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silent, for, as they strike against each other, the atmosphere reverberates as with the jingle of crystal chimes.
The prisoners with their disengaged right hands are rubbing their ears, their noses, to keep them from congealing; the Cossack guards are laying in a store of heat and strength from out their brandyflasks. A red-nosed, one-eyed soldier of peculiarly villanous appearance has tilted up his bottle, and with head thrown back is pouring the last drops of some very fiery alcohol down his well-seasoned throat.
As he follows his companions, Roman, still half-asleep, and blinded by the snowflakes, stumbles and falls, causing the four men in front of him to totter likewise.
"Get up, you Polish dog!" cries the one-eyed Cossack, hitting him on the head with the now empty flask.
There is a limit to every human endurance. Was it that this last insult had called to life abruptly all the latent pride of which a man's heart is capable? Was it that the absolute resignation of a heroic resolve is not eternal, and must sooner or later have given way? Hitherto no murmur, no word of complaint, had escaped his lips. Patiently, silently, apathetically, Roman had endured pain, hunger, cold, and fatigue, but he
cannot submit to be called a dog by a drunken Russian trooper. All his blood rises up in hot rebellion; for the moment he forgets that he is a convict prisoner bound for the mines-he remembers only that he is a nobleman, an officer.
It needs but a moment to spring to his feet, wrest the bayonet from the hand of the insolent Russian, and with it fell him senseless to the ground-but that moment has sealed his fate.
Close by there stands a second Cossack sentry with loaded musket. His orders are peremptory in case of the slightest insubordination on the part of the convicts.
He raises his gun-there is a flash-a sharp report-a groanand Roman Starowolski, the handsome distinguished officer, the affianced husband of Countess Biruta Massalowska, falls deadshot through the heart.
As the convicts move on they leave behind a deep crimson patch in the snow, too vivid to be the mere reflection of yonder blood-red sun just detaching itself from the horizon.
But the large white flakes continue to fall, filling the air with their silvery music, and nothing soon will distinguish this spot from any other on the face of the lonely steppe.
Three women mourn for Roman Starowolski, each in her own very different fashion.
His name is often on the first woman's lips, as with tender gratitude she teaches her children to revere the memory of one who gave back her happiness at price
of his blood; a happiness so great as to be almost undeserved, she thinks with reverential awe; a deeper more sacred happiness than the careless unthinking joyfulness of a year ago, and as widely different as her snow - white hair from the jetty locks which will
never be hers again; - happiness mixed with pain, that draws her yet closer to the husband for whom such a heavy ransom has been paid.
The second woman says nothing, but she will never forget her youth's early dream; and though she may yet live to find peace and contentment in after-years by the side of some other man, her heart is irrevocably buried in a nameless Siberian grave.
The third woman's grief was violent and excessive, enhanced too by a sense of failure, intolerable to her proud spirit. To learn that her lover had broken his fetters at the eleventh hour, caused her fully as much displeasure as sorEven then she did not, just at first, confess herself defeated. She would win him back yet, she told herself, even from out of the ogre's very dungeon; she would obtain his release from Siberia, -that would be an object worth living for indeed!
And who knows whether she might not have compassed her end?
A character as dauntless as hers may overthrow every obstacle, save one. She might have triumphed over the Czar, but she could not triumph over Death.
When she learned that Roman was dead, and that she was thus deprived of her anticipated victory, Biruta began to paint her own portrait in the character of Juno. A thousand pities every one agreed that this picture, which displayed such remarkable talent, was never completed; for scarce half finished, Countess Massalowska abruptly abandoned it, laying down the brush and palette in order to enter a Carmelite convent, where she intends to pass the rest of her life.
Will she indeed remain there for ever shut off by iron bars from a world she was born to govern and adorn?
Time only can prove the stability of this resolve, for we chronicle these events in 1888; and as General Vassiljef used to say, "the divine Biruta is apt to change her models."
FROUDE'S LORD BEACONSFIELD.
WE need hardly say that this is not the life of Lord Beaconsfield which the world has been waiting for. It is a short biography of him by Mr Froude, the commencement of a series which is to include the whole list of nine Prime Ministers of Queen Victoria, whether living or dead. There is very little in it which is new, and that little is of no great interest or importance as affecting the life of Disraeli. At the same time, we do not wish to undervalue this sketch. It is ably and conscientiously done, and its author, with his devotion to all things Carlylese, has evidently taken the Life of Sterling for his model. We should say it is the work of a man who has had considerable and lifelong prejudices, derived from Carlyle, against the subject of his memoir, but who, as he warmed to his work, has gained greater insight into Disraeli's marvellous career, and into the finer points of his character, and has striven in a spirit of posthumous justice to do honour to his memory. It is satisfactory to see how, as the clouds of contemporary detraction and vituperation roll away, his career and character during his long parliamentary leadership vindicate to the eyes of posterity the confidence which the sovereign, Parliament, and the nation eventually reposed in him, and the devotion which his colleagues uniformly paid to him.
The key-note of Mr Froude's sketch is on his title-page
"He was a man, take him for all in all,
We shall not look upon his like again."
But marvellous as was Disraeli's career, no public man ever had less right to complain that he was the subject of so much unfounded prejudice and unreasoning animosity. His genius from the first took the form of unlimited daring, careless of, or even delighting in, the accumulation of obstacles in his way, which he seems to have done his best to increase, confident in his power to surmount them. He was determined to fix the public eye upon himself, to cut his way to the greatness which he felt that, once won, he could maintain. Though he never stooped to anything mean or underhand, he could face without a shudder positions which, to a more sensitive self-consciousness, would be overwhelming from sheer absurdity and even grotesqueness of failure. He had never roughed it at a public school. His only taste of the discipline of life had been at a Unitarian place of education, where he was unpopular, and asserted his position with his fists. He seems to have "detested school more than he ever abhorred the world in the darkest moment of experienced manhood." The qualities of patience and self-discipline, which were the source of his strength as a public man, are not traceable in the fiery impatient youth who regarded the world as "mine oyster which I with sword will open."
The Earl of Beaconsfield, K.G. By J. A. Froude. London: Sampson Low & Co., Limited.
"There was something irresistibly comic in the young man, dressed in the fantastic coxcombical costume that he then affected-velvet coat thrown wide open, ruffles on the sleeves, shirt-collars turned down in Byronic fashion, an elaborate embroidered waistcoat from which issued voluminous folds of frill, shoes adorned with red rosettes, his black hair pomatumed and elaborately curled, and his person redolent with the fire, he explained the purpose of perfume. Standing with his back to his poem. It was to be to the revolutionary age what the Iliad,' the 'Eneid,' and 'Paradise Lost' had been to their respective epochs." He then recited his first canto, with the result that the audience was favourably disposed; but after the poet had left the room, a gentleman present declaimed an impromptu burlesque of the opening lines.
Law was tried and abandoned; is thus described by those who but at twenty-one Disraeli awoke witnessed it :and found himself famous. He was the author of 'Vivian Grey,' which he followed up with satires that were always pleasant, laugh"In all ing, and good-humoured. his life," says Mr Froude, "he never hated anybody or anything, never bore a grudge or remembered a libel against himself." Mr Gladstone himself said something equivalent to this in his speech proposing to him a parliamentary memorial. Foreign travel to Spain, and to the East as far as Jerusalem and Thebes, was an important feature of his early life. His correspondence from abroad survives him, and was recently published. He shows himself in the freedom of letters home in his true colours affectation, lightheartedness, and warm home feel ings-"a character genuine and affectionate, whose fine gifts were veiled in foppery, which itself was more than half assumed."
This foreign travel resulted in an episode which throws more light on Disraeli's character in youth than many much better known incidents. The future lay all undetermined before him. Conscious of great powers, as well as resolute to achieve greatness of some sort, the thought passed through his mind as he surveyed the plain of Troy, that as the heroic age had produced its Homer, the Augustan era its Virgil, the Reformation its Milton, why should not the revolutionary epoch produce its representative poet by name Disraeli? Nothing would do but the experiment must be tried. He wrote three cantos on his return, and resolved to submit them to his friends. He accordingly recited them to his friends at a party at Mrs Austen's, and never to be forgotten" scene
Infinite merriment resulted, and Disraeli's dream of becoming a great poet was broken; but at the same time the literary world allowed that in prose, at all events, a new star had arisen, and Disraeli was welcomed everywhere as a celebrity.
In that character he got into debt, and when election bills were added to social extravagance he became seriously involved-partly also from standing surety for his friends. Confident in his future and in his powers, he treated his embarrassments easily. So, too, with regard to his appearance in society. "In the days of the dandies" he was fantastic till his friends told him he was a fool. Mr Froude says it was purposed affectation. It led the listener to look for only folly from him, and when a brilliant flash broke out it was the more startling as being so utterly unlooked for from such a figure. One sketch of his conversational energy, the effect of which
was to be heightened by costume,
"His mouth is alive with a kind of working and impatient nervousness; and when he has burst forth as he does constantly with a particularly successful cataract of expression, it assumes a curl of triumphant scorn that would be worthy of Mephistopheles.
The conversation turned on Beckford. I might as well attempt to gather up the foam of the sea as to convey an idea of the extraordinary language in which he clothed his description. He talked like a racehorse approaching a winning - post, every muscle in action."
Such was Disraeli in social life, before he was launched on the sea of politics. His literary position was made, and he was already a prominent politician when he entered the House of Commons in 1837. Anxious as he was to be returned for some constituency, he displayed no tact. He wanted to make an end of Whig and Tory, to be returned as an independent politician, wearing the badge of no party and the livery of no faction. His desire for some great measure which might ameliorate the condition of the lower orders, and for large changes in Irish administration, read like an approach to the Radicals, but in many respects Radicalism repelled him. Finding that he was making himself impossible by trying to enter Parliament without pledges and without a party, he finally made up his mind to enlist under Peel.
Not long after his entrance into Parliament a fortunate marriage rescued him from financial embarrassment, and after the catastrophe of self-love in his maiden speech he soon made solid progress in the estimation of the House, and acquired that intimate knowledge of its temper and disposition which was the foundation of his fortune.
The tone of Disraeli's mind on public questions and in relation to party politics is mainly to be discerned in his novels and published books. Mr Froude has done well to devote a considerable portion of his space to them. He diseconomy which was preached by trusted that faith in political Radicals; he was not imbued with a mania for destruction, but was keenly anxious to revivify existing institutions-the Throne, the aristocracy, and the Church-with a view to the maintenance of the national character. The race for wealth and cheap production did not to his mind worthily absorb the energies of a great people, and in its results tended to widen the chasm between classes. As a Conservative he declared that no Government should have his support which did not introduce a large measure to improve the condition of the poor. And when a monster Charter petition was brought down to the House of Commons in the name of the working people of England, whose hopes had been raised and disappointed by what Disraeli called the mean and selfish revolution of 1832, he placed himself in opposition to the general disposition, which was to treat it as an absurdity and an insult. He disapproved of the Charter, but he sympathised with the Chartists. Scoffed out of the House of Commons, the Chartists took to violence, and riots ensued at Birmingham. Disraeli was one of a minority of five who opposed Lord John Russell's appeal for an increase of the police, and declared that it was unnecessary, and that other measures ought to be tried to give the workmen a fairer share of the profits of their own labour. The Ministers accused him of being an advocate of riot and disorder. Certainly he was not going the