Imatges de pÓgina

Mrs. Bury made a grave mistake in rors, she was greater than ever. Whenchoosing for her second début her great ever, in her part of Lady Macbeth, she part of Juliet; for she had outlived the came to the sleep-walking scene, that possibility of playing it as she played it shadowy neutral ground between death at that period of her life when her soul and lite, where the perturbed, burdened readily melted in the divine glow of spirit moans out its secret agony, she youthful passion and flowed into the char- gave startling token of the genius which acter, taking its perfect shape, rounded bad electrified and awed her audiences and smooth and fair. Through long of old. A solemn stillness pervaded the years of sorrow and unrest, she had now house; every eye followed the ghostto toil back to that golden time, - and like gliding of her form, every ear bung there was a sort of sharpness and hag upon the voice whose tones could sound garness about her acting, a singular the most mysterious and awful depths of tone of weariness, broken by starts and human grief and despair. bursts of almost preternatural power. Except in scenes and sentiments of pathos, It was during the first season of her where she had lost nothing, the last, fine, reappearance that Mrs. Bury went to evanishing tints, the delicate aroma of Drury Lane, on an off-night, to witness the character, were wanting in her per- one of the latest efforts of Garrick as sonation. It was touched with autumnal Richard the Third. Ile was, as usual, shadows,- it was comparatively hard and terribly great in the part; but, in spite dry, not from any inartistic misapprehen- of his overwhelming power, Zelma found sion of the poet's ideal, but because the herself watching the Lady Anne of the fountain of youth in Zelma's own soul night with a strange, fascinated interest. ran low, and was choked by the dead This part, of too secondary and negative violets which once sweetened its waters. a character for the display of high dra

She felt all this bitterly that night, ere matic powers, even in an actress who the play was over; and though her au- should be perfect mistress of herself, was dience generously applauded and old borne by a young and beautiful woman, friends congratulated her, she never new to the London stage, though of some played Juliet again.

provincial reputation, who on this occaYet, even in the darker and sterner sion was distressingly nervous and illparts, in which she was once so famous, assured. She had to contend not onshe was hardly more successful now. In ly with stage-fright, but Garrick-fright. losing her bloom and youthful fulness “ She met Roscius in all his terrors," of form, she had not gained that stat- and shrank from the encounter. The uesque repose, or that refined essence fierce lightnings of bis dreadful eyes of physical power and energy, which seemed to shrivel and paralyze her; sometimes belongs to slenderness and even bis demoniac cunning and persuapallor. She was often strangely agitated siveness filled her with mortal fear. Her and unnerved when the occasion call- voice shook with a pathetic tremor, beed most for calm, sustained power, --- at came hoarse and almost inaudible; her times, glancing around wildly and pite- eyes sank, or wandered wildly; her brow ously, like a haunted creature. Her was bathed with the sweat of a secret passion was fitful and straineil, -- the fire agony; she might have given way utof rage fickered in her eye, her relaxed terly under the paralyzing spell, hail not lips quivered out curses, her hand shook some sudden inspiration of genius or with the dagger and spilled the poison. love, a prophetic thrill of power, or a Her sorrows, real and imaginary, seemed memory of her unweaned babe, come to to have broken her spirit with her heart. nerve, to uphear her. She roused, and

But in anything weird and supernat- went through her part with some fliekural, awful with vague, unearthly ter- ering flashes of spirit, and through all

[ocr errors]

and fog.


her painful embarrassment was stately enough in one place to weary of it,-- the and graceful by the regal necessity of peaceful sights and sounds of rural life her beauty. The event was not suc- tranquillizing and refreshing her soul, as cess,- was but a shade better than utter the clear expanse of its sky, the green failure; and when, soon after, that beau- of its woods and parks, the daisied swell tiful woman dropped out of London dra- of its downs refreshed and soothed her matic life, few were they who missed her eye, tired of striking forever against dull enough to ask whither she had gone. brick walls and struggling with smoke

But Zelma, whose sad, searching eyes saw deeper than the eyes of critics, rec- Then May came round, - the haunted ognized from the first her grand, long- month of all the year for her. The hawsought ideal in the fair unknown, whose thorn-hedyes burst into flower,—the highname had appeared on the play-bills in ways and by-paths and lanes became small, deprecating type, under the over- Milky Ways of bloom, and all England whelming capitals of “ MR. GARRICK” was once more veined with fragrance. - Mrz. Siddons." She looked upon

They were in the North, when one that frightened and fragile woman with morning Zelma was startled by hearing prophetic reverence and noble admira- the manager say that the next night they tion ; and as she walked her lonely cham- should play at Walton. It was there ber that night, she said to herself, some- that Lawrence Bury died; it was there what sadly, but not bitterly,—“ The true he slept, in the stranger's unvisited grave. light of the English drama bas arisen at She would seek out that grave and sink last. •Out, out, brief candle !'”

on it, as on the breast of one beloved,

though long estranged. It would cool Season after season, year after year, the dull, ceaseless fever of her heart to Zelma continued to play in London, but press it against the cold mound, and to never again with the fame, the hom- whisper into the rank grass her faithful age, the flatteries and triumphs of a remembrance, her forgiveness, her ungreat actress.

All these she saw at last conquerable love. accorded to her noble rival. Mrs. Bury But it was late when the players had shone very acceptably in a doubt- reached Walton ; and, after the necesful dramatic period, — first as an in- sary arrangements for the evening were spired, impassioned enthusiast, and after concluded, Zelma found that she had as a conscientious artist, subdued and no time for a pilgrimage to the parish saddened, yet always careful and ear- churchyard. She could see it from a nest; but, like many another lesser light, window of her lodgings ;- it was highshe was destined to be lost sight of in walled, dark and damp, crowded with the long, splendid day of the Kembles. quaint, mossy tomb-stones, and brooded

Yet once again the spirit of unrest, over by immemorial yews. In the deepthe nomadic instinct, came back upon ening, misty twilight, there was something Zelma Bury, — haunted her heart and awful in the spot. It was easy to fancy stirred in her blood till she could resist unquiet spectres lurking in its gloomy no longer, but, joining a company for a shadows, waiting for the night. Yet Zelprovincial tour, left London.

ma's heart yearned toward it, and she The health of the actress had been murmured softly, as she turned away, long declining, under the almost unsus- “ Wait for me, love!” perted attacks of a slow, insidious dis- The play, on this night, was “ The Fair

She was more weak and ill than Penitent." In the character of Calista she would confess, even to herself; she Mrs. Bury had always been accounted wanted change, she said, only change. great, though it was distasteful to her. She never dreamed of rest. Week after Indeed, for the entire play she expressed week she travelled, never tarrying long only contempt and aversion; yet she play



ed her part in it faithfully and carefully, before him, his heart fails him; he rushes as she performed all professional tasks. out, and is shortly after killed by Lotha

In reading this tragedy now, one is at rio's faction. Calista then dies by her a loss to understand how such trash could own hand, leaving Altamount desperate have been tolerated at the very time of and despairing the revival of a pure dramatic literature,

Poor Calista is neither a lovely nor a – how such an unsavored broth of senti- lofty character; but there is something ment, such a meagre hash of heroics, could almost grand in her fierce pride, in her have been relished, even when served by defiant hauteur, in her miyhty struggle Kembles, after the rich, varied, Olympian with shame. Mrs. Siddons made the part banquets of Shakspeare.

terribly impressive. Mrs. Bury softened The argument is briefly this :

it somewhat, giving it a womanly dignity Calista, daughter of Sciolto, is betroth- and pathos that would seem foreign and ed to Altamount, a young lord, favored almost impossible to the character. by Sciolto. Altamount has a friend, Horatio, and an enemy, Lothario, secretly When Zelma entered her dressingthe lover and seducer of Calista, whose room, on that first night at Walion, she dishonor is discovered by Horatio, shortly found on her table a small spray of hawafter her marriage with Altamount, to thorn-blossoms. whom he reveals it. Calista denies the “ How came these flowers here?" she charge, with fierce indignation and scorn ; asked, in a hurriedl, startled tone. and the young husband believes her and “I placed them there," replied her discredits his friend. But the fourth act little maid, Susan, half-frightened by the brings the guilt of Calista and the villany strange agitation of her mistress. "I of Lothario fully to light. Lothario is plucked the sprig in our landlady's garkilled by the injured husband, Sciolto den; for I remembered that you lored goes mad with shame and rage, and Ca- hawthorn-blossoms, and used often to buy lista falls into a state of despair and peni- them in Covent-Garden Market.” tence.

thank you, Susan. I do inThe fifth act opens with Sciolto's elab- deed love them, and I will wear them to orate preparations for vengeance on his night.” daughter. The stage directions for this As she said this, she placed the flowers scene are,

in her bosoin, -- but, the little maid no

ticed, not as an ornament, but quite out ["A room hung with black: on one side Lotharrio's bowly on a bier; on the other a table,

of sight, where her close bodice would with a skull and other bones, a book, and a crush them against her heart. lamp on it. Cilista is discovered on a couch, During the first acts of the play, Zelin black, her hair hanging loose and disor

ma was languid, absent, and more unequal dered. After soft music, she rises and comes

than usual. A strange sense of evil, a forward.']

vague foreboding, haunted her. It was She takes the book from the table, but, in vain that she said to herself, “ What finding it the pious prosing of some “ Jazy, have I, a lonely, disappointed woman, dull, luxurious gownsman,” flings it aside. loveless and joyless, to tear of misfortune She examines the cross-bones curiously, more, - since death itself were welcome lays her band on the skull, soliloquizing as change, and doubly welcome as rest ?” upon mortality, somewhat in the strain The nameless fear still clung to her, sendof Hamlet; then peers into the collin of ing cold thrills along her veins, fierceLothario, beholds his pale visage, “ grim ly grasping and holding her palpitating with clotted blood," and the stern, un- heart. winking stare of his dead eyes. Sciolto When, in the last act, reclining on her enters and bids her prepare to die; but sombre couch, she waited through the while she stands meek and unresisting playing of the “* soft music,” there came

Ah, yes;

[ocr errors]

the scene,

to her a little season of respite and calm. full, eyes that now yearned with love, Tender thoughts, and sweet, wild fancies now burned with hate, - ah, God! the of other days revisited her. The wilted eyes of Lawrence Bury ! hawthorn-blossoms in her bosom seemed With a shrill, frenzied shriek, Zelma to revive and to pour forth volumes of sprang back and stood for a moment fragrance, which enveloped her like an shuddering and crouching in a mute agatmosphere; and as she rose and advan- ony of fear. Then she burst into wild ced slowly toward the foot-lights, wink- cries of grief and passionate entreaty, ing dimly like funeral lamps amid the stretching her tremulous hands into the gloom of the scene, it strangely seemed to void air, in piteous imploring. her that she was going down the long, “She has gone mad! Take her away!” sweet lane of Burleigh Grange. The shouted the excited audience; but before magic of that perfume, and something any one could reach her, she had fallen of kindred sweetness in the sad, wailing on the stage in strong convulsions. music, brought old times and scenes be- The actors raised her and bore her fore her with preternatural distinctness. out; and as they did so, a little stream of Then she became conscious of a something blood was seen to bubble from her lips. making still darker and deeper the gloomy A medical man, who happened to be shadows cast by the black hangings of present, having proffered his services,

- a presence, not palpable or was hurried behind the scenes to where visible to the senses, but terribly real to the sufferer lay, on a rude couch in the the finer perceptions of the spirit, — a green-room, surrounded by the frightenpresence unearthly, yet familiar and com- ed players, and wept over by her faithful manding, persistent, resistless, unappeas- little maid. able, — moving as she moved, pausing as The audience lingered awhile within she paused, clutching at her hands, and sound of the fitful, frenzied cries of the searching after her eyes. The air about dying actress, and then dispersed in disher seemed heavy with a brooding hor- may and confusion. ror which sought to resolve itself into Zelina remained for some hours conshape, — the dread mystery of life in vulsed and delirious; but toward morndeath waiting to be revealed. Her own ing she sank into a deep, swoon-like sleep soul seemed groping and beating against of utter exhaustion. She awoke from this, the veil which hides the unseen ; she quite sane and calm, but marble-white gasped, she trembled, and great drops, and cold, — the work of death all done, like the distillation of the last mortal an- it seemed, save the dashing out of the guish, burst from her forehead.

sad, wild light yet burning in her sunken She was roused by a murmur of ap- eyes. But the bright red blood no longplause from the audience. She was act- er oozed from her lips, and they told ing so well! Nerving herself by an al- her she was better. She gave no heed most superhuman effort, her phantom- to the assurance, but, somewhat in her haunted soul standing at bay, she ap- old, quick, decisive way, called for the proached the table, and began, in a voice manager. Scarcely had he reached her but slightly broken, the reading of her side, when she began to question him melancholy soliloquy. But, as she laid eagerly, though in hoarse, failing tones, her hand on the skull, she gave a wild in regard to the skull used in the play of start of horror, not at the touch of the the preceding night. The manager had cold, smooth bone, nor at the blank, black procured it of the sexton, he said, and stare of the eyeless sockets, but at finding knew nothing more of it. beneath her hand a mass of soft, curling She sent for the sexton. He came,hair, damp, as with night-dew!- at be- a man “ of the earth, earthy,”—a man holding eyes with “ speculation ” in them, with a grave-ward stoop and a strange -ay, with human passions, luminous and uneven gait, caught in forty years' stum

[ocr errors]


bling over mounds. A smell of turf and self on one elbow and looking him out of mould, an odor of mortality, went before

the room. him.

When he was gone, she sunk back and He approached the couch of the ac- murmured, partly to herself, partly to tress, and looked down upon her with a her little maid, who wept through all, the curious, professional look, as though he more that she did not understand, “I were peering into a face newly coffined knew it was so; it was needless to ask. or freshly exhumed; but when Zelma Well, 'tis well; he will forgive me, now fixed her live eyes upon him, angry and that I come when he calls me, accomthreatening, and asked, in abrupt, yet plishing to the utmosť my vow. lle will solemn tones,

Whose was that skull make peace with me, when I take my you brought for me last night ?” he fell old place at his sidewhen my head back with an exclamation of surprise and shall lie as low as bis,-- when he sees terror. As soon as he could collect him- that all the laurels have dropped away, self sufficiently, he replied, that, to the when he sees the sorrow shining through best of his knowledge, the skull had be- the dark of my hair in rifts of silver." longed to a poor play-actor, who had After a little time she grew restless, died in the parish some sixteen or, it and would return to her lodgings. might be, eighteen years before; and As the doctor and her attendant were compelled by the merciless inquisition of about placing her in a sedan-chair to those eyes, fixed and stern, though dilat- bear her away, a strange desire seized ing with horror, he added, that, if his her to behold the theatre and tread the memory served him well, the player's boards once more. They conducted her name was Bury.

to the centre of the stage, and seated her A strong shudder shivered through the on the black couch of Calista. There poor woman's frame at this confirmation they left her quite alone for a while, and of the awful revealment of the previous stood back where they could observe night; but she replied calmly, though without disturbing her. They saw her with added sternness,—“He was my hus- gaze about her dreamily and mournfully; band. How dared you disturb his bones ? then she seemed to be recalling and reAre you a ghoul, that you burrow among citing some favorite part. To their surgraves and steal from the dead?prise, the tones of her voice were clear

The poor man eagerly denied being and resonant once more; and when she anything so inhuman. The skull had had ceased speaking, she rose and walked rolled into a grave he had been digging toward them, slowly, but firmly, turning by the side of the almost forgotten grave once or twice to bow prondly and solof the poor player; and, as the manager emnly to an invisible audience. Just had bespoken one for the play, he had before she reached them, she suddenly thought it no harm to furnish him this pressed her hand on her heart, and the But he would put it back carefully into next instant fell forward into the arms its place that very day.

of her maid. The young girl could not “ See that you do it, man, if you value support the weight — the dead weight, the repose of your own soul!" said Zelma, and sank with it to the floor. Zelma had with an awful impressiveness, raising her- made her last exit.

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinua »