4 MAY 1923, Page 22

BLACK OXEN.*

Tins is a monkey-gland story. The heroine recovers her youth in Vienna with quite incredible success ; and, by com- bining an almost girlish beauty with the experience of sixty odd years, gives the genuine younger generation no chance at all. This the younger generation does not take lying down. Janet, in order to " entrap " Clavering, hides herself in his flat. But, unluckily, when he comes in Janet's own father happens to be accompanying him.

"There was a wild shriek from a corner of the room ; a slim girl leapt across the intervening space like a panther, and flinging herself upon Oglethorpe, beat his chest with her fists. 'You damned old plumber—you old dumb-duck ! ' shrieked his little daughter ; 'what did you come here and spoil everything for ? He'd have had to marry me to-morrow if you had minded your own business. I'll claw your eyes out ! ' But her hands were imprisoned in her father's hard fists, and she turned and spat at the petrified Clavering. 'I hate you, I hate you ! But I'm going to marry you all the same One way or another I'll get you ! I meant to wait awhile, for I haven't had fun enough yet, and I'd have precious little with you, you old flat tyre ! But when I heard that old Zattiany woman got hold of you and then was locked up and not able to do a thing, I thought I should go mad. I dropped my dia- mond bracelet out of the window and one of the servants let me out —I won't say which. You've been seen coming out of her house at all hours, but she's a thousand years old and nobody cares what she does ; but I intended to rouse this whole house, and I'd have been so compromised you'd have had to marry me. You're a gentleman even if you are a damned old left-over, and you're a friend of Granny's and Dad's. I'd have had you tied up so tight you'd have toddled straight down to the City Hall.'

. . . Suddenly she burst into tears, her face working like a baby's, and flung herself into her father's arms.

'Make him marry me, daddy, make him. I want him, I want him.' Oglethorpe put his arms round her, but his sympathies were equally divided, and he understood men better than young girls.. .."

The whole scene is so good it requires a quite superhuman effort of restraint to cease quoting. Miss Atherton has a skill in the depiction of American domestic life that is quite unrivalled, and it would be an almost impossible exploit to achieve boredom anywhere in the 375 pages of this her latest novel. To be shocked, however, would be comparatively easy.

Mr. Yeats, by the way, has somewhere likened the regular procession of the years to a file of Black Oxen, with "God the Herdsman" driving them on. Hence the title.