'The hardest disease to cure that I know of is - worry'
1884 Chatto & Windus first English edition
Mystery story published in 1884 with the heroine turning detective, to reveal the truth about the death of her father. The plot relies heavily on coincidence and, as in The Law and the Lady, a supposed murder turns out to have been suicide.
1886 Chatto & Windus yellowback
The orphaned Emily Brown and her best friend Cecilia Wyvil attend Miss
Ladd's school for young ladies. The
date is 1881. On the last day
before the summer holidays, Emily and Cecilia are joined by the rich but
unattractive Francine de Sor. She
has been sent to England by her parents in the West Indies to improve her
education. On the same day, a
recently employed teacher, Sarah Jethro, is dismissed when her references are
discovered to be forged. In saying
goodbye, she reveals that she had once known Emily's father but refuses to
elaborate. Another teacher at the
school is Alban Morris, a drawing master in love with Emily.
Emily's only relative is her father's impoverished sister, Letitia, and
Emily must therefore earn her own living.
With the help of Cecilia she has secured a position in Northumberland
as secretary to Sir Jervis Redwood. His
staff consist of Mr and Mrs Rook who used to own the Hand-in-Hand Inn in
Hampshire until it was forced to close after a gruesome murder.
Mrs Rook comes to collect Emily, and is struck silent when she sees
that Emily wears her father's locket recording his death on 30 September 1877,
the same date as the murder at the inn.
Before Emily can travel north, she is summoned to London because her aunt
is dangerously ill. She begins to
realise that, in addition to Miss Jethro, all the people she thought she could
trust have concealed some aspect of her father's death.
They include her dying aunt; Miss Ellmother, Letitia's faithful old
servant; the family doctor; and even Alban Morris.
Emily discovers from old newspaper reports that the murder victim had
the same name as her father, James Brown.
He was robbed of his pocket book and had his throat cut with a razor
while sharing a room at the inn with another man. An
old handbill gives a description of this chief suspect who fled the scene of
Emily stays with Cecilia's family who have returned from the Continent
with the charismatic preacher, Miles Mirabel.
He falls in love with Emily who becomes the victim of spiteful
Francine's jealousy. Emily
quarrels with Alban and confronts Mrs Ellmother who admits that aunt Letitia
hushed up details of Mr Brown's murder. Miss
Jethro is also revealed as his lover.
Emily determines to continue her detective activities to find her
father's murderer. She enlists the
assistance of Mirabel, not realising he was the other man at the inn.
His sister, Mrs Delvin, lives in Northumberland and Mirabel persuades
Emily to stay with her. Mrs Delvin
is unsuccessful in preventing Emily from seeing Mrs Rook who has been hurt in
a railway accident. Believing she
is dying, Mrs Rook confesses that she stole the bloodstained pocket book from
Emily's already dead father and now returns it to Emily.
The pocket book still has a note from Miss Jethro containing only the
words 'I say no'.
Mirabel, knowing he is found out, collapses.
Miss Delvin confirms that he was indeed the other man but is innocent
of murder. He fled in terror and
escaped the police with the help of Miss Jethro.
Alban has obtained a letter from her which finally reveals that Mr
Brown took his own life with Mirabel's razor when he learned of Miss Jethro's
refusal. Emily and Alban are
reconciled and marry.
1884 Harper's first edition
First published in several provincial newspapers including the Glasgow
Weekly Herald, 15 December 1883 - 12 July 1884; Harper's Weekly, 22
December 1883 - 12 July 1884; and London Society, January - December 1884.
First English edition
3 volumes, Chatto & Windus, London 1884.
Light blue cloth, covers blocked in red, spines lettered in gilt.
Pale green and white floral end-papers.
Half-title in each volume. Published
(viii) + 296 pp. 32 pp
publishers' catalogue dated March 1884
bound in at end.
(viii) + 296 pp
(viii) + 324 pp
1 volume editions
Chatto & Windus 1886-1906. Sutton,
US and first edition
Harpers, New York 1884 (as "I Say No": or the Love-letter
Answered). Published three
months ahead of the English edition.
Dutch, The Hague 1884; Russian, St Petersburg 1884; German, Berlin 1886;
French, Paris 1888.
All material in these pages is © copyright Andrew Gasson 1998-2010