3 DECEMBER 1887, Page 24

Life in the Red Brigade, and Fort Desolation. By Ii.

M. Ballautyne. (James Nisbet and Co.)—Mr. Ballantyne's new volume consists of two stories, unequal in size and, it must be added, in merit. Rather curiously, too, the longer and better of the two is based on a personal experience of a fortnight, the shorter and inferior on an experience of air months. This circumstance is attributable, no doubt, to the fact that Mr. Ballantyne's forte lies in realising incidents, not in sketching character. In the shorter of the two stories, Fort Desola- tion, which gives a situation of solitude in the Far North of North America, there is only one thing notable, the character of Jack Robinson, who is mess neva in ordain personified. No doubt Jack is a strong, resourceful fellow ; but in seeking to reproduce his strength, Mr. Ballantyne looks like a landscapepainter trying to see whether he could not succeed with a portrait. In Life in the Red Brigade, on the other hand, all is not only reality, but motion. Mr Ballantyne has never sketched a better hero in humble life than Joe Dashwood, the high-spirited, courageous, and, above all, sober fireman, with an excellent wife,—a hero who finds a contrast to himself, both in habits and in circumstances, in the person of Ned Crashington. Then there is the scoundrel, Phil Sparkes, who is reduced to arson by drink, and who is almost regenerated by his love for a worthy creature, Martha Reading, who seems, but does not think herself, too good for him. Above all, there are the clever, good-hearted gamina of the story, "The Bloater" and Jim, who, mischievous as they are, figure as good fairies for everybody, and happily, in the end, for them- selves. These two are sketched with positively Dickensesque humour. A really well-constructed story—sound in the moral it inculcates, and in every way wholesome—is Life in the Red Brigade,