The setting for the six stories in this book is an episode in the life of a travelling portrait-painter, which we are made to learn through the charmingly simple narrative of his wife's diary. Disabled for a time by weakness of the eyes from working at his profession, his wife suggests that he should fill up the consequent deficit in their purse by dictating to her "after dark," when her household work is done, some of the good stories he has gathered in the course of his wanderings. The well-known necessity for getting a "sitter" to talk of something that will interest him and make him forget that he has to look dignified, renders the portrait-painter ingenious in extracting personal anecdotes and bits of striking experience, so that he has two sources of unusual knowledge about men and their fortunes?observation of his sitters themselves, and a peculiar opportunity of learning what they have to tell about others. In the prologue to each of his stories our painter, in 'After Dark,' gives us something of what he has gathered from the former source; he describes one of his sitters or the persons with whom a certain commission brought him into contact, and tells us the conversation that led to his eliciting the succeeding story. These prologues are carefully and agreeably written, and have the negative charm, in these days of spasmodic writing fast rising into the importance of a positive merit?of being free from all affectation. Of the tales themselves, the main element is the excitement either of curiosity or of terror; their great merit consists either in the effective presentation of a mystery or the effective working up of striking situations. Yet the writer does not care to interest us in his personages, but only in what happens to them. Mr. Wilkie Collins seems to be without a rival in the skillful movement of a ghost or murder story, and he knows how to give the thrill of terror, without mingling that sort of offence to refined sensibilities which causes terror to pass into horror and disgust. Three admirable stories of this class are "The terribly strange Bed," "Gabriel's Wedding," and "The Yellow Mask." The author of 'After Dark' seeks his moving incidents in modern life, and he usually, in the end, interprets the supernatural into the natural.