Imatges de pÓgina


Nobly self-forgetful always, Zelma, in rors and sorrows, the homely distresses of the first hour of success, feeling, in spite the heart, hard, absolute, unrelieved, of herself, the pettiness and egoism of to which the tragic agonies she had been her husband's nature, with a sense of representing seemed but child's play. humiliation in which it seemed her very At length, finding himself at the lowsoul blushed, offered to renounce for- est ebb of theatrical favor, and hating ever the career on which she had just horribly the scene of his humiliating deentered. Mr. Bury, however, angrily re- feat, Mr. Bury resolved to return to his fused to accept the sacrifice, though she old strolling life in the provinces. Makpressed it upon him, at last, as a “ peace- ing at the same moment the first anoffering," on her knees, and weeping like nouncement of his going and his hura penitent. “It is too late,” he said, bit- ried adieux to Zelma, who heard his last terly. " The deed is done.

You are

cold words in dumb dismay, with little mine no longer,— you belong to the pub- show of emotion, but with heavy grief lic;-I wish you joy of your fickle mas- and dread presentiments at her heart, he ter."

departed. He was accompanied by the From that time Zelma went her own fair actress with whom he played first ways, calm and self-reliant outwardly, parts at Arden, — but now, green-room but inwardly tortured with a host of gossip said, not in a merely professional womanly griefs and regrets, a helpless association. This story was brought to sense of wrong and desolation. She flew Zelma ; but her bitter cup was full withto her beautiful art for consolation, fling out it. With a noble blindness, the fanating herself, with a sort of desperate aban- icism of wifely faith, she rejected it utterdonment, out of her own life of monot- ly. “ He is weak, misguided, mad,” she onous misery into the varied sorrows of said, “but not so basely false as that. the characters she personated. For her He must run his wild, wretched course the cup of fame was not mantling with awhile longer, – it seems necessary for the wine of delight which reddens the him; but lie will return at last,-surely lips and “maketh glad the heart.” The he will, — sorrowful, repentant, in his costly pearl she had dissolved in it had right mind,' himself and mine once more. not sweetened the draught; but it was He cannot weary out God's patience and intoxicating, and she drank it with feverish avidity.

After the first shock of her desertion But for Lawrence Bury, his powers was past, Zelma was conscious of a sense flagged and failed in the unnatural rival- of relief from a weight of daily recurring ship; his acting grew more and more care and humiliation, the torture of an cold and mechanical. He became more unloving presence, chill and ungenial as than ever subject to moods and caprices, aretic sunlight. Even in the cold blank and rapidly lost favor with the public, till of his absence there was something grateat last he was regarded only as the hus- ful to her bruised heart, like the balm of band of the popular actress, then, mere- darkness to suffering eyes. Her art was ly tolerated for her sake. He fell, or now all in all to her, the strong-winged rather flung hinself, into a life of reckless passion, which lifted her out of herself dissipation and profligacy, and sunk so and her sorrows. She was studying Julow that he scrupled not to accept from liet for the first time. She had been playhis wife, and squander on base pleasures, ing for more than a year before she could money wou hy the genius for which he be prevailed upon to attempt a Shakhated her. Many were the nights when spearian character, restrained by a proZelma returned from the play house to found modesty from exercising her crude her cheerless lorgings, exhausted, dis- powers upon one of those grand creapirited, and alone, to walk her chamber tions. till the morning, wrestling with real ter- When, at length, she made choice of


my love."

Juliet, what stuly was hers ! - how rever- ties of Bessie and Sir Harry that he was ent! how loviny ! how glad !--- the perfect persuaded to stay. As the play went service of the spirit! She shut out the on, however, his sympathies became enworld of London from her sight, from her listed, in spite of his prejudices. Gradthoughts, till it seemed lost in one of its ually his heart melted toward the fair own foys. The air, the sky, the passion, offender, and irrepressible tears of adthe poetry of Italy were above and around miration and pity welled up to his kindly her. Again she revelled in that wondrous blue eyes. Ile watched the progress of garden of love and poesy, with a back- the drama with an almost breathless inground of graves, solemnizing joy. Now terest while she was before him, but grew her fancy flitter, on swift, unresting wing, listless and indifferent whenever she left from beauty to beauty,— now settled, bee- the stage. The passion of Romeo, the like, on some rich, half-hidden thought, philosophy of the Friar, the quaint garand hung upon it, sucking out its most rulousness of the Nurse, the trenchant sweet and secret heart of meaning. She wit of Mercutio were alike without charm steeped her soul in the delicious romance, for him. the summer warmth, the moonlight, the But though thus lost in the fortunes sighs and tears of the play. She went and sorrows of the heroine of the play, from the closet to the stage, not brain

the dramatic illusion was far from comweary and pale with thought, but fresh, plete for bim. It was not Juliet,- it was tender, and virginal,- not like one who Zelma, the wild, misguided, lost, but still had committed the part of Juliet, but one beloved child of his poor brother; and in whom Juliet possessed in every part. his bewildered brain her sad story was She seemed to bear about her an atmos- strangely complicated with that of the phere of poetry and love, the subtile spir- hapless girl of Verona. When she swalit of that marvellous play. There was no lowed the sleeping-draught, he shrauk air of stuly, not the faintest taint of the and shuddered at the horrible pictures midnight oil ; — like a gatherer of roses conjured up by her frenzied fancy; and from some garden of Cashmere, or in the last woful scene, he forgot himself, peasant-girl from the vintage, she brought the play, the audience, everything but only odors from her toil,—the sweets of her, the forlorn gypsy child, the shy and the fancy, a flavor of the passion she had lonely little girl whom long years ago he made her own.

had taken on his knee, and smoothed On her first night in this play, Zelma down her tangled black hair, as he might was startled by recognizing among the have smoothed the plumage of an eaglet, audience the once familiar faces of her struggling and palpitating under his hand, uncle Roger, her cousin Bessie, and Sir and glancing up sideways, with fierce and Harry Villerton. They had all come frightened eyes, and now, when he saw up to London to draw up the papers her about to plunge the cruel blade into and purchase the trousseau for the wed- her breast, he leaped to his feet and elecding, which would have taken place a trified the house by calling out, in a tone year sooner, but for the death of Bessie's of agonized entreaty, "Don't, Zelle! mother.

for God's sake, don't! Leave this, and Squire Burleigh had been entrapped come home with us, home to the by his daughter and her lover into com- Grange !” ing to the play,— he being in utter igno- It was a great proof of Mrs. Bury's rance as to whom he was to see in the presence of mind and command over her part of Juliet. When he recognized his emotions, that she was not visibly discomniece in the ball-room scene, he was posed by this strange and touching apshocked, and even angry. He started peal, or by the laughter and applause it up, impetuously, to leave the house ; called forth, but finished her sad part, and it was only by the united entrea- and was Juliet to the last.



When, obeying the stormy summons mockery of life, this prolonged fever of the audience, the lovers arose from dream, this playing with passion and the dead, and glided ghost-like before pain! It is killing you! Why, you look the curtain, Zelma, really pale with the worn and anxious and sad as death passion and woe of her part, glanced by daylight, though you do bloom out eagerly at the box in which she had strangely bright and beautiful on the beheld her friends ;- it was empty. The stage. So, dear, come into the country, worthy Squire, overcome with confusion and rest and renew your life.” at the exposure he had made of his weak- Zelma opened her superb eyes in ness and simplicity, had hurried from amazement, and her cheek kindled with the theatre, willingly accompanied by bis a little flush of displeasure; yet she andaughter and Sir Harry.

swered playfully,_" What! would you On the following day, sweet Bessie resolve the new star of the drama' inBurleigh, with the consent, at the request to nebulousness and nothingness again ? even, of her father, sought out her fa- Remember my art, sweet Coz; I am a mous cousin, bearing terms of reconcilia- priestess sworn to its altar.” tion and proffers of renewed affection. “But, surely,” replied Bessie, ingenu

The actress was alone. She had just ously, “ you will not live on thus alone, risen from her late breakfast, and was in unprotected, a mark for suspicion and a morning costume, - careless, but not calumny; for they say — they say that untidy. She looked languid and jaded; your husband has deserted you." the beautiful light of young love, which “ Mr. Bury is absent, fulfilling a prothe night before had shone with a soft, fessional engagement. I shall await his lambent flame in every glance, seemed return here,” replied Zelma, haughtito have burned itself out in her hollow ly. eyes, or to have been quenched in tears. Bessie blushed deeply and was silent.

She Aung herself on her cousin's So, too, was the actress, for some moments; breast with a laugh of pure joy and a then, softened almost to tears, half closchild's quick impulse of lovingness; buting her eyes, and letting her fancy float almost immediately drew herself back, away like thistle-down over town and as with a sudden sense of having leaned country, upland, valley, and moor, she across a chasm in the embrace. But said softly, — “Dear Burleigh Grange, Bessie, guessing her feeling, clung about how lovely it must be now! What a her very tenderly, calling her pet names, verlurous twilight reigns under the old smoothing her hair and kissing her wan eln of the avenue !- in what a passion cheek till she almost kissed back its faded of bloom the roses are unfolding to the

And infinite good she did poor sun, these warm May-days! How the Zelma.

honeysuckles drip with sweet dews! how Bessie - dear, simple heart !- was no thickly the shed hawthorn-blossoms lie diplomatist; she did not creep stealthily on the grass of the long lane, rolling in toward her object, but dashed at it at little drifts before the wind ! And the once.

birds,-- do the same birds come back to “I am come, dearest Zelle, to win you nest in their old places about the Grange, home," she said. You cannot think I wonder?” how lonely it is at the Grange, now that Yes," answered Bessie, smiling; “I dear mamma is gone; and by-and-by it think all the birds have come back, save will be yet more lonely,- at least, for one, the dearest of them all, who fled poor papa. He loves you still, though he away in the night-time. Her nest is was angry with you at first, and he longs empty still. Oh, Zelle, do you rememto have you come back, and to make it ber our pleasant little chamber in the all up with you. Oh, I am sure, you must turret ? I could not stay there when be weary of this life, - or rather, this you were gone. It is the stillest, lone


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liest place in all the house now. Even his private papers were at the disposal your pet hound refuses to enter it.” of the widow. Deceased had been buried

“ Now, my Cousin, you are really in the parish church-yard of Walton. cruel,” said Zelma, the tears at last forc- This was all. ing their way through her reluctant eye- Zelma had abruptly dismissed her maid, lids. “ When I left Burleigh Grange, I that she might read quite unobserved a went like Eve from Paradise, - forever.” letter which she suspected brought news

* Ah, but Cousin dear, there is no ter- from her husband; so she was quite alone rible angel with a flaming sword guard- throughout that fearful night. What ing the gates of the Grange against you.” fierce, face-to-face wrestlings with grief

“Yes, the angel of its peace and an- and remorse were hers! What sweet, cient honor," said the actress; then ad- torturing memories of love, of estrangeded, pleasantly, “ and he is backed by a ment, of loss! What visions of him, torn mighty ogre, Respectability. No, Bes- with the agonies, wild with the terrors sie, I can never go back to my old home, of death, calling her name in vain imor my old self; it is quite impossible. ploring or with angry imprecations ! - of But you and my uncle are very good to him, so young, so sinful, dragged strugask me.

Heaven bless you for that! gling toward the abyss of mystery and And, dear, when you are Lady Willer- night, wrenched, as it were, out of life, ton, a proud wife, and, if God please, a with all its passions hot at his heart! happy mother, put me away from your

Hour after hour she sat at her table, thoughts, if I trouble you. Rest in the grasping the fatal letter, still as death, safe haven of home, anchored in content, and all but as cold. She yet wore the and do not vex yourself about the poor last dress of Belvedera, and was half enwaif afloat on wild, unknown seas. It veloped by the black cloud of her disheris not worth while."

elled hair; but the simulated frenzy, which So Bessie Burleigh was obliged to so late had drawn shuddering sighs from abandon her dear, impracticable plan; a thousand hearts, was succeeded by a and the cousins parted forever, though silent, stony despair, infinitely more terneither thought or meant it then. Bes- rible. A sense of hopeless desolation sie returned to Arden, married the mas- and abandonment settled upon her soul; ter of Willerton Hall, and slid into the the distances of universes seemed to sepeasy grooves of a happy, luxurious coun- arate her from the dead. But to this try-life; while Zelma rode for a few suddenly succeeded a chill, awful sense proud years on the topmost swell of pop- of a presence, wrapped in silence and ular favor, - then suddenly passed away mystery, melting through all material beyond the horizon of London life, and barriers, treading on the impalpable air, so, as it were, out of the world.

not “ looking ancient kindness on her One dreary November night, after have pain,” but lowering amid the shadows ing revealed new powers and won new of her chamber, stern, perturbed, unhonors by her first personation of Bel- reconciled. All these lonely horrors, vedera, Zelma went home to find on her these wild griefs, unrelieved by human table a brief, business-like letter from the sympathy or companionship, by even the manager of a theatre at Walton, a town unconscious comfort which flows in the in the North, stating that Mr. Lawrence breathing of a near sleeper, crowded and Bury had died suddenly at that place of pressed upon her brain, and seemed to a violent, inflammatory disease, brought touch her veins with frost and fire. on, it was to be feared, by some excesses For long weeks, Zelma lay ill, with a to which he had been addicted. The slow, baffling fever. Her mind, torn from theatrical wardrobe of the deceased (of its moorings, went wandering, wandersmall value) had been retained in pay- ing, over a vast sea of troubled dreams,ment for expenses of illness and burial; now creeping on through weary stretches

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of calm, now plunging into the heart of from the hidden force of her own sortempests and tossed upon mountainous rows, the elements of all tragedy seething surges, now touching momently at islands in her secret heart. of light, now wrecked upon black, desert Year after year she lived a wandering, shores.

out-of-the-way life on the Continent. It All was strange, vague, and terrible, at was said that she went to Spain, sought first; but gradually there stole back upon out her mother's wild kindred, and dwelt her her own life of womanhood and Art, — with them, making their life her life, their its scenes and changes, its struggles, temp- ways her ways, shrinking neither from tations, and triumphs, its brief joy and sun-glare nor tempest, privation nor perlong sorrow, all shaken and confused to- il. But, at length, tired of wandering gether, but still familiar. Now the faces and satiated with adventure, she flung of her audiences seemed to throng upon off the Zincala, returned to England, her, packing her room from floor to ceil- and even returned, forsworn, to her art, ing, darkening the light, sucking up all the as all do, or long to do, who have once air, and again piercing her through and embraced it from a genuine passion. through with their cold, merciless gaze. She made no effort to obtain an enNow the characters she had personated gagement at Covent Garden ; for her, grouped themselves around her bed, all that stage was haunted by a presence distinct, yet duplicates and multiplications more gloomy than Hamlet, more dreadof herself, mocking herwith her own ful than the Ghost. Nor did she seek to voice, and glaring at her with her own tread, with her free, unpractised step, the eyes.

Now pleasant suinmer-scenes at classic boards of Drury Lane,- where Burleigh Grange brightened the dull Garrick, the Grand Monarque of the walls, and a memory of the long lane in Drama, though now toward the end of the white prime of its hawthorn bloom his reign, ruled with jealous, despotic flowed like a river of fragrance through sway,— but modestly and quietly appearher chamber. Then there strode in up- ed at a minor theatre, seeming, to such on her a form of beauty and terror, and play-goers as remembered her brief, brilheld her by the passion and gloom of his liant career and sudden disappearance, eye,- and with him crept in a chill and like the Muse of Tragedy returned from heavy air, like an exhalation from the the shades. rank turf of neglected graves.

She was kindly received, both for her

own sake, and because of the pleasant Zelma recovered from this illness, if memories which the sight of her, pale, it could be called a recovery, to a state slender, and sad-eyed, yet beautiful still, of only tolerable physical health, and a revived. Those who had once sworn by condition of pitiable mental apathy and her swore by her still, and were loath to languor. She turned with a half-wea- admit even to themselves that her early ry, half-petulant distaste from her former style of acting - easy, flowing, impulsive, pursuits and pleasures, and abandoned the natural translation in action of a her profession with a sort of terror,— feel- strong and imaginative nature ing that its mockery of sorrows, such as remain what, in the long absence of the had fallen so crushingly on her unchas- actress, it had become, a beautiful traditened heart, would maiden her utterly. tion of the stage, - that her present perBut neither could she endure again the sonations were wanting in force and sponconstraint and conventionalities of Eng- taneity, — that they were efforts, rather lish private life ; she had died to her art, than inspirations, were marked by a and she glided, like a phantom, out of weary tension of thought, — were care

her country, and out of the thoughts of ful, but not composed, roughened by unthe public, in whose breath she had lived, steady strokes of genius, freshly furrowed for whose pleasure she had toiled, often with labor.


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