It seems to me a queer moral for the urchins thick-packed and gazing at the drop scene. They are all males: urchins or men. I ask my fat friend why there are no women—no girls. Ah, he says, the theatre is so small. But, I say, if there is room for all the boys and men, there is the same room for girls and women. Oh no—not in this small theatre. Besides this is nothing for women. Not that there is anything improper, he hastens to add. Not at all. But what[Pg 349] should women and girls be doing at the marionette show? It was an affair for males.
I agreed with him really, and was thankful we hadn’t a lot of smirking twitching girls and lasses in the audience. This male audience was so tense and pure in its attention.
But hist! the play is going to begin. A lad is grinding a broken street-piano under the stage. The padrone yells Silenzio! with a roar, and reaching over, pokes obstreperous boys with his long fennel-stalk, like a beadle in church. When the curtain rises the piano stops, and there is dead silence. On swings a knight, glittering, marching with that curious hippety lilt, and gazing round with fixed and martial eyes. He begins the prologue, telling us where we are. And dramatically he waves his sword and stamps his foot, and wonderfully sounds his male, martial, rather husky voice. Then the Paladins, his companions who are to accompany him, swing one by one onto the stage, till they are five in all, handsome knights, including the Babylonian Princess and the Knight of Britain. They stand in a handsome, glittering line. And then comes Merlin in his red robe. Merlin has a bright, fair, rather chubby face and blue eyes, and seems to typify the northern intelligence. He now tells them, in many words, how to proceed and what is to be done.[Pg 350]
So then, the glittering knights are ready. Are they ready? Rinaldo flourishes his sword with the wonderful cry “Andiamo!” let us go—and the others respond: “Andiamo”. Splendid word.
The first enemy were the knights of Spain, in red kirtles and half turbans. With these a terrible fight. First of all rushes in the Knight of Britain. He is the boaster, who always in words, does everything. But in fact, poor knight of Britain, he falls lamed. The four Paladins have stood shoulder to shoulder, glittering, watching the fray. Forth now steps another knight, and the fight recommences. Terrible is the smacking of swords, terrible the gasps from behind the dropped visors. Till at last the knight of Spain falls—and the Paladin stands with his foot on the dead. Then loud acclamations from the Paladins, and yells of joy from the audience.
“Silenzio!” yells the padrone, flourishing the fennel-stalk.
Dead silence, and the story goes on. The Knight of Britain of course claims to have slain the foe: and the audience faintly, jeeringly hisses. “He’s always the boaster, and he never does anything, the Knight of Britain,” whispers my fat friend. He has forgotten my nationality. I wonder if the Knight of Britain is[Pg 351] pure tradition, or if a political touch of today has crept in.Share It