« PreviousContinue »
7 AND 9 WARREN STREET.
FORTNIGHTLY REVIEW, BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE,
QUARTERLY AND EDINBURGH REVIEWS.
LAST year, in the early spring, to get your address. If you or rather towards the close of should happen to be a relative winter, I received a somewhat of Severin D- , who was my singular communication. The fellow-student at the University last of my pupils (I am a teacher of Warsaw in 1831, and my of English) had gone home; companion through all that the interminable series of ques- took place there that year and tions and answers according to in 1832, and who afterwards the book of Ollendorff, or other settled in England, I should be “methods” equally interesting, glad to know you. If not, had come to an end at last, please excuse me for troubling and I was preparing for my you to no purpose. I am a daily after-supper walk round very old man, and Severin Cracow, before going to rest, D— was my best friend. when the door-bell rang, and Yours truly, the postman placed a letter in LADISLAUS BRONTOSKI. my hand. It was in a crabbed and shaky handwriting, quite A man considerably over unknown to me, and ran as fifty, who lost his father when follows:
only twelve years old, cannot,
as a general rule, be expected 23 Wolska, 7th Feb. 1904. to remember much about him. SIR, I chanced the other Yet, although the feelings day to hear your name men- which mine instilled into me tioned as a teacher of English as a boy had long been dulled in this town, and have managed in that dreary struggle of every
VOL CLXXVIII.-NO. MLXXVII.
day life, which forces even the and dignified as it was, might son of the sternest Revolutionist not be merely the prelude to an to think less of freedom and appeal for money, which, if I more of bread, I could not read went to see Brontoski, it would these lines without some emo- be impossible to resist. True, tion. For the writer had not Volska Street was the Faubourg mistaken: I was the only St Germain of Cracow; but living descendant of Severin that meant only that the ranD— The surname was som, if exacted, would be
in Poland; the heavier. However, the struggle Christian name was not com- between stinginess and curiosmon either; the details given ity, aided perhaps by some answered to the facts of my other feeling, ended to the adfather's life, so far as I knew vantage of the latter. Presently them. It was true that he had I was on my way to the address never mentioned Brontoski's given, recalling as I went the
but then, he few reminiscences of my childsurely would never have told hood connected with my father, his life-story in such detail to a Revolutionist of the old stamp a child. It had been, I knew, and of grim humour; ready to his proudest boast that he was lead band of soythemen one of the band of students who against a battery any day; stormed the Warsaw Arsenal, partly anglicised in speech and and searched the Palace to seize manner, and yet in both strikthe Grand Duke Constantine; ingly distinct from the inhabiand I could not doubt that my tants of the tiny country town father and the Severin D on whose outskirts our cottage known to Brontoski were one stood. Focussed on the mental and the same.
screen, his image appeared, as I “A very old man." Surely. had so often seen him: smoking My father was twenty in 1831, a long and undoubtedly English and had he lived, would now clay pipe, but drinking milkless be ninety-three. Brontoski tea at the same time out of a could not be more than a couple tumbler with a slice of lemon of years younger. Very old,
Very old, in it; assiduously reading the and possibly very poor. There- London papers, but always the upon came a thought which I telegrams from Poland and must confess to my shame. Russia first, with many mutThough not much past middle tered commentaries and preage (for my father did not dictions of a rising that was settle down and
in close at hand. It came indeed England until 1849), I am as he had foretold, but in 1863, often tempted to give way to
a little more the meaner vices which old after he had made his subage, following on a life of hard mission to the greatest of work and scanty savings, brings tyrants. along with it; and I found It was my father's greatest myself rather anxiously won- desire that I should one day dering whether the letter, curt follow in his footsteps. The
thought was naturally pleasing dently of considerable worth; to me too; and I listened with and there was a picturesque deep interest to all he told me, display
crossed and used to gaze on his scarred sabres, richly inlaid yataghans, hand- the scar
was from a and old carbines which wound got in a fight at close doubt had seen much service quarters with a Russian officer artistically grouped on whom he killed—with a feeling ground of crimson-velvet hangof awe not unmixed with pride. ing, with the Polish eagle This desire of his would often above wrought in massive flash out on occasions when it silver. As the old lady left was least expected; as when, me there, saying she must put for instance, on my coming things in order in Ladislaus home from school with a black room before she introduced me, eye one day, he checked my I mechanically took up one of English mother's lamentations the many newspapers which (who was not by any means of lay on the table. To my surthe Spartan breed) by saying, prise it was a number of the “It's all right; let him give and Czas' of 1863. I looked over take - fisticuffs now, wounds the others, --some were older, some day;" or as when, she but not a single one was of having forbidden me to witness more recent date. the killing of a pig at a neigh Just then the door opened, bour's farm, he removed the and I was asked into the bedprohibition in these words : room. I certainly was very “Pig's blood, Russian blood deeply struck with the personal it's all the same ; let him go, appearance of my father's old he must learn not to flinch from friend, although my powers of the sight.” But this was not language and description may to be. I was yet a little boy perhaps fail to convey my imwhen the insurrection broke pression to the reader. He out; and all my life through was lying on his bed, breathI never had the chance of ing heavily, and propped up handling a rifle.
with several pillows and An old woman, with very cushions. As I have said, he white hair and look of must have been over ninety; mournful resignation, showed yet his hair was still plentiful, me into the flat where Bron- and, in parts at least, only a toski lived ; and I saw at a steely grey. His ohin and glance round the sitting-room cheeks were shaven; all his into which she ushered me linen was spotlessly white; and that my apprehensions had there was about his person and been unfounded, and that belongings a certain air of Brontoski must be at least in military order, and a neatness easy circumstances. Several the want of which too often pictures by well-known paint- makes old age seem less venerers of patriotio subjects hung able than it really is. In his round the walls; the furniture, youth he certainly had been though not showy, was evi- handsome, and there was also