本书首页    Previous    Next    Chinese



YOU should have known Auntie She was charming

That is to say she was not at all charming in the usual sense of the word but she was sweet and nice and funnyin her own way just the thing to talk about when someone is to be talked about and made merry over She was fitto be put in a playand that simply and solely because shelived for the playhouse and all that goes on in it She wasso very respectable but Agent Fabwhom Auntie called Flabcalled her theatremad

"The theatrs is my schoolroom" said she"my fountain of knowledgefrom it I have freshened up my Biblehistory' Moses''Joseph and his brethren' these areoperas From the theatreI have my general history geog- raphy and knowledge of mankind From the French playsI know the life of Parisnaughty but highly interesting

How Ihave wept over'The Riquebourg Family' to think that the husband should drink himself to death so that hiswife should get her young sweetheart Yes how many tearsIhave shed in the fifty years Ihave been a'regular ticketholder'"

Auntie knew every piece every bit of scenery every person who came on or had ever come on She really livedonly in the nine theatrical months The summer-timewithout a play was a time which made her old whilst aplaynight which lasted till past midnight was a lengtheningof life She did not say like other people"Now spring iscoming the stork has arrived or "There is mention in thepapers of the first strawberry" On the contraryshe announced the coming of autumn"Have you seen that thetheatre seats are being taken now the performances willbegin"

She reckoned the worth of a house and its situation byhow nearit lay to the theatre It was a grief to herto leavethe little lane behind the theatre and remove to the bigger street a little farther off and there live in a house whereshe had no opposite neighbours

"At home my window has to be my theatreboxOne can't sit and think only of oneselfone must see peopleBut now Ilive as if Ihad removed right out into the countryIf Iwish to see people I must go out into my kitchenandclimb on to the sinkonly there have I opposite neighbours Now whenI lived in my lane Icould see right into the flaxdealer's and then Ihad only three steps to the theatre now I have three thousand lifeguard's steps"

Auntie might be illbut however bad she was she never neglected the theatre One evening her doctor or- dered her to have poultices on her feetshe did as he di-rected but drove to the theatre and sat there with herfeet in poultices If she had died there it would have delighted herThorwaldsen died in the theatreand she called that"a happy death"

She certainly could not imagine a heavenly kingdom without a theatre It certainly had not been promised to usbut it was to be supposed that the many celebratedactors and actresses who had gone before must have acontinued sphere of activity

Auntie had her electric wire from the theatre toherroomthe telegram came every Sunday to coffeeHer electric wire was MrSivertson of the stagemachinery de-partmentthe man who gave the signals forthe scenery and curtains to go up and down in and out

From him she got in advance a short and pithy re view of the pieces Shakespeare's "Tempest" he called"wretched stuff There is so much to set up and then itbegins with water up to the first sidescene"That is tosay the rolling waves went so far forward On the otherhand if one and the same roomdecoration remained through all five acts he said that it was a sensible andwellwrittenrestful piecewhich played itself withoutsetting up

In earlier timesas Auntie called the times somethirty and odd years ago she and the above- named MrSivertson were younger he was already in the "machinery"and as she called him her"benefactor" Atthattime it was the custom at the evening performance in thegreat and only theatre of the town to admit spectators to the flies every stagecarpenter had one or two places todispose of It was often chockfull and that with very select company itwas said that the wives both of generals and aldermen had been thereit was so interesting to lookdown behind the scenes and know how the performersstood and moved when the curtain was downAuntie had been there many times both at tragedies and ballets for the pieces wih the greatest number of performers were the most interesting from the flies

One sat pretty much in the dark up there and most ofthe people brought supper with themOnce three apples and a slice of bread and butter with sausage on it fell right down into Ugolino's prison where he was just about to die of hungerAt that there was a general laughThe sausage was one of the important reasons why the director ordered the public to be excluded from the flies

"But Iwas there thirtyseven times" said Auntie "andI shall never forget itMrSivertson"

It was just the very last night that the flies were opento the public that they played"The Judgement of Solomon"Auntie remembered it so well She had through her benefactor Mr Sivertson procured a ticketfor Agent Fab although he did not deserve it as he wasalways making fun of the theatre and teasing her about itbut still she had got him a place up there He wanted to see the theatretings upsidedown these were his ownwordsand just like him said Auntie

And he saw" The Judgement of Solomon" from above and fell asleep one would really have thought thathe had just come from a big dinner with many toastsHe slept and was locked in sat and slept through the darknight in the theatre and when he awoke he told a storybut Auntie did not believe him The play was finished allthe lamps and candies were outall the people were outupstairs and downstairs but then began the real play theafterpiecethe best of all the agent said Life came intothe properties it was not "The Judgement of Solomon"that was played no it was"The Judgement Day at theTheatre" And all this Agent Fab had the impudence totry to make Auntie believethat was her thanks for gettinghim admission to the flies

What the agent told was no doubt comical enoughto hear but malice and mockery lay at the bottom of it

"It was dark up there" said the agent"but thenthe demonshow began the great spectacle'The Judge-ment Day at the Theatre' Checktakers stood at the doors and every spectator had to show a certificate as tohis characterto settle whether he was to enter with handsfree or fettered with muzzle or withoutGentlefolks whocame too late when the performance had already begunas well as young men who were given to wasting their time were tethered outside and got feltsoles under theirfeet to go in with at the beginning of the next act besides being muzzled and then began'The Judgement Dayat the Theatre'"

"Mere spite which Our Lord knows nothing of"said Auntie

The scenepainter if he wished to get into Heavenhad to go up a stair which he had painted himself butwhich no man could walk up That was only a sin againstperspective however All the plants and buildings which the stagecarpenter had with great trouble placed incountries to which they did not belong the poor man hadto move to their right places and that before cockcrowif he wished to get into HeavenMr Fab had better seethat he himself got in there and what he now told aboutthe actors bath in comedy and tragedy in song and indancewas the worst of all He did not deserve to get into the flies Auntie would not repeat his words He hadsaid that the whole account was written downand wouldbe printed after he was dead and gonenot before he did not want to be skinned alive

Auntie had only once been in anguish and terror inher temple of happiness the theatreIt was one winter'sday one of the days when we have two hours' daylightand that only greyIt was cold and snowy but Auntiemust go tothe theatre They were playing "Herrman vonUnna" besides a little opera and a great ballet a pro-logue and an epilogueit would last right into the nightAuntie must go there her lodger had lent her a pair ofsledgingboots with fur both outside and inside they camehigh up on the legs

She came into the theatreand into her box theboots were warm so she kept them on All at once a cry of"Fire" was raised Smoke came from one of the wings smoke came from the flies there was a frightful commotionpeople shed out Auntie was the last in the box"the secondtier to the leftthe decorations look best fromthere" she said"they are placed always to look most beautiful from the royal side"Auntie wished to get outbut those in front of her had thoughtlessly slammed the door in their terror There sat Auntieshe could not getout nor in either that is to say into the next box the partition was too highShe shoutedno one heardshe lookeddown into the tier underneath it was empty it was lowand it was nearAuntie in her fear felt herself so youngand activeshewould jump downshe got one leg over the balustrade and the other off the bench There she sat astride beautifully draped with her flowered skirt withone long leg dangling out a leg with a monster sledgingboot That was a sight to see and when it was seen Auntie was also heard and saved from burning for the theatrewas not burnt after all

That was the most memorable evening of her life shesaidand she was glad that she had not been able to seeherself for then she would have died of shame

Her benefactor Mr Sivertson came constantly to her every Sunday but it was a long time from Sunday toSunday Latterlytherefore in the middle of the week shehad alitile childfor"the leavings" that is to say to enjoywhat had been left over from dinnertimeThis was a littlechild from the ballet who was in need of food The littleone appeared onthe stage both as a page and a fairyher hardest part was that of hindlegs for the lion in "The Enchanted Whistle" but she grew to be fore-legs in the lionShe only got a shilling for this whereas for the backlegsshe got two but there she had to go about stoopingandmissed the fresh air It was very interesting to know allthis Auntie thought

She had deserved to live as long as the theatre lastedbut she was not able to do that she did not die thereeitherbut respectably and quietly in her own bedHer last words were full of meaningshe asked"What are they playing tomorrow"

She left behind her about five hundred rixdollarswe infer that from the interestwhich is twenty rix-dol-lars Auntie had assigned these as a legacy for a worthyold maid without relativesthey should be applied yearlyto pay for a seat in the second tier left side and on Saturdays for then they gave the best pieces There was only one condition forthe person who profited by the legacyevery Saturday in the theatre she must think of Auntiewho lay in her grave

That was Auntie's religion



Previous    Next    Chinese