Chapter 66214651

See chapter in newspaper

Chapter NumberI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66214651
Full Date1893-12-02
Page Number7
Corrections0
Word Count3052
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleOakleigh Leader (North Brighton, Vic. : 1888 - 1902)
Trove TitleThe Mystery of Karina Donimirska
article text

TH1I I[YSTEilY OF KARINA ONIIJIRSKA, - • OrIraPT I. The first time that say one in Florence heard or saw the name of Donimirska was one afternoon in February, 1878, at the house of Mme. do Montrieu. A letter and card were handed Madame by. a pnnctilians footman who awaited orders like a wax figure. Madame was in her salon sur. rounded by a few intimes-some fascinating ladies and as many gentlemen to be fascinated. After glancing at the card Madame tossed it to hq cousin, Lucille de Fayette, with the observation, on passant, "Pretty name, n'est ce pas ?" Then she opened the letter, which was from a die 1 tant and distinguished acquaintance in Moe cow. It was a polite letter of introduction presenting the sisters Katherine and Karina Donimirska, " both musicians of the rarest attainments, Mile. Katherine being as fine a pianist as her sister is a singer. The writer recommends them to Madame's considerate attention and presents his cordial saluta tions," etc. "A pair of prodigies-how charming!" exclaimed Madame de Montrien, after read ing the note aloud. "A veritablenovelty for my reception next week. Who brought the letter?"' eshe sed the footman, who was still waiting,,. "A young lady. She is in the reception room.' " Oh-she calls at once," observed Madame. " Quite unconventional, but excusable, Isno pose, 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 un conventional as the call itself. If she had done this for effect it was certainly well planned, for her appearance as she stood be fore the light and bright silk draperies at the door was surprising-in fact, startling. IIe'r gown was black, her hair was black and her eyes were black. In contrast to this, the flesh of her face and hands was white anot fine as a lily. She wore her heavy hair with out curl .or wave, parted in the middle and drawn loosely over the brow back to the nape of the neck, where it was held in a Grecian coil. Her gown cwas of satin and fitted to perfection, but was absolutely devoid of trimming. A1lle. l)ouimlraka advanced to wards the hostess, who arose and greeted her in French, which language the girl spoke fluently. " Arti4te are always most welcome in our salon," Madame averred with much gracios. ness. After her visitor was seated, and they had exchanged a few general and courteous re marks theconversation became more personal. " Will you appear in Florence pro fessionally?" "Yes, Madame, that is the object of our visit to Italy. My sister is still singing in Russia, but I come oni in advaece 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 pianisto,"suggested M.de Fayette (" Luocille's husband," as he was generally designated in the salon). " Yes, Monsieur," she replied, without any further comment. " Will your sister soon follow you?" en quired Madame, who had quickly seized on to the pln of having this pair of prodigies at her reception. " Oh, yes. I expecther in a few days." " If she in anyway resembles her sister, we shall be very happy to make her wel come," asserted the hostess cordially. Mlle. Donimiraka smiled amusedly on hearing this, and tben explained "?In. that case Karina's welcome is as sured, for we resemble each other very much. Myy sister and I are twins, you know." SOh, indeed, how interesting !" they all exclaimed. Mme. do blontrieu was de lighted. i" You dear child; and to thinkyou are both so gifted, how charming it must be to see and hear you together." " Well, Idon't know about that. Karina does sing wonderfully, but I only play." " But how does Mlle. Katherine play? May we not have an opportunity of judying ?" again sugaested M. de I ayette. "Certainly, if you wish it. What shall I phly ?" was the prompt reply, and she im mediately went to the piano. "Do you know the Rhapsody?" asked one complacent dowager in languid, aristocratic tones. "Yes, Madame, I know several: which one do you wish ?" "Oh, of course I mean Liszt's. My daughter plays it," she answered with a self-satisfied manner. "But Liszt has composed fifteen rhap sodies." As the Dowager seemed unable to make her request more definite, Mine. de Fayette spoke up. "Oh, do give us Greig's spring song. It is such a favorite of mine, although, of course, it is only a trifle. I heard Plante at his last concert fairly fling it from his fingers like a feather." This last sentence was addressed more to the room than the pianist, and convoyed the impression that Mlme. de Fayette knew exactly how the piece should be rendered' But they soon forgot Plante and everything else. Mlle. Douimirska's playing was so beautiful that her listeners were carried away. She seemed to be describing rather than performing this idyllic song of spring. Faint and far away as an evening zephyr are the first tones which glide from te right hand. They tremble and vibrate like flutter ing leaves-a movement which continues throughout the first part, while constantly weaving in the most weitd and fantastic har monies. But this is only an accompani ment 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 aboat this melody, and it is borne upon the accom panuniment like the perfume of flowers upon the breeze. The second' part is more sombre -a rift ot olouds across the moon, a touch of chillness to the atmosphere. But it is soon over, and the mellow brightness again bursts forth more glorious thai before. The melody fs'p~iiV Uppermost, and is light and fanciful as'koeamor. , The breeze has subsided, there is onlya shadowy accompaniment in the'left hand a ndeverything seems white and still. The whole piece is etherealas a vision. Scarcely had the last tone-waVe subsided when a short, thick-set, square.faced, tinely dressed man appeared at the portiere. "Ah! Itisalaldv ! Bravo ! Bravo! I always applaud the ladies." This was said with a smile which was supposed to be gallant. "lion jour, mesadames and machere hostess." He hissed Mimo. de Montrieu's jewelled fingers, and all thlingsindicated that he was a familiar guest of this salon. Every one greeted him smilincly. "We hardly dared hope to see Count d'Omar to.day, but you see, blessed are they who expect nothing ! " exclaimed his hostess brightly. " lut what is this I hear on entering classical muslo instead of the latest gossip ! Quite an innovation, to bhe sure." " Oh, yes-allow me to present you to to Mile. Denimirska." hile. Donimirskabowed 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. doFayette observed this and thought it was caused by the Count's first flippant remark, which so glaringly revealed his lack of musical appre. elation. "Always happy to meet a musician," af firmed the Count ashe acknowledged the in troduntion. "Can't you give us something else, Mademoiselle, something gay and lively -a good, reusing valsesP ]o you play any dance mnusio P " " Oh, yes, Monesieur; I can give you a dance," and before there was time for another remark or question she turne4 to the instru. ment end played a prelude of twelve weird and solemn notes like the strokes of a hell. Then she leaned forward with more tension and began to jerk and snatch from the,pisao

a rugged, rattling valse theme, angular and spasmodic in charactor. " Le diable ! What do you call that piece?' asked the Count, in an aside, of Mine. de Fayette. " Your exolamation is apropos," was the ready response. "It is the ' Dance o Death,' by Saint Saens." The Count mnttally decided never to star that girl on another valse. As a musical description of midnight, ghostly revelry this "Dance Mlacabre" has probably never been surpassed. It presents a vision of skeletons, demons and ghosts apoering around open graves. The skeleton theme as always mlnning and chattering, but the ghost dance is gruesome and stealthy, but never slow, they are all too hurried-the time is short from 12 to 1. And then you hear them shriek and scream, and they chase eaoh other around the damp churchyard. Katherine's fingers themselves seemed to be demons racing over a graveyard full of white slabs and black monuments. But finally the, dancers shuffle to their graves, the last belated skeleton hurries to his place and the clock strikes 1. Aside from the wonder it aroused Kathe rine'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 Mine. de Montrieu's hand at parting that lady said, " By the way, ma there, if you have come here profession. ally it will be well, you know,, for you to meet some of ourinfluential people; of bourse the most select of that number you have' already met," and she smiled prettily towards her other guests. " But next Wednlesday 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 favor desired into a favor conferred. The Russian girl thanked Madame "extremely," and after bowing a general adieu retired. "Funny little black thing, isn't she ?" re marked the Count. CtAPt'TECR Il. Mine. de Montrieu's salons looked very beautiful when decorated and thrown open for a reception. There were the two grand salons and a small one, the music.room .nd conservatoire, all illuminated with innumer able was candles and perfumed by countless flowers, and Madame herself looked charming in her Paris gown of pale green velvet, em broidered with dainty moss roses. Biut Madame was not happy It was that last uncomfortable half hour when the rooms are yet empty, but the hostess must be there ready to make welcome the unfortunate first comer-the hour when the sudden "regrets" from the most important gnuests are liable to arrive, and above all it is the hour when you are just weary enough to imagine all the mishaps which could mar this, your pet re caeption of the season. But Madame's un happiness at present was not purely imagin ary-the usual sudden regret had arrived. "Now, who is it?" she exclaimed, with irritation, as she opened the envelope. "It it's the English Embassy I shall be furious !" It was not from the Embassy, but Madame was nevertheless very much annoyed. " It's from that little Russian pianist that is always the way with professionals younevercan count on them !" "What is the matter with her ?" asked Mine. de Fayette, who stood before one of the mirrors readjusting for the sixth time the diamond crescent in her hair. " Oh sick, of course! They are always ' indisposed' at the last moment." " But is the sister also ill 1 Did she arrive yesterday as expected ?" persisted Lucille. " Yes, the sister is coming," Madame re plied more placidly as she road the note. " Her name is Karina, I must not forget it. But what do I want with one of them ' The novelty was in having twins-twin-prodigies ! I can always find plenty of singers. Who knows whether this armann even sings well, and besides there is no telling how she will appear and act,-she may be riduculous !" But 3fadame's expostulations were inter rupted by the sound of carriage wheels out. side and voices in the halls. The reception had commenced. Madame was smiling and gracious: everyone was smil ing and gracious. The rooms were soon bril liant and glittering with gorgeous costumes and many jewels. Mine. de Montrncu was a hostess of admirable tact and quick percep tiones. She could take in at a glance the amount of conversational ability at the com mand of every group in a "room. She knew hIow to rout or disperse the young men who happened to be wasting their entertaining talents on each other. It was a stupid per. son indeed who ever left cime. de Meontrieu's salon with a consciousness of having ap peared to disadvantage. She always drew out the best qualities of each person-a creater gift this than many accomplishments. It was over an hour since the first guest had arrived. The English Embassy had come in full force; the most distinguished per sonages were already there-even Count d'Omar, who was expected late, had arrived, smiling and decorated with Russian orders. As Madame was passing her cousin at one side of the room she murmured hastily : " Will you believe it, that singer has not come yet ! She is evidently planning to arrive late and make a sensation. I know something will happen to mortify me-things are going too smoothly so far." " Perhaps that is she now," replied her cousin, and Madame went forward to meet the new arrival. Karina Donimirska it was indeed, and Mmcedo Montrien certainly experienced a sur prise, but not such as she had feared. M Ile. Donimirska entered the room like a queen, and looked like one. There was in her bearing no trace of the timidity and lack of social experience which was observable in the sister. But in form and feature their re semblance was quite marked. "?I see .Mine. de MIontrieu is not certain whetherit is I or my sister," she observed with an amused smale. But a society woman never reveals much surprise. "No. I think I should have known you apart, although the lilkeness is very striking. But, you see, I find it diticult to greet you as one whom I meet for the first time. It seems ba if I know you well," and Madame verified her words by clasping Karmlni's hand cordi ally. "Then, Mauame, I have reason to very thankful for tihe resemblance I bear to Katherine." Karina bowed as gracefully as shoe spoke. ?' " ' ime. deo Montrieu's welcome wa. genuino; indeed any hostess might be proud ot Karina Donimirsaka as she appeared that afternoon. Her costume was superb. It was of white satin, not cream white, but a snowy, daz zling white, and this was richly embroidered with gold. But the great effect and beauty of the costume was its trimming of Russian isable, a broad band of which outlined train and also the low-out bodice. The dark fur. against her splendid white shoulders formed ab striking contrast. Her hair was dart like Katherine's, but was dressed more elabo rately, being drawn high and held in place by a gold dagger. Her eyes were also dark, but somewhat concealed by dainty gold eye glasses.whlich did not wobble or lean to one aide, but stood erect and firm on her well shaped nose. She wore no jewel, exepoting one singlepearl ring of immense size. Such was thd creature towards whom Mine. de Montriean had so recently harbored un generous sentiments. No Wonder she was surprised and almost disconcerted at the first sight. But her manner was now graciouse ness itself. "And your sister, is sheo very ill? I so regret her absence." "Yes, Madams I must confees that only a severe indispositon could have induced Katherine to forego the privilege you have so kindly extended to us. I would not have left her, but she insisted on my coming." "I am very glad of thisf' replied Madame, honestlv; "it would have been too bad to lose both of you." After a few further polite inquiries aboust Mle. Katherine, tho hostess sammoned the nearest standing cavalier and presented him. This happened to be Count d'Omar, who had been observing the new beauty ever since her entrance. " lBunt I believe we needno introduction-is it not the charming pianist whom I had the honor of hearing last week?" He felt somewhat relieved when informed

of his mistake, for in point of fact the "charming pianists" had not attracted him, where?d this gorgeous oreoture commanded unqualified admiration, and if was gratifying to learn that he need not undn'any first im presrlons in order to now pay his devoted attentions. And devoted he .ertainly was frdmathe first moment to the last of their intercourse. Whether Mlle. Donimir-ka was pleased with his attentions or not it was difficult to judge, hut certain it is that she permitted them, even to the chagrin of other admirers who were apparently more desir able and suitable than the Cont. Some may have wondered, but none understood why the square-faced, small.eyed, more than middle-aged and dissipated Count was fav ored by snoh a beautiful and brilliant woman as Karina Donimiraka. When she sang all hearts were captivated. Some voices make you think of things grand and noble, Like cathedrals and historio cae. ties, others call up visions of the dainty and exquisite, like jewels and flowers, but this voice made you think pre-eminently and always of a bird. The quality was light and sweet and high, and her art was so perfect that every note came with bewildering ease. "Patti mioht well envy you," exclaimed the Count with more ervror than understand ing. As an artist, Mile LDonimirska could cer tainly take'the highest rank-scales, arpeggi, stacatti and trills were all rendered with equal facility. "" .Where did you study ? Who was your master "', inquirea Mme. dea Mrontrieu, in eoetaoies. . : " "y father, Madame, taught us every thing. "He must he a wonderfulmusician." "He was, Madame, but we have no father now." There was aring of bitterness as well as grief in her tones, but Madame only heard the words. (To ns Corn mEDn.)