Mary-‘Gusta (Joseph C. Lincoln, 1916)

When Marcellus Hall dies, the single question on everyone’s mind is what’s to become of his seven year old stepdaughter, Mary Augusta Lathrop. Whoever takes her, it’s assumed that she’ll be well provided for — Hall was a wealthy man and he had no other heirs. It comes a shock to Shadrach Gould and Zoeth Hamilton that, in his will, Hall asked them to adopt Mary-‘Gusta. It comes as another shock that, whatever money Hall once had, it’s gone now. He died nearly a pauper.

Shad and Zoeth have lived together for some 35 years. They were once business partners with Marcellus Hall, but something happened — something unspeakable that everyone would rather as not forget — and the business went bankrupt. Now they keep a general store of their own in Cape Cod. Though far from rich, they spare no expense in raising Mary-‘Gusta and ensuring that she has every possible advantage, including sending her away to a fancy finishing school in Boston. They keep it a secret from everyone, Mary-‘Gusta too, that there is no trust fund — they’re paying for it all.

Mary-‘Gusta is a very sensible and level-headed girl. She’s not there just to find a husband, as many of the other girls are. Still, a friendship develops between her and Crawford Smith that grows into love. Crawford hopes to go to medical school at Harvard, to the chagrin of his father back in Nevada, who has an extreme prejudice against the east coast.

Mary-‘Gusta finds out accidentally that she has no money of her own. She returns home at once to find her uncles drowning in debt, their store failing for lack of operating funds, and facing the almost inevitability of losing the house. Under her stewardship, and with the help of friends and connections she made in Boston, she pulls them out of their death spiral.

Crawford, back in Nevada, asks his father’s permission to marry Mary-‘Gusta. This he won’t grant and it’s no wonder that he won’t: Edgar Farmer, alias Edwin Smith, was the fourth partner at the Hall company, who embezzled every penny they had then ran away with Zoeth Hamilton’s wife. Crawford only learns his shameful family history on his father’s deathbed. He and Mary-‘Gusta are reconciled and marry. He takes up a medical practice in Cape Cod.

Inscription: Signed Hazel Dermody on the front flyleaf. Directly beneath the signature, in the same hand, is written “Warning:- the book is minus a page, number 7+8. Of little consequence to the reader. H.D.” And she was right. It appears to be a factory error as I can see no sign of a page being torn or cut out.


Viviette (William J. Locke, 1916)

Dick is not at all like his younger brother Austin. He isn’t popular, isn’t quick-witted, isn’t well educated, and doesn’t have a high profile or high paying job. He depends on Austin, and Austin is very generous towards Dick, but Austin takes his brother for granted and doesn’t begin to understand how humiliated and emasculated Dick feels. The only thing the brothers have in common is their love for Viviette. She leads them both on but demurs from accepting either of their marriage proposals. In truth, she’s not simply playing the coquette; she honestly can’t choose. Austin could give her wealth and society, but there’s something about Dick’s primitive, passionate love that fascinates her.

As usual, Austin isn’t even aware that Dick cares for Viviette, and his behavior towards her drives Dick almost mad with jealousy. A misunderstanding occurs in which Dick thinks Viviette has finally chosen Austin over himself, and Dick, pushed passed the breaking point, attempts to kill his brother. The attempt fails, but it awakens Austin to the situation. Dick wants to leave England and find some outdoor work in the New World, where he might live independently of his younger brother. Austin arranges a place for him in Vancouver — the condition being that Dick never see Viviette again. Austin is concerned by the murderous streak he’s suddenly discovered in Dick, and to prove that he’s not acting mercenary, he abandons Viviette himself.

The brothers are agreed, but Viviette is not. She has found that she’s up to the risk and has chosen at last. She will marry Dick and go with him to Vancouver.

Inscriptions: a stamp on the front flyleaf reveals that it was from the library of Mt. Kineo House, a large resort hotel on Moosehead Lake. The hotel, in one form or another, was in operation from 1844 to 1938, when it closed and, shortly thereafter, burned down. This is one of several books I’ve got from Kineo. On the back flyleaf, someone has been practicing what appears to be Chinese. I can’t transcribe it here, but there are 13 characters scattered haphazardly across the page. I only recognize one of them: 日, sun.

Mr. Britling Sees It Through (H.G. Wells, 1916)

An English author is disillusioned of his idealistic, futurist vision of society by the events of WWI — particularly, by the death of his eldest son. But in his despair, he also realizes that he’s witnessing the last gasp of the age of kings and imperial conquest, and that when the fighting finally ends, Europe will inevitably have been dragged out of its own past and into the modern era.

Inscriptions: On the back of the last page, someone has drawn an old woman. From her stiff posture and dark eyes, I think it’s meant to be Aunt Wilshire.