The Window (Alice Grant Rosman, 1928)

Mrs. Willingdon is about to dedicate an antique stained glass window in the village church to her beloved son Terry, a fallen hero of the Great War. Or perhaps he was a deserter who knocked-up a nineteen year old then disappeared into the diamond mines of Africa. Either way. Pat Eden adopted the little boy, Michael. She and Terry had been in love before the war but his mother had selected Dorris, the dim-witted daughter of Sir Duffield, for his bride. The Colonel is unaware of the boy but Mrs. Willingdon knows about this horrible slander against Terry’s sainted memory and wants to somehow get rid of Pat. Maybe the bishop could do it.

Christopher Royle is back in England having unexpectedly inherited his ancestral home, Windyhill. Before taking residence, he stops in Dorne, falls madly in love with Pat, and becomes a father to Michael. The Colonel, an infirm old man largely confined to the house, has heard rumors. This Royle fellow grievously insulted his wife somehow and it has something to do with Pat. He goes to investigate and, on seeing Michael, at once knows he’s his grandchild. He disappears and his body is found later at the bottom of the chalk mine.

Inscription: From the Skowhegan Free Public Library, last checked out by Gladys Greene on March 30th, 1968.

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The Threshold (Marjorie Benton Cooke, 1918)

Having grown up in a factory town in a household of factory workers, Joan strives to get into college and do something to improve the laboring class’s lot. After graduating and in need of work, an employment agency sets her up as a sort of governess for seventeen years old Dick Norton, nephew of Gregory Farwell, owner of the Farwell cotton mill. Joan is up-front about who she is and what she intends to do, but Dick clicks with her at once and Farwell takes her anyway.

It’s not that Farwell is an evil capitalist — he’s an absentee one. He has no knowledge of his mill or his employees and desires none. His superintendents can care for that. He would rather cloister himself in Farwell Hall and forget the outside world exists. Joan, who is also to be Dick’s tutor, promises not to indoctrinate him, but she hopes that when he finally opens his eyes, he’ll come to socialism on his own.

That doesn’t take very long. Dick is a bright boy and a quick learner — no one knew simply because he’d been idle all his life. If the mill is to be his when he turns 21, he reasons he should know something about it and he takes an entry-level carding job. After not many weeks he and his new pal Patsy Rafferty, who grew up in the mill, decide to organize a labor union. Scabs are brought in and the militia called to break through the strikers. Dick sees them firing on unarmed protestors, including Patsy’s young brother. Wild with rage, he burns down the mill.

As Joan warned Gregory, if he didn’t go to the mill, the mill would come to him. Dick is indicted for arson, but Gregory manages to have the charges dropped. He also allows Dick free reign in the rebuilding effort. He, Joan, and Patsy intend to make a model, co-operative mill town and begin laying the foundations for it, employing all those now out of work for its construction. It might bankrupt Dick, but he thinks it’s a risk worth taking. Gregory, who’s come to love this governess who’s upset his entire world, asks Joan to marry him. She agrees so long as he understands that she may be gone weeks or months at a time organizing the downtrodden in towns across the nation.

No inscriptions.

The Red Lane (Holman Day, 1912)

Evangeline comes home from the convent to find her Acadian father Beaulieu is a smuggler and has arranged her marriage to fellow smuggler Roi. Away she flees to become a teacher at the new English school further up the St. John and falls in love with Aldrich, a customs agent. Dad and fiance aren’t anywhere near ready to give up, though. Meanwhile, the land the Acadians have been squatting on for generations has been bought up by a lumber syndicate and they’re evicted. Their representative has been tirelessly trying to buy the land, but a newcomer with connections to Roi (and the syndicate, but that’s a secret) threatens to oust him come election time.

No inscriptions.

The Able McLaughlins (Margaret Wilson, 1923)

Christie McNair is raped by her cousin Peter Keith and is left pregnant. Wully McLaughlin, her boyfriend before the war, convinces her to marry him and insists that the child is his, taking the blame on himself for the child being conceived out of wedlock. Peter disappears and is missing for a number of years, driving his mother to the brink of insanity — he was always her golden child. The McLaughlins are threatened when Peter is spotted nearby. Wully would kill him but finds him already near death in a livery stable. He would as soon leave him there, but Christie insists that would be wrong and that they must take him — alive, dying, or dead — to his mother.

No inscriptions.

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.

The Vindication (Harriet T. Comstock, 1916)

Remo is a little village hidden in the hills of Quebec, but hardly one you might call idyllic. Several years ago, a party posing as a family book a room at the inn. The man soon leaves, but the woman and the young child that plainly isn’t hers stay behind. They’re regularly sent large sums of money — large, at least, in the eyes of De Lesser, the innkeeper — but then both the woman and child become deathly ill.

De Lesser took Sue from the Indian Reservation outside of town. She became his housekeeper, barkeeper, cook, maid, and general slave. She also became pregnant with his child, but he sent it back to the Reservation before she’d even seen it. The woman was being cared for by Sue and at least partly took Sue into her confidence. She was not the child’s mother, she was a hired nurse; nor had the man been the child’s father. She gives her addresses to write to and code names to use when either she or the baby dies.

De Lesser and Sue hold a brief conference before the doctor is called for. If the woman dies, then she dies, but if the baby dies, then the mysterious funds that arrive every month will stop. A substitution is made. The dying infant is left at the Reservation and Sue’s baby takes its place. The woman does not recover. Word is sent that she’s dead but that the child still lives. Funding for Lorraine continues for years upon years and she’s brought up with the vague belief that one day some rich parents will reclaim her.

Chester, the other child, didn’t die either, but comes very near to it. Dr. Manford Hill, who took the village practice, wants very much to have a family, but the conventional means of going about that don’t seem likely in Remo. He convinces Sue to allow him to adopt Chet. The boy flourishes under Man’s care, proving in his mind that blood means nothing, character is defined by environment. It isn’t very long that Man finds Sue accosting Chet for money. It seems the payments have stopped, and without them, De Lesser is going to sell Lorraine to “the half-breed Vic” recently out of prison and back on the Reservation.

Lorraine comes to live with the Hills. Meanwhile, a couple are searching the countryside. Philip Mordaunt and his wife Alice have learned the terrible secret Philip’s younger brother Martin confessed to only after his death. The Mordaunts ran a successful law firm and Martin sought to consolidate his inheritance by removing Philip and Alice’s offspring from the picture. He was the man who had left the baby and nurse at Remo, and paid for their silence for more than twenty years. The Mordaunts find their lost child, but to Lorraine’s surprise, it isn’t her. She never knew that Sue actually was her mother.

Chet agreed, after graduating college, to spend a year with the Mordaunts in the city. He will know both sides then. Philip is confident that the Mordaunt heritage will win out and that the appeals of wealth and society will turn his head. Alice is less so. The end of the year finds Chet back in Remo to go into practice with Man, and madly in love with Lorraine.

No inscriptions.

That Mrs. Renney (Donald Henderson Clarke, 1937)

Dan is passionately, devotedly, slavishly in love with Alice, but Ike invited her to the dance first and she already accepted. Dan is so hurt he wants to show Alice what it’s like, and, well, one thing leads to another and he finds himself married to Helen, an alcoholic would-be actress. Dan’s family is comfortably well off but by no means rich. Nevertheless, Helen milks the Renneys for every penny she can get. Her affairs are notorious, but Dan’s faith is blind to a fault. Once they’re bankrupted, she plans on divorcing him.

No inscriptions.