|My copy a fifth printing Sept. 1924|
Kirsty Gilmour is a 30 year old spinster. She has spent her life traveling the world from hotel to hotel with her step-mother. Her father died when she was young. All she longed for was a home of her own and a simple life. After her stepmom dies, Kirsty finally gets her dream. She finds a house and settles in the borders area of Scotland, her home before her father died. Little Phantasy is a plain house in an old fashioned garden near running water, the Hope Water. It’s a queer little uneven house with stairs going up and down, a few steps everywhere. Now that Kirsty is free to make what she will of her life she has decided to live for others.
She learns through her friend Blanche of 3 small children who have lost their mother and their father is setting off to travel the world to ‘get over’ the loss of his wife. It’s arranged for the children and their nannie to come stay at Little Phantasy. Her elderly Aunt Fannie comes to live with her too.
Kirsty comes to love Bad Bill, Specky and Barbara as her own. She dreads the day their father comes to collect them and half convinces herself she will marry him to get to keep the children.
“Blanche thought for a moment. ‘Barbara must be ten, and Specky eight; and Bill – Bad Bill- is between five and six,’
‘Why is he bad?’ Kirsty asked.
‘I think because he can’t help it. No, I’m not maligning him. He really is rather a terror, old Bill. He passes over his sister and brother like a Juggernaut, leaving them flattened but furious.'”
Kirsty’s description of Bill as she sees him getting off the train…
‘Bill’s head was large and covered with tossed yellow hair which defied the brush. His eyes were a lovely sea-blue with golden lashes. His nose was short and inclined to turn up, he had a long upper lip, a wide curly mouth, and a heavy jowl. ‘Like a bloodhound,’ Kirsty said to herself, and although it seems improbably that golden-haired boy should even remotely suggest a blood hound, yet the likeness was there.”
Colonel Archie Home is her landlord. Having been away in the military, comes home to stay and becomes a regular visitor at Little Phantasy. The children love him, especially Bad Bill. Kirsty, seeing only the good in everyone and everything is happy and content. Colonel Home accuses her of having a pink sugar view of life. She accuses him of having too negative a view. Are the children the source of her contentment or is Colonel Home? Are they too different from each other or do they balance each other out?
The pastor Robert Brand lives with his spinster sister, Rebecca. They are very poor and Rebecca is a bitter woman. Kirsty tries to befriend her, but Rebecca sees her as self-righteous and spurns her friendship and help. When her brother Robert falls in love and becomes engaged to Carty, the nannie, a scene develops between Rebecca and Kirsty and Kirsty’s pink sugar bubble is popped.
I adore O. Douglas’ kailyard tales that take us back to a simpler time full of goodness and love. As in all her stories we have the sweet little house that becomes a character of its own and the requisite rowdy boy, but the faithful dog was missing from this one! Characters from Penny Plain make an appearance in this story too, Pamela Reston who married Lewis Elliot. Lovely to catch up with them!
I learned about an old game I had never heard of before in this book too, Clock Golf. Quite popular during this time period.
I enjoy the smattering of Scot words like smirr. On page 130 we find… ‘She stopped and looked out of the window at the smirr of rain drifting over Ratchell Hill, then observed despondently, ‘But even the garden is hardly worth it.’ Smirr means a mist-like precipitation. It is deceptive in that it is such a soft rain, but it coats very evenly and very quickly leaves one drenched.
And always in an O. Douglas tale there are many books read and mentioned by the characters. I love looking for them and am always tickled when I find one! Some of the books mentioned in this one are…
Told By An Idiot by Rose Macaulay 1923 Reprinted by Virago
Crossriggs by Mary and Jane Findlater 1913 (click link to read or download) This book was reprinted by Virago!
Anna Lee, the Maiden, the Wife and the Mother by Timothy Shay Arthur written in 1923 (click link to read or download)
Sunset Gleams From the City of the Mounds by Ethel Gray 1852 a devotional Aunt Fannie reads
The Wide, Wide World by Susan Warner 1850 free @ Manybooks.net Other than Uncle Tom’s Cabin, this was perhaps the most widely circulated American story of its time.
and an old magazine Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine