The Covered Wagon (Emerson Hough, 1922)

The Wingates are taking the Oregon Trail to start a new life in the Willamette Valley. Jessie Wingate is elected train leader, though he lacks any leadership ability. Will Banion — who actually has some experience on the trail and knows how to take command and responsibility — would have been a better pick, but they already decided on Jessie and no taksies-backsies. Molly, Jessie’s daughter, has more or less been arranged to marry Sam Woodhull, though it isn’t long before she falls for Banion. This throws Woodhull into a murderous rage and breaks apart the train.

The rest of the novel is pretty much the Wingate train stumbling into an Indian ambush, the Banion train rescuing them, and Woodhull slandering Banion and plotting his murder. Lather, rinse, and repeat. Eventually they reach the fork in the trail splitting off to either Oregon or California. Banion, who’s learned that there’s gold in them thar hills, opts for the southerly route, trailed by Woodhull, still murderous. The Wingates press on north for whatever reason. Jessie gives a vanguard of civilization speech that rings rather hollow, given his character. I’d say it’s pigheadedness more than anything.

In California, Banion strikes it rich. Woodhull — who, I might say, has spent a year plotting this assassination — trips on some rocks, is spotted, and gets himself shot. Banion loads up his tons of gold, heads to Oregon, and marries Molly.

Inscriptions: The flyleaf is stamped “W.K. McDonald, Stony Brook Farm”. Beneath that, someone’s written “May 22, 1929”.

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A Busy Year at the Old Squire’s (C.A. Stephens, 1922)

A continuation of When Life was Young. The kids are two years older, making the unnamed author fourteen; Addison and Theodora eighteen; and Halstead, Ellen, and Wealthy… two years older than whatever they were. Wealthy is the youngest, I think Halstead and Ellen are the same age as the author. Otherwise, it’s simply more recollections of the author’s youth at his grandfather’s farm in Maine after the Civil War. Notable stories include meeting Hannibal Hamlin on his senatorial campaign, where he gave a speech in a disused church infested with bees that eventually drove the listeners to make a hasty retreat. It ends with Addison buying a stand of what’s thought to be ordinary maple trees but what are actually valuable curly maples. It had been a lean year without much money to spare, but Addison’s windfall will pay for both his and Theodora’s admission to college.

Inscription: Ex libris of the Mantor Library at Farmington State College. The library is still called Mantor, but the school is now the University of Maine at Farmington. On the fore-edge is written “D.F. Brown”.

Captain Blood (Rafael Sabatini, 1922)

Peter Blood, Irish surgeon, has the misfortune of being caught rendering aid to a man on the wrong side of the Monmouth Rebellion. He had no care at all for the man’s politics and saw only that he was hurt. For this, Blood is condemned to slavery in Barbados. Spanish privateers sack the port city, and in the confusion, he and a group of other slaves steal the Spanish ship and escape, beginning their own lives of gentlemanly piracy. After the Glorious Revolution and the deposition of James II, Blood is once more a free man. More than that, after the valor he shows in his defeat of the French fleet threatening Jamaica, he’s made the governor of that island.

Inscription: a small strip of paper is pasted to the front flyleaf, on which has been typewritten “Harold T. Dunlap”.

Flowing Gold (Rex Beach, 1922)

In the war, Calvin Gray was dishonorably discharged on the false accusations of a fellow officer. The other man, Henry Nelson, is now the vice-president of a bank in Texas. Gray arrives in town and sets about first enriching himself in the oil boom, then using his funds to stage a hostile takeover of the bank and ruin Nelson.

Gray isn’t only driven by spite. He becomes close friends of the Briskows, a family of nouveau-riche “nesters” — quite rustic in character but trying to find a guide to help them enter society. Many are willing to take their money, but Gray seems to be the only one who doesn’t laugh when their backs are turned. Allie, the Briskow daughter, falls in love with Gray.

No inscriptions.

Doors of the Night (Frank L. Packard, 1922)

Billy Zane Kane is the private secretary to David Ellsworth, the multimillionaire, ruby collector, and noted philanthropist. Part of Billy’s job is vetting the stories of all the poor people who appeal to Ellsworth for help. Those who tell the truth are handsomely rewarded, and those that are running a con are turned out. It’s a job that quickly familiarizes Billy to New York’s underworld and the people who haunt it.

Late one evening, Billy discovers that his boss has been murdered and the rubies stolen. It’s clear that whoever  committed the crime intended for Billy to take the wrap, as all the evidence left points conclusively to him. Pursued by the police, Billy escapes into the underworld, where he finds himself mistaken for a gangster known as the Rat. The resemblance must be uncanny, as no one so much as doubts that the Rat is back in town.

Billy intends to use the new persona as a cover to search for Ellsworth’s real killer, who he eventually identifies as the Man with the Crutch, but the appearance of the Woman in Black complicates matters. The Woman in Black is holding something over the Rat — what, Billy doesn’t know, but evidently it’s enough put him in her power. She directs hims to thwart all his gang’s criminal activities, which he does by adopting a third persona. All of them are dangerous: Billy Kane is hunted by the police, the Man in the Mask is hunted by the underworld, and the Rat will be in a sticky situation should the actual Rat ever return.

Speaking of that, where is the Rat and how is it that his impersonator has gone unnoticed so long? As it turns out, he’s never been away at all — the Rat and the Man with the Crutch are one and the same — and he’s well aware of Billy’s activities — in fact, he’s setting Billy up to take another fall. He intends on killing the troublesome Woman in Black, after which her securities against him will be made public, but that matters little, because “the Rat” will also be found dead.

Interesting tidbit, Doors of the Night contains one of the earliest usages of “– not!” I’ve seen. There are earlier, some dating back to the 19th century, but they’re uncommon and don’t read exactly like the familiar 1990s catchphrase, which this one absolutely does:

The Cherub, a young thug with a disarmingly innocent face, is talking to Shaky Liz, a disheveled, elderly boozehound. He was speaking about his grandmother when he tells her:

“She looked just like youse, too — not!”
Shaky Liz scowled.
(Packard, 1922, p. 264)

The Conflict (Clarence Budington Kelland, 1922)

After the death of her father, Dorcas Remalie, a New York heiress, becomes the ward of her uncle. Her uncle lives in a small community deep in the countryside, where he owns thousands of acres of forest and several saw mills. There’s quite a culture shock at first, but she comes to enjoy the woods and makes friends with several of the townsfolk. She never accepts her uncle, however. Outwardly, he professes righteousness and claims the role of the put-upon martyr, but in private, he is the most ruthless and cold-hearted man alive. Uncle lives in abject terror of death, because he believes in a literal hell and is quite sure than he’s damned to it for having been complicit in the murder of his illegitimate son 25 years ago.

Much of the neighboring land has been clear-cut, but the mountain is still virgin forest. Uncle plans on acquiring and logging it, but a stranger, Jevons, arrives in town who intends on having the mountain declared a national park. Dorcas falls in love with Jevons, but overhears that he is actually the son her uncle thought was dead and has come to blackmail him. She’s torn, but ultimately decides to support Jevons.

Uncle, afraid of exposure, plots to kill both of them. Dorcas escapes and joins some friends deeper in the woods, where she becomes engaged to Jevons and he shares with her his secret plans for raising enough money to buy the mountain. Jevons disappears one night, apparently murdered by Uncle’s men. Dorcas takes the reigns herself and sees Jevons’s operations through. The mountain is saved.

Uncle, accused of Jevons’s murder, sends the foreman of his saw mill to the gallows in his place. Then he learns that it was actually the foreman who was his son. Driven into a religious madness, he dons sackcloth, covers himself in ash, and jumps to his death while muttering apocalyptic phrases. But Jevons wasn’t actually dead after all. He stumbles into town, weak from hunger and having been tied up for days, where he reunites with Dorcas.