I’m continuing my wander through L. M. Montgomery for the L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge, and it’s a good day to remark on a few more short stories and poetry.
I’ve moved over to another collection, Along the Shore, which collects various short stories with a seaside focus. It can get a little repetitive if you read it straight through, but there are some gems in here.
“A Sandshore Wooing” is a delightful story, told in journal fashion. Marguerite is at the seashore with her domineering aunt, a man-hater who believes her niece still needs “bringing up.” Marguerite catches sight of–and catches the eye of–a young man on another part of the shore, who conveniently turns out to be the brother of an old friend. They carry on a clandestine and unconventional courtship, mostly by way of spyglasses and sign-language. It all works out rather neatly, but is very fun and sweet.
The story also reminds me of the first part of Rebecca, when the narrator carries on her romance with Maxim behind the back of her domineering employer. There’s a similar feel of the young girl finding the courage to defy the harpy in her life. As far as I know, however, Marguerite’s love interest doesn’t have a first wife!
“Fair Exchange and No Robbery” is another fun one. Katherine bumps into her friend Edith’s fiance while on vacation at the shore, and finds herself in a dreadful mess when she likes him a bit too much. Meanwhile, Edith meets Katherine’s fiance and…well, it’s not terribly shocking when it all works out.
I’ll defend Montgomery’s conveniently happy endings by noting that they don’t all end so pleasantly. Just drawing examples from this volume, “The Waking of Helen” and “Mackereling Out in the Gulf” both center around unrequited love, and end tragically.
But anyway, I like Montgomery’s happy endings. Some dreadful quote somewhere says that a short story should begin with a question and end with a bigger question (which results in stories that make me tear my hair out, figuratively speaking). I like better Neil Gaiman’s description of short stories as adventures you can have and still be home in time for dinner. Most of the time Montgomery’s short stories pose a puzzle or a problem for the main character, and resolve it by the end, which I find much more satisfactory than being left with a bigger question.
Perhaps another poem to wind up this post? And since I’m reading her seaside short stories, here’s a sea-focused poem too, with lovely magical images.
We shall launch our shallop on waters blue from some dim primrose shore,
We shall sail with the magic of dusk behind and enchanted coasts before,
Over oceans that stretch to the sunset land where lost Atlantis lies,
And our pilot shall be the vesper star that shines in the amber skies.
The sirens will call to us again, all sweet and demon-fair,
And a pale mermaiden will beckon us, with mist on her night-black hair;
We shall see the flash of her ivory arms, her mocking and luring face,
And her guiling laughter will echo through the great, wind-winnowed space.
But we shall not linger for woven spell, or sea-nymph’s sorceries,
It is ours to seek for the fount of youth, and the gold of Hesperides,
Till the harp of the waves in its rhythmic beat keeps time to our pulses’ swing,
And the orient welkin is smit to flame with auroral crimsoning.
And at last, on some white and wondrous dawn, we shall reach the fairy isle
Where our hope and our dream are waiting us, and the to-morrows smile;
With song on our lips and faith in our hearts we sail on our ancient quest,
And each man shall find, at the end of the voyage, the thing he loves the best.