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until it rots into nothingness."
"What are you driving at, anyway?" A note of suspicion lurked in the question. He moved restlessly.
"Driving at nothing. I am merely sizing up impressions. I know what I'm going to do, you see. I know how it's going to feel when I strike that water, just how it's going to affect my nerve system to strangle in it. I used to write stories about this sort of thing."
"Extremely punk ones, my friend."
"Say, look here. I can't get you straight. I don't know what you want. But I'm going to do to-night what I came here to do. That's got to be clear. And I have a damn good excuse for it, damn good. I'll tell you.".
"Please don't." There was a shade of reproach present somehow. The smaller man peered at the other in surprise. "Why not?"
"Because I don't want to hear it. It would involve a story and that would in its turn involve dramatics. I write the stuff, I know the stuff. And, believe me, it's all waste of breath and time and thought. This is a nice romantic situation. But don't spoil it with a tale of unrest and hard luck. Any bum can do that." "But it would do me good, relieve me to tell you."
"Damn, but you're a queer bird."
"Not nearly so queer as you. Look here, my friend, let's shake hands on this and go."
"How do you know I'm not afraid to go? You said—”
"Because I've planted a determination. That's what you said.” There was a pause. The two men waited, their bodies dis
tinctly separated by the vapor.
"Oh, God! I'm not afraid!" The smaller man peered up threateningly into the other's face.
"Aren't you?" Through the blackness a whisper of a laugh floated.
"Hell! I see your game now. I see it clear as daylight. You think you can bluff me, can you, frighten me, scare me into yellowness. Why, you idiot, I've lost all my fear through you— all of it." His voice trailed off. The taller man waited in
silence. He seemed bigger than before. The glow of a distant arc-light glistened for a second on his coat, then disappeared.
"I don't know," he muttered under his breath, "whether you are in earnest or not."
The smaller man sprang to the railing and started to climb. Then suddenly he slid down, turned quickly, and facing the stranger, said: "Supposing you go first.'
The stranger did not move. Suddenly he rasped out: "It makes no difference, does it, who goes first?"
The smaller man began to laugh. His laughter echoed crazily in that vapor. It was broken intermittently with coughs. Altogether it was quite horrible, uncanny. The stranger appeared not to notice it. He moved over to the railing.
"The water is deepest here, I think."
Again there was a long pause. The water went on falling, drip, drip, drip. From afar the city mumbled sullenly. The rattle of an elevated came sliding across the mists in dull resonance. A cooler wind was blowing farther up.
Then with a nervous bound the smaller man had cleared the space between him and the stranger. He, grasped the other's waist firmly.
"Look out, you fool!"
There was a heave, a wrench and a slight struggle. "My God!" gasped the stranger. "What's the idea?"
The smaller man was panting furiously, tugging at the other's "You shall go too," he wheezed.
The stranger laughed heavily, mirthlessly. "Get off!" he commanded. He commenced slipping, sliding backward. "Get off, fool!" he repeated, raising his voice.
But the smaller man only tugged the more fiercely. "You are crazy as hell," he grunted, "but you'll go too."
And then without the slightest warning the larger man weakened, bent sideways, lost his balance, clutched, careened-plunged. Both of them in a dark compact mass, down through streams of vapor, down through blackness that was cold as iron, and which sheltered strange gurglings from the water at the bottom. Splunk. Ashhhhhhhhh!
The fog swept in over the spot where they had been. Another fog-horn bellowed in the night. The arc-light glowed at a distance, splotchily like a swollen scarlet eye. The river moved off beneath with a profound hiss as if steam were escaping from a tube.
Carlos C. Drake.
Sir Harry. By Archibald Marshall. (Dodd, Mead & Co.)
Sheer brute force does not always make for good literature— certainly not for lasting literature. And it is a relief to turn again to an author who realizes that life in perspective is never brutal and who draws breath amid the thunder of modernity to charm us with a tale of romance and quiet in rural England. The day of the manor and the squire is passing. Young Sir Harry will all too soon be a dream of the placid past, rising like incense from the turbulent thunder of the future. But the life Mr. Marshall has painted masterfully is no less real for that. Old England, fragrant with tradition, drowsing under a smiling sky, is itself a tradition which has found an able recorder and interpreter.
"Sir Harry" is the love story of a refreshingly young young man, brought up preserved from contact with the world of men -and women-standing hesitant and unspoiled on the threshold of life. There is no dominant character-though, to be sure, the individuality of each is drawn with the sure touch of the master. The beauty of the tale lies in an uncloying sweetness, in the panorama of an English countryside, viewed through the dreamy eyes of young Sir Harry himself, in a sort of quiet optimism.
Archibald Marshall has been called the successor of Trollope. He is more. Trollope was the interpreter of a generation. Marshall is the spokesman of an entire social order. And his finished craftsmanship, polished style, delicacy of manner, and accurately sympathetic insight into human motives is a joy to the heart. He is an oasis in the desert of modern literary achievement.
J. A. T.