Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Stories and Tales >> The Prima Donna: A Passage from City Life >> Page 175

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Page 175

Short Stories | U of South Carolina P | 1974
Transcription THE PRIMA DONNA175
My tastes did not exactly lead me to institute any such examination.
I was content to see the beauties of the scene afar off. Morning
and evening glimpses satisfied my curiosity; and my old woman with
her long sack, and my sturdy sailor with his imperfect eyesight,
upon both of whom such radical changes took place in the progress
of each diurnal sun, were studies which amply requited all my
curious cacoethes. The morning cries and clamour of the former
aroused me from sluggish slumbers; and her usual period of return
at evening, was equivalent to the tintinabulary summons to my
evening repast—both of these important events happening to occur
usually at the same hour of the day. A little pleasurable excitement,
which was pleasurable, perhaps, only because of the excitement,
served to reconcile me to a neighbourhood, the contemplation of
which, while it failed to stimulate curiosity, did not contribute to the
gratification of any of my usual tastes. I was just sufficiently remote
from the scene I witnessed, to make it visible to me through that
hallowing medium which turns the past into poetry, and elevates
the foreign into dignity and grace. I must confess to a reluctance
to any nearer approximation, which was so strong as to prompt me
to make use of the back door of my lodging house, in the greater
number of cases; and to seek, by a street in the rear, that outlet to
the city, which, otherwise, could only have been marked by almost
actual contact with the suds and sentiment of the `rookery.'

But a few days made a great difference in my mode of thinking
and feeling in regard to some of the persons of my Alsatia. The
cries and clamors of which I have spoken as the familiar sounds
from that neighbourhood, underwent a sweet and singular modifica-
tion. A new and very different voice from the rest, aroused me one
morning from my slumbers, and drew me to my window, with a
sentiment of pleasurable anxiety, which was altogether new to my
experience. Such a voice of so much power so much sweetness
so touching, so energetic, at once so expansive and insinuating, arch
and tremulous—passionate, yet full of the most gentle fear.