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THE CHIMNEY CORNER.

THREE SCENES IN THE LIFE OP A TRAVELLING SHOWMAN.

A Sketch from Life.

SCENE THE SECOND.— Continued. The first scene was the finale of “ Blue Beard.” The curtain drew up and discovered another, with skeletons painted on the back, and lurid with blue fire.

“ There, sir; we carry that scene wherever we goes,” said Mr. Muraford to me, confidentially; “it always draws.. The scene’s three feet wide and eight feet high.” Blue Beard (Mr. Jones) entered, and was about dragging Mrs. Mumford (whom he discovered in the room) to instant execution, when her two brothers (Mr. Mumford and another) entered, and cut him down after a very tough and, for a long time, doubtful fight. Blue Beard eventually (I should perhaps mention) gave up the ghost from the 'result of a horse-pistol fired by Sister Anne [l.c.]. Turkish march; curtain fell.

“ There, sir; how do you like that ? ’ I liked it very much, and so I told the manager. The next performance was the most distressing scene in the: “Stranger.” The Stranger (Mr. Thompson,, again) entered in Hessian boots—-deeply; affecting. Stranger,, rather like gentleman mute, alluded to “ another and a better worr-r-rld,” and was pursuing that vein when' giant," as comic servant, entered, and threw a somersault {bhty one, the stage was not large enough for two.) . '• ; • “ Hallo ! ” said I' to the manager, ’, J . , -' “ Innovation, I allow,” said Miim-

ford. We found the piece drag, so introduced IJilly with comic business; great success now. Next piece, ‘ Mamlet ’—only ghost scene, to introduce the Pepper Ghost. Ghost, Billy, in grey seal-skin. Great hit.” And so it was. Young Roscius, Hamlet—only twelve, clever, and with a sense of acting. The manager occasional’)' interrupted the peiformance with remarks, such

as — “ Mr. Jones, take care, sir, your feather is singeing. Freddy, put more ‘ .r 0 ’ into it. Mr. Thompson, don’t stand before the Ghost —if you do that again I’ll fine you. Now, band, slow music for Ghost; ‘ Still so gently’— good.” The Ghost appeared - such a ghost. “ Last time we played at Devizes,” said the manager to me, “ there was an awkward business about that ghost. Lilly had just come on, and was showing up well in the plate glass, when two hands appeared and grabbed him by the shoulder. By the living Jingo, sir, they were bailiffs! They’d mistaken Billy for a high comedy man that had just left, and that had been in the hardware line in Bristol. That 11 do. Trapeze.” . . The manager was eager to exhibit his prowess-on the trapeze. Curtain fell, rose again, and he appeared in mid-air, facing the young Roscius on another trapeze. He swung across, he caught the boy with his knees, and let him hang in the air. It was really very fair, and 1 applauded. - “ It’s all very well,” said the giant, who had nmv joined me, and who spoke in a whisper. “ But theguv’nor’s getting too stout. He’s as found of it as ever, but he can’t do the first-rate thing.” “Joe’s wonderful, ain’t he?” said Mrs.' Mumford, who now came round to me. “Now he’ll do his double somersaults.” And so he did—nine running, in very fair style. He joined me in ?. moment after. “ We’re going to Plymouth next .week,” he said. “And if I don’t go in and beat that sneering rascal Turnafelli, I’m a Dutchman, for I know I can do it.” “ And he will do it—Joe will,” said the proud little wife. “Papa’ll beat that man,” said the • infant Roscius; “he can beat any man.” “ The guv’nor can do anything he likes,” chimed in the faithful giant. “ Guv’nor’s a. good sort—-very good sort,” whispered the giant to me. “ But he’s bumptious, and a great deal too , venturesome.”

SCENE THE THIRD. THE LAST OF ALL. It must I'ave been four years after that summer evening we have just described, that I was riding home from hunting one autumn night across the downs to Salisbury, a mile or two past Winterbourne Stoke. Just as I reached the great Roman camp' at Varhorough, I saw a light glimmering above the grassy mound that still marks the rampart that the sturdy legioners threw up against our ancestors hundreds of vears ago. The light shone like a glow T worm in that vast range of lonely down. Thinking it was a gipsies’ camp, and wanting a light for my cigar, I cantered smartly towards it. When T came up to it I found it was a light from the open door of a caravan. “ Can you oblige me with a light?” I shouted.

Thera was no answer. J got off my horse and walked up to the light. I looked in. A woman was sitting with her head resting on a coffin, and near her was a youth of about fourteen, with his head bandaged, and his arm in a sling. A little child of three years old, as I looked in, was striking the coffin with a coral and bells, and crying— , . “ Why doesn’t papa come out of that black box, and come to tea ?” Just then a tall spectre came out of the darkness. It was the giant, crying like a child. He knew me, .and took my hand. “ That’s the guv’nor’s coffin,” lie said. “He would go and do it. He challenged that beast Turnarelli to do double somersaults. I always told him he’d kill himself, and he ” (here he burst into a storm of tears) “ broke his —neck —last Wednesday. The boy was hurt too.”

I went up and tried my best to say a word of comfort to the poor widow, and, after I had given the poor boy a present, I took my leave. As 1 rode slowly off the giant followed me. “It would have been a consolation, sir,” said the faithful creature, “if you could have been at the funeral, but that will be at the guv’nof’s native place, Knoyle, sir, and that’s out of your district. O dear, sir, what will become of the caravan and the company ?” I suggested that it should become a joint stock company, with a_ double share for the widow. The giant shook my hand, and muttered audibly, “ Bless you ” three times, each time with more intensity, and then strode'back to the caravan'through the darkness. (jDondiuled).

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THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 245, 18 January 1881

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