Molly’s Baby, a Little Heroine of the Sea (C.A. Stephens, 1924)

This is the last book of the Old Squire series, although I don’t really agree that it belongs with the other three at all. The book is in several parts and was plainly serialized when first published as each part begins with a lengthy recap of those that came before. Only the first involves the Old Squire’s family in any meaningful way.

Grandmother Ruth’s half-brother Africa Dresser has just died. There are… issues with that branch of the family that the Old Squire would rather not get involved in, but for appearance’s sake someone has to go to the funeral. Someone is Theodora and her younger cousin, the narrator. Africa, a rather wealthy man, had three brothers who only sought him out when they needed money. He was cared for in his declining years by young Molly Totherly, and as a consequence, he had willed all his estate to her. The brothers, particularly Ethan, don’t care for this arrangement and try to strong-arm Molly into giving up the will into their keeping. Molly escapes to the Old Squire’s, Ethan continues to menace, but eventually the will reaches a lawyer and Molly inherits.

Molly grows up and marries a sea captain. On a whaling expedition in the arctic, she and her husband are killed by Eskimo raiders, but their young daughter is taken by one of the Eskimo women. Addison sets off north to find little Molly. After many months, he does locate the tribe that have taken her, and by a clever ruse, absconds with the toddler. Grandmother hopes to raise Molly herself, but nearer relatives on the west coast claim her.

Little Molly grows up, goes on a whaling expedition to the arctic, gets iced in, and threatened by hostile Eskimos. They hold off the Eskimos until spring, when the ice begins to break. The captain is incapacitated and Molly skippers the ship herself, although the compass is broken and rather than landing in San Fransisco, they land in Honolulu, where they decide to remain.

That only took about two hundred pages, so the last part is a wholly different story about Julia Sylvester. Her good for nothing father, Rufus Sylvester, was a neighbor of the Old Squire’s, and it was all Julia could do to raise enough money on her own to prevent the farm from being foreclosed on for one more year. When Rufus remarries, his new wife blames Julia for the sorry state of the place and Julia decides to leave and find work in Boston.

Asa Mercer, of Washington Territory, is in New England on an unusual mission. After the civil war, there are many more woman in the northeast than there are men. Conversely, the northwestern frontier is ten to one men. He wants five hundred female volunteers to sail with him to Washington, where he promises they’ll find very good employment. Julia signs up to be one of “Mercer’s maidens”. Various incidents follow, but Julia arrives in Seattle, finds work as a gardener, and marries a reporter-turned-politician.

Inscriptions: on the front fly leaf: “To Molly / ‘Mom’ / from one of / ‘Molly’s Baby’ / John”.

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