The Spider's Eye by Lucretia P. Hale
There are whispering galleries, where, if the ear is placed in a
certain position, it takes in the sound of the lowest whisper from the
opposite side of the room. But, to produce this effect, the
architecture of the apartment must be of a peculiar nature, and,
especially, the rules and laws of sound must be observed.
I have often thought that, were one wise enough, there might be found,
in every room, a centre to which all sound must converge. Nay, that
perhaps such a focus had already been discovered by some one who has
wished to appear wiser than his neighbors, who has made use of some
hitherto unknown scientific fact, and has on any one occasion, or on
many occasions, thus made himself the centre of information.
These ideas occurred to my mind when I arrived the other night early
at the theatre, and was for a time, literally, the only occupant of
the house. I fell to marvelling at the skill of the architect who has
been so successful in the acoustic arrangements of this theatre. Not a
sound, so it is said, is lost from the stage upon any part of the
house. The lowest sob of a dying heroine, in her very last agony, is
heard as plainly by the occupant of the back seat of the amphitheatre,
as are the thundering denunciations of the tragic actor in the wildest
of gladiatorial scenes.
I wondered if this were one of those rules that worked both ways; if
the stage performer, in a moment of silent by-play, could hear the
sentimental whisper of the belle in the box opposite, as well as the
noisy applause of the claqueur in the front seat. If so, the audience
might become, to him, the peopled stage, filled with the varied and
Then if art can produce such effects upon what we call an ethereal
substance—if the waves of air can be compelled to carry their message
only in the directions in which it is taught to go—what influence
would such power have on more spiritual media? In other worlds, where
it is not necessary for thoughts to express themselves in words, but
where some more subtle power than that of air conveys ideas from one
being to another, it is possible that an inquiring being might place
himself at some central point where he might gather in all the
information that is afloat in such a spiritual existence.
Full of these thoughts, and my head, perhaps, a little bewildered by
them, I passed unobserved into the orchestra, and ensconced myself in
a little niche under the music-desk of the leader. I was surprised to
find myself in a little cavity, from which there were loop-holes of
observation into every part of the house, while there was a front view
of the stage when the curtain should be raised. Seduced by the comfort
of this little nook, and my speculations not being of the liveliest
nature, it is not to be wondered at that I fell into a gentle sleep.
I was aroused presently by the baton of the leader, struck with some
force upon the desk over my head. I was aware, at the same time, of a
whispering all around my ears, and an incessant noise, like that of
aspen leaves in a summer breeze, which, in spite of its softness and
delicacy, overpowered the sound of the loud orchestra. When I was able
to recover myself, I began to find that I had indeed placed myself in
the centre of the house; not in the centre of sound, but, if I may so
express myself, of sensation. I was not listening to the
conversations, but suddenly found myself the confidant of the thoughts
of all the occupants of this well-filled house. I was lost in the
multiplicity of ideas that were poured in upon me, and endeavored to
concentrate myself upon one series of thoughts. I looked through my
loop-holes, and presently selected one group towards which I might
direct the opera-glass of my mental observation.
There sat the five Misses Seymour. We had always distinguished them as
the tall one, the light-haired one, the one who painted in oils, the
one who had been south, and the little one whom nobody knew anything
about. This individuality had been our only guide after having engaged
Miss Seymour for a dance, and this was sufficient. The one who painted
in oils always refused to dance; the one who had been south spoke with
an accent, and said “chick’n” and “fush,” if the conversation
turned upon the bill of fare; and the others were distinguished by
their personal appearance.
Now I felt anxious to discover more certainly which was which. I
found, presently, that instead of contenting myself with the
superficial layer of thought over my mind, created by the
circumstances in which they were placed, I was penetrating into what
they really were. A few minutes showed me what had been their
occupations for the day, and what were their plans for the next. I
saw, at once, all their regrets and ambitions.
It had been the day of Mrs. Jay’s famous matinée. I had not been at
the reception, but Frank Leslie had told me all about it, and that all
the Seymours were there; and about Miss Seymour’s fainting. I knew
Frank was in love with one of the Miss Seymours, but I never had found
out which, and I was not sure that Frank himself knew.
How suddenly did these five characters, whom before I had found it
difficult to distinguish, stand out now with differing features. I saw
Aurelia—that was the tall one—enter the drawing-room very stately
in her beauty. No wonder that every one had turned round to look at
her; to admire her first, and then criticise her, because she seemed
so cold and statue-like. But to-night she was going over the whole
scene in her thoughts. I heard the throbbing of her heart as in memory
she was bringing back the morning’s events. She had refused to dance,
because she was sure she should not have the strength to go through a
polka. She had preferred to sink into a seat by the conservatory, and
upheld by the excitement of the music to await the meeting.
Oh! in this everyday world, where its repeated succession of events is
gone through with in composure, how easy it is to control the wildest
passions. A conventional smile and a stiff bow are the draperies that
veil the intensest unspoken emotions. It was under this disguise that
Miss Seymour was to greet Gerald Lawson. He went to Canton three years
ago, and before he went she had promised to marry him. She promised
one gay evening after “the German.” She had been carried away by the
moment. Ever since, all through the three years, she had been
regretting it. It was a secret engagement. The untold feeling that had
prompted it had never been aired, and died very soon for want of earth
and light. To cold indifference for the man to whom she had promised
herself, had succeeded an absolute aversion. What was worse, she loved
another person. Aurelia Seymour loved Frank! This very morning the
news had reached her that the Kumshan was in from Canton. The
passengers had arrived last night; she was to meet Gerald at Mrs.
Jay’s this morning.
Frank Leslie seated himself by her. She was in the midst of a calm,
cool conversation with him, when she saw a little commotion in the
other corner of the room. Every one was greeting Mr. Lawson on his
arriving home. He is making his way through the crowd; he comes to
her, he bows; Aurelia smiles.
But this was not all. He asked her if she would come into the
conservatory. She had accompanied him there. Half hid by the branches
of a camellia-tree all covered with white blossoms, she had said
coldly, “Gerald, I cannot marry you.” But Gerald had not received the
word so coolly. He had burst out into passion. First he had exclaimed
in wonder, next he could not believe her.
“Would she treat him so ungenerously? Was she a heartless flirt, a
He told over his love that had been growing warmer all these three
years; of his ambition that was to be crowned by her approval; of his
lately gained wealth, valued only for her sake. Passionate words they
were, and full of intense feeling; but hidden by the camellia,
restrained and kept under from fear of observers. They were frequently
“Thank you—ninety-nine days; very quick passage. Yes, I go back next
week; no, I stay at home,” were, with other sentences, thrown in, as
answers to the different questions of those who did not know what they
But, at last, Aurelia broke away. Broke away! No; she accepted
Middleton’s proposal to go into the coffee-room, and left Gerald
beneath the camellia.
As I watched her from my loop-holes I could tell that Aurelia was
going over all this scene in her mind. While her eyes were fixed upon
the stage, she recalled every word and gesture of Gerald’s. Yet, his
reproaches, his just complaints, hardly weighed upon her now. She was
looking on the vacant seat beside her, and wondering when Frank would
come to take it.
But “Lilly,” the light-haired one, her thoughts were rushing back to
the wild, gay polkas of the morning. Now by Aurelia’s side, now away
again; she had danced continually till the last moment, and when they
came to tell her the carriage was ready, and she must come away, she
It was as she was going up-stairs into the drawing-room, just before
she and her sisters made their grand entrée, that Lilly had heard that
“Cousin Joe” had not come home in the vessel with Gerald Lawson. He
had gone to Europe by the overland route, and wild, mad fellow that he
was, had determined to join the Russian troops in the Crimea.
“And be shot there for his pains,” Frank Leslie added carelessly.
Cousin Joe hadn’t come home! He didn’t care to come home! He was going
to be shot!
She could think of nothing else. She could not keep still; she could
not talk placidly like the rest; she must dance, and dance wildly and
But a moment of reaction came. When the last strain of music had died
away, all power of self-control had died away, too. No wonder that she
had fainted! More wonder that she could recover herself; could resist
her mother’s entreaties, after all that dancing, to spare herself and
stay from the opera.
Here she was, outwardly lively and radiant, chatting with Lieutenant
Preston, inwardly chafed at all this constraint, and wondering how it
was Cousin Joe could stay so long away.
By her side sat Annette. It was the report that she had been sent
south last winter to break up a desperate flirtation she was carrying
on. However it was, I had always fancied Annette more than either of
the other sisters. She had apparently less of our northern reserve,
whether for good or evil, than the rest. She said just what she was
thinking; danced when she liked; was insolent when she pleased.
To-night she seemed to me fretful. She was angry with Lilly for
talking with Lieutenant Preston; and, indeed, I must not, in honor,
reveal all I read in Annette’s mind. If I found there her opinion of
me; if, on the whole, it lowered my opinion of myself, I must take
refuge in the old proverb, “Eavesdroppers never hear any good of
But there was Angelina; she was the one who “painted in oils,” and she
attracted me more than any of the others. There was about her an
atmosphere of pleasure, within her an expression of delight, that
accounted for the really sunny gleam upon her face. Something had made
all the day happy for her. In the morning she had passed nearly all
the time in Mrs. Jay’s front drawing-room. The fine masterpieces of
art, brought from Europe, make this apartment a true picture-gallery.
But Angelina’s pleasure, artist though she was, was not taken from the
figures upon the walls. She walked up and down the room; she lingered
awhile in one of the deep fauteuils; she paused before the paintings
with Frank Leslie by her side. As she turned, at the theatre, now and
then to the vacant seat behind her, next Aurelia’s, her anticipation
was not embittered by anxiety; she knew he would come in time. Oh,
Frank! you did not tell me all that took place at Mrs. Jay’s!
But, from all these observations, my thoughts were turned back to the
stage by the influence of the little Sophie Seymour. She—about whom
we knew nothing—she was the only one of the party entirely absorbed
in the opera. Her eyes fixed upon the stage; her heart wrapt up in
the intense story that was being enacted; her musical soul throbbing
with the glorious chords that swelled out; her whole being reflected
So I turned me to the stage. My eyes fell first upon the substitute
that the illness of Mademoiselle —— required for the night. Just now
she was standing on one side, and as she drew her white glove closer,
her thoughts were going back to the scenes of the day.
Oh! what a little room she lived in! She was sitting in it when the
message came from the manager to summon her to sing to-night! Her
brother Franz was copying some music by her side; and now she is
smiling at the recollection of the conversation that had followed upon
her accepting the manager’s unexpected proposal.
She had hastened to get out her last concert dress. It was new
once—but oh! would it answer now for the opera?
Those very white kid gloves! They had cost her her dinner.
“Must I have new ones, Franz?” she had asked. “If there were only time
to have an old pair cleaned—if, indeed, I have any left worth
“Never mind,” answered Franz, “it is worth twenty dinners to have you
hear the opera. I have longed so every night to have you there, and to
have you on the stage! my highest wishes are granted. Oh! Marie, when
you make a great point, I shall have to take my flute from my mouth
and cry bravo!”
“Oh, don’t speak of the singing. It takes away my breath to think of
myself upon the stage! How I waste my time over dress and gloves! I
must practice; I must be ready for the rehearsal.”
“My poor Marie! To-day, of all days, to go without dinner.”
“Don’t think of it! When the manager ‘pays up,’ oh, then, Franz! we’ll
have dinners. Only part of the money must go to a new concert dress.
When my last was new, I overheard, as I left the stage, a young girl
saying, to her sister, I suppose, ‘What an elegant dress!’ I wanted to
stop and ask her if she thought it were worth going without meat for a
And as Marie recalled these words to-night to her mind, I saw her look
up and smile as she glanced over the house, and contrasted the showy
dress she wore with the poor home she had left behind.
What a poor home it was, indeed! What a contrast did the gay dress she
arranged for the evening make with her room’s poor adorning. The dress
she thrust quickly away, and had devoted herself to the study of the
music for evening. With her brother’s assistance, she had prepared
herself for the rehearsal, and had gone there with him.
The rehearsal was more alarming to her than the thought of the
evening performance. There were the conductor’s criticising eyes
glaring at her; the unsympathizing glances of some of her stage
companions—though many of them had come to her with words of kindly
encouragement; there was the silent, untenanted expanse of the theatre
before her—none of the excitement of stage scenery, or the brilliancy
of light and tinsel; and she must force herself to think of her part,
as a technical study of music, all the time she felt she was
undergoing a severe criticism from Mademoiselle ——’s friends, who
were comparing the new-comer’s voice with that of their own ally.
But her thoughts were not sad. There was in her a gayety and strength
of spirit that bore her up. The brilliant scene gave her an excitement
that helped her to bear the thought of her everyday trials. It had
been hard to work all day, preparing for the evening—hard for the
mind and body—and she had lately lived on poor fare, and wanted the
exercise upon which her physical constitution should support itself.
At once these troubles were forgotten. Now was to come the duet with
the prima donna.
No timidity restrained her now. She felt, at the moment, that her own
voice was of worth only as it harmonized with the leading one. She
forgot herself when she thought of that wonderful voice, when once she
found her own mingled in its wonderful tones. Now she was supported by
it through the whole piece; her own was subdued by it, and at last she
felt herself inspired by it; it was no longer herself singing; she
was carried away by the power of another, and lifted above herself.
All applauded the magnificent music and harmony; the bravo of Franz
was for Marie alone.
At this time my interest was absorbed in my observation of the prima
donna. I had perceived at first how indifferently she had entered upon
the spirit of the music. Her companion had filled her mind with the
meaning of its composer, and was striving to infuse into herself the
interpretation that the prima donna would give to its glorious
But the soul of the prima donna was away. It was in a
heavily-curtained room, where there were luxury and elegance. Here she
had all day been watching by the bedside of her sick child. She had
collected round it everything that money could bring to soothe its
sufferings. There were flowers in the greatest profusion; these were
trophies of her last night’s success; and on the table by the bedside
she had heaped up her brilliant, gorgeous jewels, for their varied and
glowing colors had served to amuse the child for a few minutes. She
had sung to him music, that crowds would have collected to hear, had
they been allowed. Only to soothe him, all the golden tones of her
voice had poured out—now dropping in thrilling, sad melody, now in
glad, happy, childish strains.
Nothing through the day could put to rest that one appeal, which now
was echoing in her ears: “Will nothing cool my throat!—my head
burns!—only a few drops of water!” Over all the tones of the
orchestra these words sounded and thrilled so in her ears, that only
mechanically could the prima donna repeat the tones that were
thrilling all the hearts to which they came.
At last the power of her own voice conquered herself, too. In the
closing cadences—in those chords, triumphant and faith-bringing—for
the moment her own sorrows melted away, and the thought of herself was
lost in the inspiration of the grand, majestic intonations to which
she was giving utterance. She was no longer a suffering woman; but her
soul and her voice were sounding beneath the touch of a great
master-spirit, and giving out a glowing music, compelled by its
What an enthusiasm! what an excitement! As with the opera-singer on
the stage, so with all the audience; all separate joy and grief, all
individual passions were swallowed up, and carried away by this
all-absorbing inspiration, and lost in its mighty whirl.
For me, now, there was but one character to follow. How grandly the
stage-heroine went through her part! As if to crush all other emotion,
she flung herself into the character she was portraying, and went
through it wildly and passionately.
She overshadowed her little rival—for Marie was her rival, according
to the plot of the opera—now threatening, now protecting her, as she
was led on by the spirit of the play. Marie shrunk before her, or was
inspired by her; and her delicate, entreating figure helped the
pathos of her voice. Marie, by this time, had utterly lost herself in
her admiration of the great genius who was so impressing her. She gave
out her own voice as an offering to this great power. For its sake she
would have found it impossible to make any mistake in her own singing,
or do anything with her own voice, but just place it at the service of
her companion, as a foil to her grand and glorious one.
When in the play the heroine gave up—as she does in the play—her own
life for the sake of her rival, the act became more magnanimous and
wondrous as being performed for this little delicate Marie, who shrank
from so great a sacrifice.
The prima donna gained all the applause. Indeed, it was right—for it
was her power that had called out all that was great in her delicate
rival. It was she who had inspired her, and made her forget herself
and everything but the notes she must give out, true and pure.
They were both called before the stage after the grand closing scene;
or rather the prima donna drew forward the retiring Marie. Shouts and
peals of enthusiasm greeted the queen of song. But her moment of
exaltation had passed away. Over and over again she was repeating to
herself, “Will they never let me go home? Perhaps he is dying now—he
wants me—I am too late!”
She was at the summit of her greatness; but oh! it was painful to see
her there—to see how she would have hushed all those wild,
enthusiastic shouts for the sake of one fresh childish tone; how she
would have exchanged all those bursts of passion to make sure of a
healthy throb in that child’s pulse. All this enthusiasm was not new
to her. It was part of her existence. It was a restraint upon her now,
but she could not have done without it. It was the excitement which
would serve to sustain her through another night of watching.
Marie, too, was giving her meed of praise, as she followed her across
the stage. She did not think of taking to herself one shout of the
enthusiasm, any more than she would have thought of appropriating one
flower from the bouquets which were showered before her. There was,
indeed, one share of the plaudits which belonged to her entirely. This
came from Franz—for I recognized him by his unruly stamping, and
unrestrained applause. His thoughts were only for Marie; he was filled
with pride at the manner in which she bore herself—at her simple
carriage, and modest demeanor. His praise was all for Marie. The
famous opera-singer, whom he had heard night after night, was
forgotten, in his pride for his little sister.
I sank back into my niche. Varied figures floated before me, and
I have often looked at spiders with deep interest. It is said that
their eyes are made up of many faces. What a bewildering world, then,
is presented to their view! It is no wonder that, as I have seen them,
they have appeared so irresolute in their motions, darting here and
there. A world of so many faces stand around the spider, towards which
shall he turn his attention? He lives, as it were, in the middle of a
kaleidoscope, where many figures are repeated, and form one great
figure, and each separate section is like its neighbor. Which of these
varied yet too similar pictures shall he choose?
At least this is my idea of the sensations of a spider; but I am not
enough of a naturalist to say that it is correct. How is it? When a
fly enters that web, which is divided into a symmetry similar to that
of the faces of a spider’s eye, does mine host, the spider, see
twenty-five thousand similar flies approaching, his organ of vision
standing as the centre? What a cosmorama there is before him! What a
luxurious repast might not his imagination offer him, if his memory
did not recall the plain truth that dull reality has so often
disclosed to him! We cannot wonder that the spider should lead,
apparently, so solitary a life, since his eyes have the power of
producing a whole ball-room from the form of one lady visitor. Not
one, but twenty-five thousand Robert Bruces inspired the Scottish
spider to that homely instance of perseverance, which served for an
example for a king. As he hangs his drapery from one cornice to
another, the prismatic scenes that come before him serve to lengthen
that life which might seem to be cut off before its time. It is not
one, but twenty-five thousand brooms which advance to destroy his airy home; to invade his household gods, and bring to the ground that
row of bluebottles which his magnifying power of vision has
transformed from one to twenty-five thousand! nay, more, perhaps!
Out in the air, as he swings his delicate cordage from one tree to
another, he does not need to wear a gorgeous plumage; this old dusty
coat and uncomely figure, that make a child shrink and cry out, these
may well be forgotten by him who looks into life through prismatic
glasses. Every drop of rain wears for him its Iris drapery; the dew on
the flowers becomes a jewelled circlet; and the dazzling pictures
brought by the sunbeams outshine and transform for him his own dusky
I thought of my friend, the spider, as into my web of thought came
such numerous images. They were not alike in form—and so were more
distracting. More than I can mention or number had visited me there;
had excited my interest for a moment, and been crowded out by another
new image. Yes, it was like looking into a kaleidoscope where there
were infinite repetitions. In all were the same master-colors and
forms. All were swayed by passions that made an under-current beneath
a great outward calm. All were wearing an outward form that strove
each to resemble the other; not to appear strange or odd. So they
flitted before me, coming into shape, and departing from it as they
came within and left my reach.
I only roused myself to see the various characters, that had
presented themselves on the stage of my mind, return again into their
everyday costumes. They passed out of the focus of my observation into
their several forms in which they walk through common life. Putting on
their opera-cloaks, their paletots, they put on, for me, that mark
that hides the inner life, and the veil that conceals all hidden
It is said that there is, no longer, romance in real life. But the
truth is that we live the romance that former ages told and sang. The
magic carpet of the Arabian tales, the mirror that brought to view
most distant objects, have come out of poetry, and present themselves
in the prosaic form of steam locomotive and the electric telegraph.
Nowadays, everybody has travelled to some distant land, has seen, with
everybody’s eyes, the charmed isles and lotos shores that used to be
only in books. In this lively, changing age everybody is living his
own romance. And this is why the romance of story grows pale and is
thrown aside. A domestic sketch of everyday life, of outward calm and
simplicity, soothes the unrest of active life, and charms more than
three volumes of wild incident that cannot equal the excitement that
every reader is enacting in his own drama.
There were as many romances in life around me, that night, as there
were persons in the theatre. I had not merely learned that the cold
Aurelia was passionately in love, that the gay Lilly was
broken-hearted, that the frank Annette was silly, and Angelina and
Frank engaged before it was out. Beside all this, I had learned the
trials and joys of many others whom I know only in this way; and I
left the theatre the last, as I had come in the first.
The next morning I returned to business affairs again. It was a
particularly pressing morning. The steamer was in. I had not even time
to think of my last night’s experiences. Only at the corner of a
street I met an acquaintance, whose smiling face amazed me. I knew
that all last evening his mind had been preoccupied with the truly
critical state of his affairs, and I was at a loss how to greet him.
He hurried away from my embarrassment. I had more than one of these
encounters; but it was not till the labors of the day were over that I
understood how my knowledge of mankind had been lately increased. I
went, in the evening, to a small party where I knew I should meet the
Seymours. I fell in there with Aurelia first. She was as cold and as
stately as ever. I entered into conversation with her, feeling that I
could touch the key-note of her life. But no; she was as chilling to
me as ever; nothing warmed her—nothing elicited from her the
slightest spark. Sometimes she looked at me a little wonderingly, as
if I were talking in some style unusual to me; as if my remarks were,
in a manner, impertinent; but, in the end, I left her to her icy
As for Lilly, she appeared to the world, in general, as gay as ever. I
fancied I detected a slight listlessness as she accompanied her
partner into the dancing-room for the sixth polka. It was no great
help with me in talking to Annette, that I knew she was a fool. I won
no thanks from Frank or Angelina when I manœuvred that they should
have a little flirtation in the library. For some reason they were
determined that their engagement should not be apparent, and I was
reproached afterwards by Frank for my clumsiness, and received, in
return, no confidences to make up for the reproach.
On the whole I passed a disagreeable evening. I had a feeling all the
time that I was in the presence of smothered volcanoes, and a
consciousness that I had the advantage of the rest of the world in
knowing all its secret history. This became, at last, almost
There was no opera this night. The next day it was announced that
Mademoiselle —— would take her accustomed place in the performance.
I went early to the theatre, and found, to my amazement, there had
been some changes made in the orchestra; the prompter’s box had been
enlarged, and my newly-discovered niche had been rendered inaccessible
and almost entirely filled in! In vain did I attempt to find some
other position that might correspond to it. I only attracted the
attention of the early comers to the theatre. I was obliged to return
to my old position of an outside observer of life, and see, quite
unoccupied, that centre of all observation which I had enjoyed myself
so much two nights before; over which the leader of the orchestra was
unconsciously waving his baton.
I made some inquiries for Marie. One day I went down the quiet,
secluded street, where they told me she lived. I walked up and down
before the house. It was very tantalizing to feel that I had no excuse
for approaching her. Of all the figures that had assembled around me
that night, hers had remained the most distinct upon my memory. For,
through the whole, she had retained an outward bearing which had
corresponded with what I could see of her inward self. Even when she
threw herself most earnestly into her part, she had scarcely seemed to
lose herself. She had always remained a simple, self-devoted girl.
I longed to see more of her. I wanted to see her in that quiet home.
While I was wandering up and down, I abused the forms of society which
would make my beginning an acquaintance with her so difficult. I saw
Franz, brother Franz, the flute-player, leave the house. Scarcely
conscious of what I was doing, I went, as soon as he had left the
street, to the door which was open to all comers; to the house which
contained more than one family. I made my way up stairs and knocked at
a door to which Franz’s card was attached.
It was opened by Marie. She stood before me with a handkerchief tied
over her head, and a broom in her hand, but she looked, to me, as
beautiful as she had done behind the glare of the foot-lights. Her
simplicity was here even more fascinating.
She held the door partly open, while I, to recover myself, asked for
Franz. She told me he was gone out, but would return soon, if I would
wait for him. I was never less anxious to see any person than then to
see Franz, but I could not resist entering the room, and this, in
spite of the apologetic air of Marie. The room looked as neat as I had
imagined it, seeing it from the mirror of Marie’s mind. I should say
it scarcely needed that broom which still remained expectantly in
Marie’s hand. A piano, spider-legged, in the number and thinness of
these supports, stood at one side of the room, weighed down with
classic-looking music. A bouquet, that had been given by the hand of
the prima donna to Marie, stood upon the piano.
Otherwise it was a common enough looking room. Some remark being
necessary, I inquired of Franz’s health, and hoped he was not wearing
himself out with hard work; I had seen him regularly at the opera.
Marie encouraged me with regard to her brother’s health, and still,
the opera even did not serve to open a conversation with Marie.
Then, indeed, did I wish that I was the hero of a novel. I might have
told her I was writing an opera, and have asked her to study for its
heroine. I might have retired, and sent her, directly and
mysteriously, a grand piano of the very grandest scale. Or, I might
have asked her to sit down to that old-fashioned instrument, and have
asked her to let me hear her sing, for my nieces were in need of a new
teacher. I might have engaged Franz, with promise of a high salary, to
write me the music of songs, or a new sonata. But I had neither the
salary nor the nieces. I had not even an excuse for standing there. It
was very foolish of me, but I could not help feeling that it was
exceedingly impertinent of me to be there.
Instead of informing Marie that I was intimately acquainted with her,
that I had shared every emotion of her soul, on the exciting opera
night, I stated that I could call again upon brother Franz. I
regretted, at the same time, that I had not my card, and left the room
with a courteous bow of dismissal from Marie.
I have walked that way very often. Once or twice I have seen Marie at
the window, when she has not seen me. But I have not attempted to
visit her again. Of what use is it for me, then, to have such a
knowledge of her, when she does not have a similar one sympathetic
with me? She has not sung in public of late, and I do not know the
reason why she has not.
My friends are fond of asking me why I, every night, sit in a
different place at the theatre; and why I have such a fancy for a seat
in the midst of the trumpets of the orchestra, and directly under the
leader. I am striving to make new acoustic discoveries.
But I dare not state in what theatre it is that my point of
observation can be found, nor ask of the management to make an
alteration in the position of the orchestra, lest some night I should
be observed, and expose all the secrets of my breast to a less