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FATE OF TITUS ANDRONICUS AT PORTSMOUTH.-MR.SHORT'S SUCCESSFUL FAILURE. -MR. WALTON RESOLVES TO MAKE A TRIP TO DUBLIN.-DILEMMA OF ARCHER AND MARY.-MR. SHORT'S LOVE TACTICS.-ARRIVAL OF ELLEN LLOYD.DEPARTURES FOR IRELAND.
HARDING came to Archer with a face of some perplexity. “What shall I do?" said he. "I am very unfit for this sort of thing— and I do not like it—yet I should not wish to offend Mr. Walton. He is already very angry with you. He says you called the tragedy of Titus Andronicus' gross bombast, and told him not to expose himself on the stage as a Clare-Market butcher."
"I shall merely say this to you, Harding," replied Archer. "When Titus Andronicus has cut off his hand in order to save the lives of his two noble sons, and when the treacherous Aaron sends him back, in mockery, the heads of his two sons, together with his hand, his brother Marcus Andronicus exclaims (and the passage is quite in the towering vein of Marlowe)—
"Now let hot Etna cool in Sicily,
And be my heart an ever-burning hell!
These miseries are more than may be borne !'
But Titus Andronicus stands as if stunned by concussion of the brain, and at length says—
'When will this fearful slumber have an end?'
* Continued from page 117, Vol. VI.
NO. XXXIII.- -VOL. VI.
as though the thing were too horrible to be anything but a dream! There is a power and grandeur in this of the highest kind. Now, picture to yourself our worthy friend, who would be a good specimen of a fine old English country-gentleman, delivering this passage! The attempt is too absurd to think of. So is the whole affair. Mr. Short, as Saturninus, will far rather resemble an auctioneer who is endeavouring to show off some theatrical robe to the best advantage. Do not join them in this prank. It is neither a 'fearful slumber,' nor a respectable reality: it cannot be regarded as a work or a dream, but a foolery. Have nothing to do with it." Harding accordingly declined to appear as a Senator or Tribune. Mr. Walton and Mr. Short were too much occupied with their own parts to pay attention now to anything else; and as they had already secured the service of seven or eight stalwart shipwrights and anchor-smiths, to be dressed alternately as Senators, Roman Soldiers, or Goths, or to carry banners in processions, the resignation of Harding was received with only a passing comment from Mr. Walton, to the effect that it was, no doubt, owing to Archer. "Never mind him," said Mr. Short, nor Mr. Archer neither. The only thing I think about, is our good success, and the notoriety and patronage we shall obtain for our fishing-company in Ireland."
There was one other thing Mr. Short thought about, which he forbore to mention, and that was, the fine effect he hoped to produce upon Mary by his appearance as the Emperor Saturninus. Few women, he thought, could behold such a dress as the one he should appear in, and not feel a fluttering at the heart in favour of the wearer, if he were at all a likely man.
The playbill, announcing that the various murders and mutilations in Titus Andronicus would be adapted to the modern taste, was duly circulated. On further consideration, however, it was feared by Mr. Short, that these mitigations of the tragic shocks might render their bill of fare less attractive-in fact, it might produce some apprehensions of disappointment in the public mind; they resolved, therefore, to make up for these changes by the afterpiece. Accordingly, the piece to follow the tragedy was "The Castle Spectre, or the Bleeding Nun." This, however, was to be performed by the regular company of actors, except the part of the Bleeding Nun, which would be played by an amateur-a Captain of Marines. His sudden ascent, through a trap-door in the middle of the stage, was expected to produce an awfully paralysing effect.
The tragic night arrived. Mr. Short came to the theatre in a fly, dressed for his part; he had been "at it" ever since two o'clock. Mr. Walton also arrived, with an immense bough of laurel that looked very fresh. All the other amateurs arrived in good time, except two of the anchor-smiths, who were rather in liquor, and Major Grimshawe, whose visage of habitual crimson took more time to black than he had calculated. However, they were all ready at last. The overture was played by one of the regimental bands, and ingeniously combined the "melodies" of the "Death of Abercrombie " and "Go to the Devil and shake yourself," both selected by the Major.
The curtain rose-the house was crowded. Great was the applause. The patronage was manifest,—at least, so far as the interest excited by the promise of so many horrors was concerned. The tragedy commenced. Mr. Walton proceeded very well with his sententious heroism, and the others acquitted themselves respectably, with a little help from the prompter. But the omissions had been so numerous that by the time they had arrived at the third scene of the second act, there was every promise of a very dull affair. A little theatrical incident, however, not intended to be introduced in "Titus Andronicus," set this question at rest in a moment, and cut short the tragedy.
This untoward, though most effective accident, was caused by the anxious assiduities of the Captain of Marines to prepare everything for his ascent as the Spectre Nun through the trap-door in the middle of the stage. He was determined to see to everything himself he would trust nobody-it was too important-he was resolved to look to the trap in person, and take care that the bolts could be easily withdrawn, so that the trap should slide back without the chance of a hitch. Now, while he was greasing the bolts of this trap, and trying if they worked easily, the second act of "Titus Andronicus" was going on over-head, and at a most inappropriate or as it appeared to the audience, a most appropriate moment Mr.. Short stepped upon this trap in the natural progress of the scene, as he was advancing to look at the hole into which Bassianus has been thrown.
Enter Saturninus and Aaron :
"SAT.-Along with me! I'll see what hole is here!"
With these words, the Emperor Saturninus pompously advanced a few paces, and then stumbled half-way down through the trap. It
clung by the tip of one of the bolts, which the excited Captain beneath was endeavouring with all his might to force back again, but in vain, and then, with a most rueful look, down went Saturninus through the stage, leaving his diadem at the brink, over which Titus Andronicus and Aaron cautiously peeped, looking in terror and confusion into the abyss amidst the convulsive laughter of the audience. Most assuredly the "effect" produced by this upon Mary's mind, was anything but what poor Mr. Short had contemplated.
This ludicrous and unintentional coup-de-théâtre was prolonged by the confused energies of the Captain underneath, who in his wild endeavours to repair the disaster he had caused, clasped Mr. Short's legs in both arms and hoisted him up, loudly exhorting him to regain his position upon the stage; so that the wretched head and shoulders of Saturninus rose again, and appeared for a few seconds above the trap, and then sank for ever!
The drop-scene was lowered in confusion. Mr. Short was not hurt beyond a few slight bruises, and a grazed cheek and elbows; but it was impossible to resume the tragedy. The after-piece was, however, very successful, producing almost as much laughter as the tragedy, and the audience went away extremely satisfied with the evening's amusement, which had exceeded their expectations.
Mr. Walton had left the theatre in despair at the untoward accident which had destroyed the further progress of the tragedy, at the end of the second act. Mary sought in vain to console and calm him.
"How have I exposed myself! cried he; "to what ridicule ! amidst which the drop-scene fell, only just in time to prevent my throwing myself down the hole after poor Short, and hiding my confusion! What fools did we all look! Who could have foreseen such a disaster! Yet it all makes Archer appear so very right, and me so very wrong. No doubt but the character of Titus Andronicus was very unfit for me. I accept the evil position Fate has ordained me. To-morrow morning I shall write a note to Archer, and make a humble apology, regretting extremely that I did not attend to his advice. Mary, where is my nightcap? I think I should like to sit in it a little while."
Mr. Walton's head sank upon his breast, and with a most humble and abased air he sat silently looking down at his toes. He continued in this state for nearly half an hour, by which time Mary had caused the supper to be laid. She persuaded her father to
turn round to the table. He did so in a very resigned manner, and, by degrees, and as if he scorned all eating, made a very good supper.
He had concluded, and was in the act of stirring a tumbler of red wine negus, when a note arrived from Mr. Short. It was to the effect that notwithstanding his bruises, he had caused all the money to be brought to him from the theatre, and had sat up in bed to count it. The proceeds he declared far to exceed his most sanguine hopes; and he had moreover already received several visits and messages from persons of consequence, condoling with his accident trusting he was not severely hurt and expressing the greatest interest in the Anglo-Celtic Smack-building Company. The theatrical failure of the tragedy was a commercial success. It was a most prosperous beginning of the undertaking.
"Aha!" laughed Mr. Walton, "here's news! Read this note. Who is right now, Mary? I thought Short knew what he was about. Archer took too much upon himself. He ought to make me an apology.'
The "noise" of all this, added to the amount of money collected, and the apparent interest excited, worked a change in the opinion of more than one person, previously opposed to the attempt.
The views Mr. Bainton had entertained of the theatrical performance had been of a complicated nature. In the first place, he highly disapproved of all such things, on the score of strict religious tenets; but he thought a charitable purpose might render it pardonable. He endeavoured to persuade himself that the scheme of smack-building in Ireland came under the denomination of charitable, because the Irish fisheries were in a wretched state of neglect, yet offering great means of ameliorating the condition of the people and there was nothing the Irish needed more than good example. It was therefore charitable to give them this by showing them how the fish might be taken. Nevertheless, he thought it a very strange and unbusiness-like mode of commencing an undertaking like theirs, and he was more than half disposed to withdraw from it. The great success, however, of the amateurs, and the notoriety it caused, settled the question in his mind, and he requested Harding to be in readiness to accompany him to Ireland in the course of next week.
A great many persons (most of them idlers) called on Mr. Short and Mr. Walton, and asked various questions concerning the new project; several also inquired about shares-when they would be issued-how soon they might be expected to be at a