In the Children’s Nursery
Father and mother and all the brothers and sisters had gone to the theatre; only little Anna and her godfather were left sitting alone at home.
‘We could make up a play!’ he said, ‘and put it on straight away!’
‘But we haven’t got a theatre,’ little Anna said, ‘and we haven’t any actors either! my doll’s no good because she’s too ugly, and my new one mustn’t get her clothes crumpled!’
‘You can always find actors if you take what you’ve got!’ godfather says, ‘Now we’re off to the theatre. We place a book here, one there and another one, in a slanting row. Now three on the other side – and there are the wings! the old box lying there can be the backdrop; we can turn the bottom out. The stage now represents a living room – anyone can see that! Now we must find those to do the acting! Let’s see what we can find in the drawer for toys! First the characters, then we make up the play, they support each other, and it will all work out fine! There’s a pipe bowl lying here and here’s an odd glove – they could do as father and daughter!’
‘But that’s only two characters!’ little Anna said, ‘Here’s my brother’s old waistcoat! Can’t it act in a play too?’
‘It’s big enough!’ godfather said. ‘It can be the young lady’s sweetheart. It’s nothing in its pockets, that makes it interesting already, it is half-unrequited love! – And here we have the nutcracker’s boot with spurs on! Scritch, scratch, Mazurka! he can strike and strut. He can be the unwanted suitor the young lady doesn’t like. What kind of play would you like? A tragedy or a domestic drama?’
‘One for the whole family!’ little Anna said, ‘the others like that sort so much. Do you know one?’
‘I know a hundred of them!’ the godfather said. ‘Those most highly regarded are based on the French, but they are not suitable for young girls. We could take one of the most innocuous ones, though, from the inside they all resemble each other. I give the bag a shake! Cuckoodolidoo! Whatatodo! now they’re brand-new! Just listen to the advertisement.’
And godfather took up a newspaper and pretended to read from it:
Pipe-Bowl and Quick-Wit,
Domestic drama in one act.
The characters are:
Mr. Pipe-Bowl, Father
Miss Glove, Daughter
Mr. Waistcoat, Sweetheart
Herr von Stiefel, Suitor
And now the play starts! The curtain goes up; we haven’t any curtain, but now it’s up. All the characters are in there, so they’ll be on stage soon. Now I’ll take Father Pipe-Bowl. He’s angry today; you can see he’s a smoked meerschaum:
‘Mick mack malloy, bullyboy! I’m master in my own house! I’m the father of my daughter! Just listen to what I have to say! Von Stiefel’s a man one can take as an example, goatskin leather up top, spurs down below, mickey, mackey, malloy! he shall have my daughter!’
‘You take care of Mr. Waistcoat, little Anna!’ godfather said. ‘Now Waistcoat’s speaking. He has a turned-down collar, is extremely modest, but knows his own worth and has a right to speak his mind:
‘I am spotless. Quality must also be taken into account. I am of genuine silk, and I have strings!’
‘On your wedding day, no longer than that! The colour gets lost in the wash!’ that’s Mr. Pipe-Bowl speaking. ‘Von Stiefel is waterproof, has durable leather and is so distinguished even so, can creak, chink his spurs and has the physiognomy of Italy!’
‘But they ought to be speaking in verse!’ little Anna said, ‘that’s said to be the finest!’
‘They could do that too!’ godfather said. ‘When the audience decrees, we’ll seek to please! – Just look at little Miss Glove, at how she stretches her fingers:
Looks like all my life
I won’t be someone’s wife
Alas, I’m just trash!
No one finds it fitting
That my skin keeps splitting!
That was Father Pipe-Bowl; Now Mr. Waistcoat speaks:
Oh my darling glove
You shall be my love!
Though you came from Spain,
Swore Ogier the Dane.
Von Stiefel whirls around, stamps on the floor, chinks his spurs and brings down three of the wings.
‘This is all simply lovely!’ little Anna said.
‘Quiet, now!’ godfather said; ‘silent applause shows that you are a well-bred audience in the front row. Now Miss Glove is to sing her great aria with a voice that breaks:
I can’t speak I know,
So I’ll have to crow
Cockadoodledoo, to those below!
Now comes the exciting bit, little Anna! This is the most important thing in the play. Look. Mr. Waistcoat unbuttons himself, he throws his speech straight out to you, so you feel like clapping; don’t do so! it’s more cultivated. Just listen to the silk rustling: ‘We’re at the climax! take care! here comes the intrigue! You are Pipe-Bowl, I am Quick Wit, – Whoosh, you’re gone! Did you see that, little Anna!’ godfather said. ‘It’s excellent staging and theatre: Mr. Waistcoat grabbed old Pipe-Bowl and stuffed him in his pocket; there he lies, and the waistcoat speaks:
‘You’re in my pocket, in my deepest pocket! you’ll not be released before you promise to unite me with your daughter, left-hand glove, I’ll be the right-hand one!’
‘How frightfully exciting!’ little Anna said.
‘And now old Pipe-Bowl answers:
I’m all of a tizz!
Things change in a whizz.
My mood’s in a fizz.
My hollow stem I’ve lost for sure.
As never before
I’m shook to the core,
My mind’s insecure. –
Release my bowl please
you know you oughter,
And then you may marry
my darling daughter!
‘Is the play already over?’ little Anna asked.
‘Good gracious no!’ godfather said, ‘it’s only over for Herr von Stiefel. The loving couple kneel, one of them sings:
Now, old one!
Your bowl’s new life’s begun,
So bless both daughter and son!«
They receive his blessing, hold a wedding, and the furniture sings in chorus:
Now the play is over!
‘And now we clap!’ godfather said, ‘call them in for a bow, the furniture as well. They’re real mahogany!’
‘Is our play just as good as the one the others are seeming in the real theatre?’
‘Ours is much better!’ godfather said; ‘it’s shorter, it’s for free, and now it’s time for tea!’