VOCES POPULI. BRICKS WITHOUT STRAW.
SCENE—A Village School-room. A Juvenile Treat is in progress, and a Magic Lantern, hired for the occasion, "with set of slides complete—to last one hour" is about to be exhibited.
The Vicar's Daughter (suddenly recognising the New Curate, who is blinking unsuspectingly in the lantern rays). Oh, Mr. TOOTLER, you've just come in time to help us! The man with the lantern says he only manages the slides, and can't do the talking part. And I've asked lots of people, and no one will volunteer. Would you mind just explaining the pictures to the children? It's only a little Nursery tale—Valentine and Orson—I chose that, because it's less hackneyed, and has such an excellent moral, you know. I'm sure you'll do it so beautifully!
Mr. Tootler (a shy man). I—I'd do it with pleasure, I'm sure—only I really don't know anything about Valentine and Orson!
The V's D. Oh, what does that matter? I can tell you the outline in two minutes. (She tells him.) But it's got to last an hour, so you must spin it out as much as ever you can.The Young Heckler.
Mr. Tootler (to himself). Ought I to neglect such a golden opportunity of winning these young hearts? No. (Aloud.) I will—er—do my best, and perhaps I had better begin at once, as they seem to be getting—er—rather unruly at the further end of the room. (He clears his throat.) Children, you must be very quiet and attentive, and then we shall be able, as we purpose this evening, to show you some scenes illustrative of the—er—beautiful old story of Valentine and Orson, which I doubt not is familiar to you all. (Rustic applause, conveyed by stamping and shrill cheers, after which a picture is thrown on the screen representing a Village Festival.) Here, children, we have a view of—er—(with sudden inspiration)—Valentine's Native Village. It is—er—his birthday, and Valentine, being a young man who is universally beloved on account of his amiability and good conduct—(To the Vicar's D. "Is that correct?" The V.'s D. "Quite, quite correct!")—good conduct, the villagers are celebrating the—er—auspicious event by general rejoicings. How true it is that if we are only good, we may, young as we are, count upon gaining the affection and esteem of all around us! (A Youthful Rustic, with a tendency to heckle. "Ef 'ee plaze, Zur, which on 'em be Valentoine?") Valentine, we may be very sure, would not be absent on such an occasion, although, owing to the crowd, we cannot distinguish him. But, wherever he is, however he may be occupied, he little thinks that, before long, he will have to encounter the terrible Orson, the Wild Man of the Woods! Ah, dear children, we all have our Wild Man of the Woods to fight. With some of us it is—(He improves the occasion.) Our next picture represents—(To Assistant.) Sure this comes next? Oh, they're all numbered, are they? Very well—represents a forest—er—the home of Orson. If we were permitted to peep behind one of those trunks, we should doubtless see Orson himself, crouching in readiness to spring upon the unsuspecting Valentine....