Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tuesdays Tomes: In the Bishop's Carriage by Miriam Michelson

Tuesdays Tomes is a weekly book review of vintage books available free on-line.

In the Bishop’s Carriage by Miriam Michelson

Nance Olsen is in love. She’s so in love with Tom Dorgan, she picks pockets for him. When we first meet her she’s just picked a nice pocket watch from a fat man in the crowded train station and is hiding out in the Ladies Waiting Room. She sees a policeman looking in so she darts off to the inner room where ladies can have their traveling coats brushed and even small repairs done by the attendants. She hangs up her coat and hat and then:

Oh, it was long; long enough to cover you from your chin to your heels! It was a dark, warm red, and it had a high collar of chinchilla that was fairly scrumptious. And just above it the hat hung, a red-cloth toque caught up on the side with some of the same fur.

The black maid misunderstood my involuntary gesture. I had all my best duds on, and when a lot of women stare it makes the woman they stare at peacock naturally, and -- and -- well, ask Tom what he thinks of my style when I'm on parade. At any rate, it was the maid's fault. She took down the coat and hat and held them for me as though they were mine. What could I do, 'cept just slip into the silk-lined beauty and set the toque on my head? The fool girl that owned them was having another maid mend a tear in her skirt, over in the corner; the little place was crowded. Anyway, I had both the coat and hat on and was out into the big anteroom in a jiffy.What nearly wrecked me was the cut of that coat. It positively made me shiver with pleasure when I passed and saw myself in that long mirror. My, but I was great!As I ran down the stairs, its influence so worked on me that I didn't know just which Vanderbilt I was.”

Nance is out of the station but she’s still worried about that policeman. She sees a carriage waiting out front and just ducks into it with the sleeping coachman completely unaware. Then the Bishop comes…

He was a little Bishop, not big and fat and well-kept like the rig, but short and lean, with a little white beard and the softest eye -- and the softest heart -- and the softest head. Just listen.

"Lord bless me!" he exclaimed, hurriedly putting on his spectacles, and looking about bewildered. I was slumbering sweetly in the corner, but I could see between my lashes that he thought he'd jumped into somebody else's carriage. The sight of his book and his papers comforted him, though, and before he could make a resolution, I let the jolting of the carriage, as it crossed the car-track, throw me gently against him. "Daddy," I murmured sleepily, letting my head rest on his little, prim shoulder.

And so Nancy Olsen meets the Bishop and begins to mend her ways. Not immediately and not easily but definitely.This is a wonderful book, beautifully written and with a host of enjoyable characters. A 1904 best seller, In the Bishop’s Carriage caused quite a stir at the time of publication because of the morals and ethics of the heroine and narrator, our Nance. I found Nance quite believable as she struggles to figure out right from wrong, what does loyalty mean and when is it misplaced. I just loved the opening-what can clothes do for a person? Can they change how we perceive ourselves and want to live up to the image we’ve created?

Cheerfully read by Lee Ann Howlett, you can download this free audio-book here or the free e-book in pdf. or Kindle format here.

In 1913, In the Bishop's Carriage was made into a silent film starring Mary Pickford. Unfortunately, it is presumed lost.

1 comment:

Roslyn said...

This one sounds interesting Miri!