"The Ogre of Ha Ha Bay"
A newly married and honeymooning couple, Maurice and Susan, meet up with the Ogre and his nephew, Isadore Clovis, who is the carriage cab-man of sorts. The Ogre, Tremblay (p. 5), took a vow (p. 6) 25 years prior to never enter his new home until he takes a maiden of 20. Tremblay was engaged to the now widowed Madame Guion many years ago (p. 6), but she rejected him and married for love, rather than money, which we discover later. Tremblay arranges to marry her daughter, Melanie (p. 12). Melanie goes along with the plan, in part because Tremblay has always been kind to her and her mother. Melanie and Isadore are in love, but Tremblay has enough money to pay for her mother’s eye surgery, without which she will go blind.
The interesting points of the story include the point of view (that the narrator is male and Thanet takes pleasure in describing Susan as the object of marital affection in the opening paragraphs and that Guion’s story of her marriage (p. 21) focuses on the discussion of domestic violence and hardship for women:
It was twenty-five years ago, and M. Tremblay would marry me, but I was a fool, I: my heart was set on a young man of this parish, tall, strong, handsome. I quarreled with all my relations, I married him, M’sieu’. Within a month of our wedding day he broke my arm, twisting it to hurt me. He was the devil. Twice, but for his brother, he would have killed me. (Madame Guion to Maurice, p. 19)
Domestic violence and marriage are both themes I plan to watch out for, as A Slave to Duty is a collection largely focused on those themes. “Love, it is pleasant, but marriage, that is another pair of sleeves” (21).
The narrator reflects:
But I thought that I understood the situation better. I believed Madame Guion told us the truth: she was only seeking her daughter’s happiness. She had an intense but narrow nature, and her life of toil, hard and busy thought it was, being also lonely and quiet, rather helped than hindered brooding over her sorrows. Her mind was of the true peasant type, the ideas came slowly and were tenacious of grip. Love had been ruin to her. It meant heartbreak, bodily anguish, the torture of impotent anger, and the bitterest humiliation.(Maurice, p. 23)
The abusive relationships are off-set by the love of Susan and Maurice, the happy American couple (the story is set in Canada) who work at matchmaking and feud mending. In the end, Isadore sets fire to his uncle’s new house, figuring that if he has no new house, he has no reason to marry. In the end, Tremblay comes to his senses, embraces Melanie as his niece (after testing her to make sure she will still marry him) and pays for the Widow’s eye cure. In the end, the Widow is still opposed to the marriage between Isadore and Melanie, but they hope she’ll come around.
About this project:
I've been saying since 2004 that I was going to write a critical biography of Octave Thanet (Alice French). This blog is the start of that work and will include notes, links to research, and other OT related tidbits.