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MARIONETTES AT INGROW AN AMUSING STORY

By this time my appetite for “seeing the world” had got somewhat satisfied, and I stayed at home for a while. I happened to become acquainted with a man of the name of Howard, who went under the nick-name of Harlequin Dick. By trade he was a wood-carver, and a first-class hand at his job. He was a Liverpool man, and during his stay in Keighley he did wood-carving for many firms in the district. Then he was taken into tow by old James Illingworth (now deceased), who ran the Worth Valley Chair Works, at Ingrow, opposite the Worth Valley Hotel. A new stone building now occupies the place of the old structure. Now my friend Howard’s great hobby was making marionettes, and performing with them; and of these Lilliputian mummers he made a set, and then discussed ways and means for appearing with them in public. I was by him put into the trinitarian post of scenic artist, advance agent, and stage manager. It devolved upon me to draw up the advertisements. We had some capital wall posters, each figure its capabilities, recommendations, &c. being graphically described in rhyme; yes, it was a remarkable bill so remarkable that parties interested in other marionette shows appropriated its contents for their own shows. When all the paraphernalia were ready, we went round to various schools in the town and neighbourhood, giving entertainments to the school children. I remember one occasion yes; I shall never forget it when we exhibited our show in St. John’s school-room, Ingrow. The Rev Mr Mayne was then the vicar of St. John’s, and he allowed us to have a night with the children. Well, we removed a partition in the school-room dividing the boys’ from the girls’ department, and made a sort of shake-down stage at one end of the room, and with a scene and proscenium the place looked like a pretty little theatre. There was a crowded audience for our performance, including the vicar and Mrs Mayne, the curate of St. John’s (who, by-the-way, was a coloured gentleman), Mr John Butterfield, brother of Mr H. I. Butterfield, of Cliffe Castle, and, indeed, a good many of the elite of the district. The show opened: the curtain was rung up. The first part was a representation of “The Babes in the Wood,” which went very smoothly, and appeared to suit the general taste of the spectators. Then followed a “skeleton dance,” and next we gave with the puppets an amusing harlequinade by clown, pantaloon, and butterfly. Yes, and here the real fun of the evening came in. The butterfly took a great deal of catching. Mr Howard and his good lady and myself were leaning over a rail (behind the scenes, of course) near the front of the stage, energetically working the strings of the figures, when, without any warning, the stage front gave way, and we (still energetically working the figures) were thrown right into the auditorium. Talk about tumbling head over heels! Why, words would only belittle this part of our “performance.” Suffice it to say that the wreckage just cleared the front seat, on which the Vicar and his good lady and friends were sitting.

OUR HUMPTY-DUMPTY SITUATION

was so irresistibly humorous that Mr Mayne burst into a fit of laughter, and, taking up his hat, he left the room, followed shortly after by his wife and the curate, and shortly afterwards by Mr John Butterfield, who, I may say, seemed to enjoy the accident far better than the legitimate performance. The audience roared and roared again with laughter, and, speaking for myself, I can say that I felt “jolly queer.” We had only, as it were, pitched the stage together, making it by placing one form above another. Fortunately the people present took the unlooked-for incident in good part, and with a little assistance we managed to improvise another stage, and upon this we went through a little more of our “show.”

AT ADDINGHAM FEAST A JOKE THAT TOOK

Before we ventured upon a further public appearance with the “dolls” we provided the show with better equipments. These included a tent, which, along with a magic-lantern, we bought for a trifling matter from a travelling photographer who went by the name of Old Kalo. The first of our second series of entertainments took place at Addingham, where, it being the Feast, we did very brisk “biz.” During one of the intervals between the performances, I remember a gentleman coming in and asking me, “Do you think you could study a few lines for me, and introduce them into your play?” “What are they about?” said I. Then my visitor told me that he “had got a little fellow, Jacky Demaine, of Catgill, in the public house opposite, and wanted me to talk about him during the acting.” I agreed to carry out his wishes, and my worthy friend, Howard, and I, having been supplied with the “matter,” commenced to rehearse the scene we had prepared expressly for Jacky. There were two figures strutting about the stage. “Good morning, Mr Catgill” said one of them. “Why, you are smart this morning.” “Well, you know it is Addingham Feast,” was the reply of the other figure. “Are you in want of a sweetheart?” “No,” said Jacky’s double; “I came here to buy some cattle.” Upon this the real Jacky Demaine could “stand it” no longer, and he rose from a front seat in the audience and made an “explanation.” He wished to know “how the little hound knew him,” saying that he never had a pint o’ beer with him in his life! Then Jacky wanted to come behind the stage to talk to the “little hound.” Of course he was a little fresh. The audience “fairly brought down the house” with their bursts of laughter, and people crowded into the booth and around the entrance anxious to know what was the matter. I have no doubt the little incident would be talked about for a good while in Addingham.

“NOT ONE LEFT TO TELL THE TALE”

After this, we appeared with our show in the old Mechanics’ Hall (now the Yorkshire Penny Bank) at Keighley. A travelling auctioneer who was staying there a week engaged us to give our performances during the intervals at his sales. He paid us very well. But Mr Howard was in the habit of taking more drink than was good for him, and he dispensed with the “mummers” one by one, until there was scarce one of our celebrated actors left to tell the tale and carry on the show.

THE WAR PIG AT HAWORTH A LAUGHABLE STORY

The marionettes having come to their end, and your humble servant being now practically out of a situation, he began to bestir his imagination for some other line which he might enter into in the show business. It was one morning while I was walking along Back-lane, at the top end of the town, that I “fell in luck.” Old John Malloy kept a grocer’s shop there the Ship Inn now marks the spot and I heard from him that he had a small litter of pigs. I saw them, and found among them a black pig a puny, rickety, and most dejected-looking creature. I asked John what he would take for the best and the worst, and although he did not wish to part with the best pig, he was not very particular in that respect with regard to the worst “the leetle blackie.” For this he said he would take a shilling, and after bargaining with John I got the pig for ten-pence. I took the pig away with me in an empty herring-box, and consulted my friend, John Spencer. I said, “John; we’ll take this pig to Haworth, and show it as the War Pig from South America.” John laughed at the idea, but heartily agreed with it. In the next place I got “on tick” a piece of calico several yards long, and with some lampblack I painted in bold type on the calico the words, “Come and see the War Pig from South America, 2d. each.” Then Spencer and I engaged the large garret at the Fleece Inn, Haworth. It was a large room, holding, I should think, a couple of hundreds of people, and was entered by a staircase in the back-yard, separate from the public house proper. Mrs Stangcliffe was the landlady, and she readily allowed us to have the room, I having taken it of her once before. Well, to get to business.

THE EXHIBITION

We displayed the calico signpost at the front of the inn, and at the appointed hour in the evening we had a crowded audience in the room. I must give my comrade Spencer more credit than myself for the “show;” for he would have two strings to his bow. While he and I were entering the place, he picked up a black cat belonging to some poor neighbour, and quickly stowed it away in one of his capacious pockets. The cat will appear later. As John put pussy away, he said, “If t’War Pig doesn’t satisfy ’em, I’ll show ’em something else.” We commenced the performance. I brought the pig out of the box, and exhibited the animal on a small table in the middle of the room. The audience was on the tiptoe of expectation, and crowded towards the table to see the famous war pig, which, after its long confinement, and also, of course, from its natural condition, was hardly able to stand. In a few words I introduced the war pig “Ladies and gentlemen, In opening the performance this evening, I have to show you the famous war pig from South America,” &c., &c.

THE COBBLER’S DISCOVERY

There was an old fellow at the back of the room wearing a leather apron and red cap, with his blue shirt sleeves rolled up a typical old cobbler. He pushed up to the table, and, after “eyeing” the “exhibit” somewhat critically through his spectacles, he held forth as follows: “Nah, dûs ta call thet a war pig?” in the vernacular peculiar to the natives. I said, “Did ta ivver see a war pig i’ thi life?” “Noa,” said he blankly “it’s t’ warst pig I ivver set mi een on.” And then the audience saw where the “war” pig came in, and they laughed heartily over the joke. It was a relief to me when they did put the best face on the affair. Under cover of the diversion I stole from the room, and prepared to leave the place. I met Mrs Stangcliffe at the foot of the staircase. She said “she did not know what to think about us, but there had been a fearful noise, and she took it that we had pleased the company.” With this I left the inn, and got away to a place where I had arranged to wait for Spencer.

TIPPO-SAHIB THE INDIAN CAT

Yes; you will be wondering what has become of Spencer. Well; he stayed behind to continue the show. As he told me afterwards, he appeared before the screen and said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, You don’t seem to be quite satisfied with the war pig from South America. I can assure you that I have here a cat which I brought from India; they call her Tippo-Sahib. She can tell fortunes. Tippo has told the fortunes of all the Indian kings and princes, and I have brought her here expressly to tell the ladies present their fortunes. Now, Tippo (introducing the Haworth-bred cat to the audience), walk round the room and tell the ladies their fortunes.” Puss had no sooner been liberated than she bounded out at the open door. Spencer said hastily, “I believe the climate of England is too cold for Tippo; but I’ll fetch her back.” Upon this he darted out of the door, and down the stairs after the scared cat; and this was the way Spencer effected his escape. Of course, the audience tumbled to it that the whole concern was a swindle, but they “bore up” well, and even seemed satisfied with the swindle, for they had many good laughs out of it. Spencer joined me on the road just out of Haworth, and together we returned to Keighley.

AT HAWORTH AGAIN FUNNY STORIES

As I remarked in the earlier part of the above incident, I had on a former occasion figured in the large room attached to the Fleece Inn. This occasion turned out a kind of “slope,” though not so bad a one as that already described. There happened to be staying in Keighley Wild’s Theatre, and John Spencer and I thought we could manage a bit of “business” at Haworth. So we borrowed two costumes. Mine was a monkey dress a kind of skin covering for the whole body which I had lent to me by “Billy Shanteney.” Spencer obtained the loan of a clown’s dress. At this time there was a drummer who lived in Wellington-street. He was well known to Keighley folk as “Old Bill Heblett.” Bill used to march the streets in company with bands of music, and caused some amount of wonder and amazement by throwing his drum-sticks into the air and catching them between the beats. On this occasion we induced Heblett to lend us his famed drum; so that with a monkey’s and a clown’s costumes, and a drum, we were in a fair way of business. We had intended that the show should consist of Spencer lifting heavy weights, and I was to amuse the audience with jokes and funny stories. We went up to Haworth, engaged the rooms from Mrs Stangcliffe, and borrowed the landlady’s bed-curtains to hang across the room to form a screen and so make the place look something like a show-room. For footlights we fastened candles on the floor, placing each candle between three nails.

THE BELLMAN’S SHAKESPEARE!

Then we engaged a fiddler who went by the name of Billy Frenchman a well-known character in Haworth at the time. Bill had been in the army for some years. In his old age he had been appointed town’s herald or crier of Haworth. It was in this capacity that we engaged him to “cry” our show about Haworth, before we turned out on parade. Billy told us to write down what we wanted him to say, and this was our programme “This is to give notice to the public of Haworth and the surrounding neighbourhood that a company of dramatic performers will appear tonight at the Fleece Inn Garret. The performance to commence with Shakespeare’s comedy, ‘Katharine and Petruchio; or, The Taming of the Shrew;’ to be followed by ‘Ali Pasha; or, The Mussulman’s Vengeance,’ and tricks by the monkey, and comic sketches.” These were the words Billy had written on his paper, but through some misunderstanding these were the words I heard him cry out: he gave them in broad Haworth dialect: “This is ta gie noatis ta t’publick o’ Howarth et ther’s bahn ta be sum play-acters at t’Fleece Inn Garritt, and ther bahn ta act ’Catherine fra t’Padding Can, er Who’s ta tak t’screws;’ ta be follered bi ’Alpaca, er t’smashing up o’ t’engines.’” But Billy’s blunder was perhaps for the best; for, seeing that this was about the time when hand woolcombing was on the decline, and engines were being brought out, the people had an idea that the announcement had some startling reference to their trade. Myself, I could not help but laugh heartily over this choice specimen of bellman’s oratory.

BILL PLAYS THE STREET MONKEY

About 5.30 in the evening Jack put on his clown’s costume, and I put on the monkey’s garb, and Jack, taking the drum and leading me by a chain, paraded up the main street of Haworth. Opposite the White Lion we “pitched,” and the customers soon came out of the public-house, and passers-by stopped to see “whoa we wor.” I distinctly heard one of the onlookers say that “if it wor a real un, it wor t’biggest monkey ut he’d ivver seen.” Then a few of the folks standing together held a hurried confab., and as a result one of them announced, “I’ll tread on his tail, an’ if he squeaks it’ll be a reight un.” Suiting his words to action the joskin advanced and trod on the end of the monkey’s tail. Of course the monkey squeaked. Jacko also turned round suddenly, and, with a horrid grin on his features, sprang on the shoulders of his intruder. The poor fellow screamed, and his first words on finding himself out of danger were “Oh! he’s a reight monkey.” Within the next few minutes another native came up, and inquired of Spencer “Ah say can thy monkey chew bacca?” producing a tobacco-box, the size of which was awe-inspiring. “Try it,” said Spencer, “Give him the box he’s very careful.” So the big-hearted joskin handed his big tobacco-box to the monkey. I was wearing a mask, which allowed for a large mouth, and I popped the box into the “yawning cavity.” “By gow,” said the at-one-time owner of the box, “What a stummack! he’s swallered t’box an all!” With such an uncomfortable article as a tobacco-box in his mouth, the monkey could not do very much in the way of performing, so the return was made to the Fleece Inn Garret. People particularly the disappointed owner of the tobacco-box followed us down, and by opening-time we had

A DENSELY-CROWDED HOUSE

The old fiddler a host in himself was the orchestra. He knew about three tunes, and these he played o’er and o’er. I forgot to mention that we had not an appointed door-keeper, or cashier, so I undertook that superior office myself. “My word,” said some of the people as they came in, “just lewk at that monkey; it’s t’moast remarkable monkey et ivver wor knawn i’ Howarth; it’s soa mich sense woll it can tak t’brass at t’door.” Well, the house became so crowded that there was scarcely any room left for us to perform. The time for commencing arrived, and we appeared before the curtain, though we felt at a great loss to know how we were going to manage to perform in the space there was left; for it must be known that we did actually intend to give a performance. We had gone through a few “feats” Spencer lifting and performing with 56lb. weights, and I doing a few tricks at tight-rope walking and dancing. Spencer was behind the curtain waiting his “turn,” and when I retired he said: “It’s no good; we cannot give satisfaction here.”

THE VANISHING TRICK

“There isn’t room for you to work, never tell of me;” adding, “You had better go and get you right clothes on. Bring the drum and all our belongings you can get hold on, and slip out at the back door the best way that you can.” I obeyed. The “orchestra” was discoursing diverting music. I went down to exchange monkey for man, so to speak, and, this done, and having collected our properties, I made my way, happily undetected, out of the house, and cut across the fields. Weighed down as I was with the copper taken at the door, and in my anxiety to look after everything and get away as fast as I could, I let the drum slip from my grasp. It rolled down a steep field, and for a short time I had a fine chase after it. “But where was Jack Spencer?” readers will be wondering. Yes; I had forgot all about Jack for the minute. As he afterwards told me, he got away all right except for a little mishap which befell him just after he had left the place. Opposite the Fleece Inn was a cartwright’s shop (I believe the shop is there now), and behind the wall skirting the roadway was placed an old cart. Spencer knew not of either of these things, and when he lightly mounted the wall and leaped before he had looked it was to find himself in the cart, or, to be more precise, falling through the bottom of it. He rather lamed his leg, and had to limp up to Merrall’s mill, where I was waiting for him. Together, we made for Keighley, and on arriving there we “put up” at the Lord Rodney Inn, in Church Green, which was then kept by Mrs Fox. Safe in the hostelry, we counted up our spoil, and, perhaps, congratulated ourselves that we had got off so easily. Jack told me that before leaving the entertainment he told the fiddler to play up “special,” as he was going to do a “fine trick.”

THE AUDIENCE DISCOVER THE “SLOPE.”

Next day we learned from a young man whom we came across at Wild’s theatre how affairs had developed at Haworth the previous night. He said that for half-an-hour the fiddler went on playing his favourite tune, “Rosin the bow.” By-and-bye, the audience manifested signs of active curiosity as to the position of affairs, and one man said he would go behind the curtain and see for himself, adding, “There must be something wrong.” He went to the front, and pulled the screen on one side to find nothing! The audience generally bore up with good heart, but one determined-looking individual said, “I’ve paid my two-pence, an’ I’m bahn ta hev a cannel for it, if nowt else.” And with that he stalked up to the front, and possessed himself of one of the candles which had been in use as footlights. Others then made a rush for the remaining candles, and in the disorder the poor fiddler fared rather badly, for he got his fiddle broken. But Spencer and I afterwards visited him, and made good the loss he sustained. I must say that we never intended the affair to be a swindle, and, borrowing one of my friend Squire Leach’s forcible expressions, I may say we “started with good intentions, whatever came out of ’em.” Perhaps I may be excused for introducing the following verses of my own, entitled “Haworth Sharpness,” to close this chapter:

Says a wag to a porter i’ Haworth one day,
“Yer net ower sharp ye drones o’t’ railway;
For fra Keighley to Howarth I’ve been oft enough,
But nivver a hawpenny I’ve paid yer, begoff.”

The porter replied, “I varry mich daht it,
But I’ll gie thee a quart ta tell all abaht it;
For it looks plain ta me tha cuddn’t pass t’snicket,
Without tippin’ ta t’ porter thi pass or thi ticket”

“Tha’ll write up ta Derby, an’ then tha’ll deceive me.”
“I willn’t, this time,” said t’porter, “believe me.”
“Then aht wi’ thi brass, an’ let us be knocking.
For I’ve walked it a fooit-back all raand bi t’Bocking.”