|Chapter Number||XIII (Continued.)|
|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)|
|Trove Title||Wedded to Death|
WEDDED TO DEATH.
CHAPTER XIII (Continued.)
Aston Royal was not a sufficiently important place to boait of a town hall, so the " Skipping Siren" waa to give its one afternoon and three evening performances in the portable theatre that was part of their baggage, and which was to be put up in a meadow outside the town Hnder Dick Churchill's auspices, he in an unguarded moment, having told Claudine'ithat he waa a-natjye of Aston Royal.' >The first evening performance^ went off ' without' any 'drawback-the so-called " house" waa full, and the money came in freely, though the rates of pay- ment were at minimum prices.
Only the rowdyish and ne'er-do-weelish among the inhabitants of Aston Royal were present, the respectable portion of the community holding them
[ selves rather aloof from theatres, or pretending to 1 do so, judging it expedient to simulate, if they did
1 not altogether believe in, the strict Evangelical views of their master and benefactor, Sir John
Dick Churchill was, of course, fully aware that hiB old friend and patron had what, in these times of dash and free thought, would be called a biassed prejudice against theatrical entertainments, and it was tiusting to there not being the least chance of Sir John's appearance at any of these represen- tations that Dick thought he might seramble through three or four days at Aston Boyal without being recognised.
In the " Skipping Siren" he was quite safe, since his disguises were complete and he had nothing to say ; but in the farce that followed his part consisted of a good many sentences, and any intelligent person who saw him must infallibly reoognise him by hiB
The afternoon performance was not looked for- ward to with any feeling of success, and Mademoi- selle Claudine had more than once had an idea of withdrawing it, only as it had been advised it it was decided that it was perhaps unwise to do
Great, therefore, was the surprise of the whole theatrical party when the hero of a hundred poses peeped through the post of observation-the curtain slit-and announced that the house was crammed, and that the front row was filled with real swells.
Dick Churchill waa absolutely aghast at the in- formation, and pushing the grandiloquent gentle- man who loved the " Skipping Siren" on one side, applied hia own eyes to the " Judas hole" aforesaid.
" Lady Maraland and all the party from Marsland Court !-the d-1 !-in fact, I would rather see him than these people-and, great heaven ! I wish I waa dead and out of the world, if there is not Sir John Meade in the second row. In the name of all the prophets, what is he doing at a theatrical per-
The answer would have been that he had been pressed by Lady Marsland, who had come down for a few days to Marsland Court to receive seme guests, to accompany her to this travelling amuse- ment; and having at heart the welfare of the working community, he had consented to do, so, in order to see for himself whether the "Skipping Siren" and the farce following it, entitled " The Loves of a Lamplighter," were, if not exactly edifying, at all éventa harmless recreation for the
workers it attracted.
" I would rather commit suioide than go on the stage before that man," cried hapless Dick, retiring from the wonderful hole, and throwing himself into a large arm-chair, in which the "Skipping Siren" was presently to be discovered.
-The whole company was in a state of absolute dismay. Here was a crammed house, and Dick refused to do either the band, or the army, or the street mob, or the police, or any of hie other cowded parts. Everybody talked at once, and everybody suggested a different road out of the difficulty, none of the roads, however, being to
At last the versatile Irishman succeeded in making himself heard. As a rule, the whole of the little company believed in him implicitly, bécarre his native readiness had helped them out of many an apparent cul-de-sac.
The pit in front was by this time howling and stamping in a noisy fashion, worthy of a larger
"If Dick would help them through with the ' Skipping Siren,' " the Irishman said, " in which
it was impossible for his nearest and dearest to j recognise him, he would undertake with Made- moiselle" Claudine's consent, that this dreaded Sir Jphn should not see him in the farce." So it was agreed for the clamour outside gave then no further time to haggle ; 'and the " Skipping Siren " went like the wind, to use a cant expression, though every one, Claudine included, was on the tiptoe of expectation about the ingenious mode in which Pat as the Irish actor was familiarly called, meant to get their useful man out of the dilemma of recognition.
They expected to find him prepared with some very startling disguise, but not a bit of it. Pat, who was not " on " at the end of the " Skipping Siren," met the others as they came off the stage with a smile on his face and a bouquet-rather a large one-in his button-hole. He had brushed his hair, which he seldom did, and put on an even- ing suit, which-they did not know that he had possessed.
Without speaking a word, but the smile on his face deepening to a grin, he tripped on to the stage in front of the lowered curtain as though be were looking for his partner at a ball.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," he began-speaking with a rich accent which was scarcely a brogue, though it betokened his nationalty-" Ladies and gentlemen, I must crave your attention'to a fact which will doubtless appear an astounding ohe. Owing to press of business, neither Mademoi- selle Claudine nor myself can be in any way re- sponsible for the farce entitled 'The Loves of a Lamplighter,' which is to follow the charming piece which you Have just applauded with so much fer- vour. This farce is a new one ; it has only arrived this morning from the Duchess Theatre in London ; we have not even read it through. With your per- mission we mean to act it, but if the jokes are broad, the wit course, fair ladies will pardon, I am sure, and not place their blushes to the score of the strolling players."
He bowed «rod retired, His comrades were so astonished that no one spoke ; the audience for a second or two seemed to be equally so ; then arose a shout of laughing from vulgar throats that seemed inclined to crack the sides of the portable building.
Notwithstanding the laughter Pat's quick ears could detect the rustle of petticoats. He applied his eye to the well-known peephole.
Hurrah ! He had succeeded-the stalls were empty ; not a member of the upper ten remained.
The " Skipping Siren" had been somewhat risky ; how could they stay ,to be further shocked.
"Carriages at once," and "Home" were the orders given. As Sir John Meade stepped into his brougham to drive off and go and drink his five o'clock cup of tea at Lady Marsland's, and dilate, ag he did so, on. the debasing effects of
threatrical performances generally-how debased since the actors themselves wera ashamed of them -the curtain went np for "The Loves of a Lamp, lighter," and the appreciative audience that Btill remained, primed by Pat's speech, saw many a joke where never a joke existed ; and in a deafen- ing roar that completely deadened the actors'words waa the performance brought to an end.