Everybody sat down; the curtain shook; rose sufficiently high to display several pair of yellow boots paddling about; and there remained.
Ting, ting, ting! went the bell again. The curtain was violently convulsed, but rose no higher; the audience tittered; Mrs. Porter looked at Uncle Tom; Uncle Tom looked at everybody, rubbing his hands, and laughing with perfect rapture. After as much ringing with the little bell as a muffin-boy would make in going down a tolerably long street, and a vast deal of whispering, hammering, and calling for nails and cord, the curtain at length rose, and discovered Mr. Sempronius Gattleton solus, and decked for Othello. After three distinct rounds of applause, during which Mr. Sempronius applied his right hand to his left breast, and bowed in the most approved manner, the manager advanced and said:
'Ladies and Gentlemen--I assure you it is with sincere regret, that I regret to be compelled to inform you, that Iago who was to have played Mr. Wilson--I beg your pardon, Ladies and Gentlemen, but I am naturally somewhat agitated (applause)--I mean, Mr. Wilson, who was to have played Iago, is--that is, has been--or, in other words, Ladies and Gentlemen, the fact is, that I have just received a note, in which I am informed that Iago is unavoidably detained at the Post-office this evening. Under these circumstances, I trust-- a--a--amateur performance--a--another gentleman undertaken to read the part--request indulgence for a short time--courtesy and kindness of a British audience.' Overwhelming applause. Exit Mr. Sempronius Gattleton, and curtain falls.
The audience were, of course, exceedingly good-humoured; the whole business was a joke; and accordingly they waited for an hour with the utmost patience, being enlivened by an interlude of rout-cakes and lemonade. It appeared by Mr. Sempronius's subsequent explanation, that the delay would not have been so great, had it not so happened that when the substitute Iago had finished dressing, and just as the play was on the point of commencing, the original Iago unexpectedly arrived. The former was therefore compelled to undress, and the latter to dress for his part; which, as he found some difficulty in getting into his clothes, occupied no inconsiderable time. At last, the tragedy began in real earnest. It went off well enough, until the third scene of the first act, in which Othello addresses the Senate: the only remarkable circumstance being, that as Iago could not get on any of the stage boots, in consequence of his feet being violently swelled with the heat and excitement, he was under the necessity of playing the part in a pair of Wellingtons, which contrasted rather oddly with his richly embroidered pantaloons. When Othello started with his address to the Senate (whose dignity was represented by, the Duke, a carpenter, two men engaged on the recommendation of the gardener, and a boy), Mrs. Porter found the opportunity she so anxiously sought.
Mr. Sempronius proceeded:
'"Most potent, grave, and reverend signiors, My very noble and approv'd good masters, That I have ta'en away this old man's daughter, It is most true;--rude am I in my speech--"'
'Is that right?' whispered Mrs. Porter to Uncle Tom.
'Tell him so, then.'
'I will. Sem!' called out Uncle Tom, 'that's wrong, my boy.'
'What's wrong, uncle?' demanded Othello, quite forgetting the dignity of his situation.
'You've left out something. "True I have married--"'
'Oh, ah!' said Mr. Sempronius, endeavouring to hide his confusion as much and as ineffectually as the audience attempted to conceal their half-suppressed tittering, by coughing with extraordinary violence -
- '"true I have married her; - The very head and front of my offending Hath this extent; no more."
(Aside) Why don't you prompt, father?'
'Because I've mislaid my spectacles,' said poor Mr. Gattleton, almost dead with the heat and bustle.
'There, now it's "rude am I,"' said Uncle Tom.
'Yes, I know it is,' returned the unfortunate manager, proceeding with his part.