Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lilly and the Thorn

I'm reading "Lily and the Thorn" by Margaret Oliphant on my Sony PRS-505 ebook reader. Lily is one of the stories in a volume titled The Widow's Tale, a free download to the reader through Sony's ebook store. It is also available at books.google.com in PDF format. The version downloaded through the Sony store is the text version created by OCR.

First published in 1880 in Fraser's Magazine, the action is set in a village called Overbeck. Elizabeth Murray is a widowed mother of three: Abel, Lily and Dick. Elizabeth finds a way to send Abel off for a fine education and then doesn't hear from him for years. Dick is a solid, hard working boy who helps his mother with her chickens and crops. Lily is apprenticed to the village seamstress.

Living away from her mother, the beautiful Lily attracts the attention of two young men of good family in the area, Roger Ridley and Sir Richard Featherstonhaugh. Sir Richard is betrothed to Roger's sister, Mary, and Roger takes umbrage at Sir Richard's attentions to Lily both out of jealousy born of his feelings for Lily and outrage of Sir Richard's treatment of Mary.

Elizabeth Murray, the mother, is the most interesting character in the story to the point I have reached. She is proud, hard working, sacrificing her own needs for those of her children, making excuses for Abel's neglect of his family. Her past is a mystery, and there is a suggestion that she has gypsy blood.

The Lily of the title is clearly Lily Murray. I'm not sure yet who the thorn is. Abel would seem to be a good candidate. He has returned to Overbeck without letting his mother and siblings know. He has been gone from home so long that they don't recognize him when they see him in the street. Another candidate for the thorn of the title is, of course, Sir Richard. He is betrothed to the charming Mary, an alliance of the two major families; but he lets his attention wander to the beautiful Lily.

Trouble is brewing, I can tell. Lily is accepting the attentions of both Roger and Sir Richard, despite warnings from her mother of the danger in so doing. Roger wants to marry Lily, but the practical Elizabeth understands such an alliance will never be sanctioned by his father. There are hints that Elizabeth had a similar experience in her past.

I find Mrs. Oliphant's work entertaining. I rejoice in the availability of her work through Google books. So much of her work is out of print that it has in the past been difficult to read broadly through her productions.

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