University of Virginia Library

Search this document 

a web of many textures

expand section 
expand section 


Could we get behind the scenes of life, and observe
the workings of the machinery, and the various traps
and shiftings and changes that are taking place all the
time, we should be half inclined to distrust the absolute
virtue of much that passes for such, and see, faintly at
least, through a great deal of villany, some good, that
the removal of the whiskers and washing off of the
paint might reveal. Behind the scenes and before them
is exhibited pretty much the same thing; the counterfeit
seeming the real, and much of the real being nothing
but counterfeit. And, speaking of going behind
the scenes, to one unacquainted with such locality as
the stage of a theatre the first permission to enter that
mysterious province is the open sesame to many wonders;
revealing to him how it is all done: — how the
roses of health and happiness may glow on cheeks pallid
and hollow with care; and how the lines of sorrow may
appear, from the adroit touches of paint, upon brows
not yet marked by a wrinkle; how fierceness and malignity
may flourish on faces where the kindest spirit rests,
through the magic of burnt cork and false mustachios;
and how injured innocence and rank villany are allied,


Page 38
when a little soap and water bring them together at the
close of the drama! He sees men at the wings, like
special providences, controlling the different moods of
scenic life; here shifting a house of comfort and affluence
to a beggar's hut, and there producing upon what
was a “blasted heath” a bower of roses. He sees the
elegance that from the front gleamed in the beauty of
scenic art transformed to a mere daub, the paint apparently
thrown on by the handful; and architectural magnificence
but a mere frame-work of rough pine, held up
by props from behind. It is a new emotion to him, such
a queer admixture does it present of all sorts of life in
one little world — the grave and the gay, the good and
the bad, mingling together with a freedom of manner
very different from the marked antagonism of the outward
presentment. He wanders through the ins and outs
and labyrinthine turnings of the strange place, puzzled
at a thousand new things, and half regretting that the
illusion should have been dispelled in whose deception
he has so long happily lived.