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they know absolutely nothing later than Emerson except a few of the more obvious best sellers. They are therefore in a position to dogmatize, which they do, to the intense delight of certain magazine editors, who throw open their pages gladly to receive the inspired comments of such transcendent judges. But American literature does not detain them long, and they are soon engaged in the congenial task of explaining how great they and their particular friends are, and of consolidating their American popularity and revenue. For, whatever else they do not know about America, there is one thing of which they are certain, that the American public never tires of hearing tenth-rate Europeans rated higher than first-class Americans. Thus, with the help of a little scissors and paste the average compiler of literary notes for a London weekly can impose himself as the Sainte
Beuve of to-day, while innumerable verse-makers with a good public-school education rejoice in the fame of a Keats or a Shelley.
So far as the translations of Continental writers is concerned, the procedure is more difficult to understand, because it is not brazen, but is rather mysterious. The result is virtually the same; namely, the exaltation of the imported mediocrity above the native genius. Who will define the erratic law which governs the selection of translations? It is not the local fame of the authors, for the greatest successes are often works of little note, commercially or otherwise, in Europe. It is not genuine merit, for the most significant modern European writers are mostly untranslated, and almost all unknown to the vast majority of English-speaking readers. Why is the Robert W. Chambers of Spain an American best seller, while the French equivalent of Harold Bell Wright is ignored? What has caused the translators of Scandinavian literature to pass over Johannes V. Jensen, the local Jack London, while they have made a popular success of Bojer, who just hovers between the two
extremes? No attempt has been made to discover for English readers the younger Italian writers who have done much remarkable work, but the potboilers of D'Annunzio are solemnly discussed. Only the enchantment of distance can explain the haphazard manner in which the literature of continental Europe has been translated into English. It is amazing to witness the deference with which the tradesmen of fiction are treated by critics who are impressed by the fact of translation. If Dr. Frank Crane only had a Russian or Belgian name, his philosophic dissertations would be made the subject of appropriately profound academic comment.
The guardians of the sacred literary traditions in America look coldly upon all criticism of the cult of the foreigner. They suspect an attack on the glorious common heritage of Anglo-Saxon culture, since the chief beneficiaries of this idolatry are the Britishers, whose wares enliven the department stores and women's clubs, and whose doings are reverently chronicled by the reviewers. It is clear that their consciences are just a little uneasy, for there is no intention to belittle the solid literary achievements of the English, any more than those of the Germans or the French or the Scandinavians. The sad truth is that the excessive zeal of the colonial mind is largely to blame for the too eager receptivity of the American public where the reputation of unimportant English writers is involved. The whole trend of the literary mandarins is toward an unquestioning belief in the superiority of the foreign product as compared with the native. Distance, heightened by a prolonged vista of tradition, lends an irresistible enchantment to their view of contemporary English literature. Until they can appreciate the significance of an original American writer as against an utterly conventional and imitative, but perhaps technically more skilful Englishman, literature will remain the one department of American life where hyphenation is encouraged.
By C. S. EVANS
Illustrations by L. P. Bird
HE great change in his life came when Mr. Bevan was transferred for a few months from the Lowston
Road Boys' School to the Upton Street "Mixed." Nash missed Mr. Bevan. He was the plague of Mr. Bevan's life, but it is only fair to say that Mr. Bevan missed him. Nash met a friend who went to the Upton Street "Mixed."
"What do you think of old Bevan?" Nash asked.
The friend opined he wore spectacles, and paused.
"Of course," said Nash.
"His 'air 's ginger," said the youth, frowning in concentrated thought.
""T ain't," said Nash, fiercely.
They argued the point with some heat. Nash said that a boy who could n't tell what color of hair a man had was blind, deaf, and dumb.
Pressed as to his own conception of its hue, he hesitated, and finally said it was golden. Whereat the other boy laughed, and Nash hit him suddenly. Then they withdrew to a quiet place and fought for ten minutes, until Nash had conscientiously thrashed, as he thought, the offending Adam out of him.
"Best or worst?" said Nash, with truculence.
The other blubbered, his arm over his eyes, as he lay in the mud; but gave a reluctant "Best."
"Lem me see," pursued Nash, "what color did you say that old Bevan's 'air was?"
"Gin-golden," cried the prostrate
"Right," said Nash, pleasantly. "Get up."
The youth got up, wiping his eyes with a muddy sleeve. He retreated honorably, with his face to the foe until he
reached a safe distance; there he halted to sing derisively:
"Cowardy, cowardy, custard!" he chanted; "eat yer mother's " Then, stopping suddenly, added: "Old Bevan 's a four-eyed, ginger-'aired swanker. 'E can't 'urt yer. We puts pins on 'is
Nash felt hurt. A slur cast upon Mr. Bevan's capability reflected upon himself. An afternoon's careful thought made him certain of three things: he felt sure that the Upton Street boys were a poor lot; the lump must be leavened; Mr. Bevan should not be deserted in his hour of need.
So it came about that the next Monday morning Mr. Bevan found Nash at his desk, smiling cheerfully.
"Well?" said Mr. Bevan.
"Please, sir, I 've 'jined," answered Nash.
"Who sent you in here? Do you know this is Class Four?" Nash was in Class Five at the old school.
"Yes, sir. 'E" with a jerk of the thumb toward the hall--"'e sent me in there," with a jerk of the thumb over his shoulder to the next room,-"but I ain't a-goin'."
Mr. Bevan was touched.
"You wish to come to me, do you, my lad?" he asked, with beaming face. He felt flattered and moved by such a show of affection.
Now, Nash had been guilty of a weakness he would have died rather than own to. He flatly denied ever having entertained such a thought. He explained that his mate was in this class. He wanted to sit with his mate-"Bill Porter 's 'is name," he explained, with a wealth of detail; "him with the bosseyes."
Bill Porter was the youth he had thrashed, and Bill was now watching
Nash with great uneasiness. He could not hear what was being said, and feared that Nash had turned traitor and was reporting insults. When he saw Nash's finger stretched in his direction his fear grew to a certainty. He wriggled uncomfortably.
"Please, sir, I never!" he piped.
But Mr. Bevan did not hear. He was surveying Nash's furiously blushing face with curiosity. No mean student of boy nature, he understood what was passing under that perspiring brow.
"Well, find a seat," he said. "I'll see Mr. Carr and explain."
Nash looked round for a vacant place, and found one at the end of the back line. He proceeded toward it. Bill Porter stuck out a foot to trip him up. Without pausing an instant, Nash lifted a hobnailed boot and brought it down with force on the obstacle. Porter uttered a smothered yell, and Nash passed on in triumph.
When he reached his place he found that he was seated at the end of the boys' division and therefore next a girl. He did not like it. He wiped his nose on his sleeve, and looked up, to find her laughing at him. She had brown eyes. He made a blot on his copy-book, a full, round blot. He looked toward her. She was busily engaged at her work. He hissed to draw her attention, bent down, licked up the blot, rubbed the part of his anatomy in which he fondly. imagined his stomach was situated, and put on an expression of ecstatic, voluptuous enjoyment. She gave a gesture of disgust and turned from him. (What a clean face she had!)
The parentheses mark Nash's subconscious thoughts. Gradually the subconscious came into the full light of the mind. He ceased to work, and set himself to attract her attention.
He took the reading-book and dropped it on the floor. Bending to pick it up, he murmured hoarsely:
"Watch me 'ave a bit of sport."
He stuck a pin through the cover, noticing with a side glance her look of awed surprise. He placed the book on the seat, so that the pin pointed upward. Skilfully, with cunning heart, he inveigled the next boy into rising, and sitting again on the pin.
Nash took his "hander" with his nose in the air. He blew on the injured place, smiled a watery smile, and purred inwardly.
By this time the girl had begun to promise herself some amount of recreation in watching the exploits performed for her benefit. Little woman as she was, she could not but feel flattered and pleased. He had suffered (how nobly!) for her sake. So she smiled at him.
(My! How white her teeth were!) Nash registered a mental vow to use a tooth-brush on his own when he got home. He felt ashamed to smile back, and kept his lips firmly closed, frowning in the effort. Misreading the expression, with a gesture of indifference, the girl turned away.
Searching his pockets, Nash produced a grimy piece of paper and the stump of a pencil, at the latter end of which he sucked for a time in silent thought. Finally he wrote, and, with a dexterous flick, shot the note across.
The girl giggled as she opened the note. "You needent think yourself everyboddy," she read.
Without a moment's pause she wrote underneath, and passed the note back.
Nash received it with renewed hope, which was dashed to the ground as he read the message.
"I do not want to speak to dirty little boys," said the upright writing.
"Dirty little boys!" Had she been a boy herself, Nash would have had her blood for that. As it was, he only fumed, desperate, eager for daring deeds. He would show her that a brave and manly heart beat even under a dirty face. His thoughts ran just like that, and he saw no humor. He was a regular reader of the "Halfpenny Marvel."
His chance came when Mr. Bevan sat down in the seat below him to write in a copy-book. Nash squared his elbows, stimulated to sudden activity by the proximity of the teacher. His nose low over his book, his tongue protruding at the side of his mouth, he wrote laboriously. Once he looked up to find his face within three inches of Mr. Bevan's "golden" hair, which waggled in front of him. Abstractedly, almost without thought, Nash put out a hand to touch the lock curiously.
The girl giggled, and the suppressed sound brought him to a knowledge of what he had done. He proceeded to improve the occasion, aware of approving eyes. Cautiously he advanced his finger to the wagging lock, till it touched again. Then he drew it away sharply. He rubbed his hands and simulated intense cold. He spread them over Mr. Bevan's hair, and expressed by violent facial distortions the exaggerated ecstasy which the grateful warmth produced in his mind. He simulated abstraction, let his hands carelessly fall too near the glowing mass, and, with a start of pain, sat back, writhing in agony. Then he went through all the action of fashioning an imaginary horseshoe, beating the white-hot metal into shape, pausing now and again to drink beer out of the inkpot, a natural touch, limited in accuracy by the means at his command, and due to a careful observation of the blacksmith. Finally, he displayed the finished shoe, a miracle of workmanship, and wiped the honest sweat from his brow with an imaginary apron, for which his copy-book stood as symbol.
By this time the whole class were aware that something untoward was happening. Bill Porter looked round to see what Nash was doing, and, finding out, spread the glad news abroad, so that soon one hundred eyes were watching Nash with the greatest attention.
Nash's heart sang. He had showed 'em! Dirty little boys, indeed! His knowledge of an audience stirred him to greater lengths.
He leaned forward and dared to touch Mr. Bevan on the shoulder.
"Please, sir, yer 'air 's in me eye," he said calmly.
Mr. Bevan turned to look at him gravely. Nash's face wore an expression of injury that was good to see. kept it there, gazing back artlessly.
Mr. Bevan said nothing, but passed on quietly, after a long look that seemed to last for ages. Nash breathed a sigh
After school he hung about in the street until he saw the girl with the brown eyes and the clean face and the white teeth leave the school. He hurried after her, his hands in his pockets, whistling loudly. As he came up to her
he gave a lug at her long hair, and with a loud whoop, which made her jump a yard, ran past.
"Oh, you beast!" she ejaculated.
Nash felt that he was getting on. He stopped a boy who was carrying a milkjug, relieved him of his burden, and feigned to drink, to the boy's evident and freely expressed alarm.
He climbed a lamp-post, swung on the cross-bar by one hand like a gibbon, dropped, crouching in a huddled heap, as if by accident, and noticed with joy the girl's hardly suppressed cry of fear. He threw a stone over a house. He knocked down a poster-board outside a news-agent's shop. He hung behind a
He cried "Whip behind!" to the driver of a cab, who swore at him. When he saw the girl enter her house, he feigned to go to sleep on the step, making himself a pillow of his hat, and snoring with unction.
When the door opened and shut again behind the object of his attentions, he got up and became a normal boy again.
On his way home he was moody and abstracted. He met the boy whose milk he had taken, accompanied by his big brother. The big brother thrashed Nash with thoroughness and some amount of skill, while the small boy danced the dance of derision.
"That 'll learn yer to lem me be," he said.
"Go on! 'It one yer own size!" was all Nash could say.
The big boy went on, but ignored the latter and qualifying part of the advice, and ten minutes afterward Nash got up out of a puddle and reeled on. (0 brown eyes and shining face!) Dirty little boys, indeed!
Outside the news-agent's shop the proprietor was standing. proprietor was standing. He recognized. the boy who had flung down his board.
"Well, of all the cheek!" he ejaculated as he realized that Nash actually dared to walk past him. More from convention than for any other reason, he caught the boy a cuff on the ear as he passed.
"That 'll learn yer to lem me boards alone," he said.
Nash looked at him. (O smiling lips and shining, pearly teeth!)
"Garn!" said Nash. "Garn, and fry yer face!"