Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Stories and Tales >> The Prima Donna: A Passage from City Life >> Page 181

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Page 181

Short Stories | U of South Carolina P | 1974
Transcription THE PRIMA DONNAI81
He shook his impertinent finger at me in hate and defiance; and
when the hand of the woman was put upon his shoulder, as she
threw herself between us, he flung her from him with a degree of
violence, which almost renewed in my heart the desire to pummel
him. The next moment he grasped her about the body and dragged
her within the entrance. Her eyes were turned full upon me while
she was passing from sight; and it was a small solace to my feelings
at that instant, to fancy, as I did, that there was any thing but unkind-
ness for me in their expression. I was but a youth at that period,
and the vanity which seems natural enough to youth, must not be
visited by the reader with too harsh an expression of opinion.
However ruffled I might have been by this event, there was yet
something in it which soothed and satisfied me. The heart of man
is a very selfish substance, even in its impulses of greatest generosity.
Perhaps, in a world, in which so superior and vast a proportion of the
performance depends upon man, it is not unfitting that it should be
so. He must be impelled by influences of self even to the execution
of those social achievements which would seem to be most universal
in their tendencies and aims. But this is no place to philosophize. It
is enough for me to confess that I found pleasure in the conviction
that the unknown songstress was unhappy, without finding it a cause
of unhappiness to meet my glance that she dwelt with one who was
evidently not satisfied with her; and with whom she being the
creature of taste and sensibility which I readily assumed her to be
she could still less be satisfied. But in what relation did they stand to
one another? This was a mystery to me which brought with it feelings
of disquietude and pain. He was old enough to be her father. Was
he so? I would have given something though I knew not wherefore
—could I have believed it. I prayed, unconsciously, that she was
not his wife, and shuddered, the next moment, with the apprehen-
sion that she might be something less, and something worse.
For two days after this I heard no music, and in all this time
the windows remained closely fastened. I saw nothing of the song-
stress;—but the man, to whom I now addressed no moderate degree
of my attention, but whom before, though I had seen, I had scarcely