Mr. Stip. It is Ц ah Ц open to that objection, certainly, Madam. Perhaps we had better take him on a chair sitting up. (Fluff is, with infinite trouble, prevailed upon to mount an arm-chair, from which he growls savagely whenever Mr. Stippler approaches.) You will probably be more successful with him than I, Madam.
The E. L. I could make him sit up in a moment, if I had any of his biscuits with me. But I forgot to bring them.
Mr. Stip. There is a confectionah next door. We could send out a lad for some biscuits. About how much would you requiah Ц a quartah of a pound? He goes to the speaking tube.
The E. L. He won't eat all those; he's a most abstemious dog. But they must be sweet, tell them. (Delay. Arrival of the biscuits. The Elderly Lady holds one up, and Fluff leaps, barking frantically, until he succeeds in snatching it; a man[oe]uvre which he repeats with each successive biscuit.) Do you know, I'm afraid he really mustn't have any more Ц biscuits always excite him so. Suppose you take him lying on the chair, much as he is now? (Mr. Stippler attempts to place the dog's paws, and is snapped at.) Oh, do be careful!
Mr. Stip. (heroically). Oh, it's of no consequence, Madam. I am Ц ah Чaccustomed to it.
The E. L. Oh, yes; but he isn't, you know; so please be very gentle with him! And could you get him a little water first? I'm sure he's thirsty. (Mr. Stippler brings water in a developing dish, which Fluff empties promptly.) Now he'll be as goodЦ†!
Mr. Stip. (after wiping Fluff's chin and arranging his legs). If we can only keep him like that for one second.
The E. L. But he ought to have his ears pricked. (Mr. Stippler makes weird noises behind the camera, resembling demon cats in torture; Fluff regards him with calm contempt.) Oh, and his hair is all in his eyes, and they're his best feature!
Mr. Stip. I have not discovered his eyes at present, Madam; but he appears to have excellent Ц ah Чteeth.
The E. L. Hasn't he! Now, couldn't you catch him like that?
Mr. Stip. (to himself). He's more likely to catch me like that! (Aloud; as he retreats under a hanging canopy.) I think we shall get a good one of him as he is. (Focussing.) Yes, that will do very nicely. (He puts in the plate, and prepares to release the shutter, whereupon Fluff deliberately rises and presents his tail to the camera.) I presume you do not desiah a back view of the dog, Madam!
The E. L. Certainly not! Oh, Fluffy, naughty Ц naughty! Now lie down again, like a good dog. Oh, I'm afraid he's going to sleep!
Mr. Stip. If you would kindly take this Ц ah Ц toy in your hand, Madam, it might rouse him a little.
The E. L. (exhibiting a gutta-percha rat). Here, Fluffy, Fluffy, here's a pitty sing! What is it, eh!
Fluff (after opening one eye). The old fool fancies she's got a rat! Well, she may keep it!
Mr. Stip. We must try to obtain more Ц ah Ц animation than that.
The E. L. (shaking it vigorously). Fluffy, see what Missis has got!
Fluff (by a yawn of much eloquence). At her age, too! Wonderful how she can do it!
Mr. Stip. Perhaps you may produce a better effect with this. [He hands her a stuffed stoat.
Fluff (to himself). What's she got hold of now? Hul-lo! (He rises, and inspects the stoat with interest.) I'd no idea the old girl was so "varmint"!
Mr. Stip. Capital! Now, if he'll stay like that another Ц (Fluff jumps down, and wags his tail with conscious merit.) Oh, dear me. I never saw such a dog!
The E. L. He's tired out, poor doggie, and no wonder. But he'll be all the quieter for it, won't he? (After restoring Fluff to the chair.) Now, couldn't you take him panting, like that?
Mr. Stip. I must wait till he's got a little less tongue out, Madam.
The E. L. Must you? Why? I should have thought it was a capital opportunity.
Mr. Stip. For a physician, Madam, not a photographer. If I were to take him now the result would be an Ц ah Ц enormous tongue, with a dog in the remote distance.
The E. L. And he's putting out more and more of it! Perhaps he's thirsty again. Here, Fluffy, water Ц water! [She produces the developing dish.
Fluff (in barks of unmistakable significance). Look here, I've had about enough of this tomfoolery. Let's go. Come on!
Mr. Stip. (seconding the motion with relief). I'm afraid we're not likely to do better with him to-day. Perhaps if you could look in some othah afternoon?
The E. L. Why, we've only been an hour and twenty minutes as yet! But what would be the best time to bring him?
Mr. Stip. I should say the light and the temperatuah would probably be more favourable by the week aftah next Ц (to himself) when I shall be taking my holiday!
The E. L. Very well, I'll come then. Oh, Fluffy, Fluffy, what a silly little dog you are to give all this trouble!
Fluff (to himself, as he makes a triumphant exit). Not half so silly as some people think! I must tell the cat about this; she'll go into fits! I will say she has a considerable sense of humour Ц for a cat.
IN THE CAUSE OF CHARITY
Mona House, the Town Mansion of the Marquis of Manx, which has been lent for a Sale of Work in aid of the "Fund for Super-annuated Skirt-dancers," under the patronage of Royalty and other distinguished personages.
In the Entrance Hall.
Mrs. Wylie Dedhead (attempting to insinuate herself between the barriers). Excuse me; I only wanted to pop in for a moment, just to see if a lady friend of mine is in there, that's all!
The Lady Money-taker (blandly). If you will let me know your friend's name Ц ?
Mrs. W. D. (splendide mendax). She's assisting the dear Duchess. Now, perhaps, you will allow me to pass!
The L. M. Afraid I can't, really. But if you mean Lady Honor Hyndlegges Чshe is the only lady at the Duchess's stall Ц I could send in for her. Or of course, if you like to pay half-a-crown Ч
Mrs. W. D. (hastily). Thank you, I Ц I won't disturb her ladyship. I had no idea there was any charge for admission, and Ц (bristling) Ц allow me to say I consider such regulations most absurd.
The L. M. (sweetly, with a half glance at the bowl of coins on the table). Quite too ridiculous, ain't they? Good afternoon!
Mrs. W. D. (audibly, as she flounces out). If they suppose I'm going to pay half-a-crown for the privilege of being fleecedЦ†!
Footman (on steps, sotto voce, to confr?re). "Fleeced"! that's a good 'un, eh? She ain't brought much wool in with her!
His Confr?re. On'y what's stuffed inside of her ear. [They resume their former impassive dignity.
In the Venetian Gallery Ц where the Bazaar is being held.
A Loyal Old Lady (at the top of her voice Ц to Stall-keeper). Which of 'em's the Princess, my dear, eh? It's her I paid my money to see.
The Stall-keeper (in a dismayed whisper). Ssh! Not quite so loud! There Ц just opposite Ц petunia bow in her bonnet Ц selling kittens.
The L. O. L. (planting herself on a chair). So that's her! Well, she is dressed plain Ц for a Royalty Ц but looks pleasant enough. I wouldn't mind taking one o' them kittens off her Royal 'Ighness myself, if they was going at all reasonable. But there, I expect, the cats 'ere is meat for my masters, so to speak; and you see, my dear, 'aving the promise of a tortoise-shell Tom from the lady as keeps the Dairy next door, whenever Ч
Miss St. Leger de Mayne (persuasively to Mrs. Nibbler). Do let me show you some of this exquisite work, all embroidered entirely by hand, you see!
Mrs. Nibbler (edging away). Lovely Чquite lovely; but I think Ц a Ц I'll just take a look round before I Ч
Miss de M. If there is any particular thing you were looking for, perhaps I could Ч
Mrs. N. (becoming confidential). Well, I did think if I could come across a nice sideboard-clothЧ
Miss de M. (to herself). What on earth's a sideboard-cloth? (Aloud.) Why, I've the very thing! See Ц all worked in Russian stitch!
Mrs. N. (dubiously). I thought they were always quite plain. And what's that queer sort of flap-thing for?
Miss de M. Oh, that? That's Ц a Ц to cover up the spoons, and forks, and things; quite the latest fashion, now, you know.
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