Puppets at Large: Scenes and Subjects from Mr Punch's Show
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April 7.– The Skipjack tells me he has broken off his engagement; he seems to think I shall guess the reason – but I don't, of course. Then he actually has the impertinence to (I can scarcely pen the words for indignation) to propose– to Me! I inform him, in the most unmistakable terms, that he has presumed on my good-nature, and that there are social barriers between us, which no Skipjack can ever surmount. He leaves me abruptly, after declaring that I have broken the spring of his existence.
April 8.– Much shocked and annoyed. The Skipjack found quite stiff and colourless this morning, in the water-jug! Must have jumped in last night. So very rash and silly of him! Am sure I gave him no encouragement – or next to none. Hear that the Dairy-maid has gone off her head. Of course it will be put down to grief; but we all know how easily plaster heads get cracked. Feel really distressed about it all, for the blame is sure to fall on me. Those Composition Dolls will make a fine scandal out of it!
May.– The Ninepins are getting very difficult to manage; have to put them down as delicately as possible; but I am afraid, poor fellows, they are dreadfully upset. The Wooden Captain has challenged the Dice-box to a duel – I fear, on my account. However, as the officer's sword will not unglue, I hope nothing will come of it. All this most worrying, though, and gives me little real satisfaction. I find myself sighing for more difficult conquests.
June.– Went to afternoon tea with the biggest Dutch Doll. Rather a come-down, but now that there is this coolness between the Composition set and myself, I must go somewhere. I feel so bored at times! Can see the ridiculous Dutch thing is trying to out-dress me! She had a frock on that must have cost at least fifty beads, and I don't believe it will ever be paid for! Only made her look the bigger guy, though! Tea-party a stupid affair. Make-believe tea in pewter cups. Met the latest arrival, a really nice-looking Gentleman Doll, introduced as "Mr. Joseph." Very innocent face, without any moustache, and the sweetest blue eyes (except mine) I think I ever saw! Seemed rather shy, but pleasant. Asked him to call.
June 18.– Mr. Joseph has not called yet. Very strange! Suspect those horrid Composition Dolls have been setting him against me. Met him by the back-board and scolded him. He seemed confused. By a little management, I got it all out of him. I was right. He has been told about the Skipjack. He has strict principles, and gave me to understand that he would prefer to decline my acquaintance – which was like his impudence! This is exciting, though. I intend to overcome these scruples; I mean him to be madly in love with me – then I shall scornfully reject him, which will serve him just right!
July.– My tactics have succeeded —at last! To-day Joseph called, ostensibly to beg me to go and see the unhappy Ball, who, it seems, is terribly collapsed, reduced to a mere bowl, and so exhausted that he cannot hold out much longer.However, in the course of the interview, I soon made him oblivious of the Ball. He fell at my feet. "Beautiful Gloriana," he cried, "with all your many and glaring faults, I love you!" Then I carried out the rest of my programme – it was a painful scene, and I will only record that when he left me, he was completely un-dolled! I feel almost sorry for him – he had rather a nice face!
July 4.– I don't seem able to settle to anything. After all, I think I will go and see the poor Ball. It would comfort him, and I might see him there. I will order the pony-carriage.
August.– What has happened to me? Where have I been all this time? Let me collect myself, and see how much I remember. My last clear recollection is of being in my carriage on my way to receive the departing Ball's last sigh… Something has started the clockwork. My ponies are bolting, and I haven't the slightest control over them! We are rushing along the smooth plain of the chest of drawers, and rapidly nearing the edge. I try to scream for help, but all I can utter is, "Papa!" and "Mamma!" All at once I see him standing, calm and collected, on the very brink of the precipice. Is he strong enough to stop the ponies in their mad clockwork career, and save me, even yet? How I will love him if he does! An instant of sickening suspense … we are over! – falling down, down, down… A crash, a whirr of clockwork, a rush of bran to my head – and I know no more. What follows is a dream – a horrible, confused nightmare – of lying among a heap of limp bodies – some armless, some legless, others (ah! the horror of it) headless! I grope blindly for my own limbs – they are intact; then I feel the place where I naturally expect to find my head – it is gone!.. The shock is too much – I faint once more. And that is all.
Thank goodness, it was only a dream – for here I am, in the same old nursery again! Not all a dream, either – or my pony-carriage would scarcely present such a damaged appearance. The accident was real. Then what —what has become of Joseph? I must find him – I must make him understand that I repent – that, for the future, I intend to be a changed doll!
September.– Still searching for Joseph. No trace of him. I seem to be a changed doll in more ways than one. My former set knows me not. The Ninepins do not stagger when I smile at them now; the Dice-box gapes open-mouthed at my greeting. I call upon the Composition Dolls – they are very polite; but it is quite clear that they don't remember me in the least! Alas! how soon one is forgotten in the world of Toys! Have no heart to recall myself to them. I go, for the first time since my accident, to a convenient brass knob, in which I would once gaze at my reflected features by the hour. How indescribable are my sensations at the discovery that I have a totally new head– a china one! I, who used to look down on china dolls! It is a very decent head, in its way; quite neat and inoffensive, with smooth, shiny hair, which won't come down like the golden locks I once had. I am glad – yes, glad now – that Joseph has gone, and the home he used to occupy is deserted, and shut up. If he were here, he would not know me either. Now I can live single all my remaining days, in memory of him, and devote myself to doing good!
October.– Have entered on my new career. Am organising a Mission for Lost Toys, and a Clothing Club for Rag Dolls. To-day, while "slumming" in the lumber-closet, found my old acquaintance, the Dutch Doll in a shocking state of destitution – nothing on her but a piece of tattered tissue-paper! To think that my evil example and her own senseless extravagance have brought her to this! Gave her one of my old tea-gowns and a Sunday domino, but did not reveal myself. Feeling very sad and lonely: think I shall have to keep a mouse – I must have something to love me!
October 15.– Someone has taken poor dear Joseph's old house. I see a new doll, with a small but worldly black moustache and a very bad countenance, watching me as I pass the windows. Shall call and leave a scripture brick. It may do him good.
October 16.– Have called… Never heard worse language from the lips of any doll! Came across my old admirer, the Ball, who is better, though still what I have heard the nursery governess describe as an "oblate spheroid." Of course, he did not recognise me.
December.– Have seen a good deal of the Doll with the worldly moustache lately. From certain symptoms, do not despair of reforming him – ultimately. He seems softening. Yesterday he told me he did not think he should live long. Yet he has a splendid constitution – the best porcelain. He is dreadfully cynical – seems so reckless about everything. If I could only reclaim him – for Joseph's sake!
This afternoon I saw the yellow stand which the Wooden Captain used to occupy. What memories it recalled, ah me! Can he have disgraced himself and been "broke"? And am I responsible?
Christmas Eve.– Am sitting in my corner, my mouse curled comfortably at my feet, when the Walking Postman comes up with a letter – for me! It is from the Wicked Doll! He is very ill —dying, he thinks – and wishes to see me. How well I remember that other message which Joseph – but Joseph is taken, and the Ball still bounds! Well, I will go. It will be something to tell my Diary.
Christmas Day.– Something indeed! How shall I begin my wondrous incredible tale? I reached the Doll's House, which looked gloomier and more deserted than ever, with the sullen glow of the dying fire reflected redly in its windows. The green door stood open – I went in. "Ha, ha! trapped!" cried a sneering voice behind me. It was the Wicked Doll! His letter was a ruse– he was as well as I was – and I – I was shut up there in that lonely house, entirely at his mercy!.. It was a frightful position for any doll to be placed in; and yet, looking back on it now, I don't think I minded it so very much.
"Listen!" he said, in response to my agonized entreaties. "Long, long ago, when I was young and innocent, a beautiful but heartless being bewitched me, kid and bran! I told my love – she mocked at me. Since then I have sworn, though she has escaped me, to avenge myself by sacrificing the life of the first doll I could entice into my power. You are that doll. You must die!"… "I am quite prepared," I told him – "do your worst!" which seemed to confuse him very much. "I will," he said, "presently – presently; there is no hurry. You see," he explained, in a tone almost of apology, "in endeavouring to save her life (it was my last good action) I got my head smashed, and received the substitute I now wear, which, as you will observe, is that of an unmitigated villain. And it's no use having a head like that if you don't live up to it —is it, now? So – as I think I observed before – prepare for the worst!" "Don't talk about it any more —do it!" I said, and I breathed Joseph's name softly. But the Wicked Doll did nothing at all. I began to feel safer – it was so obvious that he hadn't the faintest notion what to do. "She treated me abominably," he said feebly; "any doll would have been annoyed at the heartless way in which Gloriana – "
I could contain my feelings no longer.
"Joseph!" I gasped (I had lost all fear of him), "you ridiculous old goose, don't you know me? I am Gloriana, and I have found you at last!" And with that I flung myself into his arms, and told him everything. I think he was more relieved than anything. "So you are Gloriana!" he said. "It's dreadfully bewildering; but, to tell you the honest truth, I can't keep up this villainy business any longer. I haven't been brought up to it, and I don't understand how it's done. So I tell you what we'll do. If you'll leave off living up to your new head, I won't try to live up to mine!" And so we settled it.
Postscript. December 31.– We are to be married to-morrow. The Dutch Doll is to be my bridesmaid, and the Wooden Captain (who was only away on sick leave, after all) is coming up to be best man. I have seen the poor old Ball, and told him there will always be a corner for him in our new home. I am very, very happy. To think that Joseph should still care for his poor Gloriana, altered and homely as her once lovely features have now become! But Joseph (who is leaning over my shoulder and reading every word I write) stops me here to assure me that I am lovelier than ever in his eyes. And really – I don't know – perhaps I am. And in other persons' eyes, too, if it comes to that. I certainly don't intend to give up society just because I happen to be married!
ELEVATING THE MASSES
(A Purely Imaginary Sketch.)
Argument – Mrs. Flittermouse, having got up a party to assist her in giving an Entertainment at the East End, has called a meeting for the purpose of settling the items in the programme.
Mrs. Flittermouse's Drawing-room in Park Lane. Everybody discovered drinking tea, and chatting on matters totally unconnected with Philanthropy.
Mrs. Flittermouse (imploringly). Now, please, everybody, do attend! It's quite impossible to settle anything while you're all talking about something else. (Apologies, protests, constrained silence.) Selina, dear, what do you think it would be best to begin with?
The Dowager Lady Dampier. My dear Fritilla, I have no suggestion to offer. You know my opinion about the whole thing. The people don't want to be elevated, and – if they did – entertaining them is not the proper means to set about it. But I don't wish to discourage you.
Mrs. Flitt. Oh, but I think we could do so much to give them a taste for more rational and refined amusements, poor things, to wean them from the coarse pleasures which are all they have at present. Only we must really decide what each of us is going to do.
Mrs. Perse-Weaver. A violin solo is always popular. And my daughter Cecilia will be delighted to play for you. She has been taught by the best —
Cecelia. Oh, Mother, I couldn't, really! I've never played in public. I know I should break down!
Lady Damp. In that case, my dear, it would be certainly unwise on your part to attempt it.
Mrs. P. – W. Nonsense, Cecilia, nonsense. You won't break down, and it wouldn't matter in the least if you did. They wouldn't notice anything. And it will be such excellent practice for you to get accustomed to a platform, too. Of course she will play for you, dear Mrs. Flittermouse!
Mrs. Flitt. It will be so good of you, Miss Weaver. And it won't be like playing to a real audience, you know – poor people are so easily pleased, poor dears. Then I will put that down to begin with. (She makes a note.) Now we must have something quite different for the next – a reading or something.
Lady Honor Hyndleggs. A – nothin' humorous, I hope. I do think we ought to avoid anythin' like descendin' to their level, don't you know.
Mr. Lovegroove. Might try something out of Pickwick. "Bob Sawyer's Party," you know. Can't go far wrong with anything out of Dickens.
Miss Diova Rose. Can't endure him myself. All his characters are so fearfully common; still – (tolerantly) I daresay it might amuse – a – that class of persons.
Mrs Flitt. I must say I agree with Lady Honor. We should try and aim as high as possible – and well, I think not Dickens, dear Mr. Lovegroove. Tennyson might do perhaps; he's written some charmin' pieces.
Mr. Lovegr. Well, fact is, I don't go in for poetry much myself. But I'll read anythin' of his you think I'm equal to.
Mrs. Flitt. Why – a – really, it's so long since I – and I'm afraid I haven't one of his poems in the house. I suppose they are down at Barn-end. But I could send to Cutt and Hawthorn's. I daresay they would have a copy somewhere.
Miss Sibson-Gabler. Surely Tennyson is rather – a – retrograde? Why not read them something to set them thinking? It would be an interesting experiment to try the effect of that marvellous Last Scene in the Doll's House. I'd love to read it. It would be like a breath of fresh air to them!
Mrs. P. – W. Oh, I've seen that at the Langham Hall. You remember, Cecilia, my taking you there? And Corney Grain played Noah. To be sure – we were quite amused by it all.
Miss S. – G. (coldly). This is not amusing – it's a play of Ibsen's.
Mrs. Flitt. Is that the man who wrote the piece at the Criterion – what is it, The Toy Shop? Wyndham acted in it.
Lady Damp. No, no; Ibsen is the person there's been all this fuss about in the papers – he goes in for unconventionality and all that. I may be wrong, but I think it is such a mistake to have anything unconventional in an Entertainment for the People.
Mrs. Flitt. But if he's being talked about, dear Lady Dampier, people might like to know something about him. But perhaps we'd better leave Ibsen open, then. Now, what shall we have next?
Miss Skipworth. I tell you what would fetch them – a skirt-dance. I'll dance for you – like a shot. It would be no end of fun doin' it on a regular platform, and I've been studyin' Flossie Frillington, at the Inanity, till I've caught her style exactly.
Mr. Kempton. Oh, I say, you can give her a stone and a beatin' any day, give you my word you can. She doesn't put anythin' like the go into it you do.
Mrs. Flitt. A skirt-dance will be the very thing. It's sure to please the people we shall bring over for it – and of course they'll be in the front rows. Yes, I must put that down. We ought to have a song next. Mrs. Tuberose, you promised to come and sing for us – you will, won't you?
Mrs. Tuberose. Delighted! I rather thought of doing a dear little song Stephan Otis has just brought out. It's called "Forbidden Fruit," and he wrote it expressly for me. It goes like this.
Several Voices. Charmin'… Otis puts so much real feeling into all his songs … quite a little gem! &c., &c.
Lady Damp. I should have thought myself that it was rather advanced – for an East-End audience —
Mrs. Tuberose (nettled). Really, dear Lady Dampier, if people see nothing to object in it here, I don't see why they should be more particular at the East-End!
Mrs. Flitt. Oh, no, – and as if it matters what the words are in the song. I daresay if one heard their songs – Now we want another song – something as different as possible.
Mr. Gardinier. Heard a capital song at the "Pav." the other night – something about a Cock-eyed Kipper. Just suit my voice. I could easily get the words and music, and do that for you – if you like.
Several Voices. A Cock-eyed Kipper! It sounds too killing! Oh, we must have that!
Lady Damp. Might I ask what kind of creature a – a "Cock-eyed Kipper" may be?
Mr. Gard. Oh, well, I suppose it's a sort of a dried herring – with a squint, don't you know.
Lady Damp. I see no humour in making light of a personal deformity, I must say.
Mr. Gard. Oh, don't you? They will – it'll go with a scream there!
Miss Diova Rose. Yes, poor dears – and we mustn't mind being just a little vulgar for once – to cheer them up.
Lady Honor. I have been to the Pavilion and the Tivoli myself, and I heard nothing to object to. I know I was much more amused than I ever am at theatres —they bore me to death.
Mr. Bagotrix. We might finish up with Mrs. Jarley's Waxworks, you know. Some of you can be the figures, and I'll come on in a bonnet and shawl as Mrs. Jarley, and wind you up and describe you. I've done it at lots of places in the country; brought in personal allusions and all that sort of thing, and made everybody roar.
Lady Damp. But will the East-Enders understand your personal allusions?
Mr. Bag. Well, you see, the people in the front rows will, which is all I want.
Lady Honor (suspiciously). Isn't Mrs. Jarley out of Pickwick, though? That's Dickens, surely!
Mr. Bag. (reassuringly). Nothing but the name, Lady Honor. I make up all the patter myself, so that'll be all right – just good-natured chaff, you know; if anybody's offended – as I've known them to be – it's no fault of mine.
Mrs. Flitt. Oh, I'm sure you will make it funny, – and about getting someone to preside – I suppose we ought to ask the Vicar of the nearest church?
Lady Honor. Wouldn't it be better to get somebody – a – more in Society, don't you know?
Mrs. Flitt. And he might offer to pay for hiring the Hall, and the other expenses. I never thought of that. I'll see whom I can get. Really I think it ought to be great fun, and we shall have the satisfaction of feeling we are doing real good, which is such a comfort!
BOOKMAKERS ON THE BEACH
A Sketch at a Sea-side Race Meeting
The Sands at Baymouth, where some pony and horse races are being run. By the Grand Stand, and under the wall of the esplanade, about a dozen bookmakers, perched on old packing-cases, are clamouring with their customary energy. The public, however, for some reason seems unusually deaf to their blandishments and disinclined for speculation, and the bookmakers, after shouting themselves hoarse with little or no result, are beginning to feel discouraged.
Bookmakers (antiphonally). Evens on the field! Three to one bar one! Five to one bar two! Six to one bar one! Even money Beeswing! Six to one Popgun! Come on 'ere. Two to one on the field! What do you want to do?
First Bookmaker (to Second Bookmaker). Not much 'ere to-day! Shawn't get no roast baked and biled this journey, eh?
Second B. (with deep disgust). They ain't got no money! Baymouth's going down. Why, this might be a bloomin' Sunday-school treat! Blest if I believe they know what we're 'ere for!
Third B. (after pausing to refresh himself, sardonically to Fourth Bookmaker). De-lightful weather, William!
William (in a similar tone of irony). What a glorious day, Percy! Sech a treat to see all the people enjoyin' theirselves without any o' the silly speculation yer do find sometimes on occasions like this! (He accepts the bottle his friend passes, and drinks.) 'Ere's better luck to all!
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