Puppets at Large: Scenes and Subjects from Mr Punch's Show
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The L. L. (solemnly). Mr. Jermyn, I place implicit confidence in your discretion. I have no doubt whatever that your head, Sir, is more than capable of containing such remarks as I have found it necessary to make in the course of our interview. I like your system of extracting information, Sir, very much. Good morning.
Mr. J. (outside). Nice pleasant-spoken fellow – trifle long-winded, though! Gad, I was so busy listenin' I forgot to notice what his rooms were like or anythin'! How would it do to go back? No, too much of a grind. Daresay I can manage to fox up somethin'. I shall tell the Chief what he said about my system. Chief don't quite know what I can do yet – this will open his eyes a bit.
SATURDAY NIGHT IN THE EDGWARE ROAD
Burlesque Butcher. Now then, all o' you there! Buy, buy, buy! Just give yer minds to spendin' yer money! (In a tone of artless wonder.) Where does the Butcher git this luverly meat? What can I do fur you now, Marm? (Triumphantly, after selling the scrag-end of a neck of mutton.) Now we're busy! Farcical Fishmonger (with two Comic Assistants). Ahar! (To crowd.) Come 'ere, you silly young snorkers! I've the qualitee! I've the qualitay! Keep takin' money! First Comic Assistant. Ahye! Foppence a pound nice plaice! Kippers two fur three 'apence. We're the Perfeshnul Curers! What are yer all goin' to do? Sort 'em out cheap! Second C. A. I don't mind! What care I? (Bursting into song.) "'Ow, she rowled me 'ed, and rumbled in the 'ay!" On me word, she did, ladies!
A Hawker of Penny Memorandum Books (to an audience of small boys). Those among you 'oo are not mechanics, decidedly you 'ave mechanical hideers!
A Lugubrious Vendor.One penny for six comic pypers. Hevery one different!
A Rude Boy. You ain't bin readin' o' any on 'em, 'ave yer, guv'nor?
A Crockery Merchant (as he unpacks a variety of vases of appalling hideousness). I don't care – it's self-sacrifice to give away! Understand, you ain't buyin' common things, you're buyin' suthin' good! It 'appens to be my buthday to-night, so I'm goin' to let you people 'ave the benefit of the doubt. Come on 'ere. I don't ask you to b'lieve me– on'y to jedge fur yerselves. I'm not 'ere to tell you no fairy tales; and the reason why I'm in a position to orfer up these vawses – all richly gilt, and decorated in three colours, the most expensive ever made – the reason I'm able to sell them so cheap as I'm doin' is this – (he lowers his voice mysteriously) – 'arf the stuff I 'ave 'ere we git in very funny ways!
A Sanctimonious Young Man (with a tongue too large for his mouth, who has just succeeded in collecting a circle round him). I am only 'ere to-night, my friends, as a paid servant – for the purpose of deciding a wager. Some o' you may have noticed an advertisement lately in the Daily Telegrawf, asking for men to stand on Southwark Bridge and orfer arf-suverings for a penny apiece. You are equally well aware that it is illegal to orfer the Queen's coinage for money: and that is not my intention this evening. But I 'ave 'ere several pieces of gold, guaranteed to be of the exact weight of arf a suvering, and 'all-marked, which, in order to decide the wager I 'ave spoken of, I shall now perceed to charge you the sum of one penny for, and no more. I am not allowed to sell more than one to each person —
First "General" (looking into a draper's window). Look at them coloured felt 'ats – all shades, and on'y sixpence three-fardens!
Second "G." They are reasonable; but I've 'eard as felt 'ats is gone out of fashion now.
First "G." Don't you believe it, Sarah. Why, my married sister bought one on'y last week!
Coster (to an old lady who has repudiated a bunch of onions after a prolonged scrutiny). Frorsty? So would you be if your onion 'ad bin layin' out in the fields all night as long as these 'ave!
First Itinerant Physician (as he screws up fragments of candy in pieces of newspaper). That is Frog in your Froat what I'm doin' up now. I arsk you to try it. It's given to me to give away, and I'm goin' to give it away – you understand? – that's all. And now I'm going to tork to you about suthink else. You see this small bottle what I 'old up. I tell you there's 'undreds layin' in bed at this present moment as 'ud give a shillin' fur one of these – and I offer it to you at one penny! It corrects all nerve-pains connected with the 'ed, cures earache, toothache, neuralgy, noomonia, 'art-complaint, fits, an' syhatica. Each bottle is charged with helectricity, forming a complete galvanic-battery. Hall you 'ave to do is to place the bottle to one o' your nawstrils, first closing the other with your finger. You will find it compels you to sniff. The moment you tyke that sniff, you'll find the worter comin' into your heyes – and that's the helectricity. You'll say, "I always 'eard helectricity was a fluid." (With withering scorn.) Very likely! You 'ave? An' why? Be-cawse o' the hignirant notions prevailin' about scientific affairs! Hevery one o' these bottles contains a battery, and to each purchaser I myke 'im a present – a present, mind yer – of Frog in 'is Froat!
Susan Jane (to Lizerann, before a stall where "Novelettes, three a penny," are to be procured by the literary). Shall we 'ave a penn'orth, an' you go 'alves along o' me?
Lizerann. Not me. I ain't got no time to go improvin' o' my mind, whatever you 'ave!
A Vendor of "'Ore'ound Tablets" (he is a voluble young man, with considerable lung-power, and a tendency to regard his cough lozenges as not only physical but moral specifics). I'm on'y a young feller, as you see, and yet 'ere I am, with my four burnin' lamps, and a lassoo-soot as belonged to my Uncle Bill, doin' wunnerful well. Why, I've took over two pound in coppers a'ready! Mind you, I don't deceive you; you may all on you do as well as me; on'y you'll 'ave to get two good ref'rences fust, and belong to a temp'rance society, like I do. This is the badge as I've got on me at this minnit. I ain't always bin like I am now. I started business four year ago, and was doin' wunnerful well, too, till I got among 'orse-copers an' dealers and went on the booze, and lost the lot. Then I turned up the drink and got a berth sellin' these 'ere Wangoo Tablets – and now I've got a neat little missus, and a nice 'ome, goin' on wunnerful comfortable. Never a week passes but what I buy myself something. Last week it was a pair o' noo socks. Soon as the sun peeps out and the doo dries up, I'm orf to Yarmouth. And what's the reason? I've enjoyed myself there. My Uncle Bill, as lives at Lowestoft, and keeps six fine 'orses and a light waggon, he's doin' wunnerful well, and he'd take me into partnership to-morrow, he would. But no – I'm 'appier as I am. What's the reason I kin go on torkin' to you like this night after night, without injury to my voice? Shall I tell yer? Because, every night o' my life, afore I go to bed, I take four o' these Wangoo Tablets – compounded o' the purest 'erbs. You take them to the nearest doctor's and arsk 'im to analyse an' test them as he will, and you 'ear what he says of them! Take one o' them tablets – after your pipe; after your cigaw; after your cigarette. You won't want no more drink, you'll find them make you come 'ome reglar every evening, and be able to buy a noo 'at every week. You've ony to persevere for a bit with these 'ere lawzengers to be like I am myself, doin' wunnerful well! You see this young feller 'ere? (Indicating a sheepish head in a pot-hat, which is visible over the back of his stall.) Born and bred in Kenada, 'e was. And quite right! Bin over 'ere six year, so, o' course he speaks the lengwidge. And quite right. Now I'm no Amerikin myself, but they're a wunnerful clever people, the Amerikins are, allays inventin' or suthink o' that there. And you're at liberty to go and arsk 'im for yourselves whether this is a real Amerikin invention or not – as he'll tell yer it is– and quite right, too! An' it stands to reason as he orter know, seein' he introdooced it 'imself and doin' wunnerful well with it ever since. I ain't come 'ere to rob yer. Lady come and give me a two-shillin' piece just now. I give it her back. She didn't know – thort it was a penny, till I told her. Well, that just shows you what these 'ere Wangoo 'Ore'ound Tablets are!
Lizerann (to Susan Jane, as they walk homewards). On'y fancy – the other evenin', as I was walkin' along this very pavement, a cab-'orse come up beyind me, unbeknown like, and put 'is 'ed over my shoulder and breathed right in my ear!
Susan Jane (awestruck). You must ha' bin a bad gell!
THE "MODEL HUSBAND" CONTEST
Scene the First – At the Galahad-Green's
Mrs. G. – G. Galahad!
Mr. G. – G. (meekly). My love?
Mrs. G. – G. I see that the proprietors of All Sorts are going to follow the American example, and offer a prize of ?20 to the wife who makes out the best case for her husband as a Model. It's just as well, perhaps, that you should know that I've made up my mind to enter you!
Mr. G. – G. (gratified). My dear Cornelia! really, I'd no idea you had such a —
Mrs. G. – G. Nonsense! The drawing-room carpet is a perfect disgrace, and, as you can't, or won't, provide the money in any other way, why – Would you like to hear what I've said about you?
Mr. G. – G. Well, if you're sure it wouldn't be troubling you too much, I should, my dear.
Mrs. G. – G. Then sit where I can see you, and listen. (She reads.) "Irreproachable in all that pertains to morality" – (and it would be a bad day indeed for you, Galahad, if I ever had cause to think otherwise!) – "morality; scrupulously dainty and neat in his person" – (ah, you may well blush, Galahad, but fortunately, they won't want me to produce you!) – "he imports into our happy home the delicate refinement of a preux chevalier of the olden time." (Will you kindly take your dirty boots off the steel fender!) "We rule our little kingdom with a joint and equal sway, to which jealousy and friction are alike unknown; he, considerate and indulgent to my womanly weakness" – (You need not stare at me in that perfectly idiotic fashion!) – "I, looking to him for the wise and tender support which has never yet been denied. The close and daily scrutiny of many years has discovered" – (What are you shaking like that for?) – "discovered no single weakness; no taint or flaw of character; no irritating trick of speech or habit." (How often have I told you that I will not have the handle of that paper-knife sucked? Put it down; do!) "His conversation – sparkling but ever spiritual – renders our modest meals veritable feasts of fancy and flows of soul… Well, Galahad?"
Mr. G. – G. Nothing, my dear; nothing. It struck me as, well, – a trifle flowery, that last passage, that's all!
Mrs. G. – G. (severely). If I cannot expect to win the prize without descending to floweriness, whose fault is that, I should like to know? If you can't make sensible observations, you had better not speak at all. (Continuing.) "Over and over again, gathering me in his strong, loving arms, and pressing fervent kisses upon my forehead, he has cried, 'Why am I not a Monarch that so I could place a diadem upon that brow? With such a Consort am I not doubly crowned?'" Have you anything to say to that, Galahad?
Mr. G. – G. Only, my love, that I – I don't seem to remember having made that particular remark.
Mrs. G. – G. Then make it now. I'm sure I wish to be as accurate as I can.
Scene the Second – At the Monarch-Jones'.
Mr. M. – J. Twenty quid would come in precious handy just now, after all I've dropped lately, and I mean to pouch that prize if I can – so just you sit down, Grizzle, and write out what I tell you; do you hear?
Mrs. M. – J. (timidly). But, Monarch, dear, would that be quite fair? No, don't be angry, I didn't mean that – I'll write whatever you please!
Mr. M. – J. You'd better, that's all! Are you ready? I must screw myself up another peg before I begin. (He screws.) Now, then. (Stands over her and dictates.) "To the polished urbanity of a perfect gentleman he unites the kindly charity of a true Christian." (Why the devil don't you learn to write decently, eh?) "Liberal, and even lavish, in all his dealings, he is yet a stern foe to every kind of excess" – (Hold on a bit, I must have another nip after that) – "every kind of excess. Our married life is one long dream of blissful contentment, in which each contends with the other in loving self-sacrifice." (Haven't you corked all that down yet!) "Such cares and anxieties as he has he conceals from me with scrupulous consideration as long as possible" – (Gad, I should be a fool if I didn't!) – "while I am ever sure of finding in him a patient and sympathetic listener to all my trifling worries and difficulties." – (Two f's in difficulties, you little fool – can't you even spell?) "Many a time, falling on his knees at my feet, he has rapturously exclaimed, his accents broken by manly emotion, 'Oh, that I were more worthy of such a pearl among women! With such a helpmate, I am indeed to be envied!'" That ought to do the trick. If I don't romp in after that! – (Observing that Mrs. M. – J.'s shoulders are convulsed.) What the dooce are you giggling at now?
Mrs. M. – J. I – I wasn't giggling, Monarch dear, only —
Mr. M. – J. Only what?
Mrs. M. – J. Only crying!
"The judges appointed by the spirited proprietors of All Sorts to decide the 'Model Husband Contest' – which was established on lines similar to one recently inaugurated by one of our New York contemporaries – have now issued their award. Two competitors have sent in certificates which have been found equally deserving of the prize; viz., Mrs. Cornelia Galahad-Green, Graemair Villa, Peckham, and Mrs. Griselda Monarch-Jones, Aspen Lodge, Lordship Lane. The sum of twenty pounds will consequently be divided between these two ladies, to whom, with their respective spouses, we beg to tender our cordial felicitations." – (Extract from Daily Paper, some six months hence.)
THE COURIER OF THE HAGUE
He is an elderly amiable little Dutchman in a soft felt hat; his name is Bosch, and he is taking me about. Why I engaged him I don't quite know – unless from a general sense of helplessness in Holland, and a craving for any kind of companionship. Now I have got him, I feel rather more helpless than ever – a sort of composite of Sandford and Merton, with a didactic, but frequently incomprehensible Dutch Barlow. My Sandford half would like to exhibit an intelligent curiosity, but is generally suppressed by Merton, who has a morbid horror of useful information. Not that Bosch is remarkably erudite, but nevertheless he contrives to reduce me to a state of imbecility, which I catch myself noting with a pained surprise. There is a statue in the Plein, and the Sandford element in me finds a satisfaction in recognising it aloud as William the Silent. It is – but, as my Merton part thinks, a fellow would be a fool if he didn't recognise William after a few hours in Holland – his images, in one form or another, are tolerably numerous. Still Bosch is gratified. "Yass, dot is ole Volliam," he says, approvingly, as to a precocious infant just beginning to take notice. "Lokeer," he says, "you see dot Apoteek?" He indicates a chemist's shop opposite, with nothing remarkable about it externally, except a Turk's head with his tongue out over the door.
"Yes, I (speaking for Sandford and Merton) see it – has it some historical interest – did Volliam get medicine there, or what?"
"Woll, dis mornin dare vas two sairvans dere, and de von cot two blaces out of de odder's haid, and afderwarts he go opstairs and vas hang himself mit a pedbost."
Bosch evidently rather proud of this as illustrating the liveliness of The Hague.
"Was he mad?"
"Yass, he vas mard, mit a vife and seeks childrens."
"No, but was he out of his senses?"
"I tink it was oud of Omsterdam he vas com," says Bosch.
"But how did it happen?" "Wol-sare, de broprietor vas die, and leaf de successor de pusiness, and he dells him in von mons he will go, begause he nod egsamin to be a Chimigal – so he do it, and dey dake him to de hosbital, and I tink he vas die too by now!" adds BOSCH, cheerfully.
Very sad affair evidently – but a little complicated. Sandford would like to get to the bottom of it, but Merton convinced there is no bottom. So, between us, subject allowed to drop.
Sandford (now in the ascendant again) notices, as the clever boy, inscription on house-front, "Hier woonden Groen Van Prinsterer, 1838-76."
"I suppose that means Van Prinsterer lived here, Bosch?"
"Yass, dot vas it."
"And who was he?"
"He vas – wol, he vos a Member of de Barliaments."
"Was he celebrated?"
"Celebrated? oh, yaas!"
"What did he do?" (I think Merton gets this in.)
"Do?" says Bosch, quite indignantly, "he nefer do nodings!"
Bosch takes me into the Fishmarket, when he directs my attention to a couple of very sooty live storks, who are pecking about at the refuse.
"Dose pirts are shtorks; hier dey vas oblige to keep alvays two shtorks for de arms of de Haag. Vhen de yong shtorks porn, de old vons vas kill."
Sandford shocked – Merton sceptical.
"Keel dem? Oh, yaas, do anytings mit dem ven dey vas old," says Bosch, and adds: – "Ve haf de breference mit de shtorks, eh?"
What is he driving at?
"Yaas – ven ve vas old ve vas nod kill."
This reminds Bosch – Barlow-like – of an anecdote.
"Dere vas a vrent to me," he begins, "he com and say to me, 'Bosch, I am god so shtout and my bark is so dick, I can go no more on my lacks – vat vas I do?' To him I say, 'Wol, I dell you vat I do mit you – I dake you at de booshair to be cot op; I tink you vas make vary goot shdeak-meat!"
Wonder whether this is a typical sample of Bosch's badinage.
"What did he say to that, Bosch?"
"Oh, he vas vair moch loff, a-course!" says Bosch, with the natural complacency of a successful humorist.
We go into the Old Prison, and see some horrible implements of torture, which seem to exhilarate Bosch.
"Lokeer!" he says, "Dis vas a pinition" (Bosch for "punishment") "mit a can. Dey lie de man down and vasten his foots, and efery dime he vas shdrook mit de can, he jomp op and hit his vorehaid… Hier dey lie down de beoples on de back, and pull dis shdring queeck, and all dese tings go roundt, and preak deir bones. Ven de pinition was feenish you vas det." He shows where the Water-torture was practised. "Nottice 'ow de vater vas vork a 'ole in de tile," he chuckles, "I tink de tile vas vary hardt det, eh?" Then he points out a pole with a spiked prong. "Tief-catcher – put 'em in de tief's nack – and get 'im!" Before a grim-looking cauldron he halts appreciatively. "You know vat dat vas for?" he says. "Dat vas for de blode-foots; put 'em in dere, yaas, and light de vire onderneat."
No idea what "blode-foots" may be, but from the relish in Bosch's tone, evidently something very unpleasant, so don't press him for explanations. We go upstairs, and see some dark and very mouldy dungeons, which Bosch is very anxious that I should enter. Make him go in first, for the surroundings seem to have excited his sense of the humorous to such a degree, that he might be unable to resist locking me in, and leaving me, if I gave him a chance.
Outside at last, thank goodness! The Groote Kerk, according to Bosch, "is not vort de see," so we don't see it. Sandford has a sneaking impression that I ought to go in, but Merton glad to be let off. We go to see the pictures at the Mauritshuis instead. Bosch exchanges greetings with the attendants in Dutch. "Got another of 'em in tow, you see – and collar-work, I can tell you!" would be a free translation, I suspect, of his remarks. Must say that, in a Picture-gallery, Bosch is a superfluous luxury. He does take my ignorance just a trifle too much for granted. He might give me credit for knowing the story of Adam and Eve, at all events! "De Sairpan gif Eva de opple, an' Eva gif him to Adam," Bosch carefully informs me, before a "Paradise," by Rubens and Brueghel.
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