by Margaret Page Hood – published 1963. Although this is the last in the Fox Island books, its kind of a prequel as Gil Donan isn’t yet on Fox Island. He is mentioned once as having applied for the job as constable for the island.
Tom Caldwell was an off-islander who bought the island, Rolling Stone, and lived there for several years. He left the island more than 50 years ago under a cloud of mystery and sin, living in sin there with local girl Mariah Winslow who had a large,dark red birthmark on the side of her face, a sin mark, according to the islanders. But every year the tax money for the island arrived nice and neat. Any extra left after the taxes were paid was to go to Mariah who lived alone on the island. Now Tom has died (Mariah three years earlier) and Fernald Clayter, selectman, has received a letter from the lawyer. Tom has set up a fund, interest to be used to pay the taxes on Rolling Stone, property to remain in the name of his estate, not to be sold, and trespassing forbidden. He’s left $25,000 to the township on Fox Island to be used at the discretion of the resident doctor for the benefit of children handicapped by disfigurement or with physical disability. BUT there’s a provisional. A separate letter was sent to the minister with instructions for the provisional, which was to be announced at a town meeting. And thus begins the gossip, anger and accusation throwing that turns the whole town on its head.
I don’t want to tell too much of the story as I’d rather it unfold for you as you read it, and I definitely recommend it as well as all of Hood’s mysteries. There is a great mystery that happened on Rolling Stone that precipitated Tom leaving the island suddenly and Mariah living on there alone and hermit like the rest of her life. Not only does this provisional bring about the truth of what happened on Rolling Stone nearly 50 years ago, but brings to the surface other ‘sins’ hiding on the island among its people. A little different from most mysteries, but fascinating! And of course there’s Hood’s beautiful use of language, sense of place and characters with meat on them.
My mom always sang Go Tell Aunt Rhody to the kids when she would rock them, but she only ever sang part of it and I never did know the whole thing. Mariah sang it in the book and now I know what happened to Aunt Rhody and the old gray goose!
Go tell Aunt Rhody, go tell Aunt Rhody, Go tell Aunt Rhody the old gray goose is dead. She’s worth savin’, she’s worth savin’, she’s worth savin’, to fill a featherbed.
I’ve tried to find a picture of the cover of this book as my old hardback doesn’t have the dust jacket but I couldn’t find not one picture of a cover! I did find a copy of this book for sale at Abebooks that says it included the dust jacket in good condition, so the book drunkard that I am, I had to buy it so I could have the dust jacket and see the cover! But it won’t be here for a couple weeks. All her other books had lovely covers. She wrote one more book, Tequila, set in New Mexico. I’ve ordered it and now I’ll have all her books. I’ve tried and tried to find out info on her online and nothing. But yesterday I found correspondence between her and a woman with the Maine State Library on Maine State Library State Documents. They were written between October 1950 and April 1963. Fascinating! She gave her biography at the request of the woman. I took screen shots of the letter from Ms. Hood and will share it here for you. You can read all the letters here if you like. Ms. Hood was born in Connecticut 1892 and died in 1983, I assume in New Mexico. Her Great Grandfather lived next door to the Longfellow family in Maine!
Update! I got the book with the dust jacket and now have a picture of the cover! Here it is…
This book counts towards The Vintage Cover Scavenger Hunt @Bev’s My Readers Block. Silver era 1963 – shadowy or ghostly figure