Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 131.djvu/709

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703
ON THE SHELF.

and honest publisher, sells them by the hundred thousand. However, Chatrian has never left the railway, and has risen to a very honorable post. He is caissier des titres, and his salary must be some ten or twelve thousand francs a year. He is married, and has three children. He has a pretty house at Raincy, in the banlieue, and he possesses great influence in his neighborhood. It was to him that the brave Colonel Langlois owed his success at the elections of last February.

Erckmann, who is not married, is an exile, without near relations. He had a grand-niece at Strasbourg, who has married a German. Broken down by this sorrow, he wandered for a long time on the borders of our dear native land, the door of which is shut to him as to so many others. Before the war he had settled in the pretty valley of the Zinzel, to live after the fashion of the Ami Fritz. He is the best liver in the world; he adores the good wine of Alsace, sauerkraut, ham, the crayfish of the Zorn, the beer of Strasbourg, and he gladly loses himself in the clouds that rise from his pipe. What he loves, perhaps, still better, is shooting in the woods, long expeditions in the mountains, and discussions without end with a small group of friends. A most worthy man, in truth, this Erckmann, and a droll fellow, too. He had decayed teeth, which gave him pain from time to time. So he had them all taken out at one sitting, and now with a set of gums, as fresh and rosy as an infant of six months old, he munches the most solid of food and the softest of crusts. With his cheeks a little hollow, his fat chin, his long moustaches, and his bourgeois country dress, he looks like a colonel on half pay. After having long wandered like a tormented spirit near the lost paradise of Alsace-Lorraine, he has settled in the neighborhood of Saint Dié, in the Vosges, with worthy friends who are connections of his. I went to see him there two years ago, and mechanically, in spite of ourselves, across the mountain paths we penetrated into Alsace.

I learned on this occasion the secret of his joint work with the good Chatrian. The two friends see one another very rarely, whether at Paris or in the Vosges. When they do meet, they elaborate together the scheme of a work. Then Erckmann writes it, Chatrian corrects it, and sometimes puts it into the fire. I can quote as an example, a certain story conceived in an anti-clerical spirit, and intended for the XIXme Siècle. Erckmann is at this moment writing it for the third time. We have few writers so conscientious, and I do not suppose that you have many. We have none more sincere, more upright, more humane, more zealous in defending the true against the untrue, right against might. We have no better patriots, if patriotism consists in denouncing the follies of ambition, decrying false glory, not seeking a quarrel with any one, but wishing that a people unjustly invaded should defend itself to the last. Such is the meaning and morality of all these national tales which the authors of our ruin denounce to the public with signal hypocrisy. Edmond About.




From The Liberal Review.

ON THE SHELF.

Men often pray that they may live to what they call a good old age. Yet it is to be feared that a great portion of humanity never appears to so little advantage as it does in the evening of life. Nor is this to be wondered at. People's dispositions depend largely upon the state of their constitution. If a man is strong and robust, there is small credit due to him for being cheery and sweet-tempered. On the other hand, if a man is troubled with many aches and pains there is little blame owing to him if he is discontented and querulous. Now, there can be no doubt that a large number of old people are discontented and querulous, and it is equally clear that their failings have their origin in the frailties of their flesh and blood rather than any serious defect in their mental composition. At the same time it must also be said that in addition to their physical weaknesses and the contemplation of their failing powers old people have much to aggravate them. In the first place, the young are apt to display no consideration for their feelings. Many young men assume that old men have had their day and that it is time for them to make way for those who are pressing on their heels. If the old men can be thrust aside, well and good; if they decline to be removed from their places before death takes them, the chances are that they are regarded as nuisances, and their transmutation is spoken of as a thing to be desired. Indeed, it often happens that they are shown that it is difficult to tolerate their presence, and that the same would not be tolerated if it were not for