42. Kilmeny of the Orchard
by Lucy Maud Montgomery
first book for the Canadian Book Challenge 6 - Prince Edward Island
Nook book 15
After reading almost half of a novel, and the first page of another before quitting them both, it was such a relief to fall into the words of Lucy Maud Montgomery - the peace, the slowness, the quiet of an earlier time in a beautiful rural locale.
The story begins with a college graduation ceremony (in April) in Nova Scotia. Eric Marshall has always done exactly as he should growing up, and is now perfectly groomed to go into the family business. This is not a duty for him but a pleasure. He tells his doctor friend, David
But ambition, man! Why, I'm full of it - it's bubbling in every pore of me. I mean to make the department store of Marshall & Company famous from ocean to ocean. Father started in life as a poor boy from a Nova Scotia farm. He has built up a business that has a provincial reputation. I mean to carry it on. In five years it shall have a maritime reputation, in ten, a Canadian. I want to make the firm of Marshall & Company stand for something big in the commercial interests of Canada.Though Eric seems the ideal young man for any woman, he has shown little interest in anyone.
"… if the future Mrs. Eric Marshall exists in the flesh I haven't met her yet. I haven't even started to look for her - and don't intend to for some years to come."Eric's mother died when he was ten. She was much beloved by both father and son, and is the model for all women for the son.
"When a man has had a mother like mine his standard of womanly sweetness is apt to be pitched pretty high…."A professor says of him,
I am afraid Eric Marshall will never do one quixotic thing, but if he ever does it will supply the one thing lacking in him.Eric receives a letter from a friend who has become ill. Larry is a teacher at a country school on Prince Edward Island, and needs someone to step in for him while he takes time off to recuperate. It will be for only a week in May and the month of June. To lure Eric, he writes
Of course, this little north-shore farming settlement isn't a very lively place. The rising and setting of the sun are the most exciting events of the average day. But the people are very kind and hospitable, and Prince Edward Island in the month of June is such a thing as you don't often see except in happy dreams.I'd be sold, wouldn't you? And Eric agrees to oblige.
There is a foreshadowing remark made by his father before he goes. As parents always do, the older man warns his son not to get into any 'mischief.' When Eric says there isn't much likelihood in the little place where he's going, his father says,
"Probably the devil finds as much mischief for idle hands in Lindsay as anywhere else. The worst tragedy I ever heard of happened on a backwoods farm, fifteen miles from a railroad and five from a store."And so the stage is set. The reader wonders whether romance or dark adventures will happen to this young, kindly, impressionable yet practical young man.
Although the scenery is achingly beautiful, Eric is indeed bored … until he visits an orchard one lovely evening.
… three long rows of trees with green avenues between, each tree standing in a wonderful blow [literary meaning - state or period of flowering] of pink and white.And then there came
The charm of the place took sudden possession of Eric as nothing had ever done before. He was not given to romantic fancies, but the orchard laid hold of him subtly and drew him to itself, and he was never to be quite his own man again. He went into it over one of the broken panels of fence, and so, unknowing, went forward to meet all that life held for him.
a strain of delicious music, so beautiful and fantastic that Eric held his breath in astonishment and delight. Was he dreaming?A young woman appears and then runs off in fear. She is the loveliest woman he has ever seen.
Shall I say more? If I do, I fear it will tell too much of this beautiful story. It has the feeling of a fairy tale; a reminder of a sleeping beauty in the woods, a woman, while childlike and innocent, has secrets that even she doesn't know.
I've read many of the Anne of Green Gables books but nothing else by Lucy Maud Montgomery until Kilmeny of the Orchard. I found it quite wonderful. This is the great gift of ebooks - that these older books are being brought to a wide reading public who may not know they exist. For free, or for 99¢ we can go back in time and read what people were reading in the early days of the twentieth century. It was a pleasure to read a book that presented such a love story. Though there are obstacles to be surmounted, and old troubles to be faced, love really can prevail. Not a bad message for those days, or our time.
The name Kilmeny comes from a poem by James Hogg. You may read the whole poem here though I had some trouble with some of the Scottish words. I think the gist of it is that the girl, Kilmeny was pure and untouched by society. She was taken away, her life ruined, and she died. Please do correct me if I'm wrong. Montgomery's Kilmeny does not die, but when we first meet her she is a young girl completely free of outside influences.
A potato field on the north shore of Prince Edward Island
I read this for The Canadian Book Challenge 6