Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Stories and Tales >> The Prima Donna: A Passage from City Life >> Page 177

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Page 177

Short Stories | U of South Carolina P | 1974
Transcription THE PRIMA DONNA177
English parentage. Still, her more remote ancestors might have
come from the sister Isle.
I had now a new employment for my vacant hours, and a new
motive for the survey of my `rookery.' I watched and listened long
enough, and often enough, to discover, in the next five days, sufficient
cause for a greatly-increased wonderment. The girl for she was
young enough to be considered under this head, was really beautiful.
Her appearance, air, manner and behaviour, were such, also, as to
justify the belief that she had come of good family, had been used
to gentle nurture, and had been blessed with something more than
an ordinary education. Yet how came she in such a place so meanly
habited—so poorly tended—so wretchedly provided for? The hovel
which she occupied, was decidedly one of the meanest of the `row.'
The apartment in which I usually beheld her, and which I could
easily overlook from mine, was almost entirely without furniture.
A rude box beside the window formed the only seat which I per-
ceived it to contain; and the bed, the foot of which was all that I
could see, was spread out upon the floor. The wild and tender ballad
which she sang the style of her performance the subdued and
sweet resignation of her countenance the while, how little did these
correspond with the wretched state of every thing around her!
What could have brought her to this condition? I mused over this
question long, and approached it frequently. The answer which I
found seldom satisfied me. I was unwilling to believe that mere
misfortunes, the hazards of a capricious fate alone, could have so
reduced worth, accomplishment and talent; and yet, how difficult,
—looking on her face of angelic purity of expression, and a placid
resignation not less angelic, to believe that she was the victim of
guilt—the creature, self-impelled to sin, by her own bad passions, or
pliant virtue.
The more I thought, the more I was confused; and I became
hourly more and more interested in the subject. My caution and
my studies, and sometimes my landlady and supper, were equally
forgotten. I became something of an amateur in music; though, after
the few first days, my eyes were probably far more busy than my ears.