Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

"And," I said, "I am delighted you have repeated it on these terms.' He shook my hand, and the hour was fixed for the following day.

He was exact to his appointment: we walked for a few minutes about the stage before the rehearsal commenced. He spoke gravely, yet pleasantly and cleverly; but it was easy to perceive that it needed an effort to keep up the conversation, and that he was pre-occupied with other thoughts. Our goddesses of the dance and of song began to arrive one after another. Several times I perceived him tremble, and once his agitation was so great that he had to support himself on the side scenes. I began to suspect he was a rejected lover of one of our Clios or Terpsichores a suspicion which his extreme handsomeness and his "style" altogether rendered by no means probable; and in reality I was mistaken. He spoke to no onewent near no one-and, moreover, no one knew who he was.

The rehearsal began. I looked for him in the orchestra among the amateurs he was not there; and though the body of the house was somewhat dark, I thought I saw him in the front box which he had gazed on so constantly the night before. I was anxious to make sure of this; and at the end of the rehearsal, after the admir able trio of the fifth act, I ascended to the second tier. Meyerbeer, who had something to say to me, accompanied me. We arrived at the box, of which the door was half open, and saw the unknown with his head resting on his hands. At our approach he turned quickly round and rose up-his pale face was covered with tears! Meyerbeer was overjoyed, and, without say ing a word, shook his hand most kindly, as if to thank him. The un known, trying to conceal his embarrassment, muttered some words of compliment in such a vague and unconnected manner, that we saw he had not listened to the performance; and that for two hours he had been thinking of any thing rather than the music. Meyerbeer whispered to me in despair The wretch has not heard a note!"

We all three descended the stairs; and, crossing the large and beautiful court which leads to the Rue Grange Bateliere, the unknown bowed to M. Sausseret, who at that time had the letting of the seats.

I went to M. Sausseret-"You know that handsome young fellow who has just left me?"

"M. Arthur-Rue du Helder-No. 9. I know nothing more-he has engaged a box on the second tier for this winter."

"He was there this moment," I said.

"Then he seems to use it in the morning only, for he never goes near it at night. The box is always empty." And in fact the whole week the door was never opened-the box remained deserted.

The first appearance of Robert was now near, and on such occasions a poor devil of an author is overwhelmed with applications for boxes and tickets. You may imagine what time he has to attend to his play, and to the changes and curtailments that may be required. He has to answer letters and claims

that pour in upon him from all quar

ters, and it is invariably the ladies who are most exacting on such nights. "You were to have got me two boxes, and I have only got one. "" "You promised me No. 10, next to the General's, and they have sent me No. 15, next to Madame D-, whom I detest, and who casts me into the shade with her diamonds."-A first night is a time when you get into scrapes with your best friends, who, perhaps, overlook it in a few days if your piece "takes," but who nurse their indignation a long time if you are damned; so that you are punished both by them and the public at the same time. Misfortunes never come alone. Well, then, on the morning of the first night of Robert, I had promised a box to some ladies; but the manager took it away from me to give it to a journalist! I complained. He replied, "'Tis for a journalist-you understand?-a journalist who hates you; but who has promised-thanks to my politeness in giving him your box -to speak favourably of the music."

It was impossible to resist an argument like this; and the box was given up.

But where was I to bestow my fair friends, whose wrath was a much more serious matter to me than that

of the journalist ?—I luckily remembered my unknown acquaintance, and went to his residence; his room was very simple and unostentatious, particularly for a man who had a box at the Opera.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

He was silent for a while; "And among those ladies," he said, "is there any one you love?"

Undoubtedly," I replied. "Then take the box," he said, "for I leave Paris to-day."

I made a movement expressive of interest and curiosity, and he seemed to divine my thoughts; for he took me by the hand, and said, "You no doubt perceive that certain fond and sad remembrances attach themselves to that box. I can communicate them to no one. Of what use is it to complain when one is miserable-and hopeless -and when it is all by his own fault?"

That night the first representation of Robert took place, and my friend Meyerbeer achieved a triumph which resounded all through Europe. Since that time many other events, literary and political,- many other successes, and many failures have occurred. I saw no more of M. Arthur-I thought of him no more- -I had forgotten him.

A night or two ago I found myself once more in the orchestra, at the right side of the Opera. It was not now to see Robert-it was to see the Huguenots five years had passed

away.

"You come late,” said one of my friends, a professor of civil law, who has as much "esprit" at night as erudition in the morning.

"And you are very wrong in so doing," added a little man dressed in

NO. CCXCV. VOL. XLVII,

black, with a sharp voice and a pow dered head, as he tapped me on the shoulder. I turned round, and saw M. Baraton, the notary of my family. "You here!" I cried-" and your office"

"Sold it three months ago I am rich-I am a widower-I am sixty years old-I have been twenty years married, and thirty years a notary-I think I am entitled to a little enjoyment."

"And he has now been a subscriber to the Opera for eight days," said the professor of civil law.

"Ay, to be sure; I like to laugh; I like comedy, and so I have bought an admission here."

39

"And why not at the Français ? "Oh! not half so amusing as hereone sees and hears the most extraordinary things in the world. These gentlemen know every thing-there is not a box of which they do not know the history."

"Indeed!" I cried, and mechanically turned towards the box on the second tier, which had so excited my curiosity some years before. What was my amazement! That night it was empty as before; and the only empty one in the whole house!

I was delighted to have a history to tell, and in a few words related all that I have now told you. I was listened to with attention: my friends were lost in conjecture-the professor tried to recall some ancient recollections-the little notary smiled maliciously.

"Well, gentlemen," I said to them, "which of you (who know every thing) can unriddle this enigma for us? who can tell us the story of that mysterious box?"

They were all silent, even the professor, who passed his hand over his brow as if to refresh his recollection of some anecdote, and would probably have finished by inventing one appro❤ priate to the occasion, if the notary had given him time.

"Who will tell you that story?" he exclaimed, with an air of triumph, "who but I?-I know the whole par

ticulars."

"You, M. Baraton ?" "To be sure."

"Go on then-go on,"-and we all drew near to listen.

"Go on, M. Baraton."

"Well, then," said the little notary,

2 R

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

"GENTLEMEN," said the notary, when the first act of the Huguenots was finished, "Queen Marguerite has to be dressed with all her maids of hon our-the castle and gardens of Chenonceaux have to be got ready; and the interval will be long enough, I think, to enable me to tell you the story you wish to hear." And after a placid pinch of snuff, which gave him time to collect his thoughts, M. Baraton commenced in these words:"Which of you, gentlemen, was acquainted with the little Judith?"

[ocr errors]

We all looked at each other, and the oldest frequenter of the orchestra was puzzled.

"The little Judith," he went on, "who some seven or eight years ago was brought out as a figurante in the ballet?"

"Stay," said the professor of civil law, with somewhat of a pedantic air, "a little blonde who was one of the pages in the Muette?"

"She was dark," said the notary; 66 as to the part you attribute to her, I have no positive document on the subject, and prefer relying on your immense erudition."

The professor bowed.

"But whether dark or fair, there was one thing that nobody disputed, and that was, that the little Judith was a charming creature. And another point, which appeared undeniable, was, that her aunt, Madame Bonnivet, was porteress in the Rue Richelieu, in the house of an old gentleman, whose confidential manager she had once been; some said his cook; but Madame Bonnivet disdained the impeachment, and went on, quietly plying her knitting needles, and managing for the different lodgers, while her niece even already began making conquests. For it was impossible to pass the porter's lodge without being struck with the extraordinary beauty of little Judith, who was scarcely twelve years old. Her eyes even then were the finest in the world; her teeth like pearls; her form exquisitely graceful; and in whatever dress she wore, she had the

most distingué air imaginable; and, to crown all, an expressive, clear, and open countenance, with something radiant and coquettish in its very in. nocence. In short, she gave promise of one of those glorious combinations of grace and beauty, enough to turn people's heads, and, as a poet would say, to change the fate of empires.

People paid Madame Bonnivet so many compliments every day on the loveliness of her niece, that she determined to make considerable sacrifices for her education. She sent her, there. fore, to a charity school, where little girls were taught to read and writean enormous amount of instruction, the advantages of which were soon felt by Madame Bonnivet herself; who, in her capacity of porteress, had found it rather difficult to make out the different addresses, and to send the letters and parcels to their respective destinations. Judith took this duty on herself, to the universal satisfaction of all concerned; and Madame Bonnivet being now persuaded that with such an education, superadded to so much beauty, her niece was sure to make a sensation in the world, she waited impatiently for an opening. It was not long before an opportunity presented itself. M. Rosambeau, the ballet-master, who rented one of the attics, offered to give little Judith some lessons; and in a few days after, Madame Bonnivet communicated in confidence to all the ladies of her acquaintance, that her niece had been accepted as one of the corps de ballet of the Opera-a piece of news which of course was spread far and wide, and flew rapidly from door to door along the whole extent of the Rue Richelieu.

Here, then, was little Judith instal led at the Opera, taking lessons every morning of M. Rosambeau, and coming on at night-totally unnoticed amidst the groups of young girls, naiads, or pages, as the professor justly observed a few minutes ago.

Judith was innocence itself, though belonging to the stage; for she had been brought up in a respectable

house, where all the lodgers were decent Benedicks. Her aunt, who was as watchful as a dragon, never left her; accompanied her to the theatre in the morning, brought her home at night, and even remained whole days in the green-room knitting her stockings, while her niece took lessons and practised her steps. You wonder what became all this time of the large house in the Rue Richelieu. I can't exactly say; but people believe that a friend of Madame Bonnivet undertook all her duties there, in the expectation of the little Judith making a catch; for you are aware, gentlemen, that no one goes on the Opera boards unless with the hope of making a catch-gaining a settlement, or however you choose to express that great object of an actress's ambition. In this way they leave the stage-they are rich-they reform; and the good aunt-for all pretty dancers, you may have remarked, have invariably aunts of the highest respectability-marries her niece, now weaned from the vanities of tin spangles and paste diamonds, to a flourishing stockbroker or".

"A retired notary," added the professor.

M. Baraton shrugged his shoulders. "Of course," he said; "but at that time thoughts of such prodigious advancement had never entered into the heads either of Madame Bonnivet or her niece. Ambition grows on us by degrees.'

[ocr errors]

"But Judith," I said; "what became of Judith ?" for I saw the curtain about to rise.

"Judith! I'm coming to her directly."-Madame Bonnivet, in spite of all her caution, could not hinder her niece from talking with her companions. In the mornings in the greenroom, and, above all, at night when they were on the stage-a region where the aunt found it impossible to follow Judith heard some things that astonished her.

One of the nymphs or sylphides, her companions, whispered in her ear "See Judith, look in the orchestraat the right-how hard he is looking

at me.

[ocr errors]

"Who?" said Judith.

"That handsome young man with the cachemire vest; don't you see him?"

"What does it all mean?" "I've struck him."

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

"She!" rejoined the other, "she hasn't wit enough to get her one. Such good fortune would be too much to expect.

"

Judith did not lose a syllable, but had not courage to ask any body for an explanation. But she understood enough to see she was looked down upon, and she naturally had an intense desire to avenge herself, to humble her companions, and fill them with rage and envy. Accordingly, when Madame Bonnivet informed her on their return, with a solemn face, that she would introduce her to a protector—a noble and rich protector her first sensation was one of joyful surprise; and her aunt, who had not expected such a reception for her news, proceeded in rapture.

"Yes, my darling niece, an admirable person in all respects-a person who will secure your happiness, and a provision for your aunt; and indeed he can't do less, after all the trouble and expense your education has cost me."

Here the good aunt wiped away a few tears; and Judith, who was moved by the appearance of so much tender. ness, only ventured to ask who was the protector, and how she had deserved such generosity.

"You shall know in good time," replied the aunt; "but in the meanwhile your companions will die with spite."

This was the very thing Judith wanted; and great indeed was the surprise, when the intelligence became known in the green-room.

"Is it possible? a creature like that a figurante-a chorus girl, and I a first dancer-'tis disgusting!"

"Quite right," said the others;

"she is so good; she deserves her good luck, she is so sweet and pretty." And in short, if it had been a marriage to a duke, they could not have made more exclamations, or envied her advancement more sincerely. And there could no longer be any doubt upon the subject, when her aunt appeared that evening in a magnificent shawl of Ternaux. But who could this protector be? some rich old curmudgeon -some gouty old banker, or wornout old roué? But to all these questions Judith maintained a most prudent reserve; one great reason of which probably was, that she did not know a syllable about the matter.

In a few days, she had quitted the porter's lodge to live with her aunt in a charming suite of rooms in the Rue de Provence-a bedroom furnished splendidly, and a boudoir so tasteful, so elegantly fitted up, that the aunt never ventured to approach it; she preferred sitting in the dining parlour, or indeed in the kitchen; she felt so much more at her ease there than elsewhere.

But day after day passed on, and nobody appeared, which struck Judith as something rather strange; for Judith was without education, but not without sense. Her candour and naiveté proceeded from innocence, not from stupidity; and after thinking over her position for some time, she would have given the world for somebody to consult for some one to defend her against this protector whom she did not know, and whom she feared and hated. It is true, the only idea she had formed of him was of an ugly old man; for her companions had prepared her for nothing else by their conversations. She accordingly trembled, and had almost fainted with agitation, when, on the fifth day, her aunt threw open the door and announced the expected visiter.

Judith would have risen to receive him with proper respect, but her limbs shook, and she sank back again upon the sofa. When at length she raised her eyes, she saw standing before her a handsome young man of twenty-two or twenty-three years old, of a noble and elegant appearance, who looked at her with a kind and benevolent expression. In one instant she felt she was safe. A person who looked at her with so soft a smile would be her defender from all evil,

.

and from him she would have nothing to fear.

"Mademoiselle," he said, in a calm and respectful tone; but perceiving that Madame Bonnivet was still in the room, he made her a sign, and she immediately remembered she had orders to give about the dinner"Mademoiselle, you are here at home, I hope you will be happy; but pardon me if I have the honour of seeing you but seldom-other engagements will prevent me the pleasure. I therefore lay claim to but one titlethat of your friend; to but one privilege-that of satisfying your slightest wish."

Judith did not reply; but the beatings of her heart lifted up the light muslin of her pelerin.

"As to your aunt," and this he said with a scarcely perceptible tone of contempt, "she will hereafter be at your command; for I wish that you should give your commands to every one here, commencing with myself."

He then went near her, and took her hand, which he lifted to his lips, and seeing that the hand still trembled-" Have I alarmed you?" he said; "be assured that I shall never repeat my visit except when you desire it-adieu, Judith!"

And he went away, leaving the poor girl in a state of emotion which she could not comprehend. All day long she thought of nothing but the handsome stranger with his beautiful black eyes. She had not ventured to look at him, and yet nothing he had done, not a movement had escaped her. She was uneasy, and lost her spirits; her complexion grew pale,

and her aunt smiled.

When the stranger was spoken of, she blushed the deepest scarlet, and her aunt smiled again.

But he returned no more, and she could not ask him to return. What had she to complain of?-apartments beautifully furnished-servants and carriage at her command-she had not a want in the world!

On the other hand, her companions in the theatre, seeing her so brilliantly dressed, and so radiant in beauty, overwhelmed her with questions. But those very questions made her have suspicions that there was something unusual in the whole transaction-that she was treated with a sort of disdain and she shied the conversation as much

« AnteriorContinuar »