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The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, July 04, 1909, Image 11

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Persistent link: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85066387/1909-07-04/ed-1/seq-11/

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The San Francisco Sunday CaU
Lucy Baker Jerome
. • \u25a0 —HE COAST OF CHANCE." a
I novel of San Francisco life
I by two San Francisco girls,
Esther and Lucia Chamber
lain, whose serial publication begins in
The Sunday Call, is an unusual book.
This is true not alone for being one
of the rare novels which deal with
the social life of the free city of the
west, or for its delicate flaying of the
foibles of the social nature, or for its
delightful charm and felicity of ex
pression, but for the fact that the au
thors have chosen to depict a phase
of San Francisco life seldom recog
nized. This phase is the ease with
which the caeual visitor to our shores
Is enabled, often without credentials
or other passports than that which he
may present in the form of a pleasing
personality, or the possession of sur
face good breeding, to enter the Inner
most circles of San Francisco society
and maintain his footing there with
out fear of a too close Inquiry into
his previous record.
"The Coast of Chance" deals with
the entrance of Ju»st such a character
Into San Francisco society circles, and
et the time the story opens this char
acter, Harry Cressy, has been made
\u25a0welcome at the homes of the city's
maids and matrons, and has become
engaged to a charming young society
girl. Flora Gllsey, herself co new to
the life of San Francisco that when
Bhe meets Cressy she regards him as
practically an old resident, while
knowing no more of his previous life
than the few items which he chooses
to tell her.
The plot of the book turns upon
the theft of a famous jewel, j known
as the Crew Idol, the possession of
the elder brother of an Englishman
who had married a pretty American
girl belonging to these same San
Francisco circles, and taken her
abroad, where she had died. Her per
sonal belongings are returned to San
Francisco and placed under the ham
mer at an auction sale. The day be
fore the ««le takes place a private
view is heVl in the maple room of- the
old Pala<v aotel, jrhen, to the surprise
and hor«%*<' of every one' present. . the
famous Chatworth ring disappears
from under the very eyes of the be
holders, who are almost ready to
swear that they saw it in its case not
five minutes before Its . disappearance
was noted. Detectives are called and
intense excitement ensues. The visit
or*, all of- them well known to each
other, are carefully searched, but. not
a trace of the ring Is found. Cressy
is the center of the hubbub, his clean,
vigorous personality and . his keen
brain making him an effectual ., and
valuable aid. but after discussing ! the
mystery at the club ' he hurries to his
fiancee's home, where he ' is -to dine.
He finds Flora and- s her chaperon,
Clara Britton, full of -curiosity and
wonder at the ; news • which they v have
heard, and he tells them "all he knows." 1
ending with - the fact that . there -Is so
far absolutely no clew to the thief.
The second chapter introduces the
most Interesting and sharply "drawn
character in the book— Kerr, an Eng
lishman whom Flora' meets at an exhi
bition of pictures given at- the Bo
hemian club. This Is the description
of the extraordinary Englishman:
"It gave her a start, that toss of
black hair; that long, • irregular, pale
face whose scintlllant, sardonic smile
was mercilessly upon the poor, inade
quate picture face confronting him.
His stoop above the rail was so abrupt
that his long, lean back was almost
horizontal; yet, even thus, there was
something elegant in the swing of him
— in the careless twist of his head
around to speak to th,e woman behind I
him. The light • above struck . blind
on the glass in one eye, but the other
danced with a genial, a mad scintilla
tion. The light o*f It caught like con
tagion and touched the merest glancer
at him with the spark of its warm,
ironic mirth."
Another passage shows the vivid fan
tasy of the author's imagination:
"Yet all. the wax down, the great
white stair, the 'corridors \u0084of r time,'
\u25a0where the white owl glared his wisdom
on the passings and counter^ passings,
she was haunted witH the thought that
Harry had seen the extraordinary Kerr
before; not shaken hands with him,
perhaps — perhaps not even heard his'
name; but somewhere, across some dis
tance, had once glimpsed him and had
never, quite shaken the memory from
his mind: For- there* was something
marked, notable, unforg-e table in that
lean dlstinctiveness. -Against the sleek
form of the men they met and shook
hands with, he flashed out— seemed In
contrast fairly electric. She j saw * him
just ahead' of her where the crowd
was thickening in the door of the sup
per room, making 'way for Clara,
through the press with that exasperat
ing solicitude of bis that was half
ironic I And the large broadside offered'
by her elegant Harry, matter of factly. \u25a0
towing Ella -by the elbow, herself con
scious of a curl or two awry, and
Judge Buller tramping heavily at her
side, all took on \u25a0 to < herj the -aspect? of '
a well chosen, peep' show. with,.the-sa
tanlc Kerr officiating \as''. showman;,
Even the smooth' and -pallid r .Clara, who
usually coerced . by, sheer-; correctness,
failed to dominate this fantastic image;
rather, she took* on, as she -was handed
into the supper' room, the aspect of his
chief exhibit.*'. .' : > -
[ The ring has been shipped fromSnjr-,
land .with the belongings of » the Ameri-,
can girl by. mistake,' and • the 'wires are'
kept hdt about- it, until !its : rriyßterlous
\u25a0disappearance is made known.s. Talk. in"
San Francisco .concerning ">*. the- theft
turns on the" conceded fact?that'it *must
hav« ' been \ a- professional thief to : have '
made off with the ring qo 1 cleverly, 4 ; but
as none but those who were well known
socially had bee.n- admitted! to ;the.pri
vate view,- a subject for accusation is
"THE GUST OF CHANCE" BEGINS :M THIS PAGE NEXT SUM
A San Francisco
Novel
By Two
San Francisco
Girls
lacking. Cressy '.'takes FJora | to ' the
Chinese quarter one afternoon and buys
her a magnificent' sapphire at a little
goldsmith's • shop, ' and afterward . she
finds it to be- a: part of the Crew, IdoL
Her . terror: and \ efforts :to":_: to ":_ retain ? it in
her ! possession, \so j that | neither Harry
nor^Kerr, to whom she Is strongly at
tracted, though uncertain how: toire
gard him, can be suspected, and the
complications. which : follow to : the final
clearing' up of 'the (plot are. uniquely
sketche""d, J while v originality^ and . fresh
resource, fill the ; pages, which; lncrease
in'lnterest,.wlth every/llne: The con
flicting J struggles In the \ minds of the
different, v involved i *are ;. so
cleverly and ingeniously r. worked out,
the finale Jso satisfactorily unraveled
and the 'dialogue so • subtle and ; rich ; in
discernment as to 'evoke -'the '.warmest
admiration. ;;/. The ' denouement >ls ?\u25a0 en
tirely" 4 unsuspected, and the j. handling
of ,the ' dissimilar "characters' reveals
some of the cleverest and keenest work
thathastappeared.V'.v '"\u25a0'; S\ ; \u25a0".•; ;\u25a0 ?-\u25a0'\u25a0\u25a0'
"As j regards ! the • style of 'the'" writers,
comparison with : Henry -James: Is in
evitable. -The same .subtle analysis of
characters,- the - same t probing of .pos
sible * motives; v the} same dissection 'of
action, \u25a0 gesture,:" speech; Is : noted; "but
allUhls 13 ..carried** out ;ln ftiwayf that
brings i keen . satisfaction.^^ An* ; entire
absence ; of triteness ;or , of stereotyped
How the great story,
"TheCoastof Chance,"
which is to appear j
serially on this pag^l:
was written by Misses ;
Esther and Lucia
Chamberlain in their
home on Russian Hill
phrases is noticeable in the book; the
mind stakes in .the -felicity 'of the
phraseology with: a sense of delight; it
is a plot >In a new . setting;
with fresh -light cast upon ; it, and *
new maze of conjecture ln v . which "to
lose • one's self. . A" review of the novel
fromfthe . Sydney Bulletin : shows i how
the ; book j was received -In Australia: \V\
'\u25a0: "In I 'The Coast ; of Chance," by\'Estlier
and Lucia Chamberlain, we come | to the
end of • the : quest : for the \u25a0 real: American
noveL' ! This Is a delicate,, "subtle thing,
a ? strange •; gem V exquisitely ; wrought,
the paradox-of r a detective;story-'con
cerned rather , with" charaoterl analysis
than with | Incident. : ':' Yet it is "supreme
ly exciting. V. But in* the method ;of, the
story there** is * real-^ cleverness,^ and ,;in
h character; .< studies 'I we vmeet -.- real
people J subtly f > and -intimately H drawn.
The style \u25a0 is ; lucid anafexact,? the man
ner /delicately fy&i the \ liter
ary *' craft •• of • the r i inevitable . r ,^ Henry
James. The \u25a0\u25a0bookAts ;» so v'admlrably
written, « without an jounce£of i padding,
the characters 1 are' so ye 'i and • real,
hinted ; at i with r apt^ phrase t ratherithan
described.Uhatthe'flndlng of this f emi
niner i subtle r thing J; is unexpected
discovery ,- among i the' raucous •- horde of
the > best , sellers.'! >v/*^ • •\u25a0-;'^
- AnT Interview; granted • by.; Miss ' Cham
berlain | to ">. the writer : lessened | the S dif
ficulty ' of i perceiving -how al young; girl
could have written so powerful a book.
If the book is unusual its author is not
less : so. -y Miss : Chamberlain, in , con
junction with -her sister, has
all sorts of things— plays,~ : poems, short
stories-f-«ver since she v was a r child;
not, as she says, from any; overwhelm
ing desire to.^write, but rather for the
sake . of; the diversion. ; When * Esther
Chamberlain "was < 6,^. and , her- sister
Luciai" 4,\--i they % used to I • give - plays
for ; the. benefit' of a convulsed .'family
audience. .'One^occasion /is recalled
whenv a- long{. poem ':• had'ibeen* conned
andl committed *.; to \u25a0 « memory. \u25a0}. and , the
parents, .- cousins,. aunts ? and \uncles in
vited;-to? attend * lts ; recitation." "I : can
see % my :", uncle \ shaking = now," declares
Lucia- 'i Chamberlain; : -"and'; my/ aunt's
shoulders i heaving -with 'Stifled c mirth.
Looking j back ?on : itj I : can,' [of/ course,
see^ how* excruciatingly ; funny < It ; must
have ? been," but ;. then iwe i,were ». broken
heartecLrf However,^: my ' uncle received
such : a * reprimand ;: from -.his % wife that
he.never dared' even : to smile* again
at^any^of : our \u25a0: ventures."/ \u25a0'/, \u25a0 ' r
-. "The - Coast of Chance", is 7 the -, second
novel ; that \u25a0\u25a0 has come 'from" the : pen > of
these ? writers: \u25a0"; With" no,: intention 'of
ever -'publishing • ; anything \u25a0 theyj might
write tin ? collaboration,;^ they -were In
duced';toTdpTso if by Bliss •Carmaiir'whb^
perceiying^the -pure "merit of. 1 the work
whlch'happened-to'come under his eye,
advised them strongly to. place their
first ventures. The Century and Scrib
ner's took them willingly. These were
followed by. a number of short stories,
all of which found a ready market
with Alnslee's. The Cosmopolitan.
Everybody's, Scribner*s and the Cen
tury, and then came the first book,
... "Mrs. Esslngton," which was remark
; ably well received. Its .success was
marked all through the southern and
eastern states, though. strangely
enough, there was but little demand
for it In California. The reception of
"Mrs. Esslngton" caused the production
of "The Coast of Chance," considered
by many, readers the best of the three
books thus far Issued. The death of
Esther Chamberlain occurred last year.
Miss Lucia Chamberlain has since pro
duced a "book entitled 'The Other Side
of ;the Door." !
: Miss Chamberlain's description i- of
the manner \u25a0 of collaboration is J in
teresting. ,' "My sister would assume
. one character," she says, "and I an
other. ; Whichever conceived a good
character was given the right to - act
! his part; though occasionally sugges
] tions would come from the other side.
c -. In this, way we kept the persons in
. the book well apart, and the danger,,
of monotony, nearly always present
[ when all the characters are conceived
, in one " brain; .was averted."
Miss Chamberlain's home :1s one of
• the prettiest spots in San Francisco, on
i the very crest of Russian hill, over
•'looking the ;bay. ' Just below the housa
[the cliff drops sharply away, leaving
I an runobstructed : view, of Mhe islanded
i -waters sweeping out toward the. ocean.
.All San Franciscans- know this/ glor-'
i iou3 prospect and love it. -But It Is not
i ; in the house, -however: suited to her
i v work, v that . Miss ~ Chamberlain «. spends
, her writing" hours. '>\u25a0• .A little farther
; ] down 'the ' path "appears a : tangle of ivy '
:f: f running ' riot 'over walls and a > sloping
I 1I 1 roof; rand peering over a low half: door
1 ; one discovers the writer's t retreat. It
'\u25a0'-; is " a \u25a0 large V square room, looking upon
\u25a0 the same splendid vista, and it 13 known
:to • Miss /Chamberlain's friends as ? the
I ; "playhouse,'? s for it was" her playhouse
; as a child, and now that she has grown
• * up, : evidences of, Its \u25a0 former - use * are
;;>tillj visible. . Around the: board, walls
\u25a0}. is ; a* frieze iof .bright colored ; paper. plc>
.'{tu'res depicting*. the of the
: f queen in the garden. Little Jack Homer
,v, v and others of the ; fairy : book • land. ; On .
the small table In the midst of papers,
ink and scribbled sheets of manuscript,
sit. stand or recline a few toys favored
by children and grownups alike. '
There is Marcelllne, the clown, who
stands upright on his white ladder
without the aid of a sustaining hand, if
you can get him adjusted to a nicety
of balance that makes you shudder to
think of; Frederic of the red mill climbs
gayly up his red tower if you place tha
proper weight on his budding aspira
tions in the shape of a tin bell, helmet
shaped, which fits his tin head exactly;
Romeo, the flannel elephant, stands
with all four feet hunched together on
the top of a small and very uncertain
barrel, and Joey can ''make a bow un
rivaled for grace and ease if you work
with him -long and- patiently enough.
All these were presented to the writer
by Miss Chamberlain, and appreciated
to the full. In one of the pictures
Miss ; Chamberlain is teen coaxing the
wooden images like refractory children
to do their best. .
The habit which the Chamberlain
sisters formed in childhood of collab
oration In their work made Itself felt
In later years in an unconscious growth
into each other's ways. Collaboration,
it is well Known, is extremely difficult
as a rule, because of the inability of
one to conform ?to the other's point of
view;. but these two seem to have ac
complished this to a surprisingly har
monious extent. - For Instance, in "The
Coast of Chance," one sentence might
have > been written, by . one, sister, a
second by. the other; there are* instances
where Miss Chamberlain declares she
can tell half a sentence' was hers
though the other half was finished by
her sister. Kvery word In the book
can 'be placed by Miss Chamberlain,
who declares that It would be hard to
believe that, such combination work
could be done without obvious signs
of cleavage. .
But this is just what has been done.
There., are no perceptible changes of
style . or. breaks in the continuity of
thought , Had the book been the work
of 'a single hand Instead <of two, the
story could hardly; have Cowed more
smoothly. The book has - been dram
atized and will be: produced ; in Wash
ington on October 16 of this" year.
Miss Chamberlain ' has made trips to
the east, returning "each time -with a
definite feeling that cere lies the ma
terial. she can use. The Coast of
Chance** is the first » novel attempting
to* picture San Francisco society life
as ft seems to, her. . Should her next
work deal .with, the same subject, one
can but hope that all. the fine and virile
qualities displayed • in 7 'The \u25a0 Coast at
Chance™ may be. reproduced. in a work
which shall proba even deeper Into the
social depths to place before the world
a\ novel of San Francisco ; life which
shall picture the- city; in "all :It» Tftal
aspects., Henry James could have done
itvit is not Impo33lble'that Miss Cham,
berlala.can. *\u25a0.\u25a0'.

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