Puslapio vaizdai

"Just think!" one of them remarked. "Clever ducks!" said another, and bobbed his head up and down. But, except for the boy, there was not one person in the entire train who had understood the point of the joke-a point that had a sharp and bitter sting. But the story itself penetrated their dense brains: a whole regiment of true believers had been slaughtered, and only three Jews had been saved, no doubt by magic.

Somebody at the end of the car suddenly stood up and shouted:

"Kick the Jew!"

From the other end of the car, like an echo, came the cry: "Go for him!"

Several passengers rose from their seats. The Hebrew boy seemed to have collapsed. Instinctively he raised his arms above his head. He knew how terribly a cry like that might operate.

The commercial traveler, however, however, threw back his head, and shouted in a sharp, commanding voice:

"See here, you fellows, none of that! The orders are there 's to be nothing of that sort this year."

It was evident that he had usurped the position of arbiter in this small and isolated world. The fat woman gave him her moral support. She waved her pudgy hands; there was only the slightest show of impatience in her tone:

The belligerent passenger sat down again. Then everybody pretended that it was nothing but a joke, and forced a hollow laugh.

The bumping and thudding speed of the onrushing train began to slacken. Once more there was an eruption under one of the benches. An old peasant emerged.

"God forgive us our sins!" he moaned.

He crossed himself, a spare little mankin wearing a short, yellow sheepskin coat which seemed to hide nothing but a framework of rattling bones. His pathetic aspect aroused interest and sympathy.

"How long have ye been lying under there?" asked a passenger.

rose and crowded about the curious human object. The spick-and-span traveler pushed them aside. He assumed an inquisitorial, superior tone. The little peasant was impressed and subjugated at once.

"Why, you 've got a ticket! Here, let's see it! Sure! Why the mischief did you crawl under that there bench?"

"Why, since this morning, of course," he answered in a high, squeaking voice.

His tone implied that all that was selfunderstood. Several inquisitive persons

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The tiny peasant was quite crushed. "You understand these things better than me," he said; "you 're an educated gentleman." He shook his head dolefully.

"The devil! That would be the last After a pause he added, as if to comfort straw." himself, "God will have mercy."

Then followed a solemn pause. This was broken at last by the commercial traveler. He shook his head philosophically, and in a voice full of mysterious reproach and accusation he uttered one word:

"Ah, but we 're a stupid lot, I know," muttered the old man, miserably.

The disgust of the stout woman bordered on anger.

"Such a fool," she cried, "to clean throw away three rubles! A sheep that does n't know what to do, and crawls under the seats!"

The inquisitor pursued his questioning. "So you 're bound for Ostroff, are you? Good Lord! we 've passed that place long ago, you cuckoo! Just you wait. You'll have to pay a fine now; and there's the extra fare back."


A few of his fellow-passengers nodded their heads in affirmation, even though they did not precisely realize why he should have said "Russia" in that signifi

cant manner.

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Author of "Tono Bungay," "The New Machiavelli," "Marriage," etc.




HE whole world was flaring into a monstrous phase of destruction. Power after power about the armed globe sought to anticipate attack by aggression. They went to war in a delirium of panic in order to use their bombs first. China and Japan had assailed Russia and destroyed Moscow; the United States had attacked Japan; India was in anarchistic revolt, with Delhi a pit of fire spouting death and flame; the redoubtable King of the Balkans was mobilizing. It must have seemed plain at last to every one in those days that the world was slipping headlong to anarchy. By the spring of 1959, from nearly two hundred centersand every week added to their numberroared the unquenchable, crimson conflagrations of the atomic bombs; the flimsy fabric of the world's credit had vanished; industry was completely disorganized; and every city, every thickly populated area, was starving or trembled on the verge of starvation. Most of the capital cities of the world were burning, millions of people had already perished, and over great areas government was at an end. Humanity has been compared by one contemporary writer to a sleeper who handles matches in his sleep, and wakes to find himself in flames.



ON the mountain-side above the town of Brissago, and commanding two long stretches of Lake Maggiore, looking eastIward to Bellinzona and southward to Luino, there is a shelf of grass meadows which is very beautiful in springtime with

a great multitude of wild flowers. More particularly is this so in early June, when the slender asphodel, with its spike of white lily blossom, is in flower. To the westward of this delightful shelf there is a deep and densely wooded trench, a great gulf of blue a mile or so in width, out of which arise great precipices, very high and wild. Above the asphodel-fields themselves the mountains climb in rocky slopes to solitudes of stone and sunlight that curve round and join that wall of cliffs in one common sky-line. This desolate and austere background contrasts very vividly with the glowing serenity of the great lake below, with the spacious view of fertile hills and roads and villages and islands to south and east, and with the hotly golden rice-fields of the Val Maggia to the north.

And because it was a remote and insignificant place, far away out of the crowding tragedies of that year of disaster and of universal war, away from burning cities and starving multitudes, bracing and tranquilizing and hidden, it was here that there gathered the conference of rulers that was to arrest, if possible, before it was too late the débâcle of civilization. Here, brought together by the indefatigable energy of that impassioned humanitarian Leblanc, the French ambassador at Washington, the chief powers of the world were to meet in a last desperate conference to "save humanity."

Leblanc was one of those simple, spirited men whose lot would have been insignificance in any period of security, but who have been caught up to an immortal rôle in history by the sudden simplification of human affairs to the measure of their simplicity through some tragical

Copyright, 1914, by THE CENTURY CO.

crisis. Such a man was Abraham Lincoln, and such was Garibaldi. And Leblanc, with his transparent, childish innocence, his entire self-forgetfulness, came into this confusion of distrust and intricate disaster with an invincible appeal for the manifest sanities of the situation. His voice, when he spoke, was "full of remonstrance." He was a little, bald, spectacled man, full of that intellectual idealism which has been one of the peculiar gifts of France to humanity. He was possessed of one clear persuasion: that war must end, and that the only way to end war was to have only one government for mankind. He brushed aside all other considerations. At the very outbreak of the war, so soon as the two capitals of the belligerents had been wrecked, he went to the President in the White House with this proposal; he made it as if it was a matter of course. He was fortunate to be in Washington and in touch with that gigantic childishness which was the characteristic of the American imagination. For the Americans also were among the simple peoples by whom the world was saved. He won over the American President and the American Government to his general to his general ideas. At any rate, they supported him sufficiently to give him a standing with the more skeptical European governments, and with this backing he set to work-it seemed the most fantastic of enterprises -to bring together all the rulers of the world and unify them. He wrote innumerable letters, he sent messages, he went desperate journeys, he enlisted whatever support he could find. No one was too humble for an ally or too obstinate for his advances; through the terrible autumn of the last wars this persistent little visionary in spectacles must have seemed rather like a hopeful canary twittering during a thunder-storm. And no accumulation of disasters daunted his conviction that they could be ended.

For many months it was an open question whether there was to be found throughout all the race the will and intelligence to face these new conditions and make even an attempt to arrest the downfall of the social order. For a time the war spirit defeated every attempt to rally the forces of preservation and construction. Leblanc seemed to be protesting against earthquakes, and as likely to find

a spirit of reason in the crater of Etna. Even though the shattered official governments now clamored for peace, bands of irreconcilables and invincible patriots, usurpers, adventurers, and political desperados, were now everywhere in possession of the simple apparatus for the discouragement of atomic energy and the initiation of new centers of destruction. The stuff exercised an irresistible fascination upon a certain type of mind. Why should any one give in while he could still destroy his enemies? Surrender? While there is still a chance of blowing them to dust? The power of destruction which had once been the ultimate privilege of government was now the only power left in the world, and it was everywhere. There were few thoughtful men during that phase of blazing waste who did not pass through such moods of despair and declare, "This is the end."

And all the while Leblanc was going to and fro with glittering glasses and an inexhaustible persuasiveness, urging the manifest reasonableness of his view upon ears that ceased presently to be inattentive. Never at any time did he betray a doubt that all this chaotic conflict would end. No nurse during a nursery uproar was ever so certain of the inevitable ulti

mate peace. From being treated as an amiable dreamer, he came by insensible degrees to be regarded as an extravagant possibility. Then he began to seem even practicable. The people who listened to him in 1958 with a smiling impatience were eager before 1959 was four months old to know just exactly what he thought might be done. He answered with the patience of a philosopher and the lucidity of a Frenchman. He began to receive responses of a more and more hopeful type.


HE came across the Atlantic to Italy, and there he gathered in the promises for this congress. He chose those high meadows above Brissago for the reasons we have stated. "We must get away," he said, "from old associations." He set to work requisitioning material for his conference with an assurance that was justified by the replies. With a slight incredulity the conference, which was to begin a new order in the world, gathered itself together.

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