A play in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, with which the Duke and the Dolphin fleece half a village with a phony show, then recruit them into helping to fleece the other half.
Well, that night we had our show; but there warn't only about twelve people there; just enough to pay expenses. And they laughed all the time, and that made the duke mad; and everybody left, anyway, before the show was over, but one boy which was asleep. So the duke said these Arkansaw lunkheads couldn't come up to Shakspeare; what they wanted was low comedy -- and may be something ruther worse than low comedy, he reckoned. He said he could size their style. So next morning he got some big sheets of wrapping-paper and some black paint, and drawed off some handbills and stuck them up all over the village. The bills said:
AT THE COURT HOUSE! For 3 Nights Only!
The World-Renowned Tragedians
DAVID GARRICK THE YOUNGER!
EDMUND KEAN THE ELDER!
Of the London and Continental Theatres,
In their Thrilling Tragedy of
THE KING'S CAMELOPARD
THE ROYAL NONESUCH!!!
Admission 50 cents.
Then at the bottom was the biggest line of all-which said:
LADIES AND CHILDREN NOT ADMITTED
"There," says he, "if that line don't fetch them, I don't know Arkansaw!"
Well, all day him and the king was hard at it, rigging up a stage, and a curtain, and a row of candles for footlights; and that night the house was jam full of men in no time. When the place couldn't hold no more, the duke he quit tending door and went around the back way and come onto the stage and stood up before the curtain, and made a little speech, and praised up this tragedy, and said it was the most thrillingest one that ever was; and so he went on a-bragging about the tragedy and about Edmund Kean the Elder, which was to play the main principal part in it; and at last when he'd got everybody's expectations up high enough, he rolled up the curtain, and the next minute the king come a-prancing out on all fours, naked; and he was painted all over, ring-streaked-and-striped, all sorts of colors, as splendid as a rainbow. And -- but never mind the rest of his outfit, it was just wild, but it was awful funny. The people most killed themselves laughing; and when the king got done capering, and capered off behind the scenes, they roared and clapped and stormed and haw-hawed till he come back and done it over agin; and after that, they made him do it another time. Well, it would a made a cow laugh to see the shines that old idiot cut.
Then the duke he lets the curtain down, and bows to the people, and says the great tragedy will be performed only two nights more, on accounts of pressing London engagements, where the seats is all sold aready for it in Drury Lane; and then he makes them another bow, and says if he has succeeded in pleasing them and instructing them, he will be deeply obleeged if they will mention it to their friends and get them to come and see it.
Twenty people sings out:
"What, is it over? Is that all?"
The duke says yes. Then there was a fine time. Everybody sings out "sold," and rose up mad, and was a-going for that stage and them tragedians. But a big fine-looking man jumps up on a bench, and shouts:
"Hold on! Just a word, gentlemen." They stopped to listen. "We are sold -- mighty badly sold. But we don't want to hear the last of this thing as long as we live. No. What we be the laughing-stock of this whole town, I reckon, and never want, is to go out here quiet, and talk this show up, and sell the rest of the town! Then we'll all be in the same boat. Ain't that sensible?" ("You bet it is! -- the jedge is right!" everybody sings out.) "All right, then -- not a word about any sell. Go along home, and advise everybody to come and see the tragedy."
Next day you couldn't hear nothing around that town but how splendid that show was. House was jammed again, that night, and we sold this crowd the same way...