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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 92, 27 April 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
PAGANINI’S OLD SABOT.
Paganini’s labor was rewarded. He gave the old shoe a soul, and the world was to hear the result.
Soon blue bills, placarded on the walls of the Villa Lutsetiana, and liberally distributed all over Paris, announced to the world that a concert would be given in the large saloon of the villa on New Year’s Eve, at which Nicolo Paganini would make his first appearance after his serious indisposition. The popular artist promised to play ten pieces, five upon an ordinary violin and five upon a wooden shoe. The price of admission was fixed as high as twenty francs a head, but it was added that the proceeds would be devoted to a charitable purpose.
The good news of Paganini’s recovery and speedy reappearance spread like wildfire in Paris. For three months past hardly a soul in Paris knew what had become of the illustrious artist. The whole musical world indulged in transports of joy, and it is needless to add that a few hours after the announcement appeared, not a ticket for the concert was to be had for love or money. Paganini had given strict injunctions that only a certain number were to be sold. The largest theatre in Paris could have been filled over and over again, but he had set his heart on playing in the Villa Lutretitiana. There was an element of what we should call “ sensation” about the whole freak of the artist. A concert in an elegant establishment like this villa, given by one of the most distinguished of all artists after a three months’ absence—variations first upon a violin, and then upon a shoe—these were the items of gossip discussed over and over again until the long looked-for New Year’s Eve came at last.
The carriages of all the notabilities in Paris thronged the gates of the Villa Lutsetitiana, and amidst a hush of breathless excitement Paganini, violin in hand, made his appearance in the room.
There was not a trace of his recent illness left. He looked as young again as When he isolated himself from the world. With one bright smile at the recognition he received, and with but little preface, he dashed at once into a brilliant fantasia, and, quite lost in the fury of his art, he literally intoxicated his audience with his magic power.
“He cannot improve that,” they said. “ He never played better in his life.” Prepared, however, for any prodigies of skill from one who had previously done what no living man had accomplished on the violin, the dilettanti waited in an agony of excitement for the variations on the “sabot.”
After a short interval Paganini reappeared with the treasure in his hand. A silence that was almost terrible, and then from the new instrument poured forth sounds so sweet as to draw tears from the eyes of almost every one in the room. The artist seemed to be carried away by the excitement he was causing, and put his whole soul and grand intelligence into the musical drama he was reciting. There could not be a doubt about its meaning. It was the return of the conscript. There was the roll of the drums, the excitement of military life, the pang of pain at the soldier leaving his companions, the loneliness of the journey, the approach to home, the meeting of the lovers, the tears of joy and ecstacy of indissoluble happiness.
A burst of wild applause greeted the last almost superhuman effort. Again and again did the villa ring with the excited cheers of the audience. The ladies flung their bouquets at the artist’s feet, and the men rushed up to him and seized him by the hand.
Even the four old ladies who had composed a certain whist party to which allusion has before been made, could not refrain from the general excitement which was around them. “It is simply magnificent,” ithey said; “we should not have judged him so harshly. He must have a good heart,” Up in the corner of the saloon, half hidden by a curtain, stood a simple little girl. She was crying as if her heart would break. It was Louisette.
The drama of the conscripts return had gone straight to her heart.
The concert was a magnificent success, and when it was over they totalled the receipts. They amounted to two thousand francs. And then Paganini called Louisetto to his side.
“My little friend,” said he, “ we have been lucky enough to obtain five hundred francs more than was required to obtain a substitute for Henri. Take all the money. What is over will do to defray Henri’s expenses on his way home.” Louisette could not keep back the tears which came welling to her eyes. But Paganini took her kindly by the hand, and said—- “ You have been an affectionate and faithful little hand maid to me, and you too must have your reward. I will give you something to start life with. This old shoe—perhaps you will like to call it violin now—is yours ; I always intended that it should belong to you. You can dispose of it how you think fit, and I cannot help thinking that it will realise sufficient to give you a handsome dowry. ” Paganini was quite right. A wealthy Parisian amateur purchased the instrument of her, and the price he paid was six thousand francs.
And so Louisette got back her lover from the wars through the instrumentality of Nicolo Paganini. The kind part this famous violinist played in the matter must ever redound to his advantage however much it may be considered “ An Artist’s Freak. ” CONCLUDED. A MIDNIGHT VISITOR " Just a knob or two more, for it’s cold . as winter to-night; then one game at chess, and off to bed. By the way, did you send the girl ?” "Half an hour ago,” said my wife. "It is past eleven.” “ Humph ! Time goes so when one is reading,” I said ; and then, setting out the men, we prepared for our battle, with the understanding [that, as it was late, the moves were to be made quickly and without consideration. And, by the way, these are the games in which I generally come off victor, my very near relative being gifted with a long head, in whose depths she concocts abominable schemes, fuU of checks and discoveries, fatal to the existence of my poor queen, against whose reign she is disloyal as any Fenian. The little time-piece had just struck its single alarm note to say that it was midnight, and I had given check with a bishop in a two-edged way, that ensured the loss of my adversary’s knight, when she suddenly sat very upright in her chair, and held up. her finger-. " Someone crying,” I said, thinking of kicked-off clothes .and shivering little limbs somewhere in the upper regions. " No,” she whispered—"a step on the gravel. ” " Nonsense !” I said, for I hate people of nervous temperament to rouse me out of my easy-chair at night, to go shivering down the garden to try if the front gate is locked, and peep behind the laurels for concealed burglars ; or to shake me out of a pleasant dream to get up and dress and go down-stairs to try all the doors, or open the window and shout, " I see you there,”, the same as I did one night, when it was as black as Erebus, and a gruff
voice from the road answered, “ Then you must have blessed good eyesight, sir and the ever-widening rays of a policeman’s bull’s-eye were cast in my face. I was sick of being bothered with imaginary noises, for ours was not the house burglais would attack. Our whole stock of plate, in its neat, baize-lined basket, only cost fifty pounds—a wedding present, —and I suppose, if brought to the melting-pot, would not bo worth more than half; while, as to other valuables, we had each a watch and chain. To be sure, my wife had what she called her treasures upstairs—seven of them, I think, there were ; but who, in the name of all that’s sensible, would in these days of no kidnapping commit a burglary to steal children? Certainly mine were safe, for they would have proved as noisy booty as pigs of a marketable size. So, under the circumstances, I very naturally and testily exclaimed, “ Nonsense !” “ But, my dear,” said my wife, “ did you not yourself find a suspicious-looking individual lurking about the place early the other morning 1” “Very true, my dear,” I answered. “ Buthe said he was a cousin of our Jane, John Thompson by name ; and, though we don’t allow followers, you know girls will have sweethearts lurking about at times. Didn’t Jane herself half confess it when you asked her about it ?” “ There it is again,” exclaimed my wife earnestly, “ I’m sure of it. Depend upon it, it’s that fellow come back again and as she spoke I certainly did hear what sounded like the gritting of a foot upon the gravel walk, “There now,” she exclaimed, in a triumphant whisper, “ what’s that ?” _
“Jane has not locked the gate, and it’s the policeman. ” “ But I locked it myself to-night, dear. Someone has climbed over, I’m sure.” “ Check 1” said I.
“ But pray, dear ” “ Don’t you see 1” I said testily, “check to my queen and then I turned sharply round, for there was a light tap upon the window, as if from someone’s nail, and, on drawing aside the curtains and moving the blind, I could just detect a man’s face close to the glass. “ Hullo !” I exclaimed loudly. “ Hush !” said a voice. “ Can I speak to you a minute ? Please open the window.”
Now, that was all very well, and very civilly spoken, but, under the circumstances, I did not feel disposed to do anything of the kind, and, letting fall the blind, I stood hesitating as to what would be best. If I took up the poker, I felt I should be a match for any one man if he had evil intentions ; but then there might be two or three ; but “Pooh —nonsense !"’ I exclaimed the next moment ; “ someone is ill, or something of that kind. Besides,” I said, “'one thing is very certain —it’s not John Thompson.” “ Where are you going, Edward ?” said my wife anxiously, as I moved towards the door.
“ Upstairs, to hold a parley,” I replied. “But you are never going io leave me here by myself V’ “Not unless you wish it, my dear. Come along with me.” So, hand in hand, we went up to the little staircase window over the front door, and, throwing it up, I looked out to just distinguish a figure by the drawing-room window. “Now then,” I said, “what’s the matter ?” “Hush, pray,” whispered a voice that was quite strange to me ; and there was again the grating upon the gravel, as the figure came beneath where I was. “ Are you a Christian ?” whispered the voice. Well, that was rather a poser. Igo to the church in the morning and to church in the afternoon, pay my rates regularly, and never put less than sixpence in the plate on collection days ; so, under the circumstances, I thought I was, and said so. “ Then pray help a follow-creature in distress, sir. Give me your help. ” [to be continued,'!
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 92, 27 April 1880
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