The Portygee (Joseph C. Lincoln, 1919)

Zelotes’s daughter elopes with an Italian opera singer, which in his small town Cape Cod eyes is just about the worst thing ever. There’s nothing he hates more than a Portygee (all foreigners are Portygee, and foreigner can mean anyone from outside the county). Daughter dies, and later, her husband dies as well. Their son, Alberto Speranza, becomes Zelotes’s ward. He can barely contain his outrage at the boy’s half-breed blood. Albert, as he’s now called, is an aspiring writer and poet, and Zelotes thinks that’s just the most idiotic nonsense. He’s not a fan of fiction on general principle. He makes the boy work as an assistant bookkeeper at his lumber yard and hopes to groom him into eventually inheriting the business.

It’s a culture shock leaving New York and coming to South Harniss, but Albert makes friends both among the locals and the summer residents. His best friend, Helen, is a local. He’s fallen in love with a summerer, Madeline. She loves his poems, some of which he’s gotten published. Her family is extremely wealthy and thoroughly disapprove. Madeline is whisked away. In despair, Albert enlists in the army to fight in the World War.

His military career is pretty short. In his first battle, they’re ambushed by Germans and his lieutenant is shot. He drags him to safety, then runs back into the fray to save his buddy and is caught in an explosion. It’s thought he died and he’s hailed as a hero at home and awarded a posthumous Croix de Guerre. Before he left, an anthology of his poems had just been published and now they’re a best seller. Zelotes gets the first $3,000 royalty check and, though he still doesn’t understand it, he has to admit he was wrong and apparently somebody buys these things.

Albert didn’t die, though. He was badly injured but still alive and was taken captive. He spent the war in a POW camp. He returns with a hero’s welcome, although in his own eyes, he’s no hero. He was captured in his very first battle — he’s a dismal failure. Madeline’s parents have completely reversed course and welcome Albert into the family, but he’s changed and he can’t see what he ever saw in Madeline to begin with. He returns to South Harniss and realizes it was Helen all along.

In the end, he’s got a contract to write a series of stories for $500 each and he’s elected to congress. Zelotes evolves as a character, starting as an unrepentant racist, then learning to hide his racist tendencies, and eventually he repents his racism. People can come from anywhere and that’s okay, so long as they speak English. One step at time.

Inscriptions: None, though there was a bookmark evidently torn from some other book. There isn’t much text on it: “fian! Not f/continent/eal to” on one side, “hey’ll not ge/fers met, w/eneral” on the other.

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.

Rugged Water (Joseph C. Lincoln, 1924)

Calvin is the Number One man at the Setuckit life saving station, and after the retirement of Captain Oz, he expects to be promoted to keeper. And he would have been, had it not been for Benoni. Benoni was a life saver at the nearby Crooked Hill station. The Crooked Hill gang made a disastrous blunder one storm and all hands, save Benoni, were lost. He escaped entirely by luck — although to hear him tell it, it was the will of God that he should live. Benoni was already something of a born again, but the wreck has driven him into a religious mania. He’s a dangerous person to have around, both the Setuckit crew and the life saving superintendent agree, but the press have turned him into a hero, and politicians courting voters have had their sway. Benoni is made captain at Setuckit.

Calvin is troubled less than Myra at this setback. Myra is secretly engaged to Calvin — secretly because she’s less interested in him than she is in using him for her own advancement, and the future marriage was contingent on the captaincy. Calvin, in truth, is relieved to be rid of her now that he’s discovered true love in the form of Benoni’s daughter Norma. Norma’s opinion of her father’s ability to lead isn’t very much greater than that of the others’, and in Calvin, she finds someone who can support and direct him, which Calvin promises to do.

The charade is kept up while the seas are calm, but it couldn’t last through too many rescues. Calvin is forced to assume command when Benoni refuses to respond to a ship signalling distress, insistent that he’s personally spoken to God and that God will deliver them. The fallout results in Benoni’s dismissal. Norma, who’s found out about Myra, thinks it was all a plot — that Calvin never cared for her and had just been angling to be made captain — and breaks all contact with him.

Benoni never recovers from the last mental break. God has anointed him and this coastline is his. One storm, he sneaks out from under his daughter’s careful watch and steals a boat. It falls on Calvin, who’s alone at the station sick with rheumatic fever, to rescue him. When Norma learns of this, and further learns of the actual circumstances of Calvin’s engagement to Myra and of what actually happened the night of the “mutiny”, she more than forgives Calvin. The book ends with the two engaged.

Inscription: “2/13/25, For Mother’s birthday, from Russell & Ethel” on the front flyleaf.

The Depot Master (Joseph C. Lincoln, 1910)

I’m tempted to say this is a book with characters and no plot, but that isn’t entirely true. There is a slight through-line, involving a soon to be homeless widow and her once upon a time fiance who goes to extraordinary means to win her back, but altogether, than might be eight or ten pages out of the book. The greater part is simply a look at a small Cape Cod town and the people who inhabit it, and the colorful stories they tell each other of sometimes questionable veracity.