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that is the story which tricks you into reading it halfway through before you discover that it is only a disguised advertisement of a popular automobile or a new health food.
One thing to be said in favour of Randall Parrish's books is that the melodrama does not appear in streaks; it is part of their very essence; you recognise it at once from a certain trick of style that sounds like an echo of Ouida at her worst.
Open at random her latest volume, A Sword of the Old Frontier; you are sure to encounter some grandiloquent turn of speech that is meant to show you how different her characters are from ordinary mortals, and how differently they speak and act. The soldiers, trappers, scouts, the dainty French women, the swarthy halfbreeds that throng her pages are not merely a mixed crowd: they are "an almost constant stream of miscellaneous humanity." A mixed crowd is expected to be roughly clad, but "miscellaneous humanity" wears "the coarse habiliments of the plains"—all but the dainty French women and the Indians. The former are not merely women: they are "quality in high-heeled shoes and laced petticoat;" and when the band plays, they do not merely dance, they "yield impulsively to the witchery of the music." As for the Indians, they too are different. Ordinary Indians are just half naked. Randall Parrish's Indians go about "in almost total nudeness. As for the story itself, it unwinds in a swiftly moving panorama of events at Fort Chartres and Detroit in early colonial days-a panorama full of war and carnage, French finesse and Indian treachery, all painted in flamboyant colours. The story moves forward in a rather breathless way. An ex-officer, cashiered unjustly, and now masquerading as a simple coureur de bois, is sent on a delicate mission to Pontiac, the chief who is preparing a raid upon the English Settlements. France and England are nominally at peace, and the coureur de bois simply has to make Pontiac understand quite confidentially that whatever harm he does those English settlements will se
of the Old Frontier
cretly gratify France immensely. There is a treacherous half-breed with whom the hero quarrels in the opening chapter, publicly denouncing him in a speech intended to be stately, but which somehow smacks of Billingsgate: "Sacré! I am a gentleman of France; I do not fight such half-breed dogs as you." There are also two young English girls, on their way to join their families under guidance of this same half-breed dog. Our coureur de bois has plenty of work cut out for him: to fulfill his mission to Pontiac, to protect the two girls, who don't trust him, from dangers they won't believe in, and to keep clear of the half-breed's treachery. And it is only when the last page is turned that you realise he has not succeeded by his own efforts in doing any one of these things. His mission to Pontiac is a failure; the half-breed checkmates him at every move; and it is only by blind luck that the girls escape and that the coureur de bois lives to marry the one he has chosen. And that is all there is to the story.
Sir Galahad of New France, by William Henry Johnson, offers in some ways a pleasant contrast to the foregoing book. Ribaut's ill-fated atIt is a tale based upon tempt to found a French colony on the Florida coast, in the year 1652, and the subsequent capture of the colonists by the Spaniard Menendez. The historical setting of the story distinguishes it from the great mass of colonial romances, and the simple, straightforward style of narration, free from all verbal embroidery, also speaks in its favour. Etienne Cazenove, the Sir Galahad of the title, promptly banished by the colonists, because he is too refined to join in with their freebooter methods, is nursed through a long illness by a young Indian girl, daughter of the Natchez tribe; and throughout many months he and the Indian girl live blamelessly together, he teaching her not only his language but the rest of his small store of learning. In the evenings, his bible serves as spelling-book and reader, and at night his sword lies on the ground between them, in good old knightly fashion. It is a harmless little idyl, pleasantly told,
a new version of The Forest Lovers, plus a race problem, and minus Hewlett's genius. If you can share the author's conviction of the high racial quality of the Natchez Indians, if you can accept the possibility of an Indian girl with a beauty like a Greek goddess and a mind capable of enjoying Homer, you may find pleasure in a volume which others will toss aside as too much of a strain upon credulity. But at least it is not melodramatic.
and pockets it as a souvenir of an interesting scene. He does not know that from that moment he has become a "maker of history," that the fact of his presence at that spot becomes known, and the emissaries of three different governments dog his footsteps all the way back to Paris, where one night he happens to visit the Café Montmartre and then quietly drops out of sight. His sister, coming to Paris in search of him, follows the trail as far as the Café Montmartre, and then she too vanishes as completely as though she had stepped over a precipice. The man who loves the sister also follows the trail to the Café, and for the time seems on the verge of success; but the poor little French girl who promises to give him information is found the next day with her throat cut. Undoubtedly the taint of melodrama lies heavily on some pages of a story of this sort; but you really do not mind that-all you are thinking of is that you want to know what has become of the Englishman, what has become of the Englishman's sister, what has become of the missing page, page 17 with the vital terms of the secret treaty. And when at last you find out, the interest does not suddenly weaken; there is none of that sensation, only too common even in dime novels of the exalted type, of having been tricked into an undeserved and unseemly enthusiasm. It is a book that promises you at the outset to furnish a couple of hours of substantial entertainment and it keeps its promise like a gentleman.
It seems a trifle unjust that the taint of melodrama should attach to the use of any striking coincidence in fiction. Such strange coincidences happen constantly in our Own experiences of life that even the most pronounced realist may feel himself justified in using them. And yet when the plot is made to hinge upon a coincidence, such for instance as a close personal resemblance between two men, one cannot help feeling that even so cleverly managed a story as The Masquerader has the melodramatic taint. Harold Macgrath's new story, Hearts and Masks is in the nature of an exception. Although its very structure rests
It is hard to avoid melodrama in stories that deal with the international relations of the great nations of Europe especially where the author takes the liberty of inventing secret treaties and bringing France and Germany, England and Russia to the verge of an imaginary war. That is why such a book as A Maker of History, by E. Phillips Oppenheim, deserves something more friendly than a mere perfunctory notice. In substance, of course, it is merely a sort of exalted dime novel. But it is written with such admirable restraint, such a matter-of-fact style, as though the events were being chronicled for the columns of a conservative daily newspaper, that you are cleverly led on from mild curiosity to a breathless sort of interest, from an amused tolerance to a sense that the outcome of that book is of quite seriuos import. And really the basic idea is undeniably clever. A mild and inoffensive English youth, stepping off from a stalled train near the Russian-German frontier, fiinds himself left behind on the tracks, and lying down to take a brief nap under a heap of forest leaves awakes just in time to see a meeting between two exalted personages who have arrived, each in his private car, the one from the east, the other from the west, and whose interview is a state secret destined to change the map of Europe. The mild young Englishman, not for a moment dreaming of the magnitude of the thing he sees, witnesses the signing of a treaty that is to blot England from the geography of Europe; and when a stray breeze wafts page 17, the page with the vital conditions on it, through the car window, he picks it up
upon a coincidence, and a three-ply coincidence at that, it is such an airy, gossamer, soap-bubble sort of book that one could not reasonably weigh it down with the ponderous reproach of melodrama. It is nothing more serious than the history of a masquerade ball, to which the guests have been invited on a new and ingenious system. In place of tickets of admission, two packs of playing cards have been sent out, one pack distributed among the men, the other among the women; and when the maskers arrive, the cards not only serve to admit them, but also to pair them off for the evening. Now it happens that the hero, who has not been invited but hears of the masquerade quite by accident, decides to run the risk of going without an invitation, and cutting a pack at random, draws for his card of admission the ten of hearts. It happens further that there is another unbidden guest at the masquerade, a woman, and her card also is the ten of hearts. And finally it happens that when the fun of the evening is at its height, the announcment is suddenly made that there is a thief in their midst. Watches, rings, necklaces, a fortune in jewels, are missing. The doors are hastily locked, and identification of the guests begins. The crucial point is the third ten of hearts-who is the holder of it? And here again coincidence plays a curious. and this time a conclusive trick.
An example of a series of dramatic. happenings told without a touch of melodrama, is Jules of the Great Heart, by Lawrence Mott. Jules Verbaux is a French Canadian trapper, whom the Hudson Bay Company regards as an outlaw, and there is a price upon his head. The other trappers, whites, halfbreeds and Indians track him persistently; but he slips through their fingers, time after time, doubling on his trail and eluding his pursuers with the cunning of the furry creatures that he has so long hunted. The sense of the cold and loneliness of northern forests, the pitiless cruelty of northern storms is given with the same sort of strength that gave distinction to Jack London's early Alaska stories; and there is in addition a warm
human quality, a suggestion of kindliness and sympathetic heart beats, which is precisely the quality that has always been missing in the author of The SeaWolf. Jules of the Great Heart stands out prominently among the books of the month, not merely for its individual merit as a vigorous picture of a strange and interesting phase of life, a charactter study of uncommon quality; but more particularly because of the conviction which comes over the reader that the author of such a book is destined to do other and bigger things-that he is a man to be remembered and watched.
If you are looking for melodrama, you might as well pass over the dainty little volume called Seffy, which John Luther Long defines in his subtitle as "a little comedy of country manners."
You cannot reasonably expect much lime-light, when the scene is a sleepy little Maryland village, and the hero a slow and bashful Pennsylvania Dutchman. But if you want a tender little story, exquisitely told, and full of the delicate half-tones of human emotions, then you will appreciate this chronicle of poor, slow, blundering Seffy, who fell so far short of the village standard of manners that his blunders gave an undeserving rival the chance to step in and win his Sally away from him. It is a story which shares the tenderness and pathos of Madame. Butterfly, even though it lacks the former's picturesqueness.
An uneven book, which has some chapters of refreshing strength, is Ben Blair, by Will Lillibridge. The atmosphere of western ranch life is unmistakable; the local colour, the local point of view have a genuine ring to them; to this extent the book carries its credentials with it. Good also, in its way, and full of grim interest, are the opening chapters in which Ben Blair's mother, the poor wreck whom her husband's ill usage has fairly hustled to her grave, dies tragically, and little Ben, scarcely more than a baby, burrows desperately into an underground tunnel, to escape from the man who would make him share her fate.
Ben's adoption by a kind neighbor, his growth in bodily strength and in cowboy knowledge, his friendship ripening slowly into love for the girl on the adjoining ranch-all this is told with vivid directness and sincerity. But the girl has a restless desire for a different life from that of a western cattle ranch; and she has a father willing and able to gratify her whim to come east, and a worldly mother more than willing to cajole her into a loveless marriage in New
York. The part of the book which tells how Ben Blair comes to the metropolis in pursuit of his lost love, and like Young Lochinvar, snatches her triumphantly away, almost from before the altar rail
this part cannot perhaps be fairly stigmatised as crude, but it lacks the sureness of touch that stamped the earlier chapters, and it shows besides that blemish of many a better book than Ben Blair can aspire to be, the taint of melodrama. Frederic Taber Cooper.
THOMAS HARDY AND LONGSTREET
N November 4th of 1905, the New York Times in its Saturday Supplement published a question addressed to it by a correspondent in Morgantown, West Virginia. The correspondent wished to know whether the works of A. B. Longstreet, the Georgia author were still in print. To this inquiry the editor of the Saturday Supplement replied: "We find no record in Allibone or elsewhere of this author."
yer and minister in the days of the old South, when those professions necessitated long journeys on horseback through lonely stretches of primeval forests, and across country settlements palpitating with the glow of a strenuous, yet, untrammeled life. From these long itineracies through the backwoods and villages of the Georgia of the first half of the last century, when he held religious services in crossroads "meeting houses," and attended court at the small county seats, Longstreet acquired an immense amount of first-hand knowledge of elemental human nature, and learned to know both God and the devil. From this rich fund of experiences, came his famous book, Georgia Scenes, which, after having been out of print for a number of years, was republished in 1897, by Messrs Harper and Brothers.
Here is still another instance of the mutability of literary fame. Augustus Baldwin Longstreet, of Georgia, was born at a time (1790-1870) when the man "who did" was the happy exception and did not belong to a remarkable average. Longstreet was widely known as a lawyer, a judge of the Supreme Court, and a clergyman in the Methodist Church; at different times, he was President of Emory College in Georgia, and of the Universities of Mississippi and South Carolina. He was, however, best known as a journalist and author.
Longstreet lived at a time when, in the United States, the lawyer, teacher, minister and author, were confined within restricted limits, and when it was not unusual for personality to become picturesque and unique. He was a popular law
That Augustus Baldwin Longstreet is so entirely forgotten by the literary editors of the present day, may account for the fact that no one of them, aparently, has noticed the inspiration drawn from him by a famous contemporary English novelist. Let us compare a passage from the twenty-third chapter of Hardy's The Trumpet Major describing a drill of raw recruits with a passage from Longstreet's Georgia Scenes which depicts the drill of a Southern military company.
"But as every man was anxious to see how the rest stood, those on the wings pressed forward for that purpose, till the whole line assumed nearly the form of a crescent.
"Why, look at 'em,' said the captain; 'why, gentleall are you men, crooking in at both ends, so that you will get on to me by and by! Come gentlemen, dress, dress!'
"This was accordingly done; but impelled by the same motives as before, they soon resumed their former figure, and SO they were permitted to remain. and I want you, gentlemen, if please, to pay particular attention to the word of command, just exactly as I I give it to you. hope you will have a little patience, gentlemen, if you please; and if I should be agoing wrong, I will be much obliged for the best, and I hope you will excuse me, if you please.
'Tention the whole! Please to observe, gentlemen, that at the word "fire" you must fire; that is, if any of your loaden'd, are guns you must not shoot in yearnest, but only make pretence like; and you, gentlemen,
"Every man was anxious to see how the rest stood, those at the end of the line pressed forward for that purpose, till the line assumed the form of a horseshoe.
"Look at ye now! Why, you are all crooking in. Dress, dress!'
"They dressed forthwith; but impelled by the same motive they soon resumed their former figure, and so they were despairingly permitted to remain.
""Now, I hope you'll have patience,' said the sergeant, as he stood in the centre of the arc, 'and pay particular attention to the word of command, just exactly as I give it out to ye; and if I should go wrong, I shall be much obliged to any gentleman who'll put me right again, for I have only been in the army three weeks myself, and we are liable to mistakes.'
"'Please, what must we do that haven't got no firelocks?' said the lower end of the line in a helpless voice.
"Now, was ever such a question! Why, you must do nothing at all, but think how you'd poise 'em if you had 'em. The middle men that are armed with hurdle-sticks
The comparison is interesting, but it needs no comment. It may be commended to the attention of the gentleman who addressed the New York Times from Morgantown, West Virginia, and incidentally to all students of literary coincidences.