Slaves of the Lamp
THE music-room on the top floor of Number Five was filled with the `Aladdin' company at rehearsal. Dickson Quartus, commonly known as Dick Four, was Aladdin, stage-manager, ballet-master, half the orchestra, and largely librettist, for the `book' had been rewritten and filled with local allusions. The pantomime was to be given next week, in the down-stairs study occupied by Aladdin, Abanazar, and the Emperor of China. The Slave of the Lamp, with the Princess Badroulbadour and the Widow Twankey, owned Number Five study across the same landing, so that the company could be easily assembled. The floor shook to the stamp-and-go of the ballet, while Aladdin, in pink cotton tights, a blue and tinsel jacket, and a plumed hat, banged alternately on the piano and his banjo. He was the moving spirit of the game, as befitted a senior who had passed his Army Preliminary and hoped to enter Sandhurst next spring.
Aladdin came to his own at last, Abanazar lay poisoned on the floor, the Widow Twankey danced her dance, and the company decided it would `come all right on the night.'
`What about the last song, though?' said the Emperor, a tallish, fair-headed boy with a ghost of a moustache, at which he pulled manfully. `We need a rousing old tune.'
`"John Peel"? "Drink, Puppy, Drink"?' suggested Abanazar, smoothing his baggy lilac pyjamas. `Pussy' Abanazar never looked more than one-half awake, but he owned a soft, slow smile which well suited the part of the Wicked Uncle.
`Stale,' said Aladdin. `Might as well have "Grandfather's Clock." What's that thing you were humming at prep. last night, Stalky?'
Stalky, The Slave of the Lamp, in black tights and doublet, a black silk half-mask on his forehead, whistled lazily where he lay on the top of the piano. It was a catchy music-hall tune.
Dick Four cocked his head critically, and squinted down a large red nose.
`Once more, and I can pick it up,' he said, strumming. `Sing the words.'
`Arrah, Patsy, mind the baby! Arrah, Patsy, mind the child!
`Rippin'! Oh, rippin'!' said Dick Four. `Only we shan't have any piano on the night. We must work it with the banjos--play an' dance at the same time. You try, Tertius.'
The Emperor pushed aside his pea-green sleeves of state, and followed Dick Four on a heavy nickel- plated banjo.
`Yes, but I'm dead all this time. Bung in the middle of the stage, too,' said Abanazar.
`Oh, that's Beetle's biznai,' said Dick Four. `Vamp it up, Beetle. Don't keep us waiting all night. You've got to get Pussy out of the light somehow, and bring us all in dancin' at the end.'
`All right. You two play it again,' said Beetle, who, in a gray skirt and a wig of chestnut sausage-curls, set slantwise above a pair of spectacles mended with an old boot-lace, represented the Widow Twankey. He waved one leg in time to the hammered refrain, and the banjos grew louder.
`Um! Ah! Er--"Aladdin now has won his wife,"' he sang, and Dick Four repeated it.
`"Your Emperor is appeased."' Tertius flung out his chest as he delivered his line.
`Now jump up, Pussy! Say, "I think I'd better come to life!" Then we all take hands and come forward: "We hope you've all been pleased." Twiggez-vous?'
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