28 APRIL 1894, Page 37


THERE is something melancholy in reviewing the posthumous work of a young man of fine promise. The personality of Mr. Balestier is said by those who knew him to have given the im- pression of immense possibilities; and in the performances that he has left behind him there are a vitality and alertness which indicate that the impression was not delusive. The pulse of life in Benefits Forgot makes itself perceptible in a curious way. The scene of the story is laid in Colorado, and the English reader is at first struck by the unfamiliarity— almost unintelligibility—of the life in the midst of which he is set down. He feels rather like a visitor to a country whose people speak a language unknown to him, and his earliest sensation is one of bewilderment. If, however, the people of the country have the highly vivid nature which expresses itself, not only in words but in the universal language of gesture and expression, the stranger soon begins to feel that he has a key to the life around him ; that he apprehends it while he fails to comprehend it ; and that its quality of unin- telligibility is rapidly passing away. It is thus with the reading of Mr. Balestier's story. Much of its intensely local phrasing remains obscure to the last ; the mental movements of the men and women never lose a certain quality of strangeness or foreignness ; even the details of important situations are not always clear ; and yet we have seldom read a book which has given us a finer feeling of intimacy with an unfamiliar society. It is a society of unfamiliar simplicities and hardly less un- familiar complexities, where primitive passions express them- selves with a freedom that is sub-civilised, and where mental processes and forms of expression take forms of subtlety which may be described as hyper-civilised. James Deed, who, in an

embodiment of the revenge which, in his case, is really a wild justice, and reeks nothing of ruining himself, if in the act he can ruin the son who has treated him with vile and treacherous ingratitude, is a man who is only just within the frontier of civilisation. Both his sin and his atonement have the reck- less impulsiveness apt to characterise action in an un- formed community which has not yet acquired a tradition

• (L) Benefit, Forgot. By Wolcott Balestier. 3 vols. London : William Heine- mann.—(2.) The Price of a Pearl. By Eleanor Holmes. 3 vol.. London: Hurst ann Blackett.—(3.) A Buried Sin. By Lady Duff us Hardy. 3 vols. London : F. V. White and Co.—(4.) Hooks of Steel. By Helen Prothero Lewis. 3 vols. London : Hutchinson and Co.—(5.) A Wara in Chanoirv. By Mrs. Alexander. 2 vols. London : Osgood, Mcilvaine, and Co.. —(6) She Shall Be Mine. By Frank Hudson. 2 vols. London : Ward and Downey.—(7.) Bres Apple. By H. Deane. 2 vole London : R. Bent ey and Son.—(8 ) Dust BtJure the Wind. By May Crommelin. 2 vole. London : Bliss, Bands, and Foster.

of restraint. And yet, as has been said, there is a subtlety both of perception and expression that is not less obvious.

The conversation of quite ordinary people on ordinary occasions has the light, delicate precision of touch that we associate with literary circles in London or Boston rather than with a mining town in Colorado; they all seem to be engaged in analysing life and their own part in it; one gets the impression that they are breathing a highly stimulating atmosphere. The moral problem which Philip Deed has to solve is one that could only present itself to a man whose ethical sensibilities had been " trained fine." Of the two mines which belong to him and his treacherous brother, one soddenly and unexpectedly proves immensely rich. It is the mine which public report has assigned to him as his own exclusive property, and he had never contradicted the rumour; but in his own mind it has been assigned to Jasper,—the brother who has wronged him once, and to whom this new wealth, should it come into his hands, will give the power to wrong him still more terribly. To Philip it is as truly Jasper's as it would be if secured by documents open to all the world; but Jasper knows nothing of this—no one knows anything of it—and to protect the whole fabric of his life from ruin by an implacable foe, he has only to keep silence concerning a mental process of his own. It is, to quote the author's words in another connection, "one of those obscare cases where ethics have a ten- dency to liquefy, to escape from the instinct which is their only witness, and to melt into the medium of the business-like, the practical, the customary." The story of Philip's struggle—of his defeat and his final triumph—is conceived and told in a masterly fashion,—with perfect sym- pathy and yet with unfailing steadiness of vision ; and some of the lesser episodes have the fine light-handed workmanship which was exclusively French, but is now American as well. Benefits Forgot is a novel which has both subtlety and force.

" In love the values are fictitious, and imagination fixes the price." This is the motto which Miss Holmes places on her title-page, evidently in explanation of the name she has given to her novel, The Price of a Pearl ; but we are not sure that it is quite so explanatory as it is meant to be. The central character is the beautiful and fascinating Pearl Merry- weather, who is ardently loved by three good men,—Mr. Lewis, the middle-aged banker ; Lord Bertie Meredith, the sweet-natured but physically unattractive scion of a ducal house ; and Hector MacAdam, the bright young medical student, whose prospects are brilliant, and whose course of true love is running smooth, when all at once there descends a bolt from the blue, and he finds himself name- less, penniless, and alone. Pearl does not behave per- fectly to any of the three—in fact, she behaves more or less badly to all of them—and therefore (such is the impli- cation of Miss Holmes's title and motto), the value they place upon her is fictitious: it is like the value attached to tulip-bulbs during the memorable craze of the last century, which was incomprehensible to all but the collecting mono- maniacs. But surely this is a misapprehension. In love— by which we mean, of course, the love of the man for the woman, and vice versa—it is well known that in the great majority of cases charm of character counts for less than charm of person or temperament; and as Pearl has certainly the latter charm there is nothing really artificial in the value set upon her. Indeed, she has from the first the germ of the former charm as well ; and Miss Holmes is very successful in representing the breaking and falling away from a genuinely fine nature, of a crust of worldliness which is not really organic. The story itself is attractive throughout, not merely because its incidents and situations are well-devised and interesting, but because they have, for the most part, that close relation to each other which gives to a novel its integrity. We put in the qualifying clause, because The Price of a Pearl has its weak spots. The very ob- jectionable Mrs. Mandeville seems to be dragged into the story without definite place or sufficient work being found for her ; and the episode of Nurse Lois which induced Pearl to believe that Hector had forgotten her, is a very hackneyed and mechanical expedient. There can, however, be no doubt that Miss Holmes has written a novel of more than average quality. Lord Bertie is not only charming, but is in his quiet way a really heroic figure, and Pearl herself is excellent.

It cannot be said that there is a single page in A Buried Sin

which rises above the well-known commonplaces of con- ventional fiction. The heir to a baronetcy who has been sent into penal servitude for a forgery of which he was innocent; the concealed enemy who, for very vaguely realised purposes of his own, has actually committed the crime ; and the young gentleman who sets himself to play the part of amateur detective and bring the truth to light, are very old puppets; but even in the long ago when they had the charm of novelty, and when their movements were less jerky than at present, no one ever mistook them for anything but marionettes pulled about by only too visible strings. The story of the forgery is, we should have said, about as clumsy as a story well could be, were not its clumsiness eclipsed by the later story of Algernon West's attack upon the defences of the wily Mr. Levison,—an attack conducted with a fatuity which would have ensured defeat had not the machinery of accident been put in motion to secure the otherwise impossible victory. There is not, however, much credit in victory over a man who is foolish enough to commit a felony which burdens him with a number of bank-notes that he cannot use and will not destroy ; who buries his perilous spoil in another man's garden; and who periodically digs it np to assure himself— and any stray looker-on—that it is there. The wicked lawyer of our youth was made of stronger stuff ; and unfortunately Mr. Levison is not companionless in limp unreality.

If one can laugh at a person or a book, one never feels alto- gether unkindly towards him or her or it ; and in most of the pages of Hooks of Steel there is a naiveté of absurdity which is very laughable, and is nevertheless, in an odd sort of way, likeable as well. Were certain portions of it a shade less absurd, they would become serious, and would have to be treated more or less seriously, therefore critically, therefore severely. But to expend severity upon Miss Lewis's rhapsodies about Orpheus and Eurydice ; upon the young lady who con- verses in Shakespearian quotations, and acts like an idiot; upon her two lovers, the impossible prig and the impossible cad; and upon her uncle, the descendant of Woden, who is never either mad enough or sane enough to win a moment's belief, would indeed be to break a tangle of butterflies upon a cumbrous wheel. There is, however, one thing in the book that is positively good in its own way, which is a way of some- what bizarre prettiness and tenderness. This is the portrait of the old retainer, Matthew—retainer is the only word for him—a sort of modernised and sentimentalised Caleb Balder- stone, whose mission it is, by all kinds of wiles, to soothe the mind of his mad master, to ward off the terrible attacks of acute mania, and to prevent his affliction from being too obvious to the outside world. We are not sure that we believe in Matthew any more than we believe in any of the other people, but he is the one person we should like to believe in, for he is a noble, pathetic figure, with various delicate Victor Hngoish touches. Hooks of Steel is certainly not an ordinary book, though it is impossible to declare that it differs from the ordinary book in a wholly commendable way.

A Ward in Chancery is one of Mrs. Alexander's best novels, and it is certainly her most courageous novel. There is, nowadays, no special courage in the choice of a plain heroine, for the fashion brought in by Jane Eyre has not yet gone out. Still, the leading lady of fiction who is devoid of physical charms, has almost always either a remarkable history which makes her interesting, or indescribable fasci- nation which subjugates more surely than beauty ; she is either astoundingly clever, or blood-cnrdlingly wicked, or possibly both ; for though beauty may be dispensed with, plainness cannot afford to be allied with an ordinary character or an everyday history. Mrs. Alexander boldly insists on this very alliance. There is nothing in the story of Andree Nugent more surprising than is an omnibus in the Strand, or a fog in November, and her only distinctions are quick intel- ligence, clear insight into character, and a common-sense which in a girl whose story ends shortly after her majority, is perhaps exceptionally mature. This is not the girl to pro- vide the kind of interest sought for by the average novel- reader, and therefore Mrs. Alexander is to be congratulated on her daring escape from a groove. Still more heartily is she to be congratulated upon the fact that her courage is justified by success. To speak of a quiet, simple story like A Ward in Chancery as "exciting" or " enthralling" would be nonsensical ; but it is genuinely interesting, with that inte,lli-

gent kind of interest given by well-studied and truthful hand- ling of incident and character. The orphan Audi-6e at the age of nineteeninherits ar fortune, and under an order of the Conrt of Chancery, leaves her Bohemian surroundings in Paris for the bourgeois household of her very Philistine uncle at Bayswater. The domestic and social circle of the LandonS is about as respectably dull as it well could be; and though Andree is anything but a social dynamitard, Mrs. Alexander, by sheer skill in grouping, gets some admirable effects. There is not very much in the novel ; but all that is there is distinctly good.

Mild Irish comedy, and melodrama which has neither mild-

ness nor nationality, but a liberal cosmopolitanism, are the two, principal constituents of Mr. Frank Hudson's story, She Shall Be Mine. Sentimental verse, which is not bad of its kind, is a third constituent, for the hero is an occasional poet,

who does not object to give samples of his wares; but as most readers will skip the poems, they need not be taken into account. The comedy is not specially noticeable on the whole, but there is a touch of humour in the sketch of the Irish editor who manufactures bogus outrages partly for the sake Of good " copy," and partly that he may give an impetus to local trade by inciting the Castle authorities to send a detach- ment of soldiers down to Ballymoyle. The melodrama is, however, of good old-fashioned strength and flavour. There

are disappearances, and plots, and miscellaneous mysteries ; and there is even a ghost, in which is borrowed a rather good narrative idea from The Moonstone without fit acknowledg- ment. Beat of all, there is a villain, whose villainies are so complicated that only in death by hydrophobia can Mr. Hud-

son make the punishment fit the crime :—

"Presently he utters a long, loud howl, as canine a hOwl as ever was given by hound ; it is followed by another and another, while his strength seems to return. It takes the united efforts of the doctor and myself to keep him down. But it is his last paroxysm ;

the howls become fainter and less prolonged gradually his struggles become weaker his eyes close his body trembles his breathing shortens the trembling ceases three sharp barks . . . . . . a low whine."

This is the pleasant denouement of She Shall Be Mine.

A story whose only noteworthy fault lies in the fact that it is too unrelievedly sombre, is ably and artistically told in Eve's Apple. It has been previously published in serial form, as a A Black Butterfly, and for reasons that will be obvious to

readers of the book, we like the old title better than the new one, though the eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is certainly an apt symbol of the experience of poor Vivienne de Roseambeau. The period is that which witnessed the opening scenes in the last act of the French Revolution; the characters are survivors of the society that has died and pioneers of the society which is being born. The daughter of the old aristocracy forced by circumstances to become a part of the new order:which she loathes and despises, even when an absorbing and unhappy passion draws her to one of its leading representatives, is a fine creation, and we use the word advisedly, for in the portrait of Vivienne there is nova single conventional touch—every stroke of the brush is living, fresh, striking. Her complex nature—proud, impulsive, re- sourceful, eager, capable alike of large magnanimities and of small jealousies—is one of those natures that are doomed to a constancy of unstable equilibrium which seems to make them the playthings of fate. Against her is set the figure of the advocate Tancred Salvy—passionless, ambitions, unscrupu- lously self-seeking—who is, as it were, Fate's agent; and from the moment in which he enters into Vivienne's life, the story

moves onward with something of the inevitableness of a Greek drama. We are not sure that Eve's Apple is a book which will

impress the crowd; many of its effects have too much subtlety of truthfulness for ordinary popularity, but it is a singularly

careful imaginative study both of a society and a character. It is unnecessary to write at any length concerning Miss May Crommelin's .Dust Before the Wind. It is an eminently

disagreeable and unwholesome story; and, despite a pre- tentious but apologetic introduction which claims for the book the virtue of fidelity to the facts of life, it seems to us as unreal as it is unpleasant. It is the story of a thoroughly .depraved woman, most of whose sins have not even the excuse of strong temptation; in whom, nevertheless, the maternal .instinct retains its primal ardour and purity. She ruins , the life of a young man whose innocent and chivalrous attentions she has solicited and utilised in order that they may shield the secret of a guilty passion for another ; and Nemesis comes upon her when, after many years, this very man, in his turn, =ins the life of her daughter. It is a nightmare of a story, and tt is as unattractive in form as it is repellent in substance.