* A Distributed Proofreaders Canada eBook *

This ebook is made available at no cost and with very few restrictions. These restrictions apply only if (1) you make a change in the ebook (other than alteration for different display devices), or (2) you are making commercial use of the ebook. If either of these conditions applies, please contact a FP administrator before proceeding.

This work is in the Canadian public domain, but may be under copyright in some countries. If you live outside Canada, check your country's copyright laws. IF THE BOOK IS UNDER COPYRIGHT IN YOUR COUNTRY, DO NOT DOWNLOAD OR REDISTRIBUTE THIS FILE.

Title: Margaret’s Books

Date of first publication: 1902

Author: L. M. (Lucy Maud) Montgomery (1874-1942)

Date first posted: May 2, 2017

Date last updated: May 2, 2017

Faded Page eBook #20170504

This ebook was produced by: Alex White & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at http://www.pgdpcanada.net

Margaret’s Books

L. M. Montgomery

First published in Forward (Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, Philadelphia), January 18, 1902.

Margaret Hartley put down the letter which she had been reading and looked, in a somewhat homesick fashion, out through the window of the little log schoolhouse across the prairies that were dull and gray in the late autumn weather. It was the noon hour, and Margaret had eaten her dinner out of the little tin pail in which Mrs. Murray always put it up, and smiled when she thought how Bert and Patty would laugh to see her. But Bert and Patty and home were far away.

The little schoolroom with its shabby desks and tattered maps was very quiet. The younger scholars were playing down by the spring under the willow bluff. In a corner of the room a group of five girls, all of whom were as old as Margaret herself, were poring intently over a paper which Lizzie Ryan and Sue Robertson held between them. Now and then, the silence was broken by a long-drawn sigh of excitement from one of the quintette, or a whispered question as to whether they all had finished the page.

When Margaret had read and re-read her letter, she found time to wonder in what the big girls were so interested. Generally during noon hour they lounged about the schoolroom and discussed Lindsay gossip with a zest which made their teacher half sorry and half contemptuous. The contempt, however, was always checked when she remembered that these girls had nothing else to talk about. With so little to broaden or beautify their bare, narrow lives, it was small wonder that this one’s marriage and that one’s “beau,” this family scandal and that family quarrel, filled up their thoughts and conversation.

Sometimes Margaret tried to talk with them about books and art, and the great events and discoveries of the busy age. The girls listened with an almost pitiful interest, but they could not discuss that of which they knew and understood nothing, and the result was a rather dismal monologue. They were bright girls, too, eager to learn and to make the most of their limited opportunities. There were many more like them in Lindsay who did not come to school, and Margaret would have liked to help them, but she did not know how.

Presently Margaret got up and went down the aisle to the corner where the girls sat. So absorbed were they in their paper, that they did not heed her approach, and she stood by Rosetta Carney’s side, for a few minutes, unnoticed.

The paper they were reading was a cheap, illustrated one. The particular story over which Rosetta and her friends were poring was entitled, “Beautiful Dolores’ Lovers, or The Mysterious Midnight Marriage at Haddington Hall,” and the page was garnished with the picture of a wild-eyed young lady being carried off bodily by a young man with a magnificent mustache, presumably the villain, while a weird old crone exulted in the background.

Presently Rosetta, becoming aware of the teacher’s presence, looked up, with flushed cheeks and over-bright eyes.

“O Miss Hartley, it is such a splendid story,” she said, breathlessly. “I declare I can hardly wait from one week to another for it.”

“O girls, why will you read such stories?” said Margaret. “They are absolute trash.”

Surprise and wonder were depicted on her listeners’ faces. Perhaps Louise Thompson, the oldest girl and best scholar in the school, understood her teacher’s meaning more clearly than the others, for she colored slightly and said, in a somewhat resentful tone, “We’ve nothing else to read, Miss Hartley. People here are thankful for any kind of reading matter when winter comes. Rena’s aunt, down East, sends her this paper, and she hands it all round. I don’t see any harm in these stories.”

“There may be no positive harm in them,” said Margaret, gently; “but they are silly and exaggerated, and present very distorted views of life. I don’t like to see my girls reading them.”

“Mother reads them,” said Rosetta Carney, sullenly, “and she thinks they are just splendid.”

Margaret was silent. She went back to her desk, and the girls, after a few doubtful whispers, returned to the history of beautiful Dolores’ lovers, of whom she seemed to have so many that the greatest mystery was how their historian ever managed to keep track of them all.

Louise Thompson alone had lost her interest. That evening she walked home with Margaret and reverted, somewhat shamefacedly, to the noon incident. “I suppose, Miss Hartley, you think we are very foolish girls to get so interested in those stories. But they are kind of exciting when you get into them—and we’ve nothing much to read”—

“I understand,” said Margaret, sympathetically. “But, Louise, I really think it would be better not to read anything at all than to read that trash. It isn’t wholesome.”

“But it’s so dull here,” pleaded Louise. “You don’t know how dreadful it is in winter—the long evenings with nothing to do. We wouldn’t want those papers if we had anything better.”

That evening, when Margaret was sitting alone in the room, an idea came to her that made her frown and look wistfully at her bookcase. It was a big one and well filled with dainty volumes in the choicest bindings. She sat down before them and looked them over—histories and biographies, volumes of poems and essays, books of travel and exploration and science, together with the best fiction of the master story-tellers. The bookcase contained the very cream of her “down East” library.


“I hate to do it, but I will,” she said.

The next day was Saturday, and Margaret went to town on her wheel. She brought back a bottle of mucilage and as much brown paper as she could carry. By night all the volumes in her bookcase were swathed in stout covers, and a blank book, with spaces ruled for entry, had been added to them.

Monday afternoon in school, Margaret made an announcement which created quite a sensation and sent ripples of excitement all over Lindsay before night. It was to the effect that she intended to open up a small, circulating library with her books, and any one who wished could get a book on Saturday afternoons at her boarding house.

The idea was a success from the start. Every Saturday afternoon there was a crowd of eager applicants at Mrs. Murray’s. Not only the girls and boys, but their fathers and mothers, came for books. At the noon hour, Margaret no longer found it difficult to talk with her girls. They were all ready and eager to discuss what they had read, and ask for explanation concerning things they had not understood.

A sort of informal literary club sprang up in Lindsay. Margaret wrote home, and Bert and Patty sent up dozens of old magazines and reviews that were new to the Lindsay people. Louise Thompson was a valuable and active assistant in Margaret’s enterprise, and it would have been hard to say which was the more alert and interested. When the spring came, and Margaret’s thoughts turned homeward, she made another little sacrifice, cheerfully.

“I’m going to leave these books here for the club,” she told Louise. “They will serve as a nucleus for a good library. When I go home I will send you papers and magazines, regularly. The rest depends on yourselves.”

“Rosetta and I have been talking the matter over,” said Louise, brightly, “and we have lots of plans.”

“Next winter,” said Margaret, “I advise you to form yourselves into a literary society with a constitution, meet regularly in the schoolhouse for discussion, and charge a small membership fee to cover expenses. New ways and ideas will come to you all the time. I think there is no fear of your lapsing back to midnight murders and gruesome mysteries.”

“No; I think not,” said Louise, frankly. “You know my brother Jack used to read those stories, and he was awfully discontented. He grumbled all the time about the dull life here, and slaving to no purpose, and all that. He wanted to go away to some big city. Well, he doesn’t talk like that at all now, and he’s real well satisfied. He was reading the Oregon Trail last night, and he thought it just splendid.”

When Louise had gone, Margaret went to her bookcase and looked at the well-read volumes and eloquent gaps with satisfied eyes.

“I’m so glad I did it,” she said. “I’m ashamed now to think how hard it was at first.”


Mis-spelled words and printer errors have been fixed.

[The end of Margaret’s Books by L. M. (Lucy Maud) Montgomery]