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"He related facts which I have not forgotten, but at this distance of time I couldn't recall his very words: I only remember that he managed wonderfully to convey the brooding rancour of his mind into the bare recital of events. They stood before me indubitably true, but a little distorted, as if seen by the sinister glow of his burning contempt. It fell on the sky, on the earth, on the ship, on the men- on himself too-oh yes! on himself too: only he seemed honestly confident of his erect attitude in the general wreck of decent appearances. Twice, he told me, he shut his eyes in the certitude that the end was upon him already, and twice he had to open them again. Each time he noted the darkening of the great stillness. The shadow of the silent cloud had fallen upon the ship from the zenith, and seemed to have extinguished every sound of her teeming life. He could no longer hear the voices under the awnings. He told me that each time he closed his eyes a flash of thought showed him that crowd of bodies laid out for death as plain as daylight. When he opened them, it was to see the dim struggle of four men fighting like mad with a stubborn boat. 'They would fall back before it time after time, stand swearing at each other, and suddenly make another rush in a bunch. Enough to make you die laughing,' he commented with downcast eyes; then raising them for a moment to my face with a dismal smile, 'I ought to have
a merry life of it, by God! for I shall see that funny sight a good many times yet before I die.' His eyes fell again. 'See and hear. . . . See and hear,' he repeated twice, at long intervals, filled by vacant staring.
"He roused himself.
"I made up my mind to keep my eyes shut,' he said, and I couldn't. I couldn't, and I don't care who knows it. Let them go through that kind of thing before they talk. Just let them and do better-that's all. The second time my eyelids flew open and my mouth too. I had felt the ship move. She just dipped her bows-and lifted them gently-and slow! everlastingly slow; and ever so little. She hadn't done that much for days. The cloud had raced ahead, and this first swell seemed to travel upon a sea of lead. There was no life in that stir. It managed, though, to knock over something in my head. What would you have done? You are sure of yourself-aren't you? What would you do if you felt nowthis minute the house here move, just move a little under your chair. Leap! By heavens ! you would take one spring from where you sit and land in that clump of bushes yonder.'
'He flung his arm out at the night beyond the stone balustrade. I held my peace. He looked at me very steadily, very severe. There could be no mistake: I was being bullied now, and it behoved me to make no sign lest by a gesture or a word I should be drawn into a fatal admission about myself which would have had some bearing
on the case. I was not disposed to take any risk of that sort. Don't forget I had him before me, and really he was too much like one of us not to be dangerous. But if you want to know I don't mind telling you that I did, with a rapid glance, estimate the distance to the mass of denser blackness in the middle of the grass plot before the verandah. He exaggerated. I would have landed short by several feet - - and that's the only thing of which I am fairly certain.
"The last moment had come, as he thought, and he did not move. His feet remained glued to the planks if his thoughts were knocking about loose in his head. It was at this moment too that he saw one of the men around the boat step backwards suddenly, clutch at the air with raised arms, totter and collapse. He didn't exactly fall, he only slid gently into a sitting posture, all hunched up, and with his shoulders propped against the side of the engine-room skylight. 'That was the donkey-man. A haggard, white-faced chap with a ragged moustache. Acted third engineer,' he explained.
"Dead,' I said. We had heard something of that in court.'
"So they say,' he pronounced with sombre indifference. 'Of course I never knew. Weak heart. The man had been complaining of being out of sorts for some time before. Excitement. Over - exertion. Devil only knows. Ha! ha! ha! It was easy to see he did not want to die either. Droll, isn't it? May I be shot if he hadn't
been fooled into killing himself! Fooled-neither more nor less. Fooled into it, by heavens! just as I . . . Ah! If he had only kept still; if he had only told them to go to the devil when they came to rush him out of his bunk because the ship was sinking! If he had only stood by with his hands in his pockets and called them names !' "He got up, shook his fist, glared at me, and sat down. "A chance missed, eh?' I murmured.
Why don't you laugh?' he said. A joke hatched in hell. Weak heart! . . . I wish sometimes mine had been.'
"This irritated me. 'Do you?' I exclaimed with deep-rooted irony. 'Yes! Can't you understand,' he cried. 'I don't know what more you could wish for,' I said angrily. He gave me an utterly uncomprehending glance. This shaft had also gone wide of the mark, and he was not the man to bother about stray arrows. Upon my word, he was too unsuspecting; he was not fair game. I was glad that my missile had been thrown away,-that he had not even heard the twang of the bow.
to be handled by the infernal out the slightest warning as powers who had selected him it were, 'I stumbled over his for the victim of their practical legs.' joke. The first thing that came "This was the first I heard to him was the grinding surge of his having moved at all. I of the heavy davits swinging could not restrain a grunt of out at last-a jar which seemed surprise. Something had started to enter his body from the deck him off at last, but of the exact through the soles of his feet, moment, of the cause that tore and travel up his spine to the him out of his immobility, he crown of his head. Then, the knew no more than the uprooted squall being very near now, tree knows of the wind that laid another and a heavier swell it low. All this had come to lifted the passive hull in a him: the sounds, the sights, the threatening heave that checked legs of the dead man-by Jove! his breath, while his brain and The infernal joke was being his heart together were pierced crammed devilishly down his as with daggers by panic- throat, but-look you-he was stricken screams. 'Let go! not going to admit of any sort For God's sake, let go! Let go! of swallowing motion in his She's going. Following upon gullet. It's extraordinary how that the boat - falls ripped he could cast upon you the spirit through the blocks, and a lot of his illusion. I listened as if of men began to talk in in to a tale of black magic at work startled tones under the awnupon a corpse. ings. 'When these beggars did break out, their yelps were enough to wake the dead,' he said. Next, after the splashing shock of the boat literally dropped in the water, came the hollow noises of stamping and tumbling in her, mingled with confused shouts : " Unhook! Unhook! Shove ! Unhook! Shove for your life! Here's the squall down on us. .' He heard, high above his head, the faint muttering of the wind; he heard below his feet a cry of pain. A lost voice alongside started cursing a swivel hook. The ship began to buzz fore and aft like a disturbed hive, and, as quietly as he was telling me of all thisbecause just then he was very quiet in attitude, in face, in voice he went on to say with
"He went over sideways, very gently, and this was the last thing I remember seeing on board,' he continued. 'I did not care what he did. It looked as though he were picking himself up: I thought he was picking himself up, of course: I expected him to bolt past me over the rail and drop into the boat after the others. I could hear them knocking about down there, and a voice as if crying up a shaft called out "George." Then three voices together raised a yell. They came to me separately: one bleated, another screamed, one howled. Ough!'
"He shivered a little, and I beheld him rise slowly as if a steady hand from above had been pulling him out of the chair by his hair. Up, slowly
to his full height, and when
liberately to his face, and made picking motions with his fingers as though he had been bothered with cobwebs, and afterwards he looked into the open palm for quite half a second before he blurted outHe
"I had jumped. checked himself, averted his gaze.. 'It seems,' he added.
"His clear blue eyes turned to me with a piteous stare, and looking at him standing before me, dumfounded and hurt, I was oppressed by a sad sense of resigned wisdom, mingled with the amused and profound pity of an old man helpless before a childish disaster.
his knees had locked stiff the
"Looks like it,' I muttered. "I knew nothing about it till I looked up,' he explained hastily. And that's possible too. You had to listen to him. as you would to a small boy in trouble. He didn't know. had happened somehow. would never happen again. He had landed partly on somebody and fallen across a thwart. He felt as though all his ribs on his left side must be broken; then he rolled over, and saw vaguely the ship he had deserted uprising above him, with the red side-light glowing large in the rain like a fire on the brow of a hill seen through a mist. 'She seemed higher than a wall; she loomed like a cliff over the boat, and I wished I could die,' he cried. 'There was no going back. It was as if I had jumped into a well-into an everlasting
(To be continued.)
A CRITICAL friend of minea different thing, you understand, from a friendly critic alleges that I have a habit of beginning my essays with an apology for writing them, and he thinks this alleged habit a disgusting affectation. I hope that the apology I am now to make will not so offend him, since it is an apology for not having written on this subject before. For (to cancel, if I may, some of these sins of mock modesty) I assert roundly that I know a good deal about George Selwyn, his period and his contemporaries, and that if anybody was to write an article about his recently discovered letters, that article quite reasonably should be mine. And here it is, you say yes, but it might have been here a long while since. Let me explain. Some few months ago I read a paragraph in a paper to the effect that a large number of Selwyn's letters to the fifth Earl of Carlisle had been discovered at Castle Howard, and that a selection of them was to be published. The prima facie importance of this to people interested in the society of the last century was obvious. George Selwyn, we know from universal testimony of the time, was one of the most important figures in it, of a great
and enduring reputation as a wit at large and as everybody's friend. We knew a great deal about him-his life in London, his sojournings in Paris, his intimacy with that splendid profligate and racing-man, the Earl of March, who lived to be "old Q," the last Duke of Queensberry, his lazy jokes and chaff, his adoption of Mie Mie and his troubles with her fiery and flighty mother, the Marchesa Fagniani, we knew all this from that delightful collection of letters to him which everyone quotes, and which prove very pleasantly in what sincere affection "dear George" was held by statesmen and ne'erdo-wells, by wives, wits, and wantons. But we had of Selwyn's own writing two or three letters only, and those when he was a very young man and was bothered about money-letters sufficiently unremarkable. Consequently the paragraph I have mentioned vastly excited me, and I wrote in haste to the publisher in question. He obliged me with an "advance copy" of the book, and I was congratulating myself on the business-like promptitude with which my inevitable article would appear, when lo! I heard that these new letters and many others besides had been published by the Historical
George Selwyn, his Letters and his Life. Edited by E. S. Roscoe and Helen Clergue. London: Unwin.
The MSS. of the Earl of Carlisle, preserved at Castle Howard. MSS. Commission Fifteenth Report, Appendix, Part vi.)