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difficulty in realizing that he was himself intimately connected with it; somehow he felt something of the aloofness of a mere spectator, unthrilled by excitement, though all the while he was conscious of the fact that he was in the grip of a mortal fear.
His perceptions were sharpened wonderfully. Every object within view Iwas seen with a distinctness of detail which was abnormal, and each one of them seemed to possess a peculiar and insistent interest for him. He noted every stain on the canvas fatigue-kit of his enemy, and caught himself wondering how and by what each one of them had been caused; he spied a mole with coarse hairs sprouting from it on the man's left cheek, and marvelled that the man did not pluck them out instead of leaving such unsightly things to offend the eye; and then he noticed, this time with a shock of astonishment, that the fellow's hands were shaking. Till then Stevenson, inconsequently enough, had felt convinced that he alone was afraid: now it occurred to him suddenly that the German was in no better case. The discovery elated him in an extraordinary fashion. At once he cocked his head, threw back his shoulders, and tried to smile. Regarded as a smile it was a deplorable failure, for the muscles of his face were very stiff in the sockets, but in the circumstances it was not discreditable, and it obviously discomposed the German.
"Etes-vous prêts?" rasped out the voice of the non-commissioned officer. Stevenson, made aware suddenly of the intense preoccupation in which he had been sunk, started violently, nearly dropping his rifle, as he mumbled an unintelligible assent. The German jerked a sound out of himself, half pant, half grunt.
"Un!" cried the voice again. The men raised their rifles to their shoulders, and Stevenson found himself in
stinctively cuddling his chin into the stock in search of an easy position.
"Deux!" He glanced along the dully glinting barrel, and saw at an enormous distance, so it seemed, a shining silver ring suspended in mid-air, encircling a spot of inky blackness. The ring danced this way and that, up and down and from side to side, in a manner which made Stevenson dizzy to watch. The big bruised face of the German, contorted by spasms, leered above it with wide open jaw, as though he were trying to catch that circle of metal in his teeth.
"Trois!" What immense pauses occurred between each word! The ring was revolving madly now, whirling round and round and shooting forth long rays of light of all the colors of the prism, and in that whirling aureola the face of the German was seen monstrous and grimacing, and suddenly grey beneath the purple patches of bruise. Stevenson, in a condition bordering on a hypnotic trance, kept his eyes fixed upon that wheel of blazing flames, the core of which was the tiny silver circle, and almost lost the sense of his own identity. He seemed to be floating in space, drawn irresistibly towards that point of dazzling light, while something throbbed and pulsed, like the engine of a motor-car, filling the world with a great din. It was the sound of his own heart-beats that deafened him.
At last the long torture was ended, the supreme moment had come. Yet for an instant nothing happened. Then the heavens rocked to the roar of a mighty detonation. Stevenson heard something scream in his ear, and felt a cold breath upon his cheek. He had shut his eyes, and dropped his finger from the trigger. Now he opened them, and dropped his rifle to the ready. He looked for the German, and for a minute failed to find him. The
silver ring with its circle of gyrating flames had vanished. A fat ungainly figure was kneeling on the ground shouting for mercy, its useless rifle thrown aside.
Then at last Stevenson arrived at an understanding of what had happened. The German had fired and had missed his aim. He was now completely at the mercy of the Englishman. For the life of him Stevenson, his calm and his self-confidence miraculously restored, could not forbear to raise his rifle, and take deliberate aim at the squirming wretch before him. But the agony which he caused made him convict himself of brutality, and he presently dropped his rifle to the carry, Temple Bar.
opened the breech and jerked the loaded cartridge on to the grass at his feet. "And that was the end of my duel with the German in the Legion of Strangers, sir," he said to me. "And though we were neither of us hurt, I had had more than I wanted. I deserted soon after, and gave myself up to my old Battery, and my major treated me real well, so I'm like to get my stripes before long. You take it from me, sir, there are worse places than a barrack-room of the British Army. I don't hold with having too much truck with foreigners, a man don't know where to have 'em, not after what I have gone through in "The Legion of Strangers'!"
Hugh Clifford, C.M.G.
JANE AUSTEN'S NOVELS.
Miss Austen's fame is great, her adorers are many. It is three-quarters of a century since she died, and still the incense hides the altar. The devotees, more numerous with every year that passes by, stand round with drawn swords and compel our homage. Fifty years ago Lord Macaulay acclaimed her "Shakespearean," it is but the other day that Mr. Howells called her "divine." The generous enthusiasm of Macaulay compels us to listen to all that he says. As for Mr. Howells, it must be admitted that The Rise of Silas Lapham is as good work as the best of Jane Austen's. So that when a great master accords divine honors to an authoress (sprung from a race that he cordially despises) we must perforce take note of his estimate.
But really: Shakespearean? Divine? In "Criticism and Fiction."
Are there any two qualities more entirely lacking to Miss Austen? She was essentially human, with a graceful realism; wholly ladylike and reserved in her treatment of life; a patient and accurate observer of what facts lay around her in one tiny circle. She is a stranger to the Alps and torrents of Shakespearean English. In Miss Austen's landscape there are pleasant grass plots, well trimmed lawns, and neatly planned hedgerows. There are no acclivities more alarming than those which our grandmothers were wont to tend as "rockeries." Externals count for much with her. The rush and riot of Shakespearean life, its tumultous passions, its hell-black tragedies, and its glimpses of heavens undreamed of-I do protest that all these things would be vastly improper in Miss Austen's world.
What was Miss Austen's world?
Take the world of to-day and eliminate Japan; eliminate China and the South Seas-all Asia, in fact, except India. In Europe eliminate everything except France. For purposes of polite conversation you may include the Rhine. If you have been to Vienna you have travelled. Berlin was a provincial town; there was nothing to see in Russia except the Court and the British Embassy. The chief wonder about Russia was whether the traditions of Peter the Great would be strong enough to enable the Czar to hold together his hordes of barbarians long enough for them to become a nation. Europe, then, consisted of France (the home of the most dangerous principles and the most abominable innovations) and England (called by Providence to keep France in order). If you could allude to a fever caught at Ancona, you showed that you had been in Italy and were probably conversant with the Fine Arts; but socially and politically Italy was dead.
Socially and politically the United States were in puling infancy. South America was a wilderness, Africa and Australia unexplored and in great part undiscovered. Such was Miss Austen's world considered from the geographical point of view-England and France; it is permissible to include the West Indies, which formed a powerful interest at that time. It is very important to remember how small Miss Austen's world was. We are thus saved the annoyance and surprise at finding ourselves called upon to consider seriously the doings of children of seventeen who have never been outside their village. Considering the size of the world at that time, this amounted to experience of the world; while a man who had nearly taken his degree had really done a good deal of what there was for him to do in life. In this thinly populated and obscure
corner of the world of to-day Miss Austen's characters lived and moved and had their being. What were Miss Austen's characters? The answer is easy-they were ladies and gentlemen. She herself was a lady, and she wrote like a lady. She saw nothing that a lady might not see; she heard nothing that a lady might not hear; she recorded nothing that a lady might not record. There are little unconscious touches here and there that show how charmingly and winningly ignorant she was of what was really going on around her. These add a zest to what she actually records, for we may be sure that she wrote of nothing that she could not treat with knowledge. There are no attempts to describe, from hearsay, debaucheries with which she was totally unacquainted. There is no low life; there is no high life; there are no fatiguing passages in dialect.
A word on Miss Austen's realism. It is genuine realism; not the bastard realism of later days. According to the school to which we have grown accustomed to allow the monopoly of "realism," nothing exists that is not disgusting. Miss Austen saw moresanely. There were dreadful things in her world, it is true: putrid sore. throats, for example. But also there were many pleasant things. Perhaps she did not take a very wide view of life; but as far as her observation went she saw evenly and recorded fairly.
As to her characters, they all came from one class-the class of gentry, i.e. people entitled to bear coat-armor. In the England of to-day, this definition is not precise. There are many gentlemen who are not entitled to bear coat-armor, and vice versa. But it really was a social guide in Miss Austen's day. First and foremost in the land were the landed gentry, of which class it might be said with jus
tice that even the peers were no more than its most conspicuous members. This class, so powerful once, of so little account now, settled all social questions. Either you were one of the A's of B―shire, or else your existence required explaining and justifying. You might belong to the professional classes a very much smaller body of men than the same people nowadays. There was the Church, of course-that was highly respectable-and there was the Bar. But attorneys, surgeons, and City people were quite impossible. Physicians, with some reservations, could be known, and the Army would do if you were in the Guards; but the Navy was on a different footing: all sorts of queer people went into the Navy.
These considerations really guided the actions of the people who inhabited Miss Austen's world; and Miss Austen herself recognized the propriety of respecting them. She writes of them as natural and convenient distinctions, and shows no desire to portray ardent human nature struggling against the bonds of convention. On the contrary, Emma is the careful study of a young lady who presumes to suppose that the natural distinction existing between ladies and people who are not ladies, can be treated lightly or, perhaps, ignored. There is no passion in her books, it would not be ladylike, and when we admire the felicity of her language and the delicacy of her work, we must recollect that what action there may be moves in a very narrow arena, and that the incidents are trivial and superficial.
Miss Austen's work is eighteenth century in its subject-matter and treatment. She never saw a railwaytrain; and, although much of her life was passed in the nineteenth century, there is not in her pages the faintest echo of its busy and distracted life. She' was born in the year 1775, when ECLECTIC. VOL. LXXVII 450
the coronation of Louis the Sixteenth was a recent event, and she died two years after the battle of Waterloo. She was, therefore, thirty years old when the news of Trafalgar reached England, and forty when Napoleon was overthrown. There are a few references to "the war" in her novels, but you would never suppose that she was referring to a death-struggle between England and France. Although the rivalry of six hundred years culminated in twenty years of conflict corresponding to the twenty years of Miss Austen's literary life, it would appear as if "the war" was of no greater national importance than a war with Ashanti. Were there no illuminations for Camperdown, for the Nile, for St. Vincent, for Trafalgar, for Waterloo? Apparently not. Also apparently Miss Austen never saw an invalid or a pensioner, or met anyone in mourning for a relative who had fallen in the service of his country. Also, apparently, nobody ever grumbled at the taxes, although they must have been appallingly heavy, and were borne by the very class which was the object of her studies.
The Napoleonic wars would appear to have been fought for the purpose of giving young gentlemen in the army an opportunity for displaying their gay clothes. Also they were useful in enabling young officers of the Navy to gain prize-money, so that they might marry pretty girls and settle down respectably in England. The woes and joys (if these are not too violent expressions for the emotions of Charlottes and Carolines) of very young lovers and very young married people are all that Miss Austen has to write about. The elders form an agreeable background, now thwarting, now sympathizing, encouraging, interfering with, or soothing the young people.
But we know that, in point of fact, whatever Miss Austen may have
found interesting or the reverse, England was stirred to its depths by the war. Tribulation and mourning were heard throughout the land. The nation was shaken with the sensations of terrible triumphs and terrible disasters. Never was there a more Shakespearean time: not even Shakespeare's own. It is not Miss Austen's fault that she is so very un-Shakespearean. She herself would have been much chagrined had anyone ventured on such a comparison in her presence. Or, if she had been in merry mood, she would have "vowed that you were the very drollest creature" or a "shocking quiz."
In fact, if she ever thought of herself and Shakespeare in the same minute she must have concluded that her only chance of success was to aim at being as unlike him as possible. She called herself, modestly, a miniaturist, and she is credited, as one of her many triumphs, with having destroyed the school of the Mysteries of Udolpho.
That novel, no longer read, depends much upon incident. The incidents are all unusual and exciting. The scene is continually changed, and there are murders amid gloomy surroundings. It had an immense vogue and was much imitated by writers who thought that with a ghost and a murder and a haunted castle they could make a story. A great many bad stories of this kind were produced, and it certainly was unfortunate that young ladies' heads should be so turned by this tinsel tragedy that they could not stay in a country house without imagining that some disreputable secret haunted the family. Northanger Abbey pokes gentle fun at this school of mock romance, although it would perhaps be too much to say that it "destroyed" the school.
But the claim is that Miss Austen destroyed this school with its unwhole
some habit of appealing to the sensational and the melodramatic, and that she did so by showing how really interesting the common events of everyday life might be made to appear.
It may be so, and it may be that this is to her credit. But, after all, what is Hamlet but a yarn about a ghost and a murder and a haunted castle? And if it comes to reproaching the sensationalists with too lavish introduction of incident, how does Hamlet stand? We have poison, steel, suicide, madness, murder, the wrecking of great kingdoms, battle, and sudden death all in five acts. The play streams with gore. No imitator of Shakespeare was ever so lavish with incident as Shakespeare himself. It is not that the school of writing is bad that insists on a plot with incidents. Mr. Howells would have us believe that it is. Nevertheless, the Mysteries of Udolpho is only indifferent work in the school of Shakespeare, and the school which Miss Austen founded-the school of analysis and introspection-is capable of producing just as tedious work in its way as the Mysteries of Udolpho. But the people who decry the Mysteries have perhaps not read that dismal composition. When they have read it they will allow that it is tedious, not because of the fatiguing frequency of improbable incidents, but because of its sentimental tone and wearisome style. In effect the incidents are few, when the vast length of the story is considered. The real superiority of Jane Austen's work lies in her admirable style; the real drawback to enjoying her work is that it is about nothing at all. Whereas the school of the Mysteries held that startling incidents (as unlikely as possible) were what a story chiefly needed, and that style and truthfulness signified nothing, Miss Austen, on the contrary, put style and truthfulness first and avoided romance like the plague.