Page:The Craftsmanship of Writing.djvu/163

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All this would have been very well indeed but for one trifling mistake; the historical scene that is re-enacted in the vision was (let us say) the death of Julius Cæsar, following without variation the traditional account. Of course, as a mystery story, the purpose was defeated. The moment the name Cæsar was mentioned the reader knew what to expect and there was no surprise held in reserve. By way of contrast and to show how a story based upon a perfectly familiar historical incident may be handled in order not only to justify itself but to give the keenest possible shock of surprise at the end, one has only to recall that amazing bit of irony by Anatole France, La Procurateur de Judée, in which Pontius Pilate is talking in his old age with another Roman, indulging in reminiscences of his long-ago governorship in Palestine. Gradually, the friend brings up one mem-