Page images
PDF
EPUB

anguish and disappointment; while there were some fair faces among

the girls, ay, and if I remember rightly, among the lads too, which bore the marks of recent tears.

“ I watched with beating heart the coming of Paquerette. I saw at once how it had fared with her. There was scorn in the curling lip, and indignation in the flashing of her eye, which told me her tale as plainly as though I had seen it written in

graven characters before me. I could read the history of efforts despised and disregarded, of genius neglected and misunderstood, and of self-love stung and humbled to the very quick, that my heart bled for her. She raised her dark eyes to my face as she passed. She felt that I understood what was passing in her mind, for she blushed like scarlet ; and when, by an almost involuntary movement, I placed the dark wreath I had been weaving upon the polished tresses of her raven hair, she looked at me for an instant silent and motionless, and then taking my hand, she pressed it to her lips and bathed it with her tears.

“ From that very moment was dated my intimacy with Paquerette, bound closer day by day by admiration on my part and gratitude on hers. We grew to be inseparable. It was my first attachment-it lasted true and faithful to the end, and, during my long career, I have formed no other.

“She would rise with the dawn, and, pale and sickly as she was, would think it no hardship to accompany me to the market

, and assist in furnishing my basket for the day, deeming herself sufficiently repaid by the sight of the delicious produce of garden and green-house, of which she could thus enjoy the view without being compelled to purchase.

" It was the good woman with whom she lived, the mother of the tall Melanie, the girl who accompanied her to the Conservatoire, who told me the history of the maiden, and a dark and melancholy history it was.

“Paquerette was the daughter, so she told me, of one of the noblest houses of La Vendée. She had herself, when young, lived in the family, but having since that time left her province for Paris, and been married to a stern republican, she had for some time lost sight of them. But with that faithful attachment, the peculiar attribute of the natives of her pays, she never forgot those beneath the protecting wing of whose ancestors whole generations of her own forefathers had lived and died.

“I ought, rightly, to tell you this story in the same language in which it was told to me, in order to convey to you an adequate idea of the impression it produced upon me.

“ It was one cool summer's evening, and we were sitting endeavouring to breathe the air on the bench before the gate of the mansion of which Madame Michelle was portress, for like many others in those troublous times, she, too, had seen changes, and from having been the wife of a respectable shopkeeper, had been glad to accept this humble situation in her old age, and to assure the protection of the family for her daughter.

“Paquerette was standing on the evening I mention at a short distance from us, leaning against the wall, with her arm thrown lovingly around the stem of a wide-spreading geranium. I remember the plant well

, it had been a sickly cutting, which had been thrown away as worthless, but which by care and skilful management she had rendered the marvel of the whole quartier. Her head was leaning fondly towards it, and her face was almost buried among its scarlet blossoms, while they, as if in gratitude, endeavoured to shed a glow over her pallid face, making her appear, as I remember we both said at the time, like the statue on the marble tomb in St. Gervais when the setting sun shines through the great painted window and for a while cheats the beholder into a belief that it is about to start into life, and to descend from its unearthly pedestal. Just so did she stand: her slight figure bent over the plant, and so wrapt in contemplation of the flowers, that she heeded not that it was her own sad history which furnished the subject of our conversation, nor yet the large warm tears which chased each other down my face as the words fell from the lips of Françoise.

“« Judge of my anguish,' said the good woman, when after years of absence I learnt that my young seigneur had met his death in a skirmish with the Republican troops, and that his youthful and lovely wife was a prisoner in the Conciergerie, where she was awaiting the execution of the sentence by which she was condemned for no other crime than that of having been the wife of a brave and loyal gentleman, to die upon the scaffold. It was a long time before I could gain access to her, for I was closely watched by my good man, who, God be gracious to his soul

, would not let me stir abroad for fear of betraying my real opinion of our rulers. At last, however, I did succeed in gaining admittance. I need not tell you how. 'Tis ever the same story of weary supplication and degrading stratagem. Alas ! I had at first cause to repent that I had sought to visit her, for I verily thought my heart would have broken when I beheld the piteous plight in which the poor young lady was left. The prisons were crowded at that time, and I cannot describe to you the appearance of that noisome dungeon.

“ The young countess knew me at once, although so many years had elapsed since the time when, a blooming girl, I used to carry milk to her father's château. But, the Lord in his goodness knows, that I should not have recognised her even had I seen her, as in those same happy days, running to meet me down the noble avenue which led to the old mansion. It made me weep till I thought my heart would burst, to hear her wild and fond expressions of gratitude on seeing me, for they made me feel how lonely and deserted she had been,-one who had been but so short a time before the idol of a whole province, and at whose smile alone hundreds would have flown to do her bidding. She told me that none were left of all those to whom she had thus been dear. The plough and the harrow had gone over her husband's lands, fire and rapine had laid waste her father's hearth, and that 'twas mercy she was condemned to die, for she should not know where to lay her head. The poor lady was near her time, and it was this circumstance alone which had saved her from the immediate execution of her sentence. A feeling of joy stole over me as I contemplated her worn and pallid features, for I knew that she would escape the savage decree. It needed but to see her sunken eye, and to hear her deep and hollow voice, to feel assured of this. The thought of her child seemed in nowise to trouble her.

She appeared certain that it would bear her company down into the grave.

". During the latter days I scarcely stirred from her side, for she seemed to live but when I was nigh, and when I was absent would do nought but sit on her low pallet, watching the door for my return. And yet with my humble means I could afford but little consolation.””

THE DRAMA IN PARIS.

BY CHARLES HERVEY, ESQ.

Mr. Mitchell's Programme—“ Jerusalem”—“Le Trésor du Pauvre"-Bardou

Actor-Painters and Sculptors-Vernet and Bouffé-Opéra Nationel-Furnambules, Déburau, fils—Madame Allan Despréaux.

VERILY the manager of the little bonbonnière in King-street, St. James's, deserves well of his fellow citizens. Year after year, season after season, regardless of expense, trouble, and fatigue, he commences anew his Herculean labours, sallying forth like a giant refreshed to cater for the intellectual appetites of his habitués. Now in Paris, now in Brussels, now on the wing to Orleans or Rouen, now skimming over the flats of Belgium, or braving the mists of Holland, this indefatigable explorer contrives annually to return home full-handed from his search after that rarest of all rarities-- Novelty.

His opening announcement is generally simple and clearly worded, but like Lord Burleigh's shake of the head, it means far more than its phraseology would seem to imply; the statement, apparently so simple and unvarnished, that the season will commence on such a day, signifies, in other words, that on that day the victims of ennui, fogs, and influenza, the unfortunates who have courageously, but despairingly, struggled through an incipient London winter, may find a place of refuge open to them, a cheerful, well-warmed snuggery, where, three times a week, from eight o'clock, p. m. till midnight, they may partake of the tempting entertainment their Amphitryon has so liberally provided for them. And now let us examine the bill of fare for the approaching year.

The present list does not include so many stars as those of former seasons, but one glance at its contents is sufficient to show that the main object of the lessee has been to improve the ensemble of the pieces produced by the engagement of several artistes from the same theatre. Thus, we find no less than eighteen actors and actresses selected from the Palais Royal company, being in fact, with some dozen exceptions, the entire troupe. If I am not misinformed, the main body of that phalanx will appear in the month of June, thus facilitating the reproduction of any successful novelties which may have been brought out in Paris up to that period.

Some few of these glorious farceurs are familiar to the English public: Levassor, Ravel, and Alcide Tousez, have already made many jaws ache and many hands tingle by their inimitable drolleries. But Sainville, Grassot, marvellous, unapproachable Grassot, and Leménil are still new to London; Derval, one of the most gentlemanlike comedians in Paris or elsewhere, has not yet (at all events professionally) quitted his household gods for le perfide Albion, and Berger, L'heritier, Lacourière, and Kalekaire are now, for the first time, setting forth on their pilgrimage.

And thou, delicious Laure Lambert, thou, whose lustrous eyes and Grecian moulded arms have long ranked thee among the most danger

the day.

ous and witching of Parisian syrens, art thou about to leave us ? and thou lively Scriwaneck, and thou piquante Juliette, and thou witty and accomplished Leménil! All, even down to Aline Duval

, Freneix, and Madame Moutin, all are on the list of deserters. But, beware mesdemoiselles, beware, lest we in our turn prove inconstant. Beware, lest transferring our homage to Duverger, to Ozy, to Brassine, nay to Lucile Durand, and Pauline, we vote your abdication perpetual, and turn a deaf ear to all entreaties for pardon! Alas! I fear that one glance from Lambert's bright orbs would annihilate our sternest resolutions. N'est ce pas, Mademoiselle Laure ?

Among the most important names on the list, figure those of Achard and pretty gentille Désirée, her first appearance in England. A man must be indeed blasé not to derive pleasure from the charming naiveté and fascinating liveliness of this most agreeable young artiste. There is a freshness in her acting, an absence of all outward show of art, which in these conventional days is most rare and most enjoyable. I do not know if the piece called “Un Tuteur de Vingt Ans” is to be produced for her, but if so the abonnés have an exquisite treat in store for them.

Nathalie is engaged for two months, and takes with her an extensive répertoire. Neuville, that imitative prodigy, will introduce to the English public, not only himself, but also Bouffé,

Ravel, Numa, Klein, Lepeintre, and Alcide Tousez, while some excellent plays, including " Echec et Mat,” and “ Diogène” are in preparation for my worthy friend Bocage, the creator of “Buridan,” and one of the few really sterling comedians of

Mr. Mitchell has done well in engaging Montaland and Fechter, they are both clever and painstaking actors, and will greatly benefit the ensemble of his pieces; he has discovered a treasure in little Maria Marot, a mere child, but a very promising one. Mademoiselle Lagier, from the Variétés, has talent, and does not lack aplomb; Messrs. Landrol (if the father, a good acquisition ; if the son, moderately so), St. Marie, and Lucien, and Mesdames Chataigniez, and Anais Sauzion, complete the Parisian portion of the company, which also includes among others, Messrs. Lemonnier, Chatelain, Henry Alix, and Josset, and Mesdames St. Ange, Valmy, De Varennes, Baptiste, and Davennay. Connais pas.

And Cartigny, bluff, jovial Cartigny, could I for a moment forget him? As well might the Ethiopian Serenaders strive to exist without “ Bones,” as the St. James's Theatre without Cartigny !

The success of “I Lombardi,” recently produced at the Acadèmie Royale under the title of “Jérusalem,” with considerable additions and ale terations, may be appropriately termed a succès de décors, the scenery, costumes, and general getting up of the piece being so admirable, as completely to absorb the attention of the audience. Were it not for these most agreeable accessories, I much doubt if the opera would have obtained more than a succès d'estime (equivalent to no success at all), Verdi's music being, for the most part, far more provocative of ennui than of pleasure. As it is, backed by the scenic perfection alluded to, by a charming ballet, and, on the whole, very tolerable singing, it will very probably have a

Of one thing, however, I am certain, viz., that if this very fashionable composer contributes many such productions to the répertoire of the opera, there will soon be no member of the company capable of interpreting them.

A tenor or a soprano must be leather-lunged to endure

run.

such Herculean exertions without utter prostration of all vocal power. Duprez, to whom the principal part in the opera, that of Gaston, has been confided, is (notwithstanding his incomparable acting), painful to see, and far more painful to hear. Such a continued and unavailing struggle between artistic enthusiasm and physical debility, I have seldom seen, and never wish to see again.

The basso, Alizard, is, with the exception of Barroilhet, who, luckily for him, does not play in the piece, the only singer in the troupe whose voice is proof against the instrumental thunders in which il Signor Maestro Giuseppe Verdi delights: the stout little hero bears up nobly against both drum and trumpet, and certainly combats most efficiently and most successfully for “ Jérusalem." The other male singers are but mediocre, the best being, perhaps, Brémonde, who has lately taken to beliowing like an enraged bull, and Porthéaut, who is inaudible during three parts of an air in order to come out strong at the close.

Madame Julian van Gelder, on whose engagement Verdi properly insisted at a sine quâ non, is rather handsome, and possesses a powerful but slightly sharp soprano, which she manages very artistically.. She has some high notes to touch, and some roulades to execute which would try the temper of the most enduring voice, and which she attacks most courageously. Palmam quæ meruit ferat. Bravo, Madame Julian van Gelder.

I think I just hinted at the pretty ballet introduced into the third act, the scene being a marvellously beautiful sylvan glade, embellished with a fountain, and peopled with graceful and light-footed nymphs, personified by Mesdemoiselles Maria, Fuoco, Fleury, Robert, Flora Fabbri, Plunkett, and Adèle Dumilâtre. After the four first had treated us to a pas de quatre, very neatly danced, especially by Fuoco, that little witching coquette, Adeline Plunkett (to whom Flora Fabbri served admirably as a foil), darted on with that joyous bounding step peculiarly her own, and smiling, not with the stereotyped smile, or rather grin, de rigueur, usually sported by Mesdemoiselles X or Z (one mustn't be too personal), but with a smile of such real earnest gaiety and good-humour, that St. Anthony himself would have been fascinated by it. She never seems to aim at effect, but dances as if her whole heart and soul were in the steps her tiny feet execute so charmingly. One can only compare her to a feu follet, a flickering gleam of light, now here, now there, dazzling and enchanting while it shines, and leaving all in darkness when it disappears.

Scarcely had our aching hands time to tingle after she had vanished from our view when in sailed Adèle Dumilâtre, the tall, the graceful, the lightly bounding. She is now the sole worthy representative of the ballonné, or Taglioni school, the genre of all her comrades being more or less tacqueté. Were she wise, however, she would eschew the over-abundant use of paint ; her cheeks, which are none of the plumpest, are as thickly coated with rouge as is Mademoiselle Fuoco's forehead with blanc. I need hardly say that the personal appearance of neither lady is improved thereby

The Vaudeville, which has for some time been in a declining way, but whose motto has, nevertheless, apparently been contre fortune bon cæur, drew a full house the other night by the announcement of a new threeact drama, entitled “Le Trésor du Pauvre.” I wish I could add that the novelty was likely to be a treasure to the theatre ; not that the piece is either badly written or badly played, but the subject verges too closely

Jan.- VOL. LXXXII. NO. cccxxv.

K

« PreviousContinue »