The Scouts of the Prairie In Boston

From The Boston Globe, March 5, 1873:


Advertisement for The Scouts of the Prairie in The Boston Globe. March 5, 1873.

There was a very large house assembled Monday night to see the debut of Buffalo Bill, Texas Jack, and Ned Buntline. The audience was, in the main, composed of the sterner sex, and these were principally of that class whose propensity it is to give vent to the throes of rapture that fill their souls through the agency of cat-calls, yells, whistling, and howls, varied occasionally by a rhythmical stamping of feet en masse. In other words, the great unwashed sympathetically came forth in force to see mimic scalping, shooting, tomahawking, and indiscriminate butchery. There were impatient of aught that did not savor op rapine, bloodshed, or violence. The entertainment they crowded to witness was tame in comparison to their own performances. The former was repulsive enough, but the latter were much more objectionable. But even this audience found the piece too outrageously overdrawn, and they frequently expressed their disapprobation by bellowing at the performers and ridiculing the action. The exhibition, on both sides, was laughable enough, but it was, at the same time, oppressively painful. when the establishment in which it took place is taken into consideration, we know of no work that will so fittingly apply to it as "shocking." It was brutal, commonplace, and disgraceful. Grassy Chief, Prairie Dog, Big Elk, and Water Chief, Indians who accompanied Buffalo Bill and his companions hither, must have been astonished at the wild shrieks and the demonstrative unruliness of their paleface masters in the audience, and could have learned but little respect for that superior civilization of which they had doubtless heard much on the plains of the Far West.


The plot of "The Scouts of the Prairie" is one of those mysteries that must remain forever unsolved. In fact, the piece is too ridiculously absurd to merit serious mention. It is just such an affair as an excitable and romantic schoolboy might write after having become thoroughly saturated with dime novel literature. There is a trapper named Cale Durg, played by Mr. Buntline, the gifted author himself, who has but little to do but to get captured by Indians and released by Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack until he is at length shot. In consideration of the fact that he is given to delivering moral lectures of an almost interminable length, his death at the end of the second act proved one of the few really agreeable incidents of the piece. A discourse upon the evils of drinking lasted so long and proved so dry that there was quite a little exodus at it conclusion, in quest of liquid refreshments. The lecture was rather calculated to drive an unhappy drunkard into driveling idiocy than to reform him. This Cale Durg wore a superb black, curly wig, with brows to match. He took up as much time in dying as he did in lecturing, and the audience were so exasperated by frequent false alarms that, when he at length gave his final grasp, the pent-up feelings of the entire gallery broke forth in a demoniacal yell of rapturous and uncontrollable jubilation. For our own part, we did not feel he could be depended upon to remain dead until the curtain had finally fallen upon him. A terrible fear haunted us that he would appear in a subsequent act to deliver more lectures, either in his own proper person or as a pious, avenging ghost.



The Hon. William F. Cody is a fine-looking fellow, but the share he took in the piece was principally confined to rushing on the stage at critical moments and firing off two very handsome revolvers. His great effort was shooting and scalping an Indian, and, after picking him up with one hand by the waistband, bearing him off with the most perfect nonchalance and firmness of muscle. It quite eclipsed the striking effort of the late Edwin Forrest in "Damon and Pythias," where he was accustomed to swing his faithful slave about like a walking cane. Mr. J. B. Omohundro, or, in other words, "Texas Jack." has but little to do but lasso a couple of Indians and wear a hunter's suit with an easy and becoming grace. The Indians crawled about on all fours and smelt the stage, and listened for nothing in particular, after the immemorial custom of stage Indians. They were all killed at the end of each act, only to reappear safe and sound in the next. There is an Indian chief, Wolf Slayer (Mr. W. J. Fleming), who has much to say about "Fiyah Wotter," which he pronounces: "The cuss of the red—er man, as well—er as the pale—er face." There is some ambiguity in the wording of this sentiment; but as it conveys a truth in either of the senses in which it may be taken, we are not disposed to criticize it very closely. It is hardly necessary to say that some of the English spoken in this piece is of a peculiar nature. We have space for but one example, but that is a choice one, and is as follows: "They ain't no little squaws around here, is they?"


There are two heroines in the play, one of whom is named Hazel Eye, and the other Dove Eye. Hazel Eye is played by Senorita Eloe Carfano, and Dove Eye by Mlle. Morlacchi. As they both speak English with a marvelous foreign accent, the scenes wherein they appear together are remarkable from a polyglot point of view. There is a glorious broken English scene in the second act. Hazel Eye is a female trapper, who loves and is beloved by Texas Jack. She distinguished herself on Monday night by a "poetic tribute to Cale Durg," which lasted somewhere in the neighborhood of half an hour, and consisted of nearly a score of verses, each of which begins with the gratifying but somewhat perplexing intelligence that "he was born in March." Every other sentiment in the poem gives way to this remarkable fact. It is brought forward on every possible opportunity. It breaks forth in the midst of tempest and calm, through the outpourings of joy and the lamentings of grief, and its effect, when uttered, as it was, in a sepulchral tone of voice, is startling. Had he been born in May or June, he would not have produced half the sensation. However, the information that "He was born in March," in spite of the beautiful poetic suggestiveness that surrounds it, is apr to grow monotonous after it is repeated some thirty or forty times without any apparent earthly reason, but the fair representative of Hazel Eye, with great forethought, creates a pleasant diversion by her varied readings of the line, some of which we will give by way of specimen: "He was born in Marruch;" "He was bor-r-n in Mar-r-r-ruch;" and "He was "bo-o-o-r-r-run in Ma-a-a-r-r-ruch." The poem itself is absolutely blood-curdling in its mysterious and terrible allusions to tempests, death, and vengeance. The gallery welcomed it with an irrepressible and an appreciative shriek of enthusiastic derision. What did they want with poetry? One of the impatient gentlemen seated in the upper part of the house expressed the general sentiment when he exclaimed "O! Dry up, and come to the scalpin'!"


The Italian Indian of Mlle. Morlacchi greatly worked upon the sympathies of her audience, and they watched the progress of Dove Eye with breathless interest, their delight culminating when she dances a mazurka in occasions, and occasionally displayed, in its course, a finely-starched and handsomely ruffled white petticoat. An Italian Indian maiden walking on her toes in the wilderness with nicely laundried underclothing is a sight that is alone worth the price of admission, giving, as it does, so vivid a realization of Aboriginal life in the savage wilds of the West. We could not distinguish the "ten Indian warriors," announced on the bills, from the supers by which they were surrounded. They all looked uncleanly enough to be the real thing and were simply ridiculous from every point of view...So painful an exhibition as that of Monday night we trust we may be spared from seeing on the stage of the Boston Theatre. The whole affair, both before and behind the curtain, was inexpressible heart-sickening and was sadly discreditable to the reputation of the theatre, which is no place for so miserable and so brutalizing an exhibition.

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