Compassion: Buddha vs. Nietzsche

Sympathy, in the sense of being made unhappy by the sufferings of others, is to some extent natural to human beings; young children are troubled when they hear other children crying. But the development of this feeling is very different in different people. Some find pleasure in the infliction of torture; others, like Buddha, feel that they cannot be completely happy so long as any living thing is suffering. Most people divide mankind emotionally into friends and enemies, feeling sympathy for the former, but not for the latter. An ethic such as that of Christianity or Buddhism has its emotional basis in universal sympathy; Nietzsche's, in a complete absence of sympathy. (He frequently preaches against sympathy, and in this respect one feels that he has no difficulty in obeying his own precepts.) The question is: If Buddha and Nietzsche were confronted, could either produce any argument that ought to appeal to the impartial listener? I am not thinking of political arguments. We can imagine them appearing before the Almighty, as in the first chapter of the Book of Job, and offering advice as to the sort of world He should create. What could either say?

Buddha would open the argument by speaking of the lepers, outcast and miserable; the poor, toiling with aching limbs and barely kept alive by scanty nourishment; the wounded in battle, dying in slow agony; the orphans, ill-treated by cruel guardians; and even the most successful haunted by the thought of failure and death. From all this load of sorrow, he would say, a way of salvation must be found, and salvation can only come through love.

Nietzsche, whom only Omnipotence could restrain from interrupting, would burst out when his turn came: "Good heavens, man, you must learn to be of tougher fibre. Why go about snivelling because trivial people suffer? Or, for that matter, because great men suffer? Trivial people suffer trivially, great men suffer greatly, and great sufferings are not to be regretted, because they are noble. Your ideal is a purely negative one, absence of suffering, which can be completely secured by nonexistence. I, on the other hand, have positive ideals: I admire Alcibiades, and the Emperor Frederick II, and Napoleon. For the sake of such men, any misery is worth while. I appeal to You, Lord, as the greatest of creative artists, do not let Your artistic impulses be curbed by the degenerate fear-ridden maunderings of this wretched psychopath."

Buddha, who in the courts of Heaven has learnt all history since his death, and has mastered science with delight in the knowledge and sorrow at the use to which men have put it, replies with calm urbanity: "You are mistaken, Professor Nietzsche, in thinking my ideal a purely negative one. True, it includes a negative element, the absence of suffering; but it has in addition quite as much that is positive as is to be found in your doctrine. Though I have no special admiration for Alcibiades and Napoleon, I, too, have my heroes: my successor Jesus, because he told men to love their enemies; the men who discovered how to master the forces of nature and secure food with less labour; the medical men who have shown how to diminish disease; the poets and artists and musicians who have caught glimpses of the Divine beatitude. Love and knowledge and delight in beauty are not negations; they are enough to fill the lives of the greatest men that have ever lived."

"All the same," Nietzsche replies, "your world would be insipid. You should study Heraclitus, whose works survive complete in the celestial library. Your love is compassion, which is elicited by pain; your truth, if you are honest, is unpleasant, and only to be known through suffering; and as to beauty, what is more beautiful than the tiger, who owes his splendour to his fierceness? No, if the Lord should decide for your world, I fear we should all die of boredom."

"You might," Buddha replies, "because you love pain, and your love of life is a sham. But those who really love life would be happy as no one can be happy in the world as it is."

For my part, I agree with Buddha as I have imagined him. But I do not know how to prove that he is right by any argument such as can be used in a mathematical or a scientific question. I dislike Nietzsche because he likes the contemplation of pain, because he erects conceit into a duty, because the men whom he most admires are conquerors, whose glory is cleverness in causing men to die. But I think the ultimate argument against his philosophy, as against any unpleasant but internally self-consistent ethic, lies not in an appeal to facts, but in an appeal to the emotions. Nietzsche despises universal love; I feel it the motive power to all that I desire as regards the world. His followers have had their innings, but we may hope that it is coming rapidly to an end.

The History of Western Philosophy, Bertrand Russell, Book 3, Chapter 25


The Unhappiness of Literary Men

If to know wisdom were to practise it; if fame brought true dignity and peace of mind; or happiness consisted in nourishing the intellect with its appropriate food and surrounding the imagination with ideal beauty, a literary life would be the most enviable which the lot of this world affords. But the truth is far otherwise. The Man of Letters has no immutable, all-conquering volition, more than other men; to understand and to perform are two very different things with him as with every one. His fame rarely exerts a favourable influence on his dignity of character, and never on his peace of mind: its glitter is external, for the eyes of others; within, it is but the aliment of unrest, the oil cast upon the ever-gnawing fire of ambition, quickening into fresh vehemence the blaze which it stills for a moment. Moreover, this Man of Letters is not wholly made of spirit, but of clay and spirit mixed: his thinking faculties may be nobly trained and exercised, but he must have affections as well as thoughts to make him happy, and food and raiment must be given him or he dies. Far from being the most enviable, his way of life is perhaps, among the many modes by which an ardent mind endeavours to express its activity, the most thickly beset with suffering and degradation. Look at the biography of authors! ...The calamities of these people are a fertile topic; and too often their faults and vices have kept pace with their calamities. Nor is it difficult to see how this has happened. Talent of any sort is generally accompanied with a peculiar fineness of sensibility; of genius this is the most essential constituent; and life in any shape has sorrows enough for hearts so formed. The employments of literature sharpen this natural tendency; the vexations that accompany them frequently exasperate it into morbid soreness. The cares and toils of literature are the business of life; its delights are too ethereal and too transient to furnish that perennial flow of satisfaction, coarse but plenteous and substantial, of which happiness in this world of ours is made. The most finished efforts of the mind give it little pleasure, frequently they give it pain; for men's aims are ever far beyond their strength. And the outward recompense of these undertakings, the distinction they confer, is of still smaller value: the desire for it is insatiable even when successful; and when baffled, it issues in jealousy and envy, and every pitiful and painful feeling. So keen a temperament with so little to restrain or satisfy, so much to distress or tempt it, produces contradictions which few are adequate to reconcile. Hence the unhappiness of literary men, hence their faults and follies.

Thus literature is apt to form a dangerous and discontenting occupation even for the amateur. But for him whose rank and worldly comforts depend on it, who does not live to write, but writes to live, its difficulties and perils are fearfully increased. Few spectacles are more afflicting than that of such a man, so gifted and so fated, so jostled and tossed to and fro in the rude bustle of life, the buffetings of which he is so little fitted to endure. Cherishing, it may be, the loftiest thoughts, and clogged with the meanest wants; of pure and holy purposes, yet ever driven from the straight path by the pressure of necessity, or the impulse of passion; thirsting for glory, and frequently in want of daily bread; hovering between the empyrean of his fancy and the squalid desert of reality; cramped and foiled in his most strenuous exertions; dissatisfied with his best performances, disgusted with his fortune, this Man of Letters too often spends his weary days in conflicts with obscure misery: harassed, chagrined, debased, or maddened; the victim at once of tragedy and farce; the last forlorn outpost in the war of Mind against Matter. Many are the noble souls that have perished bitterly, with their tasks unfinished, under these corroding woes! Some in utter famine, like Otway; some in dark insanity, like Cowper and Collins; some, like Chatterton, have sought out a more stern quietus, and turning their indignant steps away from a world which refused them welcome, have taken refuge in that strong Fortress, where poverty and cold neglect, and the thousand natural shocks which flesh is heir to, could not reach them any more.

Yet among these men are to be found the brightest specimens and the chief benefactors of mankind! It is they that keep awake the finer parts of our souls; that give us better aims than power or pleasure, and withstand the total sovereignty of Mammon in this earth. They are the vanguard in the march of mind; the intellectual Backwoodsmen, reclaiming from the idle wilderness new territories for the thought and the activity of their happier brethren. Pity that from all their conquests, so rich in benefit to others, themselves should reap so little! But it is vain to murmur. They are volunteers in this cause; they weighed the charms of it against the perils: and they must abide the results of their decision, as all must. The hardships of the course they follow are formidable, but not all inevitable; and to such as pursue it rightly, it is not without its great rewards. If an author's life is more agitated and more painful than that of others, it may also be made more spirit-stirring and exalted: fortune may render him unhappy; it is only himself that can make him despicable. The history of genius has, in fact, its bright side as well as its dark. And if it is distressing to survey the misery, and what is worse, the debasement of so many gifted men, it is doubly cheering on the other hand to reflect on the few, who, amid the temptations and sorrows to which life in all its provinces and most in theirs is liable, have travelled through it in calm and virtuous majesty, and are now hallowed in our memories, not less for their conduct than their writings. Such men are the flower of this lower world: to such alone can the epithet of great be applied with its true emphasis. There is a congruity in their proceedings which one loves to contemplate: 'he who would write heroic poems, should make his whole life a heroic poem.'

So thought our Milton; and, what was more difficult, he acted so. To Milton, the moral king of authors, a heroic multitude, out of many ages and countries, might be joined; a 'cloud of witnesses,' that encompass the true literary man throughout his pilgrimage, inspiring him to lofty emulation, cheering his solitary thoughts with hope, teaching him to struggle, to endure, to conquer difficulties, or, in failure and heavy sufferings, to
'arm th' obdured breast
With stubborn patience as with triple steel.'

--The Life of Friedrich Schiller, Thomas Carlyle, Part II

A Withering Beauty

When Connie went up to her bedroom she did what she had not done for a long time: took off all her clothes, and looked at herself naked in the huge mirror. She did not know what she was looking for, or at, very definitely, yet she moved the lamp till it shone full on her.

And she thought, as she had thought so often, what a frail, easily hurt, rather pathetic thing a human body is, naked; somehow a little unfinished, incomplete!

She had been supposed to have rather a good figure, but now she was out of fashion... She was not very tall, a bit Scottish and short; but she had a certain fluent, down-slipping grace that might have been beauty. Her skin was faintly tawny, her limbs had a certain stillness, her body should have had a full, down-slipping richness; but it lacked something.

Instead of ripening its firm, down-running curves, her body was flattening and going a little harsh. It was as if it had not had enough sun and warmth; it was a little greyish and sapless...

Her breasts were rather small, and dropping pear-shaped. But they were unripe, a little bitter, without meaning hanging there. And her belly had lost the fresh, round gleam it had had when she was young, in the days of her German boy, who really loved her physically. Then it was young and expectant, with a real look of its own. Now it was going slack, and a little flat, thinner, but with a slack thinness. Her thighs, too, they used to look so quick and glimpsy in their female roundness, somehow they too were going flat, slack, meaningless.

Her body was going meaningless, going dull and opaque, so much insignificant substance. It made her feel immensely depressed and hopeless. What hope was there? She was old, old at twenty-seven, with no gleam and sparkle in the flesh. Old through neglect and denial, yes, denial. Fashionable women kept their bodies bright like delicate porcelain, by external attention. There was nothing inside the porcelain; but she was not even as bright as that. The mental life! Suddenly she hated it with a rushing fury, the swindle!

She looked in the other mirror's reflection at her back, her waist, her loins. She was getting thinner, but to her it was not becoming. The crumple of her waist at the back, as she bent back to look, was a little weary; and it used to be so gay-looking. And the longish slope of her haunches and her buttocks had lost its gleam and its sense of richness. Gone! Only the German boy had loved it, and he was ten years dead, very nearly. How time went by! Ten years dead, and she was only twenty-seven. The healthy boy with his fresh, clumsy sensuality that she had then been so scornful of! Where would she find it now? It was gone out of men. They had their pathetic, two-seconds spasms like Michaelis; but no healthy human sensuality, that warms the blood and freshens the whole being.

Still she thought the most beautiful part of her was the long-sloping fall of the haunches from the socket of the back, and the slumberous, round stillness of the buttocks. Like hillocks of sand, the Arabs say, soft and downward-slipping with a long slope. Here the life still lingered hoping. But here too she was thinner, and going unripe, astringent.

But the front of her body made her miserable. It was already beginning to slacken, with a slack sort of thinness, almost withered, going old before it had ever really lived. She thought of the child she might somehow bear. Was she fit, anyhow?

She slipped into her nightdress, and went to bed, where she sobbed bitterly.

--Lady Chatterley's Lover, D.H. Lawrence, Chapter 7


A Despairing Heartcry

It was a changed London to which Herminia returned. She was homeless, penniless, friendless. Above all, she was déclassée. The world that had known her, now knew her no more. Women who had smothered her with their Judas kisses passed her by in their victorias with a stony stare. Even men pretended to be looking the other way, or crossed the street to avoid the necessity for recognising her. 'So awkward to be mixed up with such a scandal!' She hardly knew as yet herself how much her world was changed, indeed; for had she not come back to it, the mother of an illegitimate daughter? But she began to suspect it the very first day when she arrived at Charing Cross, clad in a plain black dress, with her baby at her bosom.

Her first task was to find rooms; her next to find a livelihood. Even the first involved no small relapse from the purity of her principles. After long hours of vain hunting, she found at last she could only get lodgings for herself and Alan's child by telling a virtual lie against which her soul revolted. She was forced to describe herself as Mrs. Barton; she must allow her landlady to suppose she was really a widow. Woe unto you, scribes and hypocrites; in all Christian London, Miss Barton and her baby could never have found a 'respectable' room in which to lay their heads. So she yielded to the inevitable, and took two tiny attics in a small street off the Edgware Road at a moderate rental. To live alone in a cottage as of yore would have been impossible now she had a baby of her own to tend besides earning her livelihood; she fell back regretfully on the lesser evil of lodgings.

To earn her livelihood was a hard task, though Herminia's indomitable energy rode down all obstacles. Teaching, of course, was now quite out of the question; no English parent could entrust the education of his daughters to the hands of a woman who has dared and suffered much, for conscience' sake, in the cause of freedom for herself and her sisters. But even before Herminia went away to Perugia, she had acquired some small journalistic connection; and now, in her hour of need, she found not a few of the journalistic leaders by no means unwilling to sympathise and fraternise with her. To be sure, they didn't ask the free woman to their homes, nor invite her to meet their own women:—even an enlightened journalist must draw a line some-where in the matter of society; but they understood and appreciated the sincerity of her motives, and did what they could to find employment and salary for her. Herminia was an honest and conscientious worker; she knew much about many things; and nature had gifted her with the instinctive power of writing clearly and unaffectedly the English language. So she got on with editors. Who could resist, indeed, the pathetic charm of that girlish figure, simply clad in unobtrusive black, and sanctified in every feature of the shrinking face by the beauty of sorrow? Not the men who stand at the head of the one English profession which more than all others has escaped the leprous taint of that national moral blight that calls itself 'respectability.'

In a slow and tentative way, then, Herminia crept back into unrecognised recognition. It was all she needed. Companionship she liked; she hated society. That mart was odious to her where women barter their bodies for a title, a carriage, a place at the head of some rich man's table. Bohemia sufficed her. Her terrible widowhood, too, was rendered less terrible to her by the care of her little one. Babbling lips, pattering feet, made heaven in her attic. Every good woman is by nature a mother, and finds best in maternity her social and moral salvation. She shall be saved in child-bearing. Herminia was far removed indeed from that blatant and decadent sect of 'advanced women' who talk as though motherhood were a disgrace and a burden, instead of being, as it is, the full realisation of woman's faculties, the natural outlet for woman's wealth of emotion. She knew that to be a mother is the best privilege of her sex, a privilege of which unholy man-made institutions now conspire to deprive half the finest and noblest women in our civilised communities. Widowed as she was, she still pitied the unhappy beings doomed to the cramped life and dwarfed heart of the old maid; pitied them as sincerely as she despised those unhealthy souls who would make of celibacy, wedded or unwedded, a sort of anti-natural religion for women.

Alan's death, however, had left Herminia's ship rudderless. Her mission had failed. That she acknowledged herself. She lived now for Dolores. The child to whom she had given the noble birthright of liberty was destined from her cradle to the apostolate of women. Alone of her sex, she would start in life emancipated. While others must say 'With a great sum obtained I this freedom,' Dolores could answer with Paul 'But I was free born.' That was no mean heritage.

Gradually Herminia got work to her mind; work enough to support her in the modest way that sufficed her small wants for herself and her baby. In London, given time enough, you can live down anything—perhaps even the unspeakable sin of having struck a righteous blow in the interest of women. And day by day, as months and years went on, Herminia felt she was living down the disgrace of having obeyed an enlightened conscience. She even found friends. Dear old Miss Smith-Waters used to creep round by night, like Nicodemus—respectability would not have allowed her to perform that Christian act in open daylight—and sit for an hour or two with her dear misguided Herminia. Miss Smith-Waters prayed nightly for Herminia's 'conversion,' yet not without an uncomfortable suspicion, after all, that Herminia had very little indeed to be 'converted' from. Other people also got to know her by degrees; an editor's wife; a kind literary hostess; some socialistic ladies who liked to be 'advanced'; a friendly family or two of the Bohemian literary or artistic pattern. Among them, Herminia learned to be as happy in time as she could ever again be, now she had lost her Alan. She was Mrs. Barton to them all; that lie she found it practically impossible to fight against. Even the Bohemians refused to let their children ask after Miss Barton's baby.

So wrapt in vile falsehoods and conventions are we. So far have we travelled from the pristine realities of truth and purity. We lie to our children—in the interests of morality.

After a time, in the intervals between doing her journalistic work and nursing Alan's baby, Herminia found leisure to write a novel. It was seriously meant, of course; but still, it was a novel. That is every woman's native idea of literature. It reflects the relatively larger part which the social life plays in the existence of women. If a man tells you he wants to write a book, nine times out of ten he means a treatise or argument on some subject that interests him. Even the men who take in the end to writing novels have generally begun with other aims and other aspirations, and have only fallen back upon the art of fiction in the last resort as a means of livelihood. But when a woman tells you she wants to write a book, nine times out of ten she means she wants to write a novel. For that task nature has most often endowed her richly. Her quicker intuitions, her keener interest in social life, her deeper insight into the passing play of emotions and of motives, enable her to paint well the complex interrelations of every-day existence. So Herminia, like the rest, wrote her own pet novel.

By the time her baby was eighteen months old, she had finished it. It was blankly pessimistic, of course. Blank pessimism is the one creed possible for all save fools. To hold any other is to curl yourself up selfishly in your own easy-chair, and say to your soul, 'O soul, eat and drink; O soul, make merry. Carouse thy fill. Ignore the maimed lives, the stricken heads and seared hearts, the reddened fangs and ravening claws of nature all round thee.' Pessimism is sympathy. Optimism is selfishness. The optimist folds his smug hands on his ample knees, and murmurs contentedly: 'The Lord has willed it;' 'There must always be rich and poor;' 'Nature has, after all, her great law of compensation.' The pessimist knows well self-deception like that is either a fraud or a blind, and recognising the seething mass of misery at his doors gives what he can —his pity, or, where possible, his faint aid, in redressing the crying inequalities and injustices of man or nature.

All honest art is therefore of necessity pessimistic. Herminia's romance was something more than that. It was the despairing heartcry of a soul in revolt. It embodied the experiences and beliefs and sentiments of a martyred woman. It enclosed a lofty ethical purpose. She wrote it with fiery energy, for her baby's sake, on waste scraps of paper, at stray moments snatched from endless other engagements. And as soon as it was finished, she sent it in fear and trembling to a publisher.

--The Woman Who Did, Grant Allen, Chapter 13

Of love and lust

“We never permit with impunity
the mind to analyze the liberty to
indulge in certain loves; once begin
to reflect on those deep and troublesome
matters which are called passion and
duty, the soul which naturally delights
in the investigation of every truth, is
unable to stop in its exploration.”

Ernest Frydeau (La Comtesse de Chalis).

When Marcel had gone away, Suzanne, when she had quietly shut the street-door, by which she had gone out, went upstairs to her room and sat down on the side of her bed.

She asked herself if she had not just been the sport of an hallucination, if it was really true that a man had gone out of the house, who had held her in his arms, to whom she had yielded herself.

Everything had happened so rapidly, that she had had no time to think, to reflect, to say to herself: “What does he want with me?” no time even to recover herself.

A kiss, a violent emotion, a transient indignation, a struggle for a few seconds, a sharp pain, and that was all; the crime was consummated, she had lost her honour, and that was love!

She wished not to believe it, but her disordered corsage, her dishevelled hair upon her bare shoulders, her crumpled dressing-gown, and more than all that, the violent leaping of her heart, told her that she was not dreaming.

He was gone, the priest; he had fled away into the night, happy and light of heart, leaving her alone with her shame, and the ulcer of remorse in her soul.

And then big tears rolled down her cheeks and fell upon her breasts, still burning with his feverish caresses. “It is all over! it is all over. Where is my virginity?”

Weep, poor girl, weep, for that virginity is already far away, and nothing, it is said, flees faster than the illusion which departs, if it be not a virginity which flies away.

And a vague terror was mingled with her remorse.

The first apprehension which strikes brutally against the edifice of illusions of the woman who has committed a fault, is the anxiety regarding the opinion of the man who has incited her to that fault; I am speaking, be it understood, of one in whom there remains the feeling of modesty, without which she is not a woman, but an unclean female.

When she awakes from her short delirium, she says to herself:

—What will he think of me? What will he believe? Will he not despise me?

And she has good grounds for apprehension; for often (I believe I have said so already) the contempt of her accomplice is all that remains to her.

And then, what man is there who, after having at length possessed illegitimately the wife or the maiden so long pursued and desired, does not say to himself in the morning, when his fever is dissipated, when the bandage which hitherto has covered the eyes of love suppliant, is unbound from the eyes of love satisfied, when the unknown which has so many charms, has become the known that we despise, when of the rosy, inflated illusion there remains but a yellow skeleton: “She has given herself to me trustingly and artlessly; but might she not have given herself with equal facility to another, if I had not been there? for in fact ... what devil...?”

A strange question, but one which unavoidably takes up its abode in the heart, and waits to come forth and be present one day on the lips, at the time when Satiety gives the last kick to the last house of cards erected by Pleasure.

And it is thus that after doing everything to draw a woman into our own fall, we are discontented with her for her sacrifice and for her love.

For there comes a moment when the angel for whom one would have given one's life, the divinity for whom one would have sacrificed country, family, fortune, future, is no more than a common mistress, ranked in the ordinary lot with the rest, and for whom one would hesitate to spend half-a-sovereign.

Have you not chanced sometimes to follow with an envious eye, on some fresh morning in spring or on a lovely autumn evening, the solitary walk of a loving couple? They go slowly, hand in hand, avoiding notice, selecting the shady and secret paths, or the darkest walks in the woods. He is handsome, young and strong; she is pretty and charming, pale with emotion, or blushing with modesty. What things they murmur as they lean one towards another, what sweet projects of an endless future, what oaths which ought to be eternal, sworn untiringly, lip on lip.

“One of those noble loves which have no end.”

Happy egotists. They think but of themselves; all, except themselves, is insupportable to them, all but themselves wearies and weighs upon them. The universe is themselves, life is the present which glides along, and in order to delay the present and enjoy it at their ease, they have no scruple in mortgaging the future. And they go on, listening to the divine harmony, the mysterious poem which sings in their own heart, of youth and love.

You have envied them; who would not envy them? It is happiness which passes by. Make way respectfully. What! you smiled sorrowfully! Ah, it is because like me, you have seen behind these poor trustful children, following them as the insultores used to follow the triumphal chariot of old, a demon with sinister countenance who with his brutal hands will soon roughly tear the veil woven of fancies; the Reality, who is there with his rags, getting ready to cast them upon their bright tinsels of gauze and spangles.

Wait a few years, a few months, perhaps only a few weeks. What has become of those handsome lovers so tenderly entwined? They swore mouth to mouth an endless love. Where are they? Where are their loves?

As well would it be worth to ask where are the leaves of autumn which the evening breeze carried away last year.

“But where are the snows of yesteryear?”

What! already, it is finished! And yet he had sworn to love her always. Yes, but she also had sworn to be always amiable. Which of the two first forfeited the oath?

There has been then a tragedy, a drama, despair, tears? Nonsense! Those who had sworn to die one for the other, one fine day parted as strangers.

The charming young girl whom you saw passing by, proud and radiant on the arm of that artless stripling, see, here she comes, a little weary, a little faded, but still charming, on the arm of that cynical Bohemian.

That poetical school-girl, who smiled and scattered daisies on the head of her lover, as he knelt before her, has become the adored wife of a dull tallow-chandler; and the other one, who took the ivy for her emblem, and who said to her sweetheart: “I cling till death!” has clung to and separated from half-a-dozen others without dying, and has finished by fastening herself to a rheumatical old churchwarden, peevish but substantial.

And the lover? He is no better: he has loved twenty since; the deep sea of oblivion has passed between them, and among so many vanished mistresses, can he precisely remember her name?

Suzanne did not say all this to herself, she was ignorant of the whirlpools of life, but she felt instinctively that she was about to be precipitated into an abyss.

She was not perverse, she was merely frivolous and coquettish, but she had received a vicious education. Her imagination only had been corrupted, her heart had remained till then untainted. It was a good ear of corn which somehow or another had made its way into the field of tares.

She reproached herself bitterly therefore for the shameful facility with which she had yielded herself to the priest, and she sought for an excuse to try and palliate her fault in her own eyes.

But she was unable to discover any genuine excuses. A young girl is pardoned for yielding herself to her lover in a moment of forgetfulness and excitement, because she hopes that marriage will atone for her fault.

But what had she to claim? What could she expect from this Cure?

Again a young wife is pardoned for deceiving an old husband, or a husband who is worthless, debauched and brutal, and for seeking a friend abroad whom she cannot find at her fire-side; but she? Whom had she deceived? Her father, who though severe, adored her. Whom had she dishonoured? The white hairs of that worthy, brave old man.

She saw clearly that she could find no excuse, and she was compelled to confess that she ought to feel ashamed of herself; but what affected her most was the thought that her lover, the priest, must have been extremely surprised at his victory himself, and that if he too were to attempt to find an excuse for her conduct, he could discover none either. But in proportion as she felt astonished at her shame, as she saw into what a corner she had been driven, as she dreaded the man's scorn, for whom she had fallen so low, did she feel her love grow greater.

-- The Grip of Desire, Hector France, Chapter 76

The Woes of a Parish Priest

“My life was blighted, my universe
was changed; I had entangled myself
without knowing it in an inextricable
drama. I must get out of it at any
cost, and I had no way of unravelling
it. I resolved by all means to find one.”

J. JANIN (L'Ans morte).

He sat by his desolate hearth and began to think with terror of the eternal solitude of that hearth. Alone! always alone! Already he had said to himself very often that he had chosen the wrong road, that this arid and desolate path was not the one needful to his ardent soul, that the hopes with which he had formerly been deluded, were falsehoods in reality, and that the God whom they had made him believe that he loved with such ardour, left his soul empty and barren.

To love God! The love of God! High-sounding, hollow words which enable hypocrites to take advantage of the common people; fantastic passion kindled in the heart of fools for the amazement of the simple!

Ah! how willingly would he have replaced the worn-out vision of this chimerical phantom with the likeness of some young girl, with sweet look and smile, full of promise.

And the burning memory of the wanton player came and blended with the fresh and radiant memory of the charming pupil of Saint-Denis.

“But why, priest, dost thou permit thy fevered guilty imagination to wander thus? Pursue thy course, pursue it without stopping, without looking back; henceforth it is too late to retrace thy path; anyhow be chaste, be chaste under pain of shame and infamy.

“Thou must not be chaste in view of recompense like a slave, thou must be chaste without expectance.” [The Antigone of Soto]

He took up a book, his sovereign remedy in hours of temptation. It was the life of St. Antony, written by his companion, St. Athanasius.

“The demons presented to his mind thoughts of impurity, but Antony repulsed them by prayer. The devil excited his senses, but Antony blushed with shame, as though the fault were his own, and strengthened his body by faith, by prayer and by vigil. The devil, seeing himself vanquished thus, took the shape of a young and lovely woman and imitated the most lascivious actions in order to beguile him, but Antony raising his thoughts towards heaven and considering the loftiness and excellence of the soul which is given to us, extinguished these burning coals by which the devil hoped to inflame his heart through this deception, and drove away the devilish creature.”

Marcel shrugged his shoulders and closed the book. How many times already he had tried all those means without success.

He leant his burning forehead on his hands and, in self-contemplation, tried to see to the bottom of his soul.

Chaste! always chaste! What! Was the flower of his youth wasted away thus, in incessant, barren struggles? If only peace of heart, and a quiet conscience remained to him; if quietude sat by his hearth, as his masters many a time had promised him! But no, alone with himself, he felt himself to be with an enemy.

For many years, it had been so, and a lying voice had cried to him without ceasing: “Wait for happiness, for sweet pure joys, wait for it till to-morrow: to-morrow all this fury will have passed away, these raging blasts which rise to thy brain will have vanished; thy vanquished senses will leave thee in peace, and calm and strong, thou shalt rejoice over an untroubled conscience and over the satisfaction of duty fulfilled.”

And he had waited in vain. Now he had reached ripe age, and the future is visible ever more gloomy; to-morrow has come, as sad, as empty, and as desolate as yesterday.

He was tired at last of waiting, patiently, humbly, resigned like the beast of burden which awaits the slaughterhouse. Beasts of burden! Are we not that, all we who with brow bent under humiliation, injustice, thankless toil; with the heart embittered by tedious deception and tedious despair, miseries of heart and miseries of body, wait, wait ever, wait vainly for a more brilliant sun to shine at last, until at the end of the day there rises before us the only guest we have never expected, on whom we counted not,—the solution of the great problem, the radical cure for all our ills—DEATH.

Death, which with its brutal hand, seizes us at the moment when perhaps at last we are going to rest ourselves and rejoice.

No, that shall not be. He will not continue to vegetate without happiness in these dull, common-place surroundings; to walk at random in this road bristling with thorns; to pursue his disheartening career, enclosed by miserable vices.

Nothing around him but stupid, vulgar prosiness, foolish moral annihilation. No poetry, no golden ray, no rainbow! Everything most low, unsightly, pitiful. Such was his lot as priest.

Complaints of the soul, wandering flashes of the imagination, criminal aspirations of the heart, sinful desires ... these ... that was all.

Was this then life?

Was it for this that God had created him, that his mother had drawn him painfully forth from her entrails, that nature had one day counted one intelligent being the more?

Ah! he felt full well it was not so. He felt full well it was not so by his thirst for emotions and enjoyment, by his altered lips, by his aspirations for an unknown world. He was in haste to strip off for once at least this old man's shell which enveloped him, this black, hideous, hardened covering of the bad priest, beneath which he felt his vitality, his youth, his strength, his heart of thirty, bounding, boiling, roaring, like burning lava.

The next day he remembered that though it was nearly six months since he had taken possession of his cure, his pastoral visits were not yet completed.

In fact, he had gone everywhere, even to Captain Durand's. Only, he had found the door closed and, after the information he received, he had fully resolved not to go there again.

--The Grip of Desire, Hector France, chapter 13

Hunger, all-devouring Hunger

JANUARY 17th.—As a natural consequence of the alleviation of our thirst, the pangs of hunger returned more violently than ever. Although we had no bait, and even if we had we could not use it for want of a whirl, we could not help asking whether no possible means could be devised for securing one out of the many sharks that were still perpetually swarming about the raft. Armed with knives, like the Indians in the pearl fisheries, was it not practicable to attack the monsters in their own element? Curtis expressed his willingness personally to make the attempt, but so numerous were the sharks that we would not for one moment hear of his risking his life in a venture of which the danger was as great as the success was doubtful.

By plunging into the sea, or by gnawing at a piece of metal, we could always, or at least often, do something that cheated us into believing that we were mitigating the pains of thirst; but with hunger it was different. The prospect, too, of rain seemed hopeful, whilst for getting food there appeared no chance; and, as we knew that nothing could compensate for the lack of nutritive matter, we were soon all cast down again. Shocking to confess, it would be untrue to deny that we surveyed each other with the eye of an eager longing; and I need hardly explain to what a degree of savageness the one idea that haunted us had reduced our feelings.

Ever since the storm-cloud brought us the too transient shower the sky has been tolerably clear, and although at that time the wind had slightly freshened, it has since dropped, and the sail hangs idly against our mast. Except for the trifling relief it brings by modifying the temperature we care little now for any breeze. Ignorant as we are as to what quarter of the Atlantic we have been carried by the currents, it matters very little to us from what direction the wind may blow if only it would bring, in rain or dew, the moisture of which we are so dreadfully in need.

The moon was entering her last quarter, so that it was dark till nearly midnight, and the stars were misty, not glowing with that lustre which is so often characteristic of cool nights. Half frantic with that sense of hunger which invariably returns with redoubled vigour at the close of every day, I threw myself, in a kind of frenzy, upon a bundle of sails that was lying on the starboard of the raft, and leaning over, I tried to get some measure of relief by inhaling the moist coolness that rarely fails to circulate just above the water. My brain was haunted by the most horrible nightmares; not that I suppose I was in any way more distressed than my companions, who were lying in their usual places, vainly endeavouring to forget their sufferings in sleep.

After a time I fell into a restless, dreamy doze. I was neither asleep nor awake. How long I remained in that state of stupor I could hardly say, but at length a strange sensation half brought me to myself. Was I dreaming, or was there not really some unaccustomed odour floating in the air? My nostrils became distended, and I could scarcely suppress a cry of astonishment; but some instinct kept me quiet, and I laid myself down again with the puzzled sensation sometimes experienced when we have forgotten a word or name. Only a few minutes, however, had elapsed before another still more savoury puff induced me to take several long inhalations. Suddenly, the truth seemed to dash across my mind. "Surely," I muttered to myself "this must be cooked meat that I can smell."

Again and again I sniffed and became more convinced than ever that my senses were not deceiving me. But from what part of the raft could the smell proceed? I rose to my knees, and having satisfied myself that the odour came from the front, I crept stealthily as a cat under the sails and between the spars in that direction. Following the promptings of my scent, rather than my vision, like a bloodhound in the track of his prey, I searched everywhere I could, now finding, now losing, the smell according to my change of position, or the dropping of the wind. At length I got the true scent; once for all, so that I could go straight to the object for which I was in search.

Approaching the starboard angle of the raft, I came to the conclusion that the smell that had thus keenly excited my cravings was the smell of smoked bacon; the membranes of my tongue almost bristled with the intenseness of my longing.

Crawling along a little farther, under a thick roll of sail- cloth, I was not long in securing my prize. Forcing my arm below the roll, I felt my hand in contact with something wrapped up in paper. I clutched it up, and carried it off to a place where I could examine it by the help of the light of the moon that had now made its appearance above the horizon. I almost shrieked for joy. It was a piece of bacon. True, it did not weigh many ounces, but small as it was it would suffice to alleviate the pangs of hunger for one day at least. I was just on the point of raising it to my mouth, when a hand was laid upon my arm. It was only by a most determined effort that I kept myself from screaming out one instant more, and I found myself face to face with Hobart.

In a moment I understood all. Plainly this rascal Hobart had saved some provision from the wreck, upon which he had been subsisting ever since. The steward had provided for himself, whilst all around him were dying of starvation. Detestable wretch! This accounts for the inconsistency of his well-to-do looks and his pitiable groans. Vile hypocrite!

Yet why, it struck me, should I complain? Was not I reaping the benefit of that secret store that he, for himself, had saved?

But Hobart had no idea of allowing me the peaceable possession of what he held to be his own. He made a dash at the fragment of bacon, and seemed determined to wrest it from my grasp. We struggled with each other, but although our wrestling was very violent, it was very noiseless. We were both of us aware that it was absolutely necessary that not one of those on board should know anything at all about the prize for which we were contending. Nor was my own determination lessened by hearing him groan out that it was his last, his only morsel. "His!" I thought; "it shall be mine now!"

And still careful that no noise of commotion should arise, I threw him on his back, and grasping his throat so that it gurgled again, I held him down until, in rapid mouthfuls, I had swallowed up the last scrap of the food for which we had fought so hard.

I released my prisoner, and quietly crept back to my own quarters.

And not a soul is aware that I have broken my fast!

JANUARY 18th.—After this excitement I awaited the approach of day with a strange anxiety. My conscience told me that Hobart had the right to denounce me in the presence of all my fellow- passengers; yet my alarm was vain. The idea of my proceedings being exposed by him was quite absurd; in a moment he would himself be murdered without pity by the crew, if it should be revealed that, unknown to them, he had been living on some private store which, by clandestine cunning, he had reserved. But, in spite of my anxiety, I had a longing for day to come.

The bit of food that I had thus stolen was very small; but small as it was it had alleviated my hunger, and I was now tortured with remorse, because I had not shared the meagre morsel with my fellow-sufferers. Miss Herbey, Andre, his father, all had been forgotten, and from the bottom of my heart I repented of my cruel selfishness.

Meantime the moon rose high in the heavens, and the first streaks of dawn appeared. There is no twilight in these low latitudes, and the full daylight came well nigh at once. I had not closed my eyes since my encounter with the steward, and ever since the first blush of day I had laboured under the impression that I could see some unusual dark mass half way up the mast. But although it again and again caught my eye, it hardly roused my curiosity, and I did not rise from the bundle of sails on which I was lying to ascertain what it really was. But no sooner did the rays of the sun fall full upon it than I saw at once that it was the body of a man, attached to a rope, and swinging to and fro with the motion of the raft.

A horrible presentiment carried me to the foot of the mast, and, just as I had guessed, Hobart had hanged himself. I could not for a moment; doubt that it was I myself that had impelled him to the suicide. A cry of horror had scarcely escaped my lips, when my fellow-passengers were at my side, and the rope was cut. Then came the sailors. And what was it that made the group gather so eagerly around the body? Was it a humane desire to see whether any spark of life remained? No, indeed; the corpse was cold, and the limbs were rigid; there was no chance that animation should be restored. What then was it that kept them lingering so close around? It was only too apparent what they were about to do.

But I did not, could not, look. I refused to take part in the horrible repast that was proposed. Neither would Miss Herbey, Andre nor his father, consent to alleviate their pangs of hunger by such revolting means. I know nothing for certain as to what Curtis did, and I did not venture to inquire; but of the others, —Falsten, Dowlas, the boatswain, and all the rest,—I know that, to assuage their cravings, they consented to reduce themselves to the level of beasts of prey; they were transformed from human beings into ravenous brutes.

The four of us who sickened at the idea of partaking of the horrid meal withdrew to the seclusion of our tent; it was bad enough to hear; without witnessing the appalling operation. But, in truth, I had the greatest difficulty in the world in preventing Andre from rushing out upon the cannibals, and snatching the odious food from their clutches. I represented to him the hopelessness of his attempt, and tried to reconcile him by telling him that if they liked the food they had a right to it. Hobart had not been murdered; he had died by his own hand; and, after all, as the boatswain had once remarked to me, "it was better to eat a dead man than a live one."

Do what I would, however, I could not quiet Andre's feeling of abhorrence; in his disgust and loathing he seemed for the time to have quite forgotten his own sufferings.

Meanwhile, there was no concealing the truth that we were ourselves dying of starvation, whilst our eight companions would probably, by their loathsome diet, escape that frightful destiny. Owing to his secret hoard of provisions Hobart had been by far the strongest amongst us; he had been supported, so that no organic disease had affected his tissues, and really might be said to be in good health when his chagrin drove him to his desperate suicide. But what was I thinking of! whither were my meditations carrying me away? was it not coming to pass that the cannibals were rousing my envy instead of exciting my horror?

Very shortly after this I heard Dowlas talking about the possibility of obtaining salt by evaporating sea-water in the sun; "and then," he added, "we can salt down the rest."

The boatswain assented to what the carpenter had said, and probably the suggestion was adopted.

Silence, the most profound, now reigns upon the raft. I presume that nearly all have gone to sleep. One thing I do know, that they are no longer hungry!

--The Survivors of the Chancellor, Jules Verne, Chapters 46 & 47


The Creature of a God...

Next morning when the clanging of a bell awoke Philip he looked round his cubicle in astonishment. Then a voice sang out, and he remembered where he was.

"Are you awake, Singer?"

The partitions of the cubicle were of polished pitch-pine, and there was a green curtain in front. In those days there was little thought of ventilation, and the windows were closed except when the dormitory was aired in the morning.

Philip got up and knelt down to say his prayers. It was a cold morning, and he shivered a little; but he had been taught by his uncle that his prayers were more acceptable to God if he said them in his nightshirt than if he waited till he was dressed. This did not surprise him, for he was beginning to realise that he was the creature of a God who appreciated the discomfort of his worshippers. Then he washed. There were two baths for the fifty boarders, and each boy had a bath once a week. The rest of his washing was done in a small basin on a wash-stand, which with the bed and a chair, made up the furniture of each cubicle. The boys chatted gaily while they dressed. Philip was all ears. Then another bell sounded, and they ran downstairs. They took their seats on the forms on each side of the two long tables in the school-room; and Mr. Watson, followed by his wife and the servants, came in and sat down. Mr. Watson read prayers in an impressive manner, and the supplications thundered out in his loud voice as though they were threats personally addressed to each boy. Philip listened with anxiety. Then Mr. Watson read a chapter from the Bible, and the servants trooped out. In a moment the untidy youth brought in two large pots of tea and on a second journey immense dishes of bread and butter.

Philip had a squeamish appetite, and the thick slabs of poor butter on the bread turned his stomach, but he saw other boys scraping it off and followed their example. They all had potted meats and such like, which they had brought in their play-boxes; and some had 'extras,' eggs or bacon, upon which Mr. Watson made a profit. When he had asked Mr. Carey whether Philip was to have these, Mr. Carey replied that he did not think boys should be spoilt. Mr. Watson quite agreed with him--he considered nothing was better than bread and butter for growing lads--but some parents, unduly pampering their offspring, insisted on it.

Philip noticed that 'extras' gave boys a certain consideration and made up his mind, when he wrote to Aunt Louisa, to ask for them.

After breakfast the boys wandered out into the play-ground. Here the day-boys were gradually assembling. They were sons of the local clergy, of the officers at the Depot, and of such manufacturers or men of business as the old town possessed. Presently a bell rang, and they all trooped into school. This consisted of a large, long room at opposite ends of which two under-masters conducted the second and third forms, and of a smaller one, leading out of it, used by Mr. Watson, who taught the first form. To attach the preparatory to the senior school these three classes were known officially, on speech days and in reports, as upper, middle, and lower second. Philip was put in the last. The master, a red-faced man with a pleasant voice, was called Rice; he had a jolly manner with boys, and the time passed quickly. Philip was surprised when it was a quarter to eleven and they were let out for ten minutes' rest.

The whole school rushed noisily into the play-ground. The new boys were told to go into the middle, while the others stationed themselves along opposite walls. They began to play _Pig in the Middle_. The old boys ran from wall to wall while the new boys tried to catch them: when one was seized and the mystic words said--one, two, three, and a pig for me--he became a prisoner and, turning sides, helped to catch those who were still free. Philip saw a boy running past and tried to catch him, but his limp gave him no chance; and the runners, taking their opportunity, made straight for the ground he covered. Then one of them had the brilliant idea of imitating Philip's clumsy run. Other boys saw it and began to laugh; then they all copied the first; and they ran round Philip, limping grotesquely, screaming in their treble voices with shrill laughter. They lost their heads with the delight of their new amusement, and choked with helpless merriment. One of them tripped Philip up and he fell, heavily as he always fell, and cut his knee. They laughed all the louder when he got up. A boy pushed him from behind, and he would have fallen again if another had not caught him. The game was forgotten in the entertainment of Philip's deformity. One of them invented an odd, rolling limp that struck the rest as supremely ridiculous, and several of the boys lay down on the ground and rolled about in laughter: Philip was completely scared. He could not make out why they were laughing at him. His heart beat so that he could hardly breathe, and he was more frightened than he had ever been in his life. He stood still stupidly while the boys ran round him, mimicking and laughing; they shouted to him to try and catch them; but he did not move. He did not want them to see him run any more. He was using all his strength to prevent himself from crying.

Suddenly the bell rang, and they all trooped back to school. Philip's knee was bleeding, and he was dusty and dishevelled. For some minutes Mr. Rice could not control his form. They were excited still by the strange novelty, and Philip saw one or two of them furtively looking down at his feet. He tucked them under the bench.

In the afternoon they went up to play football, but Mr. Watson stopped Philip on the way out after dinner.

"I suppose you can't play football, Carey?" he asked him.

Philip blushed self-consciously.

"No, sir."

"Very well. You'd better go up to the field. You can walk as far as that, can't you? "

Philip had no idea where the field was, but he answered all the same.

"Yes, sir."

The boys went in charge of Mr. Rice, who glanced at Philip and seeing he had not changed, asked why he was not going to play.

"Mr. Watson said I needn't, sir," said Philip.


There were boys all round him, looking at him curiously, and a feeling of shame came over Philip. He looked down without answering. Others gave the reply.

"He's got a club-foot, sir."

"Oh, I see."

Mr. Rice was quite young; he had only taken his degree a year before; and he was suddenly embarrassed. His instinct was to beg the boy's pardon, but he was too shy to do so. He made his voice gruff and loud.

"Now then, you boys, what are you waiting about for? Get on with you."

Some of them had already started and those that were left now set off, in groups of two or three.

"You'd better come along with me, Carey," said the master "You don't know the way, do you?"

Philip guessed the kindness, and a sob came to his throat.

"I can't go very fast, sir."

"Then I'll go very slow," said the master, with a smile.

Philip's heart went out to the red-faced, commonplace young man who said a gentle word to him. He suddenly felt less unhappy.

But at night when they went up to bed and were undressing, the boy who was called Singer came out of his cubicle and put his head in Philip's.

"I say, let's look at your foot," he said.

"No," answered Philip.

He jumped into bed quickly.

"Don't say no to me," said Singer. "Come on, Mason."

The boy in the next cubicle was looking round the corner, and at the words he slipped in. They made for Philip and tried to tear the bed-clothes off him, but he held them tightly.

"Why can't you leave me alone?" he cried.

Singer seized a brush and with the back of it beat Philip's hands clenched on the blanket. Philip cried out.

"Why don't you show us your foot quietly?"

"I won't."

In desperation Philip clenched his fist and hit the boy who tormented him, but he was at a disadvantage, and the boy seized his arm. He began to turn it.

"Oh, don't, don't," said Philip. "You'll break my arm."

"Stop still then and put out your foot."

Philip gave a sob and a gasp. The boy gave the arm another wrench. The pain was unendurable.

"All right. I'll do it," said Philip.

He put out his foot. Singer still kept his hand on Philip's wrist. He looked curiously at the deformity.

"Isn't it beastly?" said Mason.

Another came in and looked too.

"Ugh," he said, in disgust.

"My word, it is rum," said Singer, making a face. "Is it hard?"

He touched it with the tip of his forefinger, cautiously, as though it were something that had a life of its own. Suddenly they heard Mr. Watson's heavy tread on the stairs. They threw the clothes back on Philip and dashed like rabbits into their cubicles. Mr. Watson came into the dormitory. Raising himself on tiptoe he could see over the rod that bore the green curtain, and he looked into two or three of the cubicles. The little boys were safely in bed. He put out the light and went out.

Singer called out to Philip, but he did not answer. He had got his teeth in the pillow so that his sobbing should be inaudible. He was not crying for the pain they had caused him, nor for the humiliation he had suffered when they looked at his foot, but with rage at himself because, unable to stand the torture, he had put out his foot of his own accord.

And then he felt the misery of his life. It seemed to his childish mind that this unhappiness must go on for ever. For no particular reason he remembered that cold morning when Emma had taken him out of bed and put him beside his mother. He had not thought of it once since it happened, but now he seemed to feel the warmth of his mother's body against his and her arms around him. Suddenly it seemed to him that his life was a dream, his mother's death, and the life at the vicarage, and these two wretched days at school, and he would awake in the morning and be back again at home. His tears dried as he thought of it. He was too unhappy, it must be nothing but a dream, and his mother was alive, and Emma would come up presently and go to bed. He fell asleep.

But when he awoke next morning it was to the clanging of a bell, and the first thing his eyes saw was the green curtain of his cubicle.

--On Human Bondage, Somerset Maugham, Chapter 11

Cold Morbid Misery of the Marooned Lot

On the 26th of November there was a high tide, and the water escaped with violence from the water-hole; the thick layer of ice was shaken by the rising of the sea, and sinister crackings announced the submarine struggle; happily the ship kept firm in her bed, and her chains only were disturbed. Hatteras had had them fastened in anticipation of the event. The following days were still colder; there was a penetrating fog, and the wind scattered the piled-up snow; it became difficult to see whether the whirlwinds began in the air or on the ice-fields; confusion reigned.

The crew were occupied in different works on board, the principal of which consisted in preparing the grease and oil produced by the seals; they had become blocks of ice, which had to be broken with axes into little bits, and ten barrels were thus preserved.

All sorts of vessels were useless, and the liquid they contained would only have broken them when the temperature changed. On the 28th the thermometer went down to 32 degrees below zero; there was only coal enough left for ten days, and everyone looked forward to its disappearance with dread. Hatteras had the poop stove put out for economy's sake, and from that time Shandon, the doctor, and he stayed in the common room. Hatteras was thus brought into closer contact with the men, who threw ferocious and stupefied looks at him. He heard their reproaches, their recriminations, and even their threats, and he could not punish them. But he seemed to be deaf to everything. He did not claim the place nearest the fire, but stopped in a corner, his arms folded, never speaking.

In spite of the doctor's recommendations, Pen and his friends refused to take the least exercise; they passed whole days leaning against the stove or lying under the blankets of their hammocks. Their health soon began to suffer; they could not bear up against the fatal influence of the climate, and the terrible scurvy made its appearance on board. The doctor had, however, begun, some time ago, to distribute limejuice and lime pastilles every morning; but these preservatives, generally so efficacious, had very little effect on the malady, which soon presented the most horrible symptoms. The sight of the poor fellows, whose nerves and muscles contracted with pain, was pitiable. Their legs swelled in an extraordinary fashion, and were covered with large blackish blue spots; their bloody gums and ulcerated lips only gave passage to inarticulate sounds; the vitiated blood no longer went to the extremities.

Clifton was the first attacked; then Gripper, Brunton, and Strong took to their hammocks. Those that the malady still spared could not lose sight of their sufferings; they were obliged to stay there, and it was soon transformed into a hospital, for out of eighteen sailors of the Forward, thirteen were attacked in a few days. Pen seemed destined to escape contagion; his vigorous nature preserved him from it. Shandon felt the first symptoms, but they did not go further, and exercise kept the two in pretty good health.

The doctor nursed the invalids with the greatest care, and it made him miserable to see the sufferings he could not alleviate. He did all he could to keep his companions in good spirits; he talked to them, read to them, and told them tales, which his astonishing memory made it easy for him to do. He was often interrupted by the complaints and groans of the invalids, and he stopped his talk to become once more the attentive and devoted doctor. His health kept up well; he did not get thinner, and he used to say that it was a good thing for him that he was dressed like a seal or a whale, who, thanks to its thick layer of fat, easily supports the Arctic atmosphere. Hatteras felt nothing, either physically or morally. Even the sufferings of his crew did not seem to touch him. Perhaps it was because he would not let his face betray his emotions; but an attentive observer would have remarked that a man's heart beat beneath the iron envelope. The doctor analysed him, studied him, but did not succeed in classifying so strange an organisation, a temperament so supernatural. The thermometer lowered again; the walk on deck was deserted; the Esquimaux dogs alone frequented it, howling lamentably.

There was always one man on guard near the stove to keep up the fire; it was important not to let it go out. As soon as the fire got lower, the cold glided into the room; ice covered the walls, and the humidity, rapidly condensed, fell in snow on the unfortunate inhabitants of the brig. It was in the midst of these unutterable tortures that the 8th of December was reached. That morning the doctor went as usual to consult the exterior thermometer. He found the mercury completely frozen.

“Forty-four degrees below zero!” he cried with terror. And that day they threw the last lump of coal into the stove.

There was then a movement of despair. The thought of death, and death from cold, appeared in all its horror; the last piece of coal burnt away as quickly as the rest, and the temperature of the room lowered sensibly. But Johnson went to fetch some lumps of the new fuel which the marine animals had furnished him with, and he stuffed it into the stove; he added some oakum, impregnated with frozen oil, and soon obtained enough heat. The smell of the grease was abominable, but how could they get rid of it? They were obliged to get used to it. Johnson agreed that his expedient left much to wish for, and would have no success in a Liverpool house.

“However,” added he, “the smell may have one good result.”

“What's that?” asked the carpenter.

“It will attract the bears; they are very fond of the stink.”

“And what do we want with bears?” added Bell.

“You know, Bell, we can't depend on the seals; they've disappeared for a good while to come; if the bears don't come to be turned into fuel too, I don't know what will become of us.”

“There would be only one thing left; but I don't see how——”

“The captain would never consent; but perhaps we shall be obliged.”

Johnson shook his head sadly, and fell into a silent reverie, which Bell did not interrupt. He knew that their stock of grease would not last more than a week with the strictest economy.

The boatswain was not mistaken. Several bears, attracted by the fetid exhalations, were signalled to the windward; the healthy men gave chase to them, but they are extraordinarily quick, and did not allow themselves to be approached, and the most skilful shots could not touch them. The ship's crew was seriously menaced with death from cold; it was impossible to resist such a temperature more than forty-eight hours, and every one feared the end of the fuel. The dreaded moment arrived at three o'clock p.m. on the 20th of December. The fire went out; the sailors looked at each other with haggard eyes. Hatteras remained immovable in his corner. The doctor as usual marched up and down in agitation; he was at his wits' end. The temperature of the room fell suddenly to 7 degrees below zero. But if the doctor did not know what to do, some of the others did. Shandon, calm and resolute, and Pen with anger in his eyes, and two or three of their comrades, who could still walk, went up to Hatteras.

“Captain!” said Shandon.

Hatteras, absorbed in thought, did not hear him.

“Captain!” repeated Shandon, touching his hand.

Hatteras drew himself up.

“What is it?” he said.

“Our fire is out!”

“What then?” answered Hatteras.

“If you mean to kill us with cold, you had better say so,” said Shandon ironically.

“I mean,” said Hatteras gravely, “to require every man to do his duty to the end.”

“There's something higher than duty, captain—there's the right to one's own preservation. I repeat that the fire is out, and if it is not relighted, not one of us will be alive in two days.”

“I have no fuel,” answered Hatteras, with a hollow voice.

“Very well,” cried Pen violently, “if you have no fuel, we must take it where we can!”

Hatteras grew pale with anger.

“Where?” said he.

“On board,” answered the sailor insolently.

“On board!” echoed the captain, his fists closed, his eyes sparkling.

He had seized an axe, and he now raised it over Pen's head.

“Wretch!” he cried.

The doctor rushed between the captain and Pen; the axe fell to the ground, its sharp edge sinking into the flooring. Johnson, Bell, and Simpson were grouped round Hatteras, and appeared determined to give him their support. But lamentable and plaintive voices came from the beds.

“Some fire! Give us some fire!” cried the poor fellows.

Hatteras made an effort, and said calmly:

“If we destroy the brig, how shall we get back to England?”

“We might burn some of the rigging and the gunwale, sir,” said Johnson.

“Besides, we should still have the boats left,” answered Shandon; “and we could build a smaller vessel with the remains of the old one!”

“Never!” answered Hatteras.

“But——” began several sailors, raising their voices.

“We have a great quantity of spirits of wine,” answered Hatteras; “burn that to the last drop.”

“Ah, we didn't think of that!” said Johnson, with affected cheerfulness, and by the help of large wicks steeped in spirits he succeeded in raising the temperature a few degrees.

During the days that followed this melancholy scene the wind went round to the south, and the thermometer went up. Some of the men could leave the vessel during the least damp part of the day; but ophthalmia and scurvy kept the greater number on board; besides, neither fishing nor hunting was practicable. But it was only a short respite from the dreadful cold, and on the 25th, after an unexpected change in the wind, the mercury again froze; they were then obliged to have recourse to the spirits of wine thermometer, which never freezes. The doctor found, to his horror, that it marked 66 degrees below zero; men had never been able to support such a temperature. The ice spread itself in long tarnished mirrors on the floor; a thick fog invaded the common room; the damp fell in thick snow; they could no longer see one another; the extremities became blue as the heat of the body left them; a circle of iron seemed to be clasping their heads, and made them nearly delirious. A still more fearful symptom was that their tongues could no longer articulate a word...

--The English at the North Pole, Jules Verne, Chapters 26-27


Buried Alive

No words in any human language can depict my utter despair. I was literally buried alive; with no other expectation before me but to die in all the slow horrible torture of hunger and thirst.

Mechanically I crawled about, feeling the dry and arid rock. Never to my fancy had I ever felt anything so dry.

But, I frantically asked myself, how had I lost the course of the flowing stream? There could be no doubt it had ceased to flow in the gallery in which I now was. Now I began to understand the cause of the strange silence which prevailed when last I tried if any appeal from my companions might perchance reach my ear.

It so happened that when I first took an imprudent step in the wrong direction, I did not perceive the absence of the all-important stream.

It was now quite evident that when we halted, another tunnel must have received the waters of the little torrent, and that I had unconsciously entered a different gallery. To what unknown depths had my companions gone? Where was I?

How to get back! Clue or landmark there was absolutely none! My feet left no signs on the granite and shingle. My brain throbbed with agony as I tried to discover the solution of this terrible problem. My situation, after all sophistry and reflection, had finally to be summed up in three awful words—

Lost! Lost!! LOST!!!

Lost at a depth which, to my finite understanding, appeared to be immeasurable.

These thirty leagues of the crust of the earth weighed upon my shoulders like the globe on the shoulders of Atlas. I felt myself crushed by the awful weight. It was indeed a position to drive the sanest man to madness!

I tried to bring my thoughts back to the things of the world so long forgotten. It was with the greatest difficulty that I succeeded in doing so. Hamburg, the house on the Konigstrasse, my dear cousin Gretchen—all that world which had before vanished like a shadow floated before my now vivid imagination.

There they were before me, but how unreal. Under the influence of a terrible hallucination I saw all the incidents of our journey pass before me like the scenes of a panorama. The ship and its inmates, Iceland, M. Fridriksson, and the great summit of Mount Sneffels! I said to myself that, if in my position I retained the most faint and shadowy outline of a hope, it would be a sure sign of approaching delirium. It were better to give way wholly to despair!

In fact, did I but reason with calmness and philosophy, what human power was there in existence able to take me back to the surface of the earth, and ready, too, to split asunder, to rend in twain those huge and mighty vaults which stand above my head? Who could enable me to find my road—and regain my companions?

Insensate folly and madness to entertain even a shadow of hope!

"Oh, Uncle!" was my despairing cry.

This was the only word of reproach which came to my lips; for I thoroughly understood how deeply and sorrowfully the worthy Professor would regret my loss, and how in his turn he would patiently seek for me.

When I at last began to resign myself to the fact that no further aid was to be expected from man, and knowing that I was utterly powerless to do anything for my own salvation, I kneeled with earnest fervor and asked assistance from Heaven. The remembrance of my innocent childhood, the memory of my mother, known only in my infancy, came welling forth from my heart. I had recourse to prayer. And little as I had a right to be remembered by Him whom I had forgotten in the hour of prosperity, and whom I so tardily invoked, I prayed earnestly and sincerely.

This renewal of my youthful faith brought about a much greater amount of calm, and I was enabled to concentrate all my strength and intelligence on the terrible realities of my unprecedented situation.

I had about me that which I had at first wholly forgotten—three days' provisions. Moreover, my water bottle was quite full. Nevertheless, the one thing which it was impossible to do was to remain alone. Try to find my companions I must, at any price. But which course should I take? Should I go upwards, or again descend? Doubtless it was right to retrace my steps in an upward direction.

By doing this with care and coolness, I must reach the point where I had turned away from the rippling stream. I must find the fatal bifurcation or fork. Once at this spot, once the river at my feet, I could, at all events, regain the awful crater of Mount Sneffels. Why had I not thought of this before? This, at last, was a reasonable hope of safety. The most important thing, then, to be done was to discover the bed of the Hansbach.

After a slight meal and a draught of water, I rose like a giant refreshed. Leaning heavily on my pole, I began the ascent of the gallery. The slope was very rapid and rather difficult. But I advanced hopefully and carefully, like a man who at last is making his way out of a forest, and knows there is only one road to follow.

During one whole hour nothing happened to check my progress. As I advanced, I tried to recollect the shape of the tunnel—to recall to my memory certain projections of rocks—to persuade myself that I had followed certain winding routes before. But no one particular sign could I bring to mind, and I was soon forced to allow that this gallery would never take me back to the point at which I had separated myself from my companions. It was absolutely without issue—a mere blind alley in the earth.

The moment at length came when, facing the solid rock, I knew my fate, and fell inanimate on the arid floor!

To describe the horrible state of despair and fear into which I then fell would now be vain and impossible. My last hope, the courage which had sustained me, drooped before the sight of this pitiless granite rock!

Lost in a vast labyrinth, the sinuosities of which spread in every direction, without guide, clue or compass, I knew it was a vain and useless task to attempt flight. All that remained to me was to lie down and die. To lie down and die the most cruel and horrible of deaths!

In my state of mind, the idea came into my head that one day perhaps, when my fossil bones were found, their discovery so far below the level of the earth might give rise to solemn and interesting scientific discussions.

I tried to cry aloud, but hoarse, hollow, and inarticulate sounds alone could make themselves heard through my parched lips. I literally panted for breath.

In the midst of all these horrible sources of anguish and despair, a new horror took possession of my soul. My lamp, by falling down, had got out of order. I had no means of repairing it. Its light was already becoming paler and paler, and soon would expire.

With a strange sense of resignation and despair, I watched the luminous current in the coil getting less and less. A procession of shadows moved flashing along the granite wall. I scarcely dared to lower my eyelids, fearing to lose the last spark of this fugitive light. Every instant it seemed to me that it was about to vanish and to leave me forever—in utter darkness!

At last, one final trembling flame remained in the lamp; I followed it with all my power of vision; I gasped for breath; I concentrated upon it all the power of my soul, as upon the last scintillation of light I was ever destined to see: and then I was to be lost forever in Cimmerian and tenebrous shades.

A wild and plaintive cry escaped my lips. On earth during the most profound and comparatively complete darkness, light never allows a complete destruction and extinction of its power. Light is so diffuse, so subtle, that it permeates everywhere, and whatever little may remain, the retina of the eye will succeed in finding it. In this place nothing—the absolute obscurity made me blind in every sense.

My head was now wholly lost. I raised my arms, trying the effects of the feeling in getting against the cold stone wall. It was painful in the extreme. Madness must have taken possession of me. I knew not what I did. I began to run, to fly, rushing at haphazard in this inextricable labyrinth, always going downwards, running wildly underneath the terrestrial crust, like an inhabitant of the subterranean furnaces, screaming, roaring, howling, until bruised by the pointed rocks, falling and picking myself up all covered with blood, seeking madly to drink the blood which dripped from my torn features, mad because this blood only trickled over my face, and watching always for this horrid wall which ever presented to me the fearful obstacle against which I could not dash my head.

Where was I going? It was impossible to say. I was perfectly ignorant of the matter.

Several hours passed in this way. After a long time, having utterly exhausted my strength, I fell a heavy inert mass along the side of the tunnel, and lost consciousness.

--A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Jules Verne, chapter 24