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from Stageland
by Jerome K. Jerome

  SHE is always in trouble--and don't she let you know it, too! Her life is undeniably a hard one. Nothing goes right with her. We all have our troubles, but the stage heroine never has anything else. If she only got one afternoon a week off from trouble or had her Sundays free it would be something.

   But no; misfortune stalks beside her from week's beginning to week's end.

   After her husband has been found guilty of murder, which is about the least thing that can ever happen to him, and her white-haired father has become a bankrupt and has died of a broken heart, and the home of her childhood has been sold up, then her infant goes and contracts a lingering fever.

   She weeps a good deal during the course of her troubles, which we suppose is only natural enough, poor woman. But it is depressing from the point of view of the audience, and we almost wish before the evening is out that she had not got quite so much trouble.

   It is over the child that she does most of her weeping. The child has a damp time of it altogether. We sometimes wonder that it never catches rheumatism.

   She is very good, is the stage heroine. The comic man expresses a belief that she is a born angel. She reproves him for this with a tearful smile (it wouldn't be her smile if it wasn't tearful).

   "Oh, no," she says (sadly of course); "I have many, many faults."

   We rather wish that she would show them a little more. Her excessive goodness seems somehow to pall upon us. Our only consolation while watching her is that there are not many good women off the stage. Life is bad enough as it is; if there were many women in real life as good as the stage heroine, it would be unbearable.

   The stage heroine's only pleasure in life is to go out in a snow-storm without an umbrella and with no bonnet on. She has a bonnet, we know (rather a tasteful little thing); we have seen it hanging up behind the door of her room; but when she comes out for a night stroll during a heavy snow-storm (accompanied by thunder), she is most careful to leave it at home. Maybe she fears the snow will spoil it, and she is a careful girl.

   She always brings her child out with her on these occasions. She seems to think that it will freshen it up. The child does not appreciate the snow as much as she does. He says it's cold.

   One thing that must irritate the stage heroine very much on these occasions is the way in which the snow seems to lie in wait for her and follow her about. It is quite a fine night before she comes on the scene: the moment she appears it begins to snow. It snows heavily all the while she remains about, and the instant she goes it clears up again and keeps dry for the rest of the evening.

   The way the snow "goes" for that poor woman is most unfair. It always snows much heavier in the particular spot where she is sitting than it does anywhere else in the whole street. Why, we have sometimes seen a heroine sitting in the midst of a blinding snow-storm while the other side of the road was as dry as a bone. And it never seemed to occur to her to cross over.

   We have even known a more than unusually malignant snow-storm to follow a heroine three times round the stage and then go off (R.) with her.

   Of course you can't get away from a snow-storm like that! A stage snow-storm is the kind of snow-storm that would follow you upstairs and want to come into bed with you.

   Another curious thing about these stage snow-storms is that the moon is always shining brightly through the whole of them. And it shines only on the heroine, and it follows her about just like the snow does.

   Nobody fully understands what a wonderful work of nature the moon is except people acquainted with the stage. Astronomy teaches you something about the moon, but you learn a good deal more from a few visits to a theater. You will find from the latter that the moon only shines on heroes and heroines, with perhaps an occasional beam on the comic man: it always goes out when it sees the villain coming.

   It is surprising, too, how quickly the moon can go out on the stage. At one moment it is riding in full radiance in the midst of a cloudless sky, and the next instant it is gone! Just as though it had been turned off at a meter. It makes you quite giddy at first until you get used to it.

   The stage heroine is inclined to thoughtfulness rather than gayety.

   In her cheerful moments the stage heroine thinks she sees the spirit of her mother, or the ghost of her father, or she dreams of her dead baby.

   But this is only in her very merry moods. As a rule, she is too much occupied with weeping to have time for frivolous reflections.

   She has a great flow of language and a wonderful gift of metaphor and simile--more forcible than elegant--and this might be rather trying in a wife under ordinary circumstances. But as the hero is generally sentenced to ten years' penal servitude on his wedding-morn, he escapes for a period from a danger that might well appall a less fortunate bridegroom.

   Sometimes the stage heroine has a brother, and if so he is sure to be mistaken for her lover. We never came across a brother and sister in real life who ever gave the most suspicious person any grounds for mistaking them for lovers; but the stage brother and sister are so affectionate that the error is excusable.

   And when the mistake does occur and the husband comes in suddenly and finds them kissing and raves she doesn't turn round and say:

   "Why, you silly cuckoo, it's only my brother."

   That would be simple and sensible, and would not suit the stage heroine at all. No; she does all in her power to make everybody believe it is true, so that she can suffer in silence.

   She does so love to suffer.

   Marriage is undoubtedly a failure in the case of the stage heroine.

   If the stage heroine were well advised she would remain single. Her husband means well. He is decidedly affectionate. But he is unfortunate and inexperienced in worldly affairs. Things come right for him at the end of the play, it is true; but we would not recommend the heroine to place too much reliance upon the continuance of this happy state of affairs. From what we have seen of her husband and his business capabilities during the five acts preceding, we are inclined to doubt the possibility of his being anything but unfortunate to the end of his career.

   True, he has at last got his "rights" (which he would never have lost had he had a head instead of a sentimental bladder on his shoulders), the villain is handcuffed, and he and the heroine have settled down comfortably next door to the comic man.

   But this heavenly existence will never last. The stage hero was built for trouble, and he will be in it again in another month, you bet. They'll get up another mortgage for him on the "estates;" and he won't know, bless you, whether he really did sign it or whether he didn't, and out he will go.

   And he'll slop his name about to documents without ever looking to see what he's doing, and be let in for Lord knows what; and another wife will turn up for him that he had married when a boy and forgotten all about.

   And the next corpse that comes to the village he'll get mixed up with--sure to--and have it laid to his door, and there'll be all the old business over again.

   No, our advice to the stage heroine is to get rid of the hero as soon as possible, marry the villain, and go and live abroad somewhere where the comic man won't come fooling around.

   She will be much happier.