Joan of the Sword Hand (S.R. Crockett, 1898)

Joan, Duchess of Hohenstein, was arranged from birth to marry the Prince of Courtland. She secretly visits Courtland dressed as a man to inspect her fiance and finds him much to her liking, and Princess Margret thinks about as highly of “Count von Loen”, bitterly angering Muscovite Prince Wasp, who has claimed Margret as his own. On the wedding day, Joan discovers that the man she had taken for the prince was actually his younger brother. The actual Prince of Courtland is a sniveling old man, commonly called about town Louis the Craven for what the townsfolk see as selling out their Germanic freedoms for the autocratic protection of Russia. Joan flees back to Hohenstein and a Russian-backed battle ensues to capture her.

Their supplies running low, a conspiracy is hatched by the high ministers in Hohenstein. Joan is abducted and taken to a place of safety on the Baltic coast. Meanwhile, Maurice von Lynar, a Danish soldier in Joan’s army who bears a remarkable resemblance to her, puts on her dress and feigns capitulating to the invaders so that they’ll withdraw and Hohenstein can be reinforced. The false Joan is taken to Margret, who she takes for Count von Loen. They are married that day by the castle priest. Discovered, Maurice is sentenced to be torn apart by four wild horses.

Joan, trapped on Isle Rugen, finds that her hostess is Theresa von Lynar — Maurice’s mother. She also finds that Maurice is, in fact, her half-brother, her father having secretly married Theresa after his first wife’s death. At the same time, Conrad — the younger Courtland prince Joan thought she was betrothed to — shipwrecks on the island. He and Joan fall in love, though he is a priest and Joan is already married. “In name only”, Theresa says to both.

Word reaches them of what’s happened in Courtland. Joan, Theresa, Conrad, and the handful of guards they have hasten there. The people of Courtland, who find the spectacle playing out before them abhorrent and un-Christian, hail Conrad as a liberator and the true prince. The Courtland military turn and the Russians retreat from them and the well-armed mob. They rally and intend to invade Courtland with the whole of the Czar’s army and annex it into the empire. Courtland holds off the invasion as long as they can, waiting for reinforcement from Plassenburg. Theresa buys them much-needed time by suicide bombing the Russian encampment, killing both Prince Wasp and Louis.

In the end, the Russians are repelled. Conrad, released from his vows as the new reigning prince of Courtland, marries the widowed Joan. On Princess Joan’s abdication as duchess, Maurice and Margret becoming the new duke and duchess of Hohenstein.

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The Story of a Play (W.D. Howells, 1898)

Maxwell, a newspaper reporter and an aspiring playwright, marries Louise. Louise is a wealthy woman in her own right and her family is fabulously so. Louise’s father so much as offers to buy the newspaper for Maxwell, but of course Maxwell would never accept such a gift. He’s built up a little nest egg and has decided to quit the paper and try his hand in the theatre. Louise is overjoyed — she, at least, is convinced of Maxwell’s genius. Perhaps she’s a bit too enamored. To her, Maxwell’s play is Maxwell’s alone, and she resents the intrusion of actors and directors and producers into the mix. She fails to see the collaborative nature of the theatrical business, and she fails to see that it even is a business —¬† a play may be a great work of art, but if fails to sell tickets, nobody is going to stage it. Add to that the irrational jealousy Louise develops over the female lead and you begin to imagine that Louise, as tireless and enthusiastic a champion for her husband’s work as she is, isn’t exactly helping.

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David Harum (Edward Noyes Westcott, 1898)

On a steamer, returning from Europe, John Lenox finds himself seated next to Mary Blake. They haven’t seen each other since childhood, but John is quickly enamored by Mary. The acquaintance continues once they reach New York and John’s affection grows, but he knows that he’s in no position to propose: John’s father has recently died and the estate John inherited was not quite what he anticipated. Compared to Mary’s wealth, John is a pauper.

After an abortive apprenticeship at a law office, John takes a cashier job offered by David Harum. David is a banker and horse dealer in Homeville, a small but rapidly growing town in upstate New York. Though quite successful now, he came from nothing — running away from his abusive home as a child with only a dime to his name. David has a reputation for being shrewd and not entirely honest, but the interest¬† David takes in John is genuine, and after a while, the two grow to be great friends.

John has built up a small savings after five years at work, which, by David’s advice, he has invested wisely. To use David’s words, John’s present wealth, if not great, is at least “consid’able”. John has made partner at the bank and David intends for him to take ownership once he retires.

One winter, John takes seriously ill. The doctor advises him to travel to a warm, dry climate to recuperate, which, under David’s insistence, he reluctantly agrees to do. Aboard the ship to Italy, John runs into Mary again. They haven’t met since John went to Homeville, and events and accidents had transpired that prevented them even from writing to one another. Mary appears to be married — at least, that’s John’s impression — and so, safe in defeat, John is fearless enough to declare his love. But John is mistaken: Mary is not married and she loves John as well. Further, she’s not unwilling to give life in Homeville a try.