Obrazy na stronie

perturbation has escaped the eyes of Jeames done, and the whole world made au fait with Jones.

your secret doings. For John Tummas tells “I'll tell you what it is, Miss Melia,” said he, Miss Eliza in confidence, and when she skips confidentially, “ there is something not right over to the general shop to buy a bit of ribbon with the Capting. This blessed morning as she tells the shopkeeper in confidence, and the ever was, when I takes up his hot water, there latter, in turn, tells her customers in confidence, was he, bless you, looking much more like a till the whole thing, like Samson's foxes, is man going to be 'ung than to marry Miss Ella. blazing all round the place. * Bottles 'ere, of course,' he says : 'I am a Such is the penalty of polite civilized lifefool,' says he. But mark my words, there will having to keep a set of people around us, who be trouble some of these days, and all through are spies on our most hidden conduct, and telethat woman. T'aint often ladies comes pro- graph our every saying to the world at large. miscuous-like, and pays visits to gents as is Save me from my friends!" should now be going to be married, and makes 'em cuss and translated into “ Save me from my servants !" swear awful."

To wbich Miss Melia, who was much given to the reading of penny novels"Mary the Faithless ; or, the Haunted Murderer !" and

Chap. XV. such like — nor completely innocent of studious poring over the “Book of Fate," made answer,

“THE Wife's TRIALS." "Well, to be sure, now, Mr. Jeames, it is a bad omen when gentlemen is savage on their wed- "Royal THESPIAN THEATRE. 200th Night ding mornings!”

of the exciting Drama of The Wife's Tre lesson I would draw from this is that

Trials. Engagement of MADAME CORAnothing escapes the attention of servants. Be

LINE BRABAZON, from the Continental and cause you have some skeleton deeply hidden in American Theatres. Free-list entirely susthe cupboard-because you have some secret

pended. Lessee and Manager, Mr. Lawrence sorrow preying at your heart-it follows not

Hilton. tbat it is bidden from the valet who brings your hot water, or the footman who stands behind To this effect was the announcement, which Four chair. Veil your sins, your foibles, your was posted all over London in posters of all the misfortunes, from your friends and intimates, colours of the rainbow-on omnibuses, on dead from your family, as you may, you will not do walls, or gigantic waggons; for Lawrence 80 from the observant eyes of Martha, or John Hilton understood the magic art of advertising Thomas, or Eliza the cook. You drink a little thoroughly, and knew that the man who would more wine than is your wont at dinner-you succeed in these days of competition must have push away your plate somewhat sharply—a for his motto, "Advertise! Advertise!” The sharp, contracted spasm contorts your mouth- little fib about the Continental and American these things have been noticed, and will be theatres he reconciled to his conscience by artalked of the same night, and furnish agreeable guing that a novelty would not draw the public pabulum for the servants' supper-table. did it not bring credentials from the Continental

In the same way, if you are in business, the theatres, and he was very right. In these days, secret of a coming smash you may successfully when people go into raptures over "the part hide from the world of your acquaintance-to of the Dane," played by a German, and the them you may appear just the same well-to-do, sweet love-story of Juliet, rendered with much warm man they have always known you, and impassioned gesture and much display of they entertain not the slightest suspicion of the exuberant charm, by a Stella Colas, when the coming storm; but all these things are known theatre--goers have wept by the hour over the mito the boy who carries your letters, or sweeps series and death of a persecuted Leah, as played out your counting-house-to the very humblest by that wondrous daughter of America Miss of your clerks. They have noticed the change Bateman, he was fully aware that to take, a new in your face when the fatal letters have arrived; actress lost nothing by being foreign ; still be they have speculated on your anxiety to know thought it a pitiable thing that the days of whether a certain person has called at the office; native British talent were gone by, and that and thus, when the final smash comes, and people could listen no longer to the marvellous house, and furniture, and servants, and every- Shylock of Edmund Kean, nor shudder as they thing go to the dogs--when the rest of the beheld the wondrous acting of Mrs. Siddons as world is thunderstruck, these people simply Lady Macbeth. But so it is. He that wishes say, “Ab, always knew he could not last long." to prosper must please the public taste; and, Little do you think that when the slightest should the public taste be depraved, the manachange takes place in your countenance, or the ger must heave a sigh over departed glory, and least taste in life of a curse escapes the barrier turn "to fresh fields and pastures new.” of your teeth, that these things are carefully Meanwhile, the famous actress who was to and minutely noted by the liveried menial who startle the playgoing Londoners was settled takes your money for service done, and that he comfortably in lodgings of the kind manager's does his best to propagate and make known choice in a quiet street adjoining the Thespian, generally the state of affairs. Easily, too, is it so that she might lose no time and incur no trouble in attending the frequent rehearsals. first rehearsal was over she had the satisfaction And here for awhile, in the iresh excitement and of knowing that she played as “though to the amid the hurly-hurly of London life, she forgot manner born,” and several of the actors who for a short time the trouble that was haunting were to play with her-Algernon Montfort, the her, just as one forgets the excruciating pain of heavy tragedian, who played the false husband's a toothache, or heart-ache for the matter of that, part, and Miss Travers, who was the second in the perusal of some engrossing story; but in wife-warmly complimented her on her acting, the silent watchings of the night, when the and assured her that she was quite a relief after day's excitement was over, then came back the Madame Vertot, who never let a rehearsal end furies to tear her heart and bowl around her without a shindy with them all round. From bed-to her as to Orestes, haunted by the grim these people Nathalie shrank instinctively, pot Erinnyes. The sweet restorer sleep brought no that she deemed them anything but quiet, uncessation from care: as the body was relaxed assuming persons enough; but they were not from occupation, the mind became more ex- the slightest use to her in the grand object of posed to the terrors of grief and remorse. her life-simply those upon whom her lot was Times methinks are changed, since Oliver just now cast, and were not deserving of notice, Goldsmith penned those stanzas of bis-- and as they have nothing to do with the story i When lovely woman stoops to folly,” or, in shall spare the reader a detailed account of the his own sweet unworldly simplicity, he saw pot various actors, their appearance and peculiariactual but ideal life; for certainly, in this our ties. If it be true that “all the world's a stage,” day, the lovely woman” tries every art to it holds good that every stage is a little world in wring her lover's bosom but dying.

itself, and people quarrel and make up their Some prefer to play "the lovely and accom- quarrels, fraternize and cut one another, very plished victim” part in the Divorce Court, and much the same as they do in real society. For to obtain beavy damages; others prefer nursing the manager, Lawrence Hilton, her regard intheir wrath, till they can be revenged, and of creased every day; there was so much real kindthis kind was Nathalie Duprez. With her, as ness in his conduct towards her, so much of with Charlotte Corday, the idea of revenge had gentlemanly courtesy in his dealings with his becoine almost a religion; she clung to and wor- company, that her heart began insensibly to shipped the faint hope of distant revenge, and recognize the presence of an equal. Well she she hoped to make it as signal and as knew that he had accepted the engagement at celebrated as that of the simple country girl, very great risk-the risk almost of his good who rid the world of the detestable tiger Marat. name with the public--and she honoured the "Jealousy is cruel as the grave, if love is strong large-hearted man for his kindness. Had it as death.” In a man the passion for revenge not been for him, she might at that moment sometimes dies out; he has not the intensity of have been reduced to beg her bread in the cold purpose which a woman possesses : she never streets, or, worse still, might have been comforgets and never forgives. At present, how- pelled to have had recourse to that little phial of ever, the winning of daily bread was the chief colourless liquid which the Obeah woman had object, and Nathalie bestowed all the power of given her, and rushed into her Maker's presence her mind on the piece she was to play in, to such “unhouselled, unannealed.”

There was purpose that she really thought that she had large fountain of gratitude still in her woman's been born an actress, and that the manager's heart, which sorrow and despair had not comidea was a correct one. She mastered the con- pletely crushed out, and this with true foreign ception thoroughly; and though the play was warmth she lavished upon her benefactor, her nothing very extraordinary in its plot, the most saviour-for so she called him, much to Hilton's that could be said for it was that it was some wonderment, who could not conceive what all what painfully true to life, and that was all; the the mystery was about. On the Sunday precedlanguage was of the regular tragedy style, very ing her first appearance before the public he turgid and very nonsensical : it had been writ- had invited her to dinner at Bayswater, and, ten for effect-stage effect simply—and some of though hesitatingly, she did accept the kindlythe positions were startling and dramatic meant offer; for it was wearying to sit in her enough.

solitary room, the prey of her own reflection, Nathalie's predecessor-a gay voluble, but with nothing to distract her but, ever and anon, excessively handsome woman-had not ren- the cry of “Watercreases,” in the street below, dered the part of the wife much justice; she re- or the inonotonous cry of the milkman. Hilton lied principally on the very liberal exposure of called for her himself, in his carriage, and people her charms (wbich pleased the stalls) and a wondered whether this dark, handsome lady, continental reputation.

The first rehearsal who looked so sad, was the new actress, as they which Nathalie attended was a nervous thing bowed their acknowledgments to the wellfor her. All the theatrical jargon was so strange known manager. That Sunday's dinner at the to her, the stage directions so complicated and Bayswater Cottage was an event in Nathalie's puzzling, that she wondered she did not break life, so peaceful and refined, it seemed that she down before the enquiring gaze of the company, bad found rest at last, and, as it were, a firm who scanned her every movement; but, like place for the sole of her foot, after battling with many other things, theatrical puzzles may be the sea of troubles. Two gentler, tenderer creasolved by patient observation; and when the tures than Jane and Harriet Hilton never


pages will

breathed, their only fault, if fault it could be, was ; vulsed the kneeling woman's forin with sobs, a devoted admiration of their brother. They which seemed bursting from a broken heart ! absolutely worshipped him, and, although they "Ah! poor thing. I am afraid all is not were averse to theatres and operas as a rule, right with her, Larry,” said the tender-hearted would nevertheless attend the first representa- Hetty, when she had taken her departure. tion of his new pieces with the most religious There is some great grief evidently pressing regularity, and pretend a great enthusiasm in upon her mind, I can see that at a glance. I the thing which they did not actually feel, sim- would that I could help her!" returned the ply because they knew it pleased him. As for manager; "but it is a delicate thing, you see, old Mr. Hilton, he was fast losing all concern Hetty dear, to inquire into circumstances of for the world and its belongings, and was cheer- this sort. One thing I do know, and that is, & fully awaiting for the close of his life when he better actress never trod the boards; and I might join his Mary in Heaven. A cloudy shan't be surprised if she attracts immense stormy life had his been, and great his struggles houses.” to keep his son at a decent school till he was At last came round the eventful night which well launched into the world; but now, poor soul, was to witness Nathalie's first appearance upon he was very like that Barzillai, the Gileadite, any stage; and it is useless to deny that she azd he might have well echoed the veteran's felt a choking, burning sensation in her throat, meroful plaint: “I am this day fourscore and a giddiness in her head, as she prepared for years old, and can I discern between good and the trial. evil? can thy servant taste what I eat and

Many who


agree with drink? can I hear any more the voices of sing- me when I say that there can possibly be no ing men and singing women?” His only wish greater trial to the nerves than to appear before was that he might die in his own city and be a crowded assembly for the first time, the buried by his father and mother. Yet, when cynosure of every, eye. It is certainly bad Lawrence Hilton's well-earned success came to enough to preach the first sermon, or to make bis ears, his fine old face would brighten, and a the maiden speech in the House, though in the gleam of fire would glisten in his eye, and he former case the criticisms are not outspoken, would pat his favourite son's head, and say: only the gaze of the congregation fixed pitilessly "Well done Larry, good boy. My heart is curiously on the new preacher, too ready to find proud to hear this, good boy.” And then the fault should occasion present itself; but on the wbite head would drop feebly, and he would stage those horrors are increased tenfold. There sink into childishness again.

is the danger of forgetting one's part, or breakThis was the household that Nathalie was ing down, and the dread of the storms of introduced to. What wonder that she felt at applause or hisses (both equally fatal) from the peace that quiet sabbath evening, and forgot her noisy gallery. Nothing can equal the stagetroubles ? And when dinner was over, and fright; the unfortunate débutant loses, at the Laurence ensconced in his favourite arm-chair, same time, all voice, nerve, and sight, and stares with his cigar, opposite the old man bis father, hopelessly for a few moments at the sea of upNathalie did not require much pressing, but turned faces. went to the piano and played, with beautiful Nathalie's fame seemed to have gone before touch, the grand Preghiera from “Moisé in her, and the Thespian that night, long ere it Egitto," and after that sang, with devotional was her turn to go on, was crammed to excess. sweetness, simple hymns which brought the The regular pit-goers had sat through the roartears into the manager's eyes; and crowned the ing farce, “Margate Sands,” which preceded whole by giving them “o Salutaris Hostia,” “The Wife's Trials,” and patiently waited for till the melody of her fine voice filled the room the new actress, and meanwhile regaled themas with waves of music, and rolled out far into selves affably on oranges, and stout, and gingerthe stillness of the night, whilst the passers-by beer, as is the manner of those in the pit. stopped enchanted, and drank in every note of And now came dropping into the stalls and the magnificent composition. And then came boxes the upper ten-men from the clubs and prayers; for Hilton's was a religious household, dinner-parties—who had forsaken the whistand the family had an old-fashioned habit of table entirely that night, to see " that new eading each day by family prayer, no matter woman Hilton has got; wather a swell, they who the guests might be : so that it was com- say!” and settled down, languidly, into their monly said that stage celebrities heard prayers seats, and stroked their amber moustaches comthere who heard them in no place of worship; placently. Then ladies (late of course), in all for your actor generally is not a man of deep the witchery of evening toilet and resplendent religious impressions. To read prayers was beauty, began to gleam amidst the sombre Hetty's task, and the dear woman gave her array of black-coated men, like gay parterres of whole soul to the words-not to her mere words flowers; and, last of all, the whole house rose of form and ceremony-and who shall describe as a Royal personage entered the State-box, and the influence they had over the poor wayfaring bowed, smiling, to the crowded assembly, and stranger who knelt there, and of the fearful people whispered : struggle they caused ? * Forgive us our tres- “How well the Prince is looking to-night!” passes as we forgive them that trespass against One, two, three, and crash breaks out the us." What strange words were these, that con-'orchestra into Auber's most brilliant overture


upon her.

that to “The Crown Diamonds”-a mad medley wild note had died away, a storm of applause of delicious music, the echoes of which are burst from all sides of the house. The gallery borne to Nathalie's ear as she tremblingly ad- was in extacies, and yelled "hangcore !" at the justs her dress for the first scene, and receives top of their voice; and ladies clapped their Lawrence Hilton's last injunctions to keep little bands till their gloves were rent in fragsteady, and not think of the people at all- ments. just to fancy the story was her own, and Nathalie almost cowered before the storm of throw all her spirit into it. A faint smile was cheers, but recovered enough to sing one last Nathalie's only response. She was beginning stanza over again, to the frantic delight of the to feel the trials of her position; but she held gallery, and more than one bouquet fell on the up bravely, conscious that so much depended stage.

“That will do," thought Hilton; and he Softly the crash of the contending instru- rushed into the green-room, and shook the new ments has died away into a dreamy echo, and actress warmly by the hand. “The song has the conductor resumes his seat.

done it all. My sisters have been crying no “Madame Brabazon !" shouts the call-boy; end," he exclaimed. “I hope you don't feel and, with a step she knew not how, Nathalie found fatigued. This is the last scene now, and then herself face to face with the mighty house, with all will be over, and your success complete.” every eye and every opera-glass' in the vast Meanwhile, the false Sydney is supposed to assembly turned upon her.

have married again, and, with bis wife, is staying The first scene was to represent the happy at a seaport-town over the honeymoon. The married life of Sydney Delville (Algernon Mont- last scene was a miracle of the painter's art, fort) and his deceived bride Kate Delville, the representing the beach crowded with idlers, the heroine of the play. There was nothing to call calm sea beyond, and the large hotel where for much comment in this scene; but Nathalie, Sydney is staying. Nathalie enters, dressed as she progressed, felt her powers coming back this time in mourning weeds, for the loss of her to her, and played the part of the fond, happy babe, and dragging her weary limbs along the wife to perfection, ever at Sydney's side, and stage, evidently in the last state of consumpkeeping at bay the crowd of his fellow-officers; tion; and here her make-up was perfect-and but her triumph was to come.

the hollow cheeks and fiery eyes spoke of the The curtain fell on the first act, and people destroyer; and the voice, weak and trembling, began to think that the new actress was not so now craved but a bit of bread. She crawls good as Madame Vertot. Certainly the latter up the hotel steps, and is face to face with her had more vivacity.

husband; and the wild shriek that rang through “Well done, Madame Brabazon!” said her the house then made people shudder. With fellow-actor—" couldn't have been better!" renewed strength at the sight of the loved one,

But the anxious manager, in a side-box, felt she alıoost rises to her full height, and points not very exultant as he read the feelings of the to the shrinking woman at his side, and asks house. He would have liked a greater de him who it is that stands where she has the monstration of feeling than the few “ Bravos” right to be. which fell on his ears.

Sydney, of course, trembles and blanches, Meanwhile, Nathalie had changed her dress like all stage-villains; and replies, huskily: into one of squalid poverty. She was supposed “Ada, my love, leave me a moment. I know to be deserted by her treacherous husband and this woman,"

,and advances to support the friends, and reduced to beg her bread. And excited creature. now the triumph of her acting began.

Beautiful was the ray of pleasure and hope When the curtain rose on one of the prettiest that spread over the dying wife's face as she scenes of the play—"a country village, la- whispered : “Ah! now I am happy, Sydney, bourers drinking”—the applause of the house happy," and, amid the deathlike stillness of the was tremendous, and increased as Nathalie, in house, sobs from the audience were distinctly sorrow, with her infant in her arms, crawled heard, and cambric handkerchiefs freely used. forth to beg alıns of the rustics. No need of Sydney, who was that woman?” paint, or cork-lines, to simulate the agony in Katie, forgive me!-0 God, forgive me ! that fine countenance; the very presence of that woman is my wife and you I was never woe itself was there; and the beautiful voice, married to.” 80 plaintive in its earnest petition, that the eyes Nathalie, as she was about to rise, just cast of the tenderer part began to fill; and men felt her eyes up to the stalls, and there (could she a sort of choking sensation. The labourers (as be mistaken? Ah, no! too painfully distinct) stage-labourers always do) made a series of there was Grantley! looking excessively ununmeaning noises amongst themselves, sup- comfortable; and with him a beautiful girl, in posed to be significant of their desire for a song, white, who must be his wife. She felt that and then Nathalie, sinking down on a rude she was going to faint. Was it possible that bench, began the mournful song described be- Grantley did not recognize her? fore:

With a mighty effort she recovered conscious“For the weary heart in Death there's rest.”

ness, and proceeded with the acting, while her

heart felt like a stone within her. Little did the The effect was electrical: even before the last ! people who hung upon her every word and

tooled up

gesture know the secret of that impassioned | dience were in a state of the utmost perplexity, display—one only in that crowded bouse; and really not knowing what to do ; so they patiently he was playing a part of his own, quietly and waited, and broke up into little knots, and ad. skilfully.

mired the new actress's wonderful acting. The “ Did you ever see such fine acting?” said curtain fell, and the orchestra commenced Ella to her husband, as they sat in their stal).

“God save the Queen !" But louder far than "The woman does it all as if it were real. And the instruments, and the crash of the drums, I declare, Harry, she is looking up this way. arose a mighty shout, that shook the building, Is she not magnificently beautiful ?"

for the new actress.

“Madame Brabazon ! Madame Brabazon !" Grantley heard not a syllable of what was said. Too well he could see the vengeful eyes ceased, and Hilton came before the curtain and

And the shouts got so frantic that the orchestra fixed upon him with that dreadful glare; too

bowed. well he knew the reason of all this acting. Everything seemed going against him. He “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, — I would willingly must leave London at once, lest this vengeful gratify you in presenting Madame Brabazon to you; Foran find him out, and expose him in the but, unfortunately, she has not quite recovered from a midst of his day-dream, and break his wife's fainting-fit. Let me return my sincerest thanks for beart.

the compliment you have paid her.” He felt excessively relieved when young Lord

A little lull followed this speech ; then a voice Sefton entered the box, followed by our friend cried, “We'll wait till she's all right-see her Robson, who had, as he said,

we must!" And the hurricane raged again from garrison to see the wonderful woman, you

more furiously. know. Ab, and I declare and here's Grantley !

Hilton, on his return, found Nathalie perfectly How d'ye do, old fellow? Wish you all kind of

conscious, but joy! And how d'ye do, Mrs. Grantley? House

very pale and trembling. very full, isn't it?-enough to choke one. I must show yourself for a moment: they are

“I am very sorry, but I am afraid that you can't see the fun, myself, of broiling by the frantic to see you. It will only be a moment. hour in these places; so Sefton and I have had Lean on my arm. You feel better now, don't & quiet pool, and then turned in here. Fine woman, isn't she-splendid woman?--and acts will not be contented unless you appear !".

you? It was the heat, I suppose. Hark! they to the point, can assure you. I seem to think

“Oh yes, I will go,” said Nathalie, “if I may aw-that I've seen her before: all fancy I sup. rest on your arm. Thanks, I can manage it pose, and that sort of thing, you know. Look now.” And they went on before the curtain. at her now! by Jove, I shouldn't care about

“Hurrah !” Wilder rose the storm of cheers being that fellow Delville; he seems to be again, as Nathalie bowed repeatedly. “Hurgetting it hot and strong. That's right, ma'am, rah! with three-times-three for the manager!” warm him freely! Been long back, Mrs. Grants

Charles Kean once said, “The house rose at ley?-hope to see you soon again at Turlminster.

me as one man !”- -so might the actress have Dreadfully slow now there. Thanks, no-I said this night, for the storm only died away haven't been married yet, 'pon my word. I be when everyone's physical power of shouting was lieve nobody will have me; I'm too small

. exhausted, and fitful shouts would break out Ab, brava ! 'that was well said. I hope the ever and 'anon, till the house was empty once gentleman in the swellattire feels that.


more. People lingered to talk of the wonderdye'do, Lady Lufton?

ful actress as they went home. Thus prattled the harmless, good-tempered “Poor creater !" said a motherly-looking little Ensign, and thought what a rise he would woman, “she must ’ave 'ad a sight of trouble take out of the fellows at Turlminster by the to look like that. Did you notice, Mrs. 'Arris, recital of all this.

bow her poor face was all lined, like? I don't Grantley sat moodily concealed in the shadow believe as it was all hacting, myself. I never cried of the curtain, not daring to look at the stage, so much in all iny born days—the poor lone where the scene was fast coming to an end. thing and her little babby—and I arn’t certain

The injured wife's dying curse was fast draw- that my man didn't cry too: he was terrible ing to its climax, and the orchestra had com- and husky, I know, when he spoke about it!” menced the slow music to which Nathalie was “My eyes, Bill, wasn't she stunning as the to die, when an exclamation from Lord Sefton dying wife ? though, mind you, I wouldn't like startled the inmates of the box.

to live with her—not by no means! She's got I say, look there! What can be the row, something nasty in her eye when she looks like Robson' Good God, the woman has fainted !" that !" It was so.

Overcome by the fatigue of the When Nathalie reached her home that night, acting, and the shock from seeing Grantley, after escaping from the congratulations of the Nathalie had, just at the moment when Sefton company and such as were favoured to enter spoke, sunk into a deathly swoon on the stage. the green-room (for Lawrence Hilton was firm

Hilton saw the occurrence immediately, and in his role not to allow danglers of any kind dashed into the green-room for some water, behind the scenes, to annoy or disgust the acwith which he proceeded to lave the face and tresses), she felt as if the days of her life were temples of the lifeless woman, whilst the au- lover-a sickly, throbbing sensation seemned to

« PoprzedniaDalej »