With mingled feelings of pleasure and trepidation I embark upon a contribution to the Entr'acte Almanack for 1876; pleasure in serving an old friend, and fear lest my efforts to amuse his readers may result in failure. The only subject I can write on is professional experiences of various kinds; and perhaps I could not select a better field for amusing incidents than my own annual tours of the provinces. As an instance I will relate one little episode.
By the desire of a party with whom I was slightly acquainted I was requested to visit a place called Widnes, in Lancashire. I had arranged all my towns, and had no date to spare except one, two, or three nights before Christmas, which as my professional readers are aware is not a good time as a rule. To visit this town I was obliged to take a tremendous jump all the way from Leamington.
We started about ten in the morning, and did not arrive in Widnes till nearly seven o'clock. The doors were open at 7.30, and we commenced at eight. The station was two miles from the town, and I had to hurry with my wife, nurse, and baby. The luggage was left to follow. When I got to the town, which was a dirty little hole, I went all over to every hotel, and inn in the place but could not get a bed. At one or two of the hotels I was certain they had beds, but by the peculiar manner in which they scanned me from head to foot, and the hesitation displayed in answering my questions, it was evident that they knew me, and did not care much for show folks. Perhaps they had been done at some time or other. Most likely was the case, and I had to suffer for the faults of others. However, the result was that I had to telegraph to Warrington for beds, and send off the nurse and child immediately.
Then I searched for the hall, and discovered a miserable, dirty, and inconvenient place, totally unfit for any respectable person to enter. However, we arranged as well as possible, and soon it was time to open. No luggage had appeared, though I had left the acting manager at the station to see it sent at once. With one disagreeable and another I was in a beastly temper, and "awfully wild."
At last the cart arrived - a coal cart - the only thing my manager could procure. To add to my vexation two of the boxes had dropped off the cart, and were left in the road, with someone sitting there to watch them till the cart returned to fetch them, as it was overloaded, and it would have wasted time to stop and pack them on the cart again. Then I discovered that the boxes left in the road were the very ones I required to commence the performance with.
It was just upon 8 o'clock that I was performing a little sketch with my wife, which could not be done without an easy chair on castors, as a particular part of it I have to wheel her off in the chair. I said to the hall-keeper, "Run out and borrow an easy chair with castors." Mind, I said, "it must be an easy chair with castors, or it is useless." Presently the fellow returned with a vinegar cruet, with pepper, mustard, &c., and breathlessly informed me he had been all over the town to get what I wanted, but was unsuccessful. "I can't get the chair," he said, "anywhere, but here's the castors." - and presented me with the vinegar cruet. I have a dim recollection of giving vent to some naughty words, for I was thoroughly done up with so many annoyances.
The consequence was thus in the sketch. I had to carry off my wife in an ordinary chair, and as I am rather inclined to obesity, it was no joke, I can assure you. When the entertainment had concluded, I found that the party who was sharing with me had vanished, and left me to pay for the piano, which he should have done according to agreement.
The two boxes which had been left in the road arrived towards the end of the performance, and were useless. The receipts amounted to about £4 10s., and to get to the place I had spent about £8 for railway fares alone. I never had such a disagreeable day, I think, on any tour, I was wretched and miserable till I turned my back upon the town, and was on my way to Warrington, where, at the "Royal Hotel" there was a snug room and comfortable supper soon made me forget the troubles of the day - but I have never forgotten Widnes.
Some years ago I had in my company a professor of magic. He always required a small platform to...
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Text and image from the Entr'acte Almanack, Page 38, 1876 - Very kindly sent in by Jennifer Carnell of The Sensation Press.
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