Pieces People Ask For/Aunt Sophronia Tabor at the Opera
AUNT SOPHRONIA TABOR AT THE OPERA.
"So this is the uproar ? Well, isn't this a monster big building? And that chanticleer! It's got a thousand candles if it has one. It must have taken a sight of tallow to have run them all!"—"They are make-believe candles, aunt, with little jets of gas inside to give the effect of real ones."—"I want to know! Well, I only wish that your uncle Peleg was here. You're sure, Louisa, that this is a perfectly proper place?"—" Why, aunt, you don't suppose that papa would consent to our attending the opera if it were other than a perfectly proper place, do you?"—"No, no, dear; I suppose not. But somehow you city folks look upon such things differently from what we do who live in the country. Dear suz! Louisa, do look way up there in the tiptop of the house! Did you ever see such a sight of people? Why, excursion-trains must have run from all over the State. Massy, child! There's a woman forgot her bonnet! Do just nudge her, Louisa, and tell her of it. My Eliza Ann cut just such a caper as that one Sunday last summer,—got clean into the meeting-house, and half way down the middle aisle, before she discovered it, and the whole congregation a-giggling and a-tittering. Your cousin Woodman Harrison shook the whole pew; and I don't know but what he'd 'a' hawhawed right out in meeting if his father hadn't 'a' given him one of his looks. As 'twas, I was afeard he'd bust a blood-vessel. Just speak to that poor creature, Louisa. She'll feel awfully cut up when she finds it out, and 'tis a Christian duty to tell her."—"Why, aunt, don't you know that she is in full dress, and left her bonnet at home intentionally? See how beautifully her hair is arranged. You don't suppose she wanted to cover up all that elegance, do you?"—"Come bareheaded a-purpose! Well, I do declare! But, Louisa, where's the horse-chestnut?"—"The horse-chestnut, aunt?"—"Yes, child; you said something or other about a horse-chestnut playing a voluntary or something of that sort."—"Oh, the orchestra! Yes, I remember. Don't you see those gentlemen in front of the stage?"—"Them men with the fiddles and the bass-viols?"—"Yes. Well, they compose the orchestra, and the orchestral part of this opera is particularly fine."—"I want to know! Belong to the first families, I suppose. They are an uncommon good-looking set of men. Is Mrs. Patte a furrener?"—"Yes; she's a mixture of Spanish and Italian. She was born in Madrid, but came to the United States when only five years of age, and remained here until she was nearly seventeen. There, aunt; there's the bell, and the curtain will rise in a minute. Yes; see, there it goes."—"Louisa!"—"Sh—! listen. I want you to hear Signor Monti. He is considered a very fine bass."—"But, Louisa, oughtn't we to stand up during prayer-time?"—"You forget, aunt, that this is only a play, and not a temple."—"Dear suz! I only wish your uncle Peleg was here. Somehow it seems kinder unchristian to be play-acting worship."—"Why, aunt, there's no need of your feeling so conscience-stricken. Lots of church-people come to the opera. It isn't like the theatre, you know. It's more—more—er—well, I can't just express it, aunt. But, anyway, people who discountenance the theatre, especially during Lent, approve of the opera."—"But, Louisa, what is the matter? La sakes, child! let's get out as spry as ever we can! The theatre is all on fire. Hurry, Louisa! Wish that your uncle Peleg"—"Sh—aunt; do sit down. It isn't a fire. It's only the people applauding because Patti is on the stage. Don't you see her?"—"Sakes alive! Is that it? I thought we was all afire, or Wiggin's flood had come. So that is Mrs. Patte. Well, I declare for it! she's as spry as a cricket, and no mistake. Why, Louisa, how old is she? She looks scarcely out of her teens."—"Oh, aunt, you must not be so practical, and ask such personal questions. Ladies don't always want their ages known; but, between ourselves, she's over forty."—"Is it possible? There, they're at it again. What is the matter now?"—"Why, Scalchi has appeared. Don't you see?"—"What, that dapper little fellow a-bowing and a-scraping and a-smirking! Is that Mr. Scalchi?"—"That's Madame Scalchi, aunt; and she's taking the part of Arsaces, the commander of the Assyrian army, you know."—"Louisa, are you sure that this is a perfectly proper place? I only wish Peleg was here, for then I shouldn't feel so sort a-skerry like and guilty."—"Now, aunt, we mustn't speak another word till the opera is through, because we disturb the people."—"I suppose we do; but, whenever any thing happens, you nudge me, and I'll nudge you; or we can squeeze hands,—that's the way Peleg and I do when we go to the lyceum. It's sorter social, and everybody can hear just as well." Soon outrang the glorious voice. "Bravo! bravo! bravo!" echoed from all parts of the house. "Hooray!"—"Why, Aunt Tabor! sit down."—"If Peleg were only here! Hip, hip"—"Aunt, in pity's name keep still! Don't get so excited."—"Well, I never! The sweat's just a-rolling off me, and I am as weak as a rag-baby. I wish I had my turkey-tail. This mite of a fan of yours don't give wind enough to cool a mouse."—"Now, aunt, do keep quiet. You'll hear better, and won't get so warm."—"Well, dear, I suppose you are right. But didn't that sound like an angel-choir?"—"'Twas certainly very fine. One thing is sure: you've heard Patti at her best."—"I'm so glad I came; and if Peleg was only along! But, there, I hain't going to speak again till the uproar is over." And so the opera went on, when, suddenly: " Louisa Allen, what are them half-nude statutes a-standing up in the back there? Don't they realize that the whole congregation can see them? and haven't they any modesty?"—"Why, aunt, that's the ballet."—" The what?"—"The ballet, aunt. Look, look! there they come. Isn't that the very poetry of"—"Louisa Sophronia Tabor Allen, just you pick up your regimentals, and follow me; and that quick, too."—"But, auntie"—"You needn't auntie me. Just get your duds together, and we'll travel. Thank goodness your uncle Peleg Josiah Tabor is not here! Don't let me see you give as much as a glance to where those graceless nudities are, or, big as you are, I'll box your ears."—"Why, aunt"—"Louisa, I only wish I had my thickest veil, for I am positively ashamed to be caught in this unchristian scrape. Come, and don't raise your eyes. There, thank goodness, we're in pure air at last!"—"Why, aunt, I thought you were enjoying the opera!"—"The uproar, Louisa? I have nothing to say agin the uproar. Them voices would grace a celestial choir. This I say with all reverence. But that side show! I wouldn't have had my Eliza Ann, nor my Woodman Harrison, 'a' witnessed what we've come near a-witnessing for a thousand-dollar bill. No, not for a ten-thousand bill. And I am so thankful that your uncle Peleg was not here! Somehow, Louisa, I feel as if I'd fallen like the blessed Lucifer out of the moon."