« ПредишнаНапред »
place. There were shops on either myself think. If this were to go side, full apparently of all sorts of on for ever, I said to myself, I costly wares. There was a con- should soon go mad. tinual current of passengers up “Oh no," said some one behind and down on both sides of the me, “not at all; you will get way, and in the middle of the street used to it; you will be glad of it. carriages of every description, hum- One does not want to hear one's ble and splendid. The noise was thoughts; most of them are not great and ceaseless, the traffic con- worth hearing.". tinual. Some of the shops were most I turned round and saw it was brilliantly lighted, attracting one's the master of the shop, who had eyes in the sombre light outside, come to the door on seeing me. which, however, had just enough He had the usual smile of a man of day in it to make these spots of who hoped to sell his wares; but illumination look sickly; most of to my horror and astonishment, the places thus distinguished were by some process which I could not apparently bright with the electric understand, I saw that he was or some other scientific light; and saying to himself, “What a d— d delicate machines of every descrip- fool! here's another of those cursed tion, brought to the greatest per- wretches, d- him!” all with the fection, were in some windows, same smile. I started back, and as were also many fine produc- answered him as hotly, “What do tions of art, but mingled with the you mean by calling me a d d gaudiest and coarsest in a way fool?_fool yourself, and all the which struck me with astonish- rest of it. Is this the way you ment. I was also much surprised receive strangers here?” by the fact that the traffic, which “Yes,” he said, with the same was never stilled for a moment, smile, “this is the way; and I seemed to have no sort of regula- only describe you as you are, as tion. Some carriages dashed along, you will soon see. Will you walk upsetting the smaller vehicles in in and look over my shop? Pertheir way, without the least re- haps you will find something to straint or order, either, as it seemed, suit you if you are just setting up, from their own good sense, or from as I suppose.” the lays and customs of the place. I looked at him closely, but this When an accident happened, there time I could not see that he was was a great shouting, and some- saying anything beyond what was times a furious encounter—but no- expressed by his lips, and I folbody seemed to interfere. This lowed him into the shop, princiwas the first impression made pally because it was quieter than upon me. The passengers on the the street, and without any intenpavement were equally regard- tion of buying—for what should less. I was myself pushed out of I buy in a strange place where the way, first to one side, then to I had no settled habitation, and another, hustled when I paused which probably I was only passfor a moment, trodden upon and ing through? driven about. I retreated soon I will look at your things,” I to the doorway of a shop, from said, in a way which I believe I whence with a little more safety I had, of perhaps undue pretension. could see what was going on. The I had never been over-rich, or of noise made my head ring. It very elevated station ; but I was seemed to me that I could not hear believed by my friends (or enemies)
to have an inclination to make seem to move him, for he only myself out something more im- laughed again. “Are you not portant than I was. “I will look afraid," I said, “that I will leave at your things, and possibly I may your shop and never enter it find something that may suit me; more?” but with all the ateliers of Paris “Oh, it helps to pass the time," and London to draw from, it is he said ; and without any further scarcely to be expected that in a comment began to show me very place like this
elaborate and fine articles of furHere I stopped to draw my niture. I had always been atbreath, with a good deal of confu- tracted to this sort of thing, and sion; for I was unwilling to let had longed to buy such articles him see that I did not know where for my house when I had one, but
never had it in my power.
Now “A place like this," said the I had no house, nor any means shopkeeper, with a little laugh of paying so far as I knew, but I which seemed to me full of mock- felt quite at my ease about buyery, “will supply you better, you ing, and inquired into the prices will find, than—any other place. with the greatest composure. At least you will find it the only “ They are just the sort of thing place practicable," he added. "Í I want. I will take these, I think; perceive you are a stranger here." but you must set them aside for
"Well—I may allow myself to me, for I do not at the present be so-more or less. I have not moment exactly know-" had time to form much acquaint- "You mean you have got no ance with—the place: what—do rooms to put them in,” said the you call the place ?—its formal master of the shop. “You must name, I mean," I said, with a great get a house directly, that's all. If desire to keep up the air of superior you're only up to it, it is easy information. Except for the first enough. Look about moment, I had not experienced find something you like, and then that strange power of looking into -take possession.” the man below the surface which “ Take possession "-I was had frightened me. Now there much surprised that I stared at occurred another gleam of insight, him with mingled indignation and which gave me once more a sensa- surprise — " of what belongs to tion of alarm. I seemed to see a another man?” I said. light of hatred and contempt below I was not conscious of anything his smile, and I felt that he was ridiculous in my look. I was innot in the least taken in by the air dignant, which is not a state of which I assumed.
mind in which there is any absurd“The name of the place," he ity; but the shopkeeper suddenly said, “is not a pretty one.
I hear burst into a storm of laughter. the gentlemen who come to my He laughed till he seemed almost shop say that it is not to be named to fall into convulsions, with a to ears polite ; and I am sure your harsh mirth which reminded me ears are very polite." He said of the old image of the crackling this with the most offensive laugh, of thorns, and had neither amuseand I turned upon him and an- ment nor warmth in it; and presswered him, without mincing mat- ently this was echoed all around, ters, with a plainness of speech and looking up, I saw grinning which startled myself, but did not faces full of derision, bent upon
me from every side, from the stairs impotent, which cannot punish or which led to the upper part of the avenge, which has to restrain ithouse and from the depths of the self and put up with insults showshop behind_faces with pens be- ered upon it. I had never known hind their ears, faces in workmen's before what that helpless, hideous caps, all distended from ear to ear, exasperation was; and I was humilwith a sneer and a mock and a iated beyond description; brought rage of laughter which nearly sent down—1, whose inclination it was me mad. I hurled I don't know to make more of myself than was what imprecations at them as I justifiable — to the aspect of a rushed out, stopping my ears in miserable ruffian beaten in a brawl, a paroxysm of fury and morti. soiled, covered with mud and dust, fication. My mind was so dis- my clothes torn, my face bruised tracted by this occurrence that I and disfigured : all this within rushed without knowing it upon half an hour or thereabout of my some one who was passing, and arrival in a strange place where threw him down with the violence nobody knew me or could do me of my exit; upon which I was set justice ! I kept looking out feveron by a party of half-a-dozen ishly for some one with an air of ruffians, apparently his compan- authority to whom I could appeal. ions, who would, I thought, kill Sooner or later somebody must go me, but who only flung me, wound- by, who, seeing me in such a plight, ed, bleeding, and feeling as if must inquire how it came about, every bone in my body had been must help me and vindicate me. broken, down on the pavement- I sat there for I cannot tell how when they went away, laughing long, expecting every moment that, too.
were it but a policeman, somebody I picked myself up from the would notice and help me. But edge of the causeway, aching and no one came. Crowds seemed to sore from head to foot, scarcely sweep by without a pause — all able to move, yet conscious that if hurrying, restless : some with anxI did not get myself out of the ious faces, as if any delay would way one or other of the vehicles be mortal; some in noisy groups which were dashing along would intercepting the passage of the run over me. It would be impos- others. Sometimes would sible to describe the miserable pause to point me out to his comsensations, both of body and rades, with a shout of derision at mind, with which I dragged my. my miserable plight; or if by a self across the crowded pavement, change of posture I got outside not without curses and even kicks the protection of my wall, would from the passers-by; and, avoiding kick me back with a coarse inthe shop from which I still heard junction to keep out of the way. those shrieks of devilish laughter, No one was sorry for me—not a gathered myself up in the shelter look of compassion, not a word of of a little projection of a wall, inquiry was wasted upon me; no where I was for the moment safe. representative of authority apThe pain which I felt was as peared. I saw a dozen quarrels nothing to the sense of humilia- while I lay there, cries of the tion, the mortification, the rage weak, and triumphant shouts of with which I possessed. the strong ; but that was all. There is nothing in existence I was drawn after a while from more dreadful than rage which is the fierce and burning sense of my
own grievances by a querulous than can be counted.
Suffering voice quite close to me. " This is not the word_it's torture-it's is my corner," it said.
" I've sat agony.
But who cares ? Take here for years, and I have a right your leg out of my way." to it. And here you come, you
I drew myself out of his way big ruffian, because you know I from sort of habit, though haven't got the strength to push against my will, and asked, from you away.”
habit too, “ Are you never any “Who are you?” I said, turn- better than now ?" ing round horror-stricken ; for close He looked at me more closely, beside me was a miserable man, and an air of astonishment came apparently in the last stage of over his face. " What d'ye want disease. He was pale as death, here,” he said, “pitying a man ! yet eaten up with sores. His That's something new here. body was agitated by a nervous I'm not always so bad, if you trembling. He seemed to shuffle want to know. I get better, and along on hands and feet, as though then I go and do what makes me the ordinary mode of locomotion bad again, and that's how it will was impossible to him, and yet go on; and I choose it to be so, was in possession of all his limbs. and you needn't bring any of your Pain was written in his face. I d-d pity here." drew away to leave him room, “I may ask, at least, why aren't with mingled pity and horror that you looked after? Why don't you this poor wretch should be the get into some hospital ?” I said. partner of the only shelter I could Hospital !" cried the sick man, find within so short a time of my and then he too burst out into arrival. I who— It was hor- that furious laugh, the most awful rible, shameful, humiliating; and sound I ever had heard. Some yet the suffering in his wretched of the passers-by stopped to hear face was so evident that I could what the joke was, and surrounded not but feel a pang of pity too. me with once a circle of “I have nowhere to go," I said. mockers. “ Hospitals ! perhaps "I am—a stranger. I have been you would like a whole Red Cross badly used, and nobody seems to Society, with ambulances and all arcare.
ranged ?” cried one.“ Or the Miseri"No," he said ; " nobody cares cordia !" shouted another. I sprang -don't you look for that. Why up to my feet, crying, "Why should they? Why, you look as not?” with an impulse of rage if you were sorry for me ! What which gave me strength. Was I a joke !” he murmured to himself never to meet with anything but -"what a joke! Sorry for some this fiendish laughter ? - There's one else!
What a fool the fellow some authority, I suppose," I cried must be !"
in my fury. " It is not the rabble “ You look," I said, “as if you that is the only master here, I were suffering horribly; and you hope." But nobody took the least say you have
here for trouble to hear what I had to say years.”
for myself. The last speaker Suffering! I should think I struck me the mouth, and was," said the sick man; " but called me an accursed fool for what is that to you? Yes, I've talking of what I did not underbeen here for years—oh, years ! — stand, and finally they all swept that means nothing,- for longer on and passed away.
I had been, as I thought, severe- to wish me harm,-just as in the ly injured when I dragged myself earth above it was the natural into that corner to save myself from thing, professed at least, to wish the crowd ; but I sprang up now well—to say, Good morning, good as if nothing had happened to me. day, by habit and without thought. My wounds had disappeared, my In this strange country the stranger bruises were gone.
I was, as I was received with a curse, and it had been when I dropped, giddy woke an answer not unlike the hasty and amazed, upon the same pave- “Curse you, then, also !” which ment, how long-an hour?-be- seemed to come without any will fore? It might have been an of mine through my mind. But hour, it might have been a year, this provoked only a smile from I cannot tell. The light was the my new friend. He took no nosame as ever, the thunderous at- tice. He was disposed to examine mosphere unchanged. Day, if it me—to find some amusement perwas day, had made no progress; haps—how could I tell ?_in what night, if it was evening, had come I might say. no nearer: all was the same.
"What antiquated things?” As I went on again presently, “ Are you still so slow of underwith a vexed and angry spirit, re- standing? What were they? hosgarding on every side around me pitals : the pretences of a world the endless surging of the crowd, that can still deceive itself. Did and feeling a loneliness, a sense you expect to find them here?” of total abandonment and solitude, “I expected to find—how should which I cannot describe, there I know?” I said, bewilderedcame up to me a man of remark- “some shelter for a poor wretch able appearance. That he was a where he could be cared for—not person of
importance, of great to be left there to die in the street. knowledge and information, could Expected!
Expected! I never thought. I not be doubted. He was very took it for granted pale, and of a worn but command- "To die in the street ! he ing aspect. The lines of his face cried, with a smile, and a shrug of were deeply drawn, his eyes were his shoulders. “You'll learn bet. sunk under high arched brows, ter by-and-by. And if he did die from which they looked out as in the street, what then ? What from caves, full of a fiery impa- is that to you?” tient light. His thin lips were "To me !” I turned and looked never quite without a smile; but at him amazed ; but he had someit was not a smile in which any how shut his soul, so that I could pleasure was. He walked slowly, see nothing but the deep eyes in not hurrying, like most of the pas- their caves, and the smile upon the sengers. He had a reflective look, close-shut mouth. " No more to as if pondering many things. He me than to any one. I only spoke came up to me suddenly, without for humanity's sake, as—a fellowintroduction or preliminary, and creature." took me by the arm. " What ob- My new acquaintance gave way ject had you in talking of these anti- to a silent laugh within himself, quated institutions ?” he said. which was not so offensive as the
And I saw in his mind the gleam loud laugh of the crowd, but yet of the thought, which seemed to be was more exasperating than words the first with all, that I was a fool, can say.
" You think that matand that it was the natural thing ters?
But it does not hurt you