Page images
PDF

Rubinstein was at the head of the Moscow branches. "No one but Rubinstein," writes an anonymous American author, "could well have conceived this gigantic task, of which he only lived to see the scaffolding, as it were, erected. His whole life and work indeed suggest one of those torsos vouchsafed by times that are convulsed by the enormous power of the sculptor. We see such fire and flux in some mediaeval creations. All is incomplete, truncated; all is wreathed in passionate expression, in desperate yearnings; the throes of life, its sorrows, its joys, are The Fortnightly Review.

there, but the repose, the deep peace, that passeth all understanding, is not to be found. With enormous potentialities and posthumous realizations Rubinstein must ever stand as the type of an artist who dared not wisely but too well." Yes, when all is said and done, he was an artist through and through, every inch of him, and he only estimated himself justly when he boldly parodied a great French epigram :—

Dieu ne puis,
Roi ne daigne.
Artiste je suis!

A. E. Kectoii.

LIFE'S LITTLE DIFFICULTIES. THE TESTIMONIAL.

I.

Jabez Copley, of Copley's Stores, to the leading residents of Great Burley and neighborhood,

(Cyclostyle.)

THE MISSENDEN TESTIMONIAL FUND.

Dear Sir (or Madam),—I have the honor to inform you that our worthy Station-master Mr. Missenden, having received promotion, is leaving us very shortly for a higher sphere of activity, and some of his friends met together last night at the "King's Arms" to confer as to a testimonial to be presented to him. Greatly to my surprise I was asked to undertake the duties of hon. secretary and hon. treasurer, and it is in these capacities that I take the liberty of addressing you. The meeting decided to open a subscription list for Mr. Missenden in the town and neighborhood, and to present him with the proceeds and with an illuminated address.

The following is the address that was drawn up—I may say by myself :—

Presented to
JAMES HENRY MISSENDEN

By The Gentry And Inhabitants or
Great Bublbt.

on the occasion of his departure from that Town, on the completion of nearly Eight Years of honorable service as Station Master, to take up a post of increased responsibility at Clapham Junction—as a mark of their appreciation of his Courtesy and Efficiency during his period of Office at Great Burley Terminus.

This address will be engrossed in
several colors and in gold, with appro-
priate borders and scroll work (as in
the illuminated texts in our bedrooms)
by Miss Millie Feathers, at the school,
who is very clever and artistic with her
hands, and presented to Mr. Missenden,
with the purse, at the "King's Arms"
on a suitable evening.
Awaiting your reply,

I am, Dear Sir (or Madam),
Yours obediently,
Jabez Copley.
Hon. Sec. and Treasurer of the
Missenden Testimonial Fund.

Added, in Mr. Copley's own hand, to a few of the letters.

P.S.—It Is not my wish to intrude business, but I feel it would be wrong not to take this opportunity of informing you that I have just received a particularly advantageous line of preserved fruits, which I can do at extraordinarily low terms. No time should be lost in ordering.

IL

Miss Mill to Mr. Jabez Copley.

Dear Mr. Copley,—I had no idea that the Station-master was going. How interesting to find that his name is Missenden! It was the name of my mother's favorite cook. She came, I think, from Esher, or it may have been Exeter. It is odd how long one may live without knowing the name of one's Station-master, although my niece tells me it has to be printed up somewhere, like a licensed victualler's. I think I should like to try a box of the preserved fruit if it is really nice. Yours truly, Lydia Mill.

III.

Sir Charles Transom's Secretary to Mr. Jabez Copley.

Dear Sir,—Sir Charles Transom directs me to present his compliments and to express his regret that he must decline to lend his support to the testimonial to the Great Burley Stationmaster. Sir Charles dislikes to see this kind of premium put upon duty, nor can he forget the want of sympathetic zeal and alacrity displayed by the Station-master in the autumn of 1898 in the matter of a lost portmanteau containing the manuscript of Sir Charles' monograph on the Transom family. Believe me,

Yours faithfully,
Vincent A. Lincoln.

IV.

The Vicar of Great Burley to Mr. Jabez Copley. Dear Mr. Copley,—I am afraid I cannot associate myself very cordially with the terms of your testimonial to Mr. Missenden. Eight years are a very short period to signalize in this way, and I do not care for the part played by the "King's Arms." I am sorry to have to take this line; but we must act as we believe. I should be seriously vexed if you got up a testimonial for me after so short a term of work. I am, Yours sincerely,

Reginald Lowther.

V. Mr. Jabez Copley to the Vicar of Great Burley.

Reverend Sir,—I regret that you cannot give your valuable and esteemed support to the testimonial to Mr. Missenden, but I respect your motives. I should like to say in reply to your suggestion about a testimonial to yourself and my connection with it, that I should never, I hope, so far presume as to take the leading part in a movement of this kind for a gentleman like yourself. My rule in life is that station should keep to station, and I trust I shall never be so foolish as to depart from it. But although I should not presume to take a leading part in your testimonial, as you kindly suggest, I should however contribute to it with a whole heart. Believe me,

Yours obediently,

Jabez Copley. Hon. Sec. and Treasurer of the Missenden Testimonial Fund.

VI.

Mr. Aylmer Penistone to Mr. Jabez Copley.

Dear Mr. Copley,—I do not quite feel disposed to give anything to Missenden. You should draw up a different testimonial for those of us who travel thirdclass, omitting the word "courtesy." I am, Yours faithfully,

Aylmer Penistoue.

VII.

Mrs. Lyon Mounteney to Mr. Jabez Copley.

Mrs. Mounteney is very pleased to see, from Mr. Copley's letter, that a spirit of friendliness and comradeship is abroad in Great Burley. Would that all English towns had the same generous feelings! Not having used the railway for several years, owing to her poor health, Mrs. Mounteney does not feel that she could with propriety identify herself with so personal a testimonial, but she wishes it every success. Mrs. Mounteney does not care for preserved fruit.

VIII.

Mr. Murray Collier, L.R.C.P., to Mr. Jabez Copley.

Dear Mr. Copley,—A difficulty with regard to the boys' boxes, which occurs regularly at the end of each term, and which brings out Mr. Missenden's native churlishness like a rash, makes it impossible for me to support your appeal. After what I have had to say and write to the Station-master it would seem pure pusillanimity to give him money and praise. May I however suggest the emendation of one small oversight in your otherwise tasteful address? By no possible means can our little wayside station be described as a "terminus," which is a Latin word signifying the end, as I fancy your son Harold (whom we all find a very promising and attractive boy) would be able to ratify. I am,

Yours sincerely,

Murray Collier.

Punch.

IX.

Mr. Jabez Copley to the leading residents of Great Burley and Neighborhood.

(Cyclostyle.) THE MISSENDEN TESTIMONIAL FUND.

Dear Sir (or Madam),—I beg to inform you that at an influential and representative meeting held last evening at the "King's Arms" it was decided with much regret not to take any further steps with regard to the testimonial to Air. Mlssenden, and to return to the several donors the £4 17». 6d. which the united efforts of myself and two of my assistants have been able to collect in the past month, minus an amount of one guinea to Miss Millie Feathers for work already done on the illuminated address, which cannot, we fear, owing to the peculiar nature of the wording and its reference to Clapham Junction, be adapted to suit any other person.

If anything is now done to indicate to Mr. Missenden that Great Burley appreciates his services, which is very doubtful, it will be done by a few personal friends, at the "King's Arms." I may say here that I have decided under no conditions to ever again undertake the duties of Secretary or Treasurer of a Testimonial, whether hon. or even well paid. Believe me, Dear Sir (or Madam),

Yours obediently,

Jabez Copley.

P.S.—As I am now laying down for ever the pen of the testimonial promoter, I may return to my true vocation as a purveyor of high-class provisions by saying that I have received this morning a consignment of sardines of a new and reliable brand, which I can do at the box.

LOUISE MICHEL.

The biographical dictionaries say little about Louise Michel,—perhaps they never will, for legally recognized position or official rank is often thought better worth chronicling than sheer upside-down careers such as hers. But what an amazingly interesting life it was which began no one seems to know exactly when—probably at some date between 1830 and 1836—and ended at Marseilles on the 9th of January. Look at the queer, wild picture with which it opens,—the illegitimate child of a maid-servant and a dissolute noble playing with the menagerie of animals at the ruined chateau; walking with her arm round the neck of a tame wolf or deer; loving the boars and hounds, owls and quails, mice and bats, horses and cattle, which went in and out of the chateau as they pleased, so much that for years she would not touch cooked flesh; actually collecting toads to throw at the heads of people she hated, until one day it struck her that she ought not to be cruel even to toads. Something of the wit of her wild father, perhaps, she inherited; for she was very young when she began to write poetry good enough to be published in a local journal, and was only a girl when she wrote an ode to Victor Hugo, then in exile, and another to Lamartine. It may not have been very considerable work, but it was good enough for Hugo to write back, "Beau comme votre age," and to send her a finely bound copy of "Notre Dame de Paris." (Was she, perhaps, born in 1831, which was the year in which "Notre Dame de Paris" was published? She evidently stated her age in her letter to him, and he may have thought that particular book appropriate.) Lamartine told her that she was "a veritable Thalia from Mount Parnas

sus," which, however. Is too near flattery to be pleasant. But possibly she gained her greatest praise from Larousse, who described as "not without merit" her "Livre du Jour de l'An,"— a number of short stories written for children. Would she ever have been heard of if it had been possible for her to go on living in her home in the country? It is difficult to suppose that such a character would not have burnt a mark somewhere; but if anything is certain, it is that it was the iron of poverty actually felt which turned her furious against the perpetual laws that make poverty possible. When the owner of the chateau died, and his retainers were dismissed, it was only a few months before the small legacy left to the Michels was exhausted. After that the stages in her life move quickly, but how strangely the scenes change. It was the same girl who petted the wolfhounds and the deer, wandering in and out of ruined buildings, who succeeded in establishing in Paris a school of a hundred and fifty pupils, many of whom loved her deeply; and who, when the Commune broke out, decided that the right thing to do was to get Thiers killed,—imagine doctrine of that kind eating its way into the minds of the young girls sne taught To the end of her life she is said to have hated to think that she took Ferre's advice, and did not have Thiers shot or stabbed. A great deal of the history of the Commune has not been written, and never will be written, even if only because in fevers men become delirious and cannot remember; but, at all events, Louise Michel—she was not afraid of speaking the truth— never denied that it was she who taught the scarlet-petticoated petroleum to pump oil on the floors of the Tuileries. She admitted, indeed,—no, she proclaimed, rather—in open Court that she desired "to oppose a barrier of flame to the invaders from Marseilles." Somewhere in her Memoirs she writes that, dressed in the kepi and the trousers of the National Guard, fighting at the barricades, she stopped firing her rifle to catch a cat and take it out of danger. And it was she, as she actually boasted, who originated the idea that until the demands of the Commune were accepted a hostage should be killed every twenty-four hours,—she who could not bear the idea of hurting a toad. Only a woman, surely, could have the strength to carry such a notion about with her day after day. But if the girl who played with the animals at Vraincourt, and the woman who drew deep affection from her school pupils, and the revolutionary who got riflemen to follow her when they would follow no one else, was essentially feminine—they called her the Red Virgin—what was the emotional mainspring which, as it were, drove her? It was by no means irresponsible madness, for she was at least sane enough to be consistent in her methods. Most certainly it was not desire for notoriety, for if any one stood to gain anything by what she said and did throughout her life, it was not Louise Michel. If she had money she gave it away, and there were a hundred obscure forms of suffering which, if she thought she was helping on her whirling notions, she had no hesitation in accepting. If the chief driving energy which impelled her to wild revolution against governing power—to the consuming idea that existence under authority is only another phrase for corporate disease—can be diagnosed. It can be summed up, perhaps, as a monstrous sense of pity. She was clearly sincere, but the notion that a section of her fellow-creatures were suffering, no mnttfi- from what cause,

while other richer men were apparently happy, made her rebellious against exerted authority as, in its essence, grinding and cruel. She was always on the side of the man against his master, no matter how kind the master might be.

Women have never led Englishmen as Louise Michel led, and was admired by, Frenchmen. Perhaps, for that matter, the conditions of life among the English poor—it is only the poor who throw up characters of her kind—have nearly always during the last halfcentury been sufficiently comfortable to prevent any torch from setting fire to the straw. Louise Michel, at all events, doubted whether she would ever have led the poor of London as she did the poor of Paris, or have had occasion to do so. She was taken, not long ago, over one of the great London Unions, —buildings which, above all so-called "homes," the reduced working-class man loathes to think of entering. But she, whether or not she realized why the Englishman hates the idea of the workhouse even though it means respite from starvation, looked at what she was shown with wonder and admiration. "If we had had that in France," she said, "there would have been no Commune." If that means anything, it means that she deeply realized what every stirrer of revolt has come to know,—that if men can get bread, even if it is bad bread, they will keep quiet; but that if they cannot get bread of any kind, they will go, in their rage, far beyond mere murder. They will not move in a choleracamp, will merely ask "What is it?" but they will never starve in masses without trying to kill. She had not only seen starvation at work, but she had herself felt its pain, and in her monstrously exaggerated pity for those whom she saw to be suffering she preached hideous remedies. Would such preaching ever take root if the

« PreviousContinue »