Daily Book Excerpt: YA/Children’s books:
Along the Shore – “Fair Exchange and No Robbery” – by L.M. Montgomery
Next story I’ll excerpt (in this book that, er, nobody else appears to have read but me!!) is a really funny story -I like it a lot – it’s a romance, but it’s written in that way that Lucy Maud has – that really human voice, with an eye towards the comedy in any situation. She doesn’t always use that tone – but it’s one of my favorites of her narrative voices. Because – I get it. I get her sense of humor. Her impression that life is kind of abSURD. This story is like that.
There are two dear friends – who are in college. Katherine and Edith. Both are seriously involved with someone -Katherine with a guy named Ned and Edith with a guy named Sidney. But neither has met the others beau … Ned goes to a different college, and Sidney is already out of college. The story opens with Katherine and Edith both getting ready for summer holidays. Katherine is going to spend the summer with her Aunt Elizabeth in a remote seashore town – and Edith is staying on the campus for the summer. But, through a random coincidence, Ned has transferred to Katherine’s college and will be there – on campus for the summer – taking courses – and Katherine is bummed and kind of pissed that it should happen just as she is going away. Edith says that she will look out for Ned, and make him feel welcome, not to worry, not to worry. The girls also briefly exchange thoughts about their boyfriends – and you can see that both of them, while fond of their men, have a couple complaints. Katherine is bookish, and loves poetry. Ned laughs at poetry and thinks “women writers are an abomination”. Edith’s Sidney is VERY bookish – and kind of plain-faced. Katherine admires plain-faced men because they are not vain. Ned, on the other hand, is gorgeous – and very vain – so she has to take him down a peg. And yet she loves him, obviously – it’s just two girls kind of complaining about their men and what they lack. Then it’s off to vacation! Toodle-oo!!
We follow Katherine on her vacation – where she thinks she will die of boredom in this little seaside town with nothing to do. She ends up meeting a random man (their meeting is the excerpt below) … and somehow they end up CLICKING. Not romantically – or, of course that is underneath – but … they just have a good time together. It turns out that he is, actually, Edith’s boyfriend – he is writing a book and needed a quiet place for the summer .. so they befriend each other … and they can’t admit what is REALLY going on because they are both involved with someone else. It is very hard for Katherine to say good-bye to him. She is devastated, frankly.
She goes back to the campus town – dreary, sad, not at all looking forward to seeing Ned … and she comes back to the room she shares with Edith and overhears Edith and Ned inside, having a tormented conversation about what they should do … how should they “break the news” to Katherine … Oh, it’s so awful … Edith has STOLEN Katherine’s boyfriend! Oh, what a tragedy this is!!
Naturally, to Katherine, it is not a tragedy at all. Because now she will be free to steal EDITH’S boyfriend … and they can all stay friends … it will be a fair exchange and no robbery.
This all sounds very prosaic when I write it out like that – but I just love how this story is written – the TONE. I love when she ponders that maybe he is a revivalist.
It was written in 1907 – a year before Anne of Green Gables was published.
Excerpt from Along the Shore – “Fair Exchange and No Robbery” – by L.M. Montgomery
To pass the time Katherine took to collecting seaweeds, and this involved long tramps along the shore. On one of these occasions she met with an adventure. The place was a remote spot far up the shore. Katherine had taken off her shoes and stockings, tucked up her skirt, rolled her sleeves high above her dimpled elbows, and was deep in the absorbing process of fishing up seaweeds off a craggy headland. She looked anything but dignified while so employed, but under the circumstances dignity did not matter.
Presently she heard a shout from the shore and, turning around in dismay, she beheld a man in the rocks behind her. He was evidently shouting at her. What on earth could the creature want?
“Come in,” he called, gesticulating wildly. “You’ll be in the bottomless pit in another moment if you don’t look out.”
“He certainly must be a lunatic,” said Katherine to herself, “or else he’s drunk. What am I to do?”
“Come in, I tell you,” insisted the stranger. “What in the world do you mean by wading out to such a place? Why, it’s madness.”
Katherine’s indignation got the bettero f her fear.
“I do not think I am trespassing,” she called back as icily as possible.
The stranger did not seem to be satisfied at all. He came down to the very edge of the rocks where Katherine could see him plainly. He was dressed in a somewhat well-worn grey suit and wore spectacles. He did not look like a lunatic, and he did not seem to be drunk.
“I implore you to come in,” he said earnestly. “You must be standing on the very brink of the bottomless pit.”
He is certainly off his balance, thought Katherine. He must be some revivalist who has gone insane on one point. I suppose I’d better go in. He looks quite capable of wading out here after me if I don’t.
She picked her steps carefully back with her precious specimens. The stranger eyed her severely as she stepped on the rocks.
“I should think you would have more sense than to risk your life in that fashion for a handful of seaweeds,” he said.
“I haven’t the faintest idea what you mean,” said Miss Rangely. “You don’t look crazy, but you talk as if you were.”
“Do you mean to say you don’t know that what the people hereabouts call the Bottomless Pit is situated right off that point – the most dangerous spot along the whole coast?”
“No, I didn’t,” said Katherine, horrified. She remembered now that Aunt Elizabeth ahd warned her to be careful of some bad hole along shore, but she had not been paying much attention and had supposed it to be in quite another direction. “I am a stranger here.”
“Well, I hardly thought you’d be foolish enough to be out there if you knew,” said the other in mollified accents. “The place ought not to be left without warning, anyhow. It is the most careless thing I ever heard of. There is a big hole right off that point and nobody has ever been able to find the bottom of it. A person who got into it would never be heard of again. The rocks there form an eddy that sucks everything right down.”
“I am very grateful to you for calling me in,” said Katherine humbly. “I had no idea I was in such danger.”
“You have a very find bunch of seaweeds, I see,” said the unknown.
But Katherine was in no mood to converse on seaweeds. She suddenly realized what she must look like – bare feet, draggled skirts, dripping arms. And this creature whom she had taken for a lunatic was undoubtedly a gentleman. Oh, if he would only go and give her a chance to put on her shoes and stockings!
Nothing seemed further from his intentions. When Katherine had picked up the aforesaid articles and turned homeward, he walked beside her, still discoursing on seaweeds as eloquently as if he were commonly accustomed to walking with barefooted young women. In spite of herself, Katherine couldn’t help listening to him, for he managed to invest seaweeds with an absorbing interest. She finally decided that as he didn’t seem to mind her bare feet, she wouldn’t either.
He knew so much about seaweeds that Katherine felt decidedly amateurish beside him. He looked over her specimens and pointed out the valuable ones. He explained the best method of preserving and mounting them, and told her of other and less dangerous places along the shore where she might get some new varieties.
When they came in sight of Harbour Hill, Katherine began to wonder what on earth she would do with him. It wasn’t exactly permissible to snub a man who had practically saved your life, but, on the other hand, the prospect of walking through the principal street of Harbour Hill barefooted and escorted by a scholarly looking gentleman discoursing on seaweeds was not to be calmly contemplated.
The unknown cut the Gordian knot himself. He said that he must really go back or he would be late for dinner, lifted his hat politely, then sat down on the sand and put on her shoes and stockings.
“Who on earth can he be?” she said to herself. “And where have I seen him before? There was certainly something familiar about his appearance. He is very nice, but he must have thought me crazy. I wonder if he belongs to Harbour Hill.”