Once I read a few passages, it was easy to see why. Call this the #AntiFridayReads.1
The 240-page novel was published in 1919 by The Arthur Westbrook Company of Cleveland, Ohio. It is described in other corners of cyberspace as "scarce" and "exceedingly scarce" -- details that have nothing to do with its quality as a piece of literature.
It's possible that Ross' novel inspired a play, a British silent film and/or an operetta. But no source seems to know definitively.
The novel is billed as "A Thrilling Story" on the title page. And the page after that reveals the full title:
After those words comes the prose. And, oh, what prose it is.
I'm going to give away some elements of the plot now, including the ending, so if you were planning on reading this novel at the beach this summer, please stop now. Go read Ephemeraology or something. Spoilers are ahead.
Scene. -- A meadow lying between Fairy Lane and Blackmoor, near what is now called New Bury Road.
Time. -- Thirty years ago.
The atmosphere green and murky -- a brazen moon gleaming weirdly through the haze upon the two persons standing beneath the Fairies' Trysting Tree.
* * * * *
"I tell you," cries Mark Newman, "that I will never give you up. Nothing but death can come between us."
"Hush, Mark!" said Maud Mostyn. "You terrify me."
"Why, then, not yield to my overpowering love?" remonstrates Mark tenderly. "I cannot remember when I have not loved you; there is not a hair of your head that I could not worship, and if you will give me but a little encouragement I will prove myself a better man than I have been."
"I cannot love you, Mark, and you have no right to torment me thus."
"I know! Dick Rathbone has supplanted me here, as he has done everywhere. Curses on him, but I will sweep him from my path as relentlessly as I cut down these nettles that grow here by the hedge," Mark hissed between his teeth, as he laid his walking cane mercilessly about him.
Random passages from the middle
- They went out into the street, smiling like angels, or bearing faces similar to that we imagine angels have.
- "Terence, ye omadhaun! Look there, isn't that the body of a woman floating?"
- "Weel, lass," he answered, "awn gaun a long way roond. Awm gaun by Tidsley, an' Chowbent, an' Wigan, an' Bowton, before I turns on t' Manchester way, and thou'rt too delicate like to sleep on t' straw i' my caart."
- It is imperative that we go back an hour or two from the time of the rescue of the fugitives of the Ritchison Mills, so that our readers may understand why three able-bodied men should depend upon a weak woman -- only a mill girl -- for the salvation of their lives.
- When Mr. Enumenides had recovered from his unusual paroxysm of emotion, his first act was to look for the letter he had dropped.
The final passage
We are back in the old hall. Dick and Kate have returned from the honeymoon. There is feasting everywhere, and pleasure provided for all classes of people, from the presiding peer in the county to the humblest worker in the mills.Footnote
Dick and Kate -- our Kate, Kate o' Fulford's -- appear on the terrace facing the lake, and the repetition of the jubilation of a month ago at the cathedral happens.
A giant figure stands upon the pedestal of a broken Archilles.
"Long life and prosperity to the young master and mistress!" shouts the well-known voice of Gommy, now an overseer in the works.
"Who is proud to own, lads," responded Handsome Dick, "that once upon a time she was:
"'ONLY A MILL GIRL'"
1. Don't know what #FridayReads is? Here's a primer.