Olympia had selected an auspicious
time for the first appearance of her protege, as she
always persisted in calling Caroline.
It was the fashion just then to recognize
American genius with something like enthusiasm, and
the very suddenness with which this young girl had
been brought forward operated in her favor.
A glowing account of her voice and
beauty had reached the public just at a time when
no special excitement occupied it, and this served
to draw a crowd around the opera house long before
the hour of opening.
On the outskirts of this crowd, the
carriage which contained Olympia and her victim for
such the heroine of the evening really was made
its way toward the stage door. Olympia leaned
out of the window, and cried exultingly:
“Look, child, look! Hundreds of people
Caroline cast one frightened glance
at the crowd, and shrank back with a faint moan.
Just as the audience began to pour
in through the opened doors the carriage drove up
to the stage entrance, and Olympia took a leap from
the steps and held the carriage door open with her
own hand, while Caroline descended more slowly.
The light from a neighboring lamp fell upon her face,
and revealed the tears that stood upon her cheeks,
and a half rebellious look in the eyes, which Olympia
saw, and met with angry bitterness.
“Crying again? Shooting
spiteful looks at me, as if I were a monster, instead
of a tender, considerate, self-sacrificing mother,
ready to share everything with you, even my glory!
Was ever such ingratitude?”
Caroline did not answer, but walked
into the narrow door, and stood upon the dreary stage,
panting for breath, like some superb animal from the
wild woods, hunted down, and without hopes of escape.
“This way come this
way,” said Olympia, taking hold of her arm.
“Perhaps you will remember that we are late.
The audience was crowding in like a torrent when we
passed the door. Come!”
Caroline allowed herself to be led
along the stage, through yawning vistas of scenery
ready placed for use, and along dark passages, until
she came to Olympia’s dressing-room, in which
a blaze of light was reflected by half-a-dozen mirrors,
and fell like sunshine on a pile of gorgeous vestments
laid out for her use.
Caroline shrank back with a faint,
sick feeling. Oh, how everything had changed
since she was so fascinated by a scene like that!
Her delicate, proud nature revolted from the splendid
confusion. From her very heart she loathed the
sumptuous garments with which Olympia had hoped to
“Is there no hope?” she
cried, desperately. “I would rather suffer
anything than undertake this part!”
“Hope? Yes, there is everything
to hope. The house is crowded already. There
never was so fine an opening. Come, make ready!”
“Not if I have the power to resist.”
She spoke in a low but resolute voice,
which frightened Olympia, who stood gazing at the
pale young face turned upon her with a frown of terrible
anger gathering on her forehead.
“Caroline, you cannot resist.
My word is given, the contract signed, my honor pledged.
Would you disgrace me forever?”
“Your honor pledged, and I belong
to you,” said the girl. “I see, I
see there is no escaping! It is my
Caroline took off the cloak in which
she was wrapped, flung down all her magnificent hair,
and seated herself before one of the mirrors.
“Do with me as you please,”
she said, turning a weary glance upon the mirror.
“It may be my death, but you will have
The next moment that unhappy girl
found herself in the hands of a clever French maid,
who fairly revelled in her task, as she shook out that
rich mass of hair, and held it up for the light to
shine through. But Caroline took no heed.
The toilet only reminded her of that most hideous
one when Marie Antoinette was prepared for the scaffold.
For the moment she almost wished it possible to change
places with that unhappy woman.
But the French waiting-maid went on
with her work, while Olympia stood by, directing her.
Not till she felt a soft touch on
her cheek did the girl rebel. Then she started
up, and, pushing the maid away, rubbed her cheek with
a handkerchief so resolutely that the maid clapped
her hands, declaring that it was enough no
roses could be more lovely.
Then she fell to her task again, muttering to herself:
“Oh, it will come in time!
Youth is so satisfied with itself. But it all
ends in that.”
Here the maid nodded toward a tiny
jar of rouge, as if to encourage it, and went on with
“Now look at yourself!”
said Olympia, tossing aside some garment that had
been flung over the swinging-glass. “What
do you think of that?”
Caroline looked, and saw a beautiful
woman, with sweeping garments of rose-colored silk,
and a cloud of frost-like lace flung over her head
and trailing down her shoulders. Splendid jewels whether
real or false, she did not care to ask twinkled
like stars through the lace, both on her head and
bosom. The pictures thus reflected were beautiful,
Olympia saw that the rebellious spirit
was but half subdued.
“What can I do?” she said,
in her perplexity, addressing the maid, who lifted
up both hands and shook her head as she answered:
“Ah, madame! if a toilet like that
fails, who can say?”
“I will send for Brown.
She will listen to him,” said Olympia, driven
to desperation. “With that spirit, she
will never get the rollicking air for her first act.”
She went to the door, and found the
teacher lingering near, restless and anxious almost
“Brown I say, Brown come
in! She is dressed, but so obstinate! If
she were about to play Norma, it would be worth everything,
but in this part ! Do come in, dear Brown,
and get her up to the proper feeling.”
Brown entered the room in absolute
distress. He would gladly have kept that young
creature from the stage; but having no power to aid
her in avoiding it, was nervously anxious that she
should make a success.
Caroline turned to him at once, and
came forward with her hands held out.
“Oh, Mr. Brown, help me!
It is not too late. Let them say I am sick.
Indeed, indeed, it will be true! She can take
the part, and leave me in peace. Ask her, beg
of her; say that I will go into her kitchen, be her
maid, go out as a teacher anything on earth,
if she will only spare me this once! Ask her,
Mr. Brown. Sometimes she will listen to you!”
Brown held both her hands. They
were cold as ice, and he felt that she was trembling
“My dear, dear child! I
have pleaded with her. I have done my best.”
“But again again! Oh, Mr. Brown,
Brown drew Olympia on one side, and
entreated her to give the unhappy girl more time;
but he knew well enough that he was asking almost an
impossibility that the woman had no power
to grant that which he implored of her. In her
arrogant power she had pledged that young creature,
body and soul, to the public. How could she draw
back, when the crowding rush of the audience might
now be heard from the place where they stood.
Still the man pleaded with her, for
he loved the girl better than anything on earth, and,
knowing something of the feelings which made the stage
so repulsive to her, would have died to save her from
the pain of that night’s experience.
Olympia was impatient, nervous, angry.
What did the man think? Was she to throw away
the chances of a great success and a brilliant fortune,
because a romantic girl did not know her own mind?
Was she to disgrace herself before all London?
Brown had no answer. The whole
thing was unreasonable he knew that well
enough; but his heart ached for the poor girl.
So he had done his best, and failed miserably.
“Go back and cheer the foolish
thing up,” said Olympia. “You can
do it. She loves you better than any one in the
world. Now, if you want to oblige me, give her
courage, soothe her. I never saw such a creature!
With the genius and voice of an angel, she has no ambition;
but it will come. Before the drinking song is
over, she will forget herself. Go, Brown, and
give her courage.”
Brown went back to the dressing-room,
feeling like an executioner.
Caroline met him eagerly; but when
she saw his face, her heart turned to stone.
“I see! I see!” she
said. “I am doomed! But, remember,
I was forced into this. Of my own choice, I would
have died first; but she is my mother, and, in my
ignorance, I promised her. Tell him this,
if you should ever see him. I never shall.
After what he said of parts like this, I should perish
with shame. Ha! what’s that?”
“They are calling you,” faltered Brown.
She caught a sharp breath and sprang
away from him, like a deer when the hounds are in