The Scarlet Pimpernel (Baroness Orczy, 1905)

During the Reign of Terror, French aristocrats try to flee across the English Channel to escape the guillotine. They are assisted by a mysterious Englishman known only by the insignia with which he signs his correspondence, a scarlet pimpernel. Sir Percy is married to a Frenchwoman, Marguerite, whose brother Armand has been implicated in counter-revolutionary activity. To save his life, she betrays certain knowledge she has about who the Scarlet Pimpernel is to Chauvelin, the French Republic representative in England. She didn’t know at the time but quickly discovers that the Scarlet Pimpernel is, in fact, her husband. She tries to beat Chauvelin to France to warn Sir Percy of the danger he’s in.

Inscriptions: “Stratton Public Library” is handwritten on both end papers, withdrawn July 14th 1998 (printed in 1910 — 88 years is a good run for a library book). Stamped on the bottom margin of page 99 is “F.E. Timberlake, Investment Securities, No. 78 Exchange Street, Portland, Me.”

Squire Phin (Holman Day, 1905)

Palermo is a small town in Mid-Coast Maine near to Rockland. Bear in mind, while the real-life Palermo is land-locked, this one isn’t. In fact, had the town been given a fictional name, I’d have guessed it was Camden.

The people there are farmers or they work in shipping, almost to a man. Judge Willard is the local aristocracy. He and his father before him have been the town treasurer for decades. The Willards are assumed to be fabulously rich — he must know how to handle money. The Looks are the black sheep of Palermo, but Phineas Look gets out, goes to law school, and finishes top in his class. He could practice anywhere, but chooses to come back to Palermo. Few of the townspeople have more than a basic education, so Squire Phin is treated as a reference desk and general authority on anything.

Phin and Sylvena, the Judge’s daughter, are in love, but the Judge will not see a Willard married to a Look. He has selected King Bradish for her. The Judge is a financier and he takes Bradish on with him. Phin begins to notice certain irregularities. According to the accounts, the town is only $2,000 in debt this year, yet a client comes in with a note for $7,000 signed by the Judge. More and more comes out, and it becomes clear that the Judge must have embezzled at the very least tens of thousands of dollars from the town.

If this was exposed, it would ruin the Willards, including Sylvena, and would forever tarnish Palermo’s reputation. Instead, Phin campaigns to have the Judge re-elected, allow him time to liquidate everything he owns to mostly pay back the embezzled funds, and then Phin covers for the rest. The books now clean, the Judge resigns. Phin and Sylvena marry.

Inscriptions: stamped a couple times on the front endpaper and flyleaf, “From the office of Jos. C. Holman, Farmington, Me.” Relative, perhaps? Farmington isn’t far from Auburn.

At the Sign of the Jack o’ Lantern (Myrtle Reed, 1905)

Dorothy and Harlan Carr, newlyweds, have just inherited Harlan’s uncle’s estate. He can’t imagine why, as he’d never even met Ebenezer Judson before. With a place to live and nearly $400 in savings, Harlan quits his reporter job to follow his dream of becoming a novelist. It’s a massive, rambling place, with an uncountable number of beds and cribs, but it should provide a quiet place for Harlan to write his book.

Then the guests begin to arrive. Ebenezer — or, more correctly, his wife Rebecca, who died while they were still newlyweds themselves — had an unending number of relatives, however distant or fictional the connections might be. The guests began inviting themselves after Rebecca’s death, usually staying from spring to autumn, more or less pointedly asserting their claim on Ebenezer and the expectation that they’ll be remembered in his will. Ebenezer’s death has done nothing to stem the flow.

To be fair, none of them knew Ebenezer was dead. None of them are exactly grieving, either. That they weren’t explicitly mentioned in the will comes as no surprise; that wasn’t Ebenezer’s way. They expect to find their recompense hidden somewhere only they’d find. Eventually, they do find the box buried in the orchard containing $2.68, to be divided such that everyone gets more or less eight cents a piece.

After the hopefully final departure of the guests, Harlan’s book is finished, and even if it’s no good (it’s terrible — we get frequent excerpts as he writes), the Carrs are set. They learn that, in addition to the estate itself, they also take Ebenezer’s 2,000 acre farm and $10,000 in ready cash. Of his many, many relations, Ebenezer wrote, Harlan was the best one.

Inscriptions: Signed L.E. Peary in what l looks to be felt-tipped marker in an elaborate script on the flyleaf. L.E. Peary is also penciled on the end paper in a more conventional hand that I could actually read.

The Spoilers (Rex Beach, 1905)

In the Alaskan gold rush, McNamara exploits a feeble-minded judge and corrupt local politicians to steal all the valuable claims on the Midas River. Glenister, one of the aggrieved miners, is in love with Helen, the Judge’s niece. Helen is engaged to McNamara, not knowing anything about the conspiracy and not doubting his or her uncle’s integrity.

The miners assemble and most are in favor of lynching the Judge and McNamara and taking their mines back. Helen, new to the North, abhors violence, and so Glenister tries to reason with them to go through the courts. But with each appeal, it would seem all the region’s legal system is in McNamara’s pocket, and the Judge openly defies federal orders. Winter is coming and the seas are treacherous, but one man braves them to get to San Francisco for an arrest warrant.

Helen grows suspicious and tries to secure incriminating documents to help the miners, particularly Glenister, who she’s fallen in love with. After she’s nearly raped by one of McNamara’s men, she also amends he stance on non-violence. Some people just need killin’. Glenister, at the end of his rope, decides to go into town and take care of McNamara with his bare hands.

McNamara is beaten to within a hair’s breadth of death and a mob is out for the other conspirators, but it’s only a moral victory for the miners as they’re surely all going to prison. Just then, the man returns from San Francisco with warrants for the arrest of the Judge and McNamara and writs vindicating the miners.

Having seen this parodied in The Soilers (1923), I expected the fight scene to be longer. To be fair, I suppose it is a whole chapter and it is super violent, but I guess I was expecting something more cartoonish.

Inscriptions: signed Emma I Walker on the front flyleaf. At the start of the chapter “Wherein a Trap is Baited”, there’s a grocery delivery receipt apparently used as a bookmark. On 8/10/45, Emma bought two bushels of cabbage, seven buckets of tomatoes, and five bushels of carrots. No one may say that the Walkers didn’t eat their vegetables.