Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

ception of what Schopenhauer conceived to be the actual result of this great “ Denial.” That it was positive annihilation we can certainly refuse to believe, and he refers con. tinually to that life of the species, that endurance of the Idea, which are independent of all personal forms.* There is a life within us which cannot die, whatever may be our individual fate. This is the life we share with men and beasts, free from struggle and competition; a life whose conditions are not material and limited, not lessened by universal participation. But whatever may be the definite character and nature of the immortality at which he hints, it is, at least, not immortality in the Christian sense; it is strictly impersonal. To him, the great crime of individual man is to have been born; in the words of Calderon which he loves to quote:

“El mayor delitto del hombre es de haber nacido."

The brute will, which we all feel stirring within us, and which the Christian is called upon to hold under, to check, to guide, to control, is, to Schopenhauer, the very personality itself; or rather, the latter is its mere objectification. To become holy is to become impersonal, and the final achievement of sanctity is to free us altogether from our own selves.

The element of Christianity which so strongly appealed to the sympathies of Schopenhauer, and which distinguished it, in his eyes, so markedly from Judaism, was its frank acceptance of the sorrow of life, with its corresponding call to renunciation. And, all said and done, is it not to be feared that we have too much watered down those words of Christ, in which he tells us to hate and lose our own soul, if we will find it again ? Have we not often thought to satisfy the great command of renunciation by surface acts of denial, followed by prompt and liberal compensation? Yet the demand is funda. mental and admits of no half fulfilment. We can set it altogether aside, we cannot bargain with it. For there is in truth, in the centre of our very being, and diffused through every part of it, a “will to live ” which must be denied, even though

• "My philosophy assumes a negative character as it reaches its climax, it ends with a negation. For at this point it can only deal with that which we deny and renounce; as for that which we gain, we can only term it nothing, though we may add a hope that this nothingness is relative and not absolute."-- The World as Will and Idea. Vol. II. “Denial of the will to live."

was of death and the dream eternal. And the factory girl leaned her head on her arm and sobbed again.

In the tiny room above, the dead woman was being laid out by a neighbor; for in the Devil's Alley no one lays out their own dead. This is the last service; the inalienable privilege of friendship; nay more-it is the hallowed tradition of Mark's Place.

And because one of their number had that day left their ranks-gone forth at the summons to join the great majoritythe East End Court was hushed, and the living spoke in whispers. For the Angel of Death stood in the alley; and the shadow of his wings reached from end to end.

It was a fortnight later when I again went down the alley. This time it was to inquire for the living. So I stopped at Number 5.

In the open doorway sat an old man. He was chopping sticks with a kitchen knife. There were hard lines about his face, together with a week's stubble, while on his head was a dilapidated bowler hat that came down over his ears.

Are you Mr. McDermott ?” I asked. “I am,” said he curtly. And he went on chopping sticks.

As a first meeting it was not promising, and I was rather at a loss how to proceed. It was not for a stranger to offer sympathy. So I stood and watched him while the sticks fell on the paving stones, and the alley was filled with silence.

"I believe you are an Irishman," I said presently. The remark was thrown out more or less as a fly to a salmon. I hoped he would rise to it. This he did with unexpected vigor. Indeed, had I lighted a dynamite bomb the explosion could hardly have been greater.

“An Irishman, is it ?” he ejaculated—and the half-chopped stick dropped from his hand. “An Irishman! Shure I am that; an' glory be ter God fur the same. 'Tis fr'm the County Cork I am, an' divil take the North !”.

The old man threw back his head and looked at me defiantly. Standing in the doorway of the hovel with the flash of Celtic fire in his eyes, and the kitchen knife in his hand, he stood for the country that still struggled to be free.

To him I was one of the Saxons who had accompanied Strongbow into Ireland. Worse than that, I was a follower of Cromwell, who had murdered their women and children at Wexford and Drogheda. And, hardest of all to the old man, I represented the race that had framed the penal laws. Was the persecution of centuries to be wiped out by a morning call in the alley? It was not thus with the Celt. So the son of Erin stood in his doorway and glared at me.

“Yis; 'tis from Ireland I come,” said he with rising patriotism, “the land o'heroes an' o' saints. An' 'tisn't me that 'll be denyin' me religion neither,” he ejaculated, “fur I come fr'm the old stock as suffered an'-"

“And pray, where do I come in?” I interrupted.

The effect was instantaneous. Checked midway in a Aight of patriotic eloquence, he gazed at me open-eyed, as if I had dropped from the clouds.

“ 'Tis niver fr'm— ?I nodded.

“Musha! musha!” His tone was incredulous. But as the novel position dawned upon him, the hard lines softened and the scowl gave place to a smile.

“Theoretically," I said, “I'm from Tipperary."

“Shure 'tis a fine part,” he murmured. “'Tis almost as good as Cork.”

“Hush man!” I said, “you must have seen Tipperary in the dark !” There was an answering light in the old man's eye.

“No matter,” said I; “which ever part it is, there's no other like it."

“Thrue fur yez !” He held out his hand and seized mine. “God save Ireland, sez we.” And then—with some difficulty, for it seemed like part of his anatomy-he doffed the dilapidated bowler. It was Cork's tribute to the County Tipperary.

“Fur 'tis theer,” he said generously, “that the finest boys an' the handsomest girls come fr’m.”

Here my heart smote me sore, for that I had not been born on Tipperary soil, but had inherited my nationality as a family heirloom.

“May the Almighty have ye in his keepin', an' may the hivens be yer bed!” It was thus, with a lavish hand, that he scattered blessings upon me in the deserted alley, while my sympathy went out to the old man who stood at the hovel door where death had so lately been.

Then he told me of himself and of his sorrow; and because of the death of his wife how his life was overshadowed with his grief. He was silent awhile; after which he tried to throw off his gloom.

Come along in,” he said, “Come in-an' welcome! An' 'tis yersilf as 'll be surprised whin yer see.”

So picking up my skirts I stepped over the sticks that strewed the doorway, and followed him in. As I did so I wondered if it were a corpse or a writ I was to be shown that day. But having given a cursory glance round the poor little room, I could see nothing worthy of note.

Then the old man turned round. And with a comprehensive sweep of his hand, which took in the room in general and nothing in particular, he asked with some majesty :

What d'ye think o' that, now ?

In truth I knew not what to think-still less what to say. A false step here, and even the County Tipperary could not save me. The ice was dangerously thin, and forthwith I commended myself to the saints.

Hoping for an inspiration, I took another glance round the hovel and my eye fell upon two gaudy oleographs-one of Robert Emmet, the other of St. Patrick. Meanwhile the old man stood immovable, waiting for the verdict, while I, trembling, hesitated. After all, I reflected, I can but fail. Ah, but if I failed, the hovel door would never open again, and I should have lost caste in the alley.

“What d'ye think, now?” reiterated my fellow Celt.

Mr. McDermott," I answered, with vague impressiveness, your taste is uncommon.”

“Ah!” said the man from Cork, “now yez have it !” and he beckoned me across the grimy floor. First he introduced me to Robert Emmet, whose hair was brushed up until it shone ; and then he led me to where St. Patrick occupied the place of honor.

It was wonderfully realistic, this print of St. Patrick. First there were tufts of shamrock starting out of the red brown earth, and right on top of these stood the saint. He was arrayed in a green cope and a mitre that was greener, and under his foot he held down a snake. This particular snake, I fancy, must now be extinct. It was of indigo blue, mottled with orange. Given wings it might have flown about the Garden of Paradise. But it had no wings. And in view of its orange markings, I was inclined to think it had crawled down from “the North "—the artistic talent being as assuredly fostered in “the South.” Be that as it may, St. Patrick and the blue snake shared between them the poor frame-together they divided honors in the gaudy oleograph.

“Have yer ever seen the like of it?" The old man stood beside me.

Never !” said I. And it was the truth.

My friend was satisfied. As he turned towards me his voice rose in a rich crescendo.

“Now," said he in honest self-appreciation; "now yer kin form some idea of the man as stands afore yer!”

He drew himself up in silent hauteur, and it seemed to me at that moment as if the converging lines of all the Irish kings had met in one point-all focussed into the person of Mr. McDermott, of Mark's Place.

“I suppose,” I said hesitatingly, “that you are the greatest art connoisseur in the alley ?"

“Shure, that's the very word,” answered the essence of the Irish kings—without knowing in the least what the words meant. An' well may ye say it,” he added as he gazed at the two precious prints. He walked first to one and then to the other, musing as he went.

Under one of the pictures there was a ricketty old chest of drawers, on top of which stood a candle-stick; it was broken, but in its socket there was a half-burnt candle. Nor was that all; for the tallow had guttered, and down one side clung "a wraith.”

Knowing something of the old superstition I noticed it and smiled. Not so the old man. No sooner did he see it than his mood changed. His eyes glistened feverishly, and his fingers trembled as they detached the tallow appendage; this piece of curled up wax was blown by no mortal gust. For the wind may blow down the chimney, and the candle may gutter every night of the year, but it cannot make a wraith. This is a sign from the spirit world. To the material mind there are no pixies; neither do faries dwell in Irish dells; but the Celt is a visionary, he sees what is hidden from the cynic. And on a stormy night, when the peat fire burns bright in the mountain cabin, he can hear the pixies Aitting across the bog, and his flesh creeps when they blow through the chinks of the

« НазадПродовжити »