Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

counter might find out their mistake before they could escape. It seemed like giving things away, and as a matter of fact it was, for the sugar had been requisitioned from hospital stores, in order, apparently, that the visiting delegates might get the notion that things in Petrograd were not so bad as people said.

To tales of peasant simplicity and 'darkness,' there was no end. Instead of idolizing the peasant, as educated Russians and foreigners-used to do, when he was merely a sort of goodnatured domestic animal, the fashion, now that the educated classes had become almost strangers in their own country, was to harp continually on his stupidity and cussedness. It makes a great deal of difference, of course, whether one sees the simple moujik against such a background as, for instance, an annual review on the Champ de Mars, or whether the moujiks, themselves, are romping round Mars field, monarchs of all they survey. Here is a day's grist of anecdotes the kind of thing, true or not, one was always hearing:

The peasants of X-were suffering for rain. They told the priest they thought they had done wrong to put the words 'Provisional Government' in the usual prayer for the royal family, and that they should pray as of old for the Tsar. The priest said he had no right to make the change, but finally consented, after a long discussion, and there was a regulation old-fashioned chant for Tsar Nicholas II and the imperial family. Within three hours there was a magnificent downpour, and the whole neighborhood are now enthusiastic monarchists.

At Tobolsk, where the Tsar and his family were confined, the peasants, seeing how often priests visited the house, decided that Nicholas must be a good

VOL. 121-NO. 5

man and that they had done him an injustice. So the house was surrounded day and night by peasants on their knees praying for forgiveness.

-

In Penza, they threw flour in the river so that the bourgeois — 'bourzhooy,' as they say-should not get it. Having taken the land from one proprietor and had no success with the crop, they begged him to take it back again on the old terms.

Old General A- had to make a request of one of the new ministers, whose office was in a former palace. The minister had no doorkeeper, and in his stead had thriftily given employment to his two sons, little boys with colds. They sat on either side of the door, both snuffling and wiping their noses. 'Is the minister in?' asked old General A. 'Yes,' replied one of the youngsters sliding down from his chair; 'wait a minute [snuff] and I'll go [snuff] and tell him!'

My landlady's cook saw a procession coming down the street with a red banner and the familiar word 'svoboda' (freedom) on it. 'Here comes another liberty!' she said. How could Russia be a free country, she asked, when the Tsar was in prison.

Rsays that his dvornik (a sort of doortender) was not feeling well, and was told by somebody that he ought to stop drinking coffee. 'How can coffee be bad for you?' he demanded. ‘Look at the Germans! They drink more coffee than anybody in the world.'

The Bolsheviki have declared Breshko-Breshkovska, the 'Grandmother of the Revolution,' she is 74 years old, -reactionary, in spite of her years of exile and life of service for Russia. But for a time the revolution brought the venerable revolutionist poetic justice, and during the autumn, she lived in two pleasant old rooms just up under the roof of the Winter Palace.

Any one could call during certain hours, and I dropped in one gray morning. One of the old palace servants, a tall, bearded functionary, still wearing the old long blue-and-gold coat, met me on the ground floor and took my hat. 'Ah, Babushka!' he said. His manner changed at once, and with a playful, almost familiar air, he led me up stairway after stairway, hung with beautiful old tapestries, to the top floor.

One of the surprising things about the Winter Palace, so huge and monumental from without, is the number of charming little private apartments stuck into it at all levels. This was one of them a snug little retreat, warm, rich, and restful, with a few dusky old Flemish paintings on the wall, a mahogany bed behind a heavy mahogany screen. A short-haired, rather 'artistic' looking young woman acted as secretary, and there were several secretarial young men. 'Babushka' herself, a survivor of the days when typewriters were unknown, and of years of prison life during which one was fortunate to have even pen and paper, sat at a big table by the low window, writing rapidly scooting over the paper, as ladies write letters in plays.

Several visitors waited their turn. One, a vigorous, middle-aged man with spectacles, Babushka embraced and kissed, Russian-fashion, sounding smacks on both cheeks. When my turn came, she shook hands and said in English, with a strong accent, 'My friend, what can I do for you?' I said I had come merely to pay my respects. We talked for a little, with some difficulty, for she was hard of hearing and out of practice in English. She was busy with committees on school improvement, women's matters, and so on than she could handle, she said, yet everybody wanted her name. But then, she had never had time for anything but to work for her country.

[ocr errors]

more

[blocks in formation]

but there's never the time.' The Russian people had never known liberty, she said, and did n't know how to use it now. The Allies must be indulgent and help all they could.

While we talked, one of the old palace servants, in his long coat, came in with a tray. 'Here is your lunch, Babushka,' he smiled; 'are you ready for it now?' They all treated her with this half-smiling deference, as if her nickname 'Grandmother' were really true. Her manner was that of one who accepted this as right and natural, looked on herself as a servant of the revolution, and was not without a certain detached appreciation of how satisfactorily she filled the rôle. Her vigor and readiness to talk, and unquenchable optimism made her very different from that other revolutionary heroine of the same day and school, Vera Figner, about whom there was always something of the 'lady,' permanently stamped by autocratic cruelty, and starved of hope, and left with a fixed, almost petrified sadness and disillusion. Yet, Breshko-Breshkovska herself belongs to the 'noble' class, her people were land- and serf-owners in the government of Chernigov, northeast of Kiev. It was their own servants and serfs who convinced her of class injustice, she said; and after the serfs were freed in 1861, she joined in the 'return to the people' which took so many young idealists of that time. With a pack on her back, she set out in peasant costume, preaching that the land should be owned by those who till it. The peasants agreed to this, but could not believe that the Tsar was not their kind father and that the fault lay in

him, and not in those around him. Some maps she carried with her were seen by a peasant woman, who reported to the police and she was arrested. Exiled to Siberia in 1874, in the neighborhood of Lake Baikal, she was shifted afterward to various neighborhoods, and endured all sorts of discomfort, yet kept her health and her enthusiasm. She was in Siberia when word came from Kerensky that she was free, and she went at once by wagon to the nearest railroad and reached Moscow in April of last year.

The autumn sun holds later in Moscow than in Petrograd and there are more pleasant little corners for it to rest on. They meet one at every new street

old world bits of Kremlin wall or city rampart, the side of a church covered with antique-looking frescoes, a blind alley, at the end of which the warm sun blazes on a garden wall, the yellowing chestnut or birches hanging over it, and above them beet-shaped little church domes in gilt, or green, or indigo blue. It is a comfortable old town, eighteenth century in all but its newest parts, and mediæval in the rest. Marxian socialism seems curiously out of place here, the débâcle gathering in the Capitol was felt less, and people talked more hopefully of what might be done.

Some of the artists of the Moscow theatres in Russia, players are often serious artists, like writers and painters were especially interesting, and though bewildered and depressed like all educated Russians, full of dreams, nevertheless, of what they might do to educate the people and build up a new sense of nationality and patriotism. A union had been formed, partly to protect the players themselves in the new conditions bound to result from the general disorder and the probable withdrawal of government subsidies, partly

to broaden the influence of the theatre itself. There was one scheme, for instance, for a sort of big municipal theatre, in which the various Moscow companies should play in turn, at reduced prices.

'Of course,' they said, 'those who loved Russia and tried to work for her in the past, were generally sent to jail for it. Our people had never been allowed to be patriotic. We must begin at the beginning. But there is no end to what might be done if we can act with our hearts as well as our heads and put the new ideas into emotional terms, so that the people will be reached by them.'

Stanislavsky, the director and one of the actors of the famous Art Theatre, was full of these hopes, as well as of new ideas for his own theatre. Among the latter was that of inviting foreign companies to visit them, after the war, to give performances in their own language, and, so far as possible, just as they would be given at home. The name 'Stanislavsky' is for the public, and not that of the old Moscow family, of which the director of the Art Theatre is a member his own attitude and that of his associates, was illustrated when they declined to be photographed, with the explanation that, while their pictures in costume might be found at the regular dealers in such things 'their personal lives were their own.' In repose if he ever is in repose a tall grenadier of a man, mentally, Stanislavsky is a bird on the wing. Busy with a dozen things at once, and one of the hardest men to find in Moscow, he is, when one does find him, altogether simple and hospitable, alive with ideas and sympathy and quick contagious charm-a very unusual example of the artist-executive.

In addition to revisiting the Art Theatre, I saw something this year of its two 'workshops': the little 'Studio,'

used, as its name implies, as a sec-. ondary and experimental stage, especially for the more intimate sort of plays; and the 'Second Studio,' used entirely by the young folks of the Art Theatre's dramatic school. In straining to project themselves to the limits of a large audience, Stanislavsky said, actors necessarily fell into a habit of over-accent, and lost that quiet realism and sense of character which is the peculiar quality of the Art Theatre's plays. To correct this, their players returned, every now and then, to the 'Studio,' and appeared in little one-act pieces and even monologue character sketches; then, after this artistic vacation, resumed their regular work.

He spoke of their method of breaking in new players those, that is to say, already trained in other companies and of rehearsing a new piece. The newcomers were generally told to forget everything they had learned. A player might merely sit on the stage day after day, trying all the time to get a clearer feeling of what the writer had in mind to 'live into' the part. Bit by bit the part would be built up, and then came the task of finding the one tendency running through the various characters, and drawing them all together. I was reminded of this talk later, while watching the presentation of one of Dostoyevsky's stories; not a 'dramatization,' in our sense of the word, but the original dialogue played literally, with sufficient characterization and stage management to give the impression of unity, a kind of novelplay with which the Art Theatre has had unique success. In one scene twelve or fifteen characters were gathered round a dinner-table. A certain amount of 'story' held the scene together, yet each one of the group was

enveloped, so to speak, in the most extraordinary way in his own little aura of temperament and experience - each was a Chekov story in himself.

The Moscow Art Theatre makes one feel as Hazlitt used to say he felt that he but existed through the day and began to live in the evening in the theatre. It is not a 'show' one sees there, even in the best sense of the word, but a finer, richer, more nourishing kind of real life. This is it, you feel, this is the real thing.

Even the ushers are different, and when they close the doors, as they do before each curtain rises, no one is permitted to enter afterward, and there is no applause, they do it, not with the air of mere employees, but of those who, in their own small way, are also artists and responsible for the play's success. An evening at the Art Theatre when a Chekov play is on the venerable Prince Kropotkin, back in Moscow, after his life of exile, was watching the 'Cherry Garden' the night I was there is one of the fine flowers of civilized city life; one of those thingsand there are n't many of them which one would really miss if one had to spend all one's life on a Wyoming ranch.

There is nothing in the papers these days of Stanislavsky and Russians of his class, but they are all there in their broken and bewildered Russia, nevertheless, and sooner or later, must come into their own again. And at a moment when every blatherskite can heap ridicule on the Russian people, and talk of their ignorance and immaturity, it is just as well to keep in mind some of the things in which Russians are grown-up, in which we, comparatively speaking, are mere children, and vulgar ones at that.

THE DARK HOUR

BY WILBUR DANIEL STEELE

THE returning ship swam swiftly through the dark; the deep, interior breathing of the engines, the singing of wire stays, the huge whispering rush of foam streaming the water-line made up a body of silence upon which the sound of the doctor's footfalls, coming and going restlessly along the near deck, intruded only a little-a faint and personal disturbance. Charging slowly through the dark, a dozen paces forward, a dozen paces aft, his invisible and tormented face bent forward a little over his breast, he said to himself,

'What fools! What blind fools we've been!'

Sweat stood for an instant on his brow, and was gone in the steady onrush of the wind.

The man lying on the cot in the shelter of the cabin companionway made no sound all the while. He might have been asleep or dead, he remained so quiet; yet he was neither asleep nor dead, for his eyes, large, wasted, and luminous, gazed out unwinking from the little darkness of his shelter into the vaster darkness of the night, where a star burned in slow mutations, now high, now sailing low, over the rail of the ship.

Once he said in a washed and strengthless voice, 'That's a bright star, doctor.'

If the other heard, he gave no sign. He continued charging slowly back and forth, his large dim shoulders hunched over his neck, his hands locked behind him, his teeth showing faintly

gray between the fleshy lips which hung open a little to his breathing.

'It's dark!' he said of a sudden, bringing up before the cot in the companionway. 'God, Hallett, how dark it is!' There was something incoherent and mutilated about it, as if the cry had torn the tissues of his throat. 'I'm not myself to-night,' he added, with a trace of shame.

Hallett spoke slowly from his pillow. 'It would n't be the subs to-night? You're not that kind, you know. I've seen you in the zone. And we're well west of them by this, anyhow; and as you say, it's very dark.'

'It's not that darkness. Not that!'

Again there was the same sense of something tearing. The doctor rocked for a moment on his thick legs. He began to talk.

'It's this war-' His conscience protested: 'I ought not to go on so it's not right, not right at all-talking so to the wounded the dying - I should n't go on so to the dying-' And all the while the words continued to tumble out of his mouth. 'No, I'm not a coward - not especially. You know I'm not a coward, Hallett. You know that. But just now, to-night, somehow, the whole black truth of the thing has come out and got me jumped out of the dark and got me by the neck, Hallett. Look here; I've kept a stiff lip. Since the first I've said, "We'll win this war." It's been a matter of course. So far as I know, never a hint of doubt has shadowed my mind, even when things went bad. "In

« AnkstesnisTęsti »