16 OCTOBER 1880, Page 20

ODD, OR EVEN ?* Tuts is another of Mrs. Whitney's

New-England stories, and it is far from being an improvement on her former works. She has written some good tales, which have become popular in this

country as well as in America. The Gayworthys we recollect as giving us pleasure. although there the sentiment was overdone,

and some of the incidents were melodramatic. This book is a weak repetition of some of her other stories, and it is tedious, disconnected, and disappointing. Mrs. Whitney might have done well had she been satisfied in simply telling her story, thus giving herself plenty of opportunity for those scenes of New England farm-life and farm-work, which are her strong point. But not satisfied with this, she drags her readers through nearly 600 pages of small type, taking occasion to inflict on them a great deal of quasi-religion and mysticism which are at once irritating and incomprehensible.

The object of the story, as far as can be seen, is to protest against the conventionality of not marrying out of one's own social sphere. Those who choose to conform in this and other conventional matters are set down as " Evens," and those who do not, as " Odds." This is a sufficiently awkward way of dividing society, even from a grammatical point of view ; but Mrs. Whitney goes farther, and speaks of a third class, who appear to stand in the position of " betweens." We must con- fess to failure in accurately discovering who these unfortunate persons may be. Sometimes the class seems to include every- body. Contemplation of this subject, however, is slightly con- fusing. It will be best to let Mrs. Whitney speak for herself through her heroine, a certain Frances, familiarly known as " France " Everidge, the middle daughter in a family of five girls, with a pair of sisters above and below her. She is intro- duced to us as discussing the question of the difference between retail and wholesale traders with her sisters and Miss Ammah Tred-gold, an old-maid friend of the family :-

"' The other man studies his neighbourhood and what his neigh- bours want ; but you have reason, Eaphemia. Only they both stand between ; that is what I said. And it is a round and round. No- body is actually bottom and nobody is actually top, any more than they are on the globe.'—' And yet there is a top and a bottom and a between to everything that exists on the globe,' said France,- ` society, schools, families. I know, for I'm a between ; and that's why nobody settles or thinks where I'm to go this summer. Phemie and Helen have got invitations,—they always have,—aud the little ones are to go with mamma ; but I'm skipped, so far. I suppose I shall bo perceived and picked up, somehow, in the packing, as other • Odd, or Eren ? By Mrs. Whitney. London : Ward, Lock, and Co.

odds and ends are. Not that I'm an end,' she corrected herself, saving her unities of speech, 'only an odd,—number five, tucked in at the middle.' Nobody minded France and her queer sayings. She

was always an odd, as she declared. This doesn't settle the calling,' said Euphemia. I don't know why we should worry to return a visit that was altogether accidental, any way, when we can't keep up the acquaintance, and there are loads of people we really do know, and owe to. We shall never get round.'—' That comes of taking your friendships in cargoes,' quoth Miss Ammah.—' And of being so lovely to the accidentals when you didn't mean anything continuing; prac- tising the high-bred that is too high-bred to be sniffy, when you're going to tarn out sniffy after all,' said uncompromising, clear-sighted

France. For my part, I'd rather go see the Raxleys any day than the Talfreys. But why can't we be like the planets r she concluded, suddenly, with the utmost freshness of simple suggestion, and looking up innocently, as she paused for information.—' Don't be utterly non- sensical !' said Eaphemia impatiently."

Not to be nonsensical is exactly what we would say to Mrs.

Whitney, even at the risk of being considered " sniffy." France Everidge is taken from Boston by Miss Ammah to spend the summer at Fellaiden, up among the granite mountains of Ver- mont or New Hampshire. This scenery Mrs. Whitney evidently loves, and she is quite at home among the hills—as witness her other stories—and we get some good descriptions of journeys and excursions among the mountains. Up at Fellaiden, at the Hey- brooks' farm, where Miss Ammah has a lodging, France meets Israel Heybrook, the young farmer, who is the hero of the story. He is supposed to be another " odd," being well educated and far above his class ; and although he thinks himself socially much below the young lady from the city, he is, in fact, superior to her in character. She fails to interest us, but Rael Haybrook is really a noble young fellow. But, as we have said, unfortu- nately Mrs. Whitney cannot let well alone. She crams into her story a number of incidents and adventures, many of them good in their way, but sometimes obviously inserted for the purpose of padding. We are thankful for a capital scene of the chase of a white rooster ; and for another, in which the young girl France essays to ride on a mowing-machine- " stridulous like a host of locusts "—which will commend itself to any one who has ever done the same thing, and knows " the whirr of the wheels and the click of the knives, and the soft swish of the dropping grasses." When, however, we are told that France sat " like a Boadicea of the sweet Millennium, riding down the gentle host of the herbage, consenting, with praiseful incense-breath, to be gathered to its use," our own " praiseful incense-breath " is turned to laughter.

At Fellaiden, France Everidge meets also Bernard Kings- worth, who is described as a "rather unusual minister." It is evident that Mrs. Whitney thinks he is a very fine fellow ; the fact is he is an intolerable prig. Sincerely do we hope he is " unusual," for pages and pages are devoted to the transcendental talk and sermonising of this person, through whom Mrs. Whitney manifestly addresses her readers. He talks a great deal about Jerusalem and the Hebrews, and of Egypt and the Great Pyramid and "pyramid-inches," with a hint at spiritualism, all of which is utterly distasteful and ex- ceedingly foolish. On these and other matters he has wonder- ful conversations with France Everidge, and ends by falling in love with her, as Rael Heybrook has done long ago. Surely any indulgence in the mixture of love and religious sentimentality which pervades this book is a most dangerous pastime for young people, and as pernicious in its effects as Revival meetings. It is to be regretted that in works so largely read by the young as Mrs. Whitney's novels are, such namby-pamby ideas should be brought forward or encouraged. This is the chief point of offence in most the American novels that have passed under our notice. Long as the following quotation is, we give it without

excuse, as it is thoroughly typical of our authoress's " fine " style of writing:— "They swept round under the shade of the mountain ; a rocky promontory behind them put its curve about them like an arm, and walled them from the south-west ; the gentle south slope of Fellaiden Hill reached upward from across the river-line as they followed the shadowy bend that was like a little tarn. Over them, the clouds were pink and flame-colour, and the blue was tinted with chrysoprase. In a cradle-dip of the high horizon, between two swells of dusky green, the young moon was leaning her soft white breast toward the vanished sun, like the downy breast of a bird. Furth( r north, through a saffron glow that almost veiled it, burned the ineffable spark of the evening star. 'Oh, atop!' cried France ; and Rael lifted his oars. They were all alone there. The other boat had already passed around. A whip-poor-will began to sing. Its clear, sweet notes cut through the still air with swift, repeating lashes of sound. Not whip-poor-will,' but a-world-for-me—a-world-for-me,' its lone, rapt whistle seemed to say. Do you hear that ? ' asked France, softly. And then she translated it.—' I hear it now,' said Rael. I suppose I felt what it was, before. I often have.—' To-

night,' said France, we are here. It is not all for the whip-poor- will. But how many nights there is nobody here, or in the ten thousand other places that are being so beautiful. That is what I think in those lovely wood-corners, where nobody goes. Once in years, somebody finds them, and has that strange pleasure of finding that is half a puzzle why they are hid away so.'—' Perhaps that is why, and enough,' said Rael. Or, I suppose pleasantness is pleasure somehow ; a fact, independent of our finding ; or else it wouldn't be

to be found. don't suppose we can be pleased without a pleasure, any more than we can hear without an atmosphere that is all alive with sound, or see without a sunlight that is full of its own pictures. I suppose it is all there ; that it is—' But if the thought completed itself, it was not in speech. He left the sentence there. The whip- poor-will finished it. A-world-for-me—a-world-for-me ! ' he kept saying. The Good Pleasure' for which all things are, and were created,' a living, loving Reality in these waste places' of beauty, waiting for the children and the creatures—human souls and little birds—to come, and to share it ; for the human souls to be touched by it, so as to find, if they will, that which is ever dividing itself, as bread, for them ! Hidden away, the waste places, for that why ' and that' enough' ! Prepared, adorned like festal chambers, for a kind surprise, where the Heart that has devised it crowns its own divine delight with the happy wonder of the little flock' to whom it means to give the kingdom.' Close to that Great Heart, and so the closer to each other, the girl and youth found themselves and kept silence, and listened to the Word of it, that—virgin-modest before the sacred- ness—neither ventured to speak further. Not religious,' either of them, they thought, and therefore shy of a religious utterance ; but I wonder if the vital thing were not growing in them, with that pleasant- ness which was a Presence all about them, and that something scarce understood, and no less a Presence, in their hearts ? I wonder if that moment, and that thought, and that point in their young lives, and that lovely river and sky solitude, had not all been meant for, and bearing toward each other, in those Purposes that we are so apt to think cannot be purposed,—ever since—and before—those waters and those skies were made ? I shall meet him—I shall meet her— where we always meet ! ' Was not the song singing itself along those unspoken reaches of the spirit, where they were beginning to be sure to find each other ? And yet France would have shrunk, still, from analysing that moment, or from explaining herself to herself. There was still something in her that would have revolted, if she had asked herself why this last half-hour had been the crown and fulfilment of the whole beautiful day. So she did not ask, but drifted on in the half-light that was so rosy, that must be so brief."

Now, although in the first part of this passage Mrs. Whitney touches an idea that must have; occurred to many thoughtful minds, namely the wondrous depths of undiscovered and un- enjoyed beauty in Nature, she cannot express herself quietly and simply, but, straining after religious rhapsody, she becomes incoherent, hysterical, and frequently ungrammatical.

" But why," as Artemus Ward asks, " why care for grammar, as long as we are good ?" There are many other equally incomprehensible passages, which it is impossible to refer to here. In the end, Rael wins and marries France, and we are told that " Bernard Kingsworth married them. He chose to give her so, in the Name in which only he had had strength to give her up." This is a little too much ; Mrs. Whitney seems to forget that she has made France distinctly refuse him. Perhaps this is the way these " unusual " ministers have of looking at things. Two collateral stories are carried through the book, but as they are distinct from the main story and from each other, and are, one perplexing and the other silly, we have refrained from noticing them. It is a pity that Mrs. -Whitney should have allowed herself to publish this tale in so crude a .condition, and it is impossible that it should add to her reputa- tion. That it contains many American perversions of the lan- guage is a matter of course. One word as to the meteorological phenomena displayed in these pages. Thunderstorms occur at opportune moments, and produce important results ; and -sunsets of gorgeous character are so numerous and so obliging, that we feel that Mrs. Whitney would have had no difficulty in introducing two, or even three, a day, had it been necessary to do so.