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WRITINGS OF T. B. ALDRICH. 



/ have been readittg some ofthetn \the poetns\ this evening, and 
Jind them rich, siveet, and iinaffiuative itt such a degree that I am 
sorry not to have fresher sympathies in order to taste all the de- 
light that e7!ery reader ought td draiv/rom them. 1 7vas conscious, 
here and there, of a delicacy that I hardly dared to breathe upon. 
Nathaniel Hawthorne. 

He is, undoubtedly, one of the most attractive and agreeable of 
story-tellers ; atui his stories are at the sa>ne time fresh, original 
and artistically planned and cxectited, giving full play to all his 
faculties, htitnorous or poetic. His s'yle is light and easy, hardly 
raised above the tone of intelligent conversation ; but it is also 
compact, brilliant, and suggestive. He understands the art of 
saying much in a few -words, -without availing hi>nself of the 
pedantries and fopperies of compression. E. P. WHIPPLE. 



THE STORY OF A BAD BOY. i vol. i6mo. 

Illustrated by S. EYTINGE. $1.50. 

Tom Bailey has captivated all his acquaintances. He must be 
added hereafter to the boy's gallery of favorite characters, side by 
side with Robinson Crusoe, and the Swiss Family Robinson, and 

Tom Brown at Ru^by Mr. Aldrich's style has a fine flavor 

ous humor, and without the least appearance of effort he draw? 
contuvjally upon an inexhaustible store of fun. There is a delight- 
ful ;^of reality about the places and incidents of his story, and we 
probably run little risk in conjecturing that in large part 'the book 
IS only a somewhat ornamented record of actual experiences. 
Ne-w York Tribune. 

An admirable specimen of what a boy's story should be. Bos- 
ton Advertiser. 

MARJORIE DAW and Other People, i vol. 

i6mo. Cloth, $ 1.50 ; Paper, % i.oo. 

CONTENTS. Marjorie Daw ; A Rivermouth Romance ; 
Quite So ; A Young Desperado ; Miss Mehetabel's Son ; 
A Struggle for Life ; The Friend of my Youth ; Mademoi- 
selle Olympe Zabriski ; Pfere Antoine's Date-Palm. 

Mr. Aldrich is, perhaps, entitled to stand at the head of American 
humorists. The little work he has hitherto done in this line is singu- 
larly fresh, original, and delicate " Marjorie Daw and Other 

People " is. in'its way, a marvel of ingenuity Apart from the 

special and remarkable talent he displays in taking in his readers, 
his literary power is undeniable ; and his descriptions of New Eng- 
land life are among the best that have appeared. London Athe- 
nctum. 



BfiLitAf'^ 



PRUDENCE PALFREY. With picture of " Pru- 
dence," by Miss M. A. Hallock. I vol. i6ma $1.50; 
Paper, $ 1.00. 

They have an exquisite treat before them who have not yet read 
"Prudence Palfrey." It is Mr. Aldrich decidedly at his best, 
the plot well elaborated and sufficiently exciting, and the story un- 
folded with delicacy, wit, dramatic suggestiveness, and in English 
altogether perfect and sweet. Chrisiian Union. 

Fielding and Thackeray have drawn few characters more distinct 
or more lovable than Wibird Hawkins. The Athetusum (London). 

II s'est plu souvent i decrire cette ville sous le nom de River- 
mouth et en a fait le theatre du roman " Prudence Palfrey," un chef- 
d'oeuvre d'observation. Chacun des characters est evidemment 
saisi sur le vifl TH, BENTZON, Revite des Deux Mondes. 



CLOTH OF GOLD, and Other Poems, i vol. 

i6mo. % 1.50. 

' el odious, carefully polished, of pure sentiment, delicate fancy, 
and weighted even in their ease and airiness with enduring and 
solid qualities, to claim and insure for them a pennanent place in 
our belles-lettres literature. Boston Transcript. 

Poems in which great delicacy of thought is combined||||th a 
felicitous choice of finguage. Inter tuition al Gazette. 



FLOWER AND THORN. A New Volume of Po- 
ems. i6mo. % 1.25. 

\\c do not mean that it [his humor] ,ipi>ear> otherwise than spar- 
ingly in these poems ; it is a light, a but where it falls 
we are not sure but it bestows the t of his fine art. 
.... Of the workmanship of the in the book you 
can only say that in one it is more ^ in another ; less 

than exquisite it never is Mr. .Nllricirs charm is French and 

classic, as distinguishable from German and romantic ; or it is even 
better to say that it is American and his own. W. D. How ELLS, 
in The Atlantic Monthly . 



JAMES R. OSGOOD & CO., 

Publishers, Boston. 




' Ophelia placed in the prince's hand the few letters and 
trinkets he had given her." Page 26. 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 



AND 



The Little Violinist. 

BY 

T. B. ALDRICH. 
IllustratcH. 



BOSTON: 

JAMES R. OSGOOD AND COMPANY, 

Late Ticknor & Fklds, and Fulds, Osgood, & Co. 

1877. 



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University Press : Welch, Bigelow, & Co., 
Cambridge. 



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CONTENTS. 




A MIDNIGHT FANTASY .... 


Page 
. . 7 


THE LITTLE VIOLINIST . . . 


. . 71 



^^ 



ILLUSTRATIONS. 



Opbelia placed in the prince's hand the few letters 
and trinkets he had given her " . . . . Front. 

Page 

' Hamlet's eyCs rested on a lady who held to her features 
a white satin mask " 39 

' Hamlet's glance fell upon the familiar form of a young 
man " 65 

' Tiie little violinist who played before Prince Rupert 
and his wife " 85 




A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 



PART I. 

r was close upon eleven o'clock 
^ when I stepped out of the rear 
vestibule of the Boston Theatre, and, pass- 
ing through the narrow court that leads 
to West Street, struck across the Common 
diagonally. Indeed, as I set foot on the 
Tremont Street mall, I heard the Old 
South drowsily sounding the hour. 

It was a tranquil June night, with no 
moon, but clusters of sensitive stars that 
seemed to shiver with cold as the wind 



12 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

swept by them, for perhaps there was a 
swift current of air up there in the zenith. 
However, not a leaf stirred on the Com- 
mon ; the foliage hung black and mas- 
sive, as if cut in bronze; even the gas- 
lights appeared to be infected by the 
prevailing calm, burning steadily behind 
their glass screens and turning the neigh- 
boring leaves into the tenderest emerald. 
Here and there, in the sombre row of 
houses stretching along Beacon Street, an 
illuminated window gilded a few square 
feet of darkness ; and now and then a 
footfall sounded on a distant pavement. 
The pulse of the city throbbed languidly. 
The lights far and near, the fantastic 
shadows of the elms and maples, the fall- 
ing dew, the elusive odor of new grass, and 
that peculiar hush w^hich belongs only to 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 13 

midnight as if Time had paused in his 
flight and were holding his breath gave 
to the place, so familiar to me by day, an 
air of indescribable strangeness. The 
vast, deserted park had lost all its wonted 
outlines ; I walked doubtfully on the flag- 
stones which I had many a time helped 
to wear smooth ; I seemed to be wander- 
ing in some lonely unknown garden across 
the seas, in that old garden in Verona 
where Shakespeare's ill-starred lovers met 
and parted. The white granite fa9ade 
over yonder the Somerset Club 
might well have been the house of Capu- 
let ; there was the clambering vine, reach- 
ing up like a pliant silken ladder ; there, 
near by, was the low-hung balcony, want- 
ing only the slight girlish figure im- 
mortal shape of fire and dew ! to make 
the illusion perfect. 



14 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

I do not know what suggested it, per- 
haps it was something in the play I had 
just witnessed, it is not always easy to 
put one's finger on the invisible thread 
that runs from thought to thought, but 
as I sauntered on I fell to thinking of the 
ill-assorted marriages I had known. Sud- 
denly there hurried along the gravelled 
path which crossed mine obliquely a half 
indistinguishable throng of pathetic men 
and women ; two by two they tiled before 
Die, each becoming startlingly distinct for 
an instant as they passed, some with 
tears, some with hollow smiles, and some 
with tirm-set lips, bearing their fetters 
with them. There was little Alice chained 
to old Bowlsby ; there was Lucille, " a 
daughter of the gods, divinely tall," linked 
forever to the dwarf Perry winkle ; there 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 15 

was my friend Porphyro, the poet, with 
his delicate genius shrivelled in the glare 
of the youngest Miss Lucifer's eyes ; there 
they were, Beauty and the Beast, Pride 
and Humility, Bluebeard and Fatima, 
Prose and Poetry, Riches and Poverty, 
Youth and Crabbed Age, 0, sorrowful 
procession ! All so wretched, when per- 
haps all might have been so happy if they 
had only paired differently ! 

I halted a moment to let the weird 
shapes drift by. As the last of the train 
melted into the darkness, my vagabond 
fiincy went wandering back to the theatre 
and the play I had seen, Eomeo and 
Juliet. Taking a lighter tint, but still of 
the same sober color, my reflections con- 
tinued. 

What a different kind of woman Juliet 



16 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

Avould have "been if she had not fallen in 
love with Romeo, or had bestowed her 
affection on some thoughtful and stately 
signior, on one of the Delia Scalas, for 
example! What Juliet needed was a 
firm and gentle hand to tame her high 
spirit without breaking a pinion. She was 
a little too vivacious, you might say, 
" gushing " would perhaps be the word 
if you were speaking of a modern maiden 
with so exuberant a disposition as Juliet's. 
She was too romantic, too blossomy, too 
impetuous, too wilful; old Capulet had 
brought her up injudiciously, and Lady 
Capulet was a nonentity. Yet in spite 
of faults of training, and some slight in- 
herent flaws of character, Juliet was a 
superb creature; there was a fascinating 
dash in her frankness ; her modesty and 



A MIDNIGHT FAXTASY. 17 

daring were as happy rhymes as ever 
touched lips in a love-poem. But her 
impulses required curbing; her heart made 
too many beats to the minute. It was an 
evil destiny that flung in the path of so 
rich and passionate a nature a fire-brand 
like Komeo. Even if no family feud had 
existed, the match would not have been 
a wise one. As it was, the well-known 
result was inevitable. What could come 
of it but clandestine meetings, secret mar- 
riage, flight, despair, poison, and the 
Tomb of the Capulets 1 

I had left the park behind, by this, and 
had entered a thoroughfare where the 
street-lamps were closer together ; but the 
gloom of the trees seemed to be still over- 
hanging me. The fact is, the tragedy 
had laid a black finger on my imagination. 



18 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

I wished the play had ended a trifle more 
cheerfully. I wished possibly because 
I see enough tragedy all around me with- 
out going to the theatre for it, or possibly 
it was because the lady who enacted the 
leading part was a remarkably clean-cut 
little person with a golden sweep of eye- 
lashes I wished that Juliet could have 
had a more comfortable time of it. In- 
stead of a yawning sepulchre, ^dth Romeo 
and Juliet dying in the middle fore- 
ground, and that luckless young Paris 
stretched out on the left, spitted like a 
spring-chicken with Montague's rapier, 
and Friar Laurence, with a dark lantern, 
groping about under the melancholy yews, 
in place of all this costly piled-up woe, 
I would have liked a pretty, mediaeval 
chapel scene, with illuminated stained- 



L 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 19 

glass windows, and trim acolytes holding 
lighted candles, and the great green cur- 
tain descending slowly to the first few bars 
of the Wedding March of Mendelssohn. 

Of course Shakespeare was true to the 
life in making them all die miserably. 
Besides, it was so they died in the novel 
of Matteo Bandello, from which the poet 
took his plot indirectly. Under the cir- 
cumstances no other denouement was 
practicable ; and yet it was sad business. 
There were Mercutio, and Tybalt, and 
Paris, and Juliet, and Eomeo, come to a 
bloody end in the bloom of their youth 
and strength and beauty. 

The ghosts of these five murdered per- 
sons seemed to be on my track as I hur- 
ried down Revere Street to "West Cedar. 
I fancied them hovering around the cor- 



20 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

ner opposite the small drug-store where 
a meagre apothecary was in the act of 
shutting up the fan-like jets of gas in his 
show-window. 

" No, Master Booth," I muttered in 
the imagined teeth of the tragedian, 
throwing an involuntary glance over my 
shoulder, " you '11 not catch me assisting 
at any more of your Shakespearian re- 
vivals. I would rather eat a pair of 
AVelsli rarebits or a segment of mince-pie 
at midnight, than sit through the finest 
tragedy that was ever writ." 

As I said this I h ilted at the door of a 
house in Charles Place, and was fumbling 
for my latch-keyj^ ivhen a most absurd 
idea came into my head. I let the key 
slip back into my pocket, and strode down 
Cliarles Place into Cambridge Street, and 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 21 

across the long bridge, and then swiftly 
forward. 

I remember, vaguely, that I paused for 
a moment on the draw of the bridge, to 
look at the semicircular fringe of liglits 
duplicating itself in the smooth Charles 
in the rear of Beacon Street, as lovely 
a bit of Venetian effect as you will get 
outside of Venice ; I remember meeting, 
farther on, near a stiff wooden church 
in Cambridgeport, a lumbering covered 
wagon, evidently from Brighton and 
bound for Quincy Market ; and still far- 
ther on, somewhere in the vicinity of Har- 
vard Square and the college buildings, I 
recollect catching a glimpse of a police- 
man, who, probably observing something 
suspicious in my demeanor, discreetly 
walked off in an opposite direction. I 



22 A MIDNIGHT FAXTASY. 

recall these trifles indistinctly, for during 
this preposterous excursion I was at no 
time sliarply conscious of my surround- 
ings ; the material world presented itself 
to me as if through a piece of stained 
glass. It was only when I had reached 
a neighborhood where the houses were 
few and the gardens many, a neighbor- 
hood where the closely-knitted town be- 
gan to ravel out into countrj^, that I came 
to the end of my dream. And what was 
the dream 1 The slightest of tissues, 
madam ; a gossamer, a web of shadows, a 
thing woven out of starlight. Looking 
at it by day, I find that its colors are 
pallid, and its threaded diamonds they 
were merely the perishable dews of that 
June night have evaporated in the sun- 
shine ; but such as it is you shall have it. 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 23 



PART II. 

l^^gjHE young Prince Hamlet was not 
^^ ^^ 1 happy at Elsinore. It was not 
because he missed the gay student-life of 
Wittenburg, and that the little Danish 
court was intolerably dull. It was not 
because the didactic lord chamberlain 
bored him with long speeches, or that 
the lord chamberlain's daughter was be- 
come a shade wearisome. Hamlet had 
more serious cues for un'^appiness. He 
had been summoned suddenly from Wit- 
tenburg to attend his father's funeral ; 
close upon this, and while his grief was 
green, his mother had married with his 
uncle Claudius, whom Hamlet had never 
liked. 



24 A MIDXIGHT FANTASY. 

The indecorous haste of these nuptials 
they took place within two months after 
the king's death, the funeral-baked meats, 
as Hamlet cursorily remarked, furnishing 
forth the marriage-tables struck the 
young prince aghast. He had loved the 
queen his mother, and had nearly idolized 
the late king ; but now he forgot to la- 
ment the death of the one in contemplat- 
ing the life of the other. The billing and 
cooing of the newly-married couple filled 
him with horror. Anger, shame, pity, 
and despair seized upon him by turns. 
He fell into a forlorn condition, forsaking 
his books, eating little save of the cha- 
meleon's dish, the air, drinking deep of 
Ehenish, letting his long, black locks go 
unkempt, and neglecting his dress, he 
who had been hitherto " the glass of 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 25 

fashion and the mould of form," as Ophe- 
lia had prettily said of him. 

Often, for half the night, he would 
wander along the ramparts of the castle, 
at the imminent risk of tumbling off, gaz- 
ing seaward and muttering strangely to 
himself, and evolving frightful spectres 
out of the shadows cast by the turrets. 
Sometimes he lapsed into a gentle mel- 
ancholy ; but not seldom his mood was 
ferocious, and at such times the conver- 
sational Polonius, with a discretion that 
did him credit, steered clear of my lord 
Hamlet. 

He turned no more graceful compli- 
ments for Ophelia. The thought of mar- 
rying her, if he had ever thought of it 
seriously, was gone now. He rather ruth- 
lessly advised her to go into a nunnery. 



26 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

His mother had sickened him of women. 
It was of her he spoke the notable 
words, " Frailty, thy name is woman ! " 
which, some time afterwards, an amiable 
French gentleman had neatly engraved on 
the head-stone of his wife, who had long 
been an invalid. Even the king and 
queen did not escape Hamlet in his dis- 
tempered moments. Passing his mother 
in a corridor or on a staircase of the pal- 
ace, he would suddenly plant a verbal 
dagger in her heart ; and frequently, in 
full court, he would deal the king such a 
cutting reply as caused him to blanch, and 
gnaw his lip. 

If the spectacle of Gertrude and Clau- 
dius was hateful to Hamlet, the presence 
of Hamlet, on the other hand, was scarcely 
a comfort to the royal lovers. At first 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 27 

his uncle had called him "our chiefest 
courtier, cousiu, and our son," trying to 
smooth over matters ; but Hamlet would 
have none of it. Therefore, one day, 
when the young prince abruptly an- 
nounced his intention to go abroad, 
neither the king nor the queen placed 
impediments in his way, though, some 
months previously, they had both pro- 
tested strongly against his returning to 
Wittenburg. 

The small-fry of the court knew noth- 
ing of Prince Hamlet's determination 
until he had sailed from Elsinore ; their 
knowledge then was confined to the fact 
of his departure. It was only to Hora- 
tio, his fellow-student and friend, that 
Hamlet confided the real cause of his self- 
imposed exile, though perhaps Ophelia 
half suspected it. 



28 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

Polonius had dropped an early hint to 
his daughter concerning Hamlet's intent. 
She knew that everything was over be- 
tween them, and, the night before he em- 
barked, Ophelia placed in the prince's 
hand the few letters and trinkets he had 
given her, repeating, as she did so, a cer- 
tain couplet which somehow haunted Ham- 
let's memory for several days after he was 
on shipboard : 

*' Take these again ; for to the noble mind 
Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind." 

" These could never have waxed poor," 
said Hamlet to himself softly, as he leaned 
over the taffrail, the third day out, spread- 
ing the trinkets in his palm, " being origi- 
nally of but little worth. I fancy that 
that allusion to 'rich gifts' was a trifle 
malicious on the part of the foir Ophe- 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 29 

]ia " ; and he quietly dropped them into 
the sea. 

It was as a Danish gentleman voyaging 
for pleasure, and for mental profit also, if 
that should happen, that Hamlet set forth 
on his travels. Settled destination he 
had none, his sole plan being to get clear 
of Denmark as speedily as possible, and 
then to drift whither his fancy took him. 
His fancy naturally took him southward, 
as it would have taken him northward if 
he had been a southron. Many a time 
while climbing the bleak crags around 
Elsinore he had thought of the land of 
the citron and the palm; lying on his 
couch at night and listening to the wind 
as it howled along the machicolated bat- 
tlements of the castle, his dreams had 
turned from the cold, blond ladies of his 



30 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

father's court to the warmer beauties that 
ripen under sunny skies. He was free 
now to test the visions of his boyhood. 
So it chanced, after various wanderings, 
all tending imperceptibly in one direction, 
that Hamlet bent his steps towards Italy. 
In those rude days one did not accom- 
plish a long journey without having won- 
derful adventures befall, or encountering 
divers perils by the way. It was a period 
when a stout blade on the thigh was 
a most excellent travelling companion. 
Hamlet, though of a philosophical com- 
plexion, was not slower than another man 
to scent an affront ; he excelled at feats 
of arms, and no doubt his skill, caught of 
the old fencing-master at Elsinore, stood 
liim in good stead more than once when 
his wit would not have saved him. Cer- 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 31 

tainly, he had hair-breadth escapes while 
toiling through the wilds of Prussia and 
Bavaria and Switzerland. At all events he 
counted himself fortunate the night he ar- 
rived at Verona with nothing more serious 
than a two-inch scratch on his sword arm. 
There he lodged himself, as became a 
gentleman of fortune, in a suit of cham- 
bers in a comfortable palace overlooking 
the swift-flowing Adige, a riotous yel- 
low stream that cut the town into two 
parts, and was spanned here and there 
by rough-hewn stone bridges, which it 
sometimes sportively washed away. It 
was a brave old town that had stood 
sieges and plagues, and was full of mouldy, 
picturesque buildings and a gayety that 
has since grown somewhat mouldy. A 
goodly place to rest in for the way-worn 



32 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

pilgrim ! He recollected dimly that he 
had letters to one or two illustrious faji- 
lies ; but he cared not to deliver them at 
once. It was pleasant to stroll about the 
city, unknown. There were sights to see : 
the Roman amphitheatre, and the churches 
with their sculptured sarcophagi and 
saintly relics, interesting joints of mar- 
tyrs, and fragments of the true cross 
enough to build a ship. The life in the 
public squares and on the streets, the 
crowds in the shops, the pageants, the 
lights, the stir, the color, all mightily 
took the eye of the young Dane. He 
was in a mood to be amused. Every- 
thing diverted him, the faint tinkling 
of a guitar-string in an adjacent garden at 
midnight, or the sharp clash of sword- 
blades under his window, when the Mon- 



A MIDXIGHT FANTASY. 33 

tecchi and the Cappelletti chanced to en- 
counter each other in the narrow footwa3\ 

Meanwhile, Hamlet brushed up his 
Italian. He was well versed in the lit- 
erature of the language, particularly in its 
dramatic literature, and had long medi- 
tated penning a gloss to " The IMurther of 
Gonzago," a play which Hamlet held in 
deservedly high estimation. 

He made acquaintances, too. In the 
same palace where he sojourned, lived a 
very valiant soldier and wit, a kinsman 
to Prince Escalus, one Mercutio by name, 
with whom Hamlet exchanged civilities 
on the staircase, at first, and then fell 
into companionship. A number of Ve- 
rona's noble youths, poets and light- 
hearted men-about-town, frequented Mer- 
cutio's chambers, and with these Hamlet 
soon became on terms. 



34 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

Among the rest were an agreeable gen- 
tleman, with hazel eyes, named Benvolio, 
and a gallant young fellow called Eomeo, 
whom Mercutio bantered pitilessly, and 
loved heartily. Tliis Romeo, who be- 
longed to one of the first families, was a 
very susceptible s^park, which the slightest 
breath of a pretty woman was sufficient 
to blow into flame. To change the met- 
aphor, he fell from one love-affair into 
another as easily and naturally as a ripe 
pomegranate drops from a bough. He 
.was generally unlucky in these matters, 
curiously enough, for he was a handsome 
youth in his saffron satin doublet slashed 
with black, and his jaunty velvet bonnet 
with its trailing plume of ostrich feather. 

At the time of Hamlet's coming to Ve- 
rona, Romeo was in a great despair of love 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 35 

in consequence of an unrequited passion 
for a certain lady of the city, between 
whose family and his own a deadly feud 
had existed for centuries. Somebody had 
stepped on somebody else's lap-dog in 
the far ages, and the two families had 
been slashing and hacking at each other 
ever since. It appeared that Eomeo had 
scaled a garden wall, one night, and 
broken upon the meditations of his ina- 
morata, who, as chance would have it, 
was sitting on her balcony enjoying the 
moonrise. No lady could be insensible to 
such devotion, for it would have been 
death to Romeo if any of her kinsmen 
had found him in that particular locality. 
Some tender phrases passed between 
them, perhaps ; but the lady was flurried, 
taken unawares, and afterwards, it seemed, 



36 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

altered her mind and would have no 
further commerce with the Montague. 
This business furnished Mercutio's quiver 
with innumerable sly shafts, which Eomeo 
received for the most part in good humor. 

With these three gentleman, Mercu- 
tio, Benvolio, and Romeo, Hamlet saw 
life in Verona, as young men will see life 
wherever they happen to be ; many a time 
the nightingale ceased singing and the 
lark began before they were abed; but 
perhaps it is not wise to inquire too 
closely into this. A month had slipped 
away since Hamlet's arrival; the hya- 
cinths were opening in the gardens, and 
it was spring. 

One morning, as he and Mercutio were 
lounging arm in arm on a bridge near 
their lodgings, they met a knave in livery 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 37 

puzzling over a parchment which he was 
plainly unable to decipher. 

"Eead it aloud, friend!" cried Mer- 
cutio, who always had a word to throw 
away. 

" I would I could read it at all. I 
pray, sir, can you read ? " 

" With ease, if it is not my tailor's 
score " ; and Mercutiotook the parchment, 
which ran as follows : 

" Signior Martino, and his wife and 
daughters; County Anselme, and his beau- 
teous sisters; t/ie lady widow Vitruvio ; 
Signior Placentioj and his lovely nieces; 
Mercutioj and his brother Valentine ; mine 
uncle Capulet, his wife and daughters; 
my fair niece Rosaline ; Livia ; Signior 
Valentio, and his cousin Tybalt; Lucio, 
and the lively Helena" 



38 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

" A very select company, with the ex- 
ception of that rogue Mercutio," said the 
soldier, laughing. "What does it mean^" 

" My master, the Signior Capulet, gives 
a ball and supper to-night; these the 
guests ; I am his man Peter, and if you 
be not one of the house of Montague, I 
pray, come and crush a cup of wine with 
us. Eest you merry"; and the knave, 
having got his billet deciphered for him, 
made off. 

" One must needs go, being asked by 
both man and master ; but since I am 
asked doubly, I '11 not go singly ; I '11 
bring you with me, Hamlet. It is a 
masquerade ; I have had wind of it. The 
flower of the city will be there, all 
the high-bosomed roses and low-necked 
lilies. 




' Hamlet's eyes rested on a lady who held to her : 
tures a white satiii mask." 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 41 

Hamlet liacl seen nothing of society in 
Verona, properly speaking, and did not 
require much urging to assent to Mer- 
cutio's proposal, far from foreseeing that 
so slight a freak would have a fateful se- 
quence. 

It was late in the night when they pre- 
sented themselves, in mask and domino, 
at the Capulet mansion. The music was 
at its sweetest and the torches were at 
their brightest, as the pair entered the 
dancing-hall. They had scarcely crossed 
the threshold when Hamlet's eyes rested 
upon a lady clad in a white silk robe, who 
held to her features, as she moved through 
the figure of the dance, a white satin 
mask, on each side of which was disclosed 
so much of the rosy oval of her face as 
made one long to look upon the rest. 



42 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

The ornaments this lady wore were pearls; 
her fan and slippers, like the robe and 
mask, were white nothing but white. 
Her eyes shone almost black contrasted 
with the braids of warm gold hair that 
glistened through a misty veil of Venetian 
stuff, which floated about her from time 
to time and enveloped her, as the blossoms 
do a tree. Hamlet could think of nothing 
but the almond-tree that stood in full 
bloom in the little court near his lodging. 
She seemed to him the incarnation of that 
riant spring-time which had touched and 
awakened all the leaves and buds in the 
sleepy old gardens around Verona. 
" Mercutio ! who is that lady ] " 
" The daughter of old Capulet, by her 
stature." 

" And he that dances with her 1" 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 43 

" Paris, a kinsman to Can Grande della 
Scala." 

"Her lover r' 

" One of them." 

"She has others?" 

"Enough to make a squadron; only 
the blind and aged are exempt." 

Here the music ceased and the dancers 
dispersed. Hamlet followed the lady 
with his eyes, and seeing her left alone a 
moment, approached her. She received 
him graciously, as a mask receives a mask, 
and the two fell to talking, as people do 
who have nothing to say to each other 
and possess the art of saying it. Pres- 
ently something in his voice struck on 
her ear, a new note, an intonation sweet 
and strange, that made her curious. Who 
was it 1 It could not be Valentine, nor 



44 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

Anselmo ; he was too tall for Signior 
Placentio ; not stout enough for Lucio ; 
it was not her cousin Tybalt. Could it be 
that rash Montague who Would he 
dare 1 Here, on the very points of their 
swords? The stream of maskers ebbed 
and flowed and surged around them, and 
the music began again, and Juliet listened 
and listened. 

" Who are you, sir," she cried, at length, 
" that speak our tongue with feigned ac- 
cent ?" 

"A stranger; an idler in Verona, 
though not a gay one, a black butter- 

fly." 

" Our Italian sun will gild your wings 

for you. Black edged with gilt goes gay." 

" I am already not so sad-colored as I 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 45 

" I would fain see your face, sir ; if it 
match your voice, it needs must be a 
kindly one." 

" I would we could change faces." 

" So we shall, at supper ! " 

"And hearts, too]" 

" Xay, I would not give a merry heart 
for a sorrowful one ; but I will quit my 
mask, and you yours ; yet," and she spoke 
under her breath, " if you are, as I think, 
a gentleman of Verona a Montague 
do not unmask." 

" I am not of Verona, lady ; no one 
knows me here " ; and Hamlet threw back 
the hood of his domino. Juliet held her 
mask aside for a moment, and the two 
stood looking icto each other's eyes. 

" Lady, we have in faith changed faces, 
inasmuch as I shall carry yours forever in 
my memory." 



46 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

" And I yours, sir," said Juliet, softly, 
"wishing it looked not so pale and melan- 
choly." 

" Hamlet," whispered Mercutio, pluck- 
ing at his friend's skirt, " the fellow there, 
talking with old Capulet, his wife's 
nephew, Tybalt, a quarrelsome dog, 
suspects we are Montagues. Let us get 
out of this peaceably, like soldiers who 
are too much gentlemen to cause a brawl 
under a host's roof." 

With this Mercutio pushed Hamlet to 
the door, where they were joined by Ben- 
volio. Juliet, with her eyes fixed upon 
the retreating maskers, stretched out her 
hand and grasped the arm of an ancient 
serving-woman who happened to be pass- 
ing. 

" Quick, good Xurse ! go ask his name 



I 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 47 

of yonder gentleman. Not the one in 
green, dear ! but he that hath the black 
domino and purple mask. What, did I 
touch your poor rheumatic arm 1 Ah, go 
now, sweet Nurse ! " , 

As the Nurse hobbled off, querulously, 
on her errand, Juliet murmured to herself 
an old rhyme she knew : 

" If he be married, 
My grave is like to be my wedding bed ! " 

When Hamlet got back to his own 
chambers he sat on the edge of his couch 
in a brown study. The silvery moon- 
light, struggling through the swaying 
branches of a tree outside the window, 
drifted doubtfully into the room, and 
made a parody of that fleecy veil which 
erewhile had floated about the lissome 



43 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 



1 



form of the lovely Capulet. That he 
loved her, and must tell her that he loved 
her, was a foregone conclusion ; but how 
should he contrive to see Juliet again] 
No one knew him in Yerona; he had 
carefully preserved his incognito ; even 
Mercutio regarded him as simply a young 
gentleman from Denmark, taking his ease 
in a foreign city. Presented, by Mercutio, 
as a rich Danish tourist, the Capulets 
would receive him courteously, of course ; 
as a visitor, but not as a suitor. It was 
in another character that he must be pre- 
sented, his own. 

He was pondering what steps he could 
take to establish his identity, when he re- 
membered the two or three letters which 
he had stuffed into his wallet on quitting 
Elsinore. He lighted a taper and began 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 49 

examining the papers. Among them 
were the half-dozen billet-doux which 
Ophelia had returned to him the night 
before his departure. They were neatly 
tied together by a length of black ribbon, 
to which was attached a sprig of rose- 
mary. " That was just like Ophelia ! " 
muttered the young man, tossing the 
package into the wallet again ; " slie was 
always having cheerful ideas like that." 
How long ago seemed the night she had 
handed him these love-letters in her de- 
mure little way ! How misty and remote 
seemed everything connected with the 
old life at Elsinore ! His father's death, 
his mother's marriage, his anguish and 
isolation, they were like things that 
had befallen somebody else. There was 
something incredible, too, in his present 



50 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

situation. Was he dreaming 1 "VYas he 
really in Italy, and in love 1 

He hastily bent forward and picked up 
a square folded paper lying half concealed 
under the others. "How could I have 
forgotten it ! " It was a missive addressed, 
in Horatio's angular hand, to the Signior 
Capulet of Verona, containing a few lines 
of introduction from Horatio, whose father 
had dealings with some of the rich Lom- 
bardy merchants and knew many of the 
leading families in the city. With this, 
and several epistles, preserved by chance, 
written to him by Queen Gertrude while 
he was at the university, Hamlet saw he 
would have no difficulty in proving to the 
Capulets that he was the Prince of Den- 
mark. 

At an unseemly hour the next morning 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 51 

Merciitio was roused from his slumbers by- 
Hamlet, who counted every minute a hun- 
dred years until he saw Juliet. Mercutio 
did not take this interruption too patiently, 
for the honest humorist was very serious 
as a sleeper ; but his equilibrium was 
quickly restored by Hamlet's revelation. 

The friends were long closeted together, 
and at the proper, ceremonious hour for 
visitors, they repaired . to the house of 
Capulet, who did not hide his sense of 
the honor done him by the prince. With 
scarcely any prelude Hamlet unfolded the 
motive of his visit, and was listened to 
with rapt attention by old Capulet, who 
inwardly blessed his stars that he had not 
given his daughter's hand to the County 
Paris, as he was on the point of doing. 
The ladies were not visible on this occa- 



52 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

sion, the fatigues of the ball overnight, 
etc. ; but that same evening Hamlet was 
accorded an interview with Juliet and 
Lady Capulet, and a few days subse- 
quently all Verona was talking of nothing 
but the new engagement. 

The destructive Tybalt scowled at first, 
and twirled his fierce mustache, and young 
Paris took to writing dejected poetry ; but 
they both soon recovered their serenity, 
seeing that nobody minded them, and 
went together to pay their respects to 
Hamlet. 

A new life began now for Hamlet. He 
shed his inky cloak, and came out in a 
doublet of insolent splendor, looking like 
a dagger-handle newly gilt. With his 
funereal gear he appeared to have thrown 
off something of his sepulchral gloom. It 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 53 

was impossible to be gloomy with Juliet, 
in whom each day developed some sunny 
charm unguessed before. Her freshness 
and coquettish candor were constant sur- 
prises. She had had many lovers, and she 
confessed them to Hamlet in the prettiest 
way. "Perhaps, my dear," she said to 
him one evening, with an ineffable smile, 
" I might have liked young Romeo very 
well, but the family were so opposed to it 
from the very first. And then he was so 
so demonstrative, you know." 

Hamlet had known of Romeo's futile 
passion, but he had not been aware until 
then that his betrothed was the heroine 
of the balcony adventure. On leaving 
Juliet he went to look up the Montague ; 
not for the purpose of crossing rapiers 
with him, as another man might have 



54 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

done, but to compliment him on his un- 
exceptionable taste in admiring so rare a 
lady. 

But Eomeo had disappeared, in a most 
unaccountable manner, and his family 
were in great tribulation concerning him. 
It was thought that perhaps the unrelent- 
ing Eosaline (who had been Juliet's frigid 
predecessor) had relented; and Monta- 
gue's, man Abram was despatched to seek 
Romeo at her residence ; but the Lady 
Rosaline, who was embroidering on her 
piazza, placidly denied all knowledge of 
him. It was then feared that he had 
fallen in one of the customary encoun- 
ters ; but there had been no fight, and no- 
body had been killed on either side for as 
many as two days. Nevertheless, his exit 
had the appearance of being final. When 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 55 

Hamlet questioned Mercutio, the honest 
soldier laughed and stroked his blond 
mustache. 

"The boy has gone off in a heat, I don't 
know where, to the icy ends of the 
earth, I believe, to cool himself." 

Hamlet regretted that Eomeo should 
have had any feeling in the matter ; but 
regret was a bitter weed that did not thrive 
well in the atmosphere in which the fortu- 
nate lover was moving. He saw Juliet 
every day, and there was not a fleck upon 
his happiness, unless it was the garrulous 
Nurse, against whom Hamlet had taken a 
singular prejudice. He considered her a 
tiresome old person, not too decent in her 
discourse at times, and advised Juliet to 
get rid of her; but the ancient serving- 
woman had been in the family for years, 



56 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

and it was not quite expedient to discharge 
her at that late day. 

With the subtile penetration of old age 
the Nurse instantly detected Hamlet's dis- 
like, and returned it heartily. 

"Ah, ladybird," she cried one night, 
" ah, well-a-day ! you know not how to 
choose a man. An I could choose for you, 
Jule ! By God's lady, there 's Signior 
Mercutio, a brave gentleman, a merry gen- 
tleman, and a virtuous, I warrant ye, 
whose little finger-joint is worth all the 
body of this blackbird prince, dropping 
down from Lord knows where to fly off 
with the sweetest bit of flesh in Yerona. 
Marry, come up I " 

But this was only a ripple on the stream 
that flowed so smootlily. Now and then, 
indeed, Hamlet felt called upon playfully 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 57 

to chide Juliet for her extravagance of 
language, as when, for instance, she prayed 
that when he died he might be cut out in 
little stars to deck the face of night. Ham- 
let objected, under any circumstances, to 
being cut out in little stars for any illumi- 
nating purposes whatsoever. Once she 
suggested to her lover that he should come 
to the garden after the family retired, and 
she would speak with him a moment from 
the balcony. Now, as there was no ob- 
stacle to their seeing each other whenever 
they pleased, and as Hamlet was of a nice 
sense of honor and a most exquisite prac- 
tiser of propriety, he did not encourage 
Juliet in her thoughtlessness. 

" What ! " he cried, lifting his finger at 
her reprovingly, " romantic again ! " 

This was their nearest approach to a lov- 



58 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

ers' quarrel. The next day Hamlet brought 
her, as peace-offering, a slender gold flask 
curiously wrought in niello, which he had 
had filled with a costly odor at an apoth- 
ecary's as he came along. 

" I never saw so lean a thing as that 
same culler of simples, "said Hamlet, laugh- 
ing ; " a matter of ribs and shanks, a mere 
skeleton painted black. It is a rare essence, 
though. He told me its barbaric botanical 
name, but it escapes me." 

" That which we call a rose," said Juliet, 
holding the perfumery to her nostrils, and 
inclining herself prettily towards him, 
"would smell as sweet by any other name." 

Youth and Love ! O fortunate Time ! 

There was a banquet almost every night 
at the Capulets', and the Montagues, up 
the street, kept their blinds drawn down, 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 59 

and Lady Montague, who had four mar- 
riageable, tawny daughters on her hands, 
was livid with envy at her neighbor's suc- 
cess. She would rather have had two or 
three Montagues prodded through the body 
than that the prince should have gone to 
the rival house. 

Happy Prince! 

If Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and 
Laertes, and the rest of the dismal people 
at Elsinore, could have seen him now, 
they would not have known him. Where 
were his wan looks and biting speeches 1 
His eyes were no longer filled with mourn- 
ful speculation. He went in glad apparel, 
and took the sunshine as his natural in- 
heritance. If he ever fell into moodiness, 
it was partly constitutional with him, 
the shadow fled away at the first approach 



60 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

of that "loveliest weight on lightest foot." 
The sweet Veronese had nestled in his 
empty heart, and filled it with music. The 
ghosts and visions that used to haunt him 
were laid forever by Juliet's magic. 

Happy Juliet ! 

Her beauty had taken a new gloss. 
The bud had grown into a flower, redeem- 
ing the promises of the bud. If her heart 
beat less wildly, it throbbed more strongly. 
If she had given Hamlet of her super- 
abundance of spirits, he had given her of 
his wisdom and discretion. She had al- 
ways been a great favorite in society ; but 
Verona thought her ravishing now. The 
mantua-makers cut their dresses by her 
patterns, and when she wore turquoise, 
garnets went out of style. Instead of the 
o-roans and tears, and all those distressing 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 61 

events which might possibly have hap- 
pened if Juliet had persisted in loving 
Romeo, listen to her laugh and behold 
her merry eyes ! 

Every morning either Peter or Gregory 
might have been seen going up Hamlet's 
staircase with a note from Juliet, she 
had ceased to send the Nurse on discover- 
ing her lover's antipathy to that person, 
and some minutes later either Gregory or 
Peter might have been observed coming 
down the staircase with a missive from 
Hamlet. Juliet had detected his gift for 
verse, and insisted, rather capriciously, on 
having all his replies in that shape. Ham- 
let humored her, though he was often hard 
put to it ; for the Muse is a coy immortal 
and will not always come when she is 
wanted. Sometimes lie was forced to fall 



62 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

back upon previous efforts, as wlien he 
translated these lines into very choice 
Italian : 

"Doubt thou the stars are fire. 

Doubt that the sun doth move ; 
Doubt Truth to be a liar. 
But never doubt I love." 

To be sure, he had composed this quat- 
rain originally for Ophelia; but what 
would you have 1 He had scarcely meant 
it then ; he meant it now ; besides, a feli- 
citous rhyme does not go out of fashion. 
It always fits. 

While transcribing the verse his thoughts 
naturally reverted to Ophelia, for the little 
poesy was full of a faint scent of the past, 
like a pressed flower. His conscience did 
not prick him at all. How fortunate for 
liim and for her that matters had gone no 



A MIDXIGHT FANTASY. 63 

further between them ! Predisposed to 
melancholy, and inheriting a not very 
strong mind from her father, Ophelia was 
a lady who needed cheering up, if ever 
poor lady did. He, Hamlet, was the last 
man on the globe with whom she should 
have had any tender affiliation. If they 
had wed, they would have caught each 
other's despondency, and died, like a pair 
of sick ravens, within a fortnight. What 
had become of her 1 Had she gone into a 
nunnery 1 He would make her abbess, if 
he ever returned to Elsinore. 

After a month or two of courtship, there 
being no earthly reason to prolong it, 
Hamlet and Juliet were privately married 
in the Franciscan Chapel, Friar Laurence 
officiating ; but there was a grand banquet 
that night at the Capulets', to which all 



64 A MIDXIGHT FANTASY. 

Yerona went. At Hamlet's intercession, 
the Montagues were courteously asked to 
this festival. To the amazement of every- 
one the Montagues accepted the invitation 
and came, and were treated royally, and 
the long, lamentable feud it would have 
sorely puzzled either house to explain what 
it was all about was at an end. The ad- 
herents of the Capulets and the Montagues 
were forbidden on the spot to bite any 
more thumbs at each other. 

" It will detract from the general gayety 
of the town," Mercutio remarked. " Sign- 
ior Tybalt, my friend, I shall never have 
the pleasure of running you through the 
diaphragm ; a cup of wine with you ! " 

The guests were still at supper in the 
great pavilion erected in the garden, which 
was as light as day with the glare of in-; 




'Hamlet's glance fell upon the familiar form of a younj 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 67 

numerable flambeaux set among the shrub- 
bery. Hamlet and Juliet, with several 
others, had withdrawn from the tables, 
and were standing in the doorway of the 
pavilion, when Hamlet's glance fell upon 
the familiar form of a young man who 
stood with one foot on the lower step, 
holding his plumed bonnet in his hand. 
His hose and doublet were travel-worn, 
but his honest face was as fresh as day- 
break. 

"What! Horatio?" 

" The same, my lord, and your poor ser- 
vant ever." 

"Sir, my good friend ; I '11 change that 
name with you. What brings you to 
Yerona ] " 

" I fetch you news, my lord." 

"Good news? Then the king is 
dead." 



68 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

"The king lives, but Ophelia is no 
more." 

" Ophelia dead ! " 

" Kot so, my lord, she 's married." 

" I pray thee, do not mock me, fellow- 
student." 

" Married to him that sent me hither, 
a gentleman of winning ways and a 
most choice conceit, the scion of a noble 
house here in Verona, one Eomeo." 

The oddest little expression flitted over 
Juliet's face. There was never woman 
yet, even on her bridal day, could forgive 
a jilted lover marrying. 

" Ophelia wed ! " murmured the bride- 
groom. 

" Do you know the lady, dear 1 " 

"Excellent well," replied Hamlet, 
Juliet, "a most estimable 



A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 69 

young person, the daughter of my father's 
chamberlain. She is rather given to 
singing ballads of an elegiac nature," 
added the prince, reflectingly, "but our 
madcap Eomeo will cure her of that. 
Methinks I see them now " 

" 0, where, my lord 1 " 

" In my mind's eye, Horatio, sur- 
Tounded by their little ones, noble 
youths and graceful maidens, in whom 
the impetuosity of the fiery Eomeo is 
tempered by the pensiveness of the fair 
Ophelia. I shall take it most unkindly 
of them, love," toying with Juliet's fin- 
gers, "if they do not name their first 
boy Hamlet." 



I 



It was just as my lord Hamlet finished 
speaking that the last horse-car for Boston 



70 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 

providentially belated between Water- 
town and Mount Auburn swept round 
the curve of the track on which I was 
walking. The amber glow of the car- 
lantern lighted up ray figure in the 
gloom, the driver gave a quick turn on 
the brake, and the conductor, making a 
sudden dexterous clutch at the strap over 
his head, sounded the death-knell of my 
fantasy as I stepped upon the rear plat- 
form. 




THE HTTLE VIOLDflST. 



I 



I HIS story is no invention of mine. 

! I could not invent anything half 
so lovely and pathetic as seems to me the 
incident which has come ready-made to 
my hand. 

Some of yon, douhtless, have heard of 
James Speaight, the infant violinist, or 
Young Americus, as he was called. He 
was born in London, I believe, and was 
only four years old when his father 
brought him to this country, less than 
three years ago. Since that time he has 
appeared in concerts and various enter- 



72 THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 

taiiiments in many of our principal 
cities, attracting unusual attention by his 
musical skill. I confess, however, that I 
had not heard of him until last montli, 
though it seems he had previously given 
two or three public performances in the 
city where I live. I had not heard of 
him, I say, until last month, but since 
then I do not think a day has passed 
when this child's face has not risen up in 
my memory, the little half-sad face, as. 
I saw it once, with its large, serious eyes 
and infantile mouth. 

I have, I trust, great tenderness for all 
children ; but I know I have a special- 
place in my heart for those poor little 
creatures who figure in circuses and 
shows, or elsewhere, as " infant prodi- 
gies." Heaven help such little folk ! It 



THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 73 

was an unkind fate that did not make 
them commonplace, stupid, happy girls 
and boys like our own Fannys and Char- 
leys and Harrys. Poor little waifs, that 
never know any babyhood or childhood, 
sad human midges, that flutter for a 
moment in the glare of the gaslights, and 
are gone. Pitiful little children, whose 
tender limbs and minds are so torn and 
strained by thoughtless task-masters, that 
it seems scarcely a regretable thing when 
the circus caravan halts awhile on its 
route to make a little grave by the 
wayside. 

I never witness a performance of child- 
acrobats, or the exhibition of any forced 
talent, physical or mental, on the part of 
children, without protesting, at least in 
my own mind, against the blindness and 



74 THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 

cruelty of their parents or guardians, or 
whoever has care of them. 

I saw at the theatre, the other night, 
two tiny girls, mere babies they were, 
doing such feats upon a bar of wood sus- 
pended from the ceiling, as made my 
blood run cold. They were twin sisters, 
these mites, with that old young look on 
their faces which all such unfortunates 
have. I hardly dared glance at them, 
up there in the air, hanging by their feet 
from the swinging bar, twisting their 
fragile spines and distorting their poor 
little bodies, when they ought to have 
been nestled in soft blankets in a cosey 
chamber, with the angels that guard the 
sleep of little children hovering above 
them. I hope the father of those two 
babies will read and ponder this page on 



THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 75 

which I record not alone my individual 
protest, but the protest of hundreds of 
men and women who took no pleasure 
in that performance, but witnessed it 
with a pang of pity. 

There is a noble " Society for the Pre- 
vention of Cruelty to Dumb Animals." 
There ought to be a Society for the Pre- 
vention of Cruelty to Little Children ; 
and a certain influential gentleman who 
does some things well and other things 
very badly, ought to attend to it. The 
name of this gentleman is Mr. Public 
Opinion. 

But to my story. 

One September morning, about five 
years and a half ago, there wandered to 
my fireside, hand in hand, two small per- 
sonages who requested in a foreign Ian- 



76 THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 

guage, which I understood at once, to be 
taken in and fed and clothed and sent to 
scliool and loved and tenderly cared for. 
Very modest of them was n't if? to 
ask all that ! And I had never seen 
either of them before, perfect strangers 
to me. What was my surprise when it 
turned out (just as if it were in a fairy 
legend), that these were my own sons ! 
When I say they came hand in hand, it 
is to inform you that these two boys were 
twins, like that pair of tiny girls I just 
mentioned. 

These young gentlemen are at present 
known as Charley and Talbot, in the 
household, and to a very limited circle of 
acquaintances outside; but as Charley 
has declared his intention to become a 
circus-rider, and Talbot, who has not so 



THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 77 

soaring an ambition, has resolved to be a 
policeman, it is likely the world will hear 
of them before long. In the mean time, 
and with a view to the severe duties 
of the professions selected, they are 
learning the alphabet, Charley vaulting 
over the hard letters with an agility 
which promises well for his career as 
circus-rider, and Talbot collaring the 
slippery S's and pursuing the suspicious 
X Y Z's with the promptness and bold- 
ness of a night-watchman. 

Now it is my pleasure not only to feed 
and clothe Masters Charley and Talbot as 
if they were young princes or dukes, but 
to look to it that they do not wear out 
their ingenious minds by too much study. 
So I occasionally take them to a puppet- 
show, or a musical entertainment, and 



78 THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 

always, in holiday time, to see a panto- 
mime. This last is their especial delight. 
It is a fine thing to behold the business- 
like air with which they climb into their 
seats in the parquet, and the gravity 
with which they immediately begin to 
read the play-bill upside down. Then, 
between the acts, the solemnity with 
which they extract the juice from an 
orange, through a hole made with a lead- 
pencil, is also a noticeable thing. 

Their knowledge of the mysteries of 
Fairyland is at once varied and profound. 
Everything delights, but nothing aston- 
ishes them. That people covered with 
spangles should dive headlong through 
the floor; that fairy queens should step 
out of the trunks of trees ; that the poor 
wood-cutter's cottage should change, in 



THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 79 

the twinkling of an eye, into a glorious 
palace or a goblin grotto under the sea, 
with crimson fountains and golden stair- 
cases and silver foliage, all that is a 
matter of course. This is the kind of 
world they live in at present. If these 
things happened at home they would not 
be astonished. 

The other day it was just before 
Christmas I saw the boys attentively 
regarding a large pumpkin which lay on 
the kitchen floor, waiting to be made into 
pies. If that pumpkin had suddenly 
opened ; if wheels had sprouted out on 
each side ; and if the two kittens play- 
ing with an onion-skin by the range 
had turned into milk-white ponies and 
harnessed themselves to this Cinderella 
coach, neither Charley nor Talbot would 



80 



THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 



have considered it an unusual circum- 
stance. 

Now, I am quite willing they should be- 
lieve in fairies, particularly in the good 
fairies ; and I hope when they grow up to 
be men they will not exchange that harm- 
less faith for any less pure and beautiful. 

The pantomime which is usually played 
at the Boston Theatre during the holidays, 
is to them positive proof that the stories 
of " Cinderella " and " Jack of the Bean- 
stalk " and " Jack the Giant-Killer " are 
true stories. They like to be reassured on 
that point. So one morning last Jaimary, 
when I told Charley and Talbot, at the 
breakfast-table, that Prince Eupert and 
his court had come to town, 

*' Some in jags. 
Some in rags, 
And some in velvet gowns," 



THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 81 

the news was received with great glee, as 
you may imagine ; for this meant that we 
were to go to the play. 

For the sake of the small folk, who 
could not visit him at night. Prince Rupert 
was good enough to appear every Saturday 
afternoon during the month. These after- 
noon performances were called, in French, 
matinees. I don't know why ; iov matinee 
means /oreTioow. French, I suppose, was 
the native language of all of Prince Ru- 
pert's courtiers who did n't speak Irish. 
However, it was to a matinee we went, 
and we went immediately after dinner one 
sunshiny Saturday. 

You would never liave guessed that the 
sun was shining brightly outside, if you 
had been with us in the theatre that after- 
noon. All the window-shutters were closed, 



82 THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 

and the great glass chandeKer hanging 
from the gayly -painted dome was one blaze 
of light. But brighter even than the jets 
of gas were the ruddy, eager faces of count- 
less boys and girls, fringing the balconies 
and crowded into the seats below, longing 
for the play to begin. And nowhere were 
there two merrier or more eager faces than 
those of Charley and Talbot, pecking now 
and then at a brown paper cone filled with 
white grapes, which I held, and waiting 
for the solemn green curtain to roll up and 
disclose the coral realm of the Naiad 
Queen. 

I am not going to tell you much about 
the play. Tliere was a bold young prince 
Prince Eupert, of course who went 
into Wonderland in search of adventures. 
He reached AYonderland by jumping into 



THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 83 

the river Ehine. I would not advise 
everybody to go that way. Even the 
guide-books, which recommend a great 
many absurd things, do not recommend 
that. Then there was one Snaps, the 
Prince's servant-man, who did n't want to 
go in tlie least, but went, and got terribly 
frightened by the Green Demons of the 
Gloomy Cavern, which made us all laugh, 
it being such a pleasant thing to see 
somebody else scared nearly to death. 
Then there were knights in brave tin 
armor, and armies of fair amazons in all 
the colors of the rainbow, and troops of 
unhappy slave-girls who did nothing but 
smile and wear beautiful dresses, and 
dance continually to the most delightful 
music. Now you were in an enchanted 
castle on the banks of the Ehine, and now 



84 THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 

you were in a cave of emeralds and dia- 
monds at the bottom of the river, scene 
following scene with such bewildering 
rapidity that finally you did n't quite 
know where you were. 

But what interested me most, and what 
pleased Charley and Talbot even beyond 
the Naiad Queen herself, was the little 
violinist who came to the German Court 
and played before Prince Eupert and his 
bride. 

It was such a little fellow! He was 
not more than a year older than my own 
boys, and not much taller. He had a 
very sweet, sensitive lace, with large 
gray eyes, in which there was a deep- 
settled expression which I do not like 
to see in a child. Looking at his eyes 
alone, you would have said he was six- 




'Tlie little violinist who ])lnyp'l 1>efore Prince Rupert 
and his wile." 



THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 87 

teen or seventeen, and lie was merely a 
baby ! 

I do not know enough of music to assert 
that he had wonderful genius, or any genius 
at all ; but it seemed to me he played 
charmingly, and with the touch of a nat- 
ural musician. I thought " The Last Eose 
of Summer " the sweetest strain of music 
in the world, as it floated up from the 
small violin. 

At the end of his piece, he was lifted 
over the foot lights of the stage into the 
orchestra, where, with the conductor's 
bdton in his hand, he directed the band 
in playing one or two airs. In this he 
showed a carefully trained ear and a per- 
fect understanding of the music. 

I wanted to hear the little violin again, 
but as he made his bow to the audience 



88 THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 

and ran off, it was with a lialf-weariefl air, 
and I did not join with my neighbors in 
calling him back. " There 's another per- 
formance to-night," I said to myself, "and 
the little fellow is n't very strong." He 
came out and bowed, but did not play 
again. 

All the way home from the theatre my 
children were full of the little violinist ; 
and as they went along, chattering and 
frolicking in front of me, and getting 
under my feet like a couple of young 
spaniels (they did not look unlike two 
small brown spaniels, with their fur- 
trimmed overcoats and sealskin caps and 
ear-lappets), I could not help thinking 
how different the poor little musician's 
lot was from theirs. 

He was only six years and a half old, 



THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 89 

and had been before the public nearly 
three years. What hours of toil and 
weariness he must have been passing 
through at the very time when my little 
ones were being rocked and petted and 
shielded from every ungentle wind that 
blows ! And what an existence was his 
now, travelling from city to city, prac- 
tising at every spare moment, and per- 
forming, night after night, in some close 
theatre or concert-room .when he should 
be drinking in that deep, refreshing slum- 
ber which childhood needs ! However 
much he was loved by those who had 
charge of him, and they must have 
treated him kindly, it was a hard life 
for the child. 

He ought to have been turned out 
into the sunshine ; that pretty violin 



90 THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 

one can easily understand that he was 
fond of it himself ought to have been 
taken away from him, and a kite-string 
placed in his hand instead. If God had 
set the germ of a great musician or a great 
composer in that slight body, surely it 
would have been wise to let the precious 
gift ripen and flower in its own good 
season. 

This is what I thought, walking home 
in the glow of the wintry sunset; but 
my boys saw only the bright side of the 
picture, and would have liked nothing 
better than to change places with little 
James Speaight. To stand in the midst 
of Fairyland and play beautiful tunes on 
. a toy fiddle, while all the people clapped 
their hands, what could quite equal 
that ] Charley began to think it was no 



THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 91 

such grand thing to be a circus-rider, and 
the dazzling career of policeman had lost 
something of its charm in the eyes of 
Talbot. 

It is my custom every night, after the 
children are snug in their nests and the 
gas is turned down, to sit on the side of 
the bed and chat with them five or ten 
minutes. If anything has gone wrong 
through the day, it is never alluded to 
at this time, ^"one but the most agreea- 
ble topics are discussed. I make it a 
point that the boys shall go to sleep with 
untroubled hearts. When our chat is 
ended they say their prayers. Kow, 
among the pleas which they offer up for 
the several members of the family, they 
frequently intrude the claims of rather 
curious objects for Divine compassion. 



92 THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 

Sometimes it is a rocking-horse that has 
broken a leg, sometimes it is a Shem or 
Japhet, who has lost an arm in being 
removed from the Noah,s Ark; Pinky 
and Inky, the two kittens, and Eob, the 
dog, seldom escape without the warmest 
recommendations to mercy. 

So it did not surprise me at all this 
Saturday ni^'ht when both boys prayed 
God to watch over and bless the little 
violinist. 

The next morning at the breakfast- 
table, when I opened the newspaper, 
which is always laid beside my plate, 
the first paragraph my eyes fell upon was 
this : 

" James Speaight, the infant violinist, died 
in this city late on Saturday night. At the 
matinee of the ' Naiad Queen,' on the after- 



THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 93 

noon of that daj, when little James Speaight 
came off the stage, after giving his usual vio- 
lin performance, Air. Shewell* noticed that 
he appeared fatigued, and asked if he felt ilL 
He replied that he had a pain in his heart, 
and then Mr. Shewell suggested that he re- 
main away from the evening performance. 
He retired quite early, and about midnight 
his father heard him say, ' Gracious God, 
make room for another little child in Heaven.* 
No sound was heard after this, and his 
father spoke to him soon afterwards ; he 
received no answer, but found his child 
dead." 

"Was there ever anything sadder than 
that ] The printed letters grew dim and 
melted into each other as I tried to read 
them again. I glanced across the table at 
Charley and Talbot, eating their break- 
*The stage-manager. 



94 THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 

fast, with the slanted sunlight from the 
window turning their curls into real gold, 
and I had not the heart to tell them what 
had happened. 

Of all the prayers that floated up to 
heaven, that Saturday night, from the 
bedsides of sorrowful men and women, 
or from the cots of happy cliildren, what 
accents could have fallen more piteously 
and tenderly upon the ear of a listening 
angel than the prayer of little James 
Speaight ! 

He knew he was dying. The faith he 
had learned, perhaps while running at his 
mother's side, long ago, in some green 
English lane, came to him then. He 
remembered it was Christ who said, "Suf- 
fer little children to come unto me," and 
the beautiful prayer rose to his lips : " Gra- 



THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 95 

cious God, make room for another little 
child in Heaven." 

I folded up the newspaper silently, 
and throughout the day I did not speak 
before the boys of the little violinist's 
death ; but when the time came for our 
customary chat in the nursery I told the 
story to Charley and Talbot. I do not 
think they understood it very well, and 
still less did they understand why I lin- 
gered so much longer than usual by their 
bedside that Sunday night. 

As I sat there in the dimly-lighted 
room, it seemed to me that I could hear, 
in the pauses of the winter wind, faintly 
and doubtfully somewhere in the distance, 
the sound of the little violin. 

Ah, that little violin ! a cherished 
relic now. Perhaps it plays soft, plain- 



96 



THE LITTLE VIOLINIST. 



tive airs all by itself, in the place where 
it is kept, missing the touch of the 
baby fingers which used to waken it 
into life ! 




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