Under Frozen Stars (George Marsh, 1928)

Jim Stuart runs a fur trading post in the Northwest Territories that does business with the Ojibwa, but lately they’ve been selling their furs to Louis LeBlond, whose head man — Paradis — seems to have been spreading rumors up north that Stuart is full of demons. Stuart goes north to clear matters up, and with the help of his Ojibwa friend Esau, he does. However, he’s also fallen in love with LeBlond’s daughter, Aurora, and Paradis has kidnapped her. Stuart has to race north again to recover her.

I know nothing of the Ojibwa language, but I’m going to assume the snatches of it included here are authentic and for that, I commend the book. Most books of this sort just hand wave it all away with “speaking in Indian”.

No inscriptions.

The Snowshoe Trail (Edison Marshall, 1921)

A woman travels to Alaska to find her fiance who was lost there six years ago. She hires a guide whose father was a gold prospector killed by his partner, and while the woman searches for the fiance, the man hopes to search for the mine. The fiance is found surprisingly fast, but it turns out that he’s the son of the murderous partner, now himself deceased, who’s spent the last six years searching for the mine himself.

Inscription: On the front flyleaf, “Lottie, from Sister Addie, Xmas 1926”.

The Garden of Allah (Robert Hichens, 1904)

The daughter of an atheist travels to the desert to find her faith, falls in love with and marries a man who it turns out is a renegade monk escaped from the monastery, and convinces him to confess and return to his vows.

It’s funny how I often struggle to summarize a 300 page book but a behemoth like this boils down to one line.

Inscriptions: Mrs. William O’Keefe, on the front endpaper.

Seventeen (Booth Tarkington, 1915)

William Sylvanus Baxter has attained the great age of seventeen and now considers himself quite an adult. He takes it as a major affront when his family, friends, or strangers don’t — never mind how passing or imaginary the slight against his adulthood may be. He is very, very self-conscious and like as not to assume everything anyone says or does is about him.

Baxter, as he would like to be called now that he’s put Silly Bill behind him, has found true and everlasting love. Young Miss Lola Pratt is visiting the Prachers and she is simply the noblest creature on the earth. She carries a tiny perfumed and often barely conscious dog with her called Flopit that she continually speaks in baby talk to. Indeed, she continually speaks in baby talk in general to everybody. Baxter builds castles in the sky for when they marry, which will be right away, of course — why, did you hear of the boy in Iowa who started shaving at 13 and in three years had a full beard and he married and they said it was the best thing that could have happened.

Trouble is, every other boy around Baxter’s age has also fallen head over heals for Miss Pratt. Baxter is only barely cognizant of them, given how true and everlasting his love is compared to their boyish infatuations. Mr. Pracher knows. Mr. Pracher knows and is being driven slowly insane by Miss Pratt’s baby prattle and the gaggle of boys that fill his house from early morning to late at night.

The book is really a series on incidents too numerous to recite in which Baxter continually defeats himself through his own self-consciousness. Cringe humor, which I don’t normally go in for, but I had fun with this one. Worried that the ending was going to turn out trite, but no, it veered hard into creepy territory instead. Hurray?

Inscription: “To George, from his friends in 214” on the front flyleaf. Don’t know what that is. The hand looks male and decidedly adult.

Squire Phin (Holman Day, 1905)

Palermo is a small town in Mid-Coast Maine near to Rockland. Bear in mind, while the real-life Palermo is land-locked, this one isn’t. In fact, had the town been given a fictional name, I’d have guessed it was Camden.

The people there are farmers or they work in shipping, almost to a man. Judge Willard is the local aristocracy. He and his father before him have been the town treasurer for decades. The Willards are assumed to be fabulously rich — he must know how to handle money. The Looks are the black sheep of Palermo, but Phineas Look gets out, goes to law school, and finishes top in his class. He could practice anywhere, but chooses to come back to Palermo. Few of the townspeople have more than a basic education, so Squire Phin is treated as a reference desk and general authority on anything.

Phin and Sylvena, the Judge’s daughter, are in love, but the Judge will not see a Willard married to a Look. He has selected King Bradish for her. The Judge is a financier and he takes Bradish on with him. Phin begins to notice certain irregularities. According to the accounts, the town is only $2,000 in debt this year, yet a client comes in with a note for $7,000 signed by the Judge. More and more comes out, and it becomes clear that the Judge must have embezzled at the very least tens of thousands of dollars from the town.

If this was exposed, it would ruin the Willards, including Sylvena, and would forever tarnish Palermo’s reputation. Instead, Phin campaigns to have the Judge re-elected, allow him time to liquidate everything he owns to mostly pay back the embezzled funds, and then Phin covers for the rest. The books now clean, the Judge resigns. Phin and Sylvena marry.

Inscriptions: stamped a couple times on the front endpaper and flyleaf, “From the office of Jos. C. Holman, Farmington, Me.” Relative, perhaps? Farmington isn’t far from Auburn.

Mr. Barnes of New York (Archibald Clavering Gunter, 1887)

Mr. Barnes of New York is in Ajaccio just in time to see a duel between an anonymous Englishman and Antonio, a Corsican. Antonio, unfortunately, doesn’t make it. His sister, Marina, swears a vendetta against the nameless naval officer. Barnes has fallen in love with Enid Anstruther, who’s in France to meet her brother Edwin, lately in the navy in Egypt but now ready to settle down at home in England. He and Marina fall in love. On their wedding night, her guardian, Count Danella, tells her that it was Edwin who killed Antonio.

He didn’t — it was another guy — but there’s quite a bit of confusion in the bridal chamber for a bit. Marina swoons. Tomasso attempts to kill Edwin but stabs Danella to death. Barnes commandeers a ship (his vast wealth come in handy at times) and gets everyone off Corsica and on the way to boring, non-murderous England.

No inscriptions.

For Love of Sigrid (Effie Adelaide Rowlands, 1895)

Sigrid is pulled out of the orphanage convent she’s lived in her whole life to serve as a traveling companion to Lady Yelvertoun, who has been jumping about the world for more than two years now. That she hates Sigrid is plain but she also can’t be separated from her. Sir John first met her when they were in New England. Aboard the Columbia on their return to Old England, they meet again. John has become a friend of Hugh Gretton, an older gentleman of considerable wealth returning home to die on English soil. He keeps the severity of his condition from Millicent, his daughter, so as not to frighten her. At the sight of Sigrid and Yelvertoun, he suffers a severe stroke and dies. Millicent becomes John’s ward. John knows that he loves Sigrid, but Millicent is frail and delicate and — most importantly — accustomed to being indulged in all her whims. Right now, she want to marry John and he’s resigned to the fact.

Skipping to the end now because you’re only missing a lot of filler. Lady Yelvertoun was lawfully though secretly married to Hugh Huntingdon and bore a child. When the Earl of Yelvertoun became the most eligible bachelor in England, Yelvertoun trumped up charges against Hugh — sending him into self-imposed exile — and dumped the scarcely newborn baby at a convent. Sigrid, as she’s called, is Yelvertoun’s daughter. Millicent was not biologically related to Hugh Gretton, a.k.a. Hugh Huntingdon — she’s the orphaned daughter of his business partner. Never mind Millicent, though. Flighty and capricious, she breaks her engagement to elope with the present Earl of Yelvertoun. John and Sigrid are married.

Inscriptions: Stamped on the front end paper “Clinton, Maine”. Public library? School system? I don’t know — perhaps it was the town’s own personal copy.