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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.
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-
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-
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.,
' Ophelia placed in the prince's hand the few letters and
trinkets he had given her." Page 26.
A MIDNIGHT FANTASY.
The Little Violinist.
T. B. ALDRICH.
JAMES R. OSGOOD AND COMPANY,
Late Ticknor & Fklds, and Fulds, Osgood, & Co.
^^4?^JpM 1S77, hy
^^T. Jf ALDRICH.
University Press : Welch, Bigelow, & Co.,
A MIDNIGHT FANTASY ....
. . 7
THE LITTLE VIOLINIST . . .
. . 71
Opbelia placed in the prince's hand the few letters
and trinkets he had given her " . . . . Front.
' 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.
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-
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-
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
" 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
" 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,
" 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
' 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-
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
" And he that dances with her 1"
A MIDNIGHT FANTASY. 43
" Paris, a kinsman to Can Grande della
"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
" Who are you, sir," she cried, at length,
" that speak our tongue with feigned ac-
"A stranger; an idler in Verona,
though not a gay one, a black butter-
" 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
" 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
46 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY.
" And I yours, sir," said Juliet, softly,
"wishing it looked not so pale and melan-
" 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-
" Quick, good Xurse ! go ask his name
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.
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-
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
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
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
"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.
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
"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-
" The same, my lord, and your poor ser-
"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
68 A MIDNIGHT FANTASY.
"The king lives, but Ophelia is no
" Ophelia dead ! "
" Kot so, my lord, she 's married."
" I pray thee, do not mock me, fellow-
" 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-
" 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
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-
THE HTTLE VIOLDflST.
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
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
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
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
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
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
THE LITTLE VIOLINIST.
have considered it an unusual circum-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
" 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
"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-
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
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
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-
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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