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The tendency here will be to lay stress on the narrative portions. But the scene of the adventure must be prepared, the circumstances detailed, the actors portrayed ; and all of this involves description. The two must be judiciously interwoven. It is most natural to begin with description, and a little observation will show that the majority of tales do so begin. On the other hand a bit of narration at the first may sometimes be of advantage ; it will be more likely to catch and hold the reader's attention and make him willing to follow through the necessary description which is then introduced later. Let it not be introduced too late, however. The insertion of even the briefest description at a point where the interest is thoroughly aroused will be resented by the reader. Let such passages come at the natural pauses or lulls in the action.
As to the action itself, let it be developed with the utmost naturalness. One event grows out of another in fact; it should seem to do so likewise in the recital, You have heard people attempt to tell a story who appear to lack what we may call a sense for sequence. . They are constantly getting “ ahead of themselves,” that is, ahead of their story; and then they have to retrace their steps and the story loses its charm. The fault is an inherent one and it will take close attention and practice to eradicate it. But in writing there is no excuse for it, for the writer has time to consider the sequence of events.
Draw upon your own experience for this adventure, or, if the uneventfulness of your life absolutely constrains you, upon your imagination. Perhaps one of the incidents which you have recorded in the early part of this work may recur to you as an appropriate subject. If so, expand it to the proportions of a regular story or tale. It may have consisted of a single paragraph then; make eight or ten of it now. Enter into details of scenes and characters and make them contribute as much as possible to the realism of the events.
It is scarcely necessary to give references to models of this kind of composition. Papers like the Youth's Companion contain many such stories, and if you care for examples on a larger scale go to the tales of Sir Walter Scott, Jane Porter, J. Fenimore Cooper, and others.
In the following sketch the writer was more a witness of the action than a participator in it, and therefore the language, while dealing unquestionably with good narrative material, is essentially descriptive, showing again how inseparable the two characteristics often are.
BRINGING A SHARK ABOARD.
It is only on the days of calm in the doldrums, when passengers are moping and sailors are loafing, that a landsman gets a chance to learn the seaman's hatred of sharks and to see what pleasure the capture of one gives him.
One such a day a monster about eleven feet long was seen ploughing astern. In a few minutes a stout hook, baited with a junk of fat pork, was thrown overboard. The fish made for it immediately and gulped it down without examination. Then came a tug of war. The combined strength of half a dozen men exerted on the tackle which had been made fast to the end of the line, was just enough to budge the shark when in the water ; but when once his head was above the surface his power was gone, and very soon we saw him dangling from the stern, his tail just touching the water. Then the purpose of the short chain fastened to the hook became apparent : as he swung there, his grinding rows
of teeth would have cut through a line in a moment and he would have dropped in the water free, but as it was, the only effect was a horrid scratching noise that sent through most of us a shiver of fear.
By means of a running loop passed over his head and drawn tight just above the tail, he was pulled up until he was level with the gunnel. Then with the aid of a guy rope he was hauled aboard and landed on deck, thrashing fiercely with his tail and snapping ferociously. His eyes had to be put out first, for while he could see it was impossible to approach him ; when he was blind, however, it was an easy matter for one of the sailors to creep cautiously up to him and chop off his tail, thus rendering him powerless to do any damage.
Now that he was comparatively quiet it was no great task to despatch him. All had a hand in the disemboweling, laughing triumphantly and joking over the possibility of finding a gold watch or other clue to his former life in the capacious stomach. One sliced the liver and threw it into the pig-sty, while another cut out the still beating heart and threw it to the dog ; and yet, with eyes out, tail off, disemboweled, with the pigs digesting his liver and the dog devouring his heart, he still spluttered and gasped, refusing to die.
Soon however all the flesh was cut away and thrown overboard, the only things saved being the backbone, which makes a beautiful walking-stick the sailors say, and the rows of teeth, which passed into the hands of some of the ladies and which were afterwards seen in a little girl's possession in the shape of a necklace.
R. L. D.
An Afternoon Outing.
Countless books of travel have been written and published, though few of them have met with large sales and fewer still have found a place among works of recognized literary merit. The explanation lies in the fact that this is the most tempting field of letters because apparently the easiest. Every tyro who has been away from home awhile thinks he has materials for a book. But matter without rational form and becoming dress is not literature. Besides, ninety-nine times out of a hundred the tyro has no materials of worth. He has seen only what is on the surface, what everybody else can see for himself, and what therefore everybody else does not want to read about.
One thing which will warrant the writing of books of this class is the fact that one has explored a region of the earth or studied conditions of life little known and not accessible to the world at large. When a Livingstone or a Stanley has penetrated to the heart of the African continent, when a Kane has made an expedition into the Arctic seas, when a Kennan has explored the most hidden horrors of life in Russia and Siberia, the public read with avidity such books as Through the Dark Continent, Arctic Explorations, and Siberia and the Exile System. Or when a naturalist travels over any portion of the earth with a keen eye and a quick ear for the marvels and mysteries of nature, we read with equal delight and profit an Alexander von Humboldt's Kosmos and an Agassiz's Journey in Brazil. Yet again, when a man among familiar scenes and well-known peoples, and from the materials always to be found there as well as anywhere can construct works of genuine literary
charm and merit, we shall always be ready to welcome them. Such books are Bayard Taylor's Views Afoot and Longfellow's Outre-Mer.
Let these facts serve as hints to guide us in our writing now. For though we are working here on a smaller scale, the problem before us is practically the same — to produce work which shall be valuable for the facts it contains, or interesting for the novelty of those facts, for the original light in which they are exhibited, or for the literary charm with which they are invested.
It is certainly well worth while to keep a record of one's wanderings, however limited they may be, if he can succeed in producing such wordpastels as the writer of the following has done.
A LEAF FROM MY DIARY. Malosand, Sweden, July 15, 1886.-- The candle flares so that I can hardly write, yet it is too warm to close the windows. The stars are twinkling outside in all their glory and the little Swedish village lies asleep at my feet. We had such a lovely walk this evening, my sister and I. It was one of those long beautiful summer evenings that are found only in northern countries.
In our stroll we passed by the village square. It is surrounded by low wooden buildings, and in it was a circus. This was the center of attraction for a number of peasant children who were gaping at it in wonder and amazement. The whole scene was so like an American town and yet so different that it made me homesick. We walked on to a little inn and there indulged in some tea and cake, and were surprised to find the total bill to be
six cents. It was dark when we again emerged into the open air, and nothing broke the perfect stillness of the night save the faint thump, thump of the bass drum coming over the meadow from the distant circus. We paused a moment to take in the tranquillity of the scene and then silently retraced our steps.
J. M. L.