Page images

every day."


promise of a new springtime. Alas! the to act Hamlet; finally my opportunity springtime will never come again to is here. No actor would wish a better poor Serbia!

stage. But instead of applause, it is the For a while the soldiers worked quiet thunder of cannon. It is more magnily. They saw the night coming, and as ficent! And instead of laurels, perhaps they knew that the trenches must be I will get a bullet through my forehead. finished before dark, they used their But it is all the same. This scene is last strength hurriedly. Occasionally I worth death! The story is, that a kheheard a sad, tired sigh, the sigh of a dive, throwing away his koran and his man who can no longer move. Then I ingiales, gave liberty to all his slaves would hear the voice of his friend: and the wives of his harem. He stood

'Go, go on, bata [little brother), only before a window and saw how these unfor a little longer. We will have the happy ones joyfully breathed the beauwhole night to rest!'

tiful air of liberty. Never khedive saw Then I heard a strange noise of many a more magnificent picture! Later, he voices calling,

committed suicide in the great delight 'Hee! Bones!'

of his heart, with these words on his 'How black and yellow they are!' lips, “These scenes will not happen

'How large they are! One cannot believe they are human bones!'

'A skull! Is that a skull of a politiAll of a sudden I heard an angry ex- cian, a lawyer, or a buyer of land? Is clamation, the

of a man who had

that a skull of those men whom Hamendured for a long time and can no let hated and despised? No, no, it is the longer bear up.

skull of a mother. Do you see what is 'I cannot work any longer! I shall written here: “To our good Mama!" stifle! It smells horribly!'

Mother! Sometimes you had heard ' "What? It smells!' I heard Bora's those words, my poor skull, my good voice. 'Ha, bato moj, this is no per- mother, and you were the happiest fumer's shop, it is a cemetery; it is not among human beings. Mother! She is the festival of Mi-Carême, it is war. our source of life, of nourishment, Have you forgotten the days of Cerna- our teacher, protector, defender, angel, Bara, when we had to remain for fif- love, life — our God! All this is one teen days in our trenches, and around woman, one mother, to her children. us lay the corpses which had rotted in Skull, what are you to me? Nothing the summer sun, because we could not but cold, dirty, dead bones. And yet, bury them? Do you remember that?' in these dark sockets were once eyes,

'I remember, but it was not as —' like those of my mother, which wept

'It was worse,' said Cheda angrily. with happiness when I smiled, or with 'It is not worth your while to com- pain when I but cut my little finger. plain. Better work! Dig!'

Oh! dear mother's eyes! Here were the Again they were silent. Again only lips, like the lips of my mother, which the stroke of the picks.

kissed me and called me "my angel." ''

'Auh! cried a frightened voice. Here were the cheeks, like the cheeks ‘Bora, look here! A skull!'

of my mother, which I kissed uncountA skull! Throw it up here. How ed times!' terrible and cold it is! Can it be pos- Something thrilled in my heart and sible that this was once covered with soul when I heard Bora's words. I felt flesh, and moved above the earth? that his words burned me, scathed me, Brothers, for a long time I have wished and kindled great pain within me; but


said to me,

at the same time, I felt that a strange and in an eager and excited voice, he

warmth was melting the ice around my c heart which had formed there during ‘God protect them! Is it not so?'

these last days of horror. It seemed to ‘Yes, Bora, God protect them!' I 2 me that I wanted to listen to his words, repeated, prayerfully; and suddenly I to drink them in, and yet, at the same felt that a great hope had entered my time, to close my ears to them. All the heart. Just then the big black soldier's feelings which I had hidden and kept voice broke in. deep in my heart, this good boy, in his 'Lieutenant!' honesty and youth, had drawn out “What is the matter?' without pity. Never, never should one 'A coffin, sir, entirely new! Look! a speak of mother in the war! When I fine red coffin! Here it is peeping out heard the words about mother, I felt as from the earth. If I dig deeper it will if I could not breathe, and that I could take more than a half of the trench. no longer endure to hear him speak, What shall I do now?' and I called out to him, —

“The trench is not deep enough,' I 'Stop, Bora! Come here.'

said to him; 'dig around it and leave it Slowly he came over. He was pale as exposed.' death.

*That is a fine idea. For a long time I was frightened by his looks, and I you have wished to have a chair in the

a put both hands on his shoulders, shook trench. Now you will have one!' him and said,

'Fool!' said Cheda, angrily. Bora, be a man!' ‘

'It's a fine idea, anyway!' said the He looked at me, then he smiled, big fellow, chuckling, and he began to opened his eyes widely, his face flushed, dig.


(To be continued)


upright among the pillows in defiance THE SLEEPY ROAD

of all his orders, and was staring, wideIt is hard for me to remember now eyed, into the hot, pain-haunted dark. that my knowledge of the Sleepy Road, ‘You think you are never going to be gained so many years ago, came only able to sleep again, don't you?' he obthrough the chance bit of advice drop- served; ‘well, shut your eyes and do ped by a wise, kind, weary old doctor just what I tell you. Think of some as he shuffled, at midnight, down the road that you know well, a good long corridor of the silent hospital. What road that winds and turns and shows ever was the errand of life or death that you water and woods and hills. Keep had called him in such haste, he had your eyes tight shut and travel along it time to stop and give me a friendly in memory as slowly as you can; reword, although I, a small and incorrig- call every sight and sound and perfume bly sleepless patient, was sitting bolt as you pass by. I have such a road of



my own, the one I used to walk to

across that bridge, so that the little school when I was eight years old; I ravine is full of drifted snow, with the have started out on it a hundred times, black arches of bent ferns crowned with when I thought I could not sleep, but I white, and tall leafless trees standing never get very far. I come just about above against a blue and cloudless to the old, stone bridge over Damon's sky. Or sometimes it is spring, with Creek, or perhaps to the swimming- dry leaves blowing before warm April hole where the willows dip into the winds, with the smell of wild crabbrown water, but I never reach the end.' apple in the air, and with white blood

On many and many a night since roots starring the steep brown banks. then I have traveled my own Sleepy But whatever the season, I stop to lean Road and thanked the dear old doctor upon the bark-covered rail, to sniff the at every step of the way. When obsti- sweet fresh woodsy air - and to yawn nate wakefulness will yield to nothing for the first time. else, I have only to close my reluctant Beyond the bridge there is another eyes firmly and set off. I go first down turn, where I come out at the edge of the street that leads from the house the river, the silent mile-wide stream where I was born an overgrown that waking people would call our country-town street, known as The greatest inland waterway, but that, to Avenue, lined with tall, lank houses of me, stands only for the River of Sleep. the Middle Victorian period, the broad It is always late daylight when I set lawns beginning to be submerged under out on my pilgrimage. It is shadowy the rising tide of aggressive bungalows. twilight when I stand upon the bridge,

I pass, at last, a corner where there with, perhaps, a little thin new moon stands, deserted and dropping to de- behind the tree-tops. But it is full, cay, an enormous dwelling whose mil- flooding moonlight when I reach the lionaire builder, now long since dead, river shore. The wide, quiet expanse is

. followed no school of architecture save a sheet of polished silver, broken into the Pure Plutocratic and his own sweet bars of shattered splendor where the will. The edge of his garden still shows water comes rippling in at my feet. The a few red geraniums and purple coleus road stretches away along the bank; and is guarded by weather-stained iron a far-flung white ribbon, looping over deer: the flora and fauna of a forgotten hills and around the little bays, it final- . Art. Beyond these monstrosities, the ly slants up the wooded bluff and disstreet turns abruptly, drops swiftly appears. I follow it, more and more down-hill, and becomes a road, the slowly now, past the little marshy Sleepy Road at last. As I hear the cool harbor where the cat-tails rustle togethrustle of the trees on either hand and er in the night wind, past the neat, see their sharp shadows lying across square fields that checkerboard the risthe white, dusty way, the first feeling of ing slope, through a tiny sleeping town drowsiness comes and begins to weigh where the windows are blank and blind down the eyelids that have, so far, been in the white light, and where only one kept shut only by main strength of will. drowsy dog raises his head as he lies

There is another sound to be heard upon a doorstep and barks at me in presently, the thin trickling of water friendly greeting as I go by his gate. that comes splashing out from below All the world is asleep and so shall I great boulder, joins a tiny stream, and runs below a rude, makeshift bridge. Outside the town is a high bridge Sometimes I have it winter when I pass spanning a tributary river, a good


soon be.

sized, hasty, tumbling stream that aspen leaves. I come nearer and nearer, shrinks into insignificance beside the but I do not pass the turn. I know that, silent, tremendous flood in which it fin- beyond, the way stretches far and ally loses itself. There are trees group- straight and white across more valleys ed at the head of the bridge — straight and wooded hills; that, on the farthest

, white ghostly sycamores; then denser height, the roofs and spires of a distant

a woods that hide river and fields as the city stand black against the stars. But way goes steeply up a breath-taking I never see them for, as the dear good hill. It was bright moonlight when I doctor said, though I travel the Sleepy passed the town; it was deep, black Road innumerable times, I can never shadow in the wooded hollow; but, come to its end. when I come out upon the broad crowning plateau where there are neither

'A WOMAN OF ALMOST THIRTY' trees nor houses nor view of the river, the moon has gone, and above the level 'ALTHOUGH a woman of almost thirfields I see only a wide, wide sea of ty, there was still the spring of youth stars.

in her walk.' Of all the miles of the Sleepy Road I re-read the sentence. It stood out this is the stretch that I love the best. clearly in a firm, round, Freshman It is along this that I pass so slowly, - hand. I called to mind the vigorous

oh! so slowly, — with sleep but one turn young person who had thus unwittingof the road away. Whatever season I ly destroyed the calm of my themechoose to have it when I pass the lit- correcting evening. She was, on the tle bridge, or the river, or the town, whole, little different from her Freshwhether it is winter or gay spring or man sisters, possibly more observing glowing autumn, it is always high mid- and conscientiouswell trained, we call summer when I come here. The gigan- it. She had simply given classic form tic, sprawling length of the Scorpion to a point of view which was probably hangs, it seems, nearly half-way round shared by most of her two hundred and the horizon, its glowing Antares re- fifty-seven classmates. gards me with a friendly, ruddy eye. The idea gave me shocked pause, Above is clear-faced Vega, the wide- for I was even then within hail of my spread wings of the Swan, the hovering thirtieth birthday — unrheumatically Eagle, and the broad white river of the within hail (that is the point!) - and Milky Way, with Arcturus and the still cherishing the notion that my

life Dipper swinging low before me. But I lay before and not behind me. Modern have not time to greet them all; the novelists had reinforced me in this idea. plateau is not, alas! so wide as that. Surely Helena Ritchie and the aston

The way dips once more and passes ishing Alice Challis and many another down a long curving hill. There is an- found interest in their middle years. other turn at the foot, guarded by a Of late, however, it had been increasgreat round oak tree whose shadow ingly brought home to me that the casts a pool of blackness across the point of view of the older novelists, path. Beyond the turn, I know, is the whose heroines had lived all the life broad river again, with a fringe of sil- that counted before they were twentyver poplars along the shore. Sleep has five, is the point of view of the college walked close beside me for this long undergraduate. I thankfully admit time, and now slips a hand into mine. I that my thinking is less young than it can hear the cool patter of the moving was ten years ago; association with the

Freshman mind has assured me of this How could so obvious a fallacy get the fact beyond possibility of doubt. But, popular ear? Think how little aware alas! my feeling is still young; and ap- of passing years we should be, were it parently it should be of more elderly not for the young! Their very presmien. There is a note almost of re- ence proclaims our greater years. They proach in that sentence: 'Although a themselves seem to have conspired towoman of almost thirty, there was still gether to help us to a suitable awarethe spring of youth in her walk.' ness. Every possible aid is offered, and

Say it over a few times and see offered in the kindest spirit of courtesy. how you begin to feel. I found myself One is helped into wraps, relieved of tentatively testing arm- and leg-move carrying loads or opening doors, guided ments. Both seemed in excellent form. up and down steps, deposited in easy Was it indeed unseemly in one of my chairs, and generally treated as fragile. years to walk with the spring of It is all delightful; but the force of sugyouth'? Was the longing within me on gestion as exerted by so many vigor. gay April mornings 'to laugh, to run, ous young minds will sooner or later to leap, to sing for joy' an abnormal have its effect. We may resist for a survival from the days of my child- time; ultimately, however, we shall hood? Hazlitt, to be sure, quite frank- take ourselves at the rating of the ly acknowledges giving way to such a community in which we live. I have desire, and on the lesser provocation of seen my friends capitulate one by one, ‘a winding road and a three hours' accept the verdict of the majority, and march to dinner.' Nor does he seem to settle down into the accepted properhave felt any shame in indulging him

ties of middle-age. self. But then, Hazlitt was a man and And perhaps that is what one should under no compulsion to appear grace

do. The fact remains, however, that ful or dignified. Do you remember how the adjustments of middle-age are less Dorothy Wordsworth's 'quick, glanc- nicely made than those of adolescence. ing movements' offended De Quincey? The feeling more often fails to accomThey gave, he says, 'an ungraceful pany the fact. When one was sixteen and even an unsexual character to her there was no doubt about it - one appearance.' It should also be remem- felt quite the young lady and gladly so bered that Hazlitt did not live under comported herself; now, when one is the critical eye of the undergraduate. ‘almost thirty' and still possessed of

It is very repressing, this living un- ‘the spring of youth, one is expected der that critical eye. It tends to make to conduct one's self not according to one staid and inexpressive. One tries one's feelings but according to one's! to behave properly middle-aged; to years. The task is difficult. I know & curb one's inclination for ' quick, glanc- woman of almost thirty' who, as an ing movements' and for active and un- outlet for liveliness unbefitting her age, dignified postures; to let the young wait turns a few cautious somersaults now upon one and regard one's judgments and then, beyond closed doors and as oracular.

upon prudently arranged sofa-pillows. Yet contact with young people is It looks indelicate even in print, does supposed to be rejuvenating! Indeed, n't it? As connected with a particular this contact is the only good thing person the habit could never be menmany see in that absorbing and in tioned. Clandestine cigarette-smoking every other way desirable profession of might give a piquant flavor, but clanteaching. Was ever so false an idea ? destine somersaulting - !

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »