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Contents: Uncollected Stories
A PLAYER QUEEN.
Sarah Orne Jewett.
One hot evening in July three illustrious members of Bill Sharp's Comedy Company were waiting, ready to go on, in the flies of one of the smaller Boston theatres. There was a long scene going forward between Young Postern and Vicky Dean, whose immensely popular song of "Starlight Hannah" was presently to be sung, and encored at least three times, before any other event could take place. The three persons, who played the parts of dramatic father, mother, and deceived husband, were waiting in the flies until the scene between the lovers was over; it was much cooler there than in the green-room, which was more stuffy and tiresome than usual. Nelly Hall, the leading lady, was apt to be dilatory in her preparations, and often had to be summoned impatiently, but to-night she had already been waiting four or five minutes. She had seated herself in a gorgeous gilt chair of state, which was to be used in the next piece as the throne in a burlesque of "Hamlet"; the two young men were crouching on the dusty floor at her side. Jack Sprague, whom his admirers called the most stylish man on the American stage, was absurd enough in his elderly-gentleman makeup; at this short range his high, bald forehead was easily distinguished from his veritable smooth skin.
"What a life it is!" sighed the slender Queen in the gilt chair. "I wish that Billy had put on the "Lady of Lyons" instead of that "Hamlet" nonsense. I don't half know my lines. I keep saying the real thing and getting in earnest. If Billy hadn't written this burlesque himself, he would have sworn at any body who offered it to him. The house always gets as empty as a rainy Sunday church before we are through the first act, and then he scolds us all around, and says we don't take trouble with our parts."
This was an old grievance; the young men assented gloomily. "Give me tragedy forever," said Old Postern, who was really the younger of the two brothers. Young Postern himself was playing the lover with Vicky. "Give me tragedy forever!" he repeated, more decidedly. "I could play 'Macbeth' two years on a stretch --"
"Oh no, you couldn't," answered the Queen, quickly, with a twinkle in her pretty eyes. "Think of the audience!"
"Nelly, what shall we do tomorrow?" asked Jack Sprague, hastily, for Old Postern was not fond of a joke; he was but a dull player, poor lad, and yet the company would have sadly missed him from its ranks.
"I haven't had a week-day to myself for so long that I have forgotten what I can do," answers the girl, eagerly. "Then you aren't going off by yourselves?" in a pleased tone. "We'll sleep as late as we can, of course; it isn't often we get a Sunday-morning nap in the middle of the week. Suppose we go on the water somewhere?"
"Count me out then," responded Jack Sprague, good-humoredly. "I'm no sailor. See here, it's pretty in the country now, let's go out somewhere for a good long drive and have a high, old dinner and come home by moonlight. I forget how green grass looks in anything but small samples."
"It's my birthday," exclaimed the Queen, rising to her feet excitedly. "I'll ask Vicky Dean; it must be my ball."
"It was your birthday only a month ago," said Old Postern, with amazement; and Nelly denied the charge unblushingly.
"Then I won't have Vicky," she insisted at last, and her companions laughed aloud.
"Old Postern doesn't care about your birthdays; he is all for truth," urged Jack Sprague, seriously, as the prompter walked by. "Let her have her birthdays, old boy, and you and Vicky be young together;" and Postern blushed a lively crimson through his make-up.
"Perhaps Vicky won't [wont] go," he said, ruefully. Postern was very cheerful-looking and absurdly red-cheeked and boyish when one reflected upon his tragic bent. He had very little to say, and there was generally more or less hopelessness about his remarks. "You know she never will leave her family when we are here. She spends so much time on the road that she hasn't a word for anybody while the company is in Boston."
The hopeless passion of Old Postern for Vicky Dean was recognized by all their associates, for the little actress sang and danced and painted her pale cheeks all for her father's sake. He had been an actor, and was now an invalid, from the fall of a stage balcony and perhaps a little carelessness as to his fashion of life. Vicky liked to tell everybody that he had played with Booth, but nobody ever asked her about his part. Postern expressed great pride and admiration in the stage lore and experience of his inevitable father-in-law, but he was jealous of Dean, too, Vicky's papa being his only rival.
Vicky and her lover drew but small salaries. It was good of Nelly, the Queen, to arrange a day's pleasuring; but everybody knew that Nelly was the kindest heart in the world.
There was a droll cadence and a cheerful swing in Vicky's gay tune, which had already been sung twice. The audience would beg for it again, and the heavy gallery boots kept time, while even the players themselves could feel the delight of it, familiar as "Starlight Hannah" had become. They were pleased that hard-working little Vicky had made a hit, but it was plain that her voice was getting sharp now, and they gaily made their entrance at this auspicious moment.
They were obliged to glower with rage at once, and they did it handsomely. Nelly was full of spirit; the silly play ceased to weary the overheated audience. The Comedy Company had long ago paid tribute with Nelly's nickname, and the Queen ruled her small and penniless court with great sympathy and decision. Nobody was half satisfied with her salary, and every one said that Nelly deserved to go to England, where people knew genius when they saw it. Yet the Comedy Company thought very well of itself as a troupe; there was nothing on the road that could equal it in ability. Nelly was its star, the large-lettered person of the posters and programmes, but her honest admirers were beginning to wonder why she did not have the recognition she deserved. Now and then an envious voice said that she did not put her whole heart into her playing as she used; and on such an evening as this, when she was in good spirits, she was sure to be told that she made somebody think of old times. It could not be even dreamed that our Queen was in danger of criticism, or that she reigned timidly.
An actor's holiday often means a long morning's sleep, and these were tired young folk, but for all that it was hardly noon when the four comedians set forth. Billy Sharp had made an excellent bargain in underletting the theatre for a grand mass meeting of certain labor societies, and was no doubt glad to have an evening to himself. No rehearsal or mockery of it in the morning; no footlights at night to make one's eyes smart and one's head grow dizzy with the flicker; no tyrannical, fickle audience to scorn or applaud; no dust and clatter of scene shifting; no hurry in the dressing room; no supes; no nervous weariness when the play was done, and no extravagant supper ordered in excitement and regretted directly it was served. An off day that was not a Sunday, and our four friends in a decent hired carryall with a willing pair of horses bound country-ward.
Jack Sprague was the leader of the excursion. He had been once at a first-class hotel out beyond Cambridge where the Harvard men bestowed their patronage. Jack had been asked to join a party made by Museum men, and two or three guests from the Irving Company the winter before. He had often spoken of this grand occasion to his companions, and was sure that he knew the way. "If they give you half as good a dinner as I had that day," Jack said, "you'll wish you could go there to live."
Beside Jack on the front seat was Nelly, radiant with pleasure. She wore a very wide-brimmed Gainsborough hat and her best long gloves, and a dress which Jack had once noticed with approval. There was something not exactly conspicuous, but for all that uncommon, in the aspect of these pleasure makers, though they had dressed most carefully for the parts of picnicing ladies and gentlemen. They could not forget the Public, their requiring task-master, and when some young vagrant gave a saucy cheer, as they drove along, Jack Sprague snapped his whip at them magnificently. Our friends were so possessed with the idea of themselves and the Comedy Company that it was easy to fancy that everybody else knew them too.
"Dear me!" yawned Nelly, as they went their rural way, "I haven't been up so early in the morning this summer. What makes it seem so much earlier out here than it does in town? Let me drive, or I shall go to sleep. Did you say that we should have a good dinner, my lord?"
To which my lord responded with enthusiasm.
"Are you and Vicky enjoying everything?" the Queen inquired, presently, without turning her head or giving a hint of looking round at the pair on the back seat. "I wish that you would give me my little red silk shawl, if it is perfectly convenient," and then she glanced over her shoulder at Vicky, who was blushing a little, and looked very pretty.
"We are your Majesty's servants," says Postern, gallantly. "Sprague, are we on the right road? This is uncommon rural."
The little red shawl had become familiar on many a provincial stage. It always lighted up well, and took on the color of a live cardinal flower, but it never had been more admired than now, against a daylight background of green. The Queen looked paler than she did in the evening, but some wild flowers beguiled the pleasure-makers, and they clambered down from the high carriage, and ran among the bushes like children to fill their hands with white ox-eye daisies. The two girls pinned them on in stage fashion of breast knots, and garlanded not only their own headgear but the young men's beside. There was a pretty bit of woodland, and they deeply regretted that the holiday had not been planned with a view to picnicing in this very spot. The horses browsed by the wayside; they were much more used to being hurried along dusty suburban roads, and hardly knew what to make of this bit of horse-heaven a dozen miles from town.
"We're getting deeper and deeper into the country," insisted Postern. "You ought to have taken that turn to the left; we're bearing to the north'ard all the time since we left Cambridge, and there's no end to this Forest of Arden, that I can see."
"Oh, my dinner," pleaded the Queen; I wish I had eaten my breakfast bad as it was. I was up in time. I fibbed about that, for I was waiting at the window an hour before I saw the horses turn round the corner."
And Jack Sprague, quite crestfallen, stopped the amiable horses at last, and tried to consider the error of his ways. He had a desperate moment of fear that he had spoiled the holiday. Should they go on or turn back, he asked, after he had patiently submitted to much derision.
"Oh, go on!" exclaimed Vicky Dean, who thought this was the loveliest of drives. "We shall come to some village or other, and there is sure to be a hotel. Let's go on!"
But even Vicky's high courage began to give out half an hour later, for they saw no steeples and went still through a bushy woodland country, and only passed a small, unpromising farmstead now and then in the half-cleared sandy fields. There was a shout of joy when at last they struck a more traveled road, and saw in the distance some high roofs and chimneys. It looked like a very small village, but it was certainly a village. The Queen insisted that they had been taken up by a whirlwind and set down unharmed very far inland. "I always wondered how they did it so easily in Shakespeare," she laughed. "A seaport in Bohemia this minute and somewhere else the next; wishing-carpets and big birds, and all those things used to be true, you know."
"I wish they were true now," whispered Jack Sprague, unexpectedly, with an unusual shine in his eyes; and Nelly was filled with joy, and blushed as she seldom blushed nowadays. Lovers had been very plentiful in her short life, and it had been easy to disdain them, but Jack Sprague! --
"Look, look!" cries the Queen, forgetting her pleasant reverie. "Here is the very place; an old-fashioned country tavern with a sign like ours in the scenery! Oh stop here, do stop, and see if they will take us in!"
Old Postern groaned and tried to remonstrate, and Jack warned everybody of complete disappointment, but turned the horses toward the grass-grown tavern yard. A hulking boy came out of the tumble-down stables, and the next moment a quaint old woman appeared in the side doorway. She wore large, blinking gold spectacles, and was singularly long-waisted, but short of stature, as if she were cut off at her knees. She was a good study of makeup, and here was an event at last -- the drive had been a trifle dull and uncertain.
"Doesn't it seem like England?" whispered the Queen, authoritatively, and everybody assented, though not one of the four had ever crossed the sea.
Jack Sprague leaped from the carriage and stood before the door, hat in hand, after a great bow. "Is this a public house, and can you afford us entertainment, madam?" says he.
"Well, sir," answers the old woman, with a pleased smile at this charming politeness, "I don't know as I ought to call it so now; we used to do a gre't business; this was the main road into Boston, and lots o' folks used to put up here over night and go into town early. An' as it happens to-day, I'm left sole alone, except Tobias there, and I'm not provided as I should be, but he can do for your team and I can give you some kind of a bite, if it's so that you don't want to go farther."
There was but a moment's hesitation at the end of this almost breathless speech, and then Nelly Hall decided the question by getting out of the carryall and approaching the friendly old dame with a beaming face. She and Sprague, you remember, always took the part of first lady and gentleman. She dropped the landlady a charming courtesy, and stood before her with all her wilting posies and the famous red shawl about her shoulders.
"We are only too glad to have what you may please to give!" she said. "We are strangers in the country."
"French folks, be you, dear?" inquired Mrs. Fleck, who loved a little adventure, and was only by force of habit a humdrum person.
"From Scotland," said the Queen, unblushingly. "I am Lady Macbeth, and this" -- she couldn't call Jack her husband -- "this is Mr. Macduff; this," as Vicky approached, "is my sister Ophelia, and Mr. Smith." There was a thrill of laughter in the very air, and Nelly herself shook for a moment, and almost spoiled the little scene.
"Come in, all of you," cried the hostess, hospitably. "Way from Scotland; I want to know! You're Miss Mackby, be you?" She didn't hear very well, good soul. "And Mr. Duffy, this one? I had a cousin who married with a Duffy, but they lived down New Bedford way, somewheres. Come right in. We don't keep no book now. I don't know 's I ought to say we keep tavern at all," and she led them across the wide, arched entry to a cool room that looked out into the garden.
There they seated themselves, right centre and left centre, as if waiting for the curtain to rise. Postern thought it unmentionably slow. He whispered something about dried-apple pies to the Queen, who spoke of cider in a more cheerful tone; but Sprague depressed her again with a suggestion of wilted crackers. This solitary, old, gone-to-seed hostelry was a poor exchange for the gay, townish hotel which he had in mind. His mouth had been fairly watering all the way for the chilled champagne, with which he meant to treat his companions. The four members of the Comedy Company were beyond asking for any delicacies, however; it was honest hunger that assailed them.
The old hostess reappeared presently, like a busy ant. "You'll have to wait the longer, 'less some one of you comes right out into the garden with me and helps me pick a mess of peas," she said, with a persuasive briskness. "I aint going to make company of you. I know by your looks how hungry you be, and p'raps one o' you won't mind helping 'till Tobias is free of his hosses. They was warm, too."
The four members of the Comedy Company rose together from their chairs and insisted upon going to the garden. There was something motherly and delightful about Mrs. Fleck, and the disused inn parlor was stuffy. Nelly, the Queen, went first, and talked with the inn's mistress all the way down the garden walk. The red shawl showed bravely above the pea-vines.
There was not much paint left on the gambrel-roofed house, but on the side next the garden grew woodbines and grapevines, and morning-glories were blooming yet about the kitchen windows, though the day was at high noon. There was a smell of herbs in the air -- of fresh sage and thyme -- because the leading gentleman had walked straight across the herb-bed. The old garden was full of bees; the roses were hardly out of bloom in the shade of the trees, and the hot sun made the pea-vines a very pale blue green. "Why can't we have dinner out of doors," asked Nelly Hall. "There was that table and the benches under the cherry trees as we came out."
Mrs. Fleck was greatly amused at this proposal. "Why, yes, honey," she answered, as if the Queen were a willful child; "if so be you'd rather than have things fixed decent in the dining-room. I let that old kitchen table stay out all weathers. I do my ironin' on it in hot mornin's. But I aint goin' to put on a good table-cloth that I had in mind fer ye. Bless you! we've got peas enough a'ready -- `many hands makes light work,' says the proverb -- but, my sakes! aint some o' you be'n pickin' small an' big ones an' leaves all together!"
"Now," said the Queen, as they all went toward the house. "Dear sister Ophelia and Mr. Smith, will you be kind enough to take yourselves off for a long walk. I can't have you in my way. Mr. Duffy must play about the house because he may be wanted about setting the table. For me, I shall help to cook the dinner."
There were mild protests, but the Queen had her way, and Vicky gave a grateful glance to her friend as she disappeared toward the orchard shade, out beyond the bee hives. Jack Sprague lounged into the old house. Perhaps he went to sleep on a wide, prickly haircloth sofa in the best room; at any rate, he lay there listening to the pleasant country sounds out in the garden, and to the tones of Nelly's voice as she went and came in the old kitchen.
It seemed strangely silent and lonely, that old house, which had been the shelter of so many people. What tender hearts and hard hearts, what good and bad errand-runners had slept and waked within its walls! A feeling of unrest still lingered to vex the most leisurely traveler, but the rural peace and isolation had almost quelled it, and nature was having its way. Seeds of the wild field flowers sprouted closer together every year in the garden, and when this pleasant old hostess was gone the sun and rain and the field flowers would have their way. The four members of the Comedy Company were vexed with themselves because they were not more provoked at having lost their way. Jack Sprague had resigned himself to the absence of champagne, and they were all soothed by the silence and more amused with the old tavern than any one would believe. Hard-worked, late o' nights, uncomplaining young majesty, servants these, who thought no ill of making an audience laugh when your own heart ached; who fitted not so badly into the pinchbeck trappings of state and even royalty. Alas! there are spangles worn or torn off the robes of other high gentlefolk beside those of the stage, and happy are they who can bring good-humored smiles to the faces of this anxious world.
"Where are they all three?" and Nelly comes bustling to the door in a great gingham apron and rings a big bell with both hands. Jack Sprague comes out of the dark parlor looking flushed and sleepy, and years younger, like a hungry boy, and then Postern and Vicky appear from under the far apple trees, quite coy and shame-faced with delight, the two of them. Nelly knows in an instant that Postern has asked Vicky to marry him, and has not been refused, either. She has been telling him for weeks that he ought to do it, and to leave the stage by and by and settle down. Postern will never make an actor.
They come to the table in the garden where the Queen stands triumphant before her little feast. This is the quickest-fingered and quickest-footed creature that ever was, and not only have the old flag-bottomed chairs been brought out from the dining-room, and the brightest old crockery hunted out of every cupboard, but she has put nosegays at every plate and made the dinner a picture of gayety. And she will have it that Mrs. Fleck sits down with them at the garden table and takes the seat at the head, though Mrs. Fleck wonders who is to serve them, and is a little worried and self-conscious. Nelly's kind heart is brimming over with a great wish that everybody should have the best of good times. She has often spent her last cent in hot theatre suppers, under flaring gas-lights; she has known the hard side of life so well that she seizes every chance for gayety. Nobody else would have thought to sprinkle little flowers and fine maple leaves all over the white table-cloth; and having stolen enough mouthfuls of dinner by the way to quell her bunger, she sits down meekly, and takes all the praise she can get.
"'Twas Mis' Mackby did it all," insists Mrs. Fleck, with a pleased smile, and then they began to eat their luncheon like school children. There was but a small piece of cold roasted lamb -- a very small piece, indeed -- but Nelly had made an omelet, such as her old Italian friend, Signor Floretti, used to make; he who played accompaniments while she sang her childish songs many years ago. Nelly's mother was an actress before her, and the Signor was an old music teacher, who lived in the same New York boarding house. There never was such an omelet put upon a table. Mrs. Fleck would often try to copy it afterward, and never succeed in giving it just quite the same taste. And then there were the green peas, and Nelly had made salad of the potatoes with a pinch of herbs and a bit of yellow cream and vinegar. There was good country bread and butter, and -- there was elder wine! Jack Sprague's eyes had brightened at the sight of the old decanter with its thick-stalked, round-bowled wine glasses. They listened to Mrs. Fleck's long story of how she made it, and how she always depended upon currants in old times, and upon cider, but now for long and tedious reasons she had none of either. The happy company ate and drank and were merry, and pledged each other in the wine, and were thankful, though it certainly was a little too sweet. They would have Mrs. Fleck take a whole glass, though she said it would be sure to go to her head.
And then Nelly commanded the two cavaliers to clear the table, and to do it carefully, too, and not pile up the plates as they went to the kitchen, because if they did wrong in any way they should have no cherry pie.
What a cherry pie it was -- large and deep, and baked in a square dish! What a triumph of engineering to cut it into five equal portions; but the Queen did that, and everybody had a fair share of juice. Mrs. Fleck was more than thankful that she had baked it yesterday, and of such immense size; but she had a foreboding, and the tall cherry-tree stood in the shade of the house and bore more than common fruit that year.
"But where is Tobias?" asked somebody. "Is he eating hay with the horses?"
"He's mortal bashful," responds Mrs. Fleck. "I gave him some bread and sweet-cake and my yaller pitcher full o' milk. 'Twill keep him till I can further attend." At which everybody shouted with delight. The elder wine was stronger than it tasted.
What an afternoon of delight! The very bees came about the table to get their share of the cherry pie, or went waddling about the table-cloth, after a visit to the glasses; there was a bewildering flicker of shadows moving to and fro on the table from the cherry leaves overhead. Nelly could not be urged to have another bite of anything, though she declared herself to have been hungry enough to have eaten the pasteboard fowls belonging to the Comedy Company when she first sat down. Mrs. Fleck was almost tearful in her sentimental enjoyment of this unexpected occasion. She could not hear exactly what Nelly said about the Comedy Company; in truth she could hardly follow the quick, merry speech of her companions. She felt certain that they were foreigners; but it was all a little confused, except that they had come out for a frolic and were successful in finding one. "No, you brought your good time with you," she said aloud, in a little pause, while somebody was urging somebody else to sing. Vicky Dean protested that she would not and could not sing "Starlight Hannah" then or there. She would rather forget it this one day in a whole, long month. They all joined in a pretty chorus presently, and Mrs. Fleck thought this the best of all, until Vicky and Postern sang the air of a stage dance, and Jack and the Queen took the steps of it to and fro on the green grass.
"Perhaps you sing yourself, Mrs. Fleck?" says Jack Sprague, gallantly, as they take their seats again, for he had heard the widow join in the refrain tremulously as she beat time with her cloth-slippered foot.
"I used to have a pretty tuneful voice when I was young," she answers. "I always was the one to sing trible in the singing seats." Whether it was the elder wine or the good company, who can tell? but when the guests urged Mrs. Fleck to sing a song, she cleared her voice directly and began, "'Mid pleasures and palaces" -- that dear old tune which touches every heart of us as we grow older. It touched the hearts of the four companions of the Comedy Troupe. Perhaps it was not a fortunate selection, for neither of them had any home but lodgings. Jack Sprague, after his eyes and Nelly's had met with a dear surprise of conscious prophecy -- Jack Sprague strolled off a little way down the garden, and then, coming hastily back, struck into the last refrain with a friendly tenor, and helped the old lady along on the high notes, just as her voice began to break a little.
"'Tis hard to be growin' old," she said, by way of gentle apology, when she had ended. "My heart is as young as ever it was when I get among young folks, but I declare my voice is a-goin'."
And everyone said it was a sweet voice still, and what a dear old song it was after all; and Nelly sang "Hunting Tower" charmingly, and afterward some delicious Italian street songs, taught her by the omelet-making Signor. Jack Sprague liked them, and that was the reason why they were sung.
Postern was a well-known athlete in the company, and after the songs began to fail he kindly did amazing things on the grass plot with his own arms and legs and a sturdy old clothes-pole, and frightened both Mrs. Fleck and Vicky in a delightful way. The afternoon shadows of the old house covered most of the garden, and still they sat there and amused themselves cheerfully. At last they gravely agreed that they must go away -- they must go back to town. "There would be nothing for our supper," whispers Nelly. "May we come again some day, Mrs. Fleck?" she added, aloud.
They wandered through the quaint old house while Tobias harnessed the horses. Nelly held a little prim blue-and-white crockery pitcher, which she had fallen in love with on a high shelf and filled with flowers for the table. "'Taint worth five cents, darlin', but I wish you'd keep it to remember me by," urged Mrs. Fleck. They said good-bye over and over again. Jack Sprague tipped Tobias like a lord, and nearly took his dwindling wits away. And Mrs. Fleck must have $5, too, though she insisted that 50 cents a dinner was her usual charge, and that by good rights she ought to pay them for such a pleasure-making. Jack Sprague apologized for such generosity to the Queen. "We should have spent twice as much at the other place, you know, and she looked as if she didn't know what money was." Poor young spendthrift! Mrs. Fleck was a forehanded old soul, and they were just keeping themselves meanly fed and covered with fast-fading theatre splendors.
"To think that I and my mother before me have spent our lives behind the footlights!" said Nelly, wistfully, as they drove away, "and here that quiet old place has been going on and the garden growing and blooming every year. Did you hear the old lady say that she wished we could come out some Sunday and hear the new minister?" and they all laughed.
But the Queen did not confess that she had asked Mrs. Fleck whether, if some time she should be ill or tired out, she might not come to the old tavern to stay a long time and get rested. Mrs. Fleck had taken the red silk shawl into her motherly arms for answer, and stroked the Queen's head kindly before she said a word.
Vicky Dean and Mr. Postern sat together on the back seat of the carryall, and, as usual, were seldom heard to speak, but all agreed that it was a wonderfully beautiful evening.
"Think of my poor mother and me!" the Queen repeated. "Think of us, Jack Sprague!" she commanded her loyal subject, gently.
For Nelly, having played many a part on many a stage, had now put her whole heart into this carefully-studied scene of housekeeping. She hoped that Jack would like it best of all her rôles. Did he, too, think sometimes how good it would be if they had a home together? Alas! theirs was a life of change and hurry and weariness behind the footlights, and her woman's heart was unsatisfied. She would always play the part of Herself for the leading gentleman if the Fates proved kind.
The leading gentleman was also busy with his thoughts. He had a look of cities and of fashionable life, but his own mother had been a simple country woman for all that, and had grieved, provokingly, when Jack felt a vocation for the stage. She had been dead a long time now, it seemed to him, as he thought of her. Perhaps he and Nelly would go some time to the old farm-house on its green hillside; he never supposed before that Nelly would like that sort of thing. Jack Sprague lighted a cigar, but it went out; and he wished that he had either worked hard enough to be a first-rate actor or had let it all alone in the beginning. The Player Queen began to feel chilly in the damp evening air; she drew the red silk shawl closer and closer, then she moved a bit nearer to Jack, and put her warm thin little hand into his: "Why, I almost forgot that you used to be a country lout yourself, Mr. Duffy," said she.
"A Player Queen" was published in America 1 (July 28, 1888) 6-8. It was missed in later bibliographic studies and rediscovered by Philip B. Eppard, who reprinted it with his short essay, "Two Lost Stories by Sarah Orne Jewett," in Gwen Nagel, ed., Critical Essays on Sarah Orne Jewett (1984).
Apparent errors in the text have been corrected and indicated with brackets. If you find errors or items needing annotation, please contact the site manager.
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"Starlight Hannah": No information about this song has been found. Assistance is welcome.
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"Hamlet": by William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English dramatist and poet.
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"Lady of Lyons": An 1838 play by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), an English writer and politician. (Source: Encarta Encyclopedia).
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"Macbeth": by Shakespeare.
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Booth: Edwin Booth (1833-1893) was an internationally famous American-born Shakespearean actor, a member of the circle of friends in which Jewett moved.
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supes: Supervisor, in the case, probably of a playhouse or theater.
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Harvard men: Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass., is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The college was founded in 1636 to train young men for the ministry, and this continued to be an important mission well into the 19th Century.
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Museum men: The Boston Museum and its theater opened in 1841. A history of the theater appears at this web site: http://www.emerson.edu/majestic/history/Bos_Museum_History.html.
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Irving Company: Probably this refers to a touring company of Sir Henry Irving. The Encarta Encyclopedia says, John Henry Brodribb [stage name, Henry Irving] (1838-1905) was an "English actor and theatrical manager, born in Keinton-Mandeville, Somersetshire. ... In 1871 Irving first appeared at the Lyceum Theatre, London; he remained there as an actor for 28 years and as manager and lessee for 21 of those years. In 1878, the first year of Irving's management of the Lyceum, the famous English actor Ellen Terry joined his company and was Irving's leading lady until 1902.... Irving was particularly successful with his Shakespearean productions.... Irving made several successful tours of the U.S. and Canada between 1883 and 1904."
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Gainsborough hat: A woman's broad-brimmed hat of a form thought to resemble those shown in portraits by Thomas Gainsborough, the English artist (1727-1788).
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pleasure makers: the text is inconsistent in hyphenating these words. I have followed the text rather than making corrections.
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cardinal flower: A North American lobelia with a spike of brilliant red flowers. Represent `distinction' in the nineteenth-century language of flowers. (Research: Ted Eden).
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ox-eye daisies: also whiteweed, (Chrysanthemum Leucanthemum). (Source: Oxford English Dictionary.)
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breast knots: a bunch or bow made of ribbon, fabric, or flowers to ornament the front of a dress or jacket.
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Forest of Arden: In Shakespeare's As You Like It, Duke Senior takes refuge in the Forest of Arden when he is deposed by his brother, Duke Frederick. Various later exiles from Duke Frederick's court follow him there.
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seaport in Bohemia … wishing-carpets … big birds: Bohemia is a setting in Shakespeare's, A Winter's Tale. Wishing carpets and giant birds appear in fairy tales and stories of the Arabian nights.
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Lady Macbeth … Mr. Macduff .. Ophelia: Lady Macbeth and Macduff appear in Shakespeare's Macbeth; Ophelia appears in Hamlet.
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woodbines ... morning-glories: woodbine is a name given in the United States to Virginia Creeper and to American ivy. Morning-glories (g. Ipomoea) are a common, climbing garden flower.
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pinchbeck: counterfeit or spurious.
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elder wine: Elderberry wine is made from the edible berries of shrubs or trees of the honeysuckle family (g. Sambucus).
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pleasures and palaces: Opening words of "Home Sweet Home." "Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home." This line from the chorus conveys the main sentiment of "Home, Sweet Home," the popular song from Clari, The Maid of Milan by John Howard Payne (1791-1852).
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"Hunting Tower": Probably the popular Scottish ballad that features a courtship dialogue, beginning:
When ye gang awa, Jamie
Far across the sea, laddie,
When ye gang to Germanie,
What will ye send to me, laddie?
Blair in Athol's mine, Jeanie,
Little Dunkeld is mine, lassie,
St. Johnstoun's bower, and Huntingtower,
And a' that's mine is thine lassie.
http://www.contemplator.com/ provides this information. "This ballad is also known as The Duke of Athol and The Duke of Athol's Courtship. It appeared in George Kinloch's Ancient Scottish Ballads (1827).
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forehanded: habitually prepared in advance for economic troubles.
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Edited and annotated by Terry Heller, Coe College.
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