Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

“My donkey,' cried Hil in agony-' only give me my donkey. I'll pay you next week-Pashé Zotin, I'll pay you.'

‘Pay now,' said the zaptieh, and he laughed again.

The donkey was lost for ever. Sixpence a day was more than Hil had ever dreamed of possessing. The madness of despair swept over him. Every fibre in his body contracted with rage ; his face went livíd; the pupils of his eyes were mere pin-points.

'Pay,' he yowled—'pay! Derr e bir derrit (swine and son of a swine)! I'll pay you !'

With the scream of a wild beast, he lowered his head, flung himself forward and butted the zaptieh in the belly with all his force. The man, completely taken by surprise, doubled up, gasping, clutched instinctively at his revolver, but his right hand was tangled in the halter, on which the frightened donkey plunged madly. And before he could recover Hil had borne him down in his furious onrush, had torn the revolver from his belt and fired four bullets straight into his breast.

Hil turned and fled. The sound of the shots would bring up the patrol. If he could but get across the river-bed he would find cover and be safe.

The terrified donkey clattered after him, dragging the dying zaptieh whose life-blood spouted scarlet on the stones; but, hampered by the weight, could not keep up with Hil's wild flight, and brayed aloud.

Even at the risk of his own life, Hil could not abandon the donkey. He checked a moment, opened the clasp-knife that hung at his belt, and cut the halter. The donkey darted forward and made for the well-known track to the mountains.

A shout rang over the plains. Hil swerved and made for the nearest thicket. Three bullets squealed after him.

It was very late that night when the donkey, its pack-saddle all awry, arrived at the little hovel. But Drana and Gjoko waited for Hil in vain. He lay dead in the little thicket, for the patrol did not trouble to follow

up
the
game

and see if the bullets had hit or missed : nor was his body found for two weeks. And then it was buried where it lay. For he was excommunicate.

So Hil indubitably lost his soul. And Drana and Gjoko lost Hil.

As for Korstituzi, it was short of three-and-fourpence and a zaptieh.

JAMES GAIRDNER.

No doubt success in a particular kind of writing does come, and go, in cycles. It would be rash to inquire, still more rash to suggest, in what cycle we whirl at present; but we can all recognise the cycles of the past, the poetic cycle, the economic cycle, the scientific, the theological, and, at least as notably as any, the historical. Within the last few years the CORNHILL MAGAZINE has sought to garner up the impressions left by the work of two of the great writers of the historical period, Stubbs and Gairdner. But there were many others who belonged to the same company, to the same interest, if not to the same sympathy. It might be instructive to see where they were allied, where opposed, to trace points of affinity and dissension between Creighton and Froude, Freeman and Maitland, Brewer and Dixon, Lecky and Lord Acton.

However different they were, later generations will find their likeness more obvious, and it will probably not prove difficult to draw a line between them and their successors of to-day. To the other side of that line, away from us, will be found the veteran who died on November 4, 1912, at the age of eighty-four.

, James Gairdner had points of similarity with many of the ten historians who have been named. He had Stubbs's delight in documents, Freeman's in the ipsissima verba of chronicles. Pageantry in the past fascinated him, as it did Creighton. He could wield a sledge-hammer with Freeman, and sheathe a point of quiet irony in a phrase like Dixon. But in one respect he differed entirely from them all. To keep and edit records was his profession in life, and (unlike Brewer) his only profession. He had quite a different training, quite a different life, from any of the others.

In another detail too he was unlike all the rest. It is not the custom in England to reward service to literature, except in poetry and the drama, by any State recognition, unless it can be brought within the wide net of science, truly or falsely so called. Room was found for Huxley and Max Müller in the Privy Council. Lecky and Acton were statesmen as well as historians. If the State thought Stubbs and Creighton worthy of reward for their historical work, the reward must be given by the Church. As for the others, nobody did anything for them at all: what distinctions of State they had came from abroad, where these things are done differently. See, he wears your order,' said King Edward VII., presenting VOL. XXXIV.-NO. 203, N.S.

44

[ocr errors]

Stubbs to the Emperor William at the funeral of Queen Victoria, pointing to the badge of the Order Pour le Mérite. No English Order was given to an historian for his history. James Gairdner was, from 1900, a Companion of the Order of the Bath, a recognition of his public service as Assistant Keeper of the Records, a post which he held from 1859 to 1900.

Gairdner was an archivist, as the French call it, in a sense in which no other historian of his time was. It was his work to feed on paper and drink up ink; to take off the dust from old documents, sort them, read them, analyse them. And then, after all that, he found—what not one man in ten who does the same work finds, that he could write real history out of them. Here he had the great advantage of training by association with a man who had done just the same thing, that pioneer in archivism, J. S. Brewer.

It would be too much to say that it was those two men who reduced our public records from chaos to order, for many eminent public servants have been employed in the notable work which has transformed the old Rolls Office into the Public Record Office of to-day, changing the order of things, customs, arrangement of documents, methods of work, in a manner as conspicuous as was the change of building itself. But, certainly, of the great change Gairdner was one of the protagonists. And Gairdner was Brewer's disciple. His whole method of work, one felt, was caught from his predecessor in Fetter Lane,-his predecessor, that is, in the special task to which his own life came to be devoted, the cataloguing, or calendaring, of the National Archives relating to the reign of Henry VIII. That was the work of the years which Gairdner first spent among the records. He went to the office in 1846, when he was eighteen, it is true, but the twenty years he was at work with Mr. Brewer hardly began before 1859, when he was made Assistant Keeper. Of these years of preparation for the great work on Henry's reign he spoke in later days thus : 'Some years were spent in a preliminary arrangement of the documents in the Public Record Office, after which pretty full abstracts were taken of all those in the British Museum which appeared at all likely to belong to the early years of Henry VIII. We then proceeded to make similar abstracts of the arranged documents in the Record Office; and finally, after carefully weighing the evidence of chronological sequence in the case of undated letters, we arranged the whole of our abstracts in the order in which they were sent to press.' The Calendars, when they appeared, dealt not only with the documents

[ocr errors]

among the public records, but with every known source of contemporary information regarding the reign of Henry VIII. It was on this huge mass of material that Brewer wrote those remarkable prefaces which after his death were republished as a consecutive history of Henry's early years, and served to give to English history an entirely new conception of Cardinal Wolsey, a conception which Bishop Creighton popularised and Mr. Herbert Fisher has not quite succeeded in discrediting.

Thus to Gairdner, and through him to not a few others, the Public Record Office was a real Ecole des Chartes. It is strange, when one thinks of how vehemently York Powell pressed for the creation on English soil of an institution like the famous one at Paris, to remember how little was said of the great work Gairdner was doing as modestly as patiently in London : in the life of the Oxford professor there is not a single mention of the London scholar. The scope of the work, the room for workers, was limited, it is true : the Record Office is not a school, but a workshop. But English people have learnt quite as much in workshops as in schools.

What did the work at the Record Office teach the historian ? The best answer that I know is to be found in Gairdner's own account of what Brewer did, written more than thirty years ago, in a book which has been long out of print. Part of it is worth quoting, because, besides the autobiographical interest which it has by the way, in describing the characteristics of Brewer it sketches unconsciously the method, the manner, and the interest of the man who followed him. Most of what Gairdner said of Brewer we could say of himself :

“I think if I were asked to name in a single word the point which distinguished him most from all other able men of my acquaintance I should say it was his thoroughness, and his consequent eagerness to be informed of every aspect of a question or a fact. No man, indeed, was ever so condescending in argument—if condescending is not, in fact, an altogether inappropriate word to describe one whose modesty in tone and unassuming courtesy always welcomed what an antagonist could say in reply as a thing by which he himself might profit. For the truth is, however thoroughly he had mastered a subject, he invariably put himself in the position of one anxious to learn something more about it. I used to say sometimes that when I had a question to ask of him it was very hard, for he would ask me half a dozen before I got mine put to him; yet, after all, mine were easily disposed of, while his went to the very bottom of things, and required very careful consideration.

Indeed, this questioning habit of mind was what constituted his peculiar strength. He did not place much reliance on mere logical deductions : he was a student of Bacon, and considered logic as a thing that went comparatively little way; yet no man appreciated the force of logic more than he did, and could discriminate with greater nicety how much a logical argument proved and how much it did not prove. But without entering into dialectics, one pregnant question from him would suffice to turn the point of an argument, and exhibit the subject in a very different light.

His natural field of thought, however, was not mental science or philosophy. His favourite studies were history and literature ; and it was particularly with relation to the former that I had most to do with him. Here it was that his questioning habit was of particular use to me, and I had occasion sometimes to mark its influence upon other men who had bestowed much more attention on particular subjects than myself.'

To sum up the position, then, Gairdner came to his documents not, like Stubbs, or Gardiner, or Maitland, from without. He did not go and hunt for them, or read them where he knew they might be found, because he was studying a particular period of history with a view to writing about it. He wrote, little by little, the history of a reign because it was his business to read all the documents about it.

That was the work of the years from 1876, when the first volume of the Calendars that bore Gairdner's name came out, to 1910, when the first part of the twenty-first volume was published. He had been concerned with the whole work from the fifth volume. It has been calculated that in this great storehouse the number of documents calendared was more than a hundred thousand ; and all these passed under the eye, practically all the abstracts were the work, of Gairdner himself. This alone would have been enough for most men, even the keenest of students. It was not nearly enough for Gairdner. If it had never been done at all he would still have rendered services to English history superior to those of any of his contemporaries except perhaps Stubbs and Gardiner. Like the former, he was an editor in the Rolls Series, bringing out 'Memorials of Henry VII.' in 1858, and a few years later ‘Letters and Papers of the reigns of Richard III. and Henry VII.': like the latter, he was an editor for the Camden Society, producing two volumes on the fifteenth century, and others, I think, later. Then he edited, and thirty years later revised, his edition of the Paston Letters. He was at his best there. Some absurd persons have said that he had

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »