תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

weariness showed itself in his drooping shoulders remove the impression Herzen's remark had pro and even in the position of his large flat feet. duced. There was something indescribably pitiable in His face brightened; he smiled, and then his compressed lips, in the bending of his long, tapped me on the knee as if to show that he unthin neck, in his ill-shaven face, and in the un- derstood and thanked me. He replaced his speckempt gray hair falling over his furrowed fore- tacles and took up his cane, which had fallen to head. “Poor, unhappy man!" I thought. “You the ground. "No," he replied, " I learned your have been unfortunate in everything-in your language before that, while I was in Siberia, after family and in your undertakings. If you are leaving America. For I've been in your Siberia, married, your wife has deceived and deserted and experienced there everything you can think of.” you. If you have children, you don't know them. “For instance?” You are all alone in the world.”

“No, I shall not say anything to you about A loud call in the Russian language inter- Siberia, for several reasons. The principal one is rupted my reflections. Somebody pronounced that I'm afraid of offending you. Pamalchime my name. I turned, and saw a few steps away loutchi," * he added, in bad Russian, with his Alexander Herzen, the well-known Russian au- sardonic smile. “Let me tell you, instead, what thor, who then lived in Paris. I went toward happened to me in Texas.” him.

Then, in a very circumstantial manner, quite Who is that you were sitting with ?" he unusual to him, he related to me how, during his asked in Russian, without lowering his high, clear winter wanderings in Texas, he had been forced voice. What sort of object is that?”

to seek shelter in the adobe hut of a Mexican “ That man?”

vaquero. He awoke in the night, and found his “My dear fellow, he's a spy."

host sitting on the bed with a huge knife in his Do you know him ?”

hand; and this man, who was of immense size “Not at all. It's only necessary to look at and as strong as an ox, told him he was going to him. That's the style of them all. What brought cut his throat because he looked like his deadliest you into his company? Take care of your enemy. self!"

Tell me, now,' said the Mexican, whether As I knew that Herzen possessed no great I'm not right to rip you open like a hog! Noinsight into character, especially at first sight, body will ever know anything about it, and, even and as I remembered that one often saw at his if it should be found out, nobody cares enough table men of very suspicious aspect who had about you to do anything to me for it. So begin won his confidence by a few pretentious words, now and confess your sins; for, thank God, we and who afterward developed into government have time to talk !' spies, as he has confessed in his memoirs, I at And so," continued Monsieur François, “ I tached very little importance to his warning. I was forced to confess to this drunken brute all merely thanked him for his friendly interest, and night. Sometimes I would follow the words of returned to Monsieur François. The latter still the Bible, for he was a Roman Catholic, and I sat in the same place and in the same position. thought that might make an impression on him.

"I must tell you,” he said, when I had re Then I would assure him, by every means in my sumed my place at his side, “ that you Russian power, that the satisfaction he would get out of gentlemen have a bad habit. On the street, be- my death wouldn't pay for soiling his hands; fore friends or Frenchmen, you say anything in that he would be obliged to bury me if only for Russian, as if no one could possibly understand sanitary reasons; that it would put him to a you. That is, at least, impolitic. I, for exam- great deal of inconvenience, etc. Then I was ple, understood all your friend said just now.” obliged to tell him stories and sing songs. 'Sing

I colored involuntarily. “I beg you to think with me!'he yelled. “Sing La Muchacha! nothing of it," I said. “My friend certainly—” So I sang second while the edge of his infernal

“ I know him," he interrupted. “ He is a navaja was within an inch of my throat. At talented man.

But errare humanum est” (he last he fell asleep, with his cursed long-haired was particularly fond of parading his Latin). head on my breast." “ However, I don't blame him. Judging from my Monsieur François told me the whole of this exterior one might take me for anything. But, story in a slow, sleepy way, without the least exif I were really what he supposes, what interest citement. As he stopped suddenly he opened should I have in pumping you ?”

his eyes wide. “You are certainly right."

And what did you do with this Mexican ?” He gave me a gloomy look.

I asked. You probably learned Russian when you were a tutor at the General's,” I said, anxious to

*“ Least said, soonest mended."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“Well, I deprived him of the means of play This is not the place to tell what I saw, heard, ing any more such silly jokes upon me.”

and experienced during that journey. But I re“What do you mean?”

member that at one station a locomotive with a He drew his hand along under his chin. single car attached to it rushed by with a vast

“ I took his knife away from him,” he said. deal of noise. It was an express-train, carrying You would have done so, too—wouldn't you?” Citizen Antoine Thouret, the commissioner of “ And then-?"

the republic, to the north. Those who accom“And then-after that matter was attended panied him were waving tricolored flags and to—I went to California. There I had a great shouting wildly, while the railroad officials gazed many other adventures, and all on account of in silence at the huge figure of the commissioner, those detestable things." He pointed to a woman who leaned out of the window and raised his of a certain age, who, attired very modestly, was arm with a gesture of authority. And I remempassing by.

ber that the famous Madame Gordon was once “On account of what ?"

in the same car with me, and that she suddenly “Of the petticoats. Oh, the women !—the began holding forth about the necessity of seekwomen !—those wing-breakers, those poisoners ing safety by applying to “the Prince.” The of our blood ! But, good-by, sir. It seems to Prince alone was able to save the country; the me that I'm beginning to bore you, and I don't Prince was the man chosen by Fate. At first like to bore people, particularly when I'm not nobody understood her. But, when she at last trying to get anything from them."

mentioned the name of Louis Napoleon, everyHe stood up, gave me a slight nod, and went body turned away from her as if she were mad. away, carelessly swinging his cane.

Then I thought of what Monsieur François had I confess that I had very little faith in this said about the Bonapartes. His first prophecy Mexican story. It injured Monsieur François in had been fulfilled. I remember, also, that before my eyes, and I began thinking again that he we reached Pontoise our train came in contact might be trying to humbug me. But why? with another train, going in the opposite direc“He is an original,” I said to myself. And I tion. Some passengers were hurt, but no one could not consider him a spy, in spite of my seemed to care anything about that. The only friend Herzen's opinion. It surprised me very question asked was, Shall we be able to reach much that none of the hosts of visitors to the Paris?” As soon as the train went on, everyPalais Royal seemed to know him. It was true body began talking again with animation-everyI had sometimes thought I saw him wink to body, that is, except one little old white-haired some of the passers-by, but I might have been man, who, ever since we had left Douai, had mistaken.

cowered in a corner, repeating in a low voice, I forgot to say that he never seemed to me to “All is lost !-all is lost!” have been drinking. Perhaps he had no money Neither will I try to describe my sensations to buy liquor. But at any rate he always gave on entering Paris, seeing the tricolored cockades me the impression that he was a temperate man. on hats, caps, and even on signs, and watching

He was not at our place of meeting either on the men in blouses, with guns strapped to their the next day or the day afterward, and I gradu- shoulders, who were singing “La Marseillaise" ally ceased to think of him.

as they removed the barricades from the streets. A short time before the 24th of February, I passed the whole of the first day in turmoil and 1848, I went to Brussels, and there heard of the confusion. The next day I went, according to new French Revolution. During a whole day my custom, to the Palais Royal to take breakfast. nobody received letters or papers from Paris. I did not see Monsieur François there, but it was Crowds filled the streets and squares, full of ex- evident that his prediction about blood flowing citement and expectation. On the 26th of Feb- in that place had been verified. The only seriruary, about six o'clock in the morning, I was ous conflict during the February days took place lying in bed at my hotel. Suddenly the door was within the Palais Royal. I did not meet him on thrown open, and some one shouted, “ France is the succeeding day either, but saw him first on a republic !” A waiter was running through the the 17th of March—the day on which a vast corridor, opening the doors and announcing the crowd of workmen betook themselves to the news at the top of his voice. Half an hour after- Hôtel de Ville, to protest against the edict which ward the cars were carrying me toward Paris. is known as that of the bonnets à poils. SwingThe rails were torn up at the frontier, but my ing his arms, and taking huge strides, he marched traveling companions and I managed to reach swiftly in the midst of the crowd, a red scarf Douai in a hired conveyance. Toward evening around his waist and a large red cockade on his we arrived at Pontoise, but we could go no far- hat. Our looks met, but he did not seem to ther, for the rails were torn up around Paris too. want to recognize me, although he stared at me

with what I considered a scornful expression. suddenly rousing himself—“ have you seen them? Yes, it's I!" he seemed to say, and immedi- Have you seen how they cart earth from one ately went on shouting, stretching his gloomy place to another in the Parc Monceau ? Everymouth wide open.

thing will come from that! And there will be I saw him again at the theatre. Rachel was blood-a whole sea of blood! What a situation! singing “La Marseillaise" with a voice already To see it all beforehand and not be able to do almost hushed by death. He was in the pit, anything! To be nothing, nothing! To take in where the claqueurs are usually seen. But he everything" (he stretched out his arms, showing did not shout or applaud. He stood with folded his tattered, hanging sleeves, while I noticed that arms gazing at the singer with a wild eagerness his ring was still on his hand), “ and to get noas she, wrapped in the folds of the tricolor, thing at all. Not even a piece of bread!” called on the citizens to “pour out the impure It was the day before the 5th of June. blood !"

“ To-morrow's elections are very important, I am not sure whether or not I saw Monsieur too,” he went on, quickly, as though he wanted François on the 15th of May, among the mass of to get rid of his last thoughts. He mentioned people who crossed the Place de la Madelaine, by nạme the different deputies who would be on their way to break in upon the National As- chosen by the Parisians. He even gave me, apsembly. Yet I thought I heard-amid the cries proximately, the number of votes each would reof “Long live Poland!”-his strange voice, deep ceive. Among these names was that of Causiand yet tremulous. But early in June he sud- dière, to whom he accorded the first place. denly appeared before me in the old café of the In spite of the 15th of May?" I asked. Palais Royal. He spoke to me, and even offered He smiled bitterly. me his hand, which he had never done before. “Do you think I include him because he is a But he did not seat himself at my table, seeming prefect of police?" he said. to be ashamed of his coat, which literally hung Louis Napoleon was also among the number. in strips, and of his hat, the crown of which was “ He will be among the last,” said Monsieur beaten in. A sort of restless impatience seemed François. “ But that's enough.

When one to consume him. His cheeks were more sunken wishes to climb up ladder one must begin at than ever, and slight convulsive motions ran over the last round to reach the first." his lips and his whole face. His reddened eyes That evening I communicated to Herzen all were obscured by his spectacles, which he was these names and figures, and I well remember continually adjusting, as though anxious to con- his astonishment when, on the next day, the preceal himself as thoroughly as possible. I be- dictions of Monsieur François were literally fulcame convinced, then, of what I had conjectured filled. before ; namely, that his spectacles contained " Where the deuce did you get all that news?” window-glass, and only served as a disguise. he asked me, once. The melancholy anxiety of a man without food I mentioned my informant. or shelter was perceptible in his whole manner. “Oh, that mongrel blackguard !" said he. I was astonished at the miserable condition of I return to our conversation. Among the this strange man. If he is a government names one heard very often at that time was that agent,” I thought, “how does it happen that he of Proudhon. I spoke to Monsieur François is so poor, and why does he lead such a life?” about him, for he was also on the latter's list-in I reminded him of his prophecies.

the last place, it is true, as was actually the case. "Yes, yes,” he muttered, with feverish haste, But it appeared that Monsieur François had not "all that's an old story now. But you-shall a high opinion of him, nor of Lamartine, nor of you not go back to Russia ? Are you going to Ledru-Rollin. He spoke slightingly of all these stay here?”

men, but with a suggestion of sympathy for La" Why shouldn't I stay?”

martine and of contempt for Proudhon—“that “ That's your affair. But we're going to have sophist in wooden shoes,” he called the latter. a war with you soon."

As for Ledru-Rollin, he merely referred to him With us?"

as “that thick-headed Ledru.” But he always “Yes, with the Russians. We shall need came back to the national workshops. Our whole glory, great glory. War with Russia is inevita- conversation did not last longer than a quarter of ble."

an hour. He stood the whole time, and was con" Why not with some other nation?"

tinually casting restless glances around him, as “No, no, with Russia. You are young yet, if looking for some one. Remembering his red you'll see it. As for the republic” (he made a cockade, I said, “ So it seems you are a republicontemptuous motion with his hand), “it amounts can." to nothing. The national workshops !” he cried, “What kind of republican?” he exclaimed,

[ocr errors]

vehemently. “How do you know I'm a republi- just what we need. A wonderful head of hair, can? That will do for the shopkeepers. They bracelets on the arms, a cocked-hat with gilt are the only people who believe in the principles spangles—all that acts on the imagination. Leof '89, in progress, in universal brotherhood.”

gends, my good sir, legends are needed! Claims, Here he suddenly stopped. I looked around dramatic effects, miracles, wonders! Men begin to see what had attracted his attention. An old by being astonished; then they respect you—yes, man with a long white beard, and dressed in a respect; and at last they actually believe. Now blouse, made a sign to him with his hand. He mark what I say! This thing has begun in earreturned it in a peculiar way, ran to him, and they nest, and when we shall have passed through the both disappeared.

Red Sea-" After that I only saw Monsieur François three At that moment a crowd of men, flying betimes. On the first occasion I descried him afar fore the bayonets of the soldiers, rushed toward off, in the garden of the Luxembourg. He was us, and we were separated. in company with a poorly clad young woman. During the fearful June days I saw Monsieur She seemed to be imploring him to do something. François for the last time. He was dressed in the She wrung her hands and raised them to her uniform of the National Guard, and had his gun face, with every appearance of mortal anguish. in his hand, the point of the bayonet to the front He listened in gloomy silence. But suddenly he There was a sort of cold ferocity in his exprespushed her away with his elbow, pressed his hat sion which it would be hard to describe. After on his head, and went away. She, apparently that I never saw him again. almost distracted, disappeared in another direc About the year 1850 I was in the vicinity of tion.

the Russian Church, having gone thither to atOur second meeting was of more consequence. tend the wedding of a friend. Suddenly, I don't It took place on the 13th of June, the day on know why, I thought of Monsieur François. Imwhich an assemblage of Bonapartists was to have mediately it occurred to me that he was a prophet been held in the Place de la Concorde, which La- in this case also, and that he was no longer alive. martine referred to from the tribune, and which Some years later this impression was confirmed. was quickly dispersed by regular soldiers. In one One day I saw, behind the counter of a shop, a of the recesses constructed in the garden-walls woman whom I recognized as the one I had seen of the Tuileries I noticed a man in the dress of a with Monsieur François in the garden of the juggler, who, mounted on a two-wheeled cart, Luxembourg. I determined to recall the scene was distributing pamphlets. I took one, and to her recollection. At first she looked at me in found that it contained a biography of Louis Na- astonishment. But when she understood what I poleon, chiefly noticeable for its fulsome adula- meant she turned pale, then reddened, and finally tion. I had often seen this man, who was a Bre- begged me not to ask her any questions about ton, with an enormous head of hair combed that man. straight upward. He frequented the boulevards Tell me, at least," I said, “whether he is and street-corners, peddling elixirs for toothache, still alive.” pomades for rheumatism, and other pretended She looked at me earnestly. panaceas. While I was looking through the “He is dead," she said, at last. “He died as pamphlet some one touched me lightly on the he deserved to die. He was a very wicked man. shoulder. I turned and saw Monsieur François. But he was very unhappy, very unhappy!” He smiled ironically over his spectacles.

I could find out nothing more from her. “ Now we have it! It's just beginning,” he And who was Monsieur François ? The said, rubbing his hands and stamping his feet. question remains unanswered. “ There's the apostle, the harbinger ! How do There are sea-birds that never appear except you like him?"

during a storm. The English call them “stormy “Who ?” I cried. “That charlatan with the petrels.” They fly low down in the tumultuous shock head? That jack-pudding? You're mak- air, beating the crests of the raging waves with ing fun of me!”

their wings, and when the clear weather comes “Yes, yes, a charlatan, a mountebank! That's back they disappear.

IVAN TOURGUENIEFF (Die Rundschau).

VOL. VIII.-29

THE STORY OF THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.

THE "HE discussions concerning “ The Merchant the Christian the overthrown debtor-he first be

of Venice " which have been brought out guiled a Jew-abhorring audience to listen with by its recent revival at the Lyceum betray a state patience to the play, and then contrived to steal of opinion which Shakespeare could hardly have into his portrait of the cold-blooded murderer so anticipated. There are people, it seems, who many traits of magnanimity, tenderness, patriotthink not only that Shylock is a man more sinned ism, pride in his ancient race, and reverence for against than sinning, and more interesting and his religious traditions ; so many respectable respectable than any of the Christians about him, prejudices, moral, legal, and theological ; such but that this was the impression which Shake "wealth of ideas and felicitous language "; to speare meant to produce; and in “The Theatre” arm him also with such a catalogue of wrongs (November, 1879, p. 193) Mr. Frederick Hawkins and grievances, and at the same time so to degoes so far in this direction as to maintain that grade the character of the whole Christian comthe play was suggested, written, and brought munity of which the man who was to suffer the out with special reference to a temporary out. vivisection was a characteristic, distinguished, break of intolerance in the English people, caused and universally honored member—that the peoby an apprehension of “an irruption of Israelites ple who came to enjoy the sight of a moneyinto London,” about the year 1594. For the pur- lending Jew undergoing poetical justice for atpose of rebuking this intolerance, we are told, tempting to take the life of a money-borrowing and persuading the frequenters of the Globe that Christian should go away full of tender compasa Jew would be as good as a Christian if they sion for the defrauded creditor and indignant would only treat him like a Christian, Shakespeare disgust with the rescued debtor, and, by consechose for the subject of a new play the story of a quence, in a spirit of toleration for the whole Jew in Rome, who, having borrowed money of a Hebrew race. Christian on condition of letting him cut out a It seems a bold speculation, even if the prempound of his flesh if he did not repay it on the ises be all granted; and yet there is certainly one day named, and being threatened with exaction of them (not to mention the others) which can of the penalty, appealed to the Pope—a story not be allowed to pass unquestioned. told, it seems, by Gregorio Leti, in his “ Life of When Mr. Hawkins took it for granted that Pope Sixtus V.," and therefore then quite new, “the idea of the forfeiture of the pound of flesh of which the editors of the Clarendon Press edi- was manifestly derived from this story," he could tion of the play give the following summary: not have known that there was another Italian

“The Pope is the judge, and the evasion of story current at the time, containing not only the the bond the same as in the play. Both merchant general plot, but almost all the leading incidents and Jew were condemned to death, the one for of the play, presented nearly in the same order, premeditated murder, the other for selling his and showing a closer resemblance between the life; but in the issue the sentence was commuted dramatic version and the tale to be dramatized to that of the galleys, with the option of buying than will be found, I think, in any other play of off that too by paying each two thousand crowns Shakespeare's not professedly historical. This to the hospital lately founded by the Pope." story, though too Italian in one of its features to

The story was apt enough for the exhibition be admitted into our popular collections for genof a Jew in a case to move sympathy; and, if eral reading, is nevertheless well known by name Shakespeare's only care had been to make his and easily accessible (being referred to by all audience feel what brutal treatment the Jews had modern editors in treating of the sources of the to endure at the hands of the Christians, he could play, noticed by all modern antiquarians in their have wanted nothing better. But, being a mana- searches after the origin of the legend, and ger as well as a poet and politician, he was bound printed at full length in Collier's “Shakespeare's to avoid any risk of offending his audience; and Library"); and, to students who are curious as to represent, during the continuance of that pop- to the manner in which the great artist treated ular excitement, a Christian as a cold blooded material of this kind in order to fit it for exhibimurderer, and a Jew as his innocent and unfor- tion on the stage, it has a special value; being tunate victim, would have been too great a shock one in which the transmutation is most perfect to the prejudices of the time. He went to work and the process most traceable. That Mr. Hawmore cunningly. By simply changing the parts kins knows nothing of it, and that the editors and -making the Jew the inexorable creditor, and antiquarians do not know enough to see that it is

« הקודםהמשך »