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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 243, 15 January 1881
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
♦ THREE SCENES IN THE LIFE OF A TRAVELLING- SHOWMAN. | A Sketch frojn Life. j SCENE THE FIRST. | THE GIANT AND KIS MANAGER. It was about six o’clock on a May evening, and I had gone out to practice at a rifle range in one of the pleasant little valleys on that great robing grassy down that, stretching from Stonehenge as far as the town of Wannirs.er, covers nearly thirty miles of Wi'tshire. The annual match for the silver cup was coming off early in June, and I wanted to make a good appearance, and try what drinking out of silver was like. It was market day in Salisbury, but my friend King had promised to ride up to the range on his return and try me at the seven hundred yards, at which, the last time, we had been ties. The down looked deliciously quiet; blackbirds singing in every great.snowy thorn-bush; a fading rainbow—the mere green and violet phantom of a rainbow;—gleamed over the distant fir plantation. Here and there a rabbit peeped out from a furze, or trotted across the range, heedless of the latest improvements in the rifle. There was only one sign of human presence, and that was a great red and yellow caravan moored on the brow a quarter of a mile off. It looked, m the rich sunset that was just then beginning, like Noah’s ark on Ararat. It was the day after Chicklade fair, and this caravan was evidently on its way back from those rural festivities. Except for that caravan the Down looked much as it had looked, I suppose, when the ancient Britions fought the. Romans there. Under the hazel stand a primrose or two still lingered ; the air Was blue arid crystalline, and smelt bf sumiiier flowers.
It was no use beginning t'o practise till old Payne, the keeper, came with the flags and, the whitewash pot, and could get behind his turf and mark ; so I threw myself down under a great flowering hawthorn, my rifle and cartridge-box at my side, and gave way to a minute or two of luxurious and delicious idleness. Suddenly a voice called out —
“ Come here, Billy, and tuck in your twopenny.” >
I looked round. It was some one behind the nearest thorn bush; . calling in a droll voice to some One in the covert. People from the,. caravan, I supposed. They could‘see me where I was, so I just rolled myself to the edge of the bush and looked round. It was- a little Robsonian man, with a droll twist.to his mouth, and a swagger of good-natured but intense self-com-placency, beating his phest: and stretching his arms in a series of rapid poses plastiques. He wore a very dingy suit of pink' fleshings, and the other habiliments of the street acrobat, and : had a dirty spangled band round his forehead. “ Come here,. Bill,” he cried again, “ never mind those fakements, she must wait : until after business hours. Let Polly pick up her own sticks; ..she makes a slave of you, Bill: you’re too good-natured by half, and the women make a fool of you.” ,
“All right, guv’nW,” replied a thin, piping voice, and there stumbled out of the furze a huge, awkwardly-made, thin bony man, not much less than eight feet high, also dressed in fleshings; He had a deprecating, injured expression, lank dusty hair, and weak eyes, and was evidently a giant of a meek, cowed disposition, who looked upon the little man as a genius and a general, and respected .him accordingly, with ah almost feudal veneration. He carried a bundle of newly-collected sticks under his enormously long arm. f “All right, guvnor,” he said. •“ You know whatever you order I always tumbles to it, whether 1 it’s ‘ Hamlet; with a . company of three, or' the ‘ Stranger, ’ with me in Hessian , boots, and no room to flourish my pockethandkercher in. Well, what’s up now ? ” “This is up, Bill,” said the little man. “ I tell you it was the worst day as ever Thorn and Bennett knew when tfie would not let me do first tragedy business, ;and perfprvn . feats of strength in the middle of ‘ Blue Beard.’ For it very mticWAffikes ufel'iny diminutive individule, that original ginnyus aint found every day | and. the ‘Stranger’ with the double somersaults between the acts, brings down, the house and brings in the browns.” “It just do,” said the giant.' “But I ’aven’t got. the sperit as you have, Joe, and .never shall' have, through not having food enough when I was a-grow-ing. There’s the missus calling.” • , ; “ And there let her call, . I want to practice that flying jum ; p,-. of,mine, Bill, so thrdw yourself into'a professibiM attitude and look out.”
The submissive giant, with none of the ferocity of his ancestors about him, bent, his back, and planted his .bony hand on,his thighs. The little‘man made a bustling scrambling run, lodged himself on the enormous creature’s back, and towing himself on to his shoulders, flung his legs round his neck. It was-not precisely what he had intended to do evidently, but his delightful self-complacency served him in good -stead,;.-: ; ' “ That’ll do, Bill,” he said. “ But I didn’t allow quite enough for the taking off having no spring in it. It’ll all come right at Warminster. Once fhbre.”
This time the little man, evidently getting a little too stout, missed entirely, and not only that, but gave the giant such a projector forward, that he toppled over on his nose. , ; Joe was enraptured with his success. “ This is how I get suggestions,” he said. good comic business. You fall, then I take you up like the clown- does 1 pantaloon, and say,- Take care of the. pieces, ’ and that’ll bring the house down. Mind that we say, ‘'lake cafe of the pieces,' Bill. Come, we’ll go to tea. Mother has got some muffins for iis. T : ' mustn’t stop; your growing,, my little tiilip.' .Pci .you know, yout part fpr.theJ Bpttle.Jmp ,’ yet ?” : “ Almost ; but I ,can’t get,; it quite right after the three hundredth line. . “ Ah, that’s because you got out playing at cards with; thosS gipsies last night, my young man, feilly, there’s sbmetinies J a Want of self-respect about you. You don’t value your profession highly'enough. But, hallo !’-* Hallo !—thft, \vas made my appearance suddenly "to the
giant and the manager, and asked them how the fair had gone off. “Tol-101, sir,” said the little man ; “ but the agricultooral poor have not sufficient admiration for the drama. ‘ Hamlet ’ in twenty minutes —my friend here as Ghost, your humble servant as Hamlet—did not draw, and we had to introduce double somersaults between the ghost scene and the killing the king, which is hard work, and involves changing of dress. We shall try the ‘ bottle Imp ’at Warminter ; that always pulls in the money. _lt opens with Willebald and Albert, which is the low comedy man and the juvenile ; the comic man’s line is ‘ I’ll tell your mother.’ The first act, Albert goes-—” The little talkative man stopped, because at that moment, with a rush worthy of an Indian warrior impatient for scalps, the giant William rushed into the furze, and struck furiously right and left with a stick he held in his hand. Need I tell anyone who has seen a live rabbit that the animal escaped ? “ Whv, bless me, B'll,” said the manager, “you don’t expect to catch rabbits that way ? Bill, its unworthy of your intellek," and I’m ashamed of you.” I handed my. tobacco-pouch to the manager and his protege, and they were my very good friends from taal moment. We sat down together, and I handed my pocket-flask of brandy to each of them, with an allusion to their recent exertions.
The strolling manager of the small but effective company laughed in his droll, cheery way. The exuberant vanity of the little man was delightful. “ Lor’ bless. you, sir, many’s the evening I’ve thrown sixty double somersaults, "and been as fresh as a lark at the end of it, and gone to practise rope : dancing, at. which few could top me till Blondin walked over Niagara on one leg. Billy, did you ever see one play the violin and throw a somersault at the same time as well as me ? I put it to B’lly, here, as humpire.” The giant loaded his pipe with melancholy precision, and said, “ Never one arf as well. It does me good for two days to see the governor.” “ I’m like Crib’s dog—can do a little of most things,” said the manager, squeezing the calf of his leg approvingly, ‘‘and ’ave ’ad to do it in ray time. I don’t say that I’m much at rifle-shooting, but I can do the gun trick, and I’m pretty good at sparrers out of a trap. What do you say, Billy?”; “ I say you’re a regular A i at pigeons, sparrers, or 'apennies tossed up, and I’d' back you at forty to one as best shot put of a trap,, bar none.” “ You keep your money quiet, Billy, or you’ll have to sell your estates and move over to Bullen for change of air. And now, sir, if I might make so bold, would you gratify me and the old woman by taking a cup of tea with us in the carawan ? It’s humble, but comfortable ; neat, and not gaudy. Say the word, and Billy will run and tell Polly to put in an extra spoonful.” I assented with the greatest pleasure, and off went the good-natured but melancholy giant, as if he had had seven-league boots on, and followed by a shadow half a mile long at least. ( To be continued.)
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 243, 15 January 1881
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