Chapter 23Treats of the company of Mr Vincent Crummles, and of his affairs, domestic and theatrical
AS MR CRUMMLES had a strange four-legged animal in the inn stables, which he called a pony, and a vehicle of unknown design, on which he bestowed the appellation of a four-wheeled phaeton, Nicholas proceeded on his journey next morning with greater ease than he had expected: the manager and himself occupying the front seat: and the Master Crummleses and Smike being packed together behind, in company with a wicker basket defended from wet by a stout oilskin, in which were the broad-swords, pistols, pigtails, nautical costumes, and other professional necessaries of the aforesaid young gentlemen.
The pony took his time upon the road, and -- possibly in consequence of his theatrical education -- evinced, every now and then, a strong inclination to lie down. However, Mr Vincent Crummles kept him up pretty well, by jerking the rein, and plying the whip; and when these means failed, and the animal came to a stand, the elder Master Crummles got out and kicked him. By dint of these encouragements, he was persuaded to move from time to time, and they jogged on (as Mr Crummles truly observed) very comfortably for all parties.
`He's a good pony at bottom,' said Mr Crummles, turning to Nicholas.
He might have been at bottom, but he certainly was not at top, seeing that his coat was of the roughest and most ill-favoured kind. So, Nicholas merely observed that he shouldn't wonder if he was.
`Many and many is the circuit this pony has gone,' said Mr Crummles, flicking him skilfully on the eyelid for old acquaintance' sake. `He is quite one of us. His mother was on the stage.'
`Was she?' rejoined Nicholas.
`She ate apple-pie at a circus for upwards of fourteen years,' said the manager; `fired pistols, and went to bed in a nightcap; and, in short, took the low comedy entirely. His father was a dancer.'.
`Was he at all distinguished?'
`Not very,' said the manager. `He was rather a low sort of pony. The fact is, he had been originally jobbed out by the day, and he never quite got over his old habits. He was clever in melodrama too, but too broad -- too broad. When the mother died, he took the port-wine business.'
`The port-wine business!' cried Nicholas.
`Drinking port-wine with the clown,' said the manager; `but he was greedy, and one night bit off the bowl of the glass, and choked himself, so his vulgarity was the death of him at last.'
The descendant of this ill-starred animal requiring increased attention from Mr Crummles as he progressed in his day's work, that gentleman had very little time for conversation. Nicholas was thus left at leisure to entertain himself with his own thoughts, until they arrived at the drawbridge at Portsmouth, when Mr Crummles pulled up.
`We'll get down here,' said the manager, `and the boys will take him round to the stable, and call at my lodgings with the luggage. You had better let yours be taken there, for the present.'
Thanking Mr Vincent Crummles for his obliging offer, Nicholas jumped out, and, giving Smike his arm, accompanied the manager up High Street on their way to the theatre; feeling nervous and uncomfortable enough at the prospect of an immediate introduction to a scene so new to him.
They passed a great many bills, pasted against the walls and displayed in windows, wherein the names of Mr Vincent Crummles, Mrs Vincent Crummles, Master Crummles, Master P. Crummles, and Miss Crummles, were printed in very large letters, and everything else in very small ones; and, turning at length into an entry, in which was a strong smell of orange-peel and lamp-oil, with an under-current of sawdust,
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