SOMETIMES SLAVERY SUITS
Willa Lather's Novel of the South
Sapphire tine Slave Girl, By Willa Cather. (Cassell, 7s. 6(1.).
They Went on Together. By Robert Nathan. (Heinemann, 6s.).
Walk into my Parlous. By Margaret Lane. (Heinemann, 9s. 6(1.).
Martin Croft.. By Josaphine Bell. (Longmans, 8s. 6d.).
Reviewed by FRANCIS BURDETT.
.qAPPH1RA the Slave Girl is a quiet story of the Southern States just before the abolition of slavery.
Sapphira was the wife or a miller. Kindly but sometimes capricious and even cruel, she was socially somewhat superior to her busand brought to their new mat ricer home a
score of slaves. She understood them and they her. There were no misunderstandings; they belonged to the house and were happy and satisfied in their state.
The slave, Nancy, had been a favourite of Mrs. Colbert but, inexplicably, she changed. Nancy had to submit to a mild form of persecution. This came to a head with the advent of Martin Colbert, Mr. Colbert's nephew. He was a wild young man with an unsavoury reputation. He pursued Nancy until, in despair:, and abetted by Mrs. Colbert's daughter, she runs away and escapes into Canada.
It is a gentle and understanding picture of life as it used to be in a remote district. The people, the slaves, the countryside and thc atmosphere that pervades it are well conveyed. We see the good as welt as the bad side of slavery as then practised. The intolerable fact that a person could be just " property " belonging to someone else was to some slight extent, when the propertyowners happened to be the light sort of people, offset by the fact that a care-free family life suited the coloured people very well.
MR. Nathan in They went on Together tells with great simplicity and pathos the story of a mother and her two children as they join other refugees flying before an advancing enemy. He has wanted to portray. I think, the basic human emotions that must be present whenever people are driven from their homes, their countryside, their friends. We see the courage and the despair of the mother the excitement of the children at the start : the fatigue, fear and hunger that overtake them on their endless and almost aimless trek.
It is an episode without beginning or end. We arc not told in detail, the imagination has to supply much, what is the war and which is the enemy. That is immaterial to the author's purpose. He is an American and describes an American scene.
MESS Lane can write very well. She can create a scene, incident, person or house that. wholly convince us so that we are disappointed and surprised that Walk into my Parlour somehow fails.
It is the story of Emma, the daughter of music-hall artistes. Extraordinarily unpleasant as a little girl, she grew up to become a medium, but a medium who has no belief in what she claims to do. Fraud seems to be inherent in her since her earliest years vslica, failing to rival her sister in good looks, she sought to attract attention to herself in any way that seemed within her power. Her overmastering desire is to become in some way important and an influence on other people's lives. We watch her complete deterioration in spite of what might have been a happy and successful niarriage.
Emma, fortunately perhaps for the reader, never becomes very real and the spiritualistic episodes seem to be too crude to have deceived even the most credulous.
MARTIN Croft begins with the breaking, 1.1 psychologically, of Martin in the 1914 war and, after years of married misery, he is psychologically remade on the sands of Dunkirk in the present one.
We are never told why he made his disastrous niarriage to a grasping and complaining woman. Both stupid and unattractive, it is inexplicable how he ever came to marry her. Martin shares a London house with two other doctors and the story is told by a new secretary and receptionist who falls in love with Martin. She is gravely disillusioned by his apparent lack or character and response to her own afclent love, and eventually marries a young American.
It is all very competent but rather dull.