ALICIA. TENNA:iT. , MISS PEARD loses none of her delicacy and
pathos. It would be hard to mention one of her many beautiful stories which is more exquisitely finished than Alicia Tennant. The only qualification to the pleasure it gives us is that it is very sad, almost needlessly sad, though we quite admit that Miss Peard could not have fully succeeded in working out her warning against supposing that it is possible to live rightly and yet "live by proxy" with any less sad ending. Only, as this was the author's drift, we think she should have visited the true author of the mischief, the excellent woman who always thought it necessary, and generally too easy, • Al eia Tennant. By Ferman Mary Peard. 2 vole. London : Bentley and Eon.
to bring every one into subjection to her quietly imperious will, to a keener sense of remorse than she exhibits in the only sentence in which she may be said to admit that she was wrong. • It is true that Geoffrey Tennant, "who had never been disposed to judge his cousin Eleanor too mercifully," held that she had learnt something of "the danger of trying to play at destiny with a human heart." But we think that the sense of remorse and shame at having played the game so steadily and inexorably as Miss Eleanor Tennant played it with poor Alicia in this story, required a deeper and somewhat more dramatic expression than Miss Peard, in her keen sense that the wire-puller in this sad story would never have made any open admission of humiliation or remorse, has been willing to afford us. In fact, however, there is no character so strong but may be sucked into the whirlpool of true tragedy, and that, too, with the most perfect respect for what is natural, if the circumstances favour that result. And considering Miss Peard's object in this story, we think that she ought to have so manipulated the circumstances as to have extorted from Miss Eleanor Tennant a more open and agonised confession of her culpable wilful- ness and high-handedness in the guidance of her niece's affairs. Justice, however lame her foot, should, when she at last over- took Miss Eleanor Tennant, have dealt her a more effective and a more conspicuous blow. For the rest, it is hardly possible to have painted characters better, than Alicia and Reginald Lynne whom Miss Eleanor Tennant draws into an ill-starred marriage, are painted in this story. The pliant, cheerful girl, who seems to be all flexibility to any one with a stronger judgment and a stronger will, introduced in the midst of her fresh delight at new scenes, and hardly knowing at first whether she did not like the quiet, well-informed, methodical suitor well enough to marry him, till she became aware how much more her heart and thoughts rested on another ; the change in her to an apparent frivolity and passion for excitement when she finds herself engaged against her will to the man she did not care for ; the feverish alternations in her when she hopes to escape from this unhappy engagement, and when, again, she is persuaded that neither honour nor gratitude will admit of that escape,—are all painted with that delicate and living touch to which the readers of Miss Peard's finely shaded studies of character are accustomed. Nothing better than her picture of Alicia in London, rendered reckless by her knowledge of her own weakness, and trying to hide even from herself her own reluctance to encounter the future, has been achieved even by Miss Peard. The picture of Reginald Lynne is, of course, less complete. Miss Peard knows men less accurately than she knows women, and the good, rather finikin, unobservant man, who is at once too unexacting and too proud to become conscious of the false situation in which he is placed through the overweening influence of others, is extremely well con- ceived, though we doubt very much whether any one so genuinely in love as was Reginald Lynne, could have failed to observe Alicia's complete indifference to his company, and the fear with which she regarded any sign of his tenderness or any reference to the joy to which he looked forward. Reginald Lynne's is a well-conceived character ; but we suspect it would have taken not merely a slow man and conventional man, and one of im- perfect sight, but a man without a heart, to have gone through what he did without perceiving the truth of the matter.
Probably this is a woman's mistake. Women attribute to men too little of their own keen perception in the matters of the affections, too little even though they be men with perceptions as dim as those of Reginald Lynne.
But with all the delicacy shown in the sad story of Alicia, and the skill with which her husband is, in outline at least, delineated, this part of the story would be too sad for enjoy- ment, were it not for the very lively and happy sketch of Geoffrey Tennant, Alicia's cousin, and the heir to her grand- father's estate, by which the little tragedy is relieved, and at the same time thrown into clearer outline. Geoffrey Tennant, the humorous, languid artist, whose secret love for ardour and earnestness in others draws him to characters the very opposite of his own, is as pleasant and attractive a picture of indolent ease and ironical insight in combination with a good heart and masculine good-sense as we have ever met with in a story of these modest dimensions. Geoffrey Tennant is the sunlight of the story, and very pleasant, if subdued, sunlight it is. Here is the first sketch of him :— " He was certainly handsome, with a fair, clear complexion, and light hair ; the air of languor about him gave rather the impression of indolence than ill-health. His tastes were so entirely opposed to his uncle's that there was a continual irritation produced between them. Geoffrey was nothing of a sportsman, though he sometimes asserted his position as heir by taking a few men down to Longhurst and entertaining them with the air of a martyr; he never so much as knew how many brace they had shot. He equally detested hunt- ing, fishing, and riding ; Lord Hungerford used to say that he could not even tell him which side had won a cricket match. This degene- racy of race was a real grief to the old lord, who would have more readily condoned worse failings, and who could see nothing manly or creditable in literary or artistic tastes. It must be owned that Geoffrey was provoking, and made the worst of himself to his uncle, whose indignation only amused him ; he had an excellent temper, and the sharp speeches which would have ruffled other men slipped smoothly off his back. Mrs. Stapylton really adored him ; he was the only subject on which she held her own against her sister ; it was to her room he made his way after luncheon. I'd better give him time to cool,' he said with a laugh. 'rye said something about a rifle—I haven't an idea what it was—which is almost past forgive- ness.'—' My dear Geoffrey, you really might learn a little about these things !'—' I do. I give you my word I do. But then I forget it all, or put the bits together wrongly. It's no use, Julia. You'd better give it up as hopeless. But what have you all been doing to Alicia ? If I'd met her out I shouldn't have known her : she's positively pretty, she's got on a decent gown, and she's dismally unhappy.'—' 0, Geoffrey !'—' True, I assure you. Would you mind my turning that picture with its face to the wall ?—its colours are so annoying. Thanks. That's better. Now about Alicia.'—' You know she is engaged.'—' No, I don't. To whom ?'—' My dear boy, I am sure Eleanor wrote to announce it to you.'—' Ah, I don't often read Eleanor's letters, but I have a dim remembrance of something. Who's the man ?'—' Mr. Lynne, Reginald Lynne of Cheshuut.'—' Oh, well, she won't marry him.'—' Geoffrey r = Not she. Can't you see she's wretched ? Getting a little sentiment into her eyes has im- proved her so much, that I begin to think I shall stay at home and marry her myself.'—' I wish you would have thought of that before it was too late,' said Mrs. Stapylton, with an unmistakable accent of regret.—' Oh, I couldn't before. Alicia in the old days always set my teeth on edge like an unripe apple, she was so exceedingly erode. Now it's quite a different thing. Odd that I never noticed the colour of her eyes ; they are clear light-brown—most unusual. I am serious, I assure you. I think I shall marry her ; that is to say, if I can make up my mind to endure this wretched climate for another month or two, while I arrange You are candid !' said Mrs. Stapyltoo, smiling. What will you do with Mr. Lynne F' —, Ignore him. Contradict the report.'—' My dear Geoffrey, let me implore you!'—' Well, I shall say I don't believe it. I don't.'—' If he should hear that !'—' It will prepare him a little. Alicia's going to throw him over sooner or later ; the sooner the better—for him. My dear Julia, I wish you'd let me do up this room for you. I should get on twice as fast with Alicia if I had one room in the house where I did not meet with perpetual jars ; and, as for the drawing-room, to make love in the midst of those chair-backs would be a moral impossibility. Come, you might help me so far.'—' You have no conscience, Geoffrey. Eleanor would be shocked.'—' Send her that mirror as a peace-offering. Do you really find that year nerves can stand a mirror ? Happy woman, they must be of iron !'—' I am sure no one is more troubled with them,' said Mrs. Stapylton, with immediate repudiation ; and if I thought the mirror had anything to do with It has, everything,' said Geoffrey, calmly. It presents you with eternal shadows, ghosts, insubstantial images. If you look sad, you are shocked at your own aspect ; if, on the contrary, you laugh, the thing grins at you till you are convinced of being a fool—' = Geoffrey, Geoffrey !'—' Make the room over to me for a month ; with white enamel paint and some of the old chintzes, you will find your moral horizon quite another thing. By that time, too, Alicia will be ready for their wholesome interest.'—' It would bring you here,' said Mrs. Stapylton, hesitating. But you must not attempt too much, for it is all quite new.'—' Oh, dreadful! I know the seri.;
of thing, and the man who did And don't be imprudent as to Alicia.'—' Why should I be imprudent ? I only mean to marry her.'"
As is usual in these cases, the figure least clearly visible is that of the hero, Major Sanderson. He is intended to be very manly and delightful, but nevertheless we hardly feel that we really know him. In his case, however, the defect is made up for by the sketch of his adopted dog,—surnamed the Stoic,' —who wins our regard not only for himself, but for his pro- tector, the Major, also. A man to whom the' Stoic' could have attached himself thus cordially was certainly one for whom it was quite right that Alicia Tennant should die, as she could not live for him. Every one who reads it will thoroughly enjoy Miss Peard's charming novelette.