Imágenes de páginas

So especially it is in the present day. Young people must, they declare, read sensation novels. Why? Because the scenes so powerfully described work on the imagination. They cannot read Walter Scott. Why? Because when he has to speak of sin, he does so in unadorned words which do not excite passionate feelings, the especial means of temptation of the Evil One.

This is the spirit of the age. It is very difficult to guard against it. It creeps more or less into every form of fiction, and even of history; for we are all impatient of what we call dry facts. We want vivid pictures; and as descriptions of such are more arousing to the Imagination than descriptions of goodness, therefore we enjoy them more. There is but one safeguard : to check the evil in its germ ; never to allow ourselves to inquire into details which shall give us precise images instead of general outlines; to be contented with symbolical knowledge. Then the Imagination will be unstained, and the evil which may accidentally meet us on our way through life, will pass and leave no spot. If we are not thus careful, we shall find that chance words, idle tales, and even sights and sounds, in themselves perfectly innocent, will by the power of association produce images distressing, if not actually polluting, which will haunt our path, and present themselves before us, even at the most sacred seasons, and in the most sacred places. Through God's help, they may be indeed repelled, and by His mercy forgiven; but they will nevertheless fill us with a shame that must add tenfold keenness to our self-condemnation, for we shall know that the evil is of our own creating.

Once for all, let us remember that God gives us the choice of acquiring so-called knowledge, but He does not give us the choice of forgetting it.

"To the pure all things are pure, but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving, is nothing pure.' - Titus i. 15.


Arachne. You often ask me to recommend you a German bookhave you ever seen this one-Bilder aus meiner Knabenzeit, by L. Kalisch? It is not a tale, nor exactly an autobiography, but gives very curious recollections of his Jewish ancestors. There were four generations living at one time under the same roof, the most remarkable of whom was the great-grandfather, whom contemporaries called Chereb chadda (the sharp-edged sword), or Yad Hachasaka (the strong hand), after the name of a book which he had written. The deep reverence felt for him by his descendants is amusingly and rather touchingly shown by an anecdote which is related in the book. One day his son (grandfather of Ludwig Kalisch), already long a grey-haired and elderly man, reproved the little Ludwig, whereupun Chereb chadda said sharply, ‘Blockhead, do not worry the child!' and the rebuked son bowed his head meekly, and went away without a word. He not only reproved his little grandson, however, but often amused him by relating amazing legends, one of which described King Solomon as crushing two mountains together. This aroused some scepticism in the little listener, who observed that there was nothing about it in the Bible. "The Rabbis say so,' answered the grandfather conclusively; "and if it were not true, they would not say so.'

Spider. I must read it. Just lately we have had several interesting French books. Henry Greville's Héritage de Xénie is very sad and touching, and I rather like her Vou de Nadia.

A. She is at her best on Russian ground. You should read Terre de France, by Julliot, a new writer, who has wade a really pretty story out of slight materials ; but how strange it is that in their bitterness against the Germans, the French seem entirely to forget that the first Napoleon allowed indescribable cruelties to be perpetrated by his troops in Germany, and that the Parisians shouted à Berlin to all the echoes at the first word of the Franco-German war!

S. The title of Le crime de Sylvestre Bonnard, by Anatole France, looked so startling that I was almost afraid to read it; but it turned out a very graceful story, and quite refreshing after that gloomy book, Un isolé, by Etienne Marcel, who generally writes so pleasantly.

A. What is it about?

S. The story of two generations of executioners—those Sansons, whose official title was Monsieur de Paris ! or, rather, that was the title given to the head, in each generation. Apparently the eldest

son had no choice but to follow in the footsteps of his father, and it is on this that the story turns.

S. I do not think I should like it. People say that Pierre Loti is a clever writer ?

A. There is no doubt of that, but he is too realistic for English taste. I should not put that powerful book, Mon frère Ives, into your hands, I think. By the bye, when we were speaking of that very uncertain writer who calls herself Henry Gréville, I ought to have recommended her amusing continuation of Dosia-la fille de Dosiawho turns out rather like her charming mother in ber naughty youth, and who scandalises Dosia as much as if she herself had been the most prudish of damsels.

S. Tell me of some memoirs.

A. If you can get the Souvenirs of the Vicomte Walsh, do. He came of an Irish family, who followed James II. to France, and remained there until the Revolution, when they took refuge in England. This is one of the few memoirs which describes the life of the émigrés. The most aristocratic lived in Baker Street-Baker Street! gathering round the Comte d'Artois, and they met of an evening and plaited straw hats, which were carried round to the shops in a 'coach' by some young member of the party; sometimes he was successful in selling them, sometimes not—there were heavy hearts when the hats came back. The priests and poorer refugees lived wherever they could get a cheap lodging, in dire poverty, but cheerfully and with dignity, though some would have starved outright but for the money given them by the English Government. The Vicomte once met a girl of noble family reduced to carrying milk cans slung on her shoulders in order to earn a little money for a sick mother.

S. I wish that many of the émigrés had not at last gone home and abused England who sheltered them.

A. It must have been bread salter than ever Dante ate which they lived on, ruined, exiled, in a strange land, and among a people then much more insular and unlike themselves than now. Even Madame de Staël, who saw us under comparatively favourable circumstances, liked our principles, but not ourselves.

S. I dare say that the English ladies whom she met could not even talk French as well as Chaucer's Prioress, and were far too shy and too much afraid of her to do themselves justice.

A. Apropos of Madame de Staël, read her Dix années d'exil, a book whose wit and worth should always keep it in memory.

S. One hears a good deal now of Russian novels.

A. Yes, they have come into fashion in France; but I can hardly judge of them, as I only know them in translations. Tolstoi strikes me as gloomy and powerful, with a dash of coarseness beyond what he really needed to make his stories faithful pictures. Turgenieff makes it his mission to show the good qualities of the Russian

peasant, though overlaid by superstition and all the vices born of serfdom; and on the other hand, he has no words hard enough for the sins and follies of the upper classes, and the corruption of government. His stories are well constructed, and the characters are strongly drawn, but often too unlike any known to ourselves to strike us as natural, though I have no doubt they are. He is a terribly grim and hopeless writer.

S. I wonder he was allowed to publish.

A. His first book seems to have escaped the censor, who passed it as a mere picture of Russian life near Oral; but it made such a sensation that the Government was alarmed, and banished Turgenieff to his estates. The late Czar, however, then Czarewitch, was much moved and struck by the revelations the book contained, and with considerable difficulty obtained his pardon and leave for him to come to Petersburg. He soon left Russia after this, and died in Paris in 1883. I should think his books would act rather as a solvent than a reconstructive force, for there is no hope in them, and no belief in a better future for Russia.



"Strive, suffer, attain.'

CHAPTER I. The sun was setting behind the Castle ramparts, flooding portcullis, buttress, and keep with glory, and striking sparks of fire from the glass within the mullioned windows.

Far below the plain stretched away, level as an open palm, and crossed by silver lines marking the course of the river which had come down from the distant mountains as a tumbling torrent, but now meandered through calm pastures as still waters, except at such times as they were swollen to overflowing by heavy rains. The plain was bounded on one side by a forest which stretched away as far as the eye could see, giving grateful shade in summer, supplying fuel in winter to the Castle and its dependencies, and giving employment to the charcoal-burners who had their huts in the clearings of its lonely depths.

The trees were taking on their autumn stains of red and gold, and glowed in the sunset light as though splashed with wine, and hung with coronals.

Far away, over the eastern sky, the reflections from the burning west melted into etherealised vapours, and in the faintest, furthest distance, apparently lifted above the horizon's edge, might be discerned, now and again, what looked still like floating cloud-forms, but were in reality the thin outlines of the blue hills of Wonne Land.

But it was said that only by the pure-hearted could this lovely distant vision be seen, and then only at times either at early dawn when the morning's eyelids first lifted in the east above those hills, or at the lighting of the west at the sunset hour, when the reflection of its glory was thrown for a few moments upon their summits.

There were two people watching for this vision on the high battlements of the Castle's eastern tower. One of these was a lady, whose head was covered by the long veil denoting one of high rank, which floated round her fair young face and fell over the silken robe; it was held in its place by a slender gold circlet clasping her head, and from which a pure crystal star of peculiar shape fell, and glistered upon her forehead; her head was bent forward eagerly, and her eyes looked onward to the distant horizon's edge with a certain calm assurance of joy; her hands were clasped together, like one who prayed while she watched. The other person seemed to be the warder of the Castle, for he carried a large horn tipped with silver in the

« AnteriorContinuar »