« 上一頁繼續 »
cussion upon the literature of Sweden and Norway, to listen to the beautiful tenor voice, which gave with such pathos and taste the sweet song of “ Almaviva ;" but it must be confessed, that the young Jewess's smile and look of pleasure, and thanks, were much more grateful to the singer than all the “thank yous” of the other listeners. Then Electra was called
Shelmerdine's “ Farewell, if ever fondest prayer,” most sweetly, and joined Halifax in the serenata, “ Mira la bianca luna.”
“Now that's what I call singing,” said Mr. Merryweather, as the performers left the instrument to indulge in conversation again before the commencement of some concerted music; " I don't profess to be an accomplished musician like any of the company here nor to get half wild about Beethoven's ninth symphony as a certain young lady of my acquaintance did once," (this last for Naomi, who laughed,) " but I believe I do to a certain extent know good singing when I hear it; I'm not so capable a criticiser of professional singing, but I do know good voice and good taste, and I mean to say that many of these professionals don't know how to render a song, as you call it, half as well as good amateur singers who are musicians."
“ You have just hit the exact truth,” remarked Halifax, “it is because so many of the professional singers are not musicians, they are singers and nothing more ; they are not' penetrated,' as the French would express it, with the spirit of the music, and without that thorough identification with the meaning of the composer there is not to my ear true artistic singing; it may be mechanically perfect, but it is like a read sermon or speech ; it wants the fervency which gives life.”
“How," said Da Costa, smiling, "if you are so particular do you find singers whom you can thoroughly admire ?"
Perhaps I am hypercritical, but I cannot help a fault like this, there are many of the singers whom the public run after whom I do not care about for the reason I have stated; to me they want soul; I must have more than mere mechanical correctness or mere good taste to be satisfied.”
“You don't like pretty singing," observed Naomi Da Costa.
“ C'est ça; pretty singing is the exact designation-;" but he was interrupted by the voice of Electra from the table exclaiming
“Naomi, I go wanted to hear this; would not Mr. Halifax kindly take the tenor part ? and then we can sing it; I can take the soprano, for it is so easy I can read it at sight.'
The Jewess came near, and her face lighted up with sudden joy.
“The Et Incarnatus,' -ah, yes ;-I need not ask you, Mr. Halifax, if it is a favourite of yours."
“ That would indeed be a needless question, Miss Da Costa. Mr. Da Costa, I believe you are wanted for this.”
“ What is that ?" said the Jew, rising, and as he looked at the music Halifax's keen eye saw his countenance change slightly.
The bigoted Israelite-bigoted in proportion to his shortcomings of earlier years—hardly liked even the music that dwelt with such loving faith upon the Prophet of Nazareth, and Halifax almost started as he lifted his eyes to the beautiful expressive face of the Hebrew girl and remembered how blank to her was the very pith of that pathetic music.
She stood back a little, but motionless and with almost bated breath as he sang that exquisite solo so breathing the very spirit of “ Lieber Mozart.” She knew that the singer felt every word that he sang, she wished that she could be a Christian for a few moments that she might realise all that a Christian might feel in singing those words which expressed the very foundation of the faith preached by Jesus of Nazareth : “Et Incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est.” Crucified, dead, and buried :-how could they believe that a man so degraded and despised was a GoD ? She could pity Him if He had not claimed Divinity. How He must have suffered ! Surely He must have been deluded, and believed Himself the Son of God, for did He not know the danger of laying claims to the Godhead among a people so jealous for the honour of the Almighty
as the Jews ?-and again came back to her the thoughts that had filled her heart in standing within S. Michael's Church and looking on that Descent from the Crossthoughts which had still more filled her with wonder and sorrow in listening to Angelo Stewart's sermon. How deep, how powerful must have been the influence of that man who could inspire such fervour, such living evidence of belief, ay, and make martyrs die rejoicing.
They all gathered round the piano talking when the song was finished, but the Jewess went and sat down in the corner near the mantlepiece, and was in a moment joined by Halifax, who came and leaned on the mantleshelf near her, and began to talk to her, and they were soon carrying on an animated conversation, while Electra and Mr. Merryweather and Bernard Da Costa laughed and jested and talked “small talk” at the other end of the room.
But Halifax and Naomi did not talk small talk; they began by literature and glided off naturally into history and politics, and here Halifax was especially on his own ground, and the Jewess would have been best pleased to have sat and listened to her brilliant companion; but Halifax was a man of the world and knew how to “draw out” a young mind, and he was determined to “ draw out” Naomi Da Costa and did so. Her face was a fair index to her mind: but prepared as he was to find a grave and well-stored intellect he was surprised at the depth and breadth of thought and power not only of observation but of profiting by observation which the young Hebrew displayed, and if there was anything that struck him sadly it was an almost sombre gravity of thought and expression which unconsciously pervaded her whole mind; her irony was grave, and she seemed always naturally to take the least bright and hopeful aspect of a question. Yet despite that, she would occasionally speak with a fervour, a youthful élan which showed that this sombreness was the result rather of education than of nature.
Halifax was precisely the man whose conversation would charm and dazzle such a disposition as this ; profound but brilliant, the sparkling surface occasionally concealed to a superficial bearer the depths which lay be
VOL. VI. (N. 8.)
neath, and there was a Protean variety in bis conversation, now grave, now gay, now keenly ironical (but with an irony so fine that a coarse mind could not see or feel it) wbich could not fail to attract even those who were incapable of plunging much deeper than the charm of graceful and powerful language flowing through the medium of a bighly cultivated intellect, and to a mind like Naomi Da Costa's was fraught with perhaps a dangerous charm.
“What a pity,” she said, suddenly," that you are not in Parliament, Mr. Halifax."
“Why ?" said Halifax, smiling a little.
“I beg your pardon,” she said, “I bave been so much alone that I am afraid I say too much what I think.” "I cannot say
Ι see the fault; favour me at any rate this time with what you think.”
“I was going to say-or rather I was not going to say, - I was thinking that you would succeed because you could always keep the attention of the House ; you could make them laugh or make them grave.”
“ Thank you,” said Halifax, “ you have given me as good an opinion, I think, as can be given for a parliamentary speaker." “Parliamentary speaker!" exclaimed Electra, coming
and catching the last words ; “now positively, Naomi, you and Mr. Halifax have been talking politics, -a most unwarrantable proceeding. You are wanted at the piano."
“ Bien volontiers,” said the Jewess, rising, and as they moved off to the piano Electra whispered to her cousin, “ I have asked Uncle Bernard, and he says you may come with me; he seemed very much pleased that you should come into the country; he said he believed it would do you good in every way.”.
“You are very kind, Electra,” said the young girl, gratefully.
“ Hush! to myself then. Here we are, Uncle Bernard, ready to sing everything.”
And they sang and played, quartetts, duets, solos, German, Italian, Spanish, English, a rich repertoire, performed by people competent both to appreciate and to perform.
Electra had intended to leave before eleven, but it was near twelve before she could prevail upon herself to go, and her attendant had half an hour's gossip with the Da Costas' servant while her mistress was listening to music up in the drawing-room, and it was just one before Halifax and Merryweather departed, the former with a hearty invitation from Bernard Da Costa to renew the visit-an invitation which it may be supposed he would not have thought it at all kindly or courteous to disregard under present circumstances. If there had been no Miss Da Costa, or Miss Da Costa had been an every-day young lady, it might have been different, but then bonores mutant mores," and circumstances change men's minds.
Beware, Darrell Halifax, play not with edged tools, for a human heart is a treacherous charge, and may prove an enemy when it would seem to be a friend—and a man's heart, like fire, is a good servant but a bad master.
ARCHITECTURAL SKETCHES.-No. V.
" How reverend is the face of this tall pile,
Whose ancient pillars rear their marble heads,
Looking tranquillity.” EXETER, the ehief town of Devonshire, is situated most pleasantly on the hills rising from the banks of the river Exe. It was called by the Britons, according to Simeon of Durham, Caer-wisc, or the City of Waters, and by the Romans Isca Damnoniorum ; Exancester was