Page images

God bless you all!” I reciprocated to the full all his love, and I take it as a patent of good character to have had the esteem and regard of such a man. Amongst his letters I find my notes of a tour with him in the North, the first chapter already transcribed for the press. They were intended to be published during his lifetime, dealing, however, rather more with the general incidents of the tour than with indi

vidual details.

I recast them





more serious purpose in view than simply to

At the same time, I shall endeavour to retain in them some of the buoyancy of the time, even at the risk of the local colour seeming too powerful in the deep shadow of that sad event which adds to their interest.

Glancing over my notes at this present writing, it is hard to realise the melancholy fact that Mark Lemon is no more; difficult to understand the certainty of the darkness that has gathered about the well-known form and

shut it out from us for ever.

It did not fall to

my lot to be present at his funeral; but the quiet home in the pretty Sussex county rises up before me as I write. I see the solemn procession, the sympathising villagers, the old friends and fellow-workers gathering in the gloom of the funeral pall. I see the country churchyard. I stand by a newly-opened grave. I look down through my tears, and note the words, “Mark Lemon, Editor of Punch," half covered with flowers strewn by friendly hands amongst the earthy emblems of mortality, that made a sad accompaniment to the parson's parting words, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.', Yet memory clings fondly to the living man, and dismisses, as quickly as sensibility will permit, this last sad scene of all. I shall make an effort to get back into the past, though I do not intend to take you far away from the day when our dear friend rested from his labours. The fact that my first chapter was written several months ago, is a great assistance to me. It carries me at once into the happy holidaytime. There is a pleasant smile in the opening paragraphs which I could never have put there with that last tender message of the dead lying before me: “I love you and yours; God bless

you all.


We called it a show. When I

say we, I mean the younger members of the company. Being amateurs, the rakish abandon of the term suited our holiday humour. The grave and reverend chief, sweet Jack Falstaff, rare Jack Falstaff, kind Jack Falstaff, smiled benignantly upon our frolicsome notions. He gave himself up to all our whims and fancies. It seemed as if he were trying to be young again. For that matter, he was young; he had a rich unctuous voice, and a merry catching laugh. We chose to call ourselves strollers. I was the show


man, the manager, the governor, except when the leading man, in mock solemnity, dubbed me the amateur impresario. We had no caravan, but we had a large quantity of luggage; more particularly, we had something that looked like scenery.

Our porter called this his “ bag of tricks.” The company usually spoke of it as "The Show." It

was labelled “ Falstaff.” The effect of that inscription was magical everywhere. Railway inspectors, guards, porters, regarded it almost with veneration. Whenever some experienced and wideawake passenger indicated the portly form of Mark Lemon as the Editor of Punch, it was sure to result in sundry kind enquiries from the officials with a view to increasing the amateur actor's comforts while travelling.

My duties commenced very suddenly. The Show had arrived at Edinburgh before I was really summoned, as a friend,

a friend, to take the management in the absence of the impresario proper, who was detained in London. “It will be a holiday for you, there will not be much work, and I want a pleasant companion.” Falstaff had entered upon his Scottish tour, and was really waiting to be duly, if not professionally, chaperoned through the “land o' cakes."

I started on a cold morning in 1869 (January 25) from Euston Square station. It was ten o'clock when the guard blew his whistle, and the train moved off on its long, steady, calm, plodding journey. Thanks to the fact that well-printed books in large type become second-hand

sooner or later,” I was enabled to carry away with me as my own property, at something less than a guinea, the novel of that name, and I needed no Times, nor Standard, nor Telegraph, nor any other paper to help the time along between London and Edinburgh. When we were once fairly free of the big city, the train stopped no more until we arrived at

« PreviousContinue »