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At The Mercy Of Tiberius By Augusta Evans Wilson - A Review
I had never heard of this author until I heard of this book. I had never heard of this book until I searched for the meaning of the phrase, 'at the mercy of Tiberius'. I knew that Tiberius was an Emperor and so I expected my search to lead me to something about him. Though I did find information about the Emperor himself, I found out that the phrase I was searching for was actually the title of a book.
This book was written in 1887 by the author known as Augusta Evans Wilson to some and as Augusta Jane Evans to others. I tried to find a synopsis or a review of the book to find out just what it was about but I could not find a single peep about it. Even on Amazon where the book was for sale there was not one word about what the book was about.
Intrigued, I researched the author. She was apparently a very distinguished and popular American author in her day and yes even later. Her works seem to have been forgotten even though they are definitely American Literature Classics. Why I wonder? How does such a great writer become forgotten?
Apparently, her most popular work was a novel called St. Elmo and though I was tempted to read the book that was well-liked if not loved, I could not dismiss the curiosity about At The Mercy Of Tiberius and just what it was about.
It was the first time I had ever opened a book without having an inkling of what I was going to find. The result was that no other book shocked me like this one. I never knew what secret lay between the pages of the book until I had read them for myself.
To say that I was enchanted with the book may be an understatement. For all nine hundred and eight pages I was at the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen next.
On the first page, I was introduced to Beryl. She is a young, beautiful girl of eighteen. Filled with gentleness and kindness and a talent for art and music. I was also introduced to Ellice. She is not so young, the mother of Beryl, beautiful as her daughter but alas she is bed-ridden and Beryl's care is what sustains her. Beryl's father has been dead for some time and her brother, Robert, who is her mother's favorite, is off doing his own thing.
Times are hard for Ellice Bretano and her daughter. They survive on the sale of Beryl's portraits and even this is not enough because Ellice needs surgery desperately in order to live.
She sends Beryl to her grandfather to ask for the funds for her surgery. Beryl has never met him and does not want to go. He, Ellice's father, had disowned her when she eloped with Beryl's father. But Beryl is obedient and goes on a train to the town where her grandfather, General Darrington, resides. He is a rich an important man in the town, and when Beryl enters the stately house she is amazed at the beauty of it but repulsed nonetheless. It is not the place where she wants to be.
Her meeting with her grandfather is a painful one, yet she manages to get the much needed hundred dollars for her mother. She is carded to leave the town that evening, but she is delayed, and she is forced to spend the night at the train station. Many hours later she is out and bound to return her mother's place.
At the station, she is arrested. Why? Her grandfather who she had just visited had been murdered that same night. Beryl was the last one to be with him who had had a confrontation with him. All evidence pointed to Beryl who stood to gain if the old general died. His will, which stated that everything he owned was to go to his adopted son, was missing and so everything would go to Ellice instead. It was motive enough.
The person leading the charge is one Lennox Dunbar, who Beryl calls Tiberius. It is his testimony alone that causes Beryl to be the one and only suspect and she is at his mercy. She is innocent but there is so much evidence against her.
It is from there that the story starts its twists and turns. To reveal any secret would be to spoil the intrigue of it. The only person in the novel whose personality one is sure of is Beryl. Her honesty and fierce loyalty to those whom she loves is a constant. She is willing to go through fire for the redemption of her loved ones.
If I never believed that a scene could be vividly painted by a pen I would have been convinced by this book. If I had never thought that a mass of feelings could be placed compactly into one line, I would have been convinced by this book. It is a classic that I am glad to have the pleasure of reading. I only hope that America and the rest of the world rediscovers what a great author Augusta Evans Wilson was.