Pantaloon Play by James Matthew Barrie
From Half Hours Plays
The scene makes believe to be the private home of Pantaloon and Columbine, though whether they ever did have a private home is uncertain.
In the English version (and with that alone are we concerning ourselves) these two were figures in the harlequinade, which in Victorian days gave a finish to pantomime as vital as a tail to a dog. Now they are vanished from the boards; or at best they wander through the canvas streets, in everybody’s way, at heart afraid of their own policeman, really dead, and waiting, like the faithful old horse, for some one to push them over. Here at the theatre is perhaps a scrap of Columbine’s skirt, torn off as she squeezed through the wings for the last time, or even placed there intentionally by her as a souvenir: Columbine to her public, a kiss hanging on a nail.
They are very illusive. One has to toss to find out what was their relation to each other: whether Pantaloon, for instance, was Columbine’s father. He was an old, old urchin of the streets over whom some fairy wand had been waved, rather carelessly, and this makes him a child of art; now we must all be nice to children of art, and the nicest thing we can do for Pantaloon is to bring the penny down heads and give him a delightful daughter. So Columbine was Pantaloon’s daughter.
It would be cruel to her to make her his wife, because then she could not have a love-affair.
The mother is dead, to give the little home a touch of pathos.
We have now proved that Pantaloon and his daughter did have a home, and as soon as we know that, we know more. We know, for instance, that as half a crown seemed almost a competency to them, their home must have been in a poor locality and conveniently small. We know also that the sitting-room and kitchen combined must have been on the ground floor. We know it, because in the harlequinade they were always flying from the policeman or bashing his helmet, and Pantaloon would have taken ill with a chamber that was not easily commanded by the policeman on his beat. Even Columbine, we may be sure, refined as she was and incapable of the pettiest larceny, liked the homely feeling of dodging the policeman’s eye as she sat at meals. Lastly, we know that directly opposite the little home was a sausage-shop, the pleasantest of all sights to Pantaloon, who, next to his daughter, loved a sausage. It is being almost too intimate to tell that Columbine hated sausages; she hated them as a literary hand’s daughter might hate manuscripts. But like a loving child she never told her hate, and spent great part of her time toasting sausages to a turn before the fire, and eating her own one bravely when she must, but concealing it in the oddest places when she could.
We should now be able to reconstitute Pantaloon’s parlour. It is agreeably stuffy, with two windows and a recess between them, from which one may peep both ways for the policeman. The furniture is in horse-hair, no rents showing, because careful Columbine has covered them with antimacassars. All the chairs (but not the sofa) are as sound of limb as they look except one, and Columbine, who is as light as an air balloon, can sit on this one even with her feet off the floor. Though the time is summer there is a fire burning, so that Pantaloon need never eat his sausages raw, which he might do inadvertently if Columbine did not take them gently from his hand. There is a cosy round table with a wax-cloth cover adhering to it like a sticking-plaster, and this table is set for tea. Histrionic dignity is given to the room by a large wicker trunk in which Pantaloon’s treasures are packed when he travels by rail, and on it is a printed intimation that he is one of the brightest wits on earth. Columbine could be crushed, concertina-like, into half of this trunk, and it may be that she sometimes travels thus to save her ticket. Between the windows hangs a glass case, such as those at inns wherein Piscator preserves his stuffed pike, but this one contains a poker. It is interesting to note that Pantaloon is sufficiently catholic in his tastes to spare a favourable eye for other arts than his own. There are various paintings on the walls, all of himself, with the exception of a small one of his wife. These represent him not in humorous act but for all time, as, for instance, leaning on a bracket and reading a book, with one finger laid lightly against his nose.
So far our work of reconstitution has been easy, but we now come to the teaser. In all these pictures save one (to be referred to in its proper place) Pantaloon is presented not on the stage but in private life, yet he is garbed and powdered as we know him in the harlequinade. If they are genuine portraits, therefore, they tell us something profoundly odd about the home life of Pantaloon; nothing less than this, that as he was on the stage, so he was off it, clothes, powder, and all; he was not acting a part in the harlequinade, he was merely being himself. It was undoubtedly this strange discovery that set us writing a play about him.
Of course bitter controversy may come of this, for not every one will agree that we are right. It is well known among the cognoscenti that actors in general are not the same off the stage as on; that they dress for their parts, speak words written for them which they do not necessarily believe, and afterwards wash the whole thing off and then go to clubs and coolly cross their legs. I accept this to be so (though I think it a pity), but Pantaloon was never an actor in their sense; he would have scorned to speak words written for him by any whippersnapper; what he said and did before the footlights were the result of mature conviction and represented his philosophy of life. It is the more easy to believe this of him because we are so anxious to believe it of Columbine. Otherwise she could not wear her pretty skirts in our play, and that would be unbearable.
If this noble and simple consistency was the mark of Pantaloon and Columbine (as we have now proved up to the hilt), it must have distinguished no less the other members of the harlequinade. There were two others, the Harlequin and the Clown.
In far-back days, when the world was so young that pieces of the original egg-shell still adhered to it, one boy was so desperately poor that he alone of children could not don fancy dress on fair days. Presently the other children were sorry for this drab one, so each of them clipped a little bit off his own clothing and gave it to him. These were sewn together and made into a costume for him, by the jolly little tailors who in our days have quite gone out, and that is why Harlequin has come down to us in patchwork. He was a lovely boy with no brains at all (not that this matters), while the Clown was all brain.
It has been our whim to make Pantaloon and Columbine our chief figures, but we have had to go for them, as it were, to the kitchen; the true head of the harlequinade was the Clown. You could not become a clown by taking thought, you had to be born one. It was just a chance. If the Clown had wished to walk over the others they would have spread themselves on the ground so that he should be able to do it without inconveniencing himself. Any money they had they got from him, and it was usually pennies. If they displeased him he caned them. He had too much power and it brutalised him, as we shall see, but in fairness it should be told that he owed his supremacy entirely to his funniness. The family worshipped funniness, and he was the funniest.
It is not necessary for our play to reconstitute the homes of Harlequin and Clown, but it could be done. Harlequin, as a bachelor with no means but with a secret conviction that he was a gentleman, had a sitting-and-bed combined at the top of a house too near Jermyn Street for his purse. He made up by not eating very much, which was good for his figure. He always carried his wand, which had curious magical qualities, for instance it could make him invisible; but in the street he seldom asked this of it, having indeed a friendly desire to be looked at. He had delightful manners and an honest heart. The Clown, who, of course, had appearances to keep up, knew the value of a good address, and undoubtedly lived in the Cromwell Road. He smoked cigars with bands round them, and his togs were cut in Savile Row.
Clown and Pantaloon were a garrulous pair, but Columbine and Harlequin never spoke. I don’t know whether they were what we call dumb. Perhaps if they had tried to talk with their tongues they could have done so, but they never thought of it. They were such exquisite dancers that they did all their talking with their legs. There is nothing that may be said which they could not express with this leg or that. It is the loveliest of all languages, and as soft as the fall of snow.
When the curtain rises we see Columbine alone in the little house, very happy and gay, for she has no notion that her tragic hour is about to strike. She is dressed precisely as we may have seen her on the stage. It is the pink skirt, the white one being usually kept for Sunday, which is also washing-day; and we almost wish this had been Sunday, just to show Columbine in white at the tub, washing the pink without letting a single soap-sud pop on to the white. She is toasting bread rhythmically by the fire, and hides the toasting-fork as the policeman passes suspiciously outside. Presently she is in a whirl of emotion because she has heard Harlequin’s knock. She rushes to the window and hides (they were always hiding), she blows kisses, and in her excitement she is everywhere and nowhere at once, like a kitten that leaps at nothing and stops half-way. She has the short quick steps of a bird on a lawn. Long before we have time to describe her movements she has bobbed out of sight beneath the table to await Harlequin funnily, for we must never forget that they are a funny family. With a whirl of his wand that is itself a dance, Harlequin makes the door fly open. He enters, says the stage direction, but what it means is that somehow he is now in the room. He probably knows that Columbine is beneath the table, as she hides so often and there are so few places in the room to hide in, but he searches for her elsewhere, even in a jug, to her extreme mirth, for of course she is peeping at him. He taps the wicker basket with his wand and the lid flies open. Still no Columbine! He sits dejectedly on a chair by the table, with one foot toward the spot where we last saw her head. This is irresistible. She kisses the foot. She is out from beneath the table now, and he is pursuing her round the room. They are as wayward as leaves in a gale. The cunning fellow pretends he does not want her, and now it is she who is pursuing him. There is something entrancing in his hand. It is a ring. It is the engagement-ring at last! She falters, she blushes, but she snatches at the ring. He tantalises her, holding it beyond her reach, but soon she has pulled down his hand and the ring is on her finger. They are dancing ecstatically when Pantaloon comes in and has to drop his stick because she leaps into his arms. If she were not so flurried she would see that the aged man has brought excitement with him also.
Pantaloon. Ah, Fairy! Fond of her dad, is she? Sweetest little daughter ever an old ‘un had.
(He sees Harlequin and is genial to him, while Harlequin pirouettes a How-d’ye-do.)
You here, Boy; welcome, Boy.
(He is about to remove his hat in the ordinary way, but Harlequin, to save his prospective father-in-law any little trouble, waves his wand and the hat goes to rest on a door-peg. The little service so humbly tendered pleases Pantaloon, and he surveys Harlequin with kindly condescension.)
Thank you, Boy. You are a good fellow, Boy, and an artist too, in your limited way, not here (tapping his head), not in a brainy way, but lower down (thoughtfully, and including Columbine in his downward survey). That’s where your personality lies—lower down.
(At the noble word personality Columbine thankfully crosses herself, and then indicates that tea is ready.)
Tea, Fairy? I have such glorious news; but I will have a dish of tea first. You will join us, Boy? Sit down.
(They sit down to tea, the lovers exchanging shy, happy glances, but soon Pantaloon rises petulantly.)
Fairy, there are no sausages! Tea without a sausage. I am bitterly disappointed. And on a day, too, when I have great news. It’s almost more than I can bear. No sausages!
(He is old and is near weeping, but Columbine indicates with her personality that if he does not forgive her she must droop and die, and soon again he is a magnanimous father.)
Yes, yes, my pet, I forgive you. You can’t abide sausages; nor can you, Boy. (They hide their shamed heads.) It’s not your fault. Some are born with the instinct for a sausage, and some have it not. (More brightly) Would you like me to be funny now, my dear, or shall we have tea first?
(They prefer to have tea first, and the courteous old man sits down with them.)
But you do think me funny, don’t you, Fairy? Neither of you can look at me without laughing, can you? Try, Boy; try, Fairy. (They try, but fail. He is moved.) Thank you both, thank you kindly. If the public only knew how anxiously we listen for the laugh they would be less grudging of it. (Hastily) Not that I have any cause of complaint. Every night I get the laugh from my generous patrons, the public, and always by legitimate means. When I think what a favourite I am I cannot keep my seat. (He rises proudly.) I am acknowledged by all in the know to be a funny old man. (He moves about exultantly, looking at the portraits that are to hand him down to posterity.) That picture of me, Boy, was painted to commemorate my being the second funniest man on earth. Of course Joey is the funniest, but I am the second funniest.
(They have scarcely listened; they have been exchanging delicious glances with face and foot. But at mention of the Clown they shudder a little, and their hands seek each other for protection.)
This portrait I had took—done—in honour of your birth, my love. I call it ‘The Old ‘Un on First Hearing that He is a Father.’
(He chuckles long before another picture which represents him in the dress of ordinary people.)
This is me in fancy dress; it is how I went to a fancy-dress ball. Your mother, Fairy, was with me, in a long skirt! Very droll we must have looked, and very droll we felt. I call to mind we walked about in this way; the way the public walks, you know.
(In his gaiety he imitates the walk of the public, and roguish Columbine imitates them also, but she loses her balance.)
Yes, try it. Don’t flutter so much. Ah, it won’t do, Fairy. Your natural way of walking’s like a bird bobbing about on a lawn after worms. Your mother was the same, and when she got low in spirits I just blew her about the room till she was lively again. Blow Fairy about, Boy.
(Harlequin blows her divinely about the room, against the wall, on to seats and off them, and for some sad happy moments Pantaloon gazes at her, feeling that his wife is alive again. They think it is the auspicious time to tell him of their love, but bashfulness falls upon them. He only sees that their faces shine.)
Ah, she is happy, my Fairy, but I have news that will make her happier! (Curiously) Fairy, you look as if you had something you wanted to tell me. Have you news too?
(Tremblingly she extends her hand and shows him the ring on it. For a moment he misunderstands.)
A ring! Did he give you that? (She nods rapturously.) Oho, oho, this makes me so happy. I’ll be funnier than ever, if possible.
(At this they dance gleefully, but his next words strike them cold.)
But, the rogue! He said he wanted me to speak to you about it first. That was my news. Oh, the rogue! (They are scared, and sudden fear grips him.) There’s nothing wrong, is there? It was Joey gave you that ring, wasn’t it, Fairy?
(She shakes her head, and the movement shakes tears from her eyes.)
If it wasn’t Joey, who was it?
(Harlequin steps forward.)
You! You are not fond of Boy, are you, Fairy?
(She is clinging to her lover now, and Pantaloon is a little dazed.)
But, my girl, Joey wants you. A clown wants you. When a clown wants you, you are not going to fling yourself away on a harlequin, are you?
(They go on their knees to him, and he is touched, but also frightened.)
Don’t try to get round me; now don’t. Joey would be angry with me. He can be hard when he likes, Joey can. (In a whisper) Perhaps he would cane me! You wouldn’t like to see your dad caned, Fairy.
(Columbine’s head sinks to the floor in woe, and Harlequin eagerly waves his wand.)
Ah, Boy, you couldn’t defy him. He is our head. You can do wonderful things with that wand, but you can’t fight Joey with it.
(Sadly enough the wand is lowered.)
You see, children, it won’t do. You have no money, Boy, except the coppers Joey sometimes gives you in an envelope of a Friday night, and we can’t marry without money (with an attempt at joviality), can’t marry without money, Boy.
(Harlequin with a rising chest produces money.)
Seven shillings and tenpence! You have been saving up, Boy. Well done! But it’s not enough.
(Columbine darts to the mantelshelf for her money-box and rattles it triumphantly. Pantaloon looks inside it.)
A half-crown and two sixpences! It won’t do, children. I had a pound and a piano-case when I married, and yet I was pinched.
(They sit on the floor with their fingers to their eyes, and with difficulty he restrains an impulse to sit beside them.)
Poor souls! poor true love!
(The thought of Joey’s power and greatness overwhelms him.)
Think of Joey’s individuality, Fairy. He banks his money, my love. If you saw the boldness of Joey in the bank when he hands the slip across the counter and counts his money, my pet, instead of being thankful for whatever they give him. And then he puts out his tongue at them! The artist in him makes him put out his tongue at them. For he is a great artist, Joey. He is a greater artist than I am. I know it and I admit it. He has a touch that is beyond me. (Imploringly) Did you say you would marry him, my love?
(She does not raise her head, and he continues with a new break in his voice.)
It is not his caning me I am so afraid of, but—but I’m oldish now, Fairy, even for an old ‘un, and there is something I must tell you. I have tried to keep it from myself, but I know. It is this: I am afraid, my sweet, I am not so funny as I used to be. (She encircles his knees in dissent.) Yes, it’s true, and Joey knows it. On Monday I had to fall into the barrel three times before I got the laugh. Joey saw! If Joey were to dismiss me I could never get another shop. I would be like a dog without a master. He has been my master so long. I have put by nearly enough to keep me, but oh, Fairy, the awfulness of not being famous any longer. Living on without seeing my kind friends in front. To think of my just being one of the public, of my being pointed at in the streets as the old ‘un that was fired out of the company because he missed his laughs. And that’s what Joey will bring to pass if you don’t marry him, my girl.
(It is an appeal for mercy, and Columbine is his loving daughter. Her face is wan, but she tries to smile. She hugs the ring to her breast, and then gives it back to Harlequin. They try to dance a last embrace, but their legs are leaden. He kisses her cheeks and her foot and goes away broken-hearted. The brave girl puts her arm round her father’s neck and hides her wet face. He could not look at it though it were exposed, for he has more to tell.)
I haven’t told you the worst yet, my love. I didn’t dare tell you the worst till Boy had gone. Fairy, the marriage is to be to-day! Joey has arranged it all. It’s his humour, and we dare not thwart him. He is coming here to take you to the wedding. (In a tremble she draws away from him.) I haven’t been a bad father to you, have I, my girl? When we were waiting for you before you were born, your mother and I, we used to wonder what you would be like, and I—it was natural, for I was always an ambitious man—I hoped you would be a clown. But that wasn’t to be, and when the doctor came to me—I was walking up and down this room in a tremble, for my darling was always delicate—when the doctor came to me and said, ‘I congratulate you, sir, on being the father of a fine little columbine,’ I never uttered one word of reproach to him or to you or to her.
(There is a certain grandeur about the old man as he calls attention to the nobility of his conduct, but it falls from him on the approach of the Clown. We hear Joey before we see him: he is singing a snatch of one of his triumphant ditties, less for his own pleasure perhaps than to warn the policeman to be on the alert. He has probably driven to the end of the street, and then walked. A tremor runs through Columbine at sound of him, but Pantaloon smiles, a foolish, ecstatic smile. Joey has always been his hero.)
Be ready to laugh, my girl. Joey will be angry if he doesn’t get the laugh.
(The Clown struts in, as confident of welcome as if he were the announcement of dinner. He wears his motley like an order. A silk hat and an eye-glass indicate his superior social position. A sausage protruding from a pocket shows that he can unbend at times. A masterful man when you don’t applaud enough, he is at present in uproarious spirits, as if he had just looked in a mirror. At first he affects not to see his host, to Pantaloon’s great entertainment.)
Clown. Miaw, miaw!
Pantaloon (bent with merriment). He is at his funniest, quite at his funniest.
(Clown kicks him hard but good-naturedly, and Pantaloon falls to the ground.)
Pantaloon (reverently). What an artist.
Clown (pretends to see Columbine for the first time in his life. In a masterpiece of funniness he starts back, like one dazzled by a naked light). Oh, Jiminy Crinkles! Oh, I say, what a beauty.
Pantaloon. There’s nobody like him.
Clown. It’s Fairy. It’s my little Fairy.
(Strange, but all her admiration for this man has gone. He represents nothing to her now but wealth and social rank. He ogles her, and she shrinks from him as if he were something nauseous.)
Pantaloon (warningly). Fairy!
Clown (showing sharp teeth). Hey, what’s this, old ‘un? Don’t she admire me?
Pantaloon. Not admire you, Joey? That’s a good ‘un. Joey’s at his best to-day.
Clown. Ain’t she ready to come to her wedding?
Pantaloon. She’s ready, Joey.
Clown (producing a cane, and lowering). Have you told her what will happen to you if she ain’t ready?
Pantaloon (backing). I’ve told her, Joey (supplicating). Get your hat, Fairy.
Clown. Why ain’t she dancing wi’ joy and pride?
Pantaloon. She is, Joey, she is.
(Columbine attempts to dance with joy and pride, and the Clown has been so long used to adulation that he is deceived.)
Clown (amiable again). Parson’s waiting. Oh, what a lark.
Pantaloon (with a feeling that lark is not perhaps the happiest word for the occasion). Get your things, Fairy.
Clown (riding on a chair). Give me something first, my lovey-dovey. I shuts my eyes and opens my mouth, and waits for what’s my doo.
(She knows what he means, and it is sacrilege to her. But her father’s arms are extended beseechingly. She gives the now abhorred countenance a kiss, and runs from the room. The Clown plays with the kiss as if it were a sausage, a sight abhorrent to Harlequin, who has stolen in by the window. Fain would he strike, but though he is wearing his mask, which is a sign that he is invisible, he fears to do so. As if conscious of the unseen presence, the Clown’s brow darkens.)
Joey, when I came in I saw Boy hanging around outside.
Pantaloon (ill at ease). Boy? What can he be wanting?
Clown. I know what he is wanting, and I know what he will get.
(He brandishes the cane threateningly. At the same moment the wedding bells begin to peal.)
Clown (with grotesque accompaniment).
My wedding bells.
Fairy’s wedding bells.
There they go again, here we are again,
there they go again, here we are again.
(Columbine returns. She has tried to hide the tears on her cheeks behind a muslin veil. There is a melancholy bouquet in her hand. She passionately desires to be like the respectable public on her marriage day. Harlequin raises his mask for a moment that she may see him, and they look long at each other, those two, who are never to have anything lovely to look at again. ‘Won’t he save her yet?’ says her face, but ‘I am afraid’ says his. Still the bells are jangling.)
Pantaloon. My girl.
(He kisses her, but it is the sausage look that is in his eyes. Pantaloon, bleeding for his girl, raises his staff to strike him, but Columbine will not have the sacrifice. She gives her arm to the Clown.)
To the wedding. To the wedding. Old ‘un, lead on, and we will follow thee. Oh, what a lark!
(They are going toward the door, but in this supreme moment love turns timid Boy into a man. He waves his mysterious wand over them, so that all three are suddenly bereft of movement. They are like frozen figures. He removes his mask and smiles at them with a terrible face. Fondly and leisurely he gathers Columbine in his arms and carries her out by the window. The Clown and Pantaloon remain there, as if struck in the act of taking a step forward. The wedding bells are still pealing.)
The curtain falls for a moment only. It rises on the same room several years later.
The same room; as one may say of a suit of clothes, out of which the whilom tenant has long departed, that they are the same man. A room cold to the touch, dilapidated, fragments of the ceiling fallen and left where they fell, wall-paper peeling damply, portraits of Pantaloon taken down to sell, unsaleable, and never rehung. Once such a clean room that its ghost to-day might be Columbine chasing a speck of dust, it is now untended. Even the windows are grimy, which tells a tale of Pantaloon’s final capitulation; while any heart was left him we may he sure he kept the windows clean so that the policeman might spy upon him. Perhaps the policeman has gone from the street, bored, nothing doing there now.
It is evening and winter time, and the ancient man is moving listlessly about his room, mechanically blowing life into his hands as if he had forgotten that there is no real reason why there should be life in them. The clothes Columbine used to brush with such care are slovenly, the hair she so often smoothed with all her love is unkempt. He is smaller, a man who has shrunk into himself in shame, not so much shame that he is uncared for as that he is forgotten.
He is sitting forlorn by the fire when the door opens to admit his first visitor for years. It is the Clown, just sufficiently stouter to look more resplendent. The drum, so to say, is larger. He gloats over the bowed Pantaloon like a spiteful boy.
Clown (poking Pantaloon with his cane). Who can this miserable ancient man be?
(Visited at last by some one who knows him, Pantaloon rises in a surge of joy.)
Pantaloon. You have come back, Joey, after all these years!
Clown. Hands off. I came here, my good fellow, to inquire for a Mr. Joseph.
Pantaloon (shuddering). Yes, that’s me; that’s all that’s left of me; Mr. Joseph! Me that used to be Joey.
Clown. I think I knew you once, Mr. Joseph?
Pantaloon. Joey, you’re hard on me. It wasn’t my fault that Boy tricked us and ran off wi’ her.
Clown. May I ask, Mr. Joseph, were you ever on the boards?
Pantaloon. This to me as was your right hand!
Clown. I seem to call to mind something like you as used to play the swell.
Pantaloon (fiercely). It’s a lie! I was born a Pantaloon, and a Pantaloon I’ll die.
Clown. Yes, I heard you was dead, Mr. Joseph. Everybody knows it except yourself. (He gnaws a sausage.)
Pantaloon (greedily). Gie me a bite, Joey.
Clown (relentless). I only bites with the profession. I never bites with the public.
Pantaloon. What brought you here? Just to rub it in?
Clown. Let’s say I came to make inquiries after the happy pair.
Pantaloon. It’s years and years, Joey, since they ran away, and I’ve never seen them since.
Clown. Heard of them?
Pantaloon. Yes, I’ve heard. They’re in distant parts.
Clown. Answer their letters?
Pantaloon (darkening). No.
Clown. They will be doing well, Mr. Joseph, without me?
Pantaloon (boastfully). At first they did badly, but when the managers heard Fairy was my daughter they said the daughter o’ such a famous old ‘un was sure to draw by reason of her father’s name. And they print the name of her father in big letters.
Clown (rapping it out). It’s you that lie now. I know about them. They go starving like vagabonds from town to town.
Pantaloon. Ay, it’s true. They write that they’re starving.
Clown. And they’ve got a kid to add to their misery. All vagabonds, father, mother, and kid.
Pantaloon. Rub it in, Joey.
Clown. You looks as if you would soon be starving too.
Pantaloon (not without dignity). I’m pinched.
Clown. Well, well, I’m a kindly soul, and what brought me here was to make you an offer.
Pantaloon (glistening). A shop?
Clown. For old times’ sake.
Pantaloon (with indecent eagerness). To be old ‘un again?
Clown. No, you crock, but to carry a sandwich-board in the street wi’ my new old ‘un’s name on it.
(Pantaloon raises his withered arm, but he lets it fall.)
Pantaloon. May you be forgiven for that, Joey.
Pantaloon (who is near his end). Joey, there stands humbled before you an old artist.
Clown. Never an artist.
Pantaloon (firmly). An artist—at present disengaged.
Clown. Forgotten—clean forgotten.
Pantaloon (bowing his head). Yes, that’s it—forgotten. Once famous—now forgotten. Joey, they don’t know me even at the sausage-shop. I am just one of the public. My worst time is when we should be going on the stage, and I think I hear the gallery boys calling for the old ‘un—’Bravo, old ‘un!’ Then I sort of break up. I sleep bad o’ nights. I think sleep would come to me if I could rub my back on the scenery again. (He shudders.) But the days are longer than the nights. I allus see how I am to get through to-day, but I sit thinking and thinking how I am to get through to-morrow.
Clown. Poor old crock. Well, so long.
Pantaloon (offering him the poker). Joey, gie me one rub before you go—for old times’ sake.
Clown. You’ll never be rubbed by a clown again, Mr. Joseph.
Pantaloon. Call me Joey once—say ‘Good-bye, old ‘un’—for old times’ sake.
Clown. You will never be called Joey or old ‘un by a clown again, Mr. Joseph.
(With a noble gesture Pantaloon bids him begone and the Clown miaws and goes, twisting a sausage in his mouth as if it were a cigar. So he passes from our sight, funny to the last, or never funny, an equally tragic figure. Pantaloon rummages in the wicker basket among his gods and strokes them lovingly, a painted goose, his famous staff, a bladder on a stick. He does not know that he is hugging the bladder to his cold breast as he again crouches by the fire.
The door opens, and Columbine and Harlequin peep in, prepared to receive a blow for welcome. Their faces are hollow and their clothes in rags, and, saddest of all, they cannot dance in. They walk in like the weary public. Columbine looks as if she could walk as far as her father’s feet, but never any farther. With them is the child. This is the great surprise: HE IS A CLOWN. They sign to the child to intercede for them, but though only a baby, he is a clown, and he must do it in his own way. He pats his nose, grins deliciously with the wrong parts of his face, and dives beneath the table. Pantaloon looks round and sees his daughter on her knees before him.)
Pantaloon. You! Fairy! Come back! (For a moment he is to draw her to him, then he remembers.) No, I’ll have none of you. It was you as brought me to this. Begone, I say begone. (They are backing meekly to the door.) Stop a minute. Little Fairy, is it true—is it true my Fairy has a kid? (She nods, with glistening eyes that say ‘Can you put me out now?’ The baby peers from under the table, and rubs Pantaloon’s legs with the poker. Poor little baby, he is the last of the clowns, and knows not what is in store for him. Pantaloon trembles, it is so long since he has been rubbed. He dare not look down.) Fairy, is it the kid? (She nods again; the moment has come.) My Fairy’s kid! (Somehow he has always taken for granted that his grandchild is merely a columbine. If the child had been something greater they would all have got a shop again and served under him.) Oh, Fairy, if only he had been a clown!
(Now you see how it is going. The babe emerges, and he is a clown.
Just for a moment Pantaloon cries. Then the babe is tantalising him with a sausage. Pantaloon revolves round him like a happy teetotum. Who so gay now as Columbine and Harlequin, dancing merrily as if it were again the morning? Oh what a lark is life. Ring down the curtain quickly, Mr. Prompter, before we see them all swept into the dust-heap.)