Imatges de pÓgina

to be dismayed or humiliated by its straits possibility, almost an absurdity, you urge! and shifts of poverty, by its isolation and You could never make an actress. You ostracism; while there was something in are too hopelessly natural, erratic, and its alternations of want and profusion, in impulsive. You would follow no teaching its piquant contrasts of real and mimic implicitly, but, when you saw fit, would life, in its excitement, action, and change, trample on conventionalities and venerwhich had a peculiar charm for her wild able stage-traditions. You would set up and restless spirit. But from many of the standard of revolt against the ancient the associations of the stage, from near- canons of Art, and flout it in the faces ly all actors and actresses, and from all of the critics, and — fail, - ay, fail, in green-room loungers, she instinctively re- spite of your great, staring eyes, the coiled, and held herself haughtily aloof tragic weight of your brows, and the from the motley little world behind the fiery swell of your nostril." scenes,- apparently by no effort, but as “I should certainly tread my own ways sphered apart by the atmosphere of re- on the boards, as elsewhere,” replied Zelfinement and superiority which envelop- ma, quietly, —“ move and act from the ed her. Yet she almost constantly ac- central force, the instinct and inspiration companied her husband to rebearsal and of Nature, - letting the passion of my part play, where, for a time, her presence was

work itself out in its own gestures, posgrateful both to the pride and a more tures, looks, and tones — falling short of, amiable passion of her mercurial lord. or going beyond, mere stage-traditions. But the sight of that shy, shadowy figure With all due deference for authorities, haunting the wings, of those keen, crit- this would be my art, as it has been the ical eyes ever following the business of art of all truly great actors. I shall certhe stage, at last grew irksome to him, tainly not adopt my husband's profession and he would fain have persuaded her without his consent, but I shall nerer to remain quietly at their lodgings, whilst cease importuning him for that consent." he was attending to his professional du- Lawrence “ laughed a laugh of merry ties. But no, she would go with him,- scorn,” and left her to her solitary studies not for pleasure, or even affection, but, as and the patient nursing of her purpose. she always avowed, for artistic purposes. It was finally, for Zelma's sake, through That she had cherished, ever since her the unsolicited influence of Sir Harry marriage, the plan of adopting her hus- Willerton, that “Mr. Lawrence Bury, band's profession, she had never concealed Tragedian,” attained to a high point in from him. He usually laughed, in his gay, a provincial actor's ambition,-a London supercilious way, when she spoke of this engagement. purpose, or lightly patted her grand head After a disheartening period of waiting and declared her to be a wilful, unprac- and idleness, during which he and his tical enthusiast, - too much a child of wife made actual face-to-face acquaintNature to attempt an art of any kind, - ance with want, and both came near born to live and be poetry, not to declaim playing their parts in the high-tragedy it,-- to inspire genius, not to embody it, of starvation in a garret, he made his - a Muse, not a Sibyl.

first appearance before the audience of Once, when she was more than usually Covent Garden, in the part of Mercutio. earnest in pleading for her plan,— not He was young, shapely, handsome, and merely on the strength of ber own deep, clever,-full of flash and dash, and, above prophetic conviction of her fitness for a all, new. He had chosen well his part,dramatic career, but on the ground of an Mercutio,- that graceful frolic of fancy, urgent and bitter necessity for exertion which less requires sustained intellectual on her part, to ward off actual destitution power than the exaltation of animal spirand suffering -- he exclaimed, somewhat its,—that brief sunburst of life, that bril impatiently,“ Why, Zelma, it is an im- liant bubble of character, which reflects,


for a moment, a world of beauty and of the highest nobility did not scorn to sparkle, and dies in a flash of wit, yet shake off their perfumes and air their leaves on the mind a want, a tender re- profane vocabulary in the green-room, gret, which follow one through all the offering snuff and the incense of flattery storm and woe of the tragedy.

together to the Tamerlane, the Romeo, So it was little wonder, perhaps, that or the Lord Hamlet of the night. he achieved a decided success, though Happily, with the actor's fame rose bis incomparably greater artists had failed salary; and as both rose, the actor and where he triumphed, and that, in spite of his wife descended from their lofty atticthe doubtful looks and faint praise of the room - into whose one window the stars critics, he became at once a public favor- looked with, it seemed to Zelma, a startite, — the fashion, the rage. Ladies of ling nearness — to respectable lodgings the highest ton condescended to admire on the second floor. and applaud, and hailed as a benefactor It was during this first London season the creator of a new sensation.

that the manager of Covent Garden, himVery soon the young actor's aspiring self an actor, remarked the rare capasoul rose above all secondary parts, drop- bilities of Zelma's face, voice, and figure ped Mercutio and Horatio for Romeo and for the stage, and in a matter-of-fact Hamlet, and had not the sense to see business way spoke of them to her husthat he was getting utterly out of his ele- band. The leading actor looked anment, dashing with silken sails into the noyed, and sought to change the subject tempest of tragedy, soaring on Icarian of conversation; but as the wife's dreamy wings over its profoundest deeps and in- eyes flashed with sudden splendor, reto the height and heat of its intensest vealing the true dramatic fire, the manpassion.

ager returned upon him with his artistic Yet with the young, the unthinking, convictions and practical arguments, and the eager, the curious, it was then as it at length wrung from him most reluc-7 is now and ever shall be, - confidence tant consent that Zelma, after the neceseasily passed for genius, and presump- sary study, should make a trial of her tion for power. Tributes of admiration powers. and envy poured in upon him, — anony- Though well over the first summermous missives, tender and daring, odor- warmth of his romantic passion, Lawous with the atmosphere of luxurious bou- rence Bury had not yet grown so utterly doirs, and coarse scrawls, scented with cold toward his beautiful wife that he orange-peel and lamp-smoke, and seem- could see that trial approach without ing to hiss with the sibilant whisper of some slight sympathetic dread; but his green-room spite; and the young actor, miserable egoism forbade him to wish her valuing alike the sentiments, kindly or success; in his secret heart he eren hopmalign, which ministered to his egoism, ed that an utter, irretrievable failure intoxicated with the first foamy draught would wither at once and forever her of fame, grew careless, freakish, and ar- pretty artistic aspirations. rogant, as all suddenly adopted pets of Zelma chose for her debut the part of the public are likely to do.

Zara in “ The Mourning Bri:!c,"—not out At length Mr. Bury played before of


love for the character, which was Royalty, and Royalty was heard to say too stormy, vicious, and revengeful to ento Nobility in attendance,— "What! - gage her sympathies,— but because it was Who is he? Where did he come from? rapid, vehement, sharply defined, and, if How old is he? Not quite equal to Gar- realized at all, she said, would put her, rick yet, but clever,-eh, my Lord ?” by its very fierceness and wickedness, too

This gracious royal criticism, being du- far out of herself for failure,- sweep her ly reported and printed, removed the last through the play like a whirlwind, and let to aristocratic favor ; fast

bloods give her no time to droop. It had for ber


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beart, moreover, a peculiar charm of as- ened by her sumptuous dress, took her sociation, as her first play,--- as that in audience by surprise, and, while voice which she had first beheld the hero of' and action delayed, made for her friends her dreams, " the god of her idolatry," "and favor, and bribed judgment with before whom she yet bowed, but as with beauty. eyes cast down or veiled, not in rever- King Manuel receives his captives with ence, but from a chill, unavowed fear of a courteous speech,- only a few lines; beholding the very common clay of which but, during their reading, through what he was fashioned.

a lifetime of fear, of pain, of unimagThe awful night of the début arrived, inable horrors passed Zelma! Stageas doomsday will come at last; and af- fright, that waking nightmare of débuter having been elaborately arrayed for tantes, clutched her at once, petrifying, her part by a gossiping tire-woman, who while it tortured her. The house seemed would chatter incessantly, relating, for to surge around her, the stage to rock the encouragement of the débutante, tale under her feet. She fancied she beard after tale of stage-fright, swoons, and fail- low, elfish laughter behind the scenes, ure, - after having been plumed, pow- and already the hiss of the critics seemed dered, and most reluctantly rouged, the to sing in her reeling brain. A thousand rose of nineteen summers having sud- eyes pierced her through and through, denly paled on her cheek, Zelma was seemed to see how the frightened blood silently conducted from her dressing- had shrunk away from its mask of rouge room by her husband, who, as Osmyn, and hidden in her heart,- how that poor took his stand with her, the guards, and

childish heart fluttered and palpitated, attendants at the left wing, awaiting the how near the hot tears were to the glazed summons to the presence of King Man- eyeballs, - how fast the black, obliterate uel. As they were listening to the last ing shadows were creeping over the rectender bleating of Almeria, the same ords of memory, — how the first instinct pretty actress whom Zelma had seen as of fear, a blind impulse to flight, was Zara at Arden, and the gruff responses maddening her. of her sire, an eager whisper ran through She raised her eyes to the royal box, the group; — the King and Queen had where sat a stout, middle-aged man, with entered the royal box! This was quite a dull, good-humored face, å star and unexpected, and Zelma was aghast. In- ribbon on his breast, and by his side a voluntarily, she stretched out her hand woman, ample and motherly, with an and grasped that of her husband ;- ugly tuft of feathers on her head, and a she did so, the rattle of the chains on her diamond tiara, which lit up her heavy wrist betrayed her. The attendants look- Dutch features like a torch. The King, ed round and smiled;— Lawrence frown- the Queen! ed and turned away, with a boy's pettish- Just at this moment, his Majesty was ness. He had been more than usually in gracious converse with a lady on his moody that day; but Zelma had believ- right, a foreign princess, of an ancient, ed him troubled for her sake, and even unpronounceable title,-a thin, colorless now interpreted his unkindness as nėr- head and form, overloaded with immevous anxiety.

morial family-jewels,

a mere frame of The next moment, everything, even he, a woman, to hang brilliants upon. She was forgotten; for she stood, she hard- was one shine and shiver of diamonds, ly knew how, upon the stage, receiving from head to foot ;-she palpitated light, and mechanically acknowledging a great like a glow-worm. Her Majesty, meanburst of generous British applause. while, was regaling herself from a jew

It was a greeting less complaisant and elled snuff-box, and talking affably over patronizing than is usually given to debu- her shoulder to her favorite mistress of tantes. Zelma's youthful charms, height- the robes, the fearful Schwellenberg.



But Zelma, looking through the trans- Mr. Bury, as Osmyn, was cold and unfiguring atmosphere of loyalty, be held the sympathetic, avoided the eye of Zara, royal group encompassed by all the ideal and was even more tender than was splendor and sacredness of majesty ; 1 set down in the book” to Almeria. over their very commonplace beads tow- “ How well he acts his part !” said to ered the airy crowns of a hundred regal herself the generous Zelma. ancestors, piled round on round, and “ How anxiety for his wife dashes his glimmering away into the clouds. spirit !” said the charitable audience. Ere she turned her fascinated eyes

At the close of this act the manager away from the august sight, her cue was grasped Zelma's hand, and spoke of her given. She started, and struggled to success as certain. She thanked him speak, but her lips clung together. There with an absent air, and gazed about her was a dull roar and whirl in her brain, wistfully. Surely her husband should have as of a vortex of waters.

In piteous ap

been the first to give her joy. But he pealing she looked into the face of her did not come forward. She shrank away husband, and caught on his lips a strange, to her dressing-room, and waited for him faint smile of mingled pity and exultation. vainly till she knew he was on the stage, It stung her like a lash! Instantly she where she next met him in the great was herself, or rather Zara, a captive, prison-scene. but every inch a queen, and delivered In this scene, some bitterness of feel. herself calmly and proudly, though withing--the first sharp pangs of jealousya little tremble of her past agitation in gave, unconsciously to herself, a terrible her voice,-a thrill of womanly feeling, vitality and reality to her acting. She which felt its way at once to the hearts filled the stage with the electrical atof her audience.

mosphere of her genius. Waxen AlmeThe first act, however, afforded her ria, who was to have gone out as she enso little scope for acting, that she left tered, received a shock of it, and stood the stage unassured of her own success. for a moment transfixed. Even Osmyn There was doubt before and behind the kindled out of his stony coldness, and curtain. The critics had given no cer- gazed with awe and irrepressible admiratain sign, - the general applause might tion at this new revelation of that strange, have been merely an involuntary tribute profound creature he had called “ wife.” to youth and beauty. Actors and ac- She, so late a shy woodland nymph, stealtresses hung back,- - even the friendly ing to his embrace, - now an angered manager was guarded in his congratula- goddess, blazing before him, calling down tions. But in the second act the débu- upon him the lightnings of Olympus, with tante put an end to this dubious state of all the world to see him shrink and shrivthings,- at least, so far as her audience el into nothingness! And all this power was concerned.

· The Captive Queen” and passion, overtopping his utmost reach took captive all, save that stern row of of art, outsoaring his wildest aspirations, critics, – the indomitable, the incorrupt- he had wooed, fondled, and protected ! ible. Their awful judgment still hung

At first he was overwhelmed with amazesuspended over her head.

ment; he could hardly have been more In a scene with Osmyn Zelma first so, had a volcano broken out through his revealed her tragic power. In her fitful hearth-stone; but soon, under the fierce tenderness, in the passionate reproaches storm of Zara's taunts and reproaches, a which she stormed upon him, in her en- sullen rage took possession of him. He treaties and imprecations, she was the could not separate the actress from the po«t's ideal, and more. She dashed into wife, - and the wife seemed in open, disthe crudle and sketchy character bold loyal revolt. Every burst of applause strokes of Nature and illuminative gleams from the audience was an insult to him; of genius, all her own.

and he felt a mad desire to oppose, to VOL. IV



defy them all, to assert a master's right As Zelma bent and smiled in modest over that frenzied woman, to grasp her acknowledgment of renewed applause, by the arm and drag her from the stage led by royalty itself,— her aspirations so before their eyes !

speedily fulfilled, her genius so early This scene closes with a memorable crowned, - even at that supreme mospeech :

ment, the grief of the woman would have “ Vile and ingrate! too late thou shalt repent outweighed the triumph of the artist, and The base injustice thou hast done my love!

saddened all those plaudits into knell-like Ay, thou shalt know, spite of thy past dis- sounds, could she have known that the tress,

miserable fiends of envy and jealousy And all the evils thou so long hast mourned,

had grasped her husband's heart and Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turn

torn it out of her possession forever. ed,

In the death-scene, where the full tide Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned!”

of womanly feeling, which has been drivZelma gave

these lines as no pre-Sid- en out of Zara's heart by the volcanic donian actress had ever given them,- shocks of fierce passions, comes pouring with a certain sublimity of rage, the ire of back with whelming force, Zelma lost an immortal,- and swept off the scene none of her power, but won new laurels, before a wild tumult of applause, led bedewed with tears from “ eyes unused by the vanquished critics. It follow- to weep." ed her, surge on surge, to her dress- Zara dies by her own hand, clinging ing-room, whither she hastily retreated to the headless body of King Manuel, bethrough a crowd of players and green lieving it to be Osmyn's. Zelma gave room habitués.

the concluding lines of her part brokenThat sudden tempest shook even the ly, in a tone of almost childlike lamentroyal box. The King, who a short time ing, with piteous murmurs and penitent before had been observed to nod, not shaking his “ambrosial locks” in Jovelike approval, but somnolently, started

“ Cold, cold! – my veins are icicles and frost!

Cover us close, or I shall chill his breast, up, exclaiming, “ What! what! what's

And fright bim from my arms! - See! see! that?”—and the Queen — took snuff.

he slides In her dressing-room Zelma waited for Still farther from me! Look! he hides his her husband. · Surely he will come

face! now,” she said.

I cannot feel it! - quite beyond my reach!

Ah, now he's gone, and all is dark!” She had already put off the tragedyqueen; she was again the loving wife, With that last desolate moan of a yearning for one proud smile, one tender proud and stormy spirit, sobbing itself word, one straining embrace. The tem- into the death-quiet, a visible shudder pest outside the curtain still rolled in crept through the house. Even the upon her, as she sat alone, drooping and King threw himself back in his royal sad, a spent thunder-cloud. The sound chair with an uncomfortable sort of brought her no sense of triumph; she " abem!” as though choking with an only looked around her drearily, like emotion of common humanity; and the a frightened child, and called, “ Law- Queen --- forgot to take snuff. rence!”

Instead of him came the manager. From the night of her triumphant She must go before the curtain ; the au- but, the life of the actress ran in the full dience would not be denied.

sunlight of public favor; but the life of Lawrence led her out,- holding her the woman crept away into the shadow,hot, trembling fingers in his cold, nerve- not of that quiet and repose so grateful less hand, a moody frown on his brow, to the true artist, but of domestic discomand his lips writhing with a forced smile. fort and jealous estrangement.



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