Max Aley.

The barnstormers; an account of the barnstorming of the barnstormers of the Barnville online

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Maim Lifc.



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HE LOOKED QUITE TERRIBLE, AND I THINK HE SCARED HER-
BERT A LITTLI-: \\IM.N THE BLINDFOLD WAS TAKEN OFF

Page 160



THE BARNSTORMERS

AN ACCOUNT OF THE

BARNSTORMING OF THE BARNSTORMERS
OF THE BARNVILLE

EDITED
FROM THE RECORD KEPT BY "BOB"



BY

MAX ALEY



ILLUSTRATED



NEW YORK

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
1914



COPYRIGHT, 1914, BY
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS



Published April, 1914




"BOB" WISHES TO DEDICATE THIS RECORD TO
THE THREE WHO, WITH HIMSELF, FORMED
THE ORIGINAL BARNSTORMERS* DRAMATIC
CLUB H. B. J., H. L. M., AND E. J.



3O8877



A NOTE BY "BOB"

THE BARNSTORMERS are all "grown-up" now,
and the four original members of the club are scat-
tered in widely separated parts of the United States.
Strange to say, not one of them has the remotest
connection with the theatre. The Barnville, when
I saw it last, had gone back to its original purpose.
Its loft was filled with hay, and a horse occupied
the dressing-room where Zara and Bianca had
donned their flowing robes; the ticket- window was
gone; the scenic splendors of the loft had disap-
peared rude hands had torn away the last vestiges
of its theatrical glory. But from a beam hung a
few tatters of brown cambric, once part of the
front curtain; and I found one time-stained hand-
bill announcing ' l Bianca. ' ' Over in a corner of the
loft was a hidden niche under the eaves, and as my
hand crept back into it and closed over a dusty
old volume, memories of long, hot summer days
came back to me days when Hal and I toiled over



Vll



viii A NOTE BY "BOB"

our writing of "Rupert the Red Ranger," or I sat
alone, carefully recording the Barnstorming of
the Barnstormers of the Barnville. And when
I brought the book forth from its hiding-place,
there was that same record a cumbersome old
ledger filled with my own boyish handwriting.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



He looked quite terrible, and I think he scared Herbert

a little when the blindfold was taken off . Frontispiece



FACING
PAGE



They were so surprised that they didn't even have sense

enough to run 100

John's voice was high and cracked, and he made the

lines, sound their awfulest 184

Jglma's cave was about the only new setting for the
play. It was lots of work to get fixed, but we didn't
mind that 244



THE BARNSTORMERS



THE BARNSTORMERS

CHAPTER I

Saturday, February 18.

Hal and I were up in the hay-loft of our old
barn this afternoon, and I had a real hunch.
Hunches are funny things they come to you
just like a wink so quick that you don't know
what made them. But if they are really, truly,
cross-your-heart-and-hope-to-die hunches, straight
from your inside, why, they are worth considering.

Well, mine was a really hunch.

It was raining, and a rainy Saturday is nearly
as bad as a rainy picnic day. We had tried al-
most everything, and we were feeling rather glum
and tired out and grouchy. Rainy Saturdays
make you that way. We had come up in the
barn loft to do stunts on the flying rings. Hal
is a corker on the flying rings. He can do about
anything backward flops and double flops and



: B ARNSTORMERS

skin-the-cats with fancy variations, and a great
many other stunts that have no regular names.

I can't do much on the flying rings. I've tried,
but it just isn't in me. Hal hasn't given up try-
ing to teach me to do the backward flop he says
that any one who can swim like I can ought to
be able to learn to do a simple little thing like
a backward flop but I get scared every time.
Last summer I fell from the rings and sprained
my wrist so that I had to wear it in a sling, same
as if my arm was broken, for a week. I've been
yellow when it comes to flying rings ever since
that.

Well, as I said, it was raining. Hal had done
everything he knew on the flying rings, with me
looking on, and then we had settled down to rest
on a pile of hay over in one corner of the loft.

Neither one of us said much. We just didn't
want to talk we both get that way sometimes.
If I had wanted to talk it wouldn't have done
any good, for Hal didn't want to, and you might
as well try to pry open a river mussel as to get
Hal to talk when he doesn't feel like talking.

The rain came pattering down on the roof with



THE BARNSTORMERS 5

a nice, drizzly, sleepy sound, and the hay was so
comfortable that I nearly went to sleep. I felt
like Lady Jane Gray she's our cat when she
curls up in her basket behind the stove and purrs.

That is the way to get a hunch just curl up
and purr! Hunches won't come if you try to
make them. They pop up before your mind's
eye when you are feeling real satisfied and think-
ing of nothing in particular. It's just like Lady
Jane Gray when she's purring behind the stove
and a mouse comes along the kitchen floor; she
isn't expecting it, she hasn't tried to coax it out,
but if she gives one big jump she can land it sure.

Well, I was purring not really purring, of
course, but all comfortable and sleepy, and as
near to purring as a fellow gets when I sat up
stiff and straight in the hay and gave Hal a kick
in the ribs. The hunch had come to me: "Why
not have a show?"

I guess I thought it out loud, for Hal heard me.

"Too much trouble," he said. "Takes too
much time. Shows are for little kids, anyway."

We are going on fourteen and are in the eighth
grade.



6 THE BARNSTORMERS

"But I mean a real show," I said. "A play
like they have at a real theatre."

Hal just grunted. He didn't seem very much
taken with the hunch I had had. But I wouldn't
give up.

"If we gave a real play," I said, "we could
charge five cents to get in, and maybe we could
make some money."

Hal thought a minute. "Where are you going
to get a play we could give?" he asked.

Now that had been part of my hunch. We
had all read "Little Women," even if it is a girls'
book. I had been thinking about the plays the
girls used to give in their barn, when the idea
struck me that if they could do it we could.
Larry Donovan's sister has a book with all those
plays in it. I read it last year when I had the
chicken-pox. The plays are good plays, too all
about knights, and lords, and girls that were as
brave as boys. Jo and Meg wrote the plays when
they weren't much older than Hal and I, and then
after Jo wrote " Little Women," and it was pub-
lished, why, these plays were made into a book, too.

I knew Hal had read the "Comic Trag-



THE BARNSTORMERS 7

edies" that's what they are called because Hal
reads all the books in the neighborhood. So I re-
minded him of them and he was interested right
away.

"We could make a theatre out of this barn,"
I said, "and give one of the ' Comic Tragedies/
Jo and Meg gave their plays in a barn and from
the picture of it in that book it wasn't half as
good a barn as this one."

Hal seemed to be thinking about what I had
said, but he didn't say anything himself for quite
a while. He has funny, winky, little blue eyes
that all close up into knots when he thinks and
then open up wide and surprise you when he is
ready to say something. His nose wriggles, too,
when he's thinking, and if you know the signs,
why you keep still till his eyes open and his nose
gets peaceful.

"Do you remember the 'Palace'?" Hal asked
at last.

I did. The "Palace" was a theatre in Larry
Donovan's grandfather's carriage-house loft. It
happened last summer while I was away with
mother on a visit to Aunt Meta at her cottage



8 THE BARNSTORMERS

up on Lake Michigan. I had to wear white duck
sailor suits and keep clean, and couldn't go bare-
footed. Hal and his brother John and Larry
Donovan fixed up the "Palace" while I was away,
and I missed all the fun. Only they never did
give a show. They were going to have a real
vaudeville show acrobatic stunts and some
music. The show was to be on Wednesday.
The Thursday before, they took in Cribby Mc-
Cormack and Billy Winters, because Cribby
played a harmonica and Billy could walk on his
hands. On Saturday they all had an iron-weed
fight down in the crick bottom where the old
lime-kiln is. The old lime-kiln is just like a fort,
so you can have better fights down there than
'most anywhere around here. But this time
Cribby McCormack fell off the top of the lime-
kiln on his head. Only it didn't kill him, because
he landed on top of Larry. He knocked the wind
out of Larry, and both of them had to be carried
home. And then everybody's fathers and moth-
ers got all worked up, and talked over the back
fences about how it was a wonder kids ever lived
to grow up; and of course Larry's grandfather



THE BARNSTORMERS 9

said there couldn't be no such goin's-on as a
show in his carriage-house loft; somebody might
get killed for sure. School began in a week and
a half, so folks forgot all about Cribby falling off
the lime-kiln; only the town marshal posted a
sign down there that said, "Five Dollars Fine
For Trespassing," so we can't use the lime-kiln
for a fort any more. We are all sore at Cribby
every time we see that sign. He ought to have
known that if he went and fell off the top of the
thing there'd be a rumpus, and it would be posted
just like it was !

"Well," I said to Hal, "Cribby McCormack
doesn't have to break his head and put a crimp
in this show!"

Hal laughed. "But do you suppose they will
let us?" he asked.

He meant our fathers and mothers.

"Sure," I said. "If we give a real play they
will come to see it."

"Do you think they would?" Hal asked.

I wasn't real sure, but I said yes, I thought
they would. You can never tell about grown-up
people. Sometimes they get real crazy about the



io THE BARNSTORMERS

things you do like shows and again they tell
you to go along and don't bother them.

"They go to see the plays the High School
Dramatic Club gives/' I told Hal.

Hal said "Yes," doubtfully, and then his eyes
winked and went into little knots, and his nose
wriggled.

I got up and looked at the loft. It is quite
a big loft and just about right to give plays in.
The part over the carriage room is raised, so that
the ceiling below will be higher, and that makes
a platform at one end. Of course that would be
the stage. The other part, where we could have
the seats, is more than half of the loft and would
give room for all the people who would come.

While I was looking around the barn Hal sat
there thinking. But he was looking around, too.
That's one other thing about Hal; he takes every-
thing in for himself. I knew he was figuring it
all out, and that when he got ready to talk he'd
talk but not before.

That's the advantage of growing up with a
fellow. You know just how to take him and just
how to act when he's around. Hal and I why,



THE BARNSTORMERS n

we have known each other ever since we started
to school eight long years!

Hal has brains. As long as I've known what
brains were, I've known Hal had them. But any-
how, most boys have more brains than they get
credit for having.

After a while we got to talking about the plays
in the book of "Comic Tragedies." "We will
give 'The Captive of Castile' first," Hal said.
"It's one of the best in the book, and it doesn't
look very hard."

"But we have to have the theatre before we
give the play, don't we?" I asked.

Hal laughed. " Yes," he said, " that's what we
did when we had the 'Palace.' We spent a whole
week getting the place ready for a show we never
gave."

"Did you spend any money?"

Money is pretty scarce with all of us.

"No," said Hal, "didn't spend any. Just
threw away a week of perfectly good time."

That made me think. I guess Hal was right.
We'd better be sure of the show before we fix
up the barn.



12 THE BARNSTORMERS

We fell to talking then about how we would
fix it up when the time came. We both think
it will make a corking good theatre. Of course,
we will have the stage on the raised part over
the carriage room. The part for the audience
will take up the rest of the loft. We'll have seats
made out of boards laid across from boxes.
And down-stairs we're going to fix up a ticket
office just like they have in a real theatre.

"How many people does it take to give 'The
Captive of Castile '? " I asked Hal.

He thought for a minute. "Four, I think,"
he said. "It's written so that two people can
take all the parts if necessary. Don't you re-
member in ' Little Women/ Jo and Meg acted all
the parts in the plays they gave?"

I had forgotten that, but when he spoke of it
I remembered. "Then we don't need but two
more, do we?"

"That's all."

"Larry Donovan?"

"Sure," said Hal, "we must have Larry Dono-



van."



"And how about John?"



THE BARNSTORMERS 13

Hal shook his head. "Can't say about John.
Larry will be in for it right away, but John may
not be."

If Hal is for anything, John is usually against
it. That's the way with brothers. Makes me
glad, sometimes, I haven't any still I miss mine
that I haven't got, and I wish I had one, even
if he didn't always want to do just what I did.

We knew we could count on Larry. He's al-
ways in for everything. He sticks, too. Last
year when we dug a cave in the clay-bank, Larry
stuck by it when the rest of us all gave it up
because it got water in it. Larry baled the water
out with a tin coffee-can, and then put boards
down to walk on. We all came back feeling
pretty small. We elected Larry Heap Big Chief
of the cave-dwellers, and that evened things up,
because the Heap Big Chief had the power of life
and death over all his subjects. (Not really life
and death, of course. Just pretended kind. We'd
all read a book called, "Captured by the Cave-
Dwellers," so we dug a cave, and played we were
cave-dwellers like those it told about in the book.)

Hal and I decided not to ask any one but John



i 4 THE BARNSTORMERS

and Larry to be in our show. When you get too
many you always have trouble. After a while we
can ask another fellow or so if we wish.

"We can make it a regular club," said Hal, a a
dramatic club, like the one they have in high
school. Then we can give it a name, and have
a president and a treasurer, and hold meetings.
If we take in any new members we can initiate
them just like the High School Dramatic Club
does."

The part about the name made the biggest hit
with me. I hadn't thought about that. "What
will we name it?" I asked.

Hal wrinkled his nose and thought real hard.
Then he looked up and his eyes opened wide.

"I've got it!" he said at last. "I was reading
some old magazines up in the attic the other day,
and I found something by Joe Jefferson the man
who plays Rip Van Winkle. He was telling about
how it was when he was a little boy, and his
mother and father were acting in a travelling com-
pany. They were going through the South, and
since there were no theatres in that part of the
country in those days, the actors would find a



THE BARNSTORMERS 15

big barn in the town where they were going to
play, and set up their scenery and give their play
in it. People called the actors who did this,
' Barnstormers."

"Well?" I said.

"That's what we'd call ourselves," said Hal,
"for we'd be playing in a barn just like those
actors did when Joseph Jefferson was a little boy."

"The Barnstormers," I said to myself, "that's
a good name."

"Then we must have a name for our theatre,"
said Hal.

I thought a minute. "Why not 'Barnville'?"
I asked.

"Good! "said Hal. "Fine!"

So we fixed it up. We, the Barnstormers, are
going to barnstorm in the Barnville!



CHAPTER II

Tuesday, February 21.

Well, the Barnstormers are! We have organ-
ized (that is what Hal calls it) the Barnstormers'
Dramatic Club.

I told John all about my hunch that we could
make a theatre out of our old barn. I didn't
mention Hal at all, and John thought he was in
on the ground floor. He said he would be for it
strong, and that he thought it was the best hunch
ever.

Father and mother and I were invited to the
Jamesons' for dinner Sunday, and in the after-
noon, when dinner was over, Hal and John and
I went up to their room to talk about the Barn-
stormers. We telephoned for Larry to come over,
and when he came we told him all about it, and
then organized the club. I am president, Hal is
treasurer, John is to play the hero parts, and
Larry is stage-manager.

16



THE BARNSTORMERS 17

Our first play is to be "The Captive of Castile"
from the book of "Comic Tragedies" just like
Hal and I decided that day in the barn. Larry's
sister let us have her copy of the book, and we
are going to write out each part from it.

There are five characters: Bernardo, Lord of
Castile; Ernest L? Estrange, an English lord; Her-
nando, a priest; Selim, a slave; and Zara, Ber-
nardo's daughter. Hal is to be Bernardo, who is
fierce and very cruel. John is to play Ernest
L'Estrange, the hero. Larry is to play two
parts Hernando and Selim. They aren't very
long parts and they don't come in at the same
time. I am to be Zara I

I don't like the idea of being a girl. Boys are
boys and girls are girls, and I'm quite satisfied
where I am. But somebody has to be Zara or
we will have to take a girl into the Barnstormers.
We don't want to do that, so I guess it is up to me.

I told mother I was going to be the girl in our
show, and she laughed and seemed to think it was
very funny. But she's going to fix me up some
clothes out of some old evening dresses Aunt Meta
left here. One is blue satin, and mother says



i8 THE BARNSTORMERS

she'll make me my costume out of that, and then
if I have to have another one she'll make that
out of an old pink dress. Then there's a cloak,
or a sort of cape, I am to wear in the woods when
I'm lost. And I'm to have a wig made out of
brown burlap ravelled out so as to look like hair.
After all, I think it will be fun to play the part
of Zara.

Mother thinks it's great we are going to give
a play. And Mrs. Jameson is interested, too. I
heard mother talking to her over the telephone,
and they were both laughing, but they seemed
real proud of us because we had organized the
Barnstormers.

It's just like I said. You never can tell about
grown folks!

Thursday, February 23.

Hal and John and Larry and I met over at
Larry's last night and took turns reading until we
had read "The Captive of Castile." It is a good
play, all right!

Zara, the heroine, gets lost in the woods and
is rescued by Ernest, the hero, who is an English



THE BARNSTORMERS 19

soldier. Zara's father is a Moorish lord and on
the opposite side in the war. Some time later,
Ernest is taken prisoner by the Moors and is
sentenced to die. He is locked up in the donjon
of Bernardo's castle with the other prisoners who
are going to have their heads cut off. Zara sees his
name on the list of prisoners and tells her father:
"It was he who saved me from a bitter death
in yonder forest." But Bernardo is cruel and
hard-hearted, and he refuses to save the man who
saved his daughter's life. But Zara is different
from her father. She makes up her mind to save
Ernest no matter what happens. She calls old
Selinij who has charge of the donjon, and gets the
keys from him by promising him that his daugh-
ter shall be made free, and be a slave no longer.
Ernest is in the donjon thinking about the lovely
lady he rescued from the woods, when Zara, all
disguised, comes to his cell. She pretends to be
a slave, and tells Ernest that her mistress is the
lady he saved from the forest and that now she
would save him. But Ernest is brave and honor-
able, and he says: "It cannot be. Much as I love
my life, I love my honor more, and I am bound un-



20 THE BARNSTORMERS

til my conqueror shall give back my plighted word
to seek no freedom till he shall bid me go." Zara
tells him: "If there be power in woman's grati-
tude, thou shalt yet be free, and with thine honor
yet unstained." Then as she starts to go her veil
falls, and Ernest sees that it is really the lovely
Zara. They have a mushy love-scene I don't
know how John and I will ever do that and
then Zara goes. The next day Bernardo brings
home the death-warrant for the prisoners Ernest
among them. Zara begs him to yet save the
English lord, but he is a mean old cuss and he
won't listen to her at all. So that night she steals
the death-warrant from under his pillow, and
when he wakes up the next morning it is "burnt
to ashes and scattered to the winds." Of course
Bernardo is mad as can be. Zara pleads and
begs for Ernest's life, because Bernardo says it
doesn't matter about the old death-warrant any-
way, he'll chop off the prisoners' heads just the
same. But finally he agrees to spare Ernest if
Zara will swear by her dead mother's spirit never
to wed a man but of her own race. That is pretty
tough on Zara, but she is brave, so she swears,



THE BARNSTORMERS 21

and Ernest is saved. She goes to his cell and
tells him all about it, and they have another
mushy love-scene and then say good-by forever.
Zara says her heart is broken and she wishes she
was dead. So she "seeks out" Hernando, an old
priest, whom she hopes can comfort her. It is
a good thing she goes to him, for Hernando knows
the secret of her life, and when she tells him all,
why, her troubles go away like a puff of smoke.
Hernando says she isn't Bernardo's daughter at
all. Her father was an English lord and her
mother was a Moorish lady. They both died and
left her to him, and he took her to Bernardo to
raise, because Bernardo had been a friend of her
mother's. Zara is very happy, because now her
vow doesn't hold and she can marry Ernest if
she wants to. She goes home and finds a letter
from Ernest waiting for her. He tells her that
Bernardo is going to betray the city to the Span-
ish king, but instead of his life and liberty, which
the king has promised him, he will be slain. Er-
nest tells her to bid Bernardo flee and to go with
him. So Zara tells Bernardo that she knows he
isn't her father, and that he is an old traitor be-



22 THE BARNSTORMERS

sides. He goes all to pieces and says: "Lost!
Lost! Fool that I was to trust the promise of
a king! Disgraced, dishonored, and betrayed!
Where find a friend to help me now?" Then
Zara, who is too noble to go off and leave him
taking on like that, says: "Here in the child
who clings to thee through danger, treachery,
and death. Trust to the love of one whom once
thou loved, and who still longs to win thee back
to happiness and honor." So they fix it all up, and
Bernardo goes off to get ready to leave and Zara
is alone. A messenger comes from Ernest with a
letter telling Zara the bearer will lead her to
safety. But Zara has promised to help Bernardo
escape, and she isn't the sort to go back on her
word. She says: "What shall I do? Oh, Ernest,
where art thou now?" And then the messenger,
who was Ernest all the time, throws off his dis-
guise and says: "Here, dearest Zara! Here at
thy feet to offer thee a true heart's fond devo-
tion." And so they do get each other after all,
and are married and live happy ever after. Only
first they get old Bernardo, and all leave together
for "another and a happier home."



THE BARNSTORMERS 23

Friday, February 24.

I have copied all my part, which was quite a
task. At first I wanted to copy all the play, but
Hal said there wasn't any sense to that, for all
you needed to do was to copy your own speeches
and the cues. Of course I didn't know what cues
were, but I kept quiet and waited till Hal showed
me how he had started to copy his part. Then
I found out that cues are the last words of the
speech that comes just before your own. You
write out three or four words, like this:

ERNEST. . . . not trust me?

That is the cue for Zara's next speech:

ZARA. Ernest, thou knowest my heart is thine,
and that to thee I trust with joy my life and
happiness. No vow stands now between us. I
am thine.

ERNEST. ... let me lead thee.

ZARA. I come, etc.

Then when you learn the part you learn the
cues as well as your own lines, and that way you
know when your time comes to speak.



24 THE BARNSTORMERS

I am afraid I shall never learn all Zara has to
say. She certainly did like to talk! but then I
guess all girls and women are that way. Zara
does most of the talking in the play and that is
forty-five pages long. Still, I can get things by
heart pretty easily. I just about know all of my
first act now. Ernest has the first speech, and
then he hears some one coming and hides. Zara
enters crying, and says: "Heaven shield me!
Whither shall I turn? Alone in this wild forest,
where may I find a friend to help. The dark
storm-cloud gathers and I am shelterless" etc.
It's very fine writing. Jo and Meg were differ-


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Online LibraryMax AleyThe barnstormers; an account of the barnstorming of the barnstormers of the Barnville → online text (page 1 of 12)