The Happy End

By JOSEPH HERGESHEIMER. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1919. 12mo. $1.75.
MR. HERGESHEIMER’S mastery of the novel and of the 30,000-word novella was signalized by the appearance of two volumes, The Three Black Pennys (1917) and Gold and Iron (1918). The Happy End, a collection of his shorter pieces, is the first formal and permanent reminder that his name stands associated, in the minds of uncounted thousands of readers, with a third form, somewhat different from either in its demands upon the writer — the 10,000-word tale, the ‘short story’ par excellence. It is evident that here, not less than elsewhere, Mr. Hergesheimer is concerned first and last, and throughout with being a good writer — using words fitly and freshly and lovingly, and cementing them together into a worthy and harmonious design,
The seven tales are guaranteed by the publisher to have in common ‘one fortunate thing — a happy end.’ Let us see, if we can, whether this author’s notion of a happy ending pays direct or indirect homage to the alleged sentimentalism of the American masses who read fiction in magazines. Calvin Stammark marries the illegitimate daughter of his lost love of years ago, after committing a murder to save the daughter from her mother’s fate. Lemuel Doret is rescued from a murderous obsession, at the last second of the eleventh hour, by the impingement of a negro hymn on his inbred religious fanaticism. Lavinia Orsi saves her clumsy middle-aged husband from certain death in a duel by having his skillful adversary secretly disposed of by Black Handers. Tol’able David gives his young life to avenge his father and his brother, and to recover the government mail-pouch for which he is responsible August Turnbull is debarred, by an apoplectic seizure, from snatching at a morsel of fleshly selfdelight which he can have only through betrayal and ignominy. Elim Meikeljohn, a desiccated, prematurely aged Scotsman of Grant’s army, is the only refuge left to Rosemary Roselle, a Southern lass whose world is obliterated in the sack of Richmond. French Janin, an aged drug-taking ex-musician, voluntarily goes back into his underworld of outcasts, because he knows that he would be only a clog to the career of the young singer whom he has discovered and conducted to the threshold of recognition.
Thus the seven. Presented in bald synopsis, they strike one as, on the whole, dreadfully lethal. The very title of the volume has its undercurrent of irony — an irony most strange to the optimism which so readily clothes all things in rose-pink. The separate stories unite into a book which might almost have been called ‘The Seven Against Sentimentalism.’
W. F.