Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

holiday, but one not nearly so exciting as those the crowd remembered. The tumbrel had given way to a pumpkin-coach.

The head of the long colorful serpent at last reached the bishop's palace by the Seine, which stood at the left of the cathedral with its dark towers, its peaceful saints and leering gargoyles; then the imperial party passed in.

The musicians, three hundred of the choicest from opera and stage, now struck up; the organ rolled; and to royal marches composed for the occasion, the conqueror took his place on a dais reached by twentytwo steps. Under a crimson canopy, close to a great throne he stood, facing a glittering throng of jeweled head-dresses, and gilt epaulets, that filled the farthest recess of aisle and nave and vault with myriad sparkles. On one side of him stood the archtreasurer with the arch-chancellor; on the right, Joseph and Louis, princes both, and grand elector and grand constable respectively. Josephine stood a step below, surrounded by her ladies-in-waiting.

The mass was now performed, the orotund Latin rolled out; the organ boomed; the crimson coronation robe was placed on the conqueror's shoulders; the laurel crown, the sword and scepter sparkling with brilliants, were blessed, and a frail old man reached out pale hands for the crown. But brusquely, for such a ceremony, Napoleon seized the golden laurel and placed it on his brow. At once a murmur ran through the crowd-one might have sworn it was from the ghostlike lips of the sainted who once had trod these aisles and whose likenesses now stood sculptured in stone

-a protest at this throwing down the gage to the established traditions, this gesture signifying that at last the Church was inferior to the State and to that little man from Corsica. But at once his eyes swept the throng. Here were the lordliest and the most powerful in the land, but his creatures. "Defy me," the glance said, "who dare!" And one understood why they were below those steps and he above them.

But now it was Josephine's turn. The dames-du-palais and ladies-inwaiting had carefully robed her in silver brocade, studded, too, with gold bees, a little smaller than Napoleon's, while wrists, shoulder and brow were scintillant with richly gemmed bracelets, clasps and bandeau.

Softly lustrous were the dark blue eyes; and in bearing, Marie Antoinette was not more queenly. But Josephine had this advantage; she showed no hauteur, but a soft glance for every one there. All were glad to see her happy, all but Savary and cynical Talleyrand and Fouché, ever the death's-head at any banquetand her emperor's relatives.

She herself was very happy. The shoals of divorce seemed to be safely past. Had not her lord and master said to his brothers when they urged the parting—oh, she had heard it— one can hear everything in a palace"Why, now that I am powerful, should I put her away? My wife is now a good wife who does no harm. She will merely play at being empress, have diamonds, fine dresses, the trifles that will please her age. To give her these is but bare justice. I will not make her unhappy. She shall be crowned if it costs me one hundred thousand men!" Perhaps,

like the Hindu holy men, he thought thus to acquire merit; perhaps he protested too much. At any rate the lady was reassured.

She too had a coronation robe, the train entrusted to Hortense and, by a cruel irony, to Eliza, Pauline and Caroline. It was very heavy with its seed pearls, but the fair Hortense held up her corner nobly. Not so the three sisters. When the signal came for Josephine's advance to the dais, they held fast, budging not an inch; their weight on the robe almost tore the diamond clasps from Josephine's shoulder and ludicrously threw her out of step. Napoleon from the throne saw the trick, glanced at his sisters-once-and the procession moved forward.

Before him Josephine knelt, and with some affection he placed the diadem, topped by a gold ball and studded with emeralds and amethysts, on the chestnut coils. He He appeared genuinely glad so to please her, and not a little proud of the impression she made.

It was the only softly human note in the proceedings. Sometimes he himself appeared bored, stifling a yawn; and when the pope had poured the sacred oil on his head and it ran down his cheek, he brushed it away in irritation. He had been eager to hurry through with it all, perhaps because something was missing. His mother and Lucien were not there to see him crowned.

Whatever the reason, he did hurry the gorgeous spectacle just a little; and at last he marched out to more hosannas, and rode back in the pumpkin-coach to slip off his robes and don with a sigh of relief the green

grenadier's coat. Then, while the people danced and the trees of the Tuileries flashed their innumerable colored lights and fireworks made bright the bridges of the Seine, he sat down at his desk and planned a campaign. He was glad to be at work. It had been a splendid fêteday, but it had been just a little cold.

22

In another capital, far to the South, sat a woman who in spite of her toil-worn hands, looked as though she should have been an empress. Advance descriptions of the grand festivities had come to her, but she had not been impressed. Indeed she had called it a circus, though sorrow lay in her heart. So that afternoon, while the organ rolled and Te Deums rose to high heaven, she counted her hoard of gold louis. Not for herself, but for this imperious son who rode so high over the world, but who one day might have need of them and of her.

And now it was night. The mists rose, beautiful in the moonlight streaming over the seven hills, but very deadly. By the beams she could see broken pillars where other Cæsars had trod. Where were they? Where was he, her son? Already his story was told, though he knew it not.

Thus they sat, leagues apart, the two who should have been together

his pen still scratching, while the valet replaced the burned-out tapers, -she by the window, watching those ghostly legions wheeling and countermarching through the mists and down the broad pathway of the

[blocks in formation]

The End

"W

Joseph Anthony

RITING novels is such

a delightful occu

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

pation!" said a charming lady who came to see Joseph Conrad one afternoon.

Conrad thought otherwise, for he set the good lady down as a torturer, and wrote to his friend John Galsworthy, in 1909:

"I sit twelve hours at the table, sleep six, and worry the rest of the time, feeling age creeping on and looking at those I love."

And that is the note that recurs most frequently in the close-packed two volumes of G. Jean-Aubry's "Joseph Conrad: Life and Letters."

Essentially, the causes of Conrad's lasting gloom were inherited. His father was exiled and broken by the Russian crown for setting down unpermitted dreams of Russian freedom; his fragile mother forfeited her life by accepting the sentence for herself as well. Conrad Korzeniowski all his life was as homesick as his parents had been, and found no cure for what ailed him even when he became Joseph Conrad and a British subject. He did learn to speak of "foreigners" with the proper tone of English condescension, and to address his friends as "dear old boy"; but he never felt his roots in the place where he was living-not even in Poland when he returned, for then

[ocr errors][merged small]

An equally important part of the Conrad heritage was an inability to compromise. He was a born irreconcilable, looking at the world through standards of absolute honor, faith and loyalty, and therefore finding it bad. But he had a sense. of humor-a sardonic one.

Conrad's "delightful occupation" of writing novels, brought him, after he had written thirteen books, the sum of five pounds as a year's royalties on all of them. It looked very much as though he would have to take comfort in what posterity might do for him. But on that subject he had expressed his opinion in a letter to Cunninghame Graham, twenty-two years before:

"Posterity will be busy thieving, lying, selling its little soul for sixpence (from the noblest motives) and will remember no one, except perhaps one or two quite too atrocious mountebanks."

When prosperity came later, Conrad was racked by gout and the fear that his powers were slipping. Fortune brought him some favors, but always like the cow that yielded a large pailful of milk and proceeded to kick it over.

But Jean-Aubry points out that in the last analysis Conrad was his own destiny. Born of an inland people,

he chose the life of the sea against all precedent and with none of the pressure of circumstance that goes into the making of most careers. In the same way, after having achieved his ambition to become captain of a sailing vessel, he decided he must command a steamboat on the Congo, and patiently and resolutely set to work with that end in view. The only logic in his decisions was that of a tremendous, unexplainable urge. However destiny may have shaped his ends, here was a man who was always sure to do the rough-hewing for himself.

Where good fortune did intervene for Conrad was in the fact that "Almayer's Folly," his first manuscript, fell into the hands of a young publisher's reader named Edward Garnett. From that time on, Garnett was behind him, encouraging, rebuking, pushing him bodily through a hole in the fence of immortality, with no care for bruised shoulders and ribs. The collection of Conrad's letters to Garnett, to be issued next spring, will throw more light on that situation, but the biographer hasn't missed it.

Mr. Jean-Aubry's book is essentially a piece of scholarship, but of a very human kind. His work in tracing the sources of Conrad's stories and characters to the writer's experiences on the Vidar, the Otago, and the Torrens is valuable, and is saved from pedantry by the realization that Conrad's moods completely recreated everything and everybody he encountered. Every page of these two volumes will be important to lovers of Conrad. Published by Doubleday, Page & Co.

HISTORY WITHOUT REVERENCE

We have had economic histories, biographical histories, histories emphasizing great movements and wars, philosophical, ethnographic and geographic ones. Hendrik Van Loon's own particular contribution is irreverent history. He is no more awed by the mighty figures of the past than a newspaper photographer by Calvin Coolidge, and his particular brand of scholarship, in "America," is as new as to-morrow morning's newspapers on to-night's news-stands.

To be sure, he deals out with his facts, large portions of the opinions of Hendrik Van Loon, but he is pleasingly honest about this. It is as impossible to have history without biases as dinners without cooks, and this writer's set of them gives interesting perspectives. He tells how, during the twelfth century, the herring that the Dutch fishermen were catching, moved from the Baltic to the North Sea, and draws from this cause, by a tortuous route, some effects that reach right down to the New York of to-day. From herring he goes to spices and tobacco. Referring to the Puritans, he records that "Generally speaking, they came for exactly the same reason as Tony the boot-black who makes no bones about it and says, 'America a fina country! I maka da mon.""

Right or wrong, one feels that Van Loon's irreverences are inspired by a very real reverence for the truth. Not being a historian, I don't know whether his theories achieve it or

not.

And, being a historian, neither does he. Published by Boni & Liveright.

POLITICS WITHOUT PAIN

It is easy to find a good portrait of Mohammed, Columbus or Bismarck in our literature, but clear-headed appraisals of Al. Smith, Andrew Mellon or Senator Borah are rare. That is why Walter Lippman's "Men of Destiny" is an important book.

Most writers on politics and international affairs are insufferably dull, and one suspects that the reason is they are secretly bored themselves. Mr. Lippman brings a Wellsian zest to his type-writer in the editorial offices of the New York World, and, being excited about the debt question, the application of the Monroe Doctrine, and the implications of majority rule, he conveys some of that feeling to his reader.

It is hardly possible to write of political subjects and convince every one of your impartiality; and those who believe Mellon to be the greatest secretary of the treasury since Hamilton, will be wrathy at what Mr. Lippman writes. But he has obviously tried to be fair-even toward the philosophical opinions of William Jennings Bryan, which is many people's notion of the height of tolerance.

The finest thing in Mr. Lippman's book is the brief tribute "To Justice Holmes On His Seventy-Fifth Birthday." It's all worth quoting, but this especially:

"At seventy-five, a justice of the Supreme Court and a scholar known wherever the common law is studied, his heart is with the laughing sad men, who have mixed bitterness and beauty." Published by The Macmillan Company.

THREE WOMEN AND A MAN

Louis Bromfield's long legs span the gap between the Victorian novelist and the school that has produced "Main Street," "Many Marriages,' and "Moon Calf." His new novel, "A Good Woman," is, as far as the outlines of its plot are concerned, in the architectural tradition of Thomas Hardy; in mood it belongs to the modernists.

The "good woman" of Mr. Bromfield's story is Emma Downes of the strong chin and the ample bust; the redoubtable Emma, who held her head high when she was deserted by her good-for-nothing husband, who built up a prosperous restaurant, and raised her child to be a missionary. The book fairly vibrates with Emma's firm-footed tread and the sway of her bustles.

Equally good is the character of Philip's wife, that anemic little aspirant to martyrdom. And then there is Aunt Mabelle, a figure in heroic proportions of the enfant terrible the vulgar, irrepressible, delightful Aunt Mabelle, who flaunts her aggressive motherhood in the faces of nice people, and loves to talk of subjects that are not for the ears of men.

All is well with Emma the Dominant, as we begin. She has married her Philip to just the right girl, has sent the two off to Africa, and is contentedly peeling the Zanzibar stamps from the boy's letters. Then the stern God of her faith sends trials to her. Unaccountably, Philip develops thoughts of his own under the blaze of the African sun. One of those letters with the prized Zanzibar stamps, arrives to inform his

« AnkstesnisTęsti »