Hither and thither moves, and checks, and the long, hot summer had set in, it was


And one by one back in the closet lays.

Of human help to satisfy the soul's doubts it is also written,

Magst Priester oder Weise fragen, Und ihre Antwort scheint nur Spott Ueber den Frager zu seyn.

Great Lessing says: "If God held, shut up in his right hand, all truth; and in his left hand the ever-active impulse after truth that impulse being connected with a continual liability to err and should say to me 'Choose!' I would, in all humility, seize the left hand, and say, 'Father, that one! Pure truth is for Thee alone!"" Greater Goethe, after long and ardent striving, attained to sov. ereign victory, and reached to light and peace. Many men are constantly straining, with failure or success, in the burning quest of the enthusiasm of conviction, and the blessing of assurance. Not always are those natures the lowest that fail in the divine conflict, and that have, wearily, to adinit that they cannot reach the ideal of communion with God. Reading between the lines we can guess that Mr. Shorthouse is well acquainted with the spiritual struggles and sorrows which he attributes to John Inglesant; and it is necessary to realize this fact, to sympathize with such states of soul, before we can understand or sympathize with the essence of the book, or can pluck out the heart of Mr. Shorthouse's mystery. Incidents, description, and story would ensure for this book a certain amount of popularity; but, as regards his higher meanings, Mr. Shorthouse may fear that there are comparatively few that fitly will conceive his reasoning, or rise with him to the high level of his most noble and subtle thought shown in this spiritual, psychological, philosophic romance of "John Inglesant."


From Longman's Magazine. THE HERMIT OF SAINT-EUGENE.

UNTIL quite recently, any one who chanced to stroll out of Algiers towards evening, by the Rue Bab-el-Oued, and thence past the barracks to the dusty, evil-smelling suburb of Saint-Eugène, would have been pretty sure to meet him. Between four and five o'clock during the winter months, and a few hours later when

his habit to walk up and down the stretch of highroad which borders the sea there, pausing sometimes to look across the blue waves towards France, or up at Notre Dame d'Afrique, rising dark on its hill top against the fiery sunset. His tall, thin figure, his hollow cheeks, his drooping grey moustache, his threadbare coat, with its scrap of red ribbon in the button-hole, and something in his manner of carrying his head and twirling his cane which can only be described as a sort of deprecating jauntiness-all these things were apt to arrest the attention of the unoccupied stranger.

If such a person looked hard at him, he would return the gaze half timidly, half affably, and would probably end by raising his old, but carefully brushed hat, and saying, "Bon soir, monsieur," in a high, quavering voice. He was willing, upon slight encouragement, to enter into conversation, and would descant upon the beauty of the weather and the charm of the surrounding scenery, and similar commonplace topics, with a good deal of courteous fluency. "An adorable country, monsieur!. a divine climate! Figure to yourself that I came here twenty years ago, and that I have not yet been able to tear myself away! What would you have?—when one becomes old, one learns to value tranquillity above all things." But if by any chance his interlocutor grew inquisitive, asked where he lived, produced a card-case, or showed other signs of wishing to keep up the acquaintance thus begun, he would take alarm. His loquacity would cease, he would draw his heels together, lift his hat again, and "Monsieur," he would say, with a low bow, "j'ai l'honneur de vous souhaiter le bon soir." With which he would retire hurriedly.

It was not that he had any desire to conceal either his name or his place of abode. M. Lelièvre was well known to all the inhabitants of Saint-Eugène, and any one of the dirty children playing on the beach, or of the black-browed women lounging in the doorways, or of the unshaven men playing bowls in their shirtsleeves before the cafés, could have shown you his house a white villa, with all its persiennes closed, standing in a neglected garden and shut in by rusty iron gates, upon the side posts of which, the inscrip. tion L'Hermitage in thin black letters was barely legible. That amount of information M. Lelièvre would have grudged to nobody; but he dreaded the society of

his fellow-creatures as much as he loved | He fell with the fall of the empire, and it, because he had once been hospitable, on losing his appointment discovered, as and could be hospitable no longer.

many others have discovered under simi| lar circumstances, that he had been some. what imprudent in making no provision for a rainy day. When France was lying under the heel of the invader, and every able-bodied man was volunteering for active service, M. Lelièvre went off to fight for his country with the rest. He committed his daughter to the care of a lady friend of his (for his friends were still numerous then), and departed with his usual indomitable cheerfulness; but he came back a good deal aged and broken, only to find that his farm had been sacked during the Arab insurrection, and that his bailiff had decamped, leaving neither money nor address behind him.

Time has moved so fast during the last decade, and changes have been so many, that probably only a very few people recollect M. Lelièvre as he used to be in the days of his prosperity - those good old days before the war, when an imperial official could afford himself a pretty villa in the suburbs as well as his house in the town, and could even go so far as to invest his surplus cash in a farm far away on the Metidja plain, which every body said was sure to pay magnificently. In that happy pre-republican era, SaintEugène was as lovely a retreat as any official could wish for, and the guests at the merry breakfast parties which used to take place at the Hermitage several times a week were wont to swear, as they looked out upon the roses in the garden and upon the sea, glittering through a belt of palms and bamboos, that M. Lelièvre was the luckiest dog in Africa. He did not contradict them; his opinion, indeed, quite coincided with theirs. He had a sufficient income, congenial employment, a charming daughter; and if anything had been lacking to complete his happiness, the want was supplied when, after some what lengthy negotiations, he was able to announce Isabelle's betrothal to that aristocratic personage the Vicomte de Lugagnan. Perhaps he exulted a little too much over this latter piece of good for-groom left for France; and M. Lelièvre tune; perhaps M. de Lugagnan's name was rather too frequently upon his lips; and perhaps his friends sometimes laughed at him in their sleeves. If so, he was unconscious alike of incurring ridicule and of having given cause for it; for there never lived a more innocent or unsuspicious creature.

This was a rather serious calamity; for the old gentleman had calculated that the sale of the farm and stock would help him out considerably with the dot of Isabelle, whose marriage was now about to be sol lemnized. It was not in the least likely that M. de Lugagnan and his family would consent to any diminution of the large sum agreed upon, and a rupture at the eleventh hour, if it had not broken Isabelle's heart, would assuredly have gone very near to breaking her father's. He passed through some weeks of mental agony; but somehow or other, the money was forthcoming at the required date; the marriage took place; the bride and bride

might have sung Nunc Dimittis, had it not been the will of Heaven that he should live a good many years longer in a world which cannot have possessed many attractions for him.

It was now that the Hermitage began to deserve its name, and that its owner, who, with his old servant Marthe, only But all this is ancient history. There occupied three of its rooms, began to be are no more breakfast parties at Saint-known as the hermit. The sobriquet was Eugène now, and such of the villas as conferred upon him, not by his former have not been pulled down are inhabited acquaintances, who had all gone away or by nobody knows whom. Saint-Eugène itself is lovely no longer. The devastating hand of modern civilization has fallen heavily upon it, pouring forth tramcars and omnibuses on to its highway, defiling its beach with drainage and rubbish, and making its shores hideous with mean habitations, where that strange and unprepossessing being, the French colonist, dwells cheerfully in an atmosphere of dust and mephitic gases. Possibly this sad transformation did not affect M. Lelièvre as much as it might have done, had his own transformation been less complete.

had forgotten his existence, but by the humbler neighbors who watched his proceedings and manner of life with a certain curiosity. Neither from him nor from Marthe did they gain any information as to his circumstances; but if a man gives no orders to the butcher and seldom troubles the grocer, it is tolerably safe to conclude that his purse is as empty as his stomach. All Saint-Eugène was aware that M. Lelièvre did not sit for hours on the rocks with a bamboo fishing rod in bis hand merely pour se distraire, which was Marthe's explanation of that habit of

his. It was notorious that, with the hermit, Lent lasted all the year round; and if he could keep body and soul together with a few red mullet, such gleanings from the harvest of the sea were not grudged him by his fellow-citizens. "He will not be very fat when old Cohen decides to eat him up," they were wont to say, with grim pleasantry.

That he would be eaten up eventually none of them doubted. M. Elias Cohen, that wealthy Hebrew and powerful municipal counsellor, had risen from the smallest of beginnings to his present high estate by nothing else than by eating people up, and that the poor hermit was already in his larder was evidenced by the fact that M. Cohen was the only visitor who ever rang the door bell at the Hermitage. He was fond of calling there on Saturday afternoons, after performing his religious duties at the synagogue, and was often to be seen walking about the deserted garden with M. Lelièvre, whose gait at such times had no jauntiness at all. These periodical visits, it was true, had gone on for a matter of ten years, and the hermit was not yet devoured; but that proved nothing. M. Cohen had his plans and his fancies; you could never tell for certain what he meant to do with you; the only thing of which you might feel quite sure was that, when once you had fallen into his clutches, you would not escape from them again until death or ruin set you free.

One fine Saturday afternoon in January this redoubtable personage was sitting in M. Lelièvre's garden. He had carried out a wooden chair from the house, because the weather was hot and he was neither as young nor as thin as he had once been. M. Lelièvre was standing beside him, leaning on his stick.


"My friend," the Jew was saying, with the thick, oily utterance of his nation, "I have been very good to you. I have had patience ah, what patience I have had !" "M. Cohen," returned M. Lelièvre, who was a good deal agitated, "I have paid you interest regularly and ah, what interest I have paid!"

"Are you going to say now that I have made you pay high interest?" shouted the other. "That would be perfect! nothing more than that would be wanting! Oh, Elias, Elias, see what you gain by generosity! Not only are you kept out of the use of your money, not only do you miss opportunities of making your fortune from sheer want of capital; but those whom you have robbed yourself to serve

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


"Listen, M. Cohen," he said persuasively, after a pause; "you will not have long to wait for your money. When the croque-mort has come for me you will get everything. Could you not allow me to die in my old house?"

"Your old house! But it is not your house, it is mine; and precisely what I complain of is that it is old. You have not treated me well, my friend; you have cheated me by allowing this place to fall into ruins; and what is it worth now as security?"

"I am told that it is worth more than it was when I borrowed the money of you,” answered the old man hesitatingly.

“Ah, M. Lelièvre, you should not say such things! You are trying to deceive one who has been very kind and forbearing with you, and you think that because he has shown so much weakness he must be a fool. Now that is very wrong; for I am as well aware as you are that house property in Saint-Eugène commands a lower price in the market than it did some years ago.'

[ocr errors]

"And the new road?" cried M. Lelièvre eagerly. "You forget the new road which is to cut through the middle of my garden. It has been surveyed already, and only a few days ago I received the plans and a letter, asking me to state what I should require as compensation. I believe I might ask a large sum, for it will destroy my privacy. Would you like to see the papers?" And he drew them from his pocket with trembling fingers.

But M. Cohen waved them aside. "Ah, bah! the road is not made yet. They are always talking about roads and never beginning them. As for compensation, I can tell you, if you do not know, what that means. You will make your demand; you will be informed that it is excessive; the road will then be declared to be a measure of "public utility," and you will have to accept what is given you. It is not by

that transaction that you will make your | Then the children were born; then M. le fortune, my dear friend."

Now it was by no means unlikely that this prediction would be fulfilled in the case of a humble proprietor like M. Lelièvre, but a very different result was to be anticipated in the event of the Hermit age passing into the hands of M. Cohen, who had means of bringing pressure to bear upon the authorities which were not open to his unlucky debtor.

"For the rest," he added, with an air of indifference, "you can easily keep possession of this old ruin, if you hold to it. You have only to pay me what you owe me. But unless I am paid in three weeks' time, I must enter upon possession in your place. You have had ample warning, my dear friend; it is for you to make your arrangements." And without further words M. Cohen took his leave.

For some minutes after his departure the old man stood still on the same spot, tracing wavering lines in the dust with his stick. "Of what is monsieur think ing?" asked a gruff voice behind him, which caused him to start and turn round.

My good Marthe," he replied, at once assuming a sprightly mien, "you would never guess. Is it not absurd that at my time of life I am beginning to feel the want of a change? Yes, decidedly I shall give up the Hermitage. After all, it is too large a house for you and me, and the neighborhood is not what it was, and and there are great advantages in living in the town. I do not say in the European quarter, which is expensive and unhealthy; but in the Arab town, where the air is naturally purer, owing to the greater height

[ocr errors]

Vicomte had business to attend to; and then this, and then that what do I know? But now it is time that there was an end of all these excuses."

"Marthe, you do not know what you propose. You would break my daughter's heart."



Supposing always that she has one," said the old woman drily. Supposing that she has a heart! that Isabelle has a heart! What do you mean?"

"With all the respect that I owe to monsieur, I will permit myself the observation that I would not have allowed ten years to go by without seeing my father, whether he was papering his house or not."

"I know why you say that. You want to frighten me, and you think that I shall send for my daughter to convince myself that she has not changed. But you are mistaken. I shall never doubt her, and I will not have her distressed and put to shame. I swear to you, Marthe, that if you tell her of my difficulties I will never forgive you!"

"She shall be told nothing about them, then, since you are so obstinate," answered the old woman sullenly.

Nevertheless, she posted the following brief missive before she went to bed: "Madame la Vicomtesse, - I have the regret to inform you that monsieur is failing rapidly in health, and if you wish to see him again in this world, I think you: would do well to postpone your visit to Algiers no longer."

The hermit fitted quietly from SaintEugène without waiting for his threeweeks' period of grace to run out. He had decided to sell such furniture as remained to him, and he thought it would be well to get the auction over before M. Cohen, who was more given to seizing property than to surrendering it, became

"Monsieur need not give himself the trouble to invent histories," broke in the old woman, whose yellow, wrinkled face wore an expression of mingled anger and pity. "I heard all that passed between monsieur and that animal of a Jew-and to-night I write to Madame la Vicom-the owner of the Hermitage. He hired tesse."

"Marthe, you would never do such a thing as that!

three small rooms in one of the few European houses which have been built near the Kasbah, or citadel, a quarter standing "Pardon me, monsieur, that is what I high in a physical sense and somewhat am going to do. Ever since mademoi- low in a moral one. M. Lelièvre affected selle's marriage it has been one pretext to be delighted with it. It was occupa after another to keep the truth from her tion enough only to sit at the window all and prevent her from seeing you. You day long, he declared. The view over the would not go over to France because you port and the bay; the purple mountains were afraid of the seasickness; you could of Kabylia in the distance; and nearer not receive her here because you were at hand the dazzling white houses, the having the house papered and painted- minaret of the mosque of Sidi Ramdan, though heaven knows whether we have and glimpses of narrow, tortuous streets, ever had a sight of paper or paint-brush! | through which Moors, Jews, negroes, and

[blocks in formation]

veiled ladies in their voluminous white | whole of the night which preceded his trousers and high-heeled shoes kept pass- daughter's arrival in trotting up and down ing and re-passing- all these things he the quay, and trying to keep himself warm. did not fail to point out to Marthe, who For the best of all possible reasons, he professed herself unable to discover the had not brought a great-coat with him, elements of beauty or interest in any one and if he neither caught his death of cold, of them. It was a little tiring, to be sure, nor dropped from fatigue, it was probably to climb up these steep streets from the because the special providence which is French town; but that inconvenience, said to watch over children and drunkas M. Lelièvre observed, might be dis-ards, extends a little of its care to foolish posed of by the simple expedient of not going down to the French town.

He had, however, to descend thither once a week to get his letters - or rather his letter from the post-office; for during all the years that they had been separated, his daughter had never omitted to write to him on Sundays, and he had of course been careful not to mention his change of address to her. He had not been long established in his new abode, when he returned from one of these periodical descents with a scared face.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

"It is as I tell you. A sudden decision, she says - a long-promised visit — and I am to engage rooms for them at an hotel. Ah! Marthe, would you believe that I am such an old fool that I can hardly contain myself for joy? But she must suspect nothing-mind that! she must suspect nothing. After all, concealment will be easier than if we were living at SaintEugène still. I shall explain that I am. changing my house, and that I have taken lodgings in the mean time. They will not ask to see the lodgings, I hope. I shall place them at an hotel at Mustapha, which is more healthy than the town, and farther away. All will arrange itself." And the old gentleman, who had got over his first feeling of alarm, rubbed his hands gleefully.

It is impossible to tell at what hour the steamer from Marseilles will reach Algiers. Sometimes, when the weather is fine, it will enter the harbor at midnight; more often it comes in at five o'clock in the morning, and sometimes not until several hours later. There is thus considerable difficulty about going on board to welcome friends from Europe, and no sensible person thinks of attempting such a thing. The proof that M. Lelièvre was not a sensible person is that he spent the

old men whose daughters are about to be restored to them after a separation of ten years.

The sky and the sea were losing their delicate opalescent hues, and the glow upon the snowy Djurdjura Mountains showed that sunrise was near, when the wished-for steamer hove in sight, and M. Lelièvre hastened to secure a boat. He felt none the worse for his long vigil; his only regret was that he was not shaved. But perhaps Isabelle would not notice that. In other respects he felt that he was looking his best. His coat had been carefully brushed and inked at the seams, the red ribbon of the Legion of Honor was in his button-hole, an Arab boy had polished his boots beautifully for a sou, and Marthe had bought him a perfectly new pair of grey cotton gloves. "Not much appearance of penury here, I think," murmured M. Lelièvre complacently, as he hurried up the gangway of the steamer and gazed eagerly among the passengers in search of the one whom he hoped to meet.

He could not see her anywhere. There was a stout lady who resembled her a little; but yes! certainly that tall, solemn man was M. de Lugagnan; and here, sure enough, was the stout lady flinging her arms round his neck and exclaiming, "But, papa, do you not recognize me, then?"

It was a moment of profound emotion. When the embracings were over, M. Lelièvre took a clean handkerchief from his pocket, shook it out, and blew his nose loudly; after which he proceeded to wipe his eyes, not being in the least ashamed to let people see that he was shedding tears of joy. He began to bustle about, insisting upon carrying as many of his daughter's packages as she would let him take; he hurried her and her husband into the boat and accompanied them to the shore, where he had ordered a carriage to be in waiting for them. When he was seated in the latter, with his back to the horses (M. de Lu gagnan having allowed him to take that place, after some slight protest), he en

« VorigeDoorgaan »