Mary-‘Gusta (Joseph C. Lincoln, 1916)

When Marcellus Hall dies, the single question on everyone’s mind is what’s to become of his seven year old stepdaughter, Mary Augusta Lathrop. Whoever takes her, it’s assumed that she’ll be well provided for — Hall was a wealthy man and he had no other heirs. It comes a shock to Shadrach Gould and Zoeth Hamilton that, in his will, Hall asked them to adopt Mary-‘Gusta. It comes as another shock that, whatever money Hall once had, it’s gone now. He died nearly a pauper.

Shad and Zoeth have lived together for some 35 years. They were once business partners with Marcellus Hall, but something happened — something unspeakable that everyone would rather as not forget — and the business went bankrupt. Now they keep a general store of their own in Cape Cod. Though far from rich, they spare no expense in raising Mary-‘Gusta and ensuring that she has every possible advantage, including sending her away to a fancy finishing school in Boston. They keep it a secret from everyone, Mary-‘Gusta too, that there is no trust fund — they’re paying for it all.

Mary-‘Gusta is a very sensible and level-headed girl. She’s not there just to find a husband, as many of the other girls are. Still, a friendship develops between her and Crawford Smith that grows into love. Crawford hopes to go to medical school at Harvard, to the chagrin of his father back in Nevada, who has an extreme prejudice against the east coast.

Mary-‘Gusta finds out accidentally that she has no money of her own. She returns home at once to find her uncles drowning in debt, their store failing for lack of operating funds, and facing the almost inevitability of losing the house. Under her stewardship, and with the help of friends and connections she made in Boston, she pulls them out of their death spiral.

Crawford, back in Nevada, asks his father’s permission to marry Mary-‘Gusta. This he won’t grant and it’s no wonder that he won’t: Edgar Farmer, alias Edwin Smith, was the fourth partner at the Hall company, who embezzled every penny they had then ran away with Zoeth Hamilton’s wife. Crawford only learns his shameful family history on his father’s deathbed. He and Mary-‘Gusta are reconciled and marry. He takes up a medical practice in Cape Cod.

Inscription: Signed Hazel Dermody on the front flyleaf. Directly beneath the signature, in the same hand, is written “Warning:- the book is minus a page, number 7+8. Of little consequence to the reader. H.D.” And she was right. It appears to be a factory error as I can see no sign of a page being torn or cut out.

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The Clean Heart (A.S.M. Hutchinson, 1914)

In general overview, Philip Wriford is a very successful writer — few¬† authors wouldn’t envy him — but he doesn’t know what happiness is. I mean that in the most literal way.

Breaking it down further, the book is in five distinct parts, but we might summarize it in three:

The first part is the weirdest. After an failed suicide attempt, Wriford splits into two personalities. Wriford tries to flee from Figure of Wriford, but Figure of Wriford can’t be escaped. This chase eventually leads to the second part, Mr. Puddlebox.

Puddlebox is a drunken tramp who takes a liking to Wriford, who he calls his loony. Wriford is spooked, he says, and won’t be unspooked until he learns not to think so much about himself. Wriford, in his wanderings with Puddlebox, becomes reckless. Caught by a storm on the coast, Puddlebox sacrifices himself to save Wriford.

In the third part, Wriford finds himself lodging with the Bickers. He falls in love with their daughter, Essie, and wants her to go away with him, but he doesn’t want to marry her because he believes himself to be “different” and that… I don’t know, his happiness-void would sap away her happiness. Caught by another storm on another coast, Wriford’s life is again saved, only Essie doesn’t die — she’s merely paralyzed. Wriford, realizing what he’s selfishness has wrought, at last learns that happiness is caring for people other than yourself.

Inscription: signed M.E. Gerald on the front flyleaf. On the back cover is a little round sticker that reads “Tilden Stationer, Keene”. Keene, New Hampshire, I would suppose. There are several four-leaf clovers pressed between pages 60-61 and 206-207.