« 上一頁繼續 »
read the Russian telegrams telling of successes; agonies of fear when the audacious offensive of the Japanese was announced; agonies of disappointment as, day after day, the news of his heroes' triumph still failed to come.
It came at length. I shall long remember that day, and the rapture of joy in his voice when he cried out to me, "At last, at last, my boy! Retribution has swooped down on them at last! Oh, it was a long time coming, but no matter; twenty millions of Poles will welcome it as I do. Banzai! Daï Nippon Banzaï!" he shouted, boy - like, whilst tears of ecstasy filled his eyes.
"They cannot stand after this blow," he went on to say; "it is impossible. A hundred thousand killed and wounded, forty thousand prisoners! Magnificent! Yet their satanic pride-I know them well, and am sure of it-will urge them on in spite of all,―on, on to the edge of the pit, and over. And we shall be sated with vengeance, we shall be glutted with it. Ah!"
He caught his breath suddenly and lay silent for a time, an expression which I could not understand now irradiating his face. Then he spoke, with his head bowed upon his chest; his tones were very grave and earnest. "And if we are avenged, then I was wrong. I have been wrong all these years: there is there is a God in Heaven after all! And He has done mighty things with the strength of His arm! ..
O Lord God! Thou hast conquered me, and I will humble my pride and confess my sin. I should have waited patiently for this day, whether I should see it or not; and what have I done? I have blasphemed Thy name, because my faith was dead in my heart. But now I feel that it lives again, stronger than it ever was. I believe in Thee, and since Thou hast granted that I should see this day, I believe, too, that Thou wilt pardon all the past."
He turned to his niece, who stood by his bedside astounded, and scarce sure that she had heard aright. "Dear Vanda, I beg you go at once and bring a priest here; I must confess my deadly sin. I should like Is Father Venceslaus still living? Then let him come. He was himself in the Siberian mines for ten years; he will understand."
The old woman hobbled towards the door in great and breathless haste, without saying a word, and possibly afraid lest her uncle might change his mind before she was out of doors. Then he spoke to me, who was sitting by, considerably embarrassed and taken aback at this sudden and quite unforeseen outburst of religious fervour. never yet said a word on the subject since his declaration, made a year ago, and I had thought such a change of mind on his part to be absolutely impossible.
"Naturally you are astonished," he said. "Well, I have been a fool these forty years, and now I see it, that is all.
Vengeance was bound to come, and it has come. It has been delayed, but God can wait: it is we, poor wretches, who are impatient because our life is so short. And I had hoped so much, and seen such horrible sights, and lived through such fearful misery, that I could not, no, I could not, be reconciled to a God who seemed to have joined our enemies. It broke my heart even to hear His name, who I thought had forgotten their iniquities and only remembered ours. But now!"
He began to sing, in a high cracked voice, the last verse of the hymn sung by the insurgents of 1863,-that tremendous cry of despair mingled with a faint far-off hope for the future:—
"With Michael the Archangel at our head,
Forth shall we go to the field of battle, and plant
Our standard on the breast of conquered
And then, triumphant, we to the foul blasphemer
Shall make reply: For ever God was, God is!"
the fundamental dogma of his Church, Father Venceslaus had surely not dealt with him very severely. A priest does not cease to be a Pole; and Father Venceslaus' body still bore the marks of the knout.
A little while afterwards the priest entered the room, when I, of course, withdrew, in company with the old woman, who trembled for joy, and ascribed her uncle's conversion to the masses and novenas offered on his behalf. I had no theory on that point; but of the sincerity of his conversion no one could doubt. When the old priest took leave of us, his eyes were red. Though the man had lived forty years in rebellion against
The next day Brontoski sent for his lawyer to draw up another will. Instead of leaving all his fortune (with the exception of an annuity to his niece) to the poor of his people, he bequeathed one-third of it to the widows and orphans of the Japanese fallen in the war, "in token," he said, "of my gratitude to that great nation." The inscription on his tombstone was also to be changed, and to be as follows: "Because I have seen, I have believed."
I was one of the witnesses to this will. When the lawyer had retired the old man (though now scarce able to speak) said to me, "Now I
die quiet." Being now less confident than he, I hinted at the dangers which the Baltic Fleet might bring. He laughed my fears.
"And besides," he said, "no matter what happens now, Russia's supremacy is gone for ever,-vanished in one short year's space! The miracles I once hoped for are not more wonderful than the things I have lived to see. God is just, and has raised up for us an avenger in His own good time, and where we least expected to find one. As to the rest-as to the resurrection of our country-His Will be done!"
He expired that very evening most peacefully, holding my hand, and smiling.
A WORD WITH MRS HUMPHRY WARD.
IN old days the fashion of novelists was to conduct their principal characters through a series of vicissitudes to the matrimonial altar, and there to take leave of them in the assured conviction that they would be happy ever after. Whether the assurance were genuine or simulated, it at least obviated the necessity of exploring and illustrating marital relations. Sir Walter Scott, we think, defended it broadly on the ground that presumably the fortunes of the couple had become, by virtue of the new tie, serene and prosperous, and in consequence profoundly uninteresting to the reader. But of recent years these matrimonial relations have received a good deal of attention at the hands, we believe more especially, of lady novelists, not always in a way which is either amusing or instructive. There is no lightness of touch, no sobriety of common-sense, in their mode of handling a delicate and complicated subject. After all, the matrimonial yoke is one which people are free to adopt or eschew at their pleasure. The mass of people seem to regard it as attractive, or at least preferable to the greater freedom and less responsibility which its rejection ensures. It is more frequently than not adopted with enthusiasm, and the great majority soon discover, with no particular sense of disappointment, that it is a give-and-take sort of business,
and that necks are more easily fitted to the yoke when that is recognised. If connubial relations are preferred by the novelist, they are capable of giving rise to all sorts of interesting complications and perplexities which all or most wearers of, or aspirants to, the yoke would gladly follow to some sensible solution. is it not an offence against the art of novel-writing to present this institution of matrimony, which after all is very general and somewhat prosaic in its interest, in a repulsive, extravagant, and impracticable guise? If it is, we must say that, according to our limited observation, it is lady novelists who are the chief offenders. They occasionally approach the subject of contemplated or actual marriage relations in a spirit, as it seems to us, of marked hostility, tinged with the venomous conviction that their own sex has always the collar which chafes. They delight in allowing the wife to disregard the yoke entirely and kick over the traces with more or less violence, and in depicting the husband as submitting to a fate which anyhow is good enough for him, with helpless and uncomplaining fortitude. The male sex, downtrodden as it may be, views these matters differently. "Richie," said Sir Mungo Malagrowther, on а memorable occasion, "it seems to me that this bride of yours is like to be master and mair
in the conjugal state." "If she abides by words, Sir Mungo," answered the undaunted Richie, "I thank Heaven I can be as deaf as any one; and if she comes to dunts, I have twa hands to paik her with." Sir Richie Moniplies was a man of sense and discretion, and lady novelists might learn from him that the resources of civilisation are not quite so exhausted as they are apt to fancy.
As an illustration of the extreme disregard of probability, and of almost fanatical hostility to the restraints of a position voluntarily assumed by both parties, we might instance 'The Heavenly Twins,' first published some years ago by Mrs Sarah Grand. The causes of this abstract hostility, some of them mentionable and others unmentionable, are not obscurely alluded to. But how does it illustrate any possible problem of ordinary life to consign one of the heavenly twinsa young married woman, still on terms with her husband—to the bottom of a deep stream, at somewhere about four o'clock in the morning, in boy's clothes; while an accomplished Tenor, with whom she has been "carrying on," floats in her neighbourhood, regardless of his voice, but endowed by the authoress with the praise worthy intention, afterwards accomplished, of catching her by the hair if and when she rises to the surface? No such predicament is conceivably possible in real life, nor is the
incident either thrilling amusing. It betrays an animus on the part of the writer against the reciprocal duties and restraints of the relationship in question which quite unfits her to undertake its illustration. The only reflection to which it gives rise is, that if all her characters were in the same predicament at the bottom of a river, but without power to rise, the reading public might contemplate their loss with equanimity.
We are not sure that some of the incidents in Mrs Ward's new book 1 are not equally fantastic. Nor is that result to be avoided if you start with the notion that one of the spouses, whose fortunes are described, is irresponsible and the other helpless. For ourselves, we took it up with some interest, having a lively recollection of the proceedings of a certain Marcella, whom we have always regarded as the worst behaved young lady in respectable fiction. Her vagaries, however, were before marriage, ere there was any yoke to disregard or traces to kick over. She was engaged to the young heir of a certain Lord Maxwell, in a family far above her in rank. But having conceived a violent antipathy to the game laws and an equally violent sympathy with their unfortunate victim, who had under their influence deviated into murder, she stormed at her lover, and afterwards at his grandfather, in his own house,
1 The Marriage of William Ashe, by Mrs Humphry Ward. Elder, & Co.
VOL. CLXXVIII.-NO. MLXXVII.
in a way which would in a former generation have led to the ducking-stool, and in these more complaisant days would at least have prevented his having the pleasure of detaining her any longer in his presence or of welcoming her in the future. The lover, although a man of capacity and a Member of the House of Commons (a most henpecked assembly in the eyes of lady novelists), is without any apparent mission in life but to ride under her chariot wheels, bears her objurgations with exemplary meekness, and is scornfully dismissed. Finally, when the young lady returns to her senses, she sends him off to a table at the other end of the room, on which is a slip of paper whereon she has written a word or two of explanation and a gracious permission to renew his engagement, whereat he is serenely delighted and jubilantly thankful. The young lady has it all her own way, in a fashion which seems remarkably attractive to lady novelists. The explanation is that he is a candidate for future conjugal endearments, and will submit to anything so long as a shadow of hope remains. Even while she is rating his grandfather, "what absorbed him mainly was the wild desire to kiss the dark hair, so close below him, alternating with the miserable certainty that for him at that moment to touch, to soothe her, was to be repulsed." Contrast this imbecile sentiment with a real wooing between a real man and woman in real life. William the Conqueror, to take an extreme case in an
opposite direction, was confronted by some nonsensical shilly-shally, to which Mrs Ward attributes importance. He did not trouble himself about his Matilda's hair or whether he dared touch it, or soothe her. He rolled her over and over in the mud. And Matilda, convinced by his procedure that he meant business and was a man of mettle, submissively yielded. Mrs Ward's notion of the divine flame is that of damp straw smouldering in a dog-kennel; and her notion of masculine character is crude, involving the negation of every particle of virile force.
The book before us is conceived in much the same spirit as its predecessor, but the relations described are mostly after marriage. There is no attempt to bring its incidents, or those relations, into formity with common-sense or actual experience. It describes a whirl of social excitement, a distressing matrimonial relation, together with some of the meanest vices unrelieved by virtues of any kind, except those which are, or seem to be, assigned to characters too feeble and insignificant to influence the fortunes of any one of the dramatis persona.
There is nothing very elaborate in the plot. The hero is, as is usual in these cases, a Member of the House of Commons. He adds to that the dignity of Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, is of great personal and family influence, eventually becomes Home Secretary, and is marked out as a