Friday, January 04, 2013

L.M. Montgomery Short Stories 1902-1903

Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories, 1902-1903. L.M. Montgomery. 216 pages.

This short story collection contains twenty-two short stories: "A Patent Medicine Testimonial," "A Sandshore Wooing," "After Many Days," "An Unconventional Confidence," "Aunt Cyrilla's Christmas Basket," "Davenport's Story," "Emily's Husband," "Min," "Miss Cordelia's Accommodation," "Ned's Stroke of Business," "Our Runaway Kite," "The Bride Roses," "The Josephs' Christmas," "The Magical Bond of the Sea," "The Martyrdom of Estella," "The Old Chest at Wyther Grange," "The Osborne's Christmas," "The Romance of Aunt Beatrice," "The Running Away of Chester," "The Strike at Putney," "The Unhappiness of Miss Farquhar," and "Why Mr. Cropper Changed His Mind." So many delightful stories to be enjoyed. Some of the stories are about growing up; some are about falling in love; some are about broken hearts; some are about finding new friends; some are about belonging or the search for belonging; some are about making peace with the past finding forgiveness and redemption; there is even a ghost story.

One of my favorite stories is "Aunt Cyrilla's Christmas Basket." Here is how it begins:
When Lucy Rose met Aunt Cyrilla coming downstairs, somewhat flushed and breathless from her ascent to the garret, with a big, flat-covered basket hanging over her plump arm, she gave a little sigh of despair. Lucy Rose had done her brave best for some years—in fact, ever since she had put up her hair and lengthened her skirts—to break Aunt Cyrilla of the habit of carrying that basket with her every time she went to Pembroke; but Aunt Cyrilla still insisted on taking it, and only laughed at what she called Lucy Rose's "finicky notions." Lucy Rose had a horrible, haunting idea that it was extremely provincial for her aunt always to take the big basket, packed full of country good things, whenever she went to visit Edward and Geraldine. Geraldine was so stylish, and might think it queer; and then Aunt Cyrilla always would carry it on her arm and give cookies and apples and molasses taffy out of it to every child she encountered and, just as often as not, to older folks too. Lucy Rose, when she went to town with Aunt Cyrilla, felt chagrined over this—all of which goes to prove that Lucy was as yet very young and had a great deal to learn in this world.
The holidays may not have gone according to plan, but Providence had a hand! This is a lovely feel-good story! I ended up just LOVING Aunt Cyrilla AND her basket of goodies.

"Our Runaway Kite" is a lovely story of coincidence. Here's how it begins:
Of course there was nobody for us to play with on the Big Half Moon, but then, as Claude says, you can't have everything. We just had to make the most of each other, and we did. The Big Half Moon is miles from anywhere, except the Little Half Moon. But nobody lives there, so that doesn't count. We live on the Big Half Moon. "We" are Father and Claude and I and Aunt Esther and Mimi and Dick. It used to be only Father and Claude and I. It is all on account of the kite that there are more of us. This is what I want to tell you about.
"The Bride Roses" has to be one of my favorite stories. It's about a family feud that has lasted decades, and how one day that feud comes to an end...
Miss Corona awoke that June morning with a sigh, the cause of which she was at first too sleepy to understand. Then it all came over her with a little sickening rush; she had fallen asleep with tear-wet lashes the night before on account of it. This was Juliet Gordon's wedding day, and she, Miss Corona, could not go to the wedding and was not even invited, all because of the Quarrel, a generation old, and so chronic and bitter and terrible that it always presented itself to Miss Corona's mental vision as spelled with a capital. Well might Miss Corona hate it. It had shut her up into a lonely life for long years. Juliet Gordon and Juliet's father, Meredith Gordon, were the only relations Miss Corona had in the world, and the old family feud divided them by a gulf which now seemed impassable. Miss Corona turned over on her pillows, lifted one corner of the white window-blind and peeped out. Below her a river of early sunshine was flowing through the garden, and the far-away slopes were translucent green in their splendour of young day, with gauzy, uncertain mists lingering, spiritlike, in their intervales. A bird, his sleek plumage iridescent in the sunlight, was perched on the big chestnut bough that ran squarely across the window, singing as if his heart would burst with melody and the joy of his tiny life. No bride could have wished anything fairer for her day of days, and Miss Corona dropped back on her pillows with another gentle sigh. "I'm so glad that the dear child has a fine day to be married," she said. Juliet Gordon was always "dear child" to Miss Corona, although the two had never spoken to each other in their lives.
Another favorite story is "The Strike at Putney." The elders of a particular church have decided that a woman guest-speaker that has already been invited cannot use the church. Women have no place in the church, they argue. So the women of the church decide to go on strike: to stop putting flowers in the church, to stop cleaning the church, to stop playing the piano, to stop singing in the choir, to stop cooking and baking for various functions, etc. How long will it take for the men to see that the church could not properly exist without women?
The church at Putney was one that gladdened the hearts of all the ministers in the presbytery whenever they thought about it. It was such a satisfactory church. While other churches here and there were continually giving trouble in one way or another, the Putneyites were never guilty of brewing up internal or presbyterial strife.
The Exeter church people were always quarrelling among themselves and carrying their quarrels to the courts of the church. The very name of Exeter gave the members of presbytery the cold creeps. But the Putney church people never quarrelled.
Danbridge church was in a chronic state of ministerlessness. No minister ever stayed in Danbridge longer than he could help. The people were too critical, and they were also noted heresy hunters. Good ministers fought shy of Danbridge, and poor ones met with a chill welcome. The harassed presbytery, worn out with "supplying," were disposed to think that the millennium would come if ever the Danbridgians got a minister whom they liked. At Putney they had had the same minister for fifteen years and hoped and expected to have him for fifteen more. They looked with horror-stricken eyes on the Danbridge theological coquetries.
Bloom Valley church was over head and heels in debt and had no visible prospect of ever getting out. The moderator said under his breath that they did over-much praying and too little hoeing. He did not believe in faith without works. Tarrytown Road kept its head above water but never had a cent to spare for missions or the schemes of the church.
In bright and shining contradistinction to these the Putney church had always paid its way and gave liberally to all departments of church work. If other springs of supply ran dry the Putneyites enthusiastically got up a "tea" or a "social," and so raised the money. Naturally the "heft" of this work fell on the women, but they did not mind—in very truth, they enjoyed it. The Putney women had the reputation of being "great church workers," and they plumed themselves on it, putting on airs at conventions among the less energetic women of the other churches.
They were especially strong on societies. There was the Church Aid Society, the Girls' Flower Band, and the Sewing Circle. There was a Mission Band and a Helping Hand among the children. And finally there was the Women's Foreign Mission Auxiliary, out of which the whole trouble grew which convulsed the church at Putney for a brief time and furnished a standing joke in presbyterial circles for years afterwards. To this day ministers and elders tell the story of the Putney church strike with sparkling eyes and subdued chuckles. It never grows old or stale. But the Putney elders are an exception. They never laugh at it. They never refer to it. It is not in the wicked, unregenerate heart of man to make a jest of his own bitter defeat.
 I really enjoyed reading this collection of stories. I LOVE L.M. Montgomery. She was a great writer. Her short stories shouldn't be missed because her novels are so good.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Laura's Reviews said...

This has made me remember how much I love L.M. Montgomery's short story collections. I used to check the book store each time I stopped by to see if a new collection was there. I need to reread them again, but I think I might wait a few years for my daughter to get old enough to enjoy them with me.

Great review!