« PreviousContinue »
sailed slowly round, waving her white arms above her head, or crossing them, with graceful gesture, on her snowy breast. Her features, according with the flow of melancholy sounds, assumed a dejected air.
But when she heard the brisk awakening viol,' she bounded aloft like Flora when pursued by Zephyr, and the strained eye could hardly catch the motion of her little twinkling feet. She receded to the back of the stage with wonderful rapidity,
Showing limbs, as loth to show
Through many a thin Tarentian fold.' And now she paused for breath her coral lips apart, her beautiful bosom heaving. The music swelled again, and the lovely Angelique sprang forward with the arrowy rush of Ronzi Vestris. Louder and louder rang the tambourine and bugle. And now commenced the triumph of the dancer's art. She bounded from the stage, as if too light to rest upon the boards. She poised her feather-weight upon one slender foot, and whirled around with dizzying rapidity. Her motions became more and more complicated, her exertions more and more prodigious. At length, wearied, weak, panting, she waved a feeble adieu, and disappeared. The roar of applause that followed her exit, shook the very pillars of the theatre, and the green
curtain undulated in the currents of air caused by the tumultuary movements of the audience.
Heavens !' cried Volatile, am I dreaming? Was not that an unsubstantial vision, sent to beguile a wayward hour, but too beautiful for earth ?'
• Come, Volatile,' said I,' your promise !'
• Promise!' cried Volatile, with huge contempt. 'I vowed I would not love a woman, but it would be madness to frown upon a divinity!'
• The girl is pretty,' said I, wishing to sooth him, ' and what pigeonwings!
*Goth!' exclaimed Volatile, do you speak of her thus? Why, she is angelic.'
• Her name is so,' retorted I. • But tell me, is that woman worthy such enthusiasm, who can so far forget the modesty of her sex and age, as to expose herself to the gaze of a crowded theatre, in a garb which a sculptor would think light enough for a Venus ? No, there is a rank corruption at her heart.'
I'll stake my head,' cried Volatile, hotly, 'upon the purity of her heart!' • Then, my poor Jack, you will soon become
A headless carcass, and a nameless thing.'' • Come, come,' said Jack, you must own that modesty does not consist in dress — else what a stock of ready-made virtue can you buy at any milliner's.'
Stop ! cried I, 'were this figurante a South Sea Islander, born where the thermometer stands at 90° Fahrenheit in the shade, and where milliners are confounded scarce, she might pass for a Lucretia; but as the case stands, I can't excuse her. I beg leave again to remind you of your promise. And now we'll go and get some oysters.'
Oysters ! food fit for the gods! What had been the banquets of Apicius without ye? The shell that cradled Venus on the waters must have been an oyster-shell. The pearl that Cleopatra melted in her cup, once rested in an oyster-shell. Delicious children of the sea! Ye were my solace in that all nameless hour, when my
heart was heavy within me — when the present was a blank, the future a dark abyss, the past a shadowy desert. Then, in the recklessness of my despair, not knowing whether I had an appetite or not, I said 'Give me oysters !' and I ate of them. Lo! the clouds that shrouded my mind vanished:
'My bosom's lord sat lightly on his throne.' I lived — I joyed in life. Hogarth, that accurate observer of nature, represents a man at an election dinner, dying with an oyster on his fork. Tell me, thou reverend chronicler of the past! is there on thy pages the record of a death more glorious ? A man may be sentimental over oysters. Volatile was so, and eagerly recommenced upon the subject of the dancing girl. He was entirely fascinated, and before we separated for the night, gave me to understand that he should immediately set about procuring an introduction, for he was very well convinced, from the evidence of her features, that she was a most amiable young woman, and worthy of all the eulogiums which had been lavished
her. Volatile's first step was to ascertain whether any of his friends were acquainted with the figurante ; but none of them could claim that honor. He next bought fifty dollar's worth of tickets for her first benefit, and the act was duly puffed in the newspapers. Mademoiselle Angelique pocketed the cash, but took no notice of her prodigal patron. Volatile now bethought himself of the influence of the manager, and procured an introduction to that worthy functionary, without encountering any of the difficulties which impeded his approach to the beautiful danseuse. The manager was much pleased with his new acquaintance, and let him into all the secrets by which he hoped to insure the success of his campaign. The graver part of the community were to be propitiated by a series of moral plays, of which George Barnwell was the most conspicuous. Then there were to be some dancing monkeys, and a pantomime for children, and a celebrated tight-rope vaulter, for the lovers of the legitimate drama. To all these plans Jack Volatile gave an attentive car, and what was still better, money. But when he solicited an introduction to the danseuse, the manager shrugged his shoulders. Mademoiselle Angelique was a singular girl — capricious – reserved sometimes — artful - provoking! However, he would try what he could do, for he had all the disposition in the world to oblige the young gentleman who had approved of the dancing monkeys, and sanctioned the degradation of the drama. The first message
which the manager brought from the figurante, was of a discouraging character. Angelique was unwell, saw no company, was not fond of American gentlemen, had her time occupied, etc., etc. The manager suggested the propriety of making some offering at the shrine of the lady's beauty. She has a passion for diamonds.' This hint was enough for Volatile. He had money, and he was generous. A cross, set with small diamonds, was procured, and sent, with a complimentary note, to the beautiful Parisian. It was accepted, and Volatile was invited to call.
The delight of Wilheim Meister, on being admitted to the private apartments of his lovely actress, was not equal to the joy of Volatile when he found himself in the boudoir of M'lle L'Amour.
Upon his entrance, the lady herself was not visible, but a snuffy old Frenchwoman offered him a chair. The room was richly draped and carpetted ; there were two large mirrors, and the furniture was elegant. Volatile's first movement was unpropitious, for he happened to tread on the tail of a pet puppy, that yelped and ran to the old woman, who took it up, hugged it in her arms, covered it with snuff and kisses, and ceased from her endearments only to cast angry glances at Volatile. Eventually, the little beast stole from the apartment.
At length Angelique entered. She did not look so blooming as on the night of her first appearance. The roses had faded from her cheeks, and Volatile was surprised to find that she was quite lame. She received him with a great deal of grace and affability, and entered into a very animated conversation. Volatile was not surprised to find that she had much of the enfante gatée about her, but he thought her characterized by great taste and wit. Perhaps he was not mistaken. The humblest Frenchwoman collects, almost miraculously, a considerable stock of information, and acquires, I know not how, a command of language, and a facility of expression, which is really enviable. French naiveté may not be nature, but it is still interesting.
All at once a scratching was heard at the door. 'Oh ! maman!' cried Angelique, ouvrez la porte — c'est mon pauvre Fidèle.'
The old lady hastened to admit him. The little dog entered, covered with mud. Volatile's pantaloons were immaculate : the little scoundrel rushed against his legs at once.
* Ah! monsieur !' cried the sentimental Parisian : voila comme il vous aime!'
The muddy cur sprang into Volatile's lap. 'A beautiful dog ! cried Volatile — then added to himself : ‘Curse the little whelp! I wish he were at Jericho!'
· Fidèle! Fidèle !' cried the danseuse, 'donnez le main à Monsieur.'
The dog placed his muddy paw in Volatile's white-gloved hand, and finished his performances, by biting my friend's finger. He was on the point of throwing his tormentor into the fire, but was recalled to his senses by the exclamation of the proprietress of the animal : • Ah! Monsieur Volatile ! il vous baise'. "he kisses you.'
It was with great difficulty that my friend finally persuaded the cross old woman to take the dog off. The remainder of the morning passed very pleasantly. Angelique was denied to every one, and the interview became literally a tête-a-tête, for the old woman was soon weary with listening to the conversation of the fair Parisian and her American admirer. When Volatile took leave, he thought himself really in love. At this period of the affair, I told him it was high time to consider how his father would relish the introduction of a French dancer into the family. To this he made no answer : he was evidently too far gone for reflection.
Volatile was now the constant attendant of Angelique. He waited upon her at ballet rehearsals, and frequently rode home with her from the theatre. One evening he called upon the lady, and found her in the best possible humor. She entertained him with a song, and danced her very best pas seul in her most bewitching manner. Volatile was delighted. Still,' said he, 'this is nothing but a rehearsal, for you are presently going to repeat this to the public.'
• Non, Monsieur Volatile, I am going to write to de directeur, dat I am ver sick dis evening – I have got a physician's certificate.'
• But,' said Volatile, who felt for the poor devil of a manager: * Mr. Trumpet will lose a vast deal of money by your non-appearance.'
"Ah, mon ami,' said Angelique, sentimentally, 'vat is money? Money is dross !!
At these words, a bitter pang shot across the breast of Volatile, for his presents to the dancer had almost exhausted his funds. But there was no resisting her blandishments. She was to disappoint a crowded theatre for his sake. The beautiful creature who had turned the heads of half the beaux of the metropolis, was now at his side, all smiles and gayety. Intoxicating thought! It is sometimes almost fatal to be young Volatile looked from the window. The white snow lay level and sparkling on the ground, and every roof and tree glittered in the frosty moonlight. The sound of sleigh-bells was unfrequent, for even the favorite amusement had been relinquished for the superior attractions of Mölle L'Amour. This lady was passionately fond of sleighing. She ran to dress, while he went for his horses and sleigh.
Meanwhile the theatre was gradually filling. Pit, boxes, and gallery swarmed with eager crowds. As the time for the appearance of Angelique drew near, the excitement became intense. The curtain rang up, the house was hushed, and the manager came forward with a dejected air. • Ladies and gentlemen : I am sorry to inform you, that severe sickness unhappily deprives M'lle L'Amour of the pleasure of appearing before you this evening.' A murmur of disappointment and pity ran round the boxes. The pit and gallery, less sentimental and more prudent, desired the restoration of their money. The manager thought it politic to gratify them.
Volatile, highly elated, drove up to the door of his fair friend, and assisted her into his light sleigh. Away they flew — both of them in the highest spirits. Volatile chose an unfrequented road, for he knew he was enjoying a dangerous honor. They alighted at a country tavern, the smirking proprietor of which was perfectly unconscious of the celebrity of the lady whom he ushered into his little back parlor. The old landlady bustled about to make things tidy and comfortable, and put a thousand questions to Angelique, which were answered by her escort. Rejecting the landlord's offer of flip, Volatile called for champaigne, and his fair companion appeared by no means reluctant to partake of it. Her spirits had reached the highest pitch of elevation when they rëentered the sleigh. Volatile waved his lash over the heads of his horses, and they bounded off like frightened deer. While their master had been drinking cham
paigne they had not been neglected, but, on the contrary, had been paying a practical compliment to the excellent grain of mine host of the Golden Ball. Angelique expressed a wish to drive. .' You, Angelique !' cried Volatile, in surprise and alarm : Why, you have never driven any thing faster than the wooden team in Cinderella. How can you expect to manage a pair of such fly-aways as these? You 'll break your precious little neck, to say nothing of mine.'
But the beauty, like all beauties, was self-willed. her the reins, and she stood up in front. The little bays kept the track, of course; but they wanted a strong pull, and the lady's strength was inadequate to that. Volatile would have remained at her side to assist her, but she imperiously waved him back, and raised her whip. Fatal rashness! As the lash descended on the backs of the good little nags, they sprang almost out of the harness, and then ran for life. Volatile seized the reins, but he could not bring them up in time. There was a snow-bank in the way, and an upset was the inevitable consequence. His presence of mind did not forsake him. He stopped the horses, and then went to look for Angelique. The fair French woman was completely imbedded in the snow, but her friend very carefully extracted her. As soon as she regained her feet, she began to settle her drapery, and then she danced about on the shining crust till she had restored the circulation of her blood. As Volatile handed her into the sleigh again, he asked her if she should like to drive home, but she replied in the negative, and my friend restored her safely to her dwelling.
He was now more in love with her than ever. However, a cir. cumstance soon occurred which somewhat damped his ardor for a time. He went into a jeweller's one day to purchase a watch trinket, when he was shown the identical diamond cross which he had presented to the French girl, and which the jeweller appeared anxious to dispose of. Mr. Volatile,' said the man, 'I can afford to sell you
this cheap, for I got it under price myself. I bought it from an old French woman, the other day.'
My friend concealed his agitation, and asked leave to take the cross home with him, assuring the jeweller that he would either purchase it, or return it in the course of the day. Armed with this proof of her duplicity, he sought an interview with Angelique. She was all smiles.
After conversing on indifferent topics for a while, Volatile suddenly drew out the diamond cross. * Angelique,' said he, calmly, do you know this bauble?'
The lady blushed at the sight of the tell-tale cross, but recovering herself instantly, told a most piteous story of being distressed for money, dunned by dress-makers, and duped by managers. She excused herself with all the volubility of a French woman, and finally ended by modestly requesting a trifling loan. Volatile found fault with nothing but her anticipating an offer. He left with her the diamond cross, and all the money he had about him.
Oh! strange infatuation of youth! Singular simplicity!
Singular simplicity! Must the arm be palsied, and the heart be withered, before we can acquire experience ?