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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 91, 24 April 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
PAGANINI’S OLD SABOT.
■ One morning Louisette came in as usual, but all her gaiety was, gone. The musician, who was busy carving out a paper-knife from a block of ivory, saw at once that something was amiss. “Why, Louisette, my child, what is the matter '! I can see by your red eyes that you have been crying. What has happened ? ” “ Something dreadful, sir.”
“ Nothing so dreadful that'it can’t be got over, I suppose.” ‘•Well, sir, I don’t know; I hardly like to ”
Paganini fixed his eyes full upon poor Louisette’s face. “ Ah,” said he, without removing them, “ I can guess what is the matter with you. A love affair, I suppose. ” Louisette did not answer, She only blushed very deeply, and that was quite sufficient for Paganini. “ Come now, my poor child, tell me all about it. Perhaps I shall be able to do something for you. ” Louisette dried her eyes the end of her little apron. “ Well, Louisette,” continued he, “is it the old htory 1 Broken promises, faithless swain, and pretty Louisette in tears —is that it ! ” “ Poor Henri,” sighed Lcuisette. “Yes, sir, he has left mo, but it was not his fault, poor boy.” “How so?” “ Henri has just turned twenty-one, sir, and ho was obliged to draw for the conscription. He drew an unlucky number, they have taken him away, and now he is miles and miles from here on guard at Lille, with a musket across his shoulder. This is grief enough for a poor girl, is it not, sir ? But what can Ido ?” “ Can’t you get a substitute Poor Louisette smiled sadly. “You are laughing at a poor girl,” said she. “A substitute! How can I afford that ?” “How much would it cost ?” “ Oh, ever so much this year, as there is a chance of war. I could not get any one under fifteen hundred francs. 1 Paganini took Louisette’s hand in his, and pressed it affectionately. “If that is all, Louisette,” said he, “you may dry your tears. I’ll get you fifteen hundred somehow or other ; trust in me, and we” will see what can be done.” When he had said this, Paganini made a note on his tablets. This is what he wrote ;—“Remember to give a concert for Louisette and her lover. ” Time slipped away and winter came. Towards the end of November, Paganini’s doctor said to'him, in reply to his question as to when he might go into the world again—“We must not undo all the good we have done. I can’t think of letting you go away from here fill the spring.” “Very well, doctor,” said the artist, “I suppose I must obey.” Paganini ’ continued to live the same humdrum sort of existence. He mixed no more than he had ever done with the other inhabitants of the Villa, and
Louisette’s conversation was still is only
amusement, His’promise to the poor girl in the matter of the fifteen hundred francs was still constantly in his mind, and he determined that the very first moment he could dependjipon his strength, he would carry out his project. “ In the course of the winter I shall be able to manage it,” thought he; “about January or February I will get .them to advertise a concert.”
Time wore on, and Christmas Eve came with its kindly glow of charitable thoughts and happy faces. All was much the same
at the Villa Lutsetiana. Indeed, in some respects, when at such a season of the
year there might well have been some improvement, none was at all visible. The old ladies gossiped as much as ever over their coffee in the drawing-room, and were hardly more charitable than when they were first introduced to us. In France there is a charming custom —not unlike in many respects to a cer- ... tain old-stocking English theory—most cherished by children, and held in great veneration by all Parisian families. On Christmas Eve, an old shoe—or, “sabot, ’ as they call those heavy wooden clogs that the peasantry of France delights in—is placed in the chimney-corner when every one retires to bed. The fancy is that when all is hushed and quiet for the night, some good-natured fairy come tripping down the chimney laden with toys, bonbons, and other childish delights, which .are duly deposited in the wooden shoes, all ready to receive them. There are very few French children who do not wake at daybreak on Christmas morning, and scamper bare-footed into the sitting-room, to see,.what the fairies have sent them. Over, their breakfast on the Christmas Eve to which we are now alluding, those charitable old ladies who were so fond of saying spiteful things about Paganini, discussed with some vehemence the woodenshoe custom, which was supposed to have been slightly lost sight of. They were evidently hatching some'plot, for they chuckled grimly to one another, and were noticed to leave off talking altogether if any one accidentally approached their charmed coterie. “ You are quite surest is all arranged for this evening 1” said one. “Don’t you fear. Keep your countenance, and all will be right,” was the answer. And so the day passed quietly away, and no further allusion was made to the wooden-shoe controversy, the old maids’ plot, or Paganini’s^whims and oddities. After dinner, in the evening, Paganini was sitting in a quiet corner of the draw-ing-room that he loved, reading a novel and drinking a cup of coffee. The old maids were at their whist and their scandal. Suddenly was heard a noise, as of voices in dispute, outside the room, which made the old ladies prick up their ears, but which did not appear to have the slightest effect on Paganini. ‘ ‘ What can all this disturbance be about 1” asked one of the whist party. Liouisctte- here made her appearance, and gave an answer. “Please, ladies,” said she, “a porter has brought a large box, and we don’t know what to do with it. “ Who is it for ?” “ The address is so badly written that ; none of us can tell. ”
‘‘Then you had better bring in the box.’
Louisette, with the assistance of the porter, proceeded to do so. It was a large wooden box, securely fastened, and on it was written in very large letters, “With great care.” Under this direction, but in much smaller letters, were the words, “ For M. Kicolo Paganini. ” “What made you say that the address was badly written, Louisette ? ” said a harsh-featured, wizen old lady, a martyr to gout and bad temper. “It is as plain as plain can be. The box •is for our illustrious companion.” Paganini still paid no attention to what was going on. He was intently occupied with his book, and did not heed the old ladies and their tittle-tattle. He started at the sound of Louisette’s voice. She came to his side and spoke to him.
“ Monsieur Paganini, here is a box for
you.” “A box ? What box ? ” “ The box which the porter has just brought in, and which the ladies have been talking about.” “ I heard nothing. Let me see what it is.”
H© swallowed his coffee, and went
towards the porter, who was still standing sentinel over the treasure.
“Where did you br'ng this from!” said Paganini. “From the bureau, sir. I know nothing about it, except that it is said to have been forwarded from Orleans or Lvons. ”
“ That is very strange,” said Paganini ; “I don’t know any one in either town. Who on earth could have sent ? ”
“ Well, that does not so very much matter, monsieur, does it 1” said Louisette softly. “ The box is directed to you so I suppose it is yours. You will take it in, will you not ? ” ‘‘ Certainly, Louisette, and we will see what it contains.”
Paganini paid the porter and dismissed him.
“Shall I take the box tip to your rooms, monsieur ? ” said Louisette, evidently in a curious frame of mind. “ No, we will open it here,” said Paganini, looking directly towards the whist party, who appeared to be intent on their game entirely oblivious of Paganini and his box.
The process of opening was easier said than done. After the lid of the box had been wrenched off almost angrily by Paganini, there was much to be done before the contents were visible. Wadding after wadding of hay was followed by roll upon roll of paper. Each separate” covering of paper was secured by enormous seals and intricate twines of string. “ Well what is it after all that padding?” said one of the old ladies who could not conceal her impatience.
There were soill more coverings to be unbound and unsealed before anyone’s cariosity could be gratified. At last the most secure fastening of all was cut, and Paganini held up to the astonished company—a wooden shoe ! ‘‘ Is that all ? ” tittered the old ladies, with an injured air. “We need not have stopped our game for that.” “ Only an old shoe, after all,” sighed Louisette, who ill-concealed her disappointment. “ Only an old shoe after all,” repeated Paganini, with marked emphasis, and without taking his eyes from the quartette at the whist table. “A very good practical joke, no doubt, and one that must have caused its promoters a vast amount of amusement. This present has been sent me as a direct allusion to and a taunt upon my supposed avarice. I can see through it all. A present of a wooden shoe on Christmas Eve is sent to Paganini in order to compare him to the little children who are always asking for presents, and are seldom liberal themselves. It does not require much intelligence to see through this feminine jest. But never mind, the conooctor of this scheme meant me to believe that this box contained a present of great value. He or she, whoever it may be, shall not be disappointed. I tell you, Louisette, and every one here assembled, that not many days shall pass before this old wooden shoe is worth its weight in gold. ” Paganini was strangely excited, and every one in the room looked at him with astonishment. They did not understand what he meant, but they felt somehow that he would keep his word. Three days passed away, and Paganini never appeared in the daytime, or took his accustomed seat in the drawing-room after dinner*.
Louisette was asked the reason, and her answer was that Paganini was not as well as usual, and was obliged to keep his room. Even Louisette did not know ihe real cause of his absence. She had seen him, it is true, hour after hour at work with knife and chisel and the sharpest instruments, and she had heard that at feats of dexterous carpentry the great violinist was without a rival ; but she did not know that by dint of patience and exqusite ingenuity, the old wooden shoe which she had seen taken out of the box on Christmas Eve, was being changed into a violin which in tone and finish would not have discredited Amati.
(to be continued.)
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 91, 24 April 1880
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