Bosey Jay, Redemption & God’s Scheme

 

An excerpt from

“Some Contemporary Themes in Shiel’s Early Novels:

I: “The Dragon’s Tale: M. P. Shiel on the Emergence of Modern China”

by

John D. Squires

[Morse, A. Reynolds, ed, M. P. Shiel in Diverse Hands: A Collection of Essays on M. P. Shiel,

Cleveland: The Reynolds Morse Foundation, 1983, pp 293-295.]

 

 

            In contrast, Hardy, blinded by the lust for vengeance which had transformed and twisted him, had sought to exterminate the yellow race.  Significantly, he had had one last chance to save his soul, through a woman, Miss Bosey Jay.  Early in the novel he had confessed his love for her, but Bosey was much above him.  In fact she may be the closest example in Empress of Shiel’s “overman” figure:

 

                                    She was a lady of many accomplishments.  She sang like

                        a bird; she had written two novels of the “problem” kind; she was

                        a sociologist; she had painted one knows not how many pictures;

                        she was not yet nineteen; and she was rather pretty...

                                    In her large countenance and the curves of her full lips,

                        there was quick intelligence, and strong self-assurance.  The hard

                        bones of her corsets were not more visible through her bodice than

                        the iron which underlay her character, as evidenced in her face.

                                    “Oh, Mr. Hardy, I am glad!” she cried, springing up vivaciously

                        as John entered the studio.  “Ah, and I have heard! I have heard!”

                                    “About the battle, and all that?”

                                    What else, if ‘all that’ means Mr. John Hardy?  Do sit down. 

                        How very brave you must be!”

                                    “All Englishmen are brave.”

                        “Are they?  A good many of them are detestable cowards, to my certain

                        knowledge.  Men do live in regions of fantasy!  Women are more prosaic—

                        and clearer.  Did you not see an average English girl in the sovereign

                        presence of a mouse, Mr. Hardy?”

                                    “Girls are different,” said John.

                        Bosey’s lips tightened with pressure.  This was precisely the kind of

                        ancient point of view, purely male, to which she had the most touchy

                        antipathy.  John was hopelessly “old,” she actively “new.”

                                    “Oh, different, of course,” she said, “in pose of nervous structure,

                        and so on, and so on.  But is it not rather cheap to say it?  And substitute

                        for the mouse the broker’s man, and you get at once a measure of the

                        average Englishman’s courage.”

                                    “Somebody has been telling you wrong,” said John.  “All

                        Englishmen are brave.  Only foreign people are afraid of things.”

                                    She looked at him in absolute pity, for his narrowness, his

                        insularism, his unintelligence. 

                                    “But why telling me, Mr. Hardy?  Did you say telling me? 

                        Can it be that you still think an ordinary educated girl incapable of

                        observing for herself?  You have still quite the harem idea I see.”

                                    I? Oh, now you are not kind.  Why, if you only knew how

                        much I like girls!”  

                                    “Merci!  That is so—condescendingly good of you.”

                                    “Ah, now you are sarcastic.”

                                    Ha! Ha! You are too shrewd, you know.”  

            (Empress, Chapter X, “John Hardy Among Women,” Short Stories, 5 March 1898, 300.)

 

She rebuffs his advances for:

 

                                    I have other things—quite other things—to think of, and it

                        will be as much as I can possibly do, supposing I live for eighty years

                        in tolerable health of body, to be through the little all I have in mind. 

                        I am not going to say that it is out of the question that some day I may

                        not allow myself to be seduced into marriage by some man or other,

                        but, at the moment, it is a thing as wildly remote from the actual

                        current of my thoughts, that, I assure you, it has quite the look of

                        an impossibility.  All the time, mind you, I am vividly alive to the

                        fact that it is very nice to be petted and kissed by charming lips; but

                        it is not, you see, precisely what I have chosen for myself.  You know

                        about ‘scorning delights and living laborious days’ don’t you?  Well,

                        that is my way.  So I beg, once and for all, that you will be more

                        sensible with respect to me for the future, Mr. John.  (Ibid., 301)

           

In Chapter XXX, he is drawn back to her:

 

                                    His once gentle heart, though embittered and desperate, was

                        not wholly dead.  Under this sudden impulse, wine-inspired, he

                        jumped into a cab and drove to Park Lane.

            He stopped at the door of Miss Jay.  He had now been several

                        weeks in England, yet had not seen her.  Why he now went he did not

                        ask himself: some vague motive worked in him to insult, or press, or

                        smite her in the face,—such was the tragic desperation of his empty

                        and callous heart.

                                    Love, tenderness, were far from him now; yet in the depths of

                        his nature some ungovernable cry in the dark, some fierce yearning

                        perhaps, spurred him toward the sister of his soul: such subterranean

                        throes occur in the dim places of the hearts of men...

                                    She, for her part, was shocked—at his aged eyes, his wild

                        aspect, the quite visible grey in his hair.  Now, at least she recognised

                        a man, and a master of men...

                                    “At bottom you are good and kind...That was why I came to

                        see you now.  Heaven only knows why I came.  You ought to have

                        married me when I told you.”

                                    “Oh, as to that—” she said.

                                    “No, no, do not begin that again!” he retorted fretfully.

                                    “Can’t you guess that I am changed in mood, and everything?

                        All that is not for me any more.”

                                    Somehow her heart sank; and the sadness of autumnal winds

                        sighing among dead leaves smote its chords.  So wild a pity is in the

                        world, and so bitter a sob.

                                    She said:

                                    “I can see that you are changed, yes: and I divine that you are

                        far from happy.  What has been the matter?”

                                    “Why should I tell you?”

                        “There is no reason in the world, Mr. Hardy.”

                                    “You see, that is the way you talk to me!” He said, regarding

                        her fixedly under his eyes: “soon, when I am gone, you will be saying

                        to yourself,‘Well, it was bitter of me not to love and comfort poor John

                        Hardy in his misery’.”

                                    “Gone?” she questioned, —gone where to?”

                                    “Gone to God”—and in a lower tone—“gone to Hell.”

                                    And now she rose, and in haste went to sit beside him. 

                        And the pity of ministering angels was in her voice. 

                                    “Tell me, she said, “for you have come to me feeling that I

                        am your good friend, and you should tell me.”         

                                    “Ah, it is nothing,” he said, and he flung himself backwards

                        on the sofa where he sat.

                                    “It must be very much, since it has affected you so.  I heard

                        something ... but did not quite realise it.  You should have come

                        before.”

                                    “Come for what?  I tell you it is no good at all any more!”

                                    “But you are too—despondent.  See—you say you want

                        my love and comfort—there is my hand in yours, my friend.  If you

                        do not tell me your trouble, that will mean to me that you do not—

                        really care for me.”     

                                    “Ah, I did, though! I did!”

                                    “And do— or you would not have come.  Can’t you see that? 

                        You do still.  So you must open your heart to your friend.”

                                    He looked into her eyes, and they swam in tears.  His head

                        lying back on the sofa-back rolled from side to side.

                                    “You are a good, kind girl,” he said, “and I knew that long

                        ago.  I had a kind of power to guess everything that was in you.  Why

                        did you not—but it is useless talking now.  Let me go away. 

                                    “No, no—do not say that.”

                                    “Well, now, I can call you wondrously good.”

                                    “Of course I am—of course.  Can’t you divine?  I—

                        naturally—do not wish you to go.  You look so sad—so worn with

                        suffering. 

                                    Why is that?  How is it?  Ah!  I am so — I could not tell you. 

                                    But you—tell me, for I beg you, all your trouble.”

                                    “Well, well.... But to what end?”

                                    “Because I ask you: and because I feel that it will do you good

                        to tell me.”

                                    She ought to have said “because it will redeem you, and save

                        you to tell me” ; for that was the truth.

                                    And, indeed, an impulse did then rise in John Hardy to tell to

                        her at least that history which he was hoarding and hugging venomously

                        in his breast, which he had breathed to no living soul, save in one short

                        sentence to old Bobbie Mason ; the history of those long tortures—

how the scream of a cat had been rent from his twisting and beastialised soul—how he had cursed the deaf ears of Heaven—how, now, his poor

                        nerves, tingling in a chaos of jangling dissonance, like the wires of 

                        some shattered instrument of music, represented all the universe to

                        him as a mere black nightmare crowded with sighing winds and

                        unutterable, dismal shapes of woe—how, above all, his passion for

                        vengeance had settled within him into the cruel and wicked malice

                        of a fiend.

                                    He had the impulse to tell it all out, and to save his soul.  And

                        he said:

                                    “Well—I will tell you—if your ears can bear it.  You know, do

                        you not, that I went to China—but no, no no! 

                                    I am not a child, Miss Jay ! do let me get away—!”

                                    And suddenly he had snatched his hand from hers, had sprung

                        up, and was gone almost before the cry had leapt from her lips.

                                    And she, for a long time, sat staring vacantly at the floor, and

                        did not go out that evening.  (Short Stories, 659-660.)

 

            Hardy goes on to defeat Yen How at sea.  He delivers the survivors of Europe from the hosts of the East by drowning them in the waters of the North Sea, parted by the Maelstrom, even as Moses had delivered the Jews from the hosts of Egypt, drowned in the parted waters of the Red Sea.

            He then completes his work by dropping Chinese infected with a new black death along the coasts of Europe to mix and infect the yellow masses there.

            As to Hardy :

 

                                    He was no longer sane.[1]  His hand was thicker than itself in

                        brother’s blood. His final hour of darkness and tragedy was hasting to

                        meet his life.  All his sky was an ink of clouds.  Now again he tarried

                        cowering in Gethsemane. 

                                    He no longer slept.  Now he roamed the cabin like a wild man;

                        now he sat still and languid, his head on his hands, his eyes having in

                        Them the senility of old people’s.  Every five minutes he bent double

                        in paroxysms of moist coughing. 

                                    (Chapter XXIV, Short Stories, June 18, 1898, 784.)

 

            He soon dies at the sword of the duelist Edropol, who had followed him from France, with no thought for past, present or future—no higher motive in life than to settle “an affair of honor,” a symbol, perhaps, of the useless, self-centered frivolity Shiel saw as characteristic of the traditional upper classes of Europe.[2]

            Hardy’s scheme of extermination was not to be:

 

                                    The results of his malignest act of enmity against the yellow

                        race— results far surpassing in horror and vastness those of any of

                        his other acts—he did not live to witness.... within three weeks perished,

                        it is said, a hundred and fifty millions.  Europe was a rotting charnel-house.  

                                    But in three months the plague was over ; and still England

                        found herself confronted with the long, and sometimes bloody, and

                        always tedious, task of clearing out of Europe nearly a hundred

                        million yellow men. 

                                    After all, John Hardy’s idea of the extinction of the             yellow

                        man never came to pass.  Hardy was wise, but Nature is wiser.  The

                        yellow man is in the Scheme.

                                     (Chapter XXXV, Short Stories, June 18, 1898, 785.)            

 

 

 



[1] Note the contrast to Adam Jeffson in The Purple Cloud whose insanity under the influence of the “Dark Power” would be successfully cured through the love of a woman.

[2] Note again that Hardy’s death meant that he would never see the “promised land” Shiel foretells for Mankind at the end of the novel, for like Moses, his hands were stained with brothers’ blood.


 

Copyright © 1983, 2010 by John D. Squires

Used by permission.

  

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