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"Yes! ain't it?" said his new friend, with much nonchalance. "You've the devil's luck, squire, as well as your own," cried Elliston.
Elliston's own money had quickly passed into the possession of the red-coated gentleman, it was soon followed by the cash of Brunton and De Camp. There now only remained the watches, rings, and brooches, these were as successively staked, and as successively changed owners. At last, Elliston was, to use his own expression, literally cleaned out, and the red-coated gentleman extinguishing the candles, for it was now broad day, said he must think of tramping, for he had got to be at Hungerford to breakfast, "therefore Muster Rover, I wishes you a werry good morning."
"Rover! Rover!" cried the beaten comedian; "why then, you know me!"
"Know you, to be sure I does," said the fortunate gamester, "you are Muster Elliston, the actor-don't you know me ?"
"No, curse me if I do; and taking your present luck into account, I wish I had never known you! Who the devil are you?"
"Why, I'm MOON-MOON, the conjurer! I thought every body knowed me."
"Moon, the conjurer!" groaned Elliston; "no wonder then that you held all the cards in your hand. I have been finely tricked-you may be a conjurer, friend, but it's very clear, I've been no conjurer."
It was in fact the celebrated Moon, so well known for his sleight-ofhand, who was in the habit of travelling early in the morning from town to town dressed as described, and who was now proceeding to Newbury, in order that he might exhibit at the fair to be held there, in his usual costume of a scarlet-coat and leathern breeches as before mentioned, when he was so unluckily hailed by Elliston.
"It be no money returned in our line, you knows, Muster Elliston," said the juggler, with a grin; "I didn't ax you to play, but you would call me in, you know; but howsomedever, as ve always returns the rings and vatches that ve takes from the company arter ve've showed our tricks, you are wery velcome to your bits of jewelry back again, so I wishes you a wery good morning.'
"Oh! day and night, but this is wondrous strange!" cried the pigeoned Elliston. "The next time I get in the sun, after robbing the stars, I'll take good care how I come in contact with the moon again."
"HUMBUG!" observed Elliston one day to a friend, "is not the contemptible, worthless thing you may possibly imagine it, sir. Humbug has a world of its own in which more than one-half of the population live perfectly happy and contented. Humbug is the great business of life, sir. Existence is more or less made up of it in the church, in the senate, at the bar, in the pulpit, and on the stage. Its skilful application constitutes the great secret of success. For my part, I like humbug, and so I am persuaded does every body else, though perhaps they don't know it, and might not have the candour to confess it if they did."
Elliston was perfectly sincere in this declaration, in the sentiment of
which there is perhaps more truth than many straight-laced and moral persons might be inclined to admit. He was fond of humbug,—was a complete master of it, and practised it on every available occasion with a relish and earnestness that added considerably to its efficacy. One instance of his success in humbugging an audience will be a case in point.
During the run of "Rochester" at the Olympic, in the memorable season of 1818, Karles, who performed the character of Charles the Second, and who like the royal personage he represented, was never at any time averse to the pleasures of the table, got so intoxicated one night, that he was unable to make his appearance before the audience. Elliston, who thought on these occasions the least that was said was the soonest mended, took no notice of this little accident to the audience, but quietly sent on one of the underlings of the theatre for the part.
The substitution was immediately discovered, for Karles was too popular in the part, and many of the audience had seen the piece too often to suffer them to be deceived so easily, and loud cries for "Karles! Karles!" mingled with hisses, resounded through the theatre. Amongst others, a testy-looking little gentleman, whose rotundity of person and dogged air sufficiently showed his independence, was one of the most vociferous. The tumult rose to such a degree at length, that Elliston was obliged, malgré lui, to make his appearance.
"What is the meaning of this disturbance?" he asked, in an authorative tone.
"Karles! Karles!" was the universal reply, the testy little gentleman's voice rising above the storm.
"Karles! Karles! who calls for Karles?" roared Elliston, portentously, at the same time fixing an indignant glance full on the testy little gentleman.
The audience were abashed, and even the little gentleman felt for a moment rebuked, but recovering himself with a great effort, he resolutely answered,
"I call for Karles!"
"And what for?" said Elliston, still keeping his basilisk eye fixed on the little man. "Why did you call for Karles?"
There was another pause. The universal gaze was directed in one concentrated focus on the testy gentleman, who, it was plain, was considered the champion of the house; he seemed to feel this, for big drops of perspiration stood on his brow.
Elliston repeated the question more sternly," And why did you call for Karles? I ask for why did you call for Karles?"
In the agony of exasperation the baited little man at last mumbled out,
"Why, because his name is in the bills !”
This was conclusive, was unanswerable; the audience felt it so, and a round of applause followed the effort. They evidently thought the little gentleman had got Elliston in a cleft stick, but they had mistaken their man. Not at all disconcerted, Elliston coolly answered,
"And a very good reason too! You have a right to call for Karles! -it is the glorious privilege of a British audience; but suppose Karles” (here his voice became tremulous) "should be at this moment stretched on a bed of illness, with his weeping wife, and five helpless children
clustering around him-the doctor vainly trying to assuage the fever that is parching his lips and firing his brain,-a fever aggravated, let me tell you, by the recollection of the duties he must leave unperformed here, though well he knows the generous sympathy and considerate indulgence ever manifested by a liberal public to the calamities of its favourites. Who but a brute"-(here he glanced a flash of indignant fire at the little man, who perspired from every pore)" who but a brute, I say, would call for Karles in this his season of prostrationhis hour of suffering!"
"Shame! shame! shame!" cried the audience.
"Thank heaven!" exclaimed Elliston, with great energy, encouraged by such support," there is but one such person, and there he sits," pointing to the discomfited little gentleman.
“Turn him out! turn him out!" now resounded from all parts of the house.
"But I have paid my money!" spluttered forth the little man, his lately blanched cheeks now becoming red, almost purple with anger. "No money returned !" said Elliston, with a roguish twinkle. "Out with him! turn him out!"
Accordingly turned out the enraged little gentleman was, sans cérémonie, in spite of all his protestations amidst the acclamations of the house.
Elliston then complimenting them on their humanity, love of justice, impartiality, and sense of discrimination, retired amidst thunders of applause, leaving the underling to murder the part of the merry monarch, to the perfect content and satisfaction of the audience. Thrusting his tongue into his cheek, he muttered aside as he passed the prompter,
"Haven't I humbugged them nicely? Ah! there's nothing like humbug!"
THE GENIUS OF THE LAMPS.
ELLISTON, during one of his seasons at Birmingham, had been doing very bad business, as it is technically termed; so much so that he was completely at his last shifts, he had neither money nor credit; his actors had long been reduced to half-salaries, which they did not get, and no one in the town would trust him a farthing. In this extremity it was evident that nothing but making a very great splash, and creating an unusual sensation in the Birmingham theatrical public, could save him from the necessity of shutting up. At this juncture Covent Garden, under the auspices of the great enchanter Farley, produced its far-famed melodramatic spectacle, "Aladdin, or the Wonderful Lamp," founded on the well-known tale of the same name in the "Arabian Nights Entertainments." In this spectacle all the gorgeousness of eastern fiction was endeavoured to be realized, if not outvied. The papers were redolent with praises of the magnificence, splendour, and profusion with which the piece was produced. Expectation was every where on tiptoe, and a desire to witness it was strongly manifested by the playgoers of every part of the United Kingdom.
"Here is a chance of retrieving every thing," thought Elliston, and immediately announced in the Birmingham bills, that he had great pleasure in informing the public that in consequence of the flattering patronage he had received, he had put in preparation, and should
shortly produce, regardless of expense, the new spectacle of "Aladdin, or the Wonderful Lamp," then performing with such unexampled applause and success at the Theatre Royal Covent Garden, and attracting all London-that he had determined to exceed in magnificence and extent of splendour and decorations the original spectacle; he had therefore employed all the vast resources of the theatre, and had engaged numerous auxiliaries. Then followed an announcement of some of the gorgeous effects he intended to exhibit, such as the "Flying Palace," The Abode of the Genie," &c. &c. His manager, treasurer, and starving actors, on seeing this, thought he was mad, well knowing the state of his finances. The whole town, however, was set agog by this underlining, as it is termed, and looked eagerly for the night when the promised treat was to be represented.
Having no money to go to work with, Elliston was driven to try his credit, but it was in vain. Not a book of Dutch metal, a sheet of foil paper, a yard of canvass, nor a pound of colour could he get any one to trust him with. Pretending to be in great dudgeon at their want of faith, he indignantly intimated he should withdraw his patronage from the Birmingham tradespeople, and procure all his vast material from London.
The piece was very ostentatiously put in rehearsal, as far as the words went, and Elliston every where talked very pompously of the immense expense he was going to for scenery, machinery, dresses, and decorations, and the great preparations he was making. But unless he was really possessed of Aladdin's lamp, or some talisman equally potent, no one could conceive when, where, or by what means the wonders he spoke of were to be achieved. All the idle and unemployed vagabonds about the town and its suburbs, were kept in attendance for some days around the stage-door, in the vague hope of being engaged as supernumeraries. Elliston having, as has been said, signified that a numerous train of auxiliaries would be engaged.
At length the urgent applications at the box-office, and the impatience of the Birmingham public, obliged Elliston to fix a time in his bills for the first night's representation of the anticipated wonderful novelty, which was accordingly done, to the great gratification and delight of the whole town, but very much to the mystification of his managers, prompter, treasurer, the company, and the heads of the different stage departments. Not a single preparation, that any one had the slightest knowledge of, having been made. They were, however, assured by Elliston that all was right.
At length the appointed day came, and so did the night. The actors were perfect in their parts, and were not a little anxious to know by what magic it was the rich dresses, splendid decorations, costly properties, grand processions, and beautiful scenery promised in the bills were to be produced.
The rush at the opening of the doors was tremendous; the house was crowded in every part. The first-price returns, which was made at the end of the second act of the play," Wild Oats," in which Elliston performed his favourite part Rover, announced the receipts to be upwards of three hundred pounds. The great majority of the audience had really come to witness the splendours of the promised pageant, in the full faith that every thing would be represented that was promised -but there were others who had very contrary expectations; for Ellis
ton, with all his tact, could not prevent some rumours getting abroad, that no preparations whatever had been made that nothing was ready, and that the audience were as usual with him, to be humbugged. These persons had come, therefore, armed at all points for a row.
The actors went through the comedy with fear and trembling, anticipating nothing less than a frightful riot, and the complete demolition of the theatre. Elliston, on the contrary, appeared in unusual good spirits, especially at the state of the house.
The play was at length gone through, and all was excitement for the appearance of "Aladdin." The farce could now be carried on no longer-the scene-shifters came to ask where the scenes were-the actors to be supplied with their dresses-the mechanist to demand the machinery, and the property-man to be informed where the properties were to be found.
"My good fellows," said Elliston, coolly, "make yourselves perfectly easy, it is all right; you know I intend incog to personate the Genie of the Lamp myself; through whose agency the effects I have announced are to be produced. As the Genie of the Lamp, I shall certainly not be able to keep my word; but as the Genius of the Lamps, the Genius Loci, I will effect still greater wonders-but clear the stage, gentlemen. Run on a pair of chamber-flats, carpenter, and do you, prompter, immediately ring up the curtain, for I am going to address my best friends, my generous patrons, the public. It is all right, I repeat.
Here he gave a knowing wink. The company shrugged up their shoulders in incredulity and despair, and slunk away into contiguous holes and corners to await the coming of the expected storm. The orders given were obeyed, the scene was run on, the curtain rung up, and Elliston made his appearance before the startled audience, laying his hand several times ou his heart, and bowing repeatedly in his usual bland and courteous manner. There was a considerable tumult and confusion created by his appearance, all being anxious to know its cause. Some few murmurs were heard, but loud cries of "Silence!" at length restored order, and Elliston commenced his address.
"Ladies and gentlemen," said he; "I have, as you well know, been preparing for some time past, at a tremendous outlay, a splendid spectacle, one that shall be worthy of this enlightened town, and the munificent patronage I have ever received at your hands (great applause). You have nobly responded to the call (loud cheers); but ladies and gentlemen (a blank silence, then cries of Oh! oh!') but ladies and gentlemen, I repeat, every thing in this life is subject to disappointment (loud groans, mingled with hisses); the decrees of fate are not within the control of man (here he became pathetic; loud cries of Humbug!'
"Humbug!" said Elliston, indignantly; "do you call this HUм
Here he produced from his pocket a very large, official-looking letter, having an enormous seal of black wax attached to it. (Groans, hisses, and cries of "Hear him, hear him.")
"I have just received this despatch from his most gracious Majesty's principal Secretary of State for the Home Department"-(great confusion, with some few cries of "Gammon," and "Over the left," of which, however, he took no notice)—" announcing, ladies and gentlemen, the