FAITH UN WIN'S ORDEAL.* THE moral of this novel, according
to one of our contemporaries, is that a man should leave his father and his mother and cleave unto his wife. Some might be tempted to interpret the story differently, and if they drew a Scripture lesson from it at all, to say that it was written to set the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. In this it is more orthodox than Douglas Jerrold, whose gospel was to set the son-in-law againsthismother-in-law; butforthe peace of families we hope that mothers have not often such a dominion
over their sons as is the case in Faith Unwin's Ordeal. Walter Erskine is represented as weak and shallow, and perhaps these two qualities had made him subservient to his mother. Yet surely most mothers have a sufficient regard for the happiness of their sons to remember that when once their sons are married, it is no use opposing their marriage ; that even with a bad baigain people ought to make the best of it ; and that because they do not approve of their son's choice it is bad policy to try and make their sons discontented with their choice, for that may establish the maternal, wisdom, but will be fatal to filial happiness. We can understand this fault being committed by many other relations. Brothers and sisters are very at to resent a new marriage on which they have not been consulted. Mr. Trollope has shown us more than one instance of this kind of family fend. The mere fact 'of his younger brother having children makes Porlock resolve to marry. Yet, though we always conclude that large families with an entailed estate are sure to be filled with strife and hatred, and that the fact of being an eldest son makes a man the natural
• enemy of his younger brothers, these circumstances are not indis- pensable for quarrels about marriage. There may be no assign- able reason, and yet impleasantnesses will arise. Perhaps the new bride has never mixed in the same set as her husband's sisters. Perhaps she reads Tennyson while they pretend to read Tupper. Perhaps she has learnt French in Paris, or German not at Hanover. Perhaps she rides to hounds, or flirts, or waltzes, or prefers Rossini to Mendelssohn, or Mendelssohn to Rossini. Whatever be the cause, brothers and sisters look upon her coldly. 'They say she cannot suit John, because she does not snit them. But they never once reflect that John married because he liked the lady, and that they might have chosen dozens for him out of their own set—in many cases they have chosen dozens, and this makes the barb rankle—whom he could not like, and would not have married.
But we think parents in general are exempt from this weak- ness. They may have disliked the marriage, but after once con- senting to it, they feel bound to let it have its course. The mother in Miss Craik's novel is, we hope, a solitary exception. Her conduct to Faith Unwin, and the events which grow out of Ler conduct, constitute the ordeal. If we discussed the ethics of the book, we should find much of her conduct to which we must take exception. But if we once grant the possibility of her being wrapt up in her authority over her son, there is nothing unnatural in what follows. The story is very simple. It opens in a sailing ship, on her homeward voyage from Australia. Among the passengers are Walter Erskine and Faith Unwin, who are brought together first as fellow-passengers in the narrow compass of a ship, and then in the still narrower compass of an open boat when the ship has perished by fire. Faith Unwin's old querulous father, who is drawn with greater distinctness than Miss Craik's other characters, dies in the boat, and when the others are rescued by a schooner bound to the Cape, Faith is thrown on Walter Erskine as her only protector, She has refuse I his love before, she accepts it then. When he takes her to his home, his mother is set against her from the first, partly on account of her family, partly from jealousy. Then comes a cousin of Walter Erskine's, and Faith and he are almost on the point of loving each other. Mrs. Erskine sees it, and instead of checking them tries to throw them together, tries to make her son suspicious, and at last accuses Faith openly before Walter. A period of estrangement follows. The happy family party is broken up ; the cousin goes back to India and is lost on the voyage, Walter tries to find relief in travel, and Faith and Mrs. Erskine keep each other company.
Slight as this framework is, we do not feel the need of further characters or incidents. Miss Craik shows us clearly what she
Faith Un•vin's Ordeal. By Georgiana M. Craik. 2 void. London: Smith and Elder. Ma wishes us to see, and her workmanship is not the less perfect for its extreme quiet. Faith Unwin's Ordeal is a cabinet picture, in which the figures are suddenly called into life. Painful as is the antagonism between wife and mother, painful the querulous weak- ness of Faith's father, and the petulant weakness of Walter after the discovery of Faith's feeling for his cousin, there is none of that exaggeration so common in many novelists which fills us with a personal hatred of their obnoxious characters. We must doubt the probability of Mrs. Erskine being so consistently selfish, but we cannot hate her for a moment. If Miss Craik• had gone a little further, and made her not a selfish mother, but an incarnation of the principle of selfishness, we should have detested her for the time, butour celmer judgment would have pronounced her impos- sible. As it is, we blame her, but we almost pity her. Again, there is great delicacy of touch in the way Miss Craik shows us the growth of love between Faith Unwin and the cousin, George Erskine. We see that Faith has done wrong in marrying Walter, that she yielded to his love and her own sense of loneliness, in- stead of loving him herself. She does not mean to love his cousin, but she and Walter do not suit each other, and she and George do suit each other. Not only this, but George's presence makes Walter and herself get on better. The three are always together, and always at ease in each other's company. Not one of them notices that a warmer feeling is gradually springing up between George and Walter's wife. Mrs. Erskine is the first to see it, and when she sees it, it is too late for Faith to fight against it. There is something very dramatic in the scene where Mrs. Erskine accuses Faith of loving her husband's cousin, especially as Mrs. Erskine had not intended to tell Walter, had only been throwing out inuendoes, had half repented even of them, and was driven to speak out openly by sharp words from her son and by Faith's unex- pected appearance :- "All at once there was another pause, for a hand—Faith's hand—had suddenly touched the door and opened it. With a passionate change coming in an instant to his face—a change that transformed its tortured anguish into a great flush of hope, ho sprang to where his wife stood, and threw his arms around her, gathering her to him with an almost inarticulate cry. My darling, I wanted you! My darling—my wife !' he cried.—' Walter,' she said, what is it ?' Her eyes went startled from his face to Mrs. Erskine's ; but when they reached Mrs. Erskine's they stayed there ; something—she could not tell what—arrested them. With the instinct of a sudden terror she put her hand tight about her
husband:a neck. will tell yea what it is,' Mrs. Erskine said. She went up to them, very white and quiet, and stood near Faith. am
glad that you are here,' she said, for I was speaking of you to my son, and I am ready to make to your face the accusation against you that I was about to make to him. If I accuse you of what is not true, you shall deny it before him. What I tell him is, that you have tried to bring disgrace upon him, for that you and George Erskine love one another.' There was a sudden movement—a sharp throwing back from her from her husband's arms ; and then a cry- Mrs. Erskine!' she said. It might have been a cry of indignation—it might have been a wild appeal for mercy. They could not -tell which : they each inter- preted it differently. 'Mother, she del:dealt!' her husband cried.—' She does not deny it,' Mrs. Erskine answered. She bad never taken her eyes from Faith's face. She dare not deny it,' she said. He broke out once more, for one last moment, into some wild words of trust— words that came from him like the desperate last clinging of his heart to the passionate faith and love that he had set in her ; and then his final hope went out and drifted away into the dark. For what was the meaning of this look of seared and terrified misery that had come upon his wife's face ? Why did she not speak? why did she utter no denial? Like some one struck with sudden blindness she only helplessly put out her hands, groping with a miserable piteous instinct for even some lifeless object near her that she might touch and cling to ; and then when she found nothing she stood and lookednp into the two faces that were fronting her, like some dumb terrified creature driven to bay. The-only words she uttered in a low broken whisper wore these:—' I never.knew
it! Oh, have mercy on me !' She never knew it ; that was all. lb denial; no natural woman's scorn at a base and false accusation. He turned away as he heard her, with such a cry as even then struck on her heart; and throwing himself upon a seat with a great groan of misery, laid his face down upon his hands. And then, turning round, she went, silent and shivering, out of the room."
Had there been more scenes like this and the escape ,from the burning ship, Faith Unwin's Ordeal would have gained in general interest, and might have commanded a larger circle of readers. We fear the simplicity and truthfulness that Miss Craik has studied will exclude her book from those households in -winch sensation is at a premium. But there are more households Which will object with greater justice to the painful nature of the story, which will turn away with happy incredulity from Mrs. Erskine, and will think that no married woman could fall into strange love without knowing it. We are not careful to answer for Miss Craik in this matter. It is sufficient to note a striking improve- ment on an earlier story of hers which we picked sip a few days ago, and to express our hope that her future progress -will be equally rapid.