Imatges de pÓgina

present and the past; but he did not when you are young and enthusregret his retirement, after a life so full iastic, and believe in the future! Now I of energy that the greatest business men have no enthusiasm about anything; in the world had considered him the and as for the future — -' type of the man of action. After all, The old man fell silent for a time. there was no reason why he should Then he resumed, in a voice not ungo on working forever. What could

touched with rancor: he do that he had not already done? ‘As for the future, the future does There was really no rôle left for John interest me, to tell the truth, the way Baldwin to play in the comedy — the exciting business propositions interested tragedy — of life. And yet he went on me when I was young. Sometimes, when living, because there is something in us I meet ragged newsboys on the street, that makes us want to live, quite aside or little cowherds on the mountainsides, from all the calculations and conven- I feel a sort of jealous anger at them. iences of men!

They are so young, those little shavers! You have no idea, duchess, of the They are sure to live so much longer real extent of my business enterprises. than I can ever live! "Ah, you little People call me rich; but that word gives rogues," I say to myself, "you will be no adequate idea of the wealth I actu- here to see things that I shall have no ally have. Half the world would have chance to see.

chance to see.” The thought makes me to go bankrupt before I could be entire feel how useless money is, how absurd ly ruined. I have to think up devices the respect it inspires in everyone! for restricting the growth of my income. The famous John Baldwin, for all his I leave enormous sums of money lying two billions, is worth, in terms of future idle in the banks just because I have experience, less than a little beggar more money than I can possibly use. I who crawls along on all fours to pick up find it annoying to have so much around. the cigar-butt you are throwing away!

'I say I have seen everything, and “We are living in 1920. Sometimes I where I have not been I could easily be amuse myself by wondering what things to-morrow, if I thought it worth while. will be like when you double the twenty But none of the things that attract men part of it — 1940! What are twenty ordinarily have any charm for me now. years for any of the young people who I am so old that I see the futility of all are now around us? They are so sure of the varieties of human vanity. I have living that long, that they are ready to no children, and my one concern is to risk their chance on it for a passing find ways to invest my money where it moment's pleasure. And I, John Baldwill do some good after I am gone. win, who have stood before the kings of

'Well, I have founded libraries, mu- the earth, and am a king myself so far seums, and universities. I have endow

as money and power are concerned, ed charitable organizations — though could not for all my wealth buy those my reason tells me that charity is

twenty years, if I took into my service of no particular use in this world. I all the intelligence and science in the spend my money often without exam- world.' ining the bases of the requests that are The two old people lapsed into silence made of me. I am tired of buying pic- again. tures and subsidizing books that do not 'I have seen everything,' Baldwin pay. I am also tired of giving money for finally resumed, and I have had everythe progress of science and invention. thing. For that very reason life has no Good enough, in their way, such things more attractions for me. And yet I still want to live! The certainty that I am remembered what the great American soon to die angers me, depresses me, had said some moments before. Baldbeyond endurance. I suppose it is the win did not believe in charity, though idleness of my retirement that makes he practised it in a more or less casual me think of such things now, and em- way, giving money to those who asked phasizes reality as it is. The old days for it just because they asked for it. were days of struggle. There were Besides, she was loath to break in with obstacles to overcome, problems to any commonplace advice on what was solve. There is a kind of poetry in obviously a despairing confession on the youth, and poetry disguises things, part of the old man, prompted by the throws a veil of illusion over them, so melancholy beauty of the afternoon. that the dreamer never sees them as 'I have no hopes unrealized, no they really are. In my case it was the desires unsatisfied,' he continued. Yet thirst for power; and the pursuit of I don't want to die. Death seems to power was an absorbing, an inspiring me something insulting, something unpreoccupation. Now that everything worthy of me, something beneath my has come to me, the enchantment is dignity as a man. Strange, is n't it? gone. I see the framework of fatuity Everything in life is so complicated, that underlies human existence; and on so mysterious, so hard to understand. that my eyes, by a strange perversity of Nothing is ever simple. The moment old age, are fixed. It is as if a man saw we go beyond the obvious occupations only the skeleton under the beauty of of everyday life, things become involved an attractive woman.

beyond our comprehension. Death, for 'I remember how anxiously I used to instance — Well, people have been wait for the outcome of enterprises that talking about death for thousands and meant success or total ruin for me. I thousands of years, everybody saying have lost four fortunes in my time. the same things, so that we have hunMore often it was a great triumph. dreds of trite expressions and aphorNow, the arrival of a cablegram fails to isms, which we repeat mechanically give me the slightest thrill. Whatever without thinking even of what they the message it contains, I know it will mean. It is only when we get old and make very little difference in the mass find death right before us that we see of my possessions or achievements. fate in its actual outlines, and come to Most people, when they have fought a understand the full measure of human long battle to make a fortune, have to misery. make a second and sometimes harder 'Some people find consolation in the fight to keep what they have earned. I fact that death is the great leveler, that am beyond all such worries. My vic- death represents democracy, equality. tory has been so overwhelming, so com- Well, that reflection may be of some use plete, that my wealth stands there on to the millions of unfortunates who have its own feet, and a generation of the got nothing out of life. For such, death world's activities could hardly over- may represent the revenge of those who throw it. Well, there you are! What have failed, the satisfaction of those have I to live for?'

who are envious of others. But that is The duchess, in her humble way, had not my case. I am one of the successful many pet charities in which she was men. What have I to gain by death? always trying to interest her more for- "The thought of death as a long, retunate society friends. She was going freshing sleep, the slumber that restores to mention one of them when she our wearied strength, is just as meaning. less. The man who lies down to sleep helplessness. Human beings are not so knows that he will wake up again in the fortunate. Decrepitude comes over us, morning. Death as sleep is a fancy of while the young people about us are religion, the great consoler of human beaming with the radiant prospects of ignorance. At best, the notion is but a their long futures.' hope, a prophecy, that may or may not The duchess was listening attenbe fulfilled. We are not sure that the tively, because she judged that everynight of death will ever break into a new thing that such a celebrity thought and dawn!

said must be important. Nevertheless, “The poets have compared death to all that brooding over death disquieted winter-time, a period of cold and silence, her. Could n't he talk on some more preceding and preparing the rebirth of pleasant subject? Had n't he heard any springtime, the splendor and exuber- new gossip about the people living along ance of summer. That, also, is a guess, the coast? There was that young woman a speculation, an attempt to snatch a in the house on the Cape. Did n't he grain of consolation from the infinite know what people were saying about unknown.'

her? Why should old people worry The sun was just touching the higher about death, anyhow? Death comes peaks of the western mountains, casting to them soon enough without their a dust of golden rose along the horizon, troubling to send a special invitation! and unwinding a sash of violet and blue When the duchess timidly ventured along the sea-line to the south. Some of this last reflection, Mr. Baldwin showed the peaks seemed to be catching fire himself the man of authority, the from a gigantic furnace flaming beyond man accustomed to holding the floor and within them. The old man pointed at directors' meetings. He did not his cane at the sinking sun.

choose to be distracted from his line of “The death of the sun is not death at thought. He went on talking, but in a all. That sun knows that he will rise lower voice, and with his eyes on the to-morrow morning in the east, and ground, as if he were embarrassed in retraverse the path of glory he has fol- advance by the complaint he was to lowed for thousands and thousands of make against destiny. centuries. I imagine that is why, each 'Human life reminds me of a badly evening, he bids us farewell so gloriously. managed piece of business, where the He reminds one of a great actor who does superintendent is either a lunatic or a a great death-scene on the stage, with malicious fool. Life never succeeds in his mind on the midnight supper he is to doing what it undertakes to do. When have in the café an hour later. No, we we are young, we work to make our do not die like that. With us it is once way in the world. We set out after and for always; and what makes mat- glory and wealth. In attaining them, ters worse, almost, is that, when we get we waste the years when the possession ready to depart, we see others in the full of them would do us any good. We find flush of youth coming on to take our success when we are old, at a time places.

when success and failure are much the 'Sometimes I

the great trees in same thing. The years when we might the forest. They die so slowly and so enjoy them are years usually of sacrifice resignedly. They keep the ground un- and renunciation. derneath them dark. There are no im- ‘Just imagine, duchess! For years pudent saplings rising in the shade, to and years I worked like a dog, shut up taunt the agony of the giant with his in dark offices or in smoky factories, when, outside, the sun was shining and after the war, he had saved his first the gardens were in flower. Now, when thousand dollars, he went to Europe, I have everything, I can even improve and was in Paris once during the later on Nature, if she does n't satisfy me. I years of Napoleon's reign, at the time can make a paradise out of a desert. of the famous Exposition. Do you know that many women who “That was where I saw you first, found me impossible when I was young, duchess, when all Paris was talking I could now persuade to love me, old about your beauty, your splendor, the and decrepit as I am? Money is a won- magnificence of your entourage.' derful thing, duchess - when you don't 'O Mr. Baldwin!' the duchess interhave it!


rupted, very much flattered. “What a ‘People all consider themselves im- pity you were never introduced! It mortal. A man knows all along that would have been so delightful to know some day he is going to die; but death you when you were young.' is always a concern for some future day. 'I should never have been received,' It is never real to the moment! We find Baldwin replied. 'I was a young fellow, it natural that other people should vigorous, and not bad-looking, perhaps; die. As for ourselves, death is some but something far less presentable than thing incredible, almost impossible. The the old man you see before you. I was young people of the present would not very poor then, and struggling for an understand us if they heard us talking education. I had nothing of what is now. They will have to wait till they called breeding. My hands were rough get older, to know the full misery of and calloused from manual toil. No, it human life. But when their turn comes, did n't even occur to the John Baldwin they will moralize as we are doing, and of those days that he could have a place prove just as unintelligible to the genera- at one of your receptions. I was contion after them.

tent with standing on the sidewalk, lost 'People like to delude themselves. in the Exposition crowds, on the chance They refuse to think of death in the that the Emperor would pass that way midst of their happiness.'

in an open carriage, with the Empress At this point the duchess broke in, at his side, and, in attendance on her, to emphasize the necessity of illusion, the Duchess of Pontecorvo, then in the without which life would be impossible. full effulgence of her youth and beauty.' The old man agreed.

'O Mr. Baldwin!' the Duchess said Yes,' he said, 'we must deceive our- again, looking at the ground, while a selves in order to go on living. We all faint blush overspread her pale wrinkled pass through life on the wings of some cheeks. dream or other all of us, even those "Well,' the American continued, who seem furthest removed from any 'that is when I saw you first; and, do kind of sentiment. You think me a hard you know, I have never forgotten you man, don't you, duchess? Well, all my all my life long! You see, boys have to life long I have been chasing a will-o'- fix their eyes on some great goal, on the-wisp, living on an illusion that in something far above them. The more every moment of trial has given me unattainable the goal, the better; for, if strength and courage to push on.' it is quite out of reach, the illusion they

Baldwin reviewed the story of his life hang on it will never be disturbed by from the days of the Civil War, when he contact with cold realities. You were had thrown up a promising business that inaccessible pinnacle to me. You position to become a soldier. When, will excuse me, duchess! We are both

see, and

of us now of an age when we can say delightful comrade; but the flare, the things without any of the restraints glory of my dream of love always linproper to the young. Yes, you! In my gered about your image; and I believe time of danger and struggle, three it was in that that I found the stimulus ambitions were always in my mind, to go on with my work. I understood three goals that were to be the reward in a certain way that the beauty of my of victory. I wanted, first, an enormous, dream lay in the fact that it would palatial residence surrounded by a tre- never come true. That is why I never mendous park. I wanted a yacht big tried to find you when I had become a enough to sail any sea on earth. And really successful man. I was old, you my third ambition of course, it was


could not have been very really my first, the one most persistently young. Your children had grown up before my mind was to have for a and established families of their own. wife either a woman like the Duchess of You were long since a grandmother. Pontecorvo, or the Duchess of Ponte What would have been the use? Why corvo herself!

destroy the last illusion left me?' 'And, you see, life often affords un- He stopped for a second, while the expected bounties that it seemed quite duchess studied his face with interest, mad to dream of in advance. As for struggling apparently to reconstruct that palace, I have a dozen of them before her mind's eye the image of the scattered here and there about the American millionaire as he must have world. As for the yacht, I could build been in those youthful days.

, a fleet of them, if I weren't bored to 'O Mr. Baldwin!' she said again, death with the three I already have in 'why did n't you declare yourself?' one port or another of the United States The old man, absorbed in the thread and Europe. It is the third ambition of his own thoughts, seemed not to be that I never realized. The one thing listening. that John Baldwin failed to attain ‘I did n't try to find you because I in his triumphant existence was the was afraid you might have changed Duchess of Pontecorvo!'

in the meantime. Now - it does n't 'O Mr. Baldwin!' the duchess re- matter! You have changed, if I may peated in a great flutter of effusiveness. say so; and I have changed, changed *O Mr. Baldwin, how funny!'

immensely. There is little left of the ‘And I suppose the reason why that John Baldwin who used to stand on the illusion has always been with me is sidewalk in Paris and watch you go by. because I failed in winning her. I We are two old people who have outcan honestly say, duchess, that I have lived their real lives. The woman I am thought of you every moment of my speaking of is the woman I can still see life. A man like me has work to do, in my imagination. In my mind no work that often leaves little leisure for time has passed, and fashions have not sentimental broodings. But I am able changed. The only Duchess of Ponteto affirm that in the few moments of corvo that I shall ever really know is a repose I have had, every time I was able woman in a hooped crinoline skirt, in

my fancy wander as it listed, the the style of the Empress Eugénie and first picture inevitably to come into my the other ladies of the Imperial Court. mind was the memory of you.

And that is the only duchess I care 'I married, of course, and I loved my to know. For that is the woman who wife, I am sure. She was a good woman,

was loved as few women are ever loved, an excellent housewife, a charming, loved by a poor young American, who

to let

VOL. 128 NO. 6


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