King Spruce (Holman Day, 1908)

Dwight Wade, high school principal, is in love with John Barrett’s daughter Elva. Barrett and Pulaski Britt are great lumber magnates. Wade disapproves of their wasteful methods that are killing the forests. Forced to resign, Wade takes a forestry job with Rodburd Ide. Colin MacLeod, Britt’s boss, is in love with Ide’s daughter Nina and jealous of Wade.

It’s been many years since Barrett has seen his woods. This year, he makes the trip. He’s stayed away because “Ladder” Lane, the fire lookout, knows his secret: that he stole Lane’s wife, she became pregnant, and he abandoned the child with a camp of squatters. Kate Arden is the girl’s name (it sounds like Katahdin, the tallest mountain in Maine. The Abenaki considered it the home of the gods, particularly Gluskabe, the trickster god). When Britt’s crew come to evict the squatters, Kate sets fire to the forest. Lane takes Barrett captive and ties him up in the fire’s path. Wade finds him and frees him, getting his promise that he’ll pay for the girl’s education. Barrett reneges on this almost instantly.

Barrett grows dangerously ill and is taken into town, where he stays with Ide. Kate has also been staying with Nina. When Elva comes to see her father, she knows at once that Kate is her sister. Nina and Elva travel north to the lumber camp to talk with Wade, but Elva is kidnapped along the way by Lane. Lane is so enraged that he has a stroke and dies. Wade and his guide find Elva and rescue her.

Britt has dammed the stream that Ide depends on to get his lumber out. Tommy Eye, a teamster whose life Wade saved, dynamites the dam, draining the lake almost entirely down Ide’s stream and leaving no water at all for Britt. Humbled, Barrett consents to Wade and Elva’s marriage.

Inscriptions: On the reverse of the frontispiece (odd place to sign), “Irving A. Sorvino, Christmas 1919”.

Moby-Dick; or, the Whale (Herman Melville, 1851)

Nine parts an exhaustive (and exhausting) description of whales, whaling ships, and the practice of whaling; one part the story of Captain Ahab, who lost his leg to an albino sperm whale called Moby Dick and who has now made it his life’s goal to kill this whale, a monomaniacal obsession that not only costs him his life but the lives of the entire crew save one, our narrator Ishmael, who escapes by the merest chance.

Inscription: Virginia L. Oliver, on the front fly leaf.

The Portygee (Joseph C. Lincoln, 1919)

Zelotes’s daughter elopes with an Italian opera singer, which in his small town Cape Cod eyes is just about the worst thing ever. There’s nothing he hates more than a Portygee (all foreigners are Portygee, and foreigner can mean anyone from outside the county). Daughter dies, and later, her husband dies as well. Their son, Alberto Speranza, becomes Zelotes’s ward. He can barely contain his outrage at the boy’s half-breed blood. Albert, as he’s now called, is an aspiring writer and poet, and Zelotes thinks that’s just the most idiotic nonsense. He’s not a fan of fiction on general principle. He makes the boy work as an assistant bookkeeper at his lumber yard and hopes to groom him into eventually inheriting the business.

It’s a culture shock leaving New York and coming to South Harniss, but Albert makes friends both among the locals and the summer residents. His best friend, Helen, is a local. He’s fallen in love with a summerer, Madeline. She loves his poems, some of which he’s gotten published. Her family is extremely wealthy and thoroughly disapprove. Madeline is whisked away. In despair, Albert enlists in the army to fight in the World War.

His military career is pretty short. In his first battle, they’re ambushed by Germans and his lieutenant is shot. He drags him to safety, then runs back into the fray to save his buddy and is caught in an explosion. It’s thought he died and he’s hailed as a hero at home and awarded a posthumous Croix de Guerre. Before he left, an anthology of his poems had just been published and now they’re a best seller. Zelotes gets the first $3,000 royalty check and, though he still doesn’t understand it, he has to admit he was wrong and apparently somebody buys these things.

Albert didn’t die, though. He was badly injured but still alive and was taken captive. He spent the war in a POW camp. He returns with a hero’s welcome, although in his own eyes, he’s no hero. He was captured in his very first battle — he’s a dismal failure. Madeline’s parents have completely reversed course and welcome Albert into the family, but he’s changed and he can’t see what he ever saw in Madeline to begin with. He returns to South Harniss and realizes it was Helen all along.

In the end, he’s got a contract to write a series of stories for $500 each and he’s elected to congress. Zelotes evolves as a character, starting as an unrepentant racist, then learning to hide his racist tendencies, and eventually he repents his racism. People can come from anywhere and that’s okay, so long as they speak English. One step at time.

Inscriptions: None, though there was a bookmark evidently torn from some other book. There isn’t much text on it: “fian! Not f/continent/eal to” on one side, “hey’ll not ge/fers met, w/eneral” on the other.

The Galaxy (Susan Ertz, 1929)

Social mores change as the Victorian era draws to a close.

Laura, born in 1861, is an atheist, feminist, freethinker who struggles with her rigidly conservative parents. At the time, the only avenue for escape open to a woman not independently wealthy is marriage. Quite as soon as she’s able, she marries Horace Leighton (and is disowned for it — Leighton is in business and thus not a gentleman in her father’s esteem). They are happy, at first, until Leighton’s eye begins to wander. Laura suffers the indignity of mistress after mistress, but she has no recourse: a woman’s infidelity is grounds for divorce, but the reverse is not true.

Years pass. At a party, she meets Arnold Sendler and instantly falls in love. They begin an affair, but it’s very perilous for her. If Horace finds out and divorces her, he would take custody of their children. They wait patiently until her youngest turns 21. Then she announces to her husband that she will gladly give him a divorce, but whether he takes it or not, she’s leaving him for Arnold.

Strong shades of A Doll’s House, which it does not hide — Ibsen is brought up several times.

No inscriptions.

Old Jed Prouty (Richard Golden and Mary C. Francis, 1901)

A novelization of the very well known (in Bucksport, anyway) play.

Jed Prouty owns the Prouty Tavern in Bucksport, Maine. It’s a little coastal town between Bangor and Ellsworth, but the train linking those two hubs passes around Bucksport, so they don’t get too much traffic. Jed’s elderly and rather demented father takes out a needless mortgage on the tavern. Mother pays it back immediately, but Aaron Hemingway, the junior man at the bank, disappear into the night with it. Aaron left a wife and daughter to freeze to death in the harsh winter. The wife does die, but Jed rescues little Alice, who he promptly renames Tretty.

An atheist of long standing, Jed finds new faith in raising Tretty, but he does make an enemy of John Todd, the senior man at the bank, who knows the mortgage exists but doesn’t know it was repaid, because Aaron ran off with both the document and money. Years later, the situation erupts when Aaron, broke again, returns to town to claim Tretty to use as leverage in finding fresh funds.

Jed eventually gets Tretty back and the mortgage is proved to be nullified.

Inscriptions: pasted on the front flyleaf is a picture of a boy in a red stocking cap holding a massive card that reads “This book is the property of Cora Allen, Camden, Me.”

The House of the Seven Gables (Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1851)

Clifford Pyncheon , released from prison, moves into Seven Gables, a mansion haunted since the 17th century when the land was stolen from Matthew Maule, a purported witch. Judge Pyncheon, a descendant of the man who built Seven Gables, believes that hidden somewhere in the house is a royal land grant to Waldo county in Maine and that Clifford knows where it is. That such a grant would long, long ago have been voided is no matter — it’s the Judge’s idée fixe. Before the Judge can threaten Clifford with an insanity hearing, he suddenly dies — perhaps at the unearthly hand of Matthew Maule.

Inscription: Plate pasted on tront end paper showing a woman standing on a balcony, a book in hand. Beneath it is printed “My Book”, and below that, it’s signed “Madeline E. Dyer”.

A Little More (W.B. Maxwell, 1922)

The Welby’s have budgeted all their lives and are just about ready to retire comfortably well-off when their extremely wealthy uncles dies and leaves them all his money. They abandon their snug and paid for suburban house for an apartment in London more befitting their station — and they’re throwing away money hand over fist to climb the social ladder. Then the rug is pulled out from under them: with the coming of the war, the sulfur mines on which their fortune was based have vanished. They have not a penny in the world.

Homeless and destitute, things look bleak indeed when their old housekeeper finds them. She’d amassed a nest-egg of her own and bought the Welby house when they left it. She also bought the neighboring two houses, connected the three together, and now operates them as a hotel. She employees the Welbies and gives them a place to stay. She’s bitten off more than she can chew, she tells them, and wants to scale back the operation. Would they like their house back?

Inscription: on the front flyleaf, “Emily E. Patterson”.

Daniel Quayne (J.S. Fletcher, 1926)

Aunt Sarah begs Daniel Quayne not to go to the Sicaster statutes fair. The Quaynes have never had any luck at Sicaster, but Daniel is set for going. He meets a young woman there, Rosanna, who’s plainly not a northerner from her speech, but her family has relocated from Surrey. They both find places at Campion’s farm. He’s saved a substantial sum of money and intends on going to Canada and establishing his own farm, which he’ll likely do after a year with Campion. Daniel is a simple sort and he is entirely smitten by Rosanna. That he’ll marry her he takes nearly for granted. Rosanna isn’t simple. She has casual dalliances with a number of men, but most significantly, Campion himself has fallen for her. Daniel finds them together and shoots them both. He’s hanged.

Inscription: pasted on the front endpaper is a rather elaborate plate showing a globe and several pastoral images that reads “O, Book, which from its proper shelf, My own good friend hath helped himself. Now like a dove with wings unloosed Come back, return, fly home to roost. Alfred H. Fair”. The title page is also signed A.H. Fair.

Where Your Treasure Is (Holman Day, 1917)

This is very much a book loaf rather than a novel. I get the feeling that Holman Day had a bunch of half-worked ideas none of which really had enough meat to stretch out to more than a hundred pages and just mashed them together. The result is this really rather long book that doesn’t tie together at all.

Ross Sidney goes to Portland to take up deep sea diving. He gets some experience and buys a suit, but then takes a swing at his employer for no particular reason and is blacklisted. He’s then taken on as a barker or something of that nature for a scam curiosities museum, but falls out with them when he helps two boys from his home town get back the money they’d been cheated. He goes back home to find that Judge Kingsley, the town treasurer, has been embezzling from the town and Ross’s uncle is about to spill the beans. (If that sounds familiar, it should, it’s the plot of Squire Phin.) Ross is in love with the Judge’s daughter Celene so he vows to set things right.

The Judge tried to raise money to correct the books, but the investment he made was with the very same con artists Ross was involved with. Ross and the Judge hop on the train and give chase without any clear idea of where they’re going or what they’re going to do if they find them. In the western desert, in a gold boom town, they find one of the men. Ross kind of then just knocks him down and steals his wallet, which conveniently contained all the Judge’s $16,000 in cash. Ross invests in a gold mine that turns out good and makes more money. They go home, the Judge bails himself out, but Celene chews out Ross for kidnapping her father.

Ross strikes out for San Fransisco to dive for a dubiously legal concern trying to recover the three million dollars in gold that was lost in the sinking of the Golden Gate. The wreck isn’t terribly deep, but the conditions make digging down to the strong room virtually impossible. An accident aboard the ship involving a monkey with an artificial tail gives Ross an idea to use water pressure to shift the sand, which works. The labor is tremendous and Ross has a breakdown shortly after the job is completed.

Captain Holstrom and his daughter Karna bring him back home. While Ross is delirious, Karna is pleading his case to Celene, who really does not care a great deal for Ross. When he comes to his senses, he realizes that he really loves Karna.

Inscriptions: ex libris of the Mantor Library, at what is now UMF.