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But this year these glories of our life and state are threatened with eclipse. Whatever else happens, the Income Tax must go up, and, like Burke, I cannot contemplate that elevation without profound emotion. When the Tories cut down Prince Albert's proposed annuity from 50,000l. a year to 30,000l., he remarked, with admirable philosophy, that he must reduce his subscriptions. So must we; and, fortunately, at St. Ursula's the secretive almsbag has long superseded the too patent plate. But, where you give very little to begin with, the most lavish reductions will not secure opulence. My wife is always so excellent a manager of her clothes that it is very difficult to save more in that department than she saves already. She will go to the next garden-party at Fulham (supposing the new Bishop gives one) by Underground train, instead of chartering a victoria for the afternoon. I shall wear my grey frock coat a third season, instead of giving it to the dingy retainer; and when the annual haunch comes from Proudflesh Park we shall make the fishmonger take it in payment of his account. Still, in spite of all these economical devices, we feel that our financial year is only too likely to close in gloom; and, though we yield to none in patriotism, we are beginning to ask in the privacy of the domestic alcove whether the war is quite worth the domiciliary discomfort which it entails. The doubt had often presented itself to my mind, but, being properly sensitive to public opinion, I had never suffered it to rise to my lips, until I was emboldened by the frankness of the Saturday Review.' Here is a journal both patriotic and genteel, and, after commenting on the fact that the cost of the war will probably be five times that of the Crimean campaign and nearly a third of the debt incurred in the great struggle with Napoleon, it goes on to say: It is too late now to ask whether South Africa is, commercially or morally, worth this gigantic outlay. Time alone can show whether or not we have again put our money on the wrong horse.'
Deeply moved by this painful suggestion, I bought a copy of the 'Saturday,' and read it to my wife after dinner. She shed tears of vexation; for, at the earlier stages of the war, she had been even exuberantly patriotic and bellicose. She scraped acquaintance with a trooper in 'Paget's Horse,' who came in khaki to drink tea with us and borrowed five pounds of me to pay his lodging in Lower Stucco Place. When the eldest son of the head of my family went out with his regiment, she sent him
as a farewell present a field-glass and the musical edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern;' which he was good enough to retain though too busy to acknowledge. Framed photographs of Lord Roberts and Sir Redvers Buller faced one another on our drawing-room chimney-piece; and, when Ladysmith was relieved, a Union Jack upside down was displayed in every window of our house from attic to kitchen.
And after all this outlay of money and emotion, with the certainty of diminished income and the resulting curtailment of all that a well-constituted female holds dear, to be told that perhaps after all South Africa was the wrong horse,' was more than feminine flesh and blood, already overwrought, could patiently endure. Happily my dear wife's religious principles are more securely fixed than those of Mrs. Jarley, or else her wrath might have found a similar expression. "I am a'most inclined,' said Mrs. Jarley, bursting with the fulness of her anger, and the weakness of her means of revenge, 'to turn atheist when I think of it.'"
My wife's vexation finds its vent, not in renouncing her religion but in denouncing her relations. When financial troubles vex the calm sea of our domestic life, I am only too familiar with biting references to an ill-starred investment in the 'Cosmopolitan Esthetic Syndicate,' which was established (with a paid-up capital of 500l.) to supply Europe and America with plush photographframes and peacock fans. I always told you you were a perfect goose for letting yourself be wheedled by that vulgar American, simply because he asked you to dine at the Cecil. I don't believe you would have done it, if it hadn't been after dinner. Just think how convenient that hundred pounds would have been just now, with this horrid addition to the income-tax and everything going up. And, if you must go and fling your money away, you might at least try to make a little, instead of living in perfect idleness. If you can't do anything else, one would think you might write for the newspapers.'
Of this just but not generous discourse, only the exordium had been uttered when my sister-in-law opportunely entered the room, and diverted the stream of indignant eloquence from me to herself. How very tiresome of you, Bertha, to be so late! The tea is stone-cold, and Muggins is as cross as the tongs already, at having to bring up more hot water for Robert. It's no good saying you've been to your district, and didn't see how the time
was going. I know perfectly well what that means. You have been gossiping at Mrs. Soulsby's, and walking home with that odious Mr. Bumpstead. I really think he is the worst-mannered man I ever knew. Hear him joking with Muggins as he comes upstairs, and he generally upsets a screen, and always disarranges the anti-macassars. And, as to his caring so much about the poor people and the schools, it's all stuff. He is much more interested in the "Sporting Life," and I believe you know he is, only, for some extraordinary reason, you always think it necessary to stand up for him.' By this time my wife's face is unbecomingly heated, and my sister-in-law is on the verge of tears. So I seize the 'Saturday' which has caused such woe, and go off to read, and smoke a cigarette, in that dark cupboard with its uninterrupted view of the back yard which is facetiously called my 'study.'
THE CONSCIENCE OF MURDERERS.
THE great criminal trials are interesting, among other reasons, because they suggest a psychological problem. Such of us as are fortunate enough to have never committed a murder are curious to know what are the murderer's sensations. A certain amount of self-respect is essential, one supposes, to everybody. The murderer who could see himself as others see him would surely find life intolerable. He may, of course, be a mere ruffian—a survival of the old barbaric type who knocked fellowmen on the head with as much indifference as a pigeon-shooter now kills his birds. But murder is occasionally committed by people of some intelligence who must feel the need of justifying themselves by some plausible excuse. Falkland, in Caleb Williams,' murders an enemy from a keen sense of honour. He ought to have fought a duel; but he reflects that, in a duel, the blackguard is as likely to survive as the refined gentleman. It is better, therefore, for the refined gentleman—that is, as it happens, for himself to put chance out of the question and prearrange the desirable result. This compromise, however, between two systems leads to subsequent remorse. Eugene Aram, according to Bulwer, took bolder ground. 'Wherefore, sir, should I have sorrow (says his double in Thackeray's 'George Barnwell') 'for ridding the world of a sordid worm; of a man whose very soul was dross, and who never had a feeling for the Truthful and the Beautiful?' Barnwell, soothed by these reflections, enjoys his supper the night before his execution, though the chaplain to whom he addresses this remark could scarcely eat it for tears. The morality of simple expediency is no doubt flexible and may suggest useful pretexts. The murderer may even regard himself as an instrument of Providence. In Parnell's Hermit' a youth steals a cup and strangles a baby, and then turns out to be an angel in disguise, who is weaning men from the love of wealth and from excessive parental affection. A little ingenuity in tracing consequences may enable murderers of the more refined class to contrive to indulge a similar -sophistry. The murderer may try to identify himself with Providence.
Poisoning is the mode of murder which requires
most intelligence, and has not the obvious brutality of violent methods. A poisoner may therefore more likely than other criminals imagine himself to be a mysterious agent, like Parnell's angel, setting things right by invisible means, though the setting right has to be in the direction of his own interest. Perhaps it is partly for this reason that the practice of poisoning seems to have a peculiar and horrible fascination. No poisoner, it seems, ever stops at one crime, any more than an author ever stops at a first novel. The poisoner feels the sense of mysterious power, expressed in Browning's 'Laboratory '—
Had I but all of them, thee and thy treasures,
To carry pure death in an earring, a casket,
The sense of possessing such an irresponsible power would no doubt be intoxicating to some people, and it is curious to ask what effect it would produce upon such fragments of human tenderness or moral sense as we must suppose the murderer still to cherish, though forced to pacify them by judicious casuistry.
A strangely interesting book called Princes and Poisoners,' recently translated from the French of M. Funck-Brentano, suggests some curious problems as to the psychology of criminals. M. Brentano has been able by researches into old archives to clear up some points in the famous story of Mme. de Brinvilliers, and to illustrate her social surroundings. Mme. de Brinvilliers is, of course, the typical poisoner. Her main story is too well known for repetition, and is so ghastly that she is naturally regarded as a monstrosity, a creature happily too abnormal to represent fairly any particular social state. Yet there is something singularly suggestive in the view of her proceedings taken by herself and contemporaries. She had acquired the art of poisoning from a lover; she had perfected her skill by practice upon patients in the hospitals; she had proceeded to poison her father and afterwards her two brothers, and of the rest of her life it can only be said that it was quite in harmony with these little incidents. When her crimes were discovered, one of her agents was arrested and broken on the wheel after a full confession. There was a reluctance to arrest the lady on account of her rank; and she managed to escape to England, but three years afterwards (in 1676) was seized and brought to trial. Her noble birth entitled her to a trial before the highest judicial tribunal; and its incidents give a curious