DICKENS (Nicholas Nickleby)
NICHOLAS NICKLEBY, a tall, slight, well-formed young man, with a
bright, intelligent face.
SiiiKE, very tall and lamentably thin.
MB CRUMMLES, an extremely stout man with very close shaved hair
and a hoarse voice.
MRS CRUMMLES, a stout, portly lady, between forty and fifty years of
age. Her hair is braided in large festoons over her ears. She
lias all the manner of a tragedy queen.
THE INFANT PHENOMENON, Hiss Crummies, a small, under-
developed child of fourteen or fifteen years of age. She wears
a dirty white frock, short trousers, sandalled shoes, pink gauze
bonnet, and curl paper $.
MB LENVILLE \
MB FOLAIR j- of Mr Crummies’ Company.
Actors, Actresses, Scene-shifters, etc.
PEBIOD . . About 1830.
SCENE. The stage of the Portsmouth Theatre. It is an
ill-lit, depressing place with a general air of dirt and
gloom about it. Several dusty pieces of scenery are
leaning against the bare and mildeivy walls, and some
THE REHEARSAL 65
dilapidated bits of furniture and pots of paint are set
about the stage. At the back C. is a rickety table,
and behind it are two equally rickety chairs. NICHOLAS
NICKLEBY and SMIKE are discovered rehearsing.
NICHOLAS holds a book in one hand.
NICHOLAS. Now, then, old fellow, once again, ” Who
calls so loud ? ”
SMIKE (uncertainly}. ” Who calls so loud ? ”
NICHOLAS. Well said. Now again “Who calls so
loud ? ”
SMIKE (more confidently). ” Who calls so loud ? Who
calls so loud ? ”
Enter MR and MRS VINCENT CRUMMLBS.
MR CRUMMLES. Bravo, bravo ! Capital, my dear Mr
Digby. I’ll swear you’ll make a very prince and prodigy
of Apothecaries. And now, Mr Johnson (he turns to
NICHOLAS), let me introduce to you my wife, Mrs Vincent
MRS CRUMMLES (in a sepulchral voice}. Sir, I am glad
to see you, and more happy to hail you as a promising
member of our corps. (She honours NICHOLAS with an
NICHOLAS (wincing}. I I am delighted to make the
acquaintance of one so famous as Mrs Vincent Crummies.
(MRS CRUMMLES smiles with becoming satisfaction, and
then turns dramatically round upon SMIKE, who is
still murmuring the line ‘ Who calls so loud?” and
who now involuntarily repeats it in a startled tone of
voice at being so suddenly addressed.)
MRS CRUMMLES. And this, this is the other. (She
extends her hand to him.) You too are welcome, sir.
66 THE REHEARSAL
MR CRUMMLES (taking snuff). He’ll do, I think,
MRS CRUMMLES (surveying SMIKE with great admira-
tion). He is admirable, a great acquisition.
(She again shakes SMIKE fervently by the hand and
returns to NICHOLAS.)
MRS CRUMMLES. And so, Mr Johnson, you have
decided to adopt the stage as your profession, and
Portsmouth will see your first appearance ?
NICHOLAS. Yes (pause). Are they very theatrical
people here ?
MRS CRUMMLES. Not at all. Far from it.
NICHOLAS. Indeed, you surprise me.
MR CRUMMLES. I pity them. Why, do you know,
sir, the last time we appeared, an occasion when Mrs
Crummies repeated three of her most popular characters,
there was a house of no more than four pound twelve.
MRS CRUMMLES. Yes, Mr Johnson, and two pound
ten of that was on trust.
NICHOLAS. Is it possible ?
(MRS CRUMMLES casts her eyes heavenwards.)
NICHOLAS. Do you give lessons, ma’am ?
MRS CRUMMLES. I do.
NICHOLAS. There is no teaching here, I suppose ?
MRS CRUMMLES. I have on occasions received pupils
even here. I imparted tuition once to the daughter of
a dealer in ship’s provisions ; but it afterwards appeared
that she was insane when she came to me. It was
very extraordinary that she should come, under such
(NICHOLAS is about to make a remark, but thinks perhaps
he had better hold his peace. A wild shriek is heard
off, and the INFANT PHENOMENON bounds upon the
THE REHEARSAL 67
stage. She is evidently in the throes of a rehearsal.
She turns a pirouette, looks off, shrieks, bounds
forward and falls into a beautiful attitude denoting
extreme terror as a shabby gentleman, MR FOLAIR,
comes on at one powerful slide, chattering his teeth
and fiercely brandishing his walking-stick.}
NICHOLAS. Why, bless us, what’s the matter ?
MRS CRTJMMLES. Hush, they are going through the
” Indian Savage and the Maiden.”
( The savage having become more ferocious advances with a
slide towards the maiden, who avoids him in six
twirls and comes down at the last one, upon the very
points of her toes. This seems to make an impression
upon the savage, who, after chasing the maiden into a
few more corners, begins to relent, and strokes his face
several times with his right thumb and four fingers,
and intimates his admiration of the maiden’s beauty
by striking severe thumps upon his chest. The
maiden then proceeds to fall asleep. The savage
perceiving this, leans his left ear in his left hand,
nods sideways, to intimate to all that she is asleep.
He then proceeds to have a dance all to himself. As
soon as he leaves off the maiden awakes, rubs her
eyes, jumps up and has a dance all to herself. The
savage then rushes forward and they dance violently
together, and finally the savage drops upon one knee, and
the maiden stands upon one leg upon his other knee.)
MR CRUMMLES. Bravo ! Well done, indeed. (To
NICHOLAS.) Well, sir, what do you think of that ?
NICHOLAS (trying to be enthusiastic). Beautiful !
MR CRUMMLES. I see, Mr Johnson, you are a man
68 THE REHEARSAL
of taste. (To the INFANT PHENOMENON.) My child,
approach. (She does so.) This, sir, this is the Infant
Phenomenon Miss Ninetta Crummies.
NICHOLAS. Your daughter ?
MR CRUMMLES. My daughter, sir, my daughter.
(With growing enthusiasm.} The idol of every place we
go into, sir. We have had complimentary letters about
this child, sir, from the nobility and gentry of almost
every town in England.
NICHOLAS. I am not surprised. She must be quite
a natural genius.
MR CRUMMLES. I tell you what, sir. The talent of
this child is not to be imagined. She must be seen
seen to be even faintly appreciated. There, go to
your mother, my dear.
(The INFANT PHENOMENON joins MRS CRUMMLES, who
has pressed SMIKE into the service of holding her part
while she is repeating the lines in vigorous undertones.
During the foregoing dialogue MR FOLAIR, the Indian
savage, has been regarding the INFANT PHENOMENON
with a particularly venomous expression. As she
crosses to her mother he approaches NICHOLAS and
MR FOLAIR (to NICHOLAS, and signifying that he is
referring to the INFANT PHENOMENON). Talent there,
sir, eh ?
NICHOLAS (politely}. Yes, indeed.
MR FOLAIR (uttering a hissing sound and speaking with
intense ferocity}. She oughtn’t to be in the provinces,
MR CRUMMLES. What do you mean ?
MR FOLAIR (pulling himself up and swallowing his
rage}. I mean to say she is too good for country
THE REHEARSAL 69
boards. She ought to be in London or nowhere and
8he would be if it wasn’t for envy and jealousy in a
quarter we know of. Ha ! Ha ! Perhaps you’ll intro-
duce me here, Mr Crummies.
MB CRUMMLES. Mr Johnson, this is Mr Folair.
MR FOLAIR (touching the brim of his hat). Happy to
know you, sir.
MRS CRUMMLES. Vincent, my dear.
MR CRUMMLES. My love.
MRS CRUMMLES. I desire a word with you.
MR CRUMMLES. My love, I am yours to command.
(He crosses to MRS CRUMMLES and engages in earnest
conversation with her. Exeunt MR, MRS, and Miss
MR FOLAIR (looking out after them). Did ever you see
such a set out as that ?
NICHOLAS. As what ? (MR FOLAIR looks at him in
some surprise.) You don’t mean the Infant
MR FOLAIR (ferociously). Infant humbug, sir. Why,
there isn’t a female child of common sharpness in a
charity school that couldn’t do better than she does,
and yet, that little sprawler is put up in the best
business every night, and is actually keeping money
out of the house, by being forced down people’s throats,
while other people are being passed over. Why, sir, let
me tell you, I know of fifteen and sixpence, fifteen and
sixpence, sir, that came to Southampton one night last
month to see me dance the Highland Fling, and what’s
the consequence ? I’ve not been up in it once since,
never once while the Infant Phenomenon has been
grinning through artificial flowers at five people and
a baby in the pit and two boys in the gallery every
70 THE REHEARSAL
night. Bah, it’s extraordinary to see a man’s con-
founded family conceit blinding him, even to his own
family interest. (He beats his slippers which he is
holding in hands together.)
Enter MR LENVILLE.
ME LENVILLE. Hola, hola, house there ! Ah, Tommy.
(He throws himself into a fencing attitude and makes a
thrust at MB FOLAIR with his walking-stick, who parries
it dexterously with his slipper.) Well, and what’s
the news ?
MR FOLAIR. Oh, a new appearance, that’s all.
MR LENVILLE (tapping him playfully on the hat).
Come, Tommy, do the honours.
MR FOLAIR. This is Mr Lenville, who does the first
tragedy, Mr Johnson.
MR LENVILLE. Ha, Ha ! Except when old ” Bricks
and Mortar,” takes it into his head to do it himself, you
should add, Tommy. (To NICHOLAS.) You don’t know
who I mean by ” Bricks and Mortar,” I suppose, sir ?
NICHOLAS. I do not, indeed.
MR LENVILLE. We call Crummies that because his
style of acting is rather in the heavy and ponderous
way. Ha, ha! But, tut, tut, I mustn’t be cracking
jokes here when I’ve a part of twelve lengths, which
I must be up in to-morrow night.
(He withdraws himself, and, taking a greasy, crumpled
manuscript from his pocket, proceeds to walk to and
fro at the back of the stage, conning to himself and
occasionally indulging in such appropriate gestures
as his imagination and the text suggest. MR FOLAIR
meanwhile seizes the opportunity of a brief rest, and
seats himself upon a chair and falls into a dozing
THE REHEARSAL 71
condition. NICHOLAS is about to exit when Miss
SNEVEUCOI enters very quickly, and they almost
Miss SNEVELICCI. Oh ! (looking up and seeing before
her a stranger) Oh !
NICHOLAS. I beg your pardon.
Miss SNEVELICCI (with befitting confusion). Not at all.
I I was looking for Mr Crummies. I I expect he
will be here in a moment.
NICHOLAS. No doubt.
(There is a pause.)
Miss SNEVEUCOI (after throwing many glances in
Nicholas’ 8 direction). I beg your pardon, but did you
ever play at Canterbury ?
NICHOLAS. No, I never did.
Miss SNEVELICCI. I recollect meeting a gentleman at
Canterbury once, only for a few moments, so like you
that I felt certain it was the same.
NICHOLAS. I am sure I never saw you before.
Indeed, if I had I couldn’t have forgotten it.
Miss SNEVELICCI (with becoming coyness). Oh well
I’m sure it’s very flattering of you to say so ; and now I
come to look at you I see that the gentleman at Canter-
bury hadn’t the same eyes as you. But you’ll think
me very foolish taking notice of such things.
NICHOLAS. How can I feel otherwise than flattered
by your notice in any way ?
Miss SNEVELICCI. Oh, you men are such vain
NICHOLAS. If we are, it is because you make us so.
Miss SNEVELICCI. Oh, what a creature you are to
Enter MB and MRS CBUMMLES, followed by SMIKE.
72 THE REHEARSAL
MR CEUMMLES (in a loud portentous voice). Ladies
and gentlemen, to-morrow at ten we’ll call the
” Mortal Struggle.” Everybody for the procession ;
we shall only want one rehearsal. Everybody at ten,
if you please.
(The company begin to move away.)
MR CRUMMLES. Oh, one moment, ladies and gentle-
men ! I wish to tell you that on Monday we shall
read and put into rehearsal a new piece written by our
friend, Mr Johnson, here.
NICHOLAS (with great surprise). Eh !
MR CRUMMLES. The name’s not known yet, but
every one will have a good part. Mr Johnson will see
NICHOLAS. Here, I say.
MR CRUMMLES (ignoring the interruption). On Monday
morning. That will do, ladies and gentlemen. Good
( The company disperse till only MR and MRS CRUMMLES,
NICHOLAS, and SMIKE are left on the stage.)
NICHOLAS. Upon my soul, Mr Crummies, I don’t
see how you can possibly expect me to produce a play
by Monday morning.
MR CRUMMLES. Pooh, pooh, my dear Johnson, non-
sense ! You’re too modest.
NICHOLAS. But I really can’t. You see my invention
is not equal to these demands, or possibly I might.
MR CRUMMLES. Invention, sir ! And what the devil
has invention got to do with it ?
NICHOLAS. Why, everything, surely.
MR CRUMMLES (impatiently). Nothing at all, my
dear sir, nothing ! Do you understand French ?
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NICHOLAS. Yes, perfectly well.
MB, CRTJMMLES. Very good. (He crosses to the table
and, opening a drawer, takes from it a dirty roll of manu-
script.) There, you see that t
NICHOLAS. Yes, but
MB CRTJMMLES. Well, take it, my dear boy.
(NICHOLAS does so.) There’s your play ready-made.
All you have to do is to turn it into English and put
your name on the title page.
NICHOLAS (rather relieved). Oh, I see !
MR CRUMMLES (turning abruptly on MRS CRUMMLES).
Now, my dear, are you ready ?
MBS CRUMMLES. Yes, Vincent, I am. But stay, will
Mr Johnson and Mr Digby honour us with their company
at dinner to-day ?
MR CRTJMMLES. Certainly, certainly 1 And we talk
over that play of yours afterwards.
NICHOLAS. You are very good.
MRS CRTJMMLES (still in her sepulchral voice). We have
but shoulder of mutton with onion sauce, but such as
it is you will be welcome. Come, Vincent.
MR CRUMMLES. Good-bye, Johnson, three o’clock,
and don’t forget the address. St Thomas’s Street ;
the house with the boat-green door. Mr Digby,
Exeunt MR and MRS CRUMMLES, who stalk out with
massive dignity. NICHOLAS looks after them with a
smile. He then turns to SMIKE, who looks lovingly
NICHOLAS. Well, Smike, we have fallen upon strange
times, and Heaven knows what will be the end of
them ! I wonder ! I wonder ! ( He sighs.) But come,
we must not waste our time, and you still have that
74 THE REHEARSAL
Apothecary’s part to learn. Give me that book again.
(SMIKE does so.) Now then, once more. ” Who calls
so loud ? ”
SMIKE. ” Who calls so loud ? ”
(THEY GO ON EEPEATING THE LINE AS THE