YOU ought to have known our aunt； she was charming。 That is to say， understood； but she was good and kind， in her way， as any one ought to be whom people are to talk about and to laugh at. She might have been put into a play， of the fact that she only lived for the theatre and for what was done there. She was an honorable matron； but Agent Fabs， to call “Flabs，” declared that our aunt was stage-struck.
“The theatre is my school，” said she， “ Biblical history. Now， 'Moses' and 'Joseph in Egypt'—there are operas for you。 I get my universal history from the theatre， my geography， and my knowledge of men. Out of the French pieces I get to know life in Paris—slippery， but exceedingly interesting. How I have cried over 'La Famille Roquebourg'— drink himself to death， so that she may marry the young fellow。 Yes， how many tears I have wept in the fifty years I have subscribed to the theatre。”
Our aunt knew every acting play， every bit of scenery， every character， every one who appeared or had appeared. She seemed really only to live during the nine months the theatre was open. Summertime without a summer theatre seemed to be only a time that made her old； while， on the other hand， a theatrical evening that lasted till midnight was a lengthening of her life. She did not say， as other people do， “Now we shall have spring， the stork is here，” or， “They've advertised the first strawberries in the papers.” She， on the contrary， of autumn， with “Have you heard they're selling boxes for the theatre now the performances will begin.”
to its proximity to the theatre. It ， and move into the great street that lay a little farther off， where she had no opposite neighbors.
“At home，” said she， “ be my opera-box. One cannot sit and look into one's self till one's tired； as if I'd go into the country. If I want to see human beings， go into my kitchen， and sit down on the sink， for there only I have opposite neighbors. No； when I lived in my dear little lane， I could look straight down into the ironmonger's shop， and had only three hundred paces to the theatre； and now I' paces to go， military measurement.”
Our aunt was sometimes ill， but however unwell she might feel， she never missed the play. The doctor prescribed one day that she should put her feet in a bran bath， and she followed his advice； but she drove to the theatre all the same， and sat with her feet in bran there. If she had died there， she would have been very glad. Thorwaldsen died in the theatre， and she called that a happy death.
be a theatre too. It had not， indeed，， but we might very we surely have a field for their talent.
to be dispatched to her at coffee-time， to consist of the words， “Herr Sivertsen is at the machinery；” for it was he who gave the signal for drawing the curtain up and down and for changing the scenes.
to receive a short and concise description of every piece. His opinion of Shakspeare's “Tempest，” was， “Mad nonsense。 There's so much to put up， and the first scene begins with 'Water to the front of the wings.'” That is to say， forward so far. But when， on the other hand， the same interior scene remained through five acts， to pronounce it a sensible， well-written play， a resting play， which performed itself， without putting up scenes.
In earlier times， to designate thirty years ago， she and the before-mentioned Herr Sivertsen had been younger. At that time he had already been connected with the machinery， and was， as she said， in those days that in the evening performances in the only theatre the town possessed， spectators were admitted to the part called the “flies，” over the stage， and every machi； it was said that generals' wives and privy councillors' wives had been up there. It was quite interesting to look down behind the scenes， and to see how the people walked to and fro on the stage when the curtain was down.
Our aunt had been there several times， as well when there was a tragedy as when there was a ballet； for the pieces in which there were the greatest number of characters on the stage were the most interesting to see from the flies. One sat pretty much in the dark up there， and most people took their sup fell down right into the dungeon of Ugolino， where that unhappy man was to be starved to death； in future to have any spectators up in the flies.
“But I was there seven-and-thirty times，” said our aunt， “and I shall always remember Mr. Sivertsen for that.”
On the very last evening when the flies were still open to the public， the “Judgment of Solomon” was performed， as our aunt remembered very well. She had， through the influence of her benefactor， Herr Sivertsen， procured a free admission for the Agent Fabs， although he did not deserve it in the least， for he was always cutting his jokes about the theatre and teasing our aunt； but she had procured him a free admission to the flies， for all that. He wanted to look at this player-stuff from the other side.
“Those were his own words， like him，” said our aunt.
He looked down from above on the 'Judgment of Solomon，' from a dinner where many toasts had been given. He went to sleep， and was locked in. And there he sat through the dark night in the flies， and when he woke， he told a story， but our aunt would not believe it.
“The 'Judgment of Solomon' was over，” he said， “and all the people had gone away， up stairs and down stairs； but now the real play began， the after-piece， which was the best of all，” said the agent. “Then life came into the affair. It was not the 'Judgment of Solomon' that was performed； no， a real court of judgment was held upon the stage.” And Agent Fabs had the impudence to try and make our aunt believe all this. That was the thanks she got for having got him a place in the flies.
What did the agent say Why， enough to hear， but there was malice and satire in it.
“It looked dark enough up there，” said the agent； “ began—a great performance， 'The Judgment in the Theatre.' The box-keepers were at their posts， and every spectator had to show his ghostly pass-book， that it might be decided if he was to be admitted with hands loose or bound， and with or without a muzzle. Grand people who came too late， when the performance had begun， and young people， who could not always watch the time， were tied up outside， and had list slippers put on their feet， with which they were allowed to go in before the beginning of the next act， and they had muzzles too. And then the 'Judgment on the Stage' began.”
“All malice， and not a bit of truth in it，” said our aunt.
The painter， who wanted to get to Paradise， had to go up a staircase which he had himself painted， but which no man could mount. That was to expiate his sins against perspective. All the plants and buildings， which the property-man had placed， with infinite pains， in countries to which they did not belong， the poor fellow was obliged to put in their right places before cockcrow， if he wanted to get into Paradise. Let Herr Fabs see how he would get in himself； but what he said of the performers，， singers and dancers， that was the most rascally of all. Mr. Fabs， indeed。—Flabs。 He did not deserve to be admitted at all， and our aunt would not soil her lips with what he said. And he said， did Flabs， that the whole was written down， and it should be printed when he was dead and buried， but not before， for he would not risk having his arms and legs broken.
Once our aunt had been in fear and trembling in her temple of happiness， the theatre. It was on a winter day， one of those days in which one has a couple of hours of daylight， with a gray sky. It was terribly cold and snowy， go to the theatre. A little opera and a great ballet were performed， and a prologue and an epilogue into the bargain； needs go； so she borrowed a pair of fur boots of her lodger—boots with fur inside and out， and which reached far up her legs.