The Story Without a Name
The title of this book is well chosen, for one could scarcely conceive of a name that could be appropriately applied to such a series of ghastly calamities, unless, perhaps, it might be called an epitome of all the horrors. In reading it one experiences a sensation as nameless as the story-a sensation in which are commingled the feelings of gloom, scorn, protest, shame, disgust, and compassion. After emerging from the nightmare in which it has entombed us, and the mind regains its normal tone, one naturally falls to wondering what could have been the frame of mind that conceived and the throes of soul that could give birth to such a morbid, dismal tale. Surely some raven must have perched above the chamber door, some agony must have entered into the life of the author, and made his hearthstone desolate; hence this tale, without a ray of sunshine, a glimmer of mirth, or a trace of humor; all shadow, sorrow, and sadness. From an artistic standpoint the book is faultless; its style is sui generis, but so absorbing, so intense, that the interest never flags. We read on to the end with ever increasing eagerness, though we shudder while we read, fascinated as a bird is by a serpent. The translator, in his introduction, quotes from a reviewer of d'Aurevilly's works the following words: "Never has language been raised to a prouder paroxysm. There is something in it that is brutal and exquisite, violent and delicate, bitter and refined. It is like the beverages that sorcerers made, in which were flowers and serpents, tiger's blood and honey." It is this unique style that Mr. Saltus has in no way weakened, but rather enhanced, in his translation, that makes this nameless story enchanting while it shocks. It was written ten years ago, and, Mr. Saltus tells, startled even Paris at the time of its publication. The scene of the narrative is in a sequestered French hamlet, situated at the base of a mountain so high that the perpendicular shadows envelope it like a pall, so that ofttimes at high noon not a glimpse of day penetrates the desolate place. A most fitting anchorage for so dreary a recital. "A place where Byron should have written his Darkness, where Rembrandt might have created that effect of his, the absence of light, or rather, it is there he would have found it." The characters are few, the pivotal ones being mother, daughter, and priest. The names of "hero" and "heroine" would have no meaning in this direful record of religious fanaticism, hypocrisy, cruelty, and crime. The mother, who, through her fealty to the memory of her dead husband, buries herself and her baby girl in this retreat, isolated from all social and wholesome influences and modes of life. In this atmosphere the daughter grows to womanhood, like a lily of the valley, with nil its purity and frailty. The mother transfers to the Church all the passionate ardor she had felt for her husband, counting a mother's love unhallowed as compared to the love of the holy ordinances. Her love for her child is manifested by directing her attention to the worship of God, but withholding from her that tenderness and sympathy which inspires confidence and secures safety to the child. Had her piety been less fervent and rigid, her devotions less frequent and severe, her mother heart would not have been smothered, in the incense of altars and the mock cry of creeds, while her daughter was starving for human sympathy and love. The dehumanizing effect of a sincere and abject faith in the crumbling creeds of Christendom is fearfully delineated in the picture of the mother standing over the bed of her daughter with a candle in one hand and a crucifix in the other, a device to awe the crushed and stricken child into a confession of a sin of which she was not guilty, and as a resource against the malediction she was seeking. It was this infatuation and fanaticism that widened the breach between mother and child.... -Belford's Magazine, Volume 6
The Living Weapons
Valerian and Laureline, no longer members of any organisation, are down to doing space deliveries. With Galaxity gone and money getting scarce, their aging spaceship is becoming a hazard, which is pushing Valerian into accepting questionable cargo. After a somewhat rough landing, our two ex-agents, on their way to deliver their goods, meet some individuals with very surprising gifts who claim to be itinerant artists. But is that really all they are?