Imágenes de páginas
[graphic][subsumed][merged small][subsumed]

men who do not look forward to it and back to it with pleasure. The only fault to be found is that the hours of work are so long that one does not usually have enough time to sleep. The food, if rough, is good. The men are good-humored, bold, and thoroughly interested in their business, continually vying with one another in the effort to see which can do the work best. It is superbly health-giving, and is full of excitement and adventure, calling for the exhibition of pluck, self-reliance, hardihood, and dashing horsemanship; and of all forms of physical labor the easiest and pleasantest is to sit in the saddle.

The scenery is often exceedingly striking in character, especially in the Bad Lands, with their queer fantastic formations. Among the most interesting features are the burning mines. These are formed by the coal seams that get on fire. They vary greatly in size. Some send up smoke-columns that are visible miles away, while others are not noticeable a few rods off. The old ones gradually burn away, while new ones unexpectedly break out. Thus, last fall, one suddenly appeared but half a mile from the ranch house. We never knew it was there until one cold moonlight night, when we were riding home, we rounded the corner of a ravine and saw in our path a tall white column of smoke rising from a rift in the snowy crags ahead of us. As the trail was over perfectly

familiar ground, we were for a moment almost as startled as if we had seen a ghost.

The burning mines are uncanny places, anyhow. A strong smell of sulphur hangs round them, the heated earth crumbles and cracks, and through the long clefts that form in it we can see the lurid glow of the subterranean fires, with here and there tongues of blue or cherry colored flame dancing up to the surface.

The winters vary greatly in severity, however. During some seasons men can go lightly clad even in January and February, and the cattle hardly suffer at all; during others there will be spells of bitter weather, accompanied by furious blizzards, which render it impossible for days and weeks at a time for men to stir out-of-doors at all, save at the risk of their lives. Then line rider, ranchman, hunter, and teamster alike all have to keep within doors. I have known of several cases of men freezing to death when caught in shelterless places by such a blizzard, a strange fact being that in about half of them the doomed man had evidently gone mad before dying, and had stripped himself of most of his clothes, the body when found being nearly naked. On our ranch we have never had any bad accidents, although every winter some of us get more or less frost-bitten. My last experience in this line was while returning by moonlight

from a successful hunt after mountain sheep. The thermometer was 26° below zero, and we had had no food for twelve hours. I got numbed, and before I was aware of it had frozen my face, one foot, both knees, and one hand. Luckily, I reached the ranch before serious damage was done. About once every six or seven years we have a season when these storms follow one another almost without interval throughout the winter months, and then the loss among the stock is frightful. One such winter occurred in 1880-81. The grass was then so good that the few cattle raised on the range escaped fairly well, but even then the trail herds were almost destroyed. This was when there were very few ranchmen in the country. The next severe winter was that of 1886-87, when the rush of incoming herds had overstocked the ranges, and the loss was in consequence fairly appalling, especially to the outfits who had just put on cattle.

The snow-fall was unprecedented, both for its depth and for the way it lasted; and it was this, and not the cold, that caused the loss. About the middle of November the storms began. Day after day the snow came down, thawing and then freezing and piling itself higher and higher. By January the drifts had filled the ravines and coulées almost level. The snow lay in great masses on the plateaus and river bottoms; and this lasted until the end of February. The preceding summer we had been visited by a prolonged drought, so that the short, scanty grass was already well cropped down; the snow covered what pasturage there was to the depth of several feet, and the cattle could not get at it at all, and could hardly move round. It was all but impossible to travel on horseback, except on a few wellbeaten trails. Even on the level it was very tiresome to try to break through the snow, and it was dangerous to attempt to penetrate the Bad Lands, whose shape had been completely altered by the great white mounds and drifts. The starving cattle died by scores of thousands before their helpless owners' eyes. The bulls, the cows who were suckling calves, or who were heavy with calf, the weak cattle that had just been driven upon the trail, and the late calves suffered most; the old range animals did better, and the steers best of all; but the best was bad enough. Even many of the horses died. An outfit near me lost half its saddle-band, the animals having been worked so hard that they were very thin when fall


In the thick brush the stock got some shelter and sustenance. They gnawed every twig and bough they could get at. They browsed the bitter sage brush down to where the branches were the thickness of a man's finger. When near a ranch they crowded into the out-houses and sheds to die, and fences had to be built around the windows to keep the wild-eyed, desperate beasts from thrusting their heads through the glass panes. In most cases it was impossible either to drive them to the haystacks or to haul the hay out to them. The deer even were so weak as to be easily run down; and on one or two of the plateaus where there were bands of antelope, these wary creatures grew so numbed and feeble that they could have been slaughtered like rabbits. But the hunters could hardly get out, and could bring home neither hide nor meat, so the game went unharmed.

It would be impossible to imagine any sight more dreary and melancholy than that offered by the ranges when the snow went off in March. The land was a mere barren waste; not a green thing to be seen; the dead grass eaten off till the country looked as if it had been shaved with a razor. Occasionally among the desolate hills a rider would come across a band of gaunt, hollow-flanked cattle feebly cropping the sparse, dry pasturage, too listless to move out of the way; and the blackened carcasses lay in the sheltered spots, some stretched out, others in as natural a position as if the animals had merely lain down to rest. It was small wonder that cheerful stockmen were rare objects that spring. Our only comfort was that we did not, as usual, suffer a heavy loss from weak cattle getting mired down in the springs and mud-holes when the ice broke up

for all the weak animals were dead already. The truth is, ours is a primitive industry, and we suffer the reverses as well as enjoy the successes only known to primitive peoples. A hard winter is to us in the north what a dry summer is to Texas or Australia- what seasons of famine once were to all peoples. We still live in an iron age that the old civilized world has long passed by. The men of the border reckon upon stern and unending struggles with their iron-bound surroundings; against the grim harshness of their existence they set the strength and the abounding vitality that come with it. They run risks to life and limb that are unknown to the dwellers in cities; and what the men freely brave, the beasts that they own must also sometimes suffer.

Theodore Roosevelt.


Rohut Louis Stevenam

F there be a writer of our language, at the present moment, who has the effect of making us forget the extinction of the pleasant fashion of the literary portrait, it is certainly the bright particular genius whose name is written at the head of these remarks. Mr. Stevenson fairly challenges portraiture, as we pass him on the highway of literature (if that be the road, rather than some wandering, sun-checkered by-lane that he may be said to follow), just as the possible model, in local attire, challenges the painter who wanders through the streets of a foreign town looking for subjects. He gives us new ground to wonder why the effort to fix a face and figure, to seize a literary character and transfer it to the canvas of the critic, should have fallen into such discredit among us and have given way to the mere multiplication of little private judgment-seats, where the scales and the judicial wig, both of them considerably awry and not rendered more august by the company of a vicious-looking switch, have taken the place, as the symbols of office, of the kindly, disinterested palette and brush. It has become the fashion to be effective at the expense of the sitter, to make some little point, or inflict some little dig, with a heated party air, rather than to catch a talent in the fact, follow its line, and put a finger on its essence; so that the exquisite art of criticism, smothered in grossness, finds itself turned into a question of "sides." The critic industriously keeps his score, but it is seldom to be hoped that the author, criminal though he may be, will be apprehended by justice through the handbills given out in the case; for it is of the essence of a happy description that it shall have been preceded by a happy observation and a free curiosity; and desuetude, as we say, has overtaken these amiable, uninvidious faculties, which have not the advantage of organs and chairs. I hasten to add that it is not the purpose of these few pages to restore their luster, or to bring back the more penetrating vision of which we lament the disappearance. No individual can bring it back, for the light that we look at things by is, after all, made by all of us. It is sufficient to note, in passing, that if Mr. Stevenson had presented himself in an age or in a country of portraiture, the paint

VOL. XXXV.-118.

ers would certainly each have had a turn at
him. The easels and benches would have
bristled, the circle would have been close, and
quick, from the canvas to the sitter, the rising
and falling of heads. It has happened to all
of us to have gone into a studio, a studio of
pupils, and seen the thick cluster of bent
backs and the conscious model in the midst.
It has happened to us to be struck, or not to
be struck, with the beauty or the symmetry of
this personage, and to have made some re-
mark which, whether expressing admiration
or disappointment, has elicited from one
of the attentive workers the exclamation,
"Character character is what he has!"
These words may be applied to Mr. Robert
Louis Stevenson: in the language of that art
which depends most on observation, charac-
ter-character is what he has. He is essen-
tially a model, in the sense of a sitter; I do not
mean, of course, in the sense of a pattern or a
guiding light. And if the figures who have a
life in literature may also be divided into two
great classes, we may add that he is conspic-
uously one of the draped; he would never, if
I may be allowed the expression, pose for the
nude. There are writers who present them-
selves before the critic with just the amount
of drapery that is necessary for decency, but
Mr. Stevenson is not one of these; he makes
his appearance in an amplitude of costume.
His costume is part of the character of which
I just now spoke; it never occurs to us to ask
how he would look without it. Before all
things he is a writer with a style-a model
with a complexity of curious and picturesque
garments. It is by the cut and the color of
this rich and becoming frippery-I use the
term endearingly, as a painter might - that
he arrests the eye and solicits the brush.

That is, frankly, half the charm he has for
us, that he wears a dress and wears it with
courage, with a certain cock of the hat and
tinkle of the supererogatory sword; or, in other
words, that he is curious of expression, and re-
gards the literary form not simply as a code
of signals, but as the keyboard of a piano and
as so much plastic material. He has that vice
deplored by Mr. Herbert Spencer, a manner-
a manner for a manner's sake, it may sometimes
doubtless be said. He is as different as possi-
ble from the sort of writer who regards words
as numbers and a page as the mere addition
of them; much more, to carry out our image,



the dictionary stands for him as a wardrobe, been indifferent to such a danger constitutes and a proposition as a button for his coat. Mr. in itself an originality. How few they are in William Archer, in an article so gracefully number and how soon we could name them, and ingeniously turned that the writer may the writers of English prose, at the present almost be accused of imitating even while he moment, the quality of whose prose is perdeprecates, speaks of him as a votary of "light- sonal, expressive, renewed at each attempt! ness of touch" at any cost, and remarks that The state of things that would have been ex"he is not only philosophically content, but pected to be the rule has become the excep deliberately resolved, that his readers shall tion, and an exception for which, most of the look first to his manner and only in the sec- time, an apology appears to be thought necesond place to his matter." I shall not attempt sary. A mill that grinds with regularity and to gainsay this; I cite it rather, for the pres- with a certain commercial fineness-that is ent, because it carries out my own sense. Mr. the image suggested by the manner of a good Stevenson delights in a style, and his own has many of the fraternity. They turn out an arnothing accidental or diffident; it is eminently ticle for which there is a demand, they keep conscious of its responsibilities and meets them a shop for a specialty, and the business is with a kind of gallantry — as if language were carried on in accordance with a useful, wella pretty woman and a person who proposes tested prescription. It is just because he has to handle it had, of necessity, to be something no specialty that Mr. Stevenson is an indiof a Don Juan. This element of the gallant is vidual, and because his curiosity is the only a noticeable part of his nature, and it is rather receipt by which he produces. Each of his odd that, at the same time, a striking feature books is an independent effort - a window of that nature should be an absence of care opened to a different view. "Dr. Jekyll and for things feminine. His books are for the Mr. Hyde" is as dissimilar as possible from most part books without women, and it is not "Treasure Island"; "Virginibus Puerisque " women who fall most in love with them. But has nothing in common with "The New AraMr. Stevenson does not need, as we may say, bian Nights," and I should never have supa petticoat to inflame him; a happy colloca- posed "A Child's Garden of Verses" to be tion of words will serve the purpose, or a sin- from the hand of the author of " Prince Otto." gular image, or the bright eye of a passing conceit, and he will carry off a pretty paradox without so much as a scuffle. The tone of letters is in him the tone of letters as distinct from that of philosophy or of those industries whose uses are supposed to be immediate. Many readers, no doubt, consider that he carries it too far; they manifest an impatience for some glimpse of his moral message. They may be heard to ask what it is he proposes to deduce, to prove, to establish, with such a variety of paces and graces.

The main thing that he establishes, to my own perception, is that it is a delight to read him and that he renews this delight by a constant variety of experiment. Of this anon, however; and meanwhile it may be noted as a curious characteristic of current fashions that the writer whose effort is perceptibly that of the artist is very apt to find himself thrown on the defensive. A work of literature is a form, but the author who betrays a consciousness of the responsibilities involved in this circumstance not rarely perceives himself to be regarded as an uncanny personage. The usual judgment is that he may be artistic, but that he must not be too much so; that way, apparently, lies something worse than madness. This queer superstition has so successfully imposed itself that the mere fact of having "R. L. Stevenson: his Style and Thought." "The [London] Times," November, 1885.

Though Mr. Stevenson cares greatly for his phrase, as every writer should who respects himself and his art, it takes no very attentive reading of his volumes to show that it is not what he cares for most, and that he regards an expressive style only, after all, as a means. It seems to me the fault of Mr. Archer's interesting paper that it suggests too much that the author of these volumes considers the art of expression as an end- a game of words. He finds that Mr. Stevenson is not serious, that he neglects a whole side of life, that he has no perception, and no consciousness, of suffering; that he speaks as a happy but heartless pagan, living only in his senses (which the critic admits to be exquisitely fine), and that, in a world full of heaviness, he is not sufficiently aware of the philosophic limitations of mere technical skill. (In sketching these aberrations Mr. Archer himself, by the way, displays anything but ponderosity of hand.) He is not the first reader, and he will not be the last, who shall have been irritated by Mr. Stevenson's jauntiness. That jauntiness is an essential part of his genius; but, to my sense, it ceases to be irritating - it indeed becomes positively touching, and constitutes an appeal to sympathy and even to tenderness - when once one has perceived what lies beneath the dancing-tune to which he mostly moves. Much as he cares for his phrase he cares more for life, and for a certain transcendently lovable

« AnteriorContinuar »