Red Horse Hill (Sidney McCall, 1909)

Maris’s husband Martin abandons her and takes their daughter, Felicia. She spends years trying to find them, but they’ve vanished. At last she’s informed that he’s dead. She has a breakdown. In the hospital, she makes the acquaintance of Dwight Alden. They are soon married. Alden is a cotton mill owner in a small southern town. The mills are notorious for their flagrant child labor abuses. One young girl is caught in the machinery and has her arm mangled. It’s Felicia — Martin, now Willis, is still alive and has sold her to the mill for liquor money. Maris takes Felicia and flees to her hometown. She and Martin were legally divorced and that’s good enough for Dwight, but Maris won’t stay in his house while Martin is still alive, which isn’t long — he’d already drank himself half to death and he wasn’t slowing down.

Inscription: signed “Florence M. Lessig” on the front flyleaf. She wrote it out in pencil first then went over it in pen.

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The Foreigner (Ralph Connor, 1909)

Fleeing from persecution in Czarist Russia are Michael Kalmar, his wife, his two children, and his trusted friend Rosenblatt. Rosenblatt, however, has betrayed them and they’re shot at by border guards. Kalmar’s wife is killed. He marries a thick-headed woman named Paulina purely to see his children safely landed in Canada while he seeks revenge.

Winnipeg is not really a city as yet. It’s on the very pale of civilization. The part of town occupied by the Slavs — those who the British pioneers collectively call Galicians, regardless of origin — is just beyond it. The conditions are a nightmare. Kalmar supplied Paulina with money to buy a house, but she’s in a foreign land and understands no one. An agent takes her, Rosenblatt. The house is bought, but it quickly becomes a boarding house where Paulina and the children must work for free, and where for a little more, a guest might spend the night with Paulina. All the further funds Kalmar sends go directly into Rosenblatt’s pocket.

When Kalmar escapes from Siberia and traces Rosenblatt to Winnipeg, he attempts assassinating him without success. He’s jailed but escapes from his prison cell and vanishes once more. It was decided, though, that daughter Irma will go to school, where she should learn English, dress in western clothes, and begin integrating into Canadian society. Son Kalman, at the mercy of Rosenblatt and the vile influence of Winnipeg at home, is sent out into the country to a ranch run by Jack French.

The railroad is coming and soon the land will become a province of Canada. Kalman has discovered a coal mine which could mean his fortune, but Rosenblatt attempts to claim jump it. When that fails, he tries to seal Kalman and Jack in the mine and blow it up. Just then, Kalmar returns and sets fire to Rosenblatt. Before he dies, he fatally shoots Kalmar. The blood debt is over to Kalman’s relief, as he could not have carried it forward since he’s become a Presbyterian and has adapted to Canadian civil rule.

No inscriptions.

Truxton King (George Barr McCutcheon, 1909)

Truxton King, son of an American steel tycoon, travels the world in search of adventure. He finds it in the tiny Eastern European principality of Graustark. This is one of many sequels to Graustark. I’ve already read one of them, The Prince of Graustark. That was a very light romance novel and I expected this to be one as well, but no, it’s rather dark and political.

Robin, the prince, is only seven years old, he having ascended the throne after his parents died in a train wreck. He has regents, but his primary guide is John Tullis, an American who was his father’s closest friend. Graustark has embarked on a rail project that would link Russia to Afghanistan. Russia is eager to invest — indeed, they’re eager to take a controlling share of the company, and it’s for that reason that Tullis maintains it would be wise for Graustark to seek more friendly investors in France and England.

Truxton has been smitten by the armorer’s niece, who he’s sure is a noblewoman in disguise. She was, at least, a gentlewoman in former times, but now she’s a member of the Committee of Ten, who aim to start a Bolshevik revolution in Graustark. Taking him for a spy, Truxton is captured and threatened with execution. Meanwhile, the disgraced and exiled Count Marlanx plots to install himself on the throne by kidnapping Tullis’s sister and leading away a large part of Graustark’s army on a wild goose chase in the mountains, leaving the city virtually undefended.

Truxton and Loraine (the sister) find themselves in the same holding cell in the Committee of Ten’s underground bunker — Marlanx is using them for his own aims by claiming to be a revolutionist himself. The two escape, but can they save little Prince Robin from assassination, Marlanx from capturing Graustark, and Russia from buying it out from under them?

Inscriptions: “~Papa~, From Clara May, Dec. 25, 1913”, on the front flyleaf. On page 19, someone who I can only assume is Clara May’s papa has written “E.N. Phinney -1913-” along the right margin.

The White Sister (F. Marion Crawford, 1909)

Angela, the daughter of a Roman prince, finds herself penniless after her father’s death. Her boyfriend would leave the army and find a higher paying job to support them so that they might marry at once, but she’ll not have anyone think Giovanni is a coward. She pressures him to accept the commission to Africa he’s been offered, promising that she’ll wait for him and they’ll marry on his return. The detail is ambushed and every man is killed. After years of hoping against hope, Angela at last accepts that Giovanni is dead. She joins the White Sisters, a group of nuns who run a hospital in Rome, and eventually takes the veil herself as a nurse-nun.

Five years later, Giovanni returns. He has been enslaved and kept closely guarded, but at last managed to escape. I think it would be fair to call him an agnostic — he’s open to the idea of gods and of an afterlife, but thinks religion is nothing more than foolish superstition. To him, there’s no reason in the world why Angela can’t honor her promise and marry him. However, pious Angela — or Sister Giovanna, as she’s now known — sees things quite differently. Her vows are irrevocable and she would not think of asking for a dispensation.

Giovanni does not take it well. He’s stationed at an ammunition dump when an anarchist’s bomb goes off. After the explosion that shatters every window in the city, Giovanni is found badly injured. His doctors are confident that his life can be saved if he’ll consent to being operated on, but he refuses. He would rather die, however long or painful his final days may be, than live without Angela. Sister Giovanna is torn — knowing that, if she holds, she surely sentences him to death, yet to relent would mean to break her vow.

Monsignor Saracinesca, though a man of God, is still a human. If Giovanni consents to the operation, he promises to use his influence with the Cardinal to get a dispensation for Angela — which, in normal circumstances, she would have to request herself.

The White Sister isn’t one of the core Saracinesca books (the only one of which I’ve read being Sant’ Ilario), but it’s part of that continuity.

Inscription: signed with the single name “Langley” at the top of the front flyleaf.

The Gun Runner (Arthur Stringer, 1909)

A telegrapher aboard a cargo ship is caught up in an attempted coup in a Central American banana republic and hijacks a train full of smuggled ammunition from the rebels to give to the fruit company’s government because he’s fallen in love with the Minister of War’s sister. If that log line summary makes the story sound exciting, it’s really not. I don’t know how, but the author managed to make this “supertale of modern mystery” one of the dullest books I’ve read in some time.

No inscriptions.