Batulcar. "You are no more a Japanese than I am a monkey! Why are you dressed up in that way?"
"A man dresses as he can."
"That's true. You are a Frenchman, aren't you?"
"Yes. A Parisian of Paris."
"Then you ought to know how to make grimaces?"
"Why," replied Passepartout, a little vexed that his nationality should cause this question, "we Frenchmen know how to make grimaces, it is true - but not any better than the Americans do."
"True. Well, if I can't take you as a servant, I can as a clown. You see, my friend, in France they exhibit foreign clowns, and in foreign parts French clowns."
"Ah!""You are pretty strong, eh?"
"Especially after a good meal."
"And you can sing?"
"Yes," returned Passepartout, who had formerly sung in street concerts.
"But can you sing standing on your head, with a top spinning on your left foot, and a sabre balanced on your right?"
"Humph! I think so," replied Passepartout, recalling the exercises of his younger days.
"Well, that's enough," said the Honorable William Batulcar.
The engagement was concluded there and then.
Passepartout had at last found something to do. He was engaged to act in the celebrated Japanese troupe. It was not a very dignified position, but within a week he would be on his way to San Francisco.
The performance, so noisily announced by the Honorable Mr. Batulcar, was to commence at three o'clock, and soon the deafening instruments of a Japanese orchestra resounded at the door. Passepartout, though he had not been able to study or rehearse a part, was designated to lend the aid of his sturdy shoulders in the great exhibition of the "human pyramid," executed by the Long Noses of the god Tingou. This "great attraction" was to close the performance.
Before three o'clock the large shed was crowded with spectators, Europeans and natives, Chinese and Japanese, men, women and children, who precipitated themselves upon the narrow benches and into the boxes opposite the stage. The musicians took up a position inside, and were vigorously performing on their gongs, tam-tams, flutes, bones, tambourines and immense drums.
The performance was much like all acrobatic displays. But it must be confessed that the Japanese are the first equilibrists in the world.
One, with a fan and some bits of paper, performed the graceful trick of the butterflies and the flowers. Another traced in the air, with the odorous smoke of his pipe, a series of blue words, which composed a compliment to the audience. A third juggled with some lighted candles, which he extinguished successively as they passed his lips, and relit again without interrupting for an instant his juggling. Another reproduced the most singular combinations with a spinning-top. In his hands the revolving tops seemed to be animated with a life of their own in their interminable whirling. They ran over pipe-stems, the edges of sabres, wires and even hairs stretched across the stage. They turned around on the edges of large glasses, crossed bamboo ladders, dispersed into all the corners, and produced strange musical effects by the combination of their various pitches of tone. The jugglers tossed them in the air, threw them like shuttlecocks with wooden battledores, and yet they kept on spinning; they put them into their pockets, and took them out still whirling as before.
It is useless to describe the astonishing performances of the acrobats and gymnasts. The turning on ladders, poles, balls, barrels, etc., was executed with wonderful precision.
But the principal attraction was the exhibition of the Long Noses, a show to which Europe is as yet a stranger.
The Long Noses form a peculiar company, under the direct patronage of the god Tingou. Attired after the fashion of the Middle Ages, they bore upon their shoulders a splendid pair of wings. But what especially distinguished them was the long noses which were fastened to their faces, and the uses which they made of them. These noses were made of bamboo, and were five, six and even ten feet long, some straight, others curved, some ribboned and some having imitation warts upon them.