Abbildungen der Seite

with my violoncello in hand by her side, I accompanied her in those sweet overtures which she brought with her from school; and the little quarrels we had as to the time; the necessity there was for me to lean forward and scan the notes; the absolute necessity of putting my arm round her waist in doing so, while her tresses were floating over my cheeks; and then, recalled by too close a pressure, her pretty confusion, and her soft hand removing mine, and her eye so bright and piercing, and yet so sweetly reproving me for my trespasses; all these sweet thoughts came thronging on amid the hurlyburly of trumpets and drums and the screams of the chorus in full blast, showing how strong is the power of association, and how the mind, awakened to what it loves, remembers the past, however dissimilar the thoughts and the sounds which call up the memories of other days. Pardon me, my dear fellow, for this digression ; but though I can't paint by words what Mendelssohn has done by notes, and which the Musical Institute' attempted to describe by sounds, yet I will do my best by a way of my own, and will use materials more within my grasp

and your comprehension. You must remember that good old tune of Holden's, set to this verse of Dr. Watts' hymn, in the Village Collection :'

So pilgrims on the scorching sand,

Beneath a burning sky,
Long for a cooling stream at hand,

For they must drink or die.' I shall never forget the effect of this tune upon me when we went to church at Sandy Hill Meeting-house, on a hot Sunday afternoon, to visit your cousin at Aunt Mary's. There sat in the singing-seats, all in white, a row of sweet young girls, all very pretty; and then there was Ben Johnson with his big bass, and Tom Jones and all his bass singers; and when they came to this verse, · Long for a cooling,' sang the tenor, ‘Long for a cooling,' piped up the treble ; Ben came in with a smash and rasp on the big bass that shook the very ground-tier of the meeting-house ; while his bass-men in the rear, roaring out like so many bears, as though they would devour these girls, sang out · Long for a cooling ;' after which, as you know, all the voices blend in and come out even at the end. This, you will recollect, is the way it ran:

[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small]

As you were yourself very much moved by the voices of those young ladies on that occasion, you will certainly recollect the tune í

speak of; and if so, you will have a clue, about the size of a packthread, to help you through the labyrinth of an oratorio upon this

one verse.

You must imagine the scene to open in a desert. The caravan enters, and you hear the big bassos scraping out dull, heavy sounds, which indicate that the camels are weary and the sand very deep; after recitatives expressing thirst and agony, and choruses wailing and fainting, the fiddles strike up a brisk movement, which is caught by the viols and reëchoed by the bassos; and then come the trombones and the chorus, all singing to the top of their voices; and let the words be : • The long sought well is near; its curb we see !"

But if performed à-la-mode the Institute, you could not distinguish a single word without the book before you. Now Mr. Henry C. Watson would have indicated all this by some such sign-post marks as the following:

• The Aria is in F minor. Its character is that of deep, intense and overwhelming misery; this is followed by the chorus in D minor, portraying the despondency and despair of the caravan; this is immediately followed on the words, The well is nigh, its curb we see,' by a change in the key of G major. The effect of which is strikingly overwhelmingly grand ; indeed the chorus from beginning to end is a series of brilliant and original conceptions. The caravan reaches the well — it is dry! Then there comes on a general crash of all concerned, and the trombone man outdoes himself, and threatens to burst his brass or his belly, both of which seem endangered by bis zeal to reach to the conceptions of the composer. After an Adagio recitative, responded to by the chorus, they set out again, when the old camel who heads the procession falls down, and then comes another smash, indicating that the entire crockery of the caravan is all broken to pieces. The rider makes a recitative over the mishap; and then comes a Terzetto of men, contesting who shall rip open the camel's stomach, to get what Hood terms a 'second-hand swig at his cistern :' this is followed by a general uproar of the instruments and choruses, who all claim their share. The orchestra now commence in dull dubious notes, which seem to have no beginning nor ending, and this indicates the contest among the camels as to who shall be the leader; a task which you will remember they do not care to take upon themselves. The caravan moves on. Then rises a Si. moom of the Desert, which covers up the entire caravan, whose sounds become stifled by the heat and dust, and so gradually die down into the stillness of death. Now all this is not attained without the most piercing cries of the chorus, and the very loudest blasts of the trombones; the gloomy thunders of the kettle-drums, and open throats of all the pedal-pipes of the high organ.

Now, Tom, do you catch the idea ? My own opinions as to this oratorio have been confirmed by the judgment of a gentleman then staying at our hotel, whose lady was one of the most attractive creatures I have seen. They had arrived a few days before the tenth


of November. The gentleman had the mien of a man of high ton, wore the most perfect suit of black, which fitted him with a perfection of grace beyond the reach of art. His manners were so quiet and stealthy as to excite remark only by their unobtrusiveness ; while his eye was bright and full of speculation, glancing and gleaming as they glanced. His lady (what she is, wife or daughter, 't is hard to guess) is certainly not yet twenty, while he is near forty-five or fifty. She has the finest figure I ever saw; her style and bearing graceful beyond expression, while it seems to be as natural in her as life. And such an eye! so dark and beaming; and with such infinite variety of expression, as I never have before seen. And though they never spoke to any; never did an act to attract attention, yet they were the observed of all observers ;' and what it was that inspired all this interest, it was hard to discover. The boarders, ladies and gentlemen, were all whispering their inquiries, “Who are these people ?' The register at the bar was consulted, and there was a name written in a foreign style of caligraphy, which defied all decyphering At the bar he was called Number 64,' or Gentleman in Black ;' but as no one had called upon them, or left a card, the bar-keepers had made no discovery; and the cold calm demeanor and the reserve of the gentleman forbade all inquiries.

My seat at the table was next to this lady, and gave me the opportunity of handing her the salt-cellar, and paying her those little attentions of the table with some degree of assiduity, all which she received with ease and courtesy. At supper one evening our eyes met, and it would be impossible to tell you all the meaning there can be conveyed in a single glance ; it dazzled and bewildered me. Just before she was leaving the table, her handkerchief rolled, as if by accident, down her lap between our chairs ; she leant down for it, and I, who was now alive to every movement of hers, anticipated her, and as I raised the handkerchief, one of those gossamer creations of art, our hands met, and as she received the mouchoir at the side of her dress, out of sight of all around us, she gave my hand a soft pressure, which thrilled through me as if there was some electrical influence imparted and received. By the way, Tom, these boardinghouses and hotels are the most famous places for intrigues you can imagine. A man, however alive to the dangers of the place, can't surround his wife; and you see by my experience how many little tukens aud missives may be conveyed and received, while he, poor soul, is entirely unconscious of what is going on.

I went to my room quite beside myself, and thought on what had passed, and the next step for me to take to know more of this fascinating lady. It then occurred to me for the first time that my room was • Number 65,' and only a wall divided us.

At once I opened the closet door to see if the partition was of wood, or lime and mortar ; and with a feeling of one bafled, found it to be of lime ; (for had it been of boards a small saw would have been serviceable ;) then I recollected there was an iron railing, as is quite common at these hotels along the story, and I went to the window to see



what facilities it offered, and found them ample, for the windows of our story went to the floor and opened upon it. Then like a flash of light I thought all this was high treason against your sweet cousin, and her image in all its loveliness and purity came up

before me. I slammed down the window and threw myself into a large chair by the fire. I sat thinking how different was the effect of the meeting of her hands with mine, and what different sentiments were inspired. So taking a long breath, I determined to preserve my purity of soul, and banish this Circe from my imagination, and sat down to finish the Countess of Rudolstadt,' which I was reading. I was astonished to find that this lady had already possessed me of all those sentiments which I found as I read on, according to the new school of Socialists, were the infallible signs of true love ; and that I ought to relinquish your beautiful cousin for this Unknown! You may think it strange or impossible, but here are the very words. Consuelo, whom Mr. Gray, the translator, in his introduction calls the Godlike,' is married to Albert, Count of Rudolstadt. She is rescued from Spandau, where she had been imprisoned by Frederick the Great, in a dark night, by a cavalier in a cloak and masque. In the carriage, dark as pitch all the while, she leans her head on his breast and receives and returns a kiss from the Unknown, which instantly transforms her whole soul. In a colloquy with the Sybil,' as she is called, who is the high priestess of the Order of Socialists, (the mother as it turns out, of Albert,) she thus describes emotions just

like my own, only a little worse : • His

presence causes me more fear than Albert, but how different is that fear, and how mingled with strange delights! His arms are a magnet which attracts me, and his kiss makes me enter another world; in which I breathe, in which I exist not as in this.'

The Sybil replies:

• Well, Consuelo, you must love that man and forget the other. I pronounce your divorce from this moment; it is my duty and my right.'

This may be all very well and fitting for Fourierists and Transcendentalists; but the thought of giving up your cousin for this Gipsy Consuelo, was abhorrent to my soul, and I threw down the book and said to myself:

• No! she may go to the devil if she pleases, but I will remain by my first love!'

It being now midnight, I went to bed; and to tell you the truth, Tom, I was with this gipsy all night, rolling and tumbling; dreaming that the Gentleman in Black, in the form of a Satyr with horns, was in full chase after us. I had a horrid night of it, and was never more delighted than when I awoke and found it all a dream.

The next day I went to the breakfast table with all the coolness, courage and resolution of a Joseph; but neither the Gentleman in Black nor his lady appeared, either at breakfast, dinner or tea ; and I confess to you, I was rather disappointed not to have another trial or two of my chastity. So you may readily believe that I was gratified to see the gentleman and lady sitting not far from me

at the Tabernacle. The lady recognized me with one of her beaming glances, which reached the very bottom of my soul. Their attention to the performance bore all the marks of ennui, but with all politeness they sat it out. On leaving the Tabernacle, taking courage and the full share of Yankee impudence which I inherit from a long line of the purest and best blood of the land, I joined them on their way down Broadway: they very politely returned my salutation, and the pretty lady seemed especially gratified when I placed myself at her side.

"How did you like the oratorio ? I asked the lady.

She threw up her beautiful eyes, and shrugging her shoulders the least bit in the world, replied · Helas !' and then, as if recollecting herself, she said, “It is a most splendid effort of genius.'

Now I saw that she had changed her course of remark in an in. stant from the performances to the composition ; and I was also charmed by the tones of her voice, so rich and full, and yet surprisingly sweet and clear, while the words spoken had that winning foreign accent which always delights the ear, when the language is spoken by a lady, with all those graceful gesticulations so fascinating in French women.

I then spoke all the thoughts which presented themselves to my mind with due frankness ; hoping to break up the reserve which froze up the thoughts of this lady, and bound up in ice those of the Gentleman in Black. They listened with a pleased and gratified air; and when we reached the hotel, for the first time since their arrival they entered the ladies' parlor, (which was happily entirely vacant,) and seated themselves so as to continue the conversation. By this time the lady had become beautifully excited, and spoke of Mendelssohn with enthusiasm, and told me all she had felt when she first heard · Elijah' at Paris, and afterward at Vienna, and then again at London ; but she said :

• It is very wonderful how you can do these things so well here in such a new country. Ah! music is a plant of slow growth! By-and-by it will be done here.'

I replied that my own mind was constantly tasked and wearied with the effort to conceive what must be the grandeur of this magnificent work, fully and perfectly represented; but that I felt at times that it was as hopeless as the pursuit of the man who had no visibility and no shadow.'

The lady, leaning forward, laid her soft white hand on mine, with a pressure and a glance of the eye that set my heart dancing, and exclaimed: 'Dear Sir! do you know where Peter Schlemihl is? Pray tell us, that my father may find him, and then we may return to our warm clime. Here it is so cold !'-shrugging up her pretty shoulders, and looking up very piteously and with earnestness into

my face.

Now considering I was acting the part of Joseph, you will see that in spite of my resolutions, made and provided for all emergencies, I had some how placed myself in most dangerous propinquity to this Mistress Potiphar; and I felt somewhat guilty, but

« ZurückWeiter »