Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

the sword. A more serious shock was never given to the calculation of the probable course of events. Yesterday peace was certain, and men were preparing to gather the harvest; to-day war is raging, and the corn-fields are steeped in blood.

So have I seen in a far-off country—now almost in its infancy, but whose growth is swift, and whose manhood will be grand—a sluggish river rolling lazily to the sea. Walking inland along its banks, now broadened by fair plains, now narrowed by towering ranges, I have come suddenly upon the confluence of it and another river, whose waters, springing from cloud-tipped mountains of snow, rush laughingly down the grand old rocks. Here, in the narrow pass where the rivers meet, the gray sluggish stream of a sleeper opposes itself to the marvellously blue waters of a passionate life. One, dull and inert, rolls like a soulless sluggard sullenly to the sea; the other, with its snow-fringed lines reflected in its restless depths of blue, leaps and laughs as it flashes onwards, like a godlike hero, to the mightier waters of the Pacific. But a few hundred yards away from the confluence of the streams, no stranger, walking thitherward, could imagine the singular and grand contest that is eternally waging in that wonderful

[ocr errors]

pass; and when he comes upon it suddenly, admiration impels him to stand in silent worship.

One of the commonest of common similes is the simile of life and a river. But as it is not because a thing is rare that it must needs be sweet, so it is not because a thing is common that it must needs be true. Every river fulfils its mission: does every life ? More like a stream than a river is life. Trace the stream, from the inconsiderable bubbling of a mountain spring, down the hill-sides, over rocks, through glades lighted by sunlight and moonlight, through tortuous defiles and rocky chasms, into a sparkling current, which swells and swells and grows into a lovely channel, or into a sullen rill, which drips and drips and loses itself in a puddle.

When Joshua's ship had sailed, gloom fell upon the house of the Marvels; the sunshine that used to warm it no longer shone on it. George Marvel showed his grief more plainly than did his good

He was more gentle towards her, and sometimes his gentleness of manner took the form of submission. Singularly enough, she was seriously distressed at the change. She wished him to be positive and contradictory, as he used to be; to scold her and put her down, as he used to do; to be more masterful and less gentle. She strove in all sorts of ways to bring back his old humour; she tried his temper by opposing him in trivial matters ; she contradicted him when he spoke ; and she even ventured, on two or three occasions, to tell him that he would have to wait for his meals—which waiting for one's meals, as is well known, is one of the leading causes of domestic differences. But all her well-meant efforts were thrown away; and when she saw him sit down patiently on being told, with assumed snappishness, that tea wouldn't be ready for half an hour, she gave it up as a bad job, and, acting wisely, left time to cure him. It did cure him, as it cures greater griefs; but in the mean time he suffered greatly.

woman.

The fact of it was, George Marvel was troubled in his mind at the prominent part he had taken in influencing Joshua's choice of a profession. Having driven his son to sea, he felt as if he had a hand in every storm, and as if he were in some measure responsible for every gust of wind, inasmuch as it expressed danger to Joshua. Then the thought of Joshua's being shipwrecked haunted him. • Suppose Josh is shipwrecked, father,' his wife had said, what would you say then ? You'd lie awake night after night, father

-you know

6

you

would—and wish he had been a wood-turner.'

Maggie was right,' he admitted to himself; it would have been better for Josh, and happier for all of us, if he had remained at home and been a wood-turner.'

Being in pursuit of misery, he showed the doggedness of his nature by hunting for it assiduously. He read with remorseful eagerness every scrap of print relating to shipwreck that he could lay hands upon. He would go out of his way to borrow a paper which he had heard contained an account of disasters at sea, and when he obtained it, he would shut himself up, and read it and reread it in secrecy, until he extracted as much misery from it as it could possibly yield him. The second Saturday night after Joshua's departure he saw a number of persons assembled round a sailor who was begging. The sailor had a patch over his eye and a wooden leg, and he was singing, in a voice of dismal enjoyment, a woful narration of his sufferings on a raft. George Marvel stopped until the song was finished, and then gave the man a penny. The following Saturday night he went in search of the sailor, and listened to his song, and gave him

[merged small][ocr errors]

another penny.

And so, for many successive Saturday nights, he went and enjoyed his pennyworth of misery, getting, it must be admitted, full value for his money.

On other evenings he smoked his pipe in the kitchen as usual. If the weather was boisterous, he would go restlessly to the street-door, and look at the sky and up and down the street, and come back more low-spirited than ever.

• It's dreadfully windy to-night, Maggie,' he

would say.

• Do you think so, George?' Mrs. Marvel would ask, making light of the wind for his sake, although she too was thinking of Joshua.

Not a star to be seen,' he would add despondently.

Then would come a stronger gust, perhaps, and George Marvel would shiver, and ask his wife if she thought it was stormy out at sea. She, becoming on the instant wonderfully weatherwise, would answer, No, she was sure it wasn't stormy at sea, for the sea was such a long way off, and it wasn't likely that a storm would be all over the world at once.

One night when a great storm was raging through London, and when the thunder was break

« PredošláPokračovať »