« 上一頁繼續 »
ceeded; my reward is the consciousness of having done some service to one whom I tenderly love; but I now want some other object of excitement, and that is only to be found in the scenes I have quitted. During several months past, as my mind became gradually relieved by the termination of your affairs; the remembrance of my professional life has haunted me, and filled me, not with regret at having for a period quitted it, but with a determination of again enjoying it. In my dreams the theatre presents itself; I fancy am greeted with the applause of that multitude who admire and love me; they seem to beckon me to them. I feel that it is necessary to my happiness, that I should once more taste the intoxication of the public praise, and that I should participate in the incense they offer to my talents. I shall not quit you, my husband, but only for our mutual happiness. My part of Countess Mariani is performed; that of La Zerbi recommences. I shall return to Venice; shall there find what I have lost; I shall become again what I was; we shall still be ever near each other; ever unchanged in affection; you restored to your rank; I to mine. Some regret will doubtless be felt by you; some lingering feeling of pride revolt against your wife being an actress, and the object of public gaze. But as our marriage has hitherto remained unknown to the world, I have been looked upon in an unworthy light ;-I will not say unjustiy so; but knowing that such an opinion does not result from truth, it has not for a moment pained me; I am aware also that if I wished it, you would not hesitate to introduce me publicly as your wife, to the high circle of your illustrious family. It is possible, also, that they might, on your account, receive me with condescending kindness; but my pride equals theirs. I should not brook even kindness so bestowed; I have once felt the empire of my station, and never can attain that of their birth; for though Countess Mariani, a name could never efface the recollection of the Danseuse La Zerbi; and I am not of a disposition to be humble, when I should with justice have cause to be proud.
One of your tuneful poets has sung, that true love can only be found in a woman's breast; a compliment, as a woman, I am willing to confess the truth of; but he might have added, with quite as much truth, that a woman's heart possesses another sentiment; if not as meritorious, often paramount, and far more difficult to subdue,—it is vanity; to which I plead guilty, as the minor offence; love to you the greater, if it be one at all. I return to Venice then; I shall, I trust, become once more as I was. We shall always be as now together; your name restored to its splendour; mine, to that fame which constitutes my pride."
The count for a time believed himself under the powerful delusion of a dream. He closed his eyes; reopened them: steadfastly examined Serafina's
countenance: in silence implored her to reconsider the fatal resolution she had come to; but words were denied him. He now comprehended that he had not as yet properly known or studied the ardent and generous heart of the countess, that he had not offered any recompense to her for the sacrifice she had made of a life,-the ambition of her soul. What had he given in ex change? A name! But hers was already radiating with fame and admiration. Was it then to bury her beauty and talent in an unknown; monotonous existence, that she had abandoned lovely Venice, and a career of glory? Mariani felt it, or rather he saw his error too late. All his supplications, even his tears, were fruitless. La Zerbi had well considered the step she was taking, and the next day she bade the count farewell with weeping eyes, though they did not spring from grief. "Come to me, dear husband, as soon as you can. La Zerbi's happiness cannot be complete without you are present to witness it! Adieu! but for a short time only."
La Zerbi's departure from Venice so suddenly, at the period of her private marriage with the count, and his retirement from the scene of his extravagance and dissipation, naturally gave rise to speculative rumours, not much to the honour of either of them. Like everything else, these had their day, and died away; giving place to other novelties; and the political events of that period strongly occupied every one's thoughts. The Italian character, however, possesses an elasticity of nature, which though it may for a time be pressed too heavily upon, readily regains its force when relieved of that temporary weight; and the past leaves no painful impression.
"Have you heard the news? I am positively told by a friend, upon whose veracity I can depend, that the enchanting La Zerbi was last night seen at the Corso di Padua. Heaven seems to have sent her to cheer our drooping spirits; for Venice is become a complete tomb of living beings. Hundreds of persons are awaiting her arrival; the Great Canal is covered with gondolas, filled with her former friends and admirers, anxious to welcome her with well-known bravas of applause. Come, then, let us join the throng; my gondola waits below."
A busy scene now presented itself. Venice, like a hive of bees, seemed to follow their queen in a dense mass. A péotta (small Dalmatian vessel), was seen in the distance approaching terra firma, surrounded by 'a fleet of gondolas, from which came repeated bursts of vivas and bravas as they recognized the object of their enthusiasm. The vessel thus escorted, slowly proceeded towards the Piazetta, where formerly the proud Bucentaur on festival days received on board Adriatic's bridegroom. The landing place was not less thronged than it would have been on such an occasion; but they hailed a small unornamented vessel with dingy sails, instead of a gilded
THE COUSIN OF THE MARRIED, AND THE COUSIN OF THE DEAD.
bark with silken wings; they welcomed the arrival of a modest, unpretending female, instead of the proud dictator of their laws; it was a Danseuse, not a Doge, that greeted their longing eyes; though her return to Venice resembled that of the conqueror who revisits the country he has subdued by his valour, and governed by kindness.
On the same night La Zerbi graced the theatre of Fenicia, looking more lovely than ever; and once again she found herself the object of public adoration. La Zerbi was herself again, and all Venice at her feet.
The count, perfectly wretched while absent from his wife, shortly returned, and nightly witnessed with delight the homage paid the countess. In him, that rare occurrence in life, the lover and the husband were combined. His own immediate circle of friends were made acquainted' with his marriage, which La Zerbi implored him not to make more public. The doubts and rumours on that subject gave her, strange to say, some amusement; and the consciousness of her own integrity reconciled her to the malicious whispers of petty scandal.
Season after season thus passed away, until the care of a young family, and the necessity of quitting the theatre on their account, compelled the countess to withdraw from her professional pursuits. But the recollection of her talent and amiable character long survived her retirement. Indeed, so great was the enthusiasm she had inspired, that a poem now exists in which it is said, "There is but one city, and one La Zerbi in the world."
THE COUSIN OF THE MARRIED, AND THE COUSIN OF THE DEAD.
(From the French.)
THERE was found, under the Restoration, a man who was surnamed, "The Cousin of the Married," and who merited the appellation by a course of in. dustry and ingenuity truly singular. He repaired every morning to the office of the Mayor of the twelve districts of Paris, and stationed himself before the little gate, where are exhibited notices of all marriages about to take place. He read attentively the names of the affianced persons, learned their qualities, and informed himself of their fortune. When he had obtained all this information, the ingenious Cousin made his choice, always deciding, however, in favour of the marriage which was expected to attract the greatest number of guests, and which promised the most sumptuous dinner. He would then arm himself with an enormous bouquet, put on his fine black
coat, a pair of open-work stockings and light pumps, and then take from his bandbox his new hat; so attired, he would proceed cautiously among the carriages, with a buoyant step, to the church where the marriage ceremony was to be performed, join the crowd of attendants, and officiously offer to hold the nuptial veil. When the benediction was pronounced, he created himself Master of the Ceremonies, leading the way to the carriages, giving his hand to the ladies, carefully lifting their dresses to prevent them from coming in contact with the coach wheels, shutting the coach doors, and bidding the drivers to proceed to the appointed hotel. For his own share he was careful, as he always contrived to secure a place for himself in one of the carriages, so as to arrive with the company. It was then that he was brilliant, and then that his gaiety and liveliness served to beguile, with the company, the tedious hour before dinner. He had for all some remark to excite laughter-he repeated a pleasant little story, adapted to the time and circumstances of the assembly, he hastened the preparations for the repast -humourously recommended the guests to be patient, and to prepare their appetites for eating,-and when all was ready he would announce the fact himself. He was the major domo of the house,-the man indispensable,—the commissary of the feast. Every voice would be in his praise :-" that gentleman is amiable and polite ;"-and if any one indirectly inquired his name, it was answered that he was presumed to be the parent or friend of the bride, or a cousin or an intimate friend of the bridegroom.
But it was at the table that his efforts to please were most particularly conspicuous. He would post himself in the place of honour-seize the great carving knife, cut up the meats with admirable promptness and dexterity, and carefully and politely wait upon every guest. He directed the servants, overlooked the courses, and tasted the wines. Then, when the dessert was brought, he would take from his pocket a piece of pink paper, mysteriously unfold it, and sing from it a stanza in honour of the newly married couple, composed by himself expressly for the occasion. The good fellow knew but one little story, and but one stanza, and he served them up every morning in a new edition.
At length this witty sharper was detected in his career of imposition. Seduced by the attraction of great names, he went to the marriage festival of a rich nobleman of the Faubourg St. Germain. He had assisted at the mass, returned in an elegant barouche to the hotel,-had glided unobserved into the parlour, and waiting for a suitable opportunity to rehearse his amusing little story, and to commence his impromptu remarks, so often before repeated. All at once he became the object of general attention; every eye was fixed upon him. The mistress of the feast had counted her plates
and her guests, and had ascertained that of the latter there was one too many She was astonished, on inquiring the name of the Cousin, that no one knew him, and that no one recognized him as a friend. For the first time, "The Cousin of the Married" lost his self-possession and his assurance. How was he to escape the gaze of the eyes fixed upon him? How was he to answer the questions which might be addressed to him? Presently a gentleman advances towards him and inquires,-" By which of the married couple were you invited? On which side are you?”
"On which side ?" said "The Cousin of the Married,” taking his hat, “ on the side of the door ;" and so saying, he quickly descended the stairs and left the house. Since that day no one has heard tell of him.
But if we have no longer "The Cousin of the Married," we have now "The Cousin of the Dead," an expression equally as significant as the first.
Ruined by the Revolution of 1793, the Count of V was obliged to ac. cept of a very modest employment. In consequence of a change in the ministry, the old clerk was compelled to leave his office, with no other resource to sustain life, than a miserable income of 400 francs per annum. He was old and alone in the world. His strength did not permit him to labour, and by constantly dwelling on his poverty, he became melancholy, and subsequently fell dangerously sick: By carefully attending to the advice of his physician, who generously refused to accept the small sum the old man offered to give for his services, he became, in time, somewhat restored. The physician prescribed to his patient, on pain of a relapse, frequent exercise and a daily ride. You may judge of the poor man's embarrassment! How could he ride every day in a carriage, when his little income was scarcely sufficient to procure the essentials of life? The smallest excursion in a cabriolet cost twenty five sous-one excursion per day would be four hundred and fifty francs per annum, and his whole yearly income amounted to only four hundred. At that time omnibuses were not invented.
He was beginning utterly to despond when heaven sent him succour. In passing near St. Rock, he observed that the gate of the church was hung in black, and that a long line of vehicles were in waiting to conduct a funeral procession to Père la Chaise. The coachmen were on their seats, and their strong and beautiful horses, covered with the trappings of mourning, were awaiting with impatience the moment of departure. The advice of the phy sician recurred with force to the mind of poor V- -, a feeling of jealousy glided into his inoffensive heart. He envied the fortune of those who could thus ride gratis-he envied, for an instant, the happy destiny of the deceased, in being conveyed to his last earthly home in a splendid hearse, drawn by four magnificent horses. Feeling a curiosity to know the name and history