Puslapio vaizdai

They flourished no longer. An army of forced labor descended upon the farm, and Pierre's field was dug, under the able direction of Perigny, as it had never been dug before. It was unfortunate that early in his operations the scientist really found one bronze coin, for the discovery heartened him to such purpose that before he gave up the search, a pit some fifty paces wide and almost as deep yawned in the centre of the unhappy holding. Only the solid rock stopped excavation which would have opened Tartarus, for Perigny was very earnest and thorough in his follies. Indeed, led on by that battered denarius, he wished to explore all the farms on the estate, and to level the village inn; but here the discretion of Thibaut was forced to intervene. Whereat Perigny, his antiquarian ardor cruelly checked, departed on the tail of winter to his Château, declaiming against all friendships, which, quoth he, were light things and disappointing, and unworthy the deep thought of serious men. In such temper was he as causeth many damsels to give themselves to the Church-though what good the Church takes in the acquirement of sulky baggages it is full hard to see.

Thibaut condoled with his ill-used vassal, and craftily-with an eye to his future amusement-offered to have the villagers fill up the pit. But Pierre, now heartily entering into the spirit of the proceedings, besought his lord to take no concern about the matter. For he had now, he declared, the noblest cockpit in all France; he would take delight in fighting many a main therein. He would plant his wheat about the pit in the remaining acreage. But one thing truly grieved him: that the noble friends of Thibaut must hunt with caution in future lest their august necks be broken in crossing his humble field. With humility and reverence in his face, and laughter

in his sleeve, the varlet thus delivered himself. And so Thibaut, as his taxes were still marvellously paid, had perforce to send ferrets into the darkest furrows of his brain to have out its inmost mischief.

It was while on a visit to Chateaurenard that his new idea came to him. He sat one evening upon the terrace with Léon and the fair Rosalys, idly watching the sun set over Perigny's broad domain. A cloudless sky, a gleam of water among far-off trees, the shrill song of an early cigala from the grass-all the gentle influences of a spring evening attuned his heart to a poetic melancholy. It was, after all, inexpressibly sad, this living. Why could one never possess all one's desire? Not of Rosalys was his thought,

she, he knew, was his for the asking. But that unspeakable varlet, Pierre, troubled his noble spirit. How to crush his stubborn soul; to make him cry "enough"; to bring him fawning to the feet of his proper lord. Why, the rogue langhed in his face. These casual harassments still left him cheerful, slid from his merriment like rain from sloping eaves. Thibaut longed for some continual device, which, like the bottomless urns of the Daughters of Danaos, should work from day to day and from dawn to dusk. And then, as though in answer to his wish, an immense flock of pigeons whirred overhead homing to their cote behind the Château.

Léon frowned. "They multiply," he said. "Morbleu! how they multiply! It is too much; the farmers complain. Rosalys, I cannot give in longer to your fancies. The rents find them'selves put off unpaid. Thus it runs: 'I cannot, my lord, this week. The pigeons eat the sprouting grain.' 'A little time, my lord, the pigeons-' Always the pigeons! Bah! It is too much. We must kill some. To-morrow then, I tell Simon."

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"In good sooth, brother," answered Rosalys, "do as thou wilt. They indeed multiply and as for me, I cannot love so many." Thus she spake to impress upon Thibaut the sweet obedience of her sisterhood.

But he-oh, strange, when killing was toward-pleaded for the birds' lives. As for the canaille, let them complain.

Léon was firm. He did not love the canaille more than did his brother of Aumur, but he had more love for lucre. The taxes must be considered before the pleasure of annoying the farmers. The pigeons, therefore, should undoubtedly perish.

Thibaut pulled at his lip. "If it must be, my Léon, that thou should'st rid thyself of them, why not give them to me? I love them well, the beautiful birds, and they may amuse my Pierre. A thousand! Two thousand! Bien! They multiply. I will send my rascals with carts and baskets. I will build dove-cotes. Yea; as many as thou canst spare."

Léon waved his page to him. "Sirrah," he said languidly, "thou hearest what my lord saith. Tell Simon, then, to catch the birds. Go." He rose from his seat. "Come, Thibaut, let us in. The air grows chill." The Pall Mall Magazine.

Thibaut touched Perigny's shoulder, glancing at Rosalys, who blushed. For now she learned this ruddy trick of love; her heart was no longer ice.

"Brother," quoth he of Aumur, "while thy vein is giving, I have still another thing to beg of thee."

"It is thine," conceded Perigny, magnificently. "What is it?"

"Nay," answered Thibaut, "not now. This night, at thy leisure, Léon."

So, at Perigny's leisure over the cards and the cups was it settled that the Lord of Aumur in Gascony and of Abreuil in Bretagne should on, the fall of August, wed with Rosalys of Chateaurenard. Right glad indeed was Perigny, for there was no man living, he said, to whom he would part more readily with aught in his gift. Over the loving-cup he said it, and Thibaut acknowledged the compliment as befitted.

"And now," declared he, "I return at daybreak to-morrow to Aumur, my Léon. My men shall bring wagons ere night for the pigeons."

"The pigeons?" cried Perigny. "What pigeons? Ah, yes-of course. I had forgotten." He looked at Thi baut curiously. "Eh, bien, Thibaut! Thou art a droll lover."

Howard Ashton.

(To be concluded.)


Philosophers in all ages have felt themselves called upon to take up the challenge which death throws down to man. "We are wrong to fear it," said Socrates, "for it is, perhaps, our greatest good on earth." To Epicurean as to Stoic the fear or hatred of death was plainly opposed to right reason. "Death is nothing to us," says Epicurus in his "Maxims," "for he who is once dissolved into his elements is incapable of

feeling, and that which is not felt is nothing to us." So in a long series of philosophic testimony to Schopenhauer, "After us is nothing, and, therefore, why should we disturb ourselves about what comes after us? Is it not just as irrational as to fear that which was before us? The nothing which lies in wait for us, and the nothing which preceded us, are of the same value." Always the same misunder

standing, the same humorous spectacle, reason seeking to confute a human sentiment! The real fear of death, as distinguished from the sorrow of bereavement, is not to any large extent the dread of physical dissolution. Those who know most of death scenes on the sick bed or in battle testify to the fortitude and even the indifference with which the approaching end is nearly always met. With dissolving strength of body comes a loss of feeling, and when death comes in the just order of nature as the close of a full life it is rather welcomed than shunned.

It is the loss of continuous personality which is the true source of dread. How strangely the sophism of Epicurus sounds to the keenly-feeling European of to-day! "That which is not felt is nothing to us"! Yes, but the shadow of this negation falling before him strikes chill upon the spirit of the yet warm-feeling man, the abhorrence from this passage to a state of not feeling. It is for this that Western religions have striven to feed with convincing images a belief in personal immortality, and it is the fading of these images, among so many who have lost confidence in the traditional religions, that is a secret cause of so much sorrow and anguish among men and women of all classes. For it is not merely the "intellectuals" who have undergone this loss of confidence in personal immortality; a certain sceptical spirit of the age, not clearly rational in form, has busily sapped the faith of the common people. It is less the rejection of a creed than the fading of a vision. The future life is becoming unsubstantial, unreal, for the modern man. There is, we think, a wide recognition of the fact among the leaders of thought to-day, and divines are beginning to recast their theology, philosophers to repair their cosmic teaching, scientists to make new contributions to alleviate the heart-ache which proceeds

from a weakening belief in personal immortality. To find satisfactions for keen desires is the actual work to which all the intellectual and spiritual processes set themselves, and so long as the passion for personal immortality survives, religion, philosophy, science, and art will find it food. The juggling of spiritualism, the more pretentious refinements of psychical research, the speculative physics of Dr. Lodge, the personalism and pragmatism of the school of philosophy which Professor James so brilliantly represents, not to speak of the New Theology, are all largely motived, consciously or sub-consciously, by this pain of frustrated personality in modern man. It is the sentimental demand for personal continuity beyond the dissolution of the body that gives the leading interest to these speculative studies.

The latest accession is the consolation of biology. "The Philosophy of Long Life," by M. Finot (John Lane) is an endeavor by a learned Frenchman to furnish what he terms a new hope of immortality by expounding the doctrine of the animate solidarity of the universe, as attested by a gathering volume of evidence from several sciences. It seeks, first, following the researches of Professor Mechnikoff and other biologists, to show what science can do to substitute a natural for an unnatural death. If every one was sufficiently well born and bred, and worked and lived under such favorable conditions as to live out in vigor his full term of human life, death would have lost its sting; for the gradually waning life, death would become a desired haven of repose, and even the sorrow of friends would be assuaged by the sense of completeness which attended such a passing. It is, indeed, a just pride of science that the joint efforts of modern therapeutics, hygiene, and sanitation have, by the large reduction of infantile mortality and the

successful defence of adult life against diseases which carried off so many of our ancestors in the prime of life, not merely lengthened the average duration of life, but sensibly lightened the burden of anguish felt for those prematurely snatched from us. Here, indeed, is one of the most unquestionable gains of modern civilization. This is a right "return to Nature," to make death no more than the dropping off of a fully-ripened life. Secure for everyone his full right of life, then surely it would come to pass that "No one should consider death or think of it as worse than going from one room to another."

But when Science passes from this legitimate consolation to reconstitute upon a basis of universal animation a doctrine of bodily immortality which shall replace that personal survival which most men crave for themselves, and almost all for those who on this earth are dear to them, a curious crassness of feeling seems to cloud her vision. M. Finot gathers, indeed, from a variety of modern scientific sources a most stimulating array of witnesses, physical, chemical, botanical, and biological, to establish the conception of a unity of Nature suffused throughout by a single spirit of life, organic, animate, conscious, even purposive, with differences only of degree and of complexity. The behavior of crystals, the creative unions of chemical elements, the cellular theory of metals, the laboratory imitations of animal chemistry, the researches of Messrs. Loeb and others on the borderland between the animate and the supposed inanimate, the experiments in the comparative conduct of metals, vegetable and animal fibre under the same stimuli, though not yet enabling us to bridge experimentally the gulf between "dead" and "living" matter, certainly go far towards sustaining the spiritual monism or universal continuity towards which sheer

logic has inclined most philosophers. The confident assertion of Seneca, "Exigua pars est vitae quam nos vivimus," is certainly in process of ever clearer corroboration. The old rigid barriers between the inorganic and the organic, the insensate and the sensitive, the unconscious and the conscious, can no longer be maintained. But to convert this interesting speculation of the unity of cosmic life into a gospel of personal consolation for those called upon to face death for themselves, or for those dear to them, surely betrays a strange obtuseness to the emotional verities. "The intimate ties which unite the exterior world, men, plants, animals, inert and organic matter, are shown most plainly in the phenomena of the life which is common to all. Our return to the earth is thus only a return to the universal life, to the supreme energy which binds up all things in an indissoluble chain. Beyond this life, beyond its incongruous appearances, immortality engulfs, reforms, and rejuvenates in its breast, vast as the universe, all the partial eclipses of life. All things return there, and with indefatigable power are reborn into the sunlight." Nothing perishes. With the dissolution of the body is the accompanying dissolution of the soul passing into many smaller souls or into new psychic combinations as real, as purposeful, as valuable, in the continuous career of Nature, as that for which they are released by the death and decay of the human frame.

Whether this doctrine be true or not, it is not new, but a curious interest attaches to the eager confidence of the author that the acceptance of this cosmic immortality will satisfy the craving for personal survival after death, and will satisfactorily replace the consolations of outworn religious creeds. Is it, indeed, possible that the scientific attitude towards life will in time produce such a re-orientation of the emo

tions that men will lose all the special joys, and the travelling company of his

value they attribute now to the unique phenomenon of personality, content to merge the sense of self into that belonging to the cosmos, or to any fragment of it, with complete complacency? For the biologist to see in death "only a new form of life" is reasonable enough, for that is what it is from the standpoint of his study. But for him to suppose that this fragmentary resurrection can satisfy the passionate affections which gather round a loved personality of a parent, a child, a friend, is surely an amazing testimony to the sterilizing influence of science when detached from life. Among the many modes of sentimentalism that have arisen in modern times, the scientific sentimentalism of such a passage as the following deserves interested recognition: "And the dying man, while commending his soul to Heaven, I will salute with one of his last smiles the mysterious properties, the unknown The Nation,

numerous descendants which await him in the tomb." Considering that the whole course of civilization, at any rate in the Western world, has gone to strengthen the conception of individual personality, and to intensify its emotional value, no theory of death, biological or other, which fails to make provision for continuity of this central personality, at any rate in its psychical character, seems likely to afford any real consolation to man in his deepest sorrow. The notion of man ever attaining such a "centre of indifference" that in the literal sense "all is one to him," and the spirits of the human beings who have lived in the closest circle of his interests and affections are equally valued by him when conceived as animating millions of little, scattered, unknown forms, is surely the wildest imagination to which the mind of man has ever committed itself.

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