Oldalképek
PDF

'I am she.'

'You!' I heard my voice as if it were another man's. Was it possible that I

— a man of the twentieth century — believed this impossible thing? Impossible, and yet — What had I learned if not the unity of Time, the illusion of matter? What is the twentieth century, what the first? Do they not lie before the Supreme as one, and clean from our petty divisions? And I myself had seen what, if I could trust it, asserted the marvels that are no marvels to those who know.

'You loved him?'

'I love him.'

'Then there is nothing at all for me.'

She resumed as if she had heard nothing.

'I have lost him for many lives. He stepped above me at once; for he was clean gold, though he fell; and though I have followed, I have not found. But that Buddhist beyond Islamabad

— you shall hear now what he said. It was this. "The shut door opens, and this time he waits." I cannot yet say all it means, but there is no Lahore for me. I shall meet him soon.'

'Vanna, you would not harm yourself again?' i

'Never. I should not meet him. But you will see. Now I can talk no more. I will be there to-morrow when you go, and ride with you to the poplar road.'

She passed like a shadow into her little dark cabin, and I was left alone. I will not dwell on that black loneliness of the spirit, for it has passed — it was the darkness of hell, a madness of jealousy, and could have no enduring life in any heart that had known her. But it was death while it lasted. I had moments of horrible belief, of horrible disbelief; but however it might be, I knew that she was out of reach forever. Near me — yes! but only as the silver image of the moon floating in the water by the boat, with the moon herself cold myri

ads of miles away. I will say no more of that last eclipse of what she had wrought in me.

The bright morning came, sunny as if my joys were beginning instead of ending. Vanna mounted her horse, and led the way from the boat. I cast one long look at the little Kedarnath, the home of those perfect weeks, of such joy and sorrow as would have seemed impossible to me in the chrysalis of my former existence. Little Kahdra stood crying bitterly on the bank; the kindly folk who had served us were gathered, saddened and quiet.

How dear she looked, how kind, how gentle her appealing eyes, as I drew up beside her! She knew what I felt, that the sight of little Kahdra, crying as he said good-bye, was the last pull at my sore heart. Still she rode steadily on, and still I followed. Once she spoke.

'Stephen, there was a man in Peshawar, kind and true, who loved that Lilavanti, who had no heart for him. And when she died, it was in his arms, as a sister might cling to a brother; for the man she loved had left her. It seems that will not be in this life, but do not think I have been so blind that I did not know my friend.'

I could not answer — it was the realization of the utmost I could hope, and it came like healing to my spirit. Better that bond between us, slight as most men might think it, than the dearest and closest with a woman not Vanna. It was the first thrill of a new joy in my heart — the first, I thank the Infinite, of many and steadily growing joys and hopes that cannot be uttered here.

I bent to take the hand she stretched to me; but even as our hands touched, I saw, passing behind the trees by the road, the young man I had seen in the garden at Vernag — most beautiful, in the strange mitre of his jeweled diadem. His Flute was at his lips, and the music rang out sudden and crystal-clear, as if a woodland god were passing to awaken all the joys of the dawn.

The horses heard, too. In an instant hers had swerved wildly, and she lay on the ground at my feet.

VI

Days had gone before I could recall what had happened then. I lifted her in my arms and carried her into the rest-house near at hand, and the doctor came and looked grave, and a nurse was sent from the Mission Hospital. No doubt all was done that was possible; but I knew from the first what it meant and how it would be. She lay in a white quietness, and the room was still as death. I remembered with unspeakable gratitude later that the nurse had been merciful and had not sent me away.

So Vanna lay all day and all night; and when the dawn came again, she stirred and motioned with her hand, although her eyes were closed. I understood, and, kneeling, I put my hand under her head, and rested it against my shoulder.Her faint voice murmured at my ear.

'1 dreamed — I was in the pine wood at Pahlgam, and it was the Night of No Moon, and I was afraid, for it was dark; but suddenly all the trees were covered with little lights like stars, and the greater light was beyond. Nothing to be afraid of.'

'Nothing, beloved.'

'And I looked beyond Peshawar, farther than eyes could see; and in the ruins of the monastery where we stood, you and I — I saw him, and he lay with his head at the feet of the Blessed One. That is well, is it not?'

'Well, beloved.'

'And it is well I go? Is it not?'

'It is well.'

A long silence. The first sun-ray touched the floor. Again the whisper:—

'Believe what I have told you. For we shall meet again.'

I repeated, 'We shall meet again.*

In my arms she died.

Later, when all was over, I asked myself if I believed this, and answered with full assurance, Yes.

If the story thus told sounds incredible, it was not incredible to me. I had had a profound experience. What is a miracle? It is simply the vision of the Divine behind nature. It will come in different forms according to the eyes that see, but the soul will know that its perception is authentic.

I could not leave Kashmir, nor was there any need. On the contrary, I saw that there was work for me here among the people she had loved, and my first aim was to fit myself for that and for the writing I now felt was to be my career in life. After much thought, I bought the little Kedarnath and made it my home, very greatly to the satisfaction of little Kahdra and all the friendly people to whom I owed so much.

Vanna's cabin I made my sleepingroom, and it is the simple truth that the first night I slept in the place that was a Temple of Peace in my thoughts I had a dream of wordless bliss, and starting awake for sheer joy, I saw her face in the night, human and dear, looking upon me with that poignant sweetness which would seem to be the utmost revelation of love and pity. And as I stretched my hands, another face dawned solemnly from the shadow beside her, with grave brows bent on mine — one I had known and seen in the ruins at Bijbehara. Outside, and very near, I could hear the silver weaving of the Flute that in India is the symbol of the call of the Divine. A dream; but it taught me to live.

(The End)

THE TWILIGHT OF PARLIAMENT

BY A. G. GARDINER

It is a fact of universal admission that the prestige of the British Parliament has not been at so low an ebb in living memory as it is to-day. We should have, I think, to go back to the time when George III, in his pursuit of personal government, packed the House of Commons with his creatures, to parallel the disrepute into which the present Parliament has fallen. The House of Commons has lost its authority over the public mind and its influence upon events. The press has largely ceased to report its proceedings, and the scrappy descriptive summary has taken the place of the full-dress verbatim reports with which we were familiar a few years ago. This is no doubt largely due to the revolution in the press which has replaced the sober seriousness of the past by a tendency to keep the public amused with sensation and stunts. But the fact does reflect the public sense of the decadence of Parliament.

And there is an odd touch of irony in this — that the depreciation affects the popular House much more than the House of Lords. For generations the latter has been a threatened institution, the last hope of impossible causes and the bugbear of the reformer. Its record of stupid opposition to every movement of enlightened and rational change has been the tradition of a century; but it seemed that, with the great Budget fight of 1910 and the passing of the Parliament Act, its power for mischief had been finally controlled. It

was an ogre that had lost its teeth and its claws, and was henceforth harmless. And behold! Just at the moment when the representative House is at last based on the broadest possible franchise, when the suffrage is universal and women have the vote, we are confronted with the spectacle of a House of Commons so negligible as to be almost beneath contempt, and so mute and servile that, by comparison, the hereditary Chamber stands out in contrast as the guardian of public liberties and free institutions. For long years Liberals have been fighting for a thoroughly representative system and for imposing restraint upon the reactionary tendencies of the Upper House. And having accomplished their aim, they find that they have to turn, for the experience-of whatever remnant of enlightened and liberal-minded opinion there remains, from the House of Commons to the House of Lords. There at least an occasional weighty voice is heard in protest against the follies of the government. There at least is some reminiscence of the spirit of independent criticism, which has certainly vanished from a House of Commons that exists simply to register the decrees of a ministry.

If we seek to discover the causes of the decline of the Parliamentary institution, the most general conclusion will be that it is an incident in the convulsion of the war. There can, of course, be no doubt on this point. It is the war that has shaken the pillars of Westminster and left the governance of England more chaotic and indeterminate than it has been for two centuries. But while this is undoubtedly true, it is also true that for some years before the war there had been tendencies at work which had been undermining confidence in Parliamentary government. The transfer of power from the educated middle classes to the mass of the people, while a just and inevitable development of the democratic idea, was productive of results which were not wholly salutary. The appeal ceased to be to an instructed community, which could be reached by argument, and passed to the millions who had neither the taste nor the time for the consideration of affairs, and became interested in them only when passion was aroused.

The development enormously enhanced the power of the demagogue in politics. It made the appeal to reason more difficult and the appeal to violent emotion infinitely more profitable. And the change in the seat of power was accompanied by another change, which intensified the demagogic tendency. The press became aware of the big battalions and set out to exploit them. An enterprising youth named Harmsworth, having discovered, by the success of Answers and similar erudite publications, that what the great public wanted to know was how many acres there were in Yorkshire, how many letters in the Bible, how far the streets of London put end to end would reach across the Atlantic, and so on, determined to apply the spirit of this illuminating gospel to the conduct of the daily press. His triumph was phenomenal. In the course of a few years the whole character of the English press was changed. It passed mainly into the hands of a few great syndicates, with young Mr. Harmsworth, now Viscount Northcliffe, as the head of the new journalistic hier

archy. It led the public on stunts and sensations. It debased the currency of political controversy to phrases that could be put in a headline and passed from mouth to mouth. The old-fashioned newspaper, which reported speeches and believed in the sanctity of its newscolumns, went under or had to join in the sauce qui pent. Parliament was treated as a music-hall turn. If it was funny, it was reported; if it was serious, it was ignored. With the exception of a few papers, chiefly in the provinces, like the Manchester Guardian and the Scotsman, the utterances of serious statesmen other than the Prime Minister were unreported. The Midlothian campaign of Gladstone, which used to fill pages of the newspapers, would today be dismissed in an ill-reported halfcolumn summary devoted, not to the argument, but to the amusing asides and the irrelevant interruptions.

All this profoundly affected the Parliamentary atmosphere. The power outside the House was no longer a vigilant influence upon events within the House. The statesman ceased to rely upon his reasoned appeal to the facts. He found that the way to dominion over Parliament was not by argument on the floor of the House, but by making terms with the great lords of the press outside, who controlled the machine that manufactured public opinion. Long before the war Mr. Lloyd George had appreciated the changed circumstances and taken advantage of them. A press man was much more important to him than a Parliamentary colleague or a prince of the blood. He might forget to reply to an archbishop, but he would never forget to reply to a journalist. His acquaintance among the craft was more various and peculiar than that of any politician of this day or any other day. There was no newspaper man so poor that he would not do him reverence and entertain him to breakfast. While his former colleague, Mr. Asquith, studiously ignored the press and would no more have thought of bargaining with Northcliffe and Beaverbrook for their support than of asking his butler to write his speeches, Mr. George lived in the press world, knew every leading journalist's vulnerable point, humored his vanity, and gave him a knighthood or a peerage as readily as his breakfast.

By these ingenious arts, which I have had the pleasure of watching at pretty close quarters for twenty years past, he built up that press legend of himself which has been so invaluable an asset to him. It has not only enabled him to establish his own political fortunes: it has enabled him to destroy the political fortunes of one set of colleagues after another — unhappy gentlemen, who did not know the secret doors of Fleet Street, and found themselves frozen out of the public affections by a mysterious wind that emanated from they knew not where.

It may be worth while to mention the chief figures of the press bodyguard with which Mr. George has displaced the authority of Parliament and made himself more nearly a dictator than the country has seen since the days of Cromwell. They are really very few, but between them they influence the opinion and control the news-supply of nineteen twentieths of the people of the country. They are Lord Northcliffe, whom he made a viscount; his brother, Lord Rothermere, whom also he made a viscount; a third brother, Sir Leicester Harmsworth, whom he made a baronet; Mr. George Riddell of the News of the World, whom he made Lord Riddell; the manager of the Times, Sir Stuart Campbell, whom he made a knight; the manager of theMail, whom he made a knight; Sir H. Dalziel of the Daily Chronicle and Pall Mall; Sir William Robertson Nichol (also made a knight),

who, as editor of the British Weekly, keeps him right with the Nonconformist public; Sir Edward Hulbar, the owner of a great group of papers in London and Manchester (a baronetcy for him); Lord Beaverbrook of the Daily Ex-press, who was given a peerage for engineering the overthrow of the Asquith ministry. There are others, but these are the leaders of the claque through which Mr. George rules England and, in larger degree than any man living, the continent of Europe. It is a great achievement. The press lords have so indoctrinated the public mind with the Lloyd George legend that it is doubtful whether they themselves can destroy their own creation. Lord Northcliffe, disappointed at not being chosen, as a part of his contract, to represent England at the Peace Conference, has tried to destroy it, but has found that he did his work too thoroughly to undo it easily. The public has become so attached to the legend that they find it hard to surrender it until the press can agree upon a new legend to put in its place. That will not be easy, for no other man living has anything approaching Mr. George's genius for manipulating the press, and he has had five years of power in which to consolidate his hold upon the machine of government and to establish his friends in all the strategic positions of influence.

II

But, side by side with this transfer of real power from Parliament to the press, there has been another tendency operating to discredit the House of Commons. This tendency has no doubt been aggravated by the disrepute of Parliament itself. It is the idea of direct action. The Labor movement, just when it seemed to have the control of Parliament within its grasp, developed a school which aimed at repudiat

« ElőzőTovább »