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By Israel Drazin
Miss or Mrs.?
By Wilkie Collins
This is a delightful short novel by the famed author of such books as The Woman in White and Moonstone that readers can obtain free of charge from sources such as amazon because the copyright has expired. The book has two principle plots. A young girl of fifteen is physically well developed and quite pretty and is being wooed by a man who is much older than her. The father of the girl, who also married a girl much younger than him, is somewhat naïve, but very wealthy and so is the man who is wooing her. The latter is very friendly with the girl’s father who consented to her marrying him. He has been managing her father’s wealth. However she is in love with a much younger man, her cousin, and he with her. This being the mid-nineteenth century and because her father has always shown the young girl loving affection, she does not want to hurt her father’s feelings. Thus the two lovers have to meet in secret. The young man wants to marry his love before the date that her father promised to allow the older man to marry her. But they face a problem: she is below the age of consent and if they elope he would be charged with kidnapping.
The second plot focuses on the older suitor. There is a suspicion that he was involved in a hideous murder and is not who he appears to be. He is a very strong man, much stronger and with more resources than the younger man. He is having a problem that is not revealed early in the book. But it is revealed that he knows what the young man is up to, and he is fanatically jealous.
As is usual in these tales, there is humor. The girl’s father and his loving sister have a habit of interrupting each other’s narratives with corrections, and this is repeatedly done in a very funny manner. When this habit is mentioned to them, they are surprised. They insist they never would dare contradict each other.
The two plots are not unusual and have been used by other authors, but readers will, I believe, enjoy how Wilkie Collins is able to tell his tale with suspense in an interesting way.