and support a thousand morally starving tute higher aims and enjoyments for lower and anæmic wretches."

ones; in short, do the work of improve. “What!” interrupted Rheinhardt, “a ment, if not by actually discovering new man is not to enjoy his own intellectual truth, or even by promulgating it, at least advantages, but must consider himself by storing it ready for need.” the steward of all the imbeciles, prole. “ All improvement must come from the taires, and paupers of the intellectual minority,” remarked Rheinhardt, “since world! This is Socialism, my good Bald. improvement means the development of win, of the rankest and most intolerable special and rare advantages.” description ! "

“In short,” went on Baldwin, “ I hope “It may be Socialism to you, Rhein- for a fair division of labor between the hardt, and it may be a private pet Social- upper and lower classes, the one working isin of my own; but it has nothing to do for the other, and neither idle. Of course, with what other folks call Socialism, which this is but a distant ideal, itself possible defeats not only its own, but still more my only as the result of infinite progress; own object. Understand me rightly still, it is clear that we are tending that all progress (and I think you will have to way. At present the great proportion of agree with me), all diminution of misery what we call the upper classes are quite and increase of happiness, is in direct incapable of any work that could not be proportion to the utilization of the various performed by the lower; their leisure is, sorts of capital physical, intellectual, and must be, mere idleness. But, as I and moral - land, money, muscles, brains, said just now, within the upper classes hearts, which we possess; and the more there is an upper class; the men who can we put our capital to profit, the more do originate, or at least appreciate, thought, we enable the putting to profit of such the nucleus of my real upper class of the capital as has lain dormant; hence prog- future. These have not merely leisure, ress must increase at a constantly greater but also the faculties to render it profit. ratio. For instance, think of all the ener- able; and their leisure, as I said before, gies of mind and heart and hand which means not only that they have been saved must have been wasted in the cast-civiliza- the trouble of supplying bodily wants, but tions and in the feudal system ; think of also, which is much more important, that all the precious qualities which must be they have been saved the trouble of rid: wasted nowadays owing to the still imper- ding themselves of so many erroneous fect exchange of individuals among the modes of thought which are still heaped various classes of society, which may keep up in the path of the inferior classes. a man with a great financial endowment This is the class of men whom you, Vere, making bad tables and chairs, and a man say we have no right to interfere with; with a genius for carpentering ruining his who, as we may be sure that they won't partners with imbecile speculation." elect to live in cellars and drains, ought to

“That is very true,"remarked Vere; be permitted to build their spiritual dwell. “but,” he added, not perhaps without a ings in accordance with their own fancy, touch of satisfaction in his voice, as if and to fill them with whatsoever mental unconsciously pleased at any want of con- and moral bric-à-brac and stage property nection in Baldwin's ideas, “I don't see may give them most pleasure, turn them that these remarks, however interesting, into little pleasure palaces of the • Imitahave much to do with your onslaught on tion of Christ,' the Positive Philosthe poor mortals who venture to retain ophy,' or the 'Fleurs du Mal' style of doubts and habits and love of old faiths spiritual decoration. With the unfortuwhich your philosophy happens to con- nate rich numskull, too stupid to do intel. demn.'

lectual work, too stupid to know that there They have everything to do with each is any to do; too helpless to have responother, since one is but the other's logical sibilities; with him I can have patience, consequence. Rheinhardt has just called I can even sympathize. But with this me a Socialist; well, I don't think you other man who has not only leisure and would get many Socialists to agree in my education, but intellect and conscience, I belief that all progress depends upon the have no patience, I have only indignaexistence of a class quite above all neces- tion; and it is to this man that I would sity of manual labor and business routine, say: 'What right have


arrange which, while the majority of men are keep your spiritual house inerely to please your ing the world going by supplying its most fancy or your laziness ? What right have pressing bodily wants, may separate the you to curtain out the intellectual light true from the false, and gradually substi- from eyes which are required to see for

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



others as well as for yourself? What to the road, which wound behind the right have you to enervate with mystical stables and hayricks of the old farm. Be. drugs the moral muscle, which must clean fore them was a sea of gently undulating out not your own conscience merely, but hillocks, steeped in a broad and permeatthe conscience of others ? Above all, ing white light, the mere consciousness of what right have you to bring up in this which, as it were, dazzled and dazed. A spiritual dwelling of your fancy, in this brilliant light which seemed to sink out of confusing penumbra, and amid these the landscape all its reds and yellows, and emasculating fumes those for whose souls with them all life; bleaching the yellowyou are most responsible, your children; ing cornfields and brown heath; but burthat not only your mind and heart but nishing into demoniac energy of color the theirs should be mere waste and vanity for pastures and oak woods, brilliant against all the world?'"

ihe dark sky as if filled with green fire. Baldwin had gradually grown earnest Along the roadside the poppies, which an and excited; and what had been at first ordinary sunset makes flame, were quite but an abstract discussion, became, as the extinguished, like burnt-out embers ; the thought burned stronger within him, al- yellow hearts of the daisies were quite most a personal attack; in speaking the lost, merged into their shining white petlast words he had risen from his chair, als. And, striking against the windows and instinctively fixed his eyes on Vere, of the old black and white checkered farm where he sat in the dusk of the twilit (a ghastly skeleton in this light) it made

them not flare, nay, not redden in the The latter did not look up; he knocked faintest degree, but reflect a brilliant speck the ashes out of his pipe and remained of white light. Everything was unsub. seated, watching the smouldering fire. stantial, yet not as in a mist; nay, rather There was a moment's silence, during substantial, but flat, as if cut out of paper which the ticking of the clock and the and pasted on, the black branches and cackling of the poultry outside were pain. green leaves, the livid, glaring houses, fully distinct.

with roofs of dead, scarce perceptible red “If there is a thing I detest,” muttered (as when an iron turning white-hot from Rheinhardt, “it is the militant, humani-red-hot in the stithy, grows also dull and tarian atheist; no priest ever came up to dim). The various ranges of hills project. him for spoiling a pleasant chat.” He felting beyond each other like side-scenes that the discussion had long ceased to be covered with uniform gray; the mass of academic; and to him who engaged in trees toward the distant downs, bleached controversy as a sort of æsthetic pleasure, white against the white sky, smoke-like, noihing could be more utterly distasteful without consistence; while the fields of than a discussion taken too much in ear. green barley and ripening wheat trembled, nest. He suddenly broke the silence by and almost vibrated witb a white, white. exclaiming,

hot light. “Just look what an odd sky."

" It looks like the eve of the coming The room was by this time getting rap. of Antichrist, as described in mediæval idly dark, so that Rheinhardt, who was at hymns,” remarked Vere; "the sun, bebottom the most sympathizing of men, fore setting never more to rise, sucking could feel rather than see the excited face all life out of the earth, leaving it but a of Baldwin, the gentle and melancholy, but mound of livid cinders, barren and crum. slightly ironical, just a little pained, ex. bling, through which the buried nations pression of Vere. In the midst of the will easily break their way when they duskiness the window blazed out white arise." aod luminous, with the sash-bars, the Baldwin had no intention of resuming stems and leaves of the flowers, the their discussion, but to his surprise, and bushes outside, the distant firs and larches Rheinhardt's annoyance, Vere himself rebounding the common sharp and black turned to the subject of their former con. against a strange white light. He stepped versation. As they were slowly walking into the garden.

home, watching the strange whiteness “Do come out,” he cried, “and look at gradually turning into the gray of twilight, this preposterous sunset; it is worthy the he said, as he passed his arm through attention of æsthetical creatures like you, Baldwin's, and Vere may write a fine splash-dash de- “My dear Baldwin, I see very plainly scription of it."

that you think you may have hurt my feel. The two men rose, and followed Rhein- ings, and that you are sorry for it. But hardt out into the garden, and thence on don't worry yourself about that, because

[ocr errors]

you haven't really done so. I am, excuse | negroes emancipated for them. Still, such my saying so, sufficiently your elder, not distressing things have to be done occamerely in years, I think, but in experience sionally." of the world, to understand perfectly that “ You misunderstand me again," an. to you everything seems very simple and swered Vere," and you might know bet. obvious in this world, and that you haven't ter than to continue fancying that I am a had time to find out how difficult it is to kind of spiritual æsthetic or sybarite. know right from wrong. It seems to you The universe, as religion shows it, is not that you have written me down, or rather really true with the universe as it really have compelled me to write myself down, exists; but in many cases it is much more a selfish and cowardly wretch; and you beautiful and consoling. What I mean is are sorry for me now that it should have this: since at the bottom of the Pandora's happened; nay, don't try to deny it. But box which has been given to mankind, I know very well that I am nothing of the and out of which have issued so many sort; and I can understand your position cruel truths, there exists the faculty of sufficiently to understand why you think disbelieving in some of them, of trusting me so; and also, considering your point in good where there is only evil, in imagof view, to like you all the better for your ining sympathy where there is indifferindignation. But tell me, has it never ence, and justice where there is injustice, struck you, whose philosophy consists in of hoping where there is room only to checking the waste of all the good and despair — since this inestimable faculty useful things in the world - has it never of self-delusion exists, why not let man. occurred to you to ask yourself whether kind enjoy it, why wish to waste, to rob you may not, in this instance, be wasting, them of this, their most precious birth. ruthlessly scattering to the four winds of right?” heaven, something quite as precious as Because," answered Baldwin, “in. this leisure to think and this power of creasing truth is the law of increasing thought of which you make so much good; because if we elect to believe that wasting a certain proportion of the little which we wish instead of believing that happiness which mankind has got?” which is, we are deliberately degrading

“I don't hardly see what you are driv. our nature, rendering it less excellent and ing at, Vere,” answered Baldwin, pushing useful, instead of more so, than it was; open the wicket which separated the farm and because by being too cowardly to adyard from the common.

mit that which is, we are incapacitating “ The happiness of mankind — that is ourselves, misleading and weakening othto say, of the only part of mankind worth ers, in the great battle to make the king. taking into account,” put in Rheinhardt, dom of that which is into the kingdom of with a malicious pleasure in intruding his that which should be.” own jogtrot philosophy among what he “ I leave you to fight out your objective considered the dreams of his two friends, and subjective worlds,” said Rheinhardt, “ depends upon its being able to discuss taking up a book and settling himself by abstract questions without getting red in the lamp. the face, and telling people that they are Vere was silent for a moment. vile."

one,” he said, “is not called upon to bat. “There is some truth in that also," tle in life. Many are sent in to whom it laughed Vere, “but that was not in my might be merely a tolerably happy journey. mind. What I mean is this: has it never what right have we to insist upon telling occurred to you that instead of increasing these things which will poison their hapthe happiness of mankind, as you intend piness, and which will not, perhaps, make doing by insisting that every one who can them any the more useful? You were should seek for the truth in spiritual mat- speaking about the education of children, ters, you would in reality be diminishing and this, which to you is a source of bitthat happiness by destroying beliefs or terness and reproach, has been to me the half beliefs, which afford infinite comfort subject of much doubt and indecision. and consolation and delight to a large and I have come to the conclusion that I. number of men and women ?"

have no right to take it for granted that “I have never doubted,” answered my children will necessarily be put in Baldwin, somewhat bitterly," that it must such positions as to require their knowing have been very distressing for the French the things of which I, alas ! have had the nobles to have their domains confiscated bitter certainty; that should such a posi. in the Revolution, and for the poor, ele- tion be awaiting them, disbelief in all the gant, chivalrous planters to have their beautiful and consoling fictions of reli

" Every

[ocr errors]

any earlier."


you ask?"

gion will come but too soon, and that I contact with what you, and I, call truth. I have no right to make such disbelief come have been shorn of my belief; I am eman

cipated, free, superior - all the things In short you deliberately teach your which a thorough materialist is in the eyes children things in which you disbelieve ? " of materialists ; but," and Vere turned

Vere hesitated. “I teach them noth- round upon Baldwin with a look of pity ing; their mother is a firm believer, and I and bitterness, “ I have not yet attained leave the children's religious instruction to the perfection of being a hypocrite, a entirely in her hands. I have never," he sophist to myself, of daring to pretend to added with some pride, “made the slight my own soul that this belief of ours, this est attempt to undermine my wife's belief; truth, is not bitter and abominable, arid and shall not act differently toward my and icy to our hearts." children."

Rheinhardt looked up from his book Baldwin fixed his eyes searchingly upon with a curious expression of wonder. Vere. “ Have you ever really cared much But, my dear friend,” he said, very quiabout your wife, Vere?” he asked. etly, “why should the truth be aboinina.

"I married her for love; and I think ble to you? A certain number of years that even now, I care more for her than employed as honorably and happily as for any one else in the world. Why do possible, and after that, what preceded

this life of yours; what more would you “Because,” answered Baldwin, “it is wish, and what evil is there in this perfectly inconceivable to me that, if you that you should shrink froin teaching it to really love your wife as I should love a your children? I am not afraid of death ; wife if I took one, not as my mere squaw, why should you be?” or odalisque, or as the mother of my chil. “You misunderstand me,” answered dren, but, as you say, more than any one Vere ; “Heaven knows I am not afraid else in the world, you can endure that of death — nay, more than once it has there should exist a subject, the greatest seemed to me that to lie down and feel my and most solemn in all the world, upon soul, like my body, grow gradually numb which you and your wife keep your and number, till it was chilled out of all thoughts and feelings secret from each consciousness, would be the greatest of other."

joys. The horror of the idea of annibila“ I have friends, - men, with whom I tion is, I think, to all save Claudios, the can discuss it."

horror not of our own annibilation but of And you can bear to be able to open the annibilation of others; this Schopenyour whole soul to a friend, while keeping hauer overlooked, as you do, Rheinhardt, it closed to the person whom you say you when he comfortably argued that after all love best in the world? You can bear we should not know whether we were be. to feel that to your highest thoughts anding annihilated or not, that as long as we bopes and fears there is a response in a ourselves are awake we cannot realize man, like me, scarcely more than a stran. sleep, and that we need only say to ourger to you, while there is only blindness selves, .Well, I shall sleep, be unconand dumbness in this woman who is con- scious, never wake. In this there is no stantly by your side, and to whom you are horror. But Schopenhauer did not undermore than the whole world? Do you stand, having no heart, that death is the consider this as complete union with an, one who robs us, who takes away the be. other, this deliberate silence and indiffer- loved, leaves us with empty arms. The ence, this growing and changing and worst of death is not the annihilation of maturing of your own mind, while you ourselves; oh, no, that is nothing; no, nor see her mind cramped and maimed by even the blank numbness of seeing the beliefs which you have long cast behind irremediable loss; it is the sickening,

gasping terror, coming by sudden unex“I love my wife, and I respect her pected starts, of foreseeing that which belief."

will inevitably be. Poets have said a You may abet her belief, Vere, but if, at deal, especially Leopardi, of love as you say, you consider it mere error and death being brothers, of the desire of and falsehood, you cannot respect it.” the one coming along with the presence of

“I respect my wife's bappiness, then, the other; it may be so. But this much is and my children's happiness; and for that certain, that whatever may be said of the reason 1 refrain from laying rough hands brothership of love and death, love, in upon illusions which are part of that hap- its larger and nobler sense, is the wizard piness. Accident has brought me into who has evoked for us the fata morgana.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


of an after life; it is love who has taught | little I got to know other men, and to the world, for its happiness, that there is know somewhat more of the world ; then not an endless ocean beyond this life, an things began gradually to change. I be. ocean without shores, dark, silent, whose gan to perceive the frightful dissonances waters steam up in black vapors to the in the world, the horrible false notes, the black heavens, a rolling chaos of disinte. abominable harmonies of good and evil; grated thoughts and feelings, all separate, and to meet all this I had only this kind all isolated, heaving up and down in the of negative materialism, which could not shapeless eternal food. It is love who suffice to give me peace of mind, but has taught us that what has been begun which entirely precluded my accepting here will not forever be interrupted, nor any kind of theory of spiritual compensawhat has been ill done forever remain un- tion and ultimate justice; I grew uneasy, atoned ; that the affection once kindled and then unhappy. Just at that moment will never cease, that the sin committed it so happened that I lost a friend of mine can be wiped out, and the good conceived to whom I was considerably attached, can be achieved ; that the seed sown in whose life had been quite singularly un. life will get bloom and fructify in death, fortunate, indeed appeared to be growing that it will not have been cast too late a little happier only a few months before upon an evil soil, and the blossom of his death. It was the first time that promise will not forever have been ped death came ear me and close before my. the half-ripe fruit not forever have fallen eyes. It gave me a frightful moral shock, from the tree; that all within which is not so much perhaps the loss of that pargood and happy, and forever struggling ticular individual to myself as the sense here, virtue, genius, will be free to act of the complete extinction of his per. hereafter; that the creatures thrust asun- sonality, gone like the snuffed-out flame der in the world, vainly trying to clasp one or the spent foam of the sea, gone another in the crowd forever pushing them coinpletely, nowhere, leaving no trace, apart, may unite forever. All this is the occupying no other place, become the wondersul phantasmagoria of love; love past, the past for which we can do nothhas given it to mankind. What right ing." have we to sweep it away; we and Rheinhardt had put down his book for Vere turned reproachfully toward Bald. a moment, and listened, with a puzzled win- “who have perhaps never loved, and wondering look. That people should and never felt the want of such a be- be haunted by thoughts like these seemed lief?

to him almost as incomprehensible as Baldwin was silent for a moment, then that the dead should arise and join in answered, as he struck a shower of sparks a ghastly dance round the gravestones; out of the dull red embers,

por would this latter phenomenon have “I have never actually had such a be seemed to him much the more disgusting lief, but I have experienced what it is to of the two; so, after a minute, he settled want it. I was brought up without any down again and pulled out of his pocket religious faith, with only a few general a volume of Aristophanes. notions of right and wrong; and when I “ You have felt all this, Baldwin,” said first began to read and to think for my. Vere, “and you would nevertheless deself, my ideas naturally moved in a ration. liberately inflict such pain upon others ? alistic, nay, a materialistic path, so that you have felt all the misery of disbelief when in the course of my boyish readings in a future life, and you are surprised that I came upon disputes about an after life, I should be unwilling to meddle with the it seemed to me quite i:npossible to con- belief of my wife and children ? " ceive that there could be one. When I “I am surprised at your not being was very young I became engrossed in almost involuntarily forced into commuartistic and archæological subjects: it nicating what you know to be the truth; seemed to me that the only worthy inter- surprised that, in your mind, there should est in life was the beautiful; and, in my not be an imperious sense that truth must Olympian narrowness of sympathy, peo- out. Moreover, I think that the responple who worried themselves about other sibility of holding back truth is always questions seemed to me poor, morbid, greater than any man can calculate, or mediæval wretches. You see, I led a life any man, could he know the full conseof great solitude, and great though narrow quences thereof, could support. We have happiness, shut up among books, and been speaking of the moral discomfort reading only such of them as favored my attendant upon a disbelief in a future life; perfect serenity of mind. But little by la moral discomiort, which, say what we

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »