Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

“tinentalmächten, besonders aber zu Frankreich und Deutsch

Das wäre also wieder der Dreibund von Ostasien, und diesmal könnten wir wohl liebenswürdigerer Behandlung sicher sein. Damit wäre der Schraubstock zum alten Eisen geworfen.

Diese Schwenkung der russischen Politik ist einleuchtend. Die orientalischen Interessen Russlands sind vitale ; jede ernste Bewegung im Orient legt daher dem Czarenreich die Bedeutung norinaler Beziehungen zu Deutschland nahe genug. Diese Lehre haben jetzt wieder einmal die Verhältnisse erteilt; sie beleuchten auch die Frage, welchen Vorteil sich Frankreich von seinen Beziehungen zu Russland versprechen kann. In Deutschland kommt man langsam zu Ueberzeugung, dass die Bewegungen des russisch-französischen Schraubstocks zwar unsere Nerven unangenehm erregen ; aber in ernste Gefahren wird dieser Schraubstock so leicht uns nicht bringen ; eine besondere Dankbarkeit freilich werden wir für diese Vervenabhärtung nicht gerade zu gewähren geneigt sein.

Bei unserer bisherigen abwartenden Haltung gegenüber dem orientalischen Problem haben wir uns so übel nicht befunden. Freilich eine Passivität, wie sie Mr. Stevenson uns zutraut, würde wohl dem deutschen Geschmack nicht entsprechen. Mr. Stevenson tranchirt die gesamte Türkei in saubere Portionen und glaubt, Deutschland würde zufrieden sein, wenn Oesterreich ein gutes Stück erhalten hat. Wir gönnen gewiss Oesterreich aufrichtig jeden Vorteil, aber um der Wahrheit die Ehre zu geben, muss man eingestehen, dass das deutsche Empfinden doch nicht mehr ganz so ideal ist, wie das des Poeten in Schillers Teilung der Erde ; solche träumerische Nächstenliebe hat uns Fürst Bismarck abgewöhnt. Allein, bei der Teilung halten wir ja zur Zeit noch nicht.

Inzwischen täten wir wohl, abzuwarten, welches Ansinnen die im Orient rivalisirenden Mächte an uns stellen. Dieser Moment wird kommen ; freilich die Politik der deutschen Vergangenheit ergibt zugleich, dass unsere Bewegungsfreiheit keinen Fussbreit über die Grenzen hinausgehen kann, die durch die Verträge des Dreibundes gesteckt sind.

IGNOTU'S. Horansgeber: F. ORTMANS,

Cosmopolis

An International Review.

No. II.-FEBRUARY, 1896.

WEIR OF HERMISTON

CHAPTER III.

IN THE MATTER OF THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP. It chanced in the year 1813 that Archie strayed one day into the Judiciary Court. The macer made room for the son of the presiding judge. In the dock, the centre of men's eyes, there stood a whey-coloured, misbegotten caitiff, Duncan Jopp, on trial for his life. His story, as it was raked out before him in that public scene, was one of disgrace and vice and cowardice, the very nakedness of crime ; and the creature heard and it seemed at times as though he understood as if at times he forgot the horror of the place he stood in, and remembered the shame of what had brought him there. He kept his head bowed and his hands clutched upon the rail ; his hair dropped in his eyes and at times he flung it back; and now he glanced about the audience in a sudden fellness of terror, and now looked in the face of his judge and gulped. There was pinned about his throat a piece of dingy flannel ; and this it was perhaps that turned the scale in Archie's mind between disgust and pity. The creature stood in a vanishing point; yet a little while, and he was still a man, and had eyes and apprehension ; yet a little longer, and with a last sordid piece of pageantry, he would cease to be. And here, in the Copyright (in U.S.A.) 1896 by Stone & KIMBALI.] NO, II,

1

meantime, with a trait of human nature that caught at the beholder's breath, he was tending a sore throat.

Over against him, my Lord Hermiston occupied the bench in the red robes of criminal jurisdiction, his face framed in the white wig. Honest all through, he did not affect the virtue of impartiality ; this was no case for refinement; there was a man to be hanged, he would have said, and he was hanging him. Nor was it possible to see his lordship, and acquit him of gusto in the task. It was plain he gloried in the exercise of his trained faculties, in the clear sight which pierced at once into the joint of fact, in the rude, unvarnished jibes with which he demolished every figment of defence. He took his ease and jested, unbending in that solemn place with some of the freedom of the tavern ; and the rag of man with the flannel round his neck was hunted gallowsward with jeers.

Duncan had a mistress, scarce less forlorn and greatly older than himself, who came up, whimpering and curtseying, to add the weight of her betrayal. My lord gave her the oath in his most roaring voice and added an intolerant warning.

“Mind what ye say now, Janet,” said he. “I have an e'e upon ye, I'm ill to jest with.”

Presently, after she was tremblingly embarked on her story, “And what made ye do this, ye auld runt ?" the Court interposed. “Do ye mean to tell me ye was the panel's* mistress?"

“ If you please, ma loard,” whined the female.

“Godsake ! ve made a bonny couple," observed his lordship; and there was something so formidable and ferocious in his scorn that not even the galleries thought to laugh.

The summing up contained some jewels.

“These two peetiable creatures seem to have made up thegither, it's not for us to explain why.”—“The panel, who (whatever else he may be) appears to be equally ill set-out in mind and boady."-"Neither the panel nor yet the old wife appears to have had so much common sense as even to tell a lie when it was necessary." And in the course of sentencing, my lord had this obiter dictum : “I have been the means, under God, of haanging a great number, but never just

Defendant's,

such a disjaskit* rascal as yourself.” The words were strong in themselves; the light and heat and detonation of their delivery, and the savage pleasure of the speaker in his task, made them tingle in the ears.

When all was over, Archie came forth again into a changed world. Had there been the least redeeming greatness in the crime, any obscurity, any dubiety, perhaps he might have understood. But the culprit stood, with his sore throat, in the sweat of his mortal agony, without defence or excuse: a thing to cover up with blushes : a being so much sunk beneath the zones of sympathy that pity might seem harmless. And the judge had pursued him with a monstrous, relishing gaiety, horrible to be conceived, a trait for nightmares. It is one thing to spear a tiger, another to crush a toad; there are æsthetics even of the slaughter-house ; and the loathsomeness of Duncan Jopp enveloped and infected the image of his judge.

Archie passed by his friends in the High-street with incoherent words and gestures. He saw Holyrood in a dream, remembrance of its romance awoke in him and faded; he had a vision of the old radiant stories, of Queen Mary and Prince Charlie, of the hooded stag, of the splendour and crime, the velvet and bright iron of the past ; and dismissed them with a cry of pain. He lay and moaned in the Hunter's Bog, and the heavens were dark above him and the grass of the field an offence. “This is my father,” he said. “I draw my life from him ; the flesh upon my bones is his, the bread I am fed with is the wages of these horrors.” He recalled his mother, and ground his forehead in the earth. He thought of flight, and where was he to flee to ? of other lives, but was there any life worth living in this den of savage and jeering animals ?

The interval before the execution was like a violent dream. He met his father ; he would not look at him, he could not speak to him. It seemed there was no living creature but must have been swift to recognise that imminent animosity; but the hide of the Justice-Clerk remained impenetrable. Had my lord been talkative, the truce could never have subsisted ; but he was by fortune in one of his humours of sour

* Dilapidated.

silence; and under the very guns of his broadside, Archie nursed the enthusiasm of rebellion. It seemed to him, from the top of his nineteen years' experience, as if he were marked at birth to be the perpetrator of some signal action, to set back fallen Mercy, to overthrow the usurping devil that sat, horned and hoofed, on her throne. Seductive Jacobin figments, which he had often refuted at the Speculative, swam up in his mind and startled him as with voices : and he seemed to himself to walk accompanied by an almost tangible presence of new beliefs and duties.

On the named morning he was at the place of execution. He saw the fleering rabble, the flinching wretch produced. He looked on for awhile at a certain parody of devotion, which seemed to strip the wretch of his last claim to manhood. Then followed the brutal instant of extinction, and the paltry dangling of the remains like a broken jumping-jack. He had been prepared for something terrible, not for this tragic meanness. He stood a moment silent, and then-"I denounce this Goddefying murder," he shouted ; and his father, if he must have disclaimed the sentiment, might have owned the stentorian voice with which it was uttered.

Frank Innes dragged him from the spot. The two handsome lads followed the same course of study and recreation, and felt a certain mutual attraction, founded mainly on good looks. It had never gone deep; Frank was by nature a thin, jeering creature, not truly susceptible whether of feeling or inspiring friendship ; and the relation between the pair was altogether on the outside, a thing of common knowledge and the pleasantries that spring from a common acquaintance. The more credit to Frank that he was appalled by Archie's outburst, and at least conceived the design of keeping him in sight, and, if possible, in hand, for the day. But Archie, who had just defied-was it God or Satan ?--would not listen to the word of a college companion.

“I will not go with you," he said. "I do not desire your company, sir ; I would be alone.”

“Here, Weir man, don't be absurd,” said Innes, keeping a tight hold upon his sleeve. “I will not let you go until I know what you mean to do with yourself ; it's no use brandishing that

« AnteriorContinuar »