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Saunters among Stories

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BY RICHARD KING.


. ‘IIE sins of the flesh-if sins they be- are the least iti imlportant of all sins; yet somehow or other they o a arriy The longest punishment in ties world. Is it that tihe world is always least indulgent towards its most lut universal weaknesses ? Who knows ? Life is full of the m i st lbsurd inequalities, and few of us can perceive t iruth shining beyond tihe morass of t nessentials through il lichi ‘ we vainly strive to pick our way. When we awaken tn to the fact thlat most of those things which the World told us mattered are of no vital nmportance, and those til which we learn are necessary to human happiness and lie progress this samle world either ignores or denies-we are Soften, alas . far too old to profit by our greater wisdom. 1T To he misunderstood, despised, and reviled, is the world’s pulnishmlent meted out to those who have once in ts their lives Ihved the Ti thIi as they believed it. Why ei wonder, then, if the i.majority of us prefer to join the c cohlssal army of those swho are trying to-make-the-best- no-t hings Who knlows, mlaylbe poor Constance Van der Welcke, al the heroine of Louis Couperus’s new book, ” The Later Life ” (HetlcLniann), was right, after all, when she ideliiberately crushed the love for the Socialist, Max B-rauws, in ler heart because she was middle-aged and imarred, and a mother ” Now that she was old ” she 11 felt ” there was nothing for her but to turn her eyes from S the radiant vision and. calmly, to grow still older .. . to go onwards lo that slow extinction which, perhaps, would .till drag on for many long and empty years : the years of a woman of her age .. . in their set. .” She had already committed the one great social ” sin ” when she r ran away from a husband who did not want her, to find I happiness with a man who did. Later, both she and her lover discovered that passion had played thesm false-as passion nearly aslways does if you mnistake its protestations iof eternal devotion for anything more than a burning exuberance often extinguished in a week–and that, though snow husband and wife, they were mnerely two bored human Sbeings hnked together by nothing but the memory of a Smomllent of sex-attraction ended long years ago But they had o make te li best of it-as most of us have to do if we are weak and to mnake the best of it is merely another Says of describingi the act of propitiating an outraged i orld They never asked themselves whether th:I i” world ” were north the sacrifice. The- did not once regard that wnorl with understanding eyes, discovering in it nothing but a multitude of unsympathetic relations, minifferent friends, dull dinner-parties, and even duller talk. It was their world, the only world they were used to It had its little moral code, its own little idea of ” the – thing ” ; moreover, ‘t knew what was impressive in hunman actions and what was absurd. And Constance Van der – Welcke knew that it would be absurd of her to find happi- necs in revolt-find it at her time of life, with her responss- bilities, with her dead past. Wisdom and happiness and peace had come to her too late. lier life lay behind her, a mass of futilities; her future lay before her, one long renunciation and regret. But she accepted them bravely. She had not the courage to fight. She had not the courage to dream. She dare not riun the risk of looling absurid at her time of life. So ends a story which is haunting in its revelation of the feminine heart and its drab, but strangely pitiful, picture of the world. ” Eitham House ” (Cassell), by Mrs HIumphry Ward, is another story dealing with a woman’s struggles to get back into that world from which a divorce has cast her. X Whether that world were worth the effort, neither she nor her husband stopped to ask themn’selves. It was their wvortl- the only one they were ussed to–consequently, the only one on which they sought to make an impression. Alec Wing was one of those rich young men who, because they are rich and young, think they ought to represent their country in Parliament. He was spoken of as ” one of the rising men “-and everybody knows what that means in politics Ite was persrna graea with his Party. People talked of him as likely to be one day Prne Minister–if hie were -‘ere; good and did what he was told Perhaps he miight have fulfilled those prophecies had he not run away with the wife of another nian. England would willingly go to perdition rather than be saved by a leader with a stain upon his copy-book. Consequently, when, thanks to Lord Wing’s wealth, his own cleverness, andt his wife’s beauty and tact, he sought to conquer London, as Lord and L.ady HIolland had conquered it many ?years ago, he found that an error of the past stood between him and Iis political future. Being a eman, he blamed his wife –not with his reason, but with the irritating know- ledge that she was theire, and that the wives of his Party could not forgive her leaving her first husband, even though lie, too, had been to blame. They were ready to forgive him, because le was rich and young, and a ” Party hope,” but to accept his politics cwith his wife, would be like finding the Millennium hv countenancing adultery. That would never do. So the happiness of Alec and Caroline Wing was nearly wrecked on the rocks of other people’s opinion, and England presumedly suffered. Mrs. Ward has written an intensely interesting and a very absorbing story. It is a brilliant study of a very little world living in the fond imagination that it is colossally big. The war will, I rather fancy, shatter the old wretched peace turmoil of party politics. ” Me: A Book of Remembrances ” (Fisher Unwainl is, we are told, by an- anonymous authoress who is now famous. This book is the story of her early life and her struggles against ill-fortune and poverty. It is an interesting picture of a young and lonely girl fighting her own battles in a man-made world which likes its girls to be young and lonely. The least convincing part is the love- affair with a famous man, who played “uncle” for a long time, and eventually turned out to be a married man. Surely ” Me ” could have discovered the existence of his wife quite easily. The search would have saved her many tears.



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Issue 3993. - Vol CXLVII

Oct, 30 1915

Illustrated London News