Lena Rivers (Mary J. Holmes, 1856)

When she was still quite young, Lena’s father disappeared, and not many years thereafter, her mother died. Lena and her grandmother leave their Massachusetts home for Kentucky. Her cousin — grandmother’s son — married a wealthy southern woman, who is quite prideful and meets these poor Yankee relations with open hostility. Mrs. Livingstone takes a particular aversion to Lena, for she’s a beautiful girl, and unsophisticated as she may be, charming and intelligent as well. In other words, she threatens to draw attention away from her own daughters, whom she fully intends to make the most advantageous matches.

And it seems Mrs. Livingstone’s fears are founded. The man she has fixed upon for marrying Carrie, Durward Bellmont, plainly shows more attraction to Lena. Mrs. Livingstone begins a program of lies and schemes to undermine Lena’s reputation and scare-off Durward. She’s helped by the suspicious actions of Durward’s step-father, Mr. Graham, who shows an uncommon attention to Lena and who is discovered to secretly have a daguerreotype of her.

The daguerreotype, it turns out, is actually of Lena’s mother. Mr. Graham — Mr. Harry Rivers Graham — is, of course, Lena’s father. He believed that both his first wife and daughter were dead and had no idea that he was half wrong until Lena showed up in Kentucky. Cowardice in the face of his second wife, who’s even more prideful and overbearing than Mrs. Livingstone, kept him quiet for a time, but at last he confesses.  Durward, undeceived of Mrs. Livingstone’s gossip, marries Lena.

Inscription: on the front endpaper, “P(h)… L.in…(f)ish, from Mamma. (1910).” The name hasn’t been erased so much as it’s been gouged out. I can still read a few letters and can guess at a couple others, but there’s no chance of deciphering more.


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