With that, he went upon his knees, and began to flay his victim; who, on the first stocking coming off, would certainly have fallen over backward with his chair, but for there being no room to fall anyhow.
I had been afraid until then to say a word about the play. But then, Mr. Waldengarver looked up at us complacently, and said:
“Gentlemen, how did it seem to you, to go, in front?”
Herbert said from behind (at the same time poking me), “capitally.” So I said “capitally.”
“How did you like my reading of the character, gentlemen?” said Mr. Waldengarver, almost, if not quite, with patronage.
Herbert said from behind (again poking me), “massive and concrete.” So I said boldly, as if I had originated it, and must beg to insist upon it, “massive and concrete.”
“I am glad to have your approbation, gentlemen,” said Mr. Waldengarver, with an air of dignity, in spite of his being ground against the wall at the time, and holding on by the seat of the chair.
“But I’ll tell you one thing, Mr. Waldengarver,” said the man who was on his knees, “in which you’re out in your reading. Now mind! I don’t care who says contrairy; I tell you so. You’re out in your reading of Hamlet when you get your legs in profile. The last Hamlet as I dressed, made the same mistakes in his reading at rehearsal, till I got him to put a large red wafer on each of his shins, and then at that rehearsal (which was the last) I went in front, sir, to the back of the pit, and whenever his reading brought him into profile, I called out “I don’t see no wafers!” And at night his reading was lovely.”
Mr. Waldengarver smiled at me, as much as to say “a faithful dependent — I overlook his folly;” and then said aloud, “My view is a little classic and thoughtful for them here; but they will improve, they will improve.”
Herbert and I said together, Oh, no doubt they would improve.
“Did you observe, gentlemen,” said Mr. Waldengarver, “that there was a man in the gallery who endeavoured to cast derision on the service — I mean, the representation?”
We basely replied that we rather thought we had noticed such a man. I added, “He was drunk, no doubt.”
“Oh dear no, sir,” said Mr. Wopsle, “not drunk. His employer would see to that, sir. His employer would not allow him to be drunk.”
“You know his employer?” said I.
Mr. Wopsle shut his eyes, and opened them again; performing both ceremonies very slowly. “You must have observed, gentlemen,” said he, “an ignorant and a blatant ass, with a rasping throat and a countenance expressive of low malignity, who went through — I will not say sustained — the role (if I may use a French expression) of Claudius King of Denmark. That is his employer, gentlemen. Such is the profession!”