A Community Network for Bowes Park and Bounds Green
Grimaldi’s Leap Frog
Mrs Sullivan runs the bar and other facilities
Dolly young serving wench
G Burgess friend of William Heath
It is 13th February 1812 and Harlequin and Padmanada or The Golden Fish is playing in Covent Garden Theatre. Dolly, a young serving wench is hustling around the crowded pit area.
“Go on, take it, girl. I’ve filled it up now. We ‘aven’t got all day.” Mrs Sullivan thrusts a jug of ale over the counter to Dolly
She takes it. “Which one was it, again?”
“Dark green tail coat. Silver headed stick. Second row of benches. Trousers, not breeches. One ‘as a top ‘at. Look, they both want more ale, don’t they? With the bushey beard. Be quick about it. And not so showey this time, or they’ll catch yer. Hide the jug a bit under yer jacket. Just dawdle along and pretend yer asking about the scene.”
“But it’s obvious, “ Dolly counters. “Everyone knows Grimaldi the clown, doing the leap frog scene with that frog, Monsieur Redige. Paulo, he kills me. Oh I luv ‘im. I’ll ‘ave trouble keeping me eyes off the stage, anyrate. Oh look at ‘im. He’s doing that stupid bum waggling dance again. Ha ha. Ha ha. Oh luv ‘im. Oh no, he’s chasin’ Paulo now. ‘E’s stopped. ‘E’s the frog. ‘An Grimaldi’s done leap frog over ‘im an can’t find ‘im. Ha ha . ha ha ha.”
“It ‘appens ev’ry night luv. You know it does. Go on. Get on wiv you. An’ when you pour the gennlemen’s ale, all surreptitious like, you tip ‘em the wink good en proper this time, so they gets the picture. Right. Careful now. Don’t spill it. And don’t look at the stage if yer can’t stop yer giggling. Now mind this posh lady here, don’t talk to any sailors, and walk real nice, there’s me girl.”
Oh no. It’s them stable lads in agen. Gawd, they don’t half pong ov ‘orse shit. Blimey. ‘Ope I don’t get it on me best boots. Now. Uh oh!
“Oi. Get your scurvey ‘ands off me you great lump, Sam. I’m busy. On a mission.”
“You know you luv it, Dolly, me girl.”
“Get yer tongue out me ear. That tickles. Haha ha. Ya stink a salt, sweat ‘n rum.”
“Want some, girl?”
“Where you bin, Sam. Carrybean agen? Get yer dirty great paws off ov me.”
“Dolly, me love. Yer ears are like the shells round the hula girls necks in the Seychells,” he whispers suggestively suggestively. Then chanting, “Old Price, Old Price, Old Price. Let me have ya at yer old prices, Dolly. Haha. Remember the riots? Whatta laugh.”
“Do I just. Yeah, you en yer mates all runnin’ races along the benches. Ha ha ha. En Tommy got hold ov a night watchman’s rattle. Watter din. Ha ha. Let alone, the dustman’s bell, an’ the butchers’ boys bought in real live piggies, an’ kept pinchin’ ‘em, ter make’em squeal. Right in the middle of that old bird, Sarah Siddons’ Lady Macbeth speech. Ha! Drowned her out right well ‘n’ good. Stopped the play, it did. Best bit, though, woz snotty nose Kemble having ta take down all them poshmen’s boxes ‘e’d ‘ad built, an’ make this grovellin’ speech to us all. Hah! An’ we got our old prices back. God, whatta lark.”
“How about an old price fer our new cabin boy, Jimmy, here. Wet behind the ears, ‘e is. Only twelve. Go on, Dolly. Give ‘im a good time. What d’ya say?”
“Lemme go, Sam. Sully’s got me servin’ now. Gotta get this jug ov ale to them nice gents over there. You’ll make me spill it. Piss off ya lousy, drunk tar.”
“Go on, then Doll. Bring yer an amber bracelet next time. Who’s ya mark?
“Them two on the benches, top ‘ats en trousers. Green tail coat.”
Woss ‘e doin’? ‘E aint bloody drawin’…? Woss ‘e doin’ that for? Pair a toffs. They aint even bleedin’ laughing. En it’s Joey en Paulo, the two best clowns, ever, of Panto, in all ov London, well, in all ov England fer gawd’s sake. Aw, look at Paulo. Ha ha ha. ‘Oppin’ round like a frog. Oh, I luv ‘im. Oh no, Joey’s got ‘is leg now. ‘Es pullin’ ‘is leg. ‘E’ll pull it off if ‘e’s not careful. Oh, no, it’s the ‘Frog’s Legs’ song agen. Oh it kills me. Oh gawd, if this lot all join in, I won’t be able to ‘ear them posh gents. They know the score. Course they do. Tankards down by their feet, in the sawdust. Yeah. Just smile, en wink nice, eh, Dolly? Now. Quick check round ta see if Mr Kemble is anywhere ‘ereabouts. No. Don’t see ‘im. Nah. ‘E’s most likely backstage, ready for ‘is next entrance.
“Good day gennlemen. Would you like a quick top up? Courtesy of Mrs Sullivan, over there? I’m Dolly. Cum en see me after the show fer anyfink you might require. Very obliging, sirs. ‘Ere we are. Mrs Sullivan’s very best ale fer you two fine gents.”
“Thank you my dear. Here’s a shilling for you.”
“Ta, much obliged sir. Pardon me, but, might I just ask why yer here? ‘Cos yer the only ones wot aint laughin’, en its Joey en Paulo . … doin’ the Leap Frog scene…..funniest fing there is. Just look at ‘em. I seen it twenty times or more, en I still laughs me guts out.”
“Yes, we didn’t expect Redige. We thought we’d see Jack Bologna, he’s Grimaldi’s usual clown partner.”
“Ah, no, sirs. Our Jack’s at Drury Lane this season, sir. So it’s Paulo yer got. ‘E’s the better frog, anyrate. ‘Cos ‘e’s a real froggie Frenchie, if yer get wot I mean.”
“Well, my dear. Dolly, isn’t it? Yes, most amusing. But you see, let me introduce London’s finest caricature artist, Mr William Heath. Published in all the news sheets, you know, mostly political cartoons. He preparing a study on Grimaldi, for a print, out next year. We’re here incognito, so keep it to yourself. I say. You’re a very lovely girl, Dolly. I happen to be looking for models, if you’re interested.”
“Fank yew very much indeed, fank you, kind sirs. I’ll catch yous after the show, then. Meet me by the stage door, where Joey’s keeps ‘is Neddy an’ gig, for ‘is drive back ta Finchley.”
Oh my gawd. What a creep. An’ they stank, of some lah de dah perfume, or so they thought. Yuk. En why wos they ‘avin’ a bunch of lavender on the bench, then? What’s that all about? Oh well. Bit of work eh? Gotta keep body en soul togevver. Won’t let on to Sully, though – she’d take a cut awlright. That’ll me set up fer the evenin’ then. Good. Just a little sip of this ale, then.
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