“Sweet Ermengarde; or, The Heart of a Country Girl“


“Sweet Ermengarde; or, The Heart of a Country Girl“
   Short story (2,740 words); date of writing unknown (probably 1919–21); as by “Percy Simple.” First published in BWS;corrected text in MW
   Ermengarde Stubbs is the “beauteous blonde daughter” of Hiram Stubbs, a “poor but honest farmerbootlegger of Hogton, Vt.” She admits to being sixteen years old, and “branded as mendacious all reports to the effect that she was thirty.” She is pursued by two lovers who wish to marry her: ’Squire Hardman, who is “very rich and elderly” and, moreover, has a mortgage on Ermengarde’s home, and Jack Manly, a childhood friend who is too bashful to declare his love and unfortunately has no money. Jack, however, manages to find the gumption to propose, and Ermengarde accepts with alacrity. Hardman in fury demands Ermangarde’s hand from her father lest he foreclose on the mortgage (he has, incidentally, found that the Stubbses’ land has gold buried in it). Jack, learning of the matter, vows to go to the city and make his fortune and save the farm.
   Hardman, however, takes no chances and has two disreputable accomplices kidnap Ermengarde and hide her in a hovel under the charge of Mother Maria, “a hideous old hag.” But as Hardman ponders the matter, he wonders why he is even bothering with the girl, when all he really wants is the farm and its buried gold. He lets Ermengarde go and continues to threaten to foreclose. Meanwhile a band of hunters strays on the Stubbses’ property and one of them, Algernon Reginald Jones, finds the gold; not revealing it to his companions or to the Stubbses, Algernon feigns snakebite and goes to the farm, where he instantly falls in love with Ermengarde and wins her over with his sophisticated city ways. She elopes with Algernon a week later, but on the train to the city a piece of paper falls from Algernon’s pocket; picking it up, she finds to her horror that it is a love letter from another woman. She pushes Algernon out the window.
   Unfortunately, Ermengarde fails to take Algernon’s wallet, so she has no money when she reaches the city. She spends a week on park benches and in bread-lines; she tries to look up Jack Manly, but cannot find him. One day she finds a purse; finding that it has not much money in it, she decides to return it to its owner, a Mrs. Van Itty. This aristocrat, amazed at the honesty of the “forlorn waif,” takes Ermengarde under her wing. Later Mrs. Van Itty hires a new chauffeur, and Ermengarde is startled to find that it is Algernon! “He had survived—this much was almost immediately evident.” It turns out that he had married the woman who wrote the love letter, but that she had deserted him and run off with the milkman. Humbled, Algernon asks Ermengarde’s forgiveness. Ermengarde, now ensconced as a replacement for the daughter Mrs. Van Itty lost many years ago, returns to the old farmstead and is about to buy off the mortgage from Hardman when Jack suddenly returns, bringing a wife, “the fair Bridget Goldstein,” in tow. All this time Mrs. Van Itty, sitting in the car, eyes Ermengarde’s mother Hannah and finally shrieks: “You—you—Hannah Smith— I know you now! Twenty-eight years ago you were my baby Maude’s nurse and stole her from the cradle!!” Then she realizes that Ermengarde is in fact her long-lost daughter. But Ermengarde is now doing some pondering: “How could she get away with the sixteen-year-old stuff if she had been stolen twenty-eight years ago?” She, knowing of the gold on the Stubbses’ farm, repudiates Mrs. Van Itty and compels ‘Squire Hardman to foreclose on the mortgage and marry her lest she prosecute him for last year’s kidnapping. “And the poor dub did.”
   This is the only work of fiction by HPL that cannot be dated with precision. The manuscript is written on stationery from the Edwin E.Phillips Refrigeration Company, which was a going concern around 1910 or so, but since the story alludes to the passage of the 18th Amendment it must clearly date to 1919 or later. Since Phillips (HPL’s uncle) died on November 14, 1918, perhaps the stationery came into HPL’s possession shortly thereafter; but it is by no means certain that he wrote the story at that time.
   Of possible relevance is a P.S. to HPL’s letter in the Argosyfor March 1914: “I have a design of writing a novel for the entertainment of those readers who complain that they cannot secure enough of Fred Jackson’s work. It is to be entitled: ‘The Primal Passion, or The Heart of ’Rastus Washington.’” It is possible that Jackson is a subsidiary (or even primary) target for attack here. Several of Jackson’s novels have exactly the sort of implausibility of plot and sentimentality of action that is parodied in “Sweet Ermengarde.” With “A Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson” and “Ibid,” it forms a trilogy of HPL’s comic gems.

An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. .

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Милая Эрменгард — Sweet Ermengarde Жанр: Пародия Автор: Говард Филлипс Лавкрафт Язык оригинала: Английский Год написания: точная дата неизвест …   Википедия


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