Puppets at Large: Scenes and Subjects from Mr Punch's Show
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This rouses my Merton half to inquire what Adam did with it.
"Oh, he ead him too!" says Bosch in perfect good faith.
I do wish, too, he wouldn't lead me up to Paul Potter's "Bull," and ask me enthusiastically if it isn't "real meat." I shouldn't mind it so much if there were not several English people about, without couriers Ц but there are. My only revenge is (as Merton) to carefully pick out the unsigned canvases and ask Bosch who painted them; whereupon Bosch endeavours furtively to make out the label on the frames, and then informs me in desperation, "it vas 'School,' Ц yass, he baint him!" Bosch kindly explains the subject of every picture in detail. He tells me a Droochsloot represents a "balsham pedder." I suppose I look bewildered, for he adds Ц "oppen air tance mit a village." "Hier dey vas haf a tispute; dis man say de ham vas more value as de cheese Ц dere is de cheese, and dere is de ham." "Hier is an old man dot marry a yong vife, and two tevils com in, and de old man he ron avay." "Hier he dress him in voman, and de vife is vrighten." "Hier is Jan Steen himself as a medicine, and he veel de yong voman's polse, and say dere is nodings de madder, and the modder ask him to trink a glass of vine." "Hier is de beach at Skavening Ц now dey puild houses on de dunes Ц bot de beach is schdill dere."
Such are Bosch's valuable and instructive comments, to which, as representing Sandford and Merton, I listen with depressed docility. All the same, can't help coming to the conclusion that Art is not Bosch's strong point. Shall come here again Ц alone. We go on to the Municipal Museum, where he shows me what he considers the treasures of the collection Ц a glass goblet, engraved "mit dails of tobaggo bipes," and the pipes themselves; a painting of a rose, "mit ade beople's faces in de leafs;" and a drawing of "two pirts mit only von foots."
Outside again. Bosch shows me a house.
"Lokeer. In dot house leef an oldt lady all mit herself and ade sairvans. She com from Friesland, yassir."
Really, I think Bosch is going to be interesting Ц at last. There is a sly twinkle in his eye, denoting some story of a scandalous but infinitely humorous nature.
"Well, Bosch, go on Ц what about the old lady?" I ask eagerly, as Merton.
"Wol, Sir," says Bosch, "she nefer go noveres."Е
That's all! "A devilish interesting story, Sumph, indeed!" to quote Mr. Wagg.
But, as Bosch frequently reminds me, "It vas pedder, you see, as a schendlemans like you go apout mit me; I dell you tings dot vas not in de guide-books." Which I am not in a position to deny.
FEELING THEIR WAY
(A Study in the Art of Genteel Conversation.)
The Drawing-room of a Margate Hotel. Time Ц Evening. Mrs. Ardleigh (of Balham), and Mrs. Allbutt (of Brondesbury), are discovered in the midst of a conversation, in which each is anxious both to impress the other, and ascertain how far she is a person to be cultivated.At present, they have not got beyond the discovery of a common bond in Cookery.
Mrs. Allbutt. You have the yolks of two eggs, I must tell you; squeeze the juice of half a lemon into it, and, when you boil the butter in the pan, make a paste of it with dry flour.
Mrs. Ardleigh. It sounds delicious Ц but you never can trust a Cook to carry out instructions exactly.
Mrs. All. I never do. Whenever I want to have anything specially nice for my husband, I make a point of seeing to it myself. He appreciates it. Now some men, if you cook for them, never notice whether it's you or the Cook. My husband does.
Mrs. Ard. I wonder how you find time to do it. I'm sure I should never Ч
Mrs. All. Oh, it takes time, of course Ц but what does that matter when you've nothing to do? Did I mention just a small pinch of Cayenne pepper?†Ц because that's a great improvement!
Mrs. Ard. I tell you what I like Cayenne pepper with, better than anything Ц and that's eggs.
Mrs. All. (with elegant languor). I hardly ever eat an egg. Oysters, now, I'm very fond of Чfried, that is.
Mrs. Ard. They're very nice done in the real shells. Or on scollops. We have silver Ц or rather Ц (with a magnanimous impulse to tone down her splendour), silver-plated ones.
Mrs. All. How funny Ц so have we! (Both women feel an increase of liking for one another.) I like them cooked in milk, too.
Mrs. Ard. My doctor does do me good, I must say Ц he never lets me get ill. He just sees your liver's all right, and then he feeds you up.
Mrs. All. That's like my doctor; he always tells me, if he didn't keep on constantly building me up, I should go all to pieces in no time. That's how I come to be here. I always run down at the end of every Season.
Mrs. Ard. (feeling that Mrs. Allbutt can't be "anybody very particular" after all). What Ц to Margate? Fancy! Don't you find you get tired of it? I should.
Mrs. All. (with dignity). I didn't say I always went to Margate. On the contrary, I have never been here before, and shouldn't be here now, if my doctor hadn't told me it was my only chance.
Mrs. Ard. (reassured). I only came down here on my little girl's account. One of those nasty croupy coughs, you know, and hoops with it. But she's almost well already. I will say it's a wonderful air. Still, the worst of Margate is, one isn't likely to meet a soul one knows!
Mrs. All. Well, that's the charm of it Ц to me. One has enough of that during the Season.
Mrs. Ard. (recognising the superiority of this view). Indeed one has. What a whirl it has been to be sure!
Mrs. All. The Season? Why, I never remember one with so little doing. Most of the best houses closed Ц hardly a single really smart party Ц one or two weddings Ц and that's positively all!
Mrs. Ard. (slightly crushed, in spite of a conviction that Ц socially speaking Ц Balham has been rather more brilliant than usual this year). Yes, that's very true. I suppose the Elections have put a stop to most things?
Mrs. All. There never was much going on. I should rather have said it was Marlborough House being shut up that made everything so dull from the first.
Mrs. Ard. Ah, that does make such a difference, doesn't it? (She feels she must make an effort to recover lost ground.) I fully expected to be at Homburg this year.
Mrs. All. Then you would have met Lady Neuraline Menthol. She was ordered there, I happen to know.
Mrs. Ard. Really, you don't say so? Lady Neuraline! Well, that's the first I've heard of it. (It is also the first time she has heard of her, but she trusts to be spared so humiliating an admission.)
Mrs. All. It's a fact, I can assure you. You know her, perhaps?
Mrs. Ard. (who would dearly like to say she does, if she only dared). Well, I can hardly say I exactly know her. I know of her. I've met her about, and so on. (She tells herself this is quite as likely to be true as not.)
Mrs. All. (who of course does not know Lady Neuraline either). Ah, she is a most delightful person Ц requires knowing, don't you know.
Mrs. Ard. So many in her position do, don't they? (So far as she is concerned Ц they all do.) You'd think it was haughtiness Ц but it's really only manner.
Mrs. All. (feeling that she can go ahead with safety now). I have never found anything of that sort in Lady Neuraline myself (which is perfectly true.) She's rather odd and flighty, but quite a dear. By the way, how sad it is about those poor dear Chutneys Ц the Countess, don't you know!
Mrs. Ard. Ah (as if she knew all the rest of the family), I don't know her at all.
Mrs. All. Such a sweet woman Ц but the trouble she's had with her eldest boy, Lord Mango! He married quite beneath him, you know, some girl from the provinces Ц not a county-family girl even.
Mrs. Ard. (shocked). Dear, dear! not a county family!
Mrs. All. No; somebody quite common Ц I forget the name, but it was either Gherkin or Onion, or something of that sort. I was told they had been in Chili a good while. Poor Mango never had much taste, or he would never have got mixed up with such a set. Anyway, he's got himself into a terrible pickle. I hear Capsicums is actually to be sold to pay his debts.
Mrs. All. You don't say so! Capsicums! Gracious!
Mrs. All. Yes, isn't it a pity! Such a lovely old place as it was, too Чthe most comfortable house to stay at in all England; so beautifully warm! But it's dreadful to think of how the aristocracy are taking to marry out of their own set. Look at the Duke of Dragnet Ц married a Miss Duckweed Ц goodness only knows where he picked her up! but he got entangled somehow, and now his people are trying to get rid of her. I see so many of these cases. Well, I'm afraid I must wish you good evening Ц it's my time for retiring. (Patronisingly.) I've quite enjoyed the conversation Ц such a pleasure in a place like this to come across a genial companion!
Mrs. Ard. (fluttered and flattered). I'm sure you're exceedingly kind to say so, and I can say the same for myself. I hope we may become better acquainted. (To herself, after Mrs. Allbutt has departed.) I've quite taken to that woman Ц she's so thoroughly the lady, and moves in very high society, too. You can tell that from the way she talks. What's that paper on the table? (She picks up a journal in a coloured wrapper.) "Society Snippets, the Organ of the Upper Ten. One Penny." The very thing I wanted. It's such a comfort to know who's who. (She opens it and reads sundry paragraphs headed "Through the Keyhole.") Now how funny this is! Here's the very same thing about the dulness of the Season that she said. That shows she must be really in it. And a note about Lady Neuraline being about to recruit at Homburg. And another about her reputation or eccentricity, and her "sweetness to the select few privileged to be her intimates." And here's all about Lord Mango, and what a pleasant house Capsicums is, and his marriage, and the Duke of Dragnet's, too. Her information was very correct, I must say! (A light begins to break in upon her.) I wonder whether Ц but there Ц people of her sort wouldn't require to read the papers for such things.
Mrs. All. (scrutinising the tables). Oh, it's nothing. I thought I'd left something of mine here; it was only a paper Ц I see I was mistaken, don't trouble.
Mrs. Ard. (producing Society Snippets). I expect it will be this. (Mrs. Allbutt's face reveals her ownership.) I took it up, not knowing it was yours. (Meaningly.) It has some highly interesting information, I see.
Mrs. All. (slightly demoralised). Oh, has it? I Ц I've not had time to glance at it yet. Pray don't let me deprive you of it. I dare say there's very little in it I don't know already.
Mrs. Ard. So I should have thought. (To herself, after Mrs. Allbutt has retired in disorder.) Fancy that woman trying to take me in like that, and no more in Society than I am Ц if so much! However, I've found her out before going too far Ц luckily. And I've a good mind to take in this Society Snippets myself Ц it certainly does improve one's conversation. She won't have it all her own way next time!
A TESTIMONIAL MANQU?
(A Sketch from the Suburbs.)
The Argument.†Ц Mr. Hotspur Porpentine, a distinguished resident in the rising suburb of Jerrymere, has recently been awarded fourteen days' imprisonment, without the option of a fine, for assaulting a ticket-collector, who had offered him the indignity of requiring him to show his season-ticket at the barrier. The scene is a Second-Class Compartment, in which four of Mr. Porpentine's neighbours are discussing the affair during their return from the City.
Mr. Cockcroft (warmly). I say, Sir Ц and I'm sure all here will bear me out Ц that such a sentence was a scandalous abuse of justice. As a near neighbour, and an intimate friend of Porpentine's, I don't 'esitate to assert that he has done nothing whatever to forfeit our esteem. He's a quick-tempered man, as we're all aware, and to be asked by some meddlesome official to show his season, after travelling on the line constantly for years, and leaving it at home that morning Ц why ЧI don't blame him if he did use his umbrella!
Mr. Balch (sympathetically). Nor I. Porpentine's a man I've always had a very 'igh respect for ever since I came into this neighbourhood. I've always found him a good feller, and a good neighbour.
Mr. Filkins (deferentially). I can't claim to be as intimate with him as some here; but, if it isn't putting myself too far forward to say so, I very cordially beg to say ditto to those sentiments.
Mr. Sibbering (who has never "taken to" Porpentine). Well, he's had a sharp lesson,†Ц there's no denying that.
Mr. Cockcr. Precisely, and it occurs to me that when he Ц ah Ц returns to public life, it would be a kind thing, and a graceful thing, and a thing he would Ц ah Ц appreciate in the spirit it was intended, if we were to present him with some little token of our sympathy and unabated esteem Ц what do you fellers think?
Mr. Filk. A most excellent suggestion, if my friend here will allow me to say so. I, for one, shall be proud to contribute to so worthy an object.
Mr. Balch. I don't see why we shouldn't present him with an address Ц 'ave it illuminated, and framed and glazed; sort of thing he could 'ang up and 'and down to his children after him as an heirloom, yi-know.
Mr. Sibb. I don't like to throw cold water on any proposition, but if you want my opinion, I must say I see no necessity for making a public thing out of it in that way.
Mr. Cockcr. I'm with Sibbering there. The less fuss there is about it, the better Porpentine'll be pleased. My idea is to give him something of daily use Ц a useful thing, yi-know.
Mr. Balch. Useful or ornamental. Why not his own portrait? There's many an artist who would do him in oils, and guarantee a likeness, frame included, for a five-pound note.
Mr. Sibb. If it's to be like Porpentine, it certainly won't be ornamental, whatever else it is.
Mr. Filk. It can't be denied that he is remarkably plain in the face. We'd better, as our friend Mr. Cockcroft here proposes, make it something of daily use Ц a good serviceable silk umbrella now Ц that's always appropriate.
Mr. Sibb. To make up for the one he broke over the collector's head, eh?†Ц that's appropriate enough!
Mr. Cockcr. No, no; you mean well, Filkins, but you must see yourself, on reflection, that there would be a certain want of Ц ah Ц good taste in giving him a thing like that under the circumstances. I should suggest something like a hatstand Ц a handsome one, of course. I happen to know that he has nothing in the passage at present but a row of pegs.
Mr. Sibb. I should have thought he'd been taken down enough pegs already.
Mr. Filk. (who resents the imputation upon his taste). I can't say what the width of Mr. Porpentine's passage may be, never having been privileged with an invitation to pass the threshold, but unless it's wider than ours is, he couldn't get a hatstand in if he tried, and if my friend Cockcroft will excuse the remark, I see no sense Ц to say nothing of good taste, about which perhaps I mayn't be qualified to pass an opinion Ц in giving him an article he's got no room for.
Mr. Cockcr. (with warmth). There's room enough in Porpentine's passage for a whole host of hatstands, if that's all, and I know what I'm speaking about. I've been in and out there often enough. I'm Ц ah Ц a regular tame cat in that house. But if you're against the 'atstand, I say no more Ц we'll waive it. How would it do if we gave him a nice comfortable easy-chair Ц something he could sit in of an evening, yi-know?
Mr. Sibb. A touchy chap like Porpentine would be sure to fancy we thought he wanted something soft after a hard bench and a plank bed Ц you can't go and give him furniture!
Mr. Cockcr. (with dignity). There's a way of doing all things. I wasn't proposing to go and chuck the chair at him Ц he's a sensitive feller in many respects, and he'd feel that, I grant you. He can't object to a little present of that sort just from four friends like ourselves.
Mr. Balch (with a falling countenance). Oh! I thought it was to be a general affair, limited to a small sum, so that all who liked could join in. I'd no notion you meant to keep it such a private matter as all that.
Mr. Filk. Nor I. And, knowing Mr. Porpentine so slightly as I do, he might consider it presumption in me, making myself so prominent in the matter Ц or else I'm sure Ч
Mr. Cockcr. There's no occasion for anyone to be prominent, except myself. You leave it entirely in my 'ands. I'll have the chair taken up some evening to Porpentine's house on a 'andcart, and drop in, and just lead up to it carelessly, if you understand me, then go out and wheel the chair in, make him try it Ц and there you are.
Mr. Balch. There you are, right enough; but I don't see where we come in, exactly.
Mr. Fillk. If it's to be confined to just us four, I certingly think we ought all to be present at the presentation.
Mr. Cockcr. That would be just the very thing to put a man like Porpentine out Ц a crowd dropping in on him like that! I know his ways, and, seeing I'm providing the chair Ч
Mr. Balch (relieved). You are? That's different, of course; but I thought you said that we four Ч
Mr. Cockcr. I'm coming to that. As the prime mover, and a particular friend of Porpentine's, it's only right and fair I should bear the chief burden. There's an easy-chair I have at home that only wants re-covering to be as good as new, and all you fellers need do is to pay for 'aving it nicely done up in velvet, or what not, and we'll call it quits.
Mr. Balch. I daresay; but I like to know what I'm letting myself in for; and there's upholsterers who'll charge as much for doing up a chair as would furnish a room.
Mr. Filk. I Ц I shouldn't feel justified, with my family, and, as, comparatively speaking, a recent resident, in going beyond a certain limit, and unless the estimate could be kep' down to a moderate sum, I really Ч
Mr. Sibb. (unmasking). After all, you know, I don't see why we should go to any expense over a stuck-up, cross-grained chap like Porpentine. It's well-known he hasn't a good word to say for us Jerrymere folks, and considers himself above the lot of us!
Mr. Balch and Mr. Filk. I'm bound to say there's a good deal in what Sibbering says. Porpentine's never shown himself what I should call sociable.
Mr. Cockcr. I've never found him anything but pleasant myself, whatever he may be to others. I'm not denying he's an exclusive man, and a fastidious man, but he's been 'arshly treated, and I should have thought this was an occasion Ц if ever there was one Ц for putting any private feelings aside, and rallying round him to show our respect and sympathy. But of course if you're going to let petty jealousies of this sort get the better of you, and leave me to do the 'ole thing myself, I've no objection. I daresay he'll value it all the more coming from me.
Mr. Sibb. Well, he ought to, after the shameful way he's spoken of you to a friend of mine in the City, who shall be nameless. You mayn't know, and if not, it's only right I should mention it, that he complained bitterly of having to change his regular train on your account, and said (I'm only repeating his words, mind you), that Jerrymere was entirely populated by bores, but you were the worst of the lot, and your jabber twice a day was more than he could stand. He mayn't have meant anything by it, but it was decidedly uncalled for.
Mr. Cockcr. (reddening). I 'ope I'm above being affected by the opinion any man may express of my conversation Ц especially a cantankerous feller, who can't keep his temper under decent control. A feller who goes and breaks his umbrella over an unoffending official's 'ead like that, and gets, very properly, locked up for it! Jerrymere society isn't good enough for him, it seems. He won't be troubled with much of it in future ЧI can assure him! Upon my word, now I come to think of it, I'm not sure he shouldn't be called upon for an explanation of how he came to be travelling without a ticket; it looks very much to me as if he'd been systematically defrauding the Company!
Mr. Filk. Well, I didn't like to say so before; but that's been my view all along!
Mr. Balch. And mine.
Mr. Sibb. Now perhaps you understand why we'd rather leave it to you to give him the arm-chair.
Mr. Cockcr. I give a man an arm-chair for bringing disgrace on the 'ole of Jerrymere! I'd sooner break it up for firewood! Whoever it was that first started all this tomfoolery about a testimonial, I'm not going to 'ave my name associated with it, and if you'll take my advice, you'll drop it once and for all, for it's only making yourselves ridiculous!
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