"I tell you I cannot bear it! I shall do something desperate if this life is not changed soon. It gets worse and worse, and I often feel as if I'd gladly sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom." An impetuous young voice spoke, and the most intense desire gave force to her passionate words as the girl glanced despairingly about the dreary room like a caged creature on the point of breaking loose. Books lined the walls, loaded the tables and lay piled about the weird, withered old man who was her sole companion. He sat in a low, wheeled chair from which his paralyzed limbs would not allow him to stir without help. His face was worn by passion and wasted by disease but his eyes were all alive and possessed an uncanny brilliancy which contrasted strangely with the immobility of his other features. Fixing these cold, keen eyes on the agitated face of the girl he answered with harsh brevity, "Go when and where you like. I have no desire to keep you." "Ah, that is the bitterest thing of all!" cried the girl with a sudden tremor in her voice, a pathetic glance at that hard face. "If you loved me, this dull house would be pleasant to me, this lonely life not only endurable but happy. The knowledge that you care nothing for me makes me wretched. I've tried, God knows I have, to do my duty for Papa's sake, but you are relentless and will neither forgive nor forget. You say `Go,' but where can I go, a girl, young, penniless and alone? You do not really mean it, Grandfather?" "I never say what I do not mean. Do as you choose, go or stay, but let me have no more scenes, I'm tired of them," and he took up his book as if the subject was ended. "I'll go as soon as I can find a refuge, and never be a burden to you anymore. But when I am gone remember that I wanted to be a child to you and you shut your heart against me. Someday you'll feel the need of love and regret that you threw mine away; then send for me, Grandfather, and wherever I am I'll come back and prove that I can forgive." A sob choked the indignant voice, but the girl shed no tears and turned to leave the room with a proud step. The sight of a stranger pausing on the threshold arrested her, and she stood regarding him without a word. He looked at her an instant, for the effect of the graceful girlish figure with pale, passionate face and dark eyes full of sorrow, pride and resolution was wonderfully enhanced by the gloom of the great room, the presence of the sinister old man and glimpses of a gathering storm in the red autumn sky. During that brief pause the girl had time to see that the newcomer was a man past thirty, tall and powerful, with peculiar eyes and a scar across the forehead. More than this she did not discover, but a sudden change came over her excited spirit and she smiled involuntarily before she spoke. "Here is a gentleman for you, Grandfather." The old man looked up sharply, threw down his book with an air of satisfaction, and stretched his hand to the stranger, saying bluntly, "Speak of Satan and he appears. Welcome, Tempest." "Many thanks; few give the Evil One so frank and cordial a greeting," returned the other, with a short laugh which showed a glitter of white teeth under a drooping black mustache. "Who is the Tragic Muse?" he added under his breath as he shook the proffered hand. ``Good. She is exactly that. Rosamond, this is the most promising of all my pupils, Phillip Tempest. The `Tragic Muse' is Guy's daughter, as you might know, Phillip, by the state of rebellion in which you find her!" The girl bowed rather haughtily, the man lifted his brows with an air of surprise as he returned the bow and sat down beside his host. "Ring for lights and take yourself away," commanded the old man, and Rosamond vanished from the room, leaving it the darker Excerpted from A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
Publishers Weekly Review
|This romantic cliffhanger about a woman pursued by her ex-lover, a relentless stalker, seems sprung from today's headlines. Yet Alcott (1832-1888) wrote it more than a century and a quarter ago, in 1866 (two years before the appearance of Little Women), only to see it rejected it as ``too sensational'' by the magazine that had requested it. The novel has remained unpublished until now. Its heroine, the lonely, trusting 18-year-old Rosamond Vivian, who lives with her flinty, unloving grandfather on an English island, falls for the cynical, suave Phillip Tempest, who's nearly twice her age. He whisks her off to his Mediterranean villa near Nice, promising to marry her, but when she discovers that he is secretly married (and strongly suspects that he has murdered the son he never acknowledged), Rosamond flees to Paris, assuming a new identity. Phillip obsessively stalks her for two years, from France, where she seeks refuge in a convent and falls in love with a protective priest, to Germany, where Phillip has her committed to a lunatic asylum; eventually she flees to England. Alcott's portrayals of the pathological Phillip and of the conflicted Rosamondwho initially clings to her ex-lover, hoping to reform him until she realizes he is a murderous bruteshow strong psychological insights. This absorbing novel revises our image of a complex and, it is now clear, prescient writer. Major ad/promo; Literary Guild selection; first serial to Ladies Home Journal; film rights to Citadel Entertainment (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved|
School Library Journal Review
|YAUnpublished until now, this story is the same type of moral tale as Richardson's Pamela or Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Alcott's heroine, Rosamond Vivian, is the antithesis of Jo March. She has been brought up by a cold grandfather in complete seclusion. She does not have the support of family and educated community found in the Concord of Little Women. Nor is she of a literary or spiritual turn. Her one passionate desire is for freedom, and she seizes the opportunity by eloping with Philip Tempest, who deceives her into a mock marriage. Her subsequent disillusionment and flight result in a mad pursuit across Europe by the desperate Tempest. Continuous close calls and betrayals involve male disguise, secret letters, and escape in a hamper. The novel shows the perils awaiting a young woman some 100 years ago who defies society and finds herself beyond its protection and support. While not strong in YA appeal, fans of Little Women may be asking about it.Frances Reiher, Fairfax Public Library System, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.|