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niev's pictures of his native Orel! It was all there. Broad-faced peasantwomen in the fields; and booted men still, on backward estates, treading in circles on the primitive threshingfloors. Manor-houses, at long intervals: some well kept-up, many neglected. Formal gardens surrounding the manorhouses, lengthening off into a park, after the manner of Versailles. Back of the park, woods- the interminable Russian woods, but here less sombre and dense, lightened by clearings and populated by oak and birch.
The woods were recklessly cut into by the landholders. At the approach of winter, it was not difficult to realize that forests would have to be felled to feed the porcelain stoves and ovens of the big houses through the coming months. There were warmth, and comfort, and a pleasant cheer inside, even in the central drawing-rooms, often of magnificent proportions. But the real Russia was outside. The feel of it was in the long flat vastness, absorbing the human beings who lived upon it; melting them into itself; explaining all sociological and religious fanaticisms.
Mystic and communistic tendencies are everywhere in Russia. It is, however, a mistake to conceive of the communism in the precise meaning that the Western nations give the word. With us, all theories tending toward the socializing of wealth presuppose some species of regulation. With Russians such matters never mean a plan, to be thought out with the head, so much as they mean a vague · one might say organic - propulsion.
The typical Russian does not crave order, system, constructiveness. He has a natural dislike of these. Not an active suspicion of them so much as a passive disinclination for them. Know a Russian well, whether in his own country or abroad, and you will find this to be true. The men and women
are alike subjective; the men even more so than the women. They ap prehend things with great intellectual clearness; they feel deeply multisidedly. But they seem instinctively to evade the objective precipitation of knowing and feeling into a formula. It is like condensing a nebula.
The usual Anglo-Saxon way of expressing all this is to say that Russians are not conventional. It is certainly true that they do not react to objective interests in our own fashion. The director of a great artistic enterprise which visited the United States a few years ago met attempts to interest him in many of our representative activities with thinly veiled indifference and ennui; but he sat, night after night, listening with unflagging and delighted attention to the exotic improvisations of a negro restaurant-player, beating a drum.
"That man is a great artist,' he
There was something more than the professional absorption in one's specialty, in this selection of something to be enthusiastic about, where the whole structure of the surrounding national life obviously appeared so lacking in interest.
Again and again an educated Russian will respond in such fashion to an unexpected flash, an impression, an intuition. Most often, too, the spark strikes out of a background of inertia. An all-around and sustained interest in things at large is not characteristic of him as it is of an American.
This applies to the communistic bent of Russians as well as to everything else. While Paul T was extreme
in his methods, he was certainly not alone in his views. There have been potential Tolstoys in the Russian nobility, for decades. It is of common knowledge that the land-owning class paved the way for the Revolution.
It did not pave the way in exactly the same manner that the philosophers, and the followers of Rousseau, paved it for the French Revolution. Rousseau had theories. The desire for reforms The desire for reforms among educated Russians has always been, though they may scarcely have been conscious of the fact themselves, less a logical intellectual conviction than an état d'âme. Primarily the communism of a Tolstoy, a Paul T—, is not the development of a sense of the oneness of all men. It is rather the development of a sense of the oneness, not merely of humanity, but of Life itself.
Back of the Revolution there is a movement in the universities: the constructive element of which Miliukov is a type; and class-conscious forces that have grown up in the workshops of the cities, in the last decades. But further back than these groups are the masses of the nation. And they, whether illiterate peasants, or bourgeois, or nobility, represent Russian character. Of this character the greatest power, and also the greatest weakness, is the unwillingness to limit or restrain personality for any end whatsoever. This unwillingness, in its turn, springs from the deep, to Western nations incomprehensible, Russian sense of primordial Life.
Of course this is the secret of the spell of their literature, their music, their theatre, their dance. The Western nations have succumbed, practically without criticism, to the sincerity, the freshness, the spontaneity, of the Russian as an artist. He is richer in this field than we are; and we know it. He is more authentic. He dares so much, on that account, that we would not dare. His novels reveal the stupidities and the meannesses of his nature and ours, along with the exalted beauties, and all recorded with an equal devo
tion. Since it is all life, one sometimes suspects that the Russian writer finds the one, in its way, as attractive as the other. That is an Asiatic inclination; and it makes naturally for incoherence and cloudiness.
'Man is reducing himself to his minimum in order to make amplest room for his organizations,' says Rabindranath Tagore. That, indeed, is the keynote to the Western world; but not to Russia. That country is not interested in institutions as institutions; and it has no aptitude for building up institutions; because any sort of machinery must perforce curb the course, and trim the sail, of Life. Here again is a suggestion of the mysticism of the East.
There was an intelligent, cultivated Russian woman who pleaded for hours with her fourteen-year-old daughter to promise solemnly that she would never marry. The mother was earnest to the point of vehemence. Her own marriage appeared to be happy enough; her objection to the possible marriage of the daughter-idolized, as most Russian children of that class are- was that she would not be always and perfectly free to do as she pleased. The fear of restraint was greater than the natural conservativeness of woman where social ties are concerned. It is not at all infrequent with Russian women. But still more frequent, and not devoid of an element of the comic, is the species of terror which the men will show at the thought of feminine domination in marriage.
'I could never think of marrying,' said old Prince G, 'for I knew what my fate would be. Every Russian lives under his wife's slipper.'
Barring an occasional outburst of terrible Asiatic temper on the part of paterfamilias, — usually soon, and contritely, repented of, this is a fact. The Russian woman is always the
stronger. She has a vitality and energy which the men seem unable to cope with. The stories of Tschaikovsky's erratic marriage and terrified flight, like the aversion, founded on something very like fear, of Strindberg for women (Strindberg being a type of Swede that shows many Russian proclivities, even as much Russian blood has percolated into certain parts of Sweden), receive many explanatory commentaries, if one has known something of the more intimate aspects of Russian existence.
Overdeveloped individualism, and defective coördination reach through all the strata of national life. An abundance of delightful, picturesque, brilliant, and very lovable personalities but not an organized society.
The lack of order infects the households, the domestic arrangements, where there is frequently the greatest comfort, and even opulence, mixed with the queerest makeshifts. One thinks of Madame C, who had some beautiful unmounted pearls which she kept in a pill-box. She remains in the memory as a symbol of one of the Asiatic strains that run through this land. After all, the pearls were the important things, were they not?
If they were not so normally amiable and easy-going, one suspects that the Russians would often be very impatient with our precise Western ways: our 'proper thing in the proper place'; our paraphernalia generally. They are more casual - without excluding a barbaric love of luxury, in certain contingencies.
Amiable they almost always are. And if they are not, it will usually be found that the deficiency is in some way connected with what they feel to be the imperious and legitimate demands of their nature, clamoring for expression. It cannot be denied that so much self-introspection and self-pity
become rather disillusioning at times. Especially with Russians who do not stand at the top of the ladder, there is an almost childish insistence on fate's unkind discriminations. The course of friendship with Russians of either sex may have some difficulties, some unerpected misunderstandings, for analogous reasons. 'Very attractive for a time, but one grows very tired of it all,' was the way in which one American diplomat, several years in Petrograd, summed it up.
That is one view. And there is a background for it, in the eyes of people who are of more temperate stock, and who, in the Anglo-Saxon manner, consider the 'cheerful acceptance of the commonplace,' which has been called the Englishman's distinctive contribution to human ethics, the better way.
And yet there is the other view. And it is epitomized for one in an unforgettable picture of a strange funeral procession, wending its way along the roads of Central Russia toward a small white church with green cupolas. As far as the eye could reach waved the fields of yellow wheat, to a far-away horizon, level as the sea. A very young girl, scarcely more than a child, clad in white, and with unbound hair, was being borne on an open white bier, by peasants. Followed parents and friends of the child, also in white, and more peasants. Not an habitual funeral procession. But the mother of the child, whose stony face stared straight ahead, had willed it so. From the big house, built in the days of Nicholas I, after the model of the Grand Trianon, they had come; from the place where the child had been born to her final restingplace, the mother to the last refusing one concession to usage, keeping her eyes on the child's face up to the end. And in the countenances of those following peasants there was something that understood.
GOD'S LITTLE JOKE
A STORY OF THE POLYGAMOUS CITY
BY AN ELDERLY SPINSTER
FARKHANDA was peeking out through the outside curtain one morning as I passed, and she called me in. She ought not to have been peeking out, but I forgot that fact. For when I saw her there, suddenly a wave of memory swept over me, and a flood of homesickness and love struck me all unprepared. One sees sometimes, in an Indian city, a face exactly like some dear face at home. A man has collected tickets for years at the Lucknow station, who looks most pleasantly like a favorite aunt of mine. As Farkhanda salaamed to me that morning, a college friendship came back sweet and invigorating: the love of a girl adored by a whole campus-full of women; one who had danced and dived and bowled, played golf and tennis and hockey, better than any of us. And about the time we got our degrees, we learned, to our amazement, that during those mysterious summers which none of us ever shared with her, for the straightening of her crooked spine, she used to lie bound in an iron cast in a New York hospital, and all her athletic strength was the result of her long struggle against disease. And when we understood why she loved moving, singing, even breathing, her gameness became to us almost religion.
And here was Farkhanda standing before me as Betsey used to stand, ex
pressing more vitality motionless than most women express in action.
'I saw you passing,' she said. 'I wanted to talk to you.'
"That was nice of you,' I answered. 'Where you going?'
'Oh, you have a school? Where is it? Let me see your books.'
'Can you read?' I asked, showing her a Hindustani book of hygiene for girls.
She began at the first page.
'I know my letters. What's that word? Teach me.'
"This is too hard,' I explained. 'You need a primer.'
'Well, I'll get one.' She dispatched a servant to the bazaar for the book. 'Can you read English as well as Hindustani?' she asked.
'Even better,' I answered, truthfully.
'I can't read anything but the Koran,' she sighed.
'You're new here, are n't you?' 'My father-in-law has just been transferred to the treasury department office here. Let me see your hat.'
I took off my heavy sun hat gladly, and she examined it with care inside and out, and tested the sharpness of the hatpins.
'What do you wash your hair with? Why don't you braid it? How do you fasten it on? Why don't you put oil in it? Where did you get your English
shoes? Why do you wear stockings such hot weather? Why do you wear such a lot of clothes?'
She was investigating my underskirt. She herself had on three white garments a piece of white lawn tied around her for a skirt, a long white kurta, which fell nearly to her knees, and a sheer veil, whose point hung to the floor behind her.
'What sort of soap do you use? What's your caste? Where's your father? How many children have you?'
These preliminaries I had heard many times before, but never had they been asked in so thorough and competent a way, and never had I answered them with more relish. By the time the primer came, I had sufficiently accounted for my extraordinary self; so she opened the book at the beginning, and went on spelling out page after page, until I stopped her.
'That's a very long lesson for one day,' I said. 'We'll stop here.'
'Stop? Why?' she demanded. want to read it all to-day.'
'I must go.' I insisted. 'I've got work to do.'
'Work! You!' she exclaimed. 'Have n't you servants? What sort of work have you to do?'
'I'm busy all day,' I answered emphatically, at the hospital, or the school, or at home.'
'But what do you do?' she questioned in surprise. 'I never can think of anything to do.' She looked helplessly around the high walls of the courtyard. 'There is nothing to do here. You stay to dinner, and we'll read the book through.'
I left in a little while, explaining that I could not possibly spend every morning with her.
'Never mind,' she said; 'I'll come to the hospital to-morrow. I want to see the doctor.'
"Yes?' I said.
I knew from her face what she was going to say, and she said it. 'I have no children.'
'You're a child yourself,' I answered. 'Don't be in such a hurry.'
'I'm fifteen,' she answered soberly. 'I've been married four years.'
Then, as I said good-bye to her goodnatured old mother-in-law, I felt that I had lacked courtesy in letting the girl absorb all my attention. Always afterward, however, when I left that house I felt the same way.
The next morning Farkhanda and her mother-in-law, in the stiffest and proudest of silks and the stiffest and proudest of manners, waited for me at the bougainvillea vine, their outer veils scarcely undone. They looked around over the assembled women and babies with a most aristocratic indifference, which they maintained until I took them to the verandah off which the compounding room opens. At the halfdoor, where a dozen women were waiting for their prescriptions to be filled, we paused to look inside. All around the room were rows of large labeled bottles, such as one sees in drug stores at home, and drawers, and cupboards. Two girls, in the blue cotton uniforms of Indian nurses, wearing white caps instead of veils, were measuring and mixing medicines.
When Farkhanda saw the compounders, her face grew eager in spite of herself.
'What's in those bottles? Who are these girls? Why are they dressed that way? May they give any medicine they like? Why don't they taste it?'
Her mother-in-law accounted for the girls with one word, and that was the oldest word of Moslem contempt for Christians. I explained that the doctor saw each patient, wrote a 'letter' saying what each needed, and that the girls carried out her written orders.