Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Stories and Tales >> The Prima Donna: A Passage from City Life >> Page 178

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Page 178

Short Stories | U of South Carolina P | 1974
Transcription 178THE PRIMA DONNA
I almost lived at that window of my chamber which looked out
upon the `rookery.' My own movements, at length, came to be
almost as much matter of observation and scrutiny to others, as were
those of the fair singer to myself. Perhaps, I became somewhat in-
discreet in the watch which I kept over her. Not content with the
advantages of my position, I was tempted forth at evening by the
sweet song of the syren, and without determining upon my move-
ments, by the exercise of any previous thinking, I found myself,
finally, under her very window.
This was a stretch of freedom rather large for one who had
usually maintained, in his conduct, something like the regimen of a
purist. It was an indulgence, the exercise of which soon brought me
a rebuke, which, if it did not fully answer the intended purpose, of
chiding me back to my own territory, at least served to remind me
that I was an invader of that of another. The second time that I
ventured to cross the street and place myself beneath the window
of the musician, she was engaged in a touching little ditty, which I
had never heard before, and the mournful sweetness of which
brought to my soul as I listened a most luscious sentiment of grief.
Perhaps I should have been amply satisfied to listen from my own
chamber, had not the tones of her voice been unusually low. There
was, that night, a faintness in her utterance which seemed to denote
a full feeling in her heart of the sorrowful sentiment which other
lips only sung. An undefinable curiosity made me throw by my
books, extinguish my lamp, put on my cap, and steal forth to the
`rookery.' The evening was dark —a faint starlight through apertures
in a dense mass of sullen clouds served only to confuse the aspects
of general objects ;and secure, as I fancied myself, from all observa-
tion, I crossed the street, and placed myself against a lamp-post
which stood in front of the miserable dwelling. Here I had not
been many minutes before the music ceased. I could hear a brief
conversation carried on in low but harsh tones in the apartment
which had been so lately the prison of the sweetest song. The mean
light of the chamber seemed extinguished, and while I waited for
the strain to be resumed, the door below suddenly opened, and I
was abruptly confronted by one, who, emerging from the dwelling, in
almost rude accents, demanded my business.