Of the ballet danced by the servants of Venus
After the fruits and fresh wines had been brought
in by a troop of woodland creatures, decked with green leaves and
all sorts of Spring flowers, the candles in the orchestra were lit,
and in another moment the musicians bustled into their places. The
wonderful Titurel de Schentefleur was the chef dorchestre,
and the most insidious of conductors. His bâton dived into
a phrase and brought out the most magical and magnificent things,
and seemed rather to play every instrument than to lead it. He could
add grace even to Scarlatti and a wonder to Beethoven. A delicate,
thin, little man with thick lips and a nez retroussé, with
long black hair and curled moustache, in the manner of Molière.
What were his amatory tastes, no one in the Venusberg could tell.
He generally passed for a virgin, and Cathos had nicknamed him The
Tonight he appeared in a court suit of
white silk, brilliant with decorations. His hair was curled in resplendent
ringlets that trembled like springs at the merest gesture of his
arm, and in his ears swung the diamonds given him by Venus.
The orchestra was, as usual, in its uniform
of red vest and breeches trimmed with gold lace, white stockings
and red shoes. Titurel had written a ballet for the evening divertissement,
founded upon De Bergeracs comedy of Les Bacchanales de Sporion,
in which the action and dances were designed by him as well as the
The curtain rose upon a scene of rare beauty, a remote
Arcadian valley, a delicious scrap of Tempe, gracious with cool
woods and watered with a little river. It was early morning and
the re-arisen sun, like the prince in the Sleeping Beauty, woke
all the earth with his lips. In that golden embrace the night dews
were caught up and made splendid, the trees were awakened from their
obscure dreams, the slumber of the birds was broken, and all the
flowers of the valley rejoiced, forgetting their fear of the darkness.
Suddenly, to the music of pipe and horn,
a troop of satyrs stepped out from the recesses of the woods bearing
in their hands nuts and green boughs and flowers and roots, and
whatsoever the forest yielded, to heap upon the altar of the mysterious
Pan that stood in the middle of the stage; and from the hills came
down the shepherds and shepherdesses leading their flocks and carrying
garlands upon their crooks. Then a rustic priest, white robed and
venerable, came slowly across the valley followed by a choir of
The scene was admirably stage-managed and
nothing could have been more varied yet harmonious than this Arcadian
group. The service was quaint and simple, but with sufficient ritual
to give the corps-de-ballet an opportunity of showing its dainty
skill. The dancing of the satyrs was received with huge favour,
and when the priest raised his hand in final blessing, the whole
troop of worshippers made such an intricate and elegant exit, that
it was generally agreed that Titurel had never before shown so fine
Scarcely had the stage been empty for a
moment, when Sporion entered, followed by a brilliant rout of dandies
and smart women. Sporion was a tall, slim, depraved young man with
a slight stoop, a troubled walk, an oval impassable face, with its
olive skin drawn tightly over the bone, strong, scarlet lips, long
Japanese eyes, and a great gilt toupet. Round his shoulders hung
a high-collared satin cape of salmon pink with long black ribands
untied and floating about his body. His coat of sea-green spotted
muslin was caught in at the waist by a scarlet sash with scalloped
edges and frilled out over the hips for about six inches. His trousers,
loose and wrinkled, reached to the end of the calf, and were brocaded
down the sides and ruched magnificently at the ankles. The stockings
were of white kid with stalls for the toes, and had delicate red
sandals strapped over them. But his little hands, peeping out from
their frills, seemed quite the most insinuating things, such supple
fingers tapering to the point, with tiny nails stained pink, such
unquenchable palms, lined and mounted like Lord Fannys in
Love at all Hazards, and such blue-veined, hairless backs! In his
left hand he carried a small lace handkerchief broidered with a
As for his friends and followers, they
made the most superb and insolent crowd imaginable, but to catalogue
the clothes they had on would require a chapter as long as the famous
tenth in Pénillières history of underlinen.
On the whole they looked a very distinguished chorus.
Sporion stepped forward and explained with
swift and various gesture that he and his friends were tired of
the amusements, wearied with the poor pleasure offered by the civil
world, and had in- vaded the Arcadian valley hoping to experience
a new frisson in the destruction of some shepherds or some
satyrs naïveté, and the infusion of their venom
among the dwellers of the woods.
The chorus assented with languid but expressive
Curious, and not a little frightened at
the arrival of the worldly company, the sylvans began to peep nervously
at those subtle souls through the branches of the trees, and one
or two fauns and a shepherd or so crept out warily. Sporion and
all the ladies and gentlemen made enticing sounds and invited the
rustic creatures with all the grace in the world to come and join
them. By little batches they came, lured by the strange looks, by
the scents and the doings, and by the brilliant clothes, and some
ventured quite near, timorously fingering the delicious textures
of the stuffs. Then Sporion and each of his friends took a satyr
or a shepherdess or something by the hand and made the preliminary
steps of a courtly measure, for which the most admirable combinations
had been invented and the most charming music written.
The pastoral folk were entirely bewildered
when they saw such restrained and graceful movements, and made the
most grotesque and futile efforts to imitate them. Dio mio, a pretty
sight! A charming effect, too, was obtained by the intermixture
of stockinged calf and hairy leg, of rich brocaded bodice and plain
blouse, of tortured head-dress and loose untutored locks. When the
dance was ended the servants of Sporion brought on champagne, and,
with many pirouettes, poured it magnificently into slender glasses,
and tripped about plying those Arcadian mouths that had never before
tasted such a royal drink.
Then the curtain fell with a pudic rapidity.
Twas not long before the invaders began to enjoy
the first fruits of their expedition, plucking them in the most
seductive manner with their smooth fingers, and feasting lip and
tongue and tooth, whilst the shepherds and satyrs and shepherdesses
fairly gasped under the new joys, for the pleasure they experienced
was almost too keen for their simple and untilled natures. Sporion
and the rest of the rips and ladies tingled with excitement and
frolicked like young lambs in a fresh meadow. Again and again the
wine was danced round, and the valley grew as busy as a market day.
Attracted by the noise and the merrymaking, all those sweet infants
I told you of skipped suddenly on to the stage, and began clapping
their hands and laughing immoderately at the passion and disorder
and commotion, and mimicking the nervous staccato movements they
saw in their pretty childish way.
In a flash Sporion disentangled himself
and sprang to his feet, gesticulating as if he would say, Ah,
the little dears! Ah, the rorty little things!
Ah, the little ducks! for he was so fond of children.
Scarcely had he caught one by the thigh than a quick rush was made
by everybody for the succulent limbs; and how they tousled them
and mousled them! The children cried out, I can tell you. Of course
there were not enough for everybody, so some had to share, and some
had simply to go on with what they were doing before.
I must not, by the way, forget to mention
the independent attitude taken by six or seven of the party, who
sat and stood about with half-closed eyes, inflated nostrils, clenched
teeth, and painful, parted lips, behaving like the Duc de Broglie
when he watched the amours of the Régent dOrléans.
Now as Sporion and his friends began to
grow tired and exhausted with the new debauch, they cared no longer
to take the initiative, but, relaxing every muscle, abandoned themselves
to passive joys, yielding utterly to the ardent embraces of the
intoxicated satyrs, who waxed fast and furious, and seemed as if
they would never come to the end of their strength. Full of the
new tricks they had learnt that morning, they played them passionately
and roughly, making havoc of the cultured flesh, and tearing the
splendid frocks and dresses into ribands. Duchesses and Maréchales,
Marquises and Princesses, Dukes and Marshalls, Marquesses and Princes,
were ravished and stretched and rumpled and crushed beneath the
interminable vigour and hairy breasts of the inflamed woodlanders.
They bit at the white thighs and nozzled wildly in the crevices.
They sat astride the womens chests and consummated frantically
with their bosoms; they caught their prey by the hips and held it
over their heads, irrumating with prodigious gusto. It was the triumph
of the valley.
High up in the heavens the sun had mounted
and filled all the air with generous warmth, whilst shadows grew
shorter and sharper. Little light-winged papillons flitted across
the stage, the bees made music on their flowery way, the birds were
gay and kept up a-jargoning and refraining, the lambs were bleating
upon the hillside, and the orchestra kept playing, playing the uncanny
tunes of Titurel.