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My Honey

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MyHoneyWardLock1919small.jpg
Ward & Lock, 1910

"A charming story, charming chiefly on account of its naturalness and simplicity."—San Francisco Chronicle..*

From the publisher's (Little, Brown and Company, 1903) advertisement at the back of Lassie.

[Is this the same story that I found cited as:  Love Story, Hetty's stubborn temper.  SPECTATOR  76:247?  kcp]

[I read an excerpt (at least) from this book as a child.  I remember Chapters 7 and 8, Hetty's adoption of a mongrel dog.  Tim the dog is the beginning of Hetty's rehabilitation and in fact a model of what the child herself needs.  "Nellie Marlow had a dog, a fox terrier with a long pedigree, perfectly trained and gentlemanly in every way, and beside of him poor Tim looked to sad disadvantage as did his mistress..."  Both Tim and Hetty resent the comparisons to Nellie and her Trumps.  kcp]

My Synopsis:

"Checkmate," said the Rector. This phrase begins and ends the book.

illustrator: Sydney Cowell
doctorrector.jpg

The chess game in Chapter 1 is between the Rector and the doctor.  Each man is father (both mothers are dead) to an only child.  The Rector's son, Hugh, and the doctor's daughter, Nellie, appear happily fated to marry although there is no official engagement.  The story opens on the evening of the day that Hugh has left for his post in India.  He returns unexpectedly in the dead of night with a very young woman whom he has known slightly as the child of a disreputable gambler who calls his daughter "My Honey."  The author takes great pains to preserve Hugh's reputation of innocence in the acquaintance—he's there mostly to keep his friends out of trouble.  He cannot abandon a sweet innocent child to dishonor and so he rescues her—not realizing until afterward that the child has grown into tall young woman, although still very young. 

Hugh brings Hetty to his father and asks him to care for her until his return from India in five years.  The assumption is that Hugh will marry Hetty upon his return.  Thus, all plans for the future and the dreams of the two families are upset. 

Worse, Hetty proves a difficult case, a huge contrast to the ideal Nellie.  Hetty "is ignorant, undisciplined, with no idea of manners or self-control."  She is unloving, and unlovable—or so it appears.  This is the story of two hearts (the Rector's and Hetty's) melting toward each other and learning love's lesson.  Hetty's adoption of a mongrel dog is the first step.      An encounter with an old friend of Hetty's father almost brings disaster but the Rector's strict sense of right and honor protects the child.  He calls her "My Honey." 

There is Evelyn Whitaker's usual fascination with the sickroom—but the Rector recovers and Hetty grows into a beautiful young woman, accomplished and loved by all who know her. 

illustrator: Sydney Cowell
hettyhughrose.jpg
Hugh & Hetty, a rose in the garden

When Hugh returns from India, he learns that he has been released from his obligations to Hetty and is free to marry Nellie.

"But I am not quite sure it is good for true love to have no  obstacles... and I'm afraid, such is the perversity of human nature, that Nellie never again appeared in the tender grace of that first evening, and Hugh hated himself for little criticisms that crept into his mind about her:  that she was almost too sweet and compliant; that she agreed too readily with other people's opinions, though of all things he  hated an argumentative woman; that she was a little too anxious to be  appreciative, and to rejoice with them that rejoice and weep with them that weep; that some of her ways were a trifle stereotyped, and the dainty neatness of her dress a shade prim, and her views of life  conventional and narrow, though he reasoned with himself that a girl could not be too far removed from that horror of horrors—the new emancipated woman..."

Hugh's renewed courtship of Nellie does not go well.  In part because Hugh is increasingly fascinated by Hetty and in part because Nellie's affections have been transferred to another. 

All is happily resolved over a game of chess.

Views of Victorian life and culture:

illustrator Sydney Cowell
smallhettynellie.jpg
Nellie & Hetty meet

ideal of womanhood;

"Nellie had plenty of occupations and small interests that filled up her life and made it bright and pleasant—her small housekeepings, poor people to be visited, music to be learnt and  practiced, the school, needlework, her Friendly girls, tennis, gardening, wood carving, illuminating texts.  "Such a busy little  woman!"  ...yet, never too busy to fall in with other people's wishes, to drive out with her father on his rounds, to carry a message or a dinner for the Rector, to stop for a chat or look in to cheer up any one who was lonely or out of spirits.

"Of course this was not to be expected of Hetty..."

There follows a description of Hetty that is the exact opposite of all a Victorian woman should be—she does not sit properly, she is listless, does not read (at least not the books in the Rectory), hates needlework (which means her clothing is "dilapidated") plays neither the piano nor tennis, she 

"would loiter about in the garden and pick a few flowers, generally, as  in the case of the Marechale Niel [rose], making an unfortunate selection, and then would leave them withering on the table without taking the trouble to put them in water."

how she had been watering his flowers and cutting off the dead blossoms, and dusting his books.  She  told him how different, how very different she meant to be..."

There is Evelyn Whitaker's usual fascination with the sickroom—but the Rector recovers and Hetty grows into a beautiful young woman, accomplished and loved by all who know her. 

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