now make out the “Wawt? Wawt?” quite distinctly.
“But why do they try to guess it before they see it?”
“I don’t know,” Sylvie said: “but they always do. Sometimes they begin
guessing weeks and weeks before the day!”
(So now, when you hear the Frogs croaking in a particularly melancholy
way, you may be sure they’re trying to guess Bruno’s next Shakespeare
‘Bit’. Isn’t that interesting?)
However, the chorus of guessing was cut short by Bruno, who suddenly
rushed on from behind the scenes, and took a flying leap down among the
Frogs, to re-arrange them.
For the oldest and fattest Frog–who had never been properly arranged
so that he could see the stage, and so had no idea what was going
on–was getting restless, and had upset several of the Frogs, and
turned others round with their heads the wrong way. And it was no good
at all, Bruno said, to do a ‘Bit’ of Shakespeare when there was nobody
to look at it (you see he didn’t count me as anybody). So he set to
work with a stick, stirring them up, very much as you would stir up tea
in a cup, till most of them had at least one great stupid eye gazing at
“Oo must come and sit among them, Sylvie,” he said in despair, “I’ve
put these two side-by-side, with their noses the same way, ever so many
times, but they do squarrel so!”
So Sylvie took her place as ‘Mistress of the Ceremonies,’ and Bruno
vanished again behind the scenes, to dress for the first ‘Bit.’
“Hamlet!” was suddenly proclaimed, in the clear sweet tones I knew so
well. The croaking all ceased in a moment, and I turned to the stage,
in some curiosity to see what Bruno’s ideas were as to the behaviour of
Shakespeare’s greatest Character.
According to this eminent interpreter of the Drama, Hamlet wore a short
black cloak (which he chiefly used for muffling up his face, as if he
suffered a good deal from toothache), and turned out his toes very much
as he walked. “To be or not to be!” Hamlet remarked in a cheerful
tone, and then turned head-over-heels several times, his cloak dropping
off in the performance.
I felt a little disappointed: Bruno’s conception of the part seemed so
wanting in dignity. “Won’t he say any more of the speech?” I whispered
“I think not,” Sylvie whispered in reply. “He generally turns
head-over-heels when he doesn’t know any more words.”
Bruno had meanwhile settled the question by disappearing from the
stage; and the Frogs instantly began inquiring the name of the next
“You’ll know directly!” cried Sylvie, as she adjusted two or three
young Frogs that had struggled round with their backs to the stage.
“Macbeth!” she added, as Bruno re-appeared.
Macbeth had something twisted round him, that went over one shoulder
and under the other arm, and was meant, I believe, for a Scotch plaid.
He had a thorn in his hand, which he held out at arm’s length, as if he
were a little afraid of it. “Is this a dagger?” Macbeth inquired, in a
puzzled sort of tone: and instantly a chorus of “Thorn! Thorn!” arose
from the Frogs (I had quite learned to understand their croaking by
“It’s a dagger!” Sylvie proclaimed in a peremptory tone.
“Hold your tongues!” And the croaking ceased at once.
Shakespeare has not told us, so far as I know, that Macbeth had any
such eccentric habit as turning head-over-heels in private life: but
Bruno evidently considered it quite an essential part of the character,
and left the stage in a series of somersaults. However, he was back
again in a few moments, having tucked under his chin the end of a tuft
of wool (probably left on the thorn by a wandering sheep), which made a
magnificent beard, that reached nearly down to his feet.
“Shylock!” Sylvie proclaimed. “No, I beg your pardon!” she hastily
corrected herself, “King Lear! I hadn’t noticed the crown.”
(Bruno had very cleverly provided one, which fitted him exactly,
by cutting out the centre of a dandelion to make room for his head.)