|Newspaper Title||The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||The Mystery of Karina Donimirska|
THE MYSTERY OF KARINA
: The first time that anyone in Florence heard or saw* the name of Donimirska was one afternoon in February, 1878, at the house of Mme. de Montrieu. A letter and cards were handed Madame by a pnnctiliou footman, who awaited orders like a wax figure. Madame was in her salon surrounded by a few inmates?some fascinating ladies and as many gentlemen tb be fascinated. After glancing at the card Madame tossed it to her cousin, Lucille de Fayette, with the observation, en passant, "Pretty name, rCesi ce pas ?" Then she opened the letter, which was from a distant and distinguished acquaint- ance in Moscow. It was a polite letter of introduction presenting the sisters Katherine and Karina Donimirska, " both musicians of the rarest attainments, Mlle. Katherine being as fine a pianist as her sister is a singer. Tho writer recom- mends them to Madame's considerate attention and presents his cordial saluta- tions," etc.
" A pair of prodigies?how charming!" exclaimed Madame de Montrion, after reading the note aloud. "A veritable novelty for my reception next week. Who brought the letter ?" she asked the foot- man, who was still waiting.
" A young lacy. She is in the re- ception room."
"Oh?she calls at once," observed Madame. " Quite unconventional, but ex- cusable, I suppose, with artists. Show
her to the salon."
The servant withdrew and his return was awaited with some Curiosity. After a few minutes " Mlle. Donimirska " was announced, the portiere was drawn aside and a young girl entered alone and rather timidly.
She had left her hat and mantle in the
ante-room, which proceeding was as quaintly unconventional as the call itself. If she had done this for effect, it was certainly well planned, for her appearance as she stood bef oro +>ho light and bright silk draperies at the door was surprising ?in fact, startling. Her gown was black, her hair^ was black and her eyes were black. In contrast to this, the flesh of her face and hands were white and fine as
a lily. She wore her heavy iiair, without carl or wave, parted in the middle and drawn loosely over her brow back to the nape of the neck, where it was held in a Grecian coil. Her gown was of satin and fitted to perfection, but was absolutely devoid of trimming. Mlle. Donimirska advanced toward the hostess, who rose and greeted her in French, which lan- guage the girl spoke fluently.
"Artists are always most welcome m oar salon," Madame averred with mach graciousness.
After lier visitor was seated, and they had exchanged a few general and court-
eous remarks the conversation became more personal.
" Will you appear in Flor ence profes- sionally?" . ' . .r
" Yes, Madame, that is the object of oar trip to Italy. My sister is still sing- ing in Kassia, but I comoon to prepare the way, as it were, for her coming." These words were spoken with a pleasant smile and an air of confidence.
" Then I infer we see before us the pianiste," suggested M. de Fayette (" Lucille's husband," as he was generally designated in the salon.)
** Yes, Monsieur," she replied, without any farther comment.
" Will year sister soon follow you ?** enquired Madame, who had quickly seized on to the plan of having this pair of prodigies at her reception.
" Oh, yes. I expect her in a few days. " If she in any way resembles her sister, we shall be very happy to make her wel- come," asserted the hostess cordially. Mlle. Donimirska smiled amusedly on hearing this, and then explained.
"In that case Karina's welcome is assared, for we resemble each other very much. My sister. and I are twins, you
" Oh, indeed, how interesting !" they all exclaimed. Mme. de Montrieu was delighted.
" You dear child; and to think you are both so gifted ; how charming it mast be to see and hear you together."
"Well, I don't knew about that. Karina does sing wonderfully, but I only play."
" But how does Mlle. Katherine play. May we have not an opportunity of judging ?" again suggested M. de Fayette.
" Certainly, if you wish it. What shall I play ?" wa3 the prompt reply, and she immediately went to the piauo.
" Do you know the Rhapsody ?" asked one complacent dowager in lanqnid, aris-
" Yes, Madame, J know several; which one do I wish ?" .
" Of course I mean Liszt's. My daughter plays it," she answered with a
" Bat Liszt has composed fifteen rhap- sodies." As the Dowager seemed unable to make her request more definite, Mme. de Fayette spoke up.
"Oh, do give us Greig's spring song It is such a favourite of mine, although, of course, it is only a tiifle. I heard Plante at his last concert fairly fling it from his fingers like a feather."
The la3t sentence was addressed more
to the room than the pianist, and conveyed the impression that Mme. de Favette knew exactly how the piece should be rendered. Bat they soon forgot Plante and every- thing else. Mlle. Donimirska's playing
was so beautiful that her listeners were
carried away. She seemed to be describ- ing rather than performing this idyllic song ef spring.
Faint and far away as an evening zephyr are the first tones which glide from the right hand. They tremble and vibrate like flattering leaves?a move- ment which continues throughout tho first part, while constantly weaving in the
most weird and fantastic harmonies. Bat this is only an accompaniment to the tender, bell-like melody which the left hand carries.
While by no means slow in tempo, there is yet something languorous and amorous about this melody, and it is borne upon the accompaniment like the perfume bf flowers upon the breeze. The second part is more sombre?a rift of clouds across the moon, a touch of chillness to the atmosphere. But it is soon over, and the mellow brightness again bursts forth more glorious than before. The melody, is now uppermost, and is light and fanciful as gossamer. The breeze has subsided, there
is only a shadowy accompaniment in the left hand and everything seems white and still. The whole piece is ethereal as a
^ Scarcely had the last tone-wave sub? sided when a short, thick set, square faced; finely dressed man appeared at the portiere.
" Ah! It is a lady! Bravo! Bravo! I always applaud the ladies." This was said with a smile which was supposed to be gallant. "Bon jour, mesdames, and
ma chere hostess."
He kissed Mme. de Montrien's jewelled fingers, and all things indicated that he was a familiar guest of this salon. Every one greeted him smilingly.
" We hardly dared hope to see Count d'Omar to-day, but you see, blessed are they who expect nothing!" exclaimed his hostess, brightly.
" But what is this I hear on entering? classical music instead of the latest gossip! Quite an innovation, to be sure/
" Oh, yes?allow me to present you to
Mlle. Donimirska bowed from her
place at the piano. A strange pallor had crossed her face when the Count entered, and there came to her face a look of defiance. M. de Fayette observed this and thought it was caused by the Count's first flippant remark, which so glaringly revealed his lack of musical appreciation.
"Always happy to meet a musician," affirmed the Count as he acknowledged the introduction. "Can't yon give us something else, Mademoiselle, something gay and lively?a good, rousing valse? Do you play any dance music ?"
"Oh, yes, Monsieur; lean give yon a dance," and before there was time, for another remark or question she turned to the instrument and played a prelude of twelve weird add solemn notes like the strokes of a bell. Then she leaned for- ward with more tension and began to jerk and snatch from the piano a rugged, rattling valse theme, angular and spas-
modic in character;
"Le diable! What do you call that pioee ?" asked the Count, in an aside, of Mme. de Fayette.
"Your exclamation is apropos." was the ready response. " It is the * Dance of Death,' by Saint Saens."
The Count mentally decided never to start that girl on another valse..
As a musical description of midnight ghostly revelry this "Dance Macabre" has probably never been surpassed. It presents a vision of skeletons, demons and ghosts capering around open graves. The skeleton theme is always grinning and chattering, but the ghost dance is grue- some and stealthy, but never slow, they are all too hurried?the time is short
from 12 te 1. And them yon hear them shriek and scream, and they chase each other around the damp churchyard.
Katherina's fingers themselves seemed to be demons racing over a graveyard full of white slabs and black monuments.
But finally the datioers shuffle to their graves, the last belated skeleton hurries to his plaee as the deck strikes 1.
Aside from the wonder > it aroused
Katherine's playing awakened a strange
interest in herself. But there was little
opportunity on this occasion for further acquaintance as she soon and very abruptly arose to go. When she touched Mme., de Montrien's hand at parting that lady said, " By the way, ma chere, if yon have come here professionally it will be well, you know, for you to meet some of our influen- tial people; of course, the most select of that number you have already met," and she smiled pretttily towards her other guests. " But next Wednesday I give a large reception. You may bring; your sister then, and I will introduce you to many of my friends."
Thus the clever, social tact of Mme. de Montrieu construed a favour desired into a favour conferred. The Russian girl thanked Madame "extremely," and after bowing a general adieu retired.
' "Funny little black thing isn't she?'
remarked the Count.
(To be continued on Wednesday.)