Charles James Lever.

The adventures of Arthur O'Leary online

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my marks of disapprobation here, which seemed to afford
him great delight, and he withdrew, bowing respectfully
to every quarter of the house.

Kotzebue's Kiahwinkel, as manv of mv readers know,
needs not the additional absurdity of the circumstances
under which I saw it performed to make it ludicrous and
laughable. The Herr Director played to the life; and
Catinka, a pretty, plump, fair-haired " fraulein " — not,
however, exactly the idea of j\Iaria Stuart — was admirable
in her part. Even Stauf himself was so :;arried away by
bis entliusiasm, that he laid down his candles to applaud ;
and, for the extent of the audience, I venture to say there
never was a more enthusiastic one. Indeed, to this fact
the Dii'ector himself bore testimony, as he more than once
interrupted the scene to thank us for our marks of ap-
proval. On both sides the complaisance was complete.
Never did actors and audience work better together: for
while we admired, they relished the praise with all the
gusto of individual approbation, frequently stopping to
assure us that we were right in our applause, that their
best hits were exactly those we selected, and that a more



A PLAY BY COMMAND. 441

jr-clgin^ public never existed. Stauf was carried away in
iiis ecstasies ; and, between laughing aud applauding, I
was regularly worn out with my exertions.

Want of light — Stauf's candles swilled frightfully from
neo-lect — compelled them to close the piece somewhat
abruptly ; and in the middle of the second act, such was
the obscurity, that the Herr Berg-Bau und Weg-Inspec-
tor's wife fell over the prompter's bulk, and nearly cap-
sized Stauf into the bowels of the big fiddle. This was
the Jinale ; and I had barely time to invite the corps to a
supper at the " Fox," which they kindly accepted, when
Stauf announced that we must beat a retreat by " inch
of candle." This we did in safety, and I reached the
"Fox" in time to order the repast, before the guests had
washed off their paint and changed their dresses.

If it has been my fortune to assist at more elegant
" reunions," I can aver with safety I never presided over
a more merry or joyous party than was our own at the
" Fox." Die Catinka sat on my left. Die Yrau von
" Mohren-Kopf," the " Mere noble " of the corps, on my
right ; the Herr Director took the foot of the table, sup-
ported by a " bassoon" and a "first lover;" while various
" trombones," " marquis," waiting-maids, walking gentle-
men, and a "ghost" occupied the space on either side,
not forgetting our excellent friend Stauf, who seemed the
very happiest man of the party. We were fourteen souls
in all, though where two-thirds of them came from, and
how they got wind of a supper, some more astute diviner
than myself must ascertain.

Theatrical folks, in all countries, are as much people in
themselves as the Gipsies. They have a language of
their own, a peculiarity of costume and habit of life.
They eat, drink, and intermarry with each other ; and,
in fact, I shouldn't wonder, from their organisation, if
they have a king in some sly corner of Europe, who, one
day, will be restored with great pomp and ceremon}-.
One undeniable trait distinguishes them all— at least,
wherever I have met them in the Old world and in the
New — and that is, a most unbounded candour in their
estimation of each other. Frankness is unquestionably
the badge of all their tribe • and they are, without ex-



412 THE ADVENTURES OF ARTHUR o'lEARY.

ception, the most free of bypocrisj^, in tliia respect, of all
tlio classes with whom it has ever been my fortune to
forgather. Nothing is too sharp, nothing too smart to be
said, no thrust too home, no stab too fktal ; it's a melee
conmament, where all tilt, and hard knocks are fair. This
privilege of their social world gives them a great air
of freedom in all their intercourse with strangers, and
sometimes leads even to an excess of ease, somewhat re-
markable, in their manners. With them, iutimacy is
like those tropical trees that spring up twenty feet high
in a single night. They meet you at rehearsal, 'and before
the curtain rises in the evening there is a sworn friend-
ship between you. Stage manners, and green-room talk,
carry off the eccentricities which other men dare not
practise, and though you don't fancy " Mr. Tuft " asking
you for a loan of five pounds, hang it! you can't be angry
with Jeremy Diddler ! This double identity, this Janus
attribute, cuts in two ways, and you find it almost impos-
sible to place any weight on the opinions and sentiments
of people, who are always professing opir ions and senti-
ments learned by heart. This may be— J 'm sure it is —
very illiberal— but I can't help it. I woi idn't let myself
be moved by the arguments of Brutus on the Corn Laws,
or Cato on the Catholic question, any more than I should
fall in love with some sweet sentiment of a daylight
Ophelia or Desdemona. I reserve all my faith in stage
people, for the hours between seven and twelve at night ;
then, with footlights and scenery, pastebonrd banquets,
and wooden waves, I'm their slave, they may do with me
as tliey will, but let day come, and " I'm a man again! "
Now as all this sounds very cross-grained, the sapient
reader already suspects there may be more in it than it
appears to imply, and that Arthur O'Leary has soma
grudge against the Thespians, which he wishes to pay off
in generalities. I'm not bound to answer the insinuation ;
neither will I tell you more of our supper at the " Fox,"
Eor why tbe Herr Director Klug invited me to take a place
in his waggon next day for Weimar, nor what Catinka
whispered, as I filled her glass with champagne, nor how
the '• serpent" frowned from the end of the table ; nor, in
short, one word of the whole matter, save that I settled



A PLAY BY COMMAND, 413

my bill that samo night at the " Kaiser," and tho next
ruorning left for Weimar, with a very large, and an ex-
cessively meiTy party.



CHAPTER XXXIU.

CONCLUSION.

The Platz of Weimar was all astir as we drove np to tho
" Elephant," dingiest and filthiest of all '' hostels." Troops
of horses were picquitted before the house, and crowds of
peasants poured in from every side with all manner of
quadrupeds, gaily decorated with ribbons, and caparisoned
with flaring saddlecloths and bright head-stalls.

" What does all this mean?" asked I. " Is it a fair,
or a great holiday ? "

" No, Mein Herr," replied the landlord ; " but there is
an officer of rank in the French service just arrived to
purchase ' remounts ' for the Chasseurs d'Afrique, and the
whole country for miles around is eagerly burring it to
the market."

Promising myself some amusement from the scene, I
ordered my breakfast at once, telling the host I should
remain for a day or two.

" Ach Gott!" sighed he, "I can give you nothing.
The Frenchman and his staff have ordered all in the
house. They have bespoken the rooms, engaged the
stable, and retained every scullion in the kitchen."

" But surely," said I, " they would not suffer a traveller
to starve amidst this more than plenty that I see here,
nor would they ask him to He in the streets while there
is shelter to be had in some nameless corner ? Go, mine
host, and say that a middle-aged gentleman, of engaging
manners and social disposition, is here, standing on the
threshold, houseless and hungiy; that for his entertain-
ment he would willingly pay in cash or conviviality, but
that as to leaving an inn without a hearty meal and a
good bed, if he wishes it, he'd see all the Frenchmen that
ever sacred — particularly well "

" What! say it out, man brave; don't balk your good



444 THE ADVENTURES OF ARTHUR o'lEARY.

intentions," broke in a deep bass voice ; wLile a broad-
chested fellow, all glittering with crosses and orders, pre-
sented his bearded lace very close to my own, — " Say it
out, I say," cried he.

" So I mean to do, mon General" said I, saluting him.
" I was going to observe, that of all people in Europe for
a retined sense of hospitality, for a just idea of what con-
stitutes real politeness, for a truly elevated sense of human
intercourse, there is notliing like a Frenchman."

" Diantre, sir, I am not a Frenchman," was the stern
reply.

" A German, it is true," I remarked, " is almost his
equal ; in some respects a trifle his superior."

" Taper tole ; I am no German."

" Nor a Swede ? a Russian P a Spaniard? an Italian ?
a Greek? — You can't be English ! " said ], at last, fairly
beaten in my attempts to fix his nationality.

" Devil a bit, my darling!" said he, "I'm your own.
countryman, and what's more, an old friend into the
barfrain."

There is no need of mystification — it was Con O'Kelly
himself, now " Fourrier en chef " in the French service,
whose honest hand I grasped. We dined jovially toge-
ther that evening, and the next morning set out for Mar-
seilles and Africa.

Ah, my dear reader, what a temptation is it that I
resist here. To stop, just when a new and singular ex-
istence opens before me ; to throw down my pen at the
very moment I could become most engaging and agree-
able. By this time you have learned to see the invariable
accuracy of my views, the liberality of my sentiments and
the unprejudiced breadth of all my speculations in life,
while I, on my side, am as deeply penetrated with the
general kindliness which for so long a period has marked
your companionship with Arthur O'Leary.

!May we meet again; but if not, may your memory be
as indulgent as my sense is deep, of all I owe to your for-
bearance, all I hope from your forgiveness.

k

TToodfall <t KiiiJor, Priuters, "0 to 70, Loug Acre, Li'Udon, W.G,



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Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe adventures of Arthur O'Leary → online text (page 40 of 40)