12 DECEMBER 1885, Page 37


THE name of Rainbow Gold is derived from a feature which seems not unlikely to become fashionable in fiction (as witness those two delightful books, Treasure Island and Sing Solomon's Mines), and which is welcome on account of its tendency to produce stirring incidents, and a healthier, more fresh-air sort of interest than is often found in novels revolving solely on the well-worn spindle of lovemaking. The feature referred to is treasure buried in remote countries, and to be had for the fetching. And the " rainbow " qualification in the title is a graceful intimation that the gold is a bright vision, collapsing into thin air when grasped, and yet proving a harbinger of fair weather by only disappearing just as the heroine and her lover are about to emerge from dark clouds of adversity. What really did become of it, by-the-bye, and why it was not found reposing where it ought to have been, is a matter as to which the reader's very legitimate curiosity is left unsatis- fied. And it must be observed, also, that whereas stories relating to buried treasure generally occupy themselves with the adven- tures of enterprising seekers after it, Rainbow Gold tells chiefly what befell people who stayed at home and did not go to look for it, which is a decidedly noteworthy departure from the ordinary method of treating the snbject.

The hero, Job, is a young Englishman of so pronounced a national type that we take the liberty of manufactur- ing a discriptive epithet for him, and will say he is ,Tohm- Bulldoggish, specifying at the same time, however, that the term is not to be understood offensively, but only in such a sense as Emily Bronte herself might have approved of. For whatever imperfections Job may have had, his nature is fine, loveable, faithful, and, like his body, of heroic proportions. In the course of the first half-volume he has been turned out of doors by his father because he will not give up the girl he is in love with ; has enlisted, and deserted immediately after because he will not be parted from his dog ; has had a chance of being saved from his pursuers if he will join in some desperate and mysterious undertaking without knowing what it is, and has refused the chance ; has been recaptured by the military authorities ; has nearly murdered an officer who had killed his dog ; has been flogged ; and has reached the critical situation of being on the point of endeavouring to escape from prison. Having followed these rapidly succeeding events with great interest, one turns the page eagerly, expecting to see how the escape is managed. Lo, and behold ! there he is found lying on the grass in the enjoyment of domestic bliss with his daughter some twenty-five years later, and the manner of the escape is never mentioned at all ! This is clearly a mistake. When an author lands his characters in an awkward predica- ment, he ought to show the process of extrication, for much of the charm of adventures lies in watching a corner rounded here, and a pitfall avoided there. To dismiss a crisis with a mere vague statement that it was got over somehow or other is to defraud the reader in a way which is inexcusable save on the score of bankruptcy of imagination, and that plea will certainly not be accepted from Mr. Murray. And this leap of a quarter of a century is made all the more reprehensible because the intermediate period is left so much in the dark that though Job then committed some great crime which embittered his whole after-life with remorse, yet the reader never knows what it was, and is only tantalised with hints of tremendous adventures which must undoubtedly have taken place.

In the last two and a half volumes there is no lack of move- ment, and particularly worthy of notice is a spirited description of a successful opposition on the part of the populace to a land- owner's attempt to stop an old-established right of way across fields. But the remarkably animated commencement of the book makes the subsequent portion comparatively tame, as far as incident is concerned ; and as the plot is too slight for the support of three volumes, the story would be over-much spun out if it did not retain one's interest by clever character-studies, and pithy, humorous touches. Job's father, an old fellow of just the same resolute, stubborn, masterful, combative, bull- doggish type as his son, is a capital picture ; and so is the chess-loving Scotch stationer, in whom unpracticalness in some respects is quaintly blended with shrewdness in others. Then there is the fluent, plausible, lying scoundrel, who at one time captivates the heroine's fancy, a man "whose whole spiritual

* Rainbow Gold. By D. °brio tie Murray. Loudon : Smith, Elder. and Co.— Garlock. By Charles Gibbon. London : J. and R. Maxwell. forces seemed to be controlled by the tongue," so that he reverses the ordinary method of thinking a thing first and saying it after, and seems only to think the thing that he has first said. He, too, is in some ways a good study, though when he commits robbery and murder, we take exception to him on the score that he was too cowardly and weak-natured ever really to have done anything very desperate, however fondly he may have dwelt upon the thought of crime. The heroine is almost the only female character introduced, and is not of sufficient importance to call for com- ment; perhaps her chief raison d'etre is to demonstrate the intense and tender love of which her father, the John-Bulldog Job, is capable, notwithstanding the hardness and surliness of disposition with which he is generally credited. To conclude, the story is entertaining, cleverly told, wholesome, endowed with a pleasant, homely flavour of which the palate is aware oven in the most sensational scenes, and one which novel-readers will do well to send for. In the political and modest dedication the author says :— "I take a sort of pride to think,

The wino is honest, though 'tie small."

And that is not an inapt definition of a book which shows cleverness, but not genius, and belongs to the class whose qualities are sound and sterling rather than great. In this class it deserves to rank high.

Garvock professes itself to be a romance, and must, of course, be judged by a standard different from that applied to others, because a romance (according to the dictionary) "treats of great actions and extraordinary adventures, and soars beyond the limits of fact, real life, and often of pro- bability." That Garvock answers to this description is undeniable. The story sweeps along in grand superiority to what is probable—sometimes, perhaps, also to what is possible —and abounds in deeds, thoughts, and language of an extrava- gance which must be eminently suitable for the style of com- position adopted. The worst of this style obviously is the difficulty of knowing where to draw a line in the requisite setting of probability at nought so as to stop short of writing what is absurd; and in this matter Mr. Gibbon has not been altogether successful. Turbulent love, hate, and revenge toss and struggle together tempestuously from first to last ; people's souls are frequently "quivering on the rack of fiendish torture," or undergoing some similar unpleasant experience ; their emo- tions continually reach the pitch of frenzy ; and as the constant strain of high pressure to which they are subjected could hardly have failed to qualify most of them for a lunatic asylum in real life, it is quite a surprise that in the book there should be but one case of mental derangement, and that only a temporary one. The principal ingredients are as follows :—A gipsy queen and her son, very much mixed up with a family of Scotch nobles ; a mock marriage, whose invalidity is only discovered at the end ; a stolen child ; a husband who returns after being supposed to be dead, a la Enoch Arden, but who does not imitate that self- denying individual in his subsequent self-effacement; and two villains of deepest dye, of one of whom we read that " his appear- ance suggested the crawling movement of the snake, with all the snake's ferocity and venom " ; he is also spoken of as looking like a baboon, and he " crawls slimily," habitually hisses, snuffles, snarls, or squeaks, instead of speaking like an ordinary mortal, and has various other personal peculiarities, which render him a romantically singular and objectionable person. The story constructed out of these materials is decidedly melodramatic, and contains sufficent " go " and exciting situations to be tolerably readable with skipping. Apparently it has suffered somewhat from the orthodox three-volume craving of either author or publisher, for in more than one place force has been frittered away by protraction, and strength sacrificed to length.