Page images

once to grow very calm. There was no time for idle tears. Martin was calling for his mother. •Charlotte,' she said, “will you get ready everything that is necessary ? My dears-oh, my poor children, I was forgetting. Charlotte must stay at home and take care of you'.

You cannot travel alone, dear Frau Pastor, I said “We will all go, and take care of one another.' And so it was arranged.

In less than an hour we were on our way to Paris, the poor mother staring with vacant eyes into the night as we flew along. The noise of the long train thundered in our ears. Its shrieks sounded like the fiendish cry of a fury triumphant. Every now and again Frau Pastor would ask childishly, What accident could it be?' or 'Did he lose a crutch ?' I could only kiss her. But our souls travelled quicker than the train and hovered round Martin's bed. I saw him, oh, so plainly! It was a vision.

But I said nothing of what I saw to Martin's mother. Shall I ever forget that journey? We arrived early, soon after dawn, and made our way across sleepy Paris to the Hotel.

Matilda and a doctor, and I think amurse, metus, but I hardly know who did meet us. People were kind.

My son,' said Frau Pastor with pathetic dignity, as she stood in the great vestibule, ‘I want to see him at once. Where is he? Is he better? Why do you not take me to him at once? Is he asleep? Does he know his mother is here?'

Then ensued a scene. I cannot go into details.

He was lying half asleep, half awake. At the touch of his mother's lips he opened his languid eyes and smiled. I think he could not have died without that kiss. I had not dared to enter the chamber—it was his mother who took hold of my hand and drew me with her. Martin looked a little surprised-even then he never guessed my secret. . . . I turned to the window. Charlotte and the poor mother knelt on either side of the bed. There was whispering.

.. I could hear nothing. I do not know how long I had been standing there.. I had no right to intercept those looks between mother and son.... But oh! Nell, how I longed to look in his dear eyes and tell him all the love of my heart. . . . She, oh, she was good, that noble little mother. After long hours of waiting, or so it seemed, she lifted her head and called to me. Constance, my child.' I turned and caught Martin's gaze. Such a look he gave me, Nell. I have been on my knees ever since. Did he know? Had she told him? It was not a time for conventionality. I sank beside the bed. . Martin laid his hand on my head : Poor child !'he faltered ... And then ... Kiss me, dear!'he whispered. Ah ! dear God, for that loving kiss I will be grateful all my life. . .. How it was, I know not, but We seemed alone. I could look into his eyes. He kept my hạndon his heart. “If I could get well, would you marry me, dear?' he

[ocr errors]

asked once. I smiled and whispered, 'Gladly.' Then I have not lived in vain. I thought no woman ...' his lips quivered. Was he thinking of Matilda Reutiger ? What had taken place in that first meeting in Paris ? It was after leaving Matilda that Martin had plunged into the traffic of Paris ... and found his death. . . . I think Matilda had not been kind to him. ... Then his mother came back ... Charlotte stationed herself at the foot of the bed. The night passed . .. dreadful night. Towards morning—the nurse had given him something to drink. He dozed; the room was still. We were all


calm. Presently he opened his eyes. His mother bent over him.

“My son, are you going ?' she asked as naturally as though Martin were going on a long journey.

But he was slumbering again. .. We sat and watched him, and once again he opened his eyes and said, this time to our great wonder: ' Never mind the crutches, mother ... I'll walk!'

... I'll walk !' And those were Martin's last words.


[ocr errors]


The ninety "Tracts for the Times,' or • Tracts against the Times,' as Mrs. Browning called them, have fallen into deserved oblivion. The greatest tracts in the English language, the Character of a Trimmer and the Anatomy of an Equivalent, are the victims of unmerited neglect. It would be hard to say why; for no such accident has happened to the fame of their author.

George Savile, Marquis of Halifax, the idol of Macaulay, who describes him as the real author of the Revolution, was a conspicuous figure in the politics of his day, and the great Whig historian has done him ample justice. With every advantage of birth and fortune he combined a singularly acute and subtle intellect, oratorical power of the highest kind, a humour at once exquisite and profound, and a thorough knowledge of the world. His Life has at last been written by the learned and accomplished lady whose article in the English Historical Review for October 1896 was so generally appreciated and admired. Miss Foxcroft has read and studied the manuscripts at Devonshire House and at Althorp. She has seen correspondence unseen by Macaulay, and her volumes probably contain all that will ever be known about Halifax. No other statesman of the seventeenth century is so like a statesman of the nineteenth. He had, as Macaulay says, a peculiar gift for anticipating the judgment of posterity. Miss Foxcroft traces his foresight to his love of abstract speculation, which was undoubtedly strong. But there was more in it than that. The famous saying about Voltaire, Il a plus que personne l'esprit que tout le monde a,' might be applied to Halifax in modified form. He was more thoroughly imbued than any other Englishman with the English spirit of compromise. He was a born critic, and objections occurred to him at once. William the Third, who more than once paid Halifax the compliment of calling himself a Trimmer, rebuked him in council for indecision. It was, no doubt, his fault. In 1688, when the Prince of Orange was on the point of actually sailing, Halifax drew back and began to think, as was his wont, that there was something to be said for the losing side. He hated the insolence of triumph, and always sympathised with the unsuccessful. Once, and only once, was he cruel to the fallen : when he went to tell King James that his Majesty must leave Whitehall he showed unusual harshness. But the King had made a fool of him, and ridicule, of which he was a master, was a thing he could not bear. And, indeed, the man who never lost his temper with James the Second could have had no temper to lose.

The eloquent and accomplished Trimmer was born in 1633. When he was eleven years old his father died, leaving him the head of an old Yorkshire family, and the inheritor of a baronetcy created by James the First. His great-grandmother was a Talbot and his grandmother a Wentworth. His mother was a daughter of Lord Keeper Coventry, and from that great judge he may have derived his natural vigour of expression. In the year of his father's death his mother, then expecting her confinement, was besieged by the Parliamentarians at Sheffield Castle, and the barbarity with which she seems to have been treated as the widow of a noted Royalist may have given the boy the horror of violence which remained with him through life. He had the singular honour of protesting first against the execution of Lord Stafford, the last victim of Oates, and afterwards against the execution of Russell and Sidney, judicially murdered by the triumphant Tories. Halifax believed neither in extreme courses nor in the extreme punishment of those who adopted them. He had not much sympathy with enthusiasm, but he did not hate enthusiasts. He had, indeed, a remarkable power of understanding, and even sympathetically understanding, opinions which he did not hold. He was himself in theory a Republican. Of the hereditary principle he made open fun. No one, he said, would engage a coachman because his father had been one before him. Yet he respected the British Constitution almost superstitiously, and the British Monarchy as part of it. The republicanism of Halifax, which did not prevent him from serving Charles the Second and William the Third, or even from corresponding with James the Second at Saint-Germains, is not very difficult to explain. He was not, like Algernon Sidney, a Republican in the Cromwellian sense. He was a thorough aristocrat. The oldest republic then existing in the world, the Republic of Venice, was an intensely aristocratic institution, and Halifax was a firm believer in the natural authority of a governing class. He argued that even in the Navy, where skill and experience must count for something, command should usually be given to men of high social station. Mr. Disraeli's description of the Whigs as a Venetian oligarchy was inspired by the lurid insight of hatred. Applied to the Whigs of his own time it was grotesque. In the eighteenth, and still more in the seventeenth, century the phrase was not inapplicable, and I doubt whether the Whigs of the Revolution would have repudiated it. But of course the Dutch Republic was always present to Halifax's mind.

A cynical Tory said of a late eminent lawyer, Coleridge is a perfect specimen of a natural Radical. He never could bear the idea of any one above himself.' Lord Halifax did not much like it either, and I suspect that much of his reluctance to bring the Prince of Orange over may be thus explained. He knew that the Prince of Orange, whatever else he might be, would be no King Log. James the baffled oppressor would have been much easier to manage than William the triumphant deliverer. In the eyes of Halifax a monarchy was made much less mischievous by the weakness of the monarch. His public life began with the Restoration, and he sat in the Convention of 1660 as member for Pontefract. He was then twenty-seven, Sir George Savile, the owner of a splendid estate, and had been four years married. He was no sportsman and cared nothing for horses or dogs. But he was devoted to the country, and for Rufford he had a peculiar love. It was not want of ambition, nor indifference to office, which drew him so often from the house he had built in St. James's Square to his Nottinghamshire woods. Although he described the work of Government as a rough thing compared with the fineness of speculative thought, he liked being in the centre, and enjoyed the conscious exercise of his great parliamentary powers. It was love of nature that drew him to Rufford, and not hatred of business or weariness of the world. The Convention was the only Parliament in which Sir George Savile sat as a


In 1668 he became Viscount Halifax, and a Commissioner of Trade. The House of Lords, which was not much larger then than the American Senate is now, exactly suited him. For a quarter of a century he delighted the Peers with his eloquence, his shrewdness, and his wit. Like the present Prime Minister, he saw the ridiculous side of everything, and if a ludicrous image presented itself to his mind, he always gave his audience the benefit of it. He had his joke and yet kept his estate. Bishop Burnet was a favourite theme of his pleasantry. He liked the Bishop's latitudinarian theology, but the Bishop's statesmanship always excited his merriment. Burnet once referred to his own speech as the salt which he had contributed to the debate. It was not, replied Halifax, of the sort which seasoned all things. For in that case there would have been less of it, and it would have been more to the purpose. Both in public and in private his humour was unmanageable and indiscreet. It is said that Danby never forgave Halifax's comment upon his reluctant refusal of a speculative offer for the privilege of farming the taxes. The Lord Treasurer, observed Halifax, reminded him of a man who, being asked for the use of his wife, declined in terms of great politeness. One of his comments has passed into a proverb. When in 1683 Lord Rochester was deprived of the Privy Seal, then an office of importance, and appointed to the dignified sinecure of Lord President, Halifax said that he had never before seen a man kicked upstairs. If any member of the present Cabinet were created

« PreviousContinue »