صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Austria will not attend one unless upon condition that the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina shall be accepted without demur. M. Isvolsky is at present in Berlin, and upon the result of his pourparlers with Prince Bülow much will depend. Germany is in a singular position. The Kaiser, upon the one hand, has written to the Emperor Francis Joseph promising his ally an unconditional support. Upon the other hand, he has assured the Ottoman Ambassador at Berlin that he is full of sympathy and admiration for the Turks, and that he has never swerved from the sentiments of his speech at Damascus ten years ago, when he proclaimed himself the friend and protector of countless millions of Mohammedans throughout the world. The best way of reconciling these two róles would be to have no Conference at all. It was hoped for a few days to achieve a triumph upon these lines and to inflict a damaging and humiliating blow upon the Triple Entente by inducing the Porte itself to refuse to go into a Conference. It is now much rather to be hoped that the Ottoman Government will insist upon one; and will grasp the significance of the fact that Austria and Germany have used every diplomatic form of hypnotic suggestion in order to induce Russia to raise the question of the Dardanelles, the object being that Turkey might be divided from England, and rendered utterly dependent upon the central Empires. It remains to await the sequel with respect to the summoning of a Conference.

Of the future no thoughtful man can be sanguine. It is certain that in the last few weeks the forces of reaction in Turkey have strengthened steadily. There are distinct signs of the revival of religious fanaticism. The police in the capital cannot be trusted, much less the Palace guard at Yildiz. The reformers have summoned three battalions from Macedonia, and have taken the policing of the capital in their own hands. The primary elections for the Turkish Parliament-unlikely to meet on November 14th, as originally arranged-have opened, and the beginnings are not promising. The Christians showed signs of being elected in unwelcome numbers. Their successes in some cases have been cancelled by the Mahommedan authorities with a sublime disregard of the strict theory of representative institutions. When the Turkish Parliament does ultimately meet it will be the most hazardous constitutional experiment ever known. No legislative assembly, not at Vienna, not at Budapest, has contained such an explosive mixture of different races and creeds. Pessimistic reports from Salonika declare that the various Committees of Union and Progress are in spirit neither united nor progressive. As a matter of fact no words can do sufficient justice to the wisdom and self-control hitherto shown by the Young Turks. They are not demi-gods, but the best hope we can form is that they may remain in power. Before the world has seen the end of the political development begun during the past month there will be more than one Conference, and there may be more than one war.

A PHYSICAL LIEN.

A STORY.

BY VIOLET HUNT.

YES, I think that might hang a day longer. I can finish the mince for my lunch, and you had better do something with the turkey legs for dinner. Let me see—and there's fish. And suppose you make a savoury?"

Master don't care for savouries, ma'am!”
Well, a sweet, then.

I don't care. And—that's all, I think?" Mrs. Mardell, in her neat morning shirt, with its coquettish finish of a man's tie, and its severity much modified by the bows and loops of waved hair that crowned her head, turned, and was about to leave the dark basement of the little house in Kirriemuir Street, West Kensington, when a door in the upper regions banged !

“There, he's off, and I wanted a cheque!” Mrs. Mardell observed with mild irritation. She glanced at the kitchen clock with a degree of confidence she did not place in the exiguous timekeeper, cased in jewels, that hung on the front of her shirt. Why, it's only half past ten!”

“ Master's early gone this morning,” said the cook. Gladys took his breakfast up only ten minutes ago. ...” She paused, then, summoning a spirit, asked, “ Ma'am, are people usually buried on Christmas Day?"

Why, you silly woman, it depends on what day they die! Who's been dying?

said the woman eagerly, that I saw a corpse being carried down the steps of number thirteen just over the street opposite, nearly a week ago, and I reckon it back Christmas Day! . . . It's been worrying me ever since. Yes, I saw the mourners and hearse and feathers and all—done quite proper. I was looking out of the front staircase window

“Neglecting your work, Vance? Serves you right. You saw Whiteley's sale cart, perhaps! You were looking sideways through the red panes, and glass, you know, refracts oddly. . . . Who lives at number thirteen?"

Oddly enough, ma'am, I don't know, though I mostly could tell you the names of everybody in the street. I might ask one of the tradespeople"

Yes, do, if you like. Brr! She shivered affectedly in the pride of her health and good looks. It seems a cold time to choose to be put into the ground! One would sooner be cremated, this weather!'

“ I'll swear,

Holding up her crisp, befrilled skirts, the second wife of Joseph Mardell, the popular comic actor, just now drawing crowds to his Christmas extravaganza at the “Quality,” made her way from the dark basement to the abode of light above. Noiselessly, she let fall behind her that swing door at the top of the staircase which effectively divided the world of society from its service, and exchanged stone and oil cloth for soft carpets and silken curtains. It was a very pretty little house her house. She admitted Joe into it. Her husband-lover, Joel She glanced, as she passed by, at the hat-stand in the hall. Joe had stupidly gone out without his fur coat, though it was freezing. Or was it that it needed a stitch? How careless of Gladys! He had left his big umbrella, too, for there it bulged in the rack, beside her own delicate, silvertopped one. Careless Joe, willing enough to ignore the mere physical claims of the self he morally bowed to, and forced everyone else to do so likewise. He must have his own way, and brooked no check where his mental desires were concerned. It was perhaps the secret of his sway over men—and women.

She thought of him, the greatly sought after--and hers, with complacent affection, glancing up at the branch of mistletoe skilfully entwined with the square glass lamp that hung over the front door. Joe had kissed her under the mystic bough a week ago for luck, on the first night of the successful piece. And luck had come, and seemingly remained with them. The booking was splendid. And they were rehearsing a more serious play that was to follow the Christmas jollity. Joe was so busy, he didn't know where to turn for a spare five minutes. She did not complain, for if things went on like this, they would be able to move out of West Kensington, where you really couldn't get a smart parlour-maid to stop with you. Gladys and her finger-nails was a sore trial.

She entered the dining-room, and her eyes sought the sideboard. Ah! Joe had had some sense, after all, and had remembered to refresh the inner man before leaving, as the violated Tantalus betokened. He rarely breakfasted, and never with her. She rose at eight-she could not afford to keep actor's hours and ruin her complexion.

She stood pensively by the small piece of Sheraton furniture before opening a drawer and taking out of it what she had come to seek. Last night's oranges and apples beamed there on a pretty dish. Joe's cigarette boxes, flung about, needed tidying up. The presentation silver bowl given to Joe by his fellow-actors on the occasion of his first marriage shone in the centre with dignified lustre. It had a dwarf fern in it now, but sometimes it ran over with punch, or was packed with roses. Another more recondite use was contemplated for it; if Joe and she were to have a baby, which, sadly enough, did not seem likely, the bowl would have been used for the christening.

Mrs. Mardell took a pretty little duster out of a drawer and went

upstairs to her drawing-room on the first floor. First carefully picking up an iridescent bead off the carpet, the spoil of the dress she had worn last night, she proceeded to rub up the minute objects on her silver table, wishing heartily that she could afford to have them lacquered, and thus dispense with her daily task. So occupied, she looked wholly pretty and half domestic, a little soubrettish, like those neat aproned maids who flutter early about a stage scene and usher in and lay the tables for tragedy.

There was no harm in Florence Mardell. She was a smart, novelreading, Sandown- and Ranelagh-going woman, easily dressed, easily amused, a little detached, perhaps, in interests, and careless of the more serious issues of life, but quite willing to simulate and assume social crazes as they came up. She played a good game of Bridge. She glanced at the deep reviews as well as the Windsor and Pearson's, and improved her mind on the slightest opportunity. You could always get her for a lecture of sorts, and she quite approved of Female Suffrage without actively concerning herself in its propaganda. She was always beautifully dressed in a severish, strapped, mock-manly style, and could wear successfully the largest hats when they came in.

She had been the widow of an officer, and had lived at Wimbledon in a big dull house standing in its own grounds. She had first set eyes on Joe Mardell playing Macheath in The Beggar's Opera, to the ineffective Polly Peachum of Miss Julia Fitzgerald-his wife, had she but known it. Then and there she had fallen in love with the actor across the footlights, impulsively, violently, madly, and she had not rested, being of an acquisitive, pugnacious, predatory habit of mind, until she had persuaded a journalistic friend of hers and his to bring about an introduction. With her effective crown of real golden hair waved and curled in extremis, her clean, fresh suburbanity, she had fascinated Macheath, known to be weak, volage, and full of moods. She was, on the contrary, strong and pertinacious; she had taken him in a mood, and profited by it to drive him to drive his wife to divorce him. She had compassed all this in her own calm, detached way, as if unconscious of the larger issues she was stirring--another woman's happiness, a man's reputation, and an actor's art, for Joe was a genius, and recognised as such, in spite of, some people said because of, his strange limitations. A little man, almost a dwarf, he could play the burly Falstaff and the courtly Biron. Julia Mardell's happiness had been sacrificed, for she was known to adore her husband. To oblige him, she had condescended to make use of some of the more complicated and recondite cogs of the machinery of the English law of divorce, and had tamely surrendered, without humiliating him, one of the most fascinating men of the day to another woman. Yet Julia was quite as good-looking as Florence, if in a different style. Julia was the full-souled, full-breasted, large-eyed Junoesque woman, and only played a minx like Polly Peachum to please Joe. Such a

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

majestic walk as hers, such dark, swimming eyes, were of no avail to the actress who undertook to play one of the wayward mistresses of the highwayman. It was the measure of Julia's love and her power of self-abnegation. Joe was prepared to take the whole play on his own shoulders, only he must have a sympathetic woman to act with him. He found Julia sympathetic in those days when he loved her, and before the pretty widow from Wimbledon had leaned out of her box and shaken her golden locks at him. Joe, susceptible, weak, hustled and busy, succumbed.... He himself never knew how it all happened !

There was a large signed photograph of Julia in Joe's study now, standing unframed, concave, and dusty on the mantelpiece. Joe had not dared, or cared, to give it a more permanent abiding place. Florence had had some thoughts of removing it; her friends

wondered how she could possibly bear to have it there for Joe to see every day!” It was their expressed opinion which perhaps induced her to let it stay, curled up and drooping slavishly as time went on, and the dust and heat of the fire brought its proud head low.

Florence bore Julia no grudge; she should think not, indeed ! Julia had been very good about it, had made no difficulties, but, on the contrary, had smoothed and made easy the path of divorce for the man she loved.

That is, if she did really care for Joe! She had been so terribly callous in her zeal to give him his freedom! It was hardly human, so the woman who had profited by it thought, and certainly not very womanly. Florence could not imagine herself allowing a cold, business-like lawyer to dictate her a letter bidding Joe come back to her here with, a summons intended, of course, for ultimate publication. It disgusted Florence, this horrible formula of suing for restitution of conjugal rights, a formal petition which Joe, on his side, refused in another cold letter, equally intended for publication. Florence had actually read the two inhuman missives printed together in the daily paper. Divorce had followed in due course.

"Oh, you tamely died !” Yes, Florence would have taken the advice of the Egyptian, and would have "clung to Fulvia's waist, and thrust the dagger through her side.” Florence was a true woman, and knew that the elemental passions, once raised, must have full mastery.

The feelings of the man in question? The state of his affections ? No matter! Florence did not see herself considering them, or taking the deadly insult lying down. Julia's poor-spiritedness did really verge on meanness. She had accepted money from Joe--an allowance to enable her to leave the stage. Report said that she had grown stout. Nobody in Florence's world knew anything about Julia, excepting Miss Walton, who had introduced them. Though the two women had continued their intimacy, it was with the tacit agreement that the name of Julia should not be mentioned between

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« السابقةمتابعة »