Leave Me With a Smile (Elliott White Springs, 1928)

Armistice has just been declared and aviator Henry Winton is among the first to return home. There are those that want to parade him around as a hero — none more so than his father, a mill owner who sees his son as his ticket to important business and political alliances — but the war has made Henry deeply cynical. He wants nothing to do with jingoistic patriots and military fetishism. He has very little desire to follow in his father’s footsteps. He’s in love with Phyllis, a woman who’s not entirely divorced yet.

Repetitive. Henry is torn between loyalty to his father and his love for Phyllis. By the end, I frankly didn’t care what happened to him.

No inscriptions.

The Guest of Quesnay (Booth Tarkington, 1907)

A drunkard and a drug addict drives away his long-suffering wife with his drinking and drugs. After the divorce, he takes up with a Spanish dancer, but a car accident ends her dancing career and nearly ends him altogether. Two years later, a landscape painter a bit aged-out of being fashionable takes his usual room at a French inn to work through the summer. It’s an out of the way place, but two mysterious guests show up: a famous psychologist and an unknown man. Quesnay, the local chateau, has been taken by some old friends of the painter with the ex-wife hired on as a sort of caretaker. It turns out the unknown man was the dissipated ex-husband, who is also turns out wasn’t too ex- to begin with — his wife having never completed the divorce suit. He was left amnesic after the wreck and the psychologist had the grand plan of rebuilding this blank slate into good, upstanding man and reuniting him with his wife.

I don’t know why, but I can’t ever suspend my disbelief for amnesia stories and this was no real exception. I like Tarkington, though, and enjoyed the rest of it.

Inscriptions: “Westford, Mass” on the front endpaper.

The Rider of the King Long (Holman Day, 1919)

A large paper firm is trying to monopolize access to a river dependent on by the local loggers. The X.K. refuses to sell out and won’t be denied their water rights. Since her father’s death, Claire has been the head of the X.K. Donald Kezar is in love with Claire, but with her in power over the firm, he sees himself losing his power over her. He begins secretly sabotaging their operations — at last reaching that point that he’d rather see the X.K. out of business than in Claire’s hands.

Inscriptions: From the Stratton Public Library, in Stratton, Maine. First added to the collection in 1933, last checked out by H.S. Dexter in August 31st, 1953. Not a very fast reader — kept it out for six weeks, altogether.

Echo of Drums (Louis Beauregard Pendleton, 1938)

So Pendleton really, really hates black people. I suppose I could do a more traditional synopsis: a family of planters in Georgia go through degradation in the post-war period, but it all comes back to Pendleton really, really, really hating black people. Also, blood libel. He quite freely mixes antisemitism and racism. Anyone who isn’t blond haired and blue eyed is evil, essentially.

Inscriptions: on the flyleaf: “To the Bradleys with sincere thanks for giving me insights into the width and breadth of the marriage license as set forth by an ill-informed negro lady. Sincerely, Alva Balden (or Baldin, perhaps), Xmas 1939”

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.

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.