Page images
PDF
EPUB

“ Oh! never mind the long cornet,” replied Peregrine; “ I dare say that I can manage him;" and as he said this, he was led by some recondite train of association to look at the hunting-whip in his cabin, and smile.

The nervous youth was about to say something or other about spoiling the night's entertainment, when the “ bell-eight,” pealing loud and slow, vibrated upon the ears of the two actors; and as Peregrine had by this time completed his toilet, he took poor Doleton by the arm, spoke to him a few words of comfort and assurance, and in a few moments they had both of them ascended by the main hatchway to the upper deck. There was a temporary apartment constructed in the rear of the stage, for the accommodation of the gentlemen-e.ctors, and this room was called the green-room," of course, though there was nothing green about it at all but the actors.

We shall not inform our readers how the players assembled, some confident and some nervous, some looking forward to the fun of the thing, and some heartily wishing that it was over; nor, of all the questions that were asked, and all the remarks that were passed, preliminary to the drawing up of the curtain. Suffice it that there was a small quantum of green-room gossip, that the prompter was particularly requested to speak loud enough; that almost every body was very apprehensive of having forgotten a considerable quantity of his part, and

that Master Mlinin had got such a colour on his cheeks in his amatory warfare with the Miss Gowanspecs, that every body present declared that he had been making free use of the rouge-pot.

Bat at last the curtain drew up, and this part of the stage furniture had been so admirably arranged, that it only hitched three times in its ascent, and at last went up diagonally, which every body must acknowledge to be a striking improvement upon the old process. There was a tremendous clapping of hands of course, when the rising of the curtain displayed something like a rampart wall, with two real guns, and a great quantity of canvas sky with a round hole in it, for a lantern to look through and act moonshine. And presently, two assistant-surgeons came in with the perspiration standing on their faces, and made some remarks about the coldness of the night, which was put a stop to by the entrance of the chief officer in the character of Horatio, who made a point of disbelieving the two assistant-surgeons, when they told him they had seen a ghost; and it is a remarkable fact that he had only just observed that the ghost would not appear, when the ghost did appear, or rather Cadet Doleton, with his limbs encased in tin armour, his face besmeared with flour, and a good thick ruler in his hand.

Upon the appearance of the ghost, there was a round of applause, which seemed to startle the unearthly visitant, for he stood still when it began, looked towards the audience for a moment, and then shuffled off the stage, one of the assistant-surgeons having previously exhorted Horatio to speak to it; because that gentleman was a scholar* and it is well known that ghosts are not in the habit of understanding any thing else but Latin and Greek, which being the dead languages, are of course the legitimate vernacular of the spectral community.

This scene was got through with considerable effect, and a vast deal of hearty applause. The ghost had nothing to say, but he looked his part to admiration, and though he had no opportunity of introducing any new readings, he introduced some new action in its stead, which consisted of divers twitchings and rubbings, indicative of a badly fitting suit of armour, which were very appropriate indeed, for it is not to be supposed that there were any good tailors in Elsinore three hundred years ago, nor, if there had been any, that they would have troubled themselves to turn out a very first-rate article for a ghost, who is not in the habit of showing himself off in fashionable circles.

The next scene introduced Peregrine Pultuney, Julian Jenks, Cornet Drawlincourt, and various others of the dramatis persone. Peregrine had nothing to say, but the long cornet had a vast deal, and it is almost impossible to describe how execrably badly he did it. His conception of the part was strikingly original, for the character of Hamlet, ** Thou art a good scholar, speak to it, Horatio."-Shakspeare.

VOL. I.

became, in his hands, a mixture of Bobadil, Bombastes Furioso, Timour the Tartar, and Fastidius Brisk, or in other words a strange amalgamation of the Bully, the Boaster, the Tyrant and the Dandy, all blended into an extraordinary whole. It would have been worth a small annuity to have had the satisfaction of hissing such a barbarian off the stage; but he was punished for his presumption in another way. .

Peregrine Pultuney acted marvellously; and so did Julian Jenks, who convulsed the “house" with laughter, and hobbled about like an old courtier as he was, giving lectures to his children and all that sort of thing to the very line, and, what was better, to the admiration of the whole ship's company, with whom he happened to be an especial favourite, and who applauded him vehemently in consequence; whilst Master Millikin, as Ophelia, looked exceedingly pretty, and would have acted the part to perfection, if he had not looked so often towards the dress circle and winked his eye at the Miss Gowanspecs, in the most pathetic parts of the play with a facetious expression of countenance which was not at all in harmony with the words he was speaking.

This, however, was a small matter that did not in the least interfere with the excellence of the night's entertainments, any more than a complete break down which came to pass in the part of Cadet Doleton, who acted to admiration, whilst he

PEREGRINE PULTUNEY

PEREGRINE PULTUNEY. 195 had nothing to do but to fit backwards and forwards across the stage. He did the “ beckoning" too tolerably well, but when he came to the speaking part of the business, his constitutional weakness ing part of the business as consumunuan Wesness asserted itself in all its force, and the poor fellow was fairly gravelled. There he stood, face to face with the ferocious Drawlincourt, the perspiration streaming down his face and making dough of the four that was on it; his knees tottering beneath him like limp jelly, and his eyes fixed upon the face of the cornet. “Mark me,” was all that he could say, and it was all too that he had to say, for his first speech; but when Hamlet made answer in the affirmative, he, briefly expressing himself in two words, “I will,” there was a dead pause-poor Doleton stood staring with mouth agape, but no words issued from it, explanatory of the matters that he wished to be “marked"-" I will,” repeated Hamlet—but still no answer, Doleton's lips moved, but inaudibly.

“My hour is almost come,” shouted the prompter with all his might

But still no answer came from the tremulous lips of the ghost. There was a long silence-a terrible pause; till at last the long cornet being fairly incensed out of the little patience he possessed on ordinary occasions, drew his sword in a menacing manner and exclaimed, “D-n you, why don't you

[ocr errors]

It is not to be supposed that such an undignified

« PreviousContinue »