Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
A Kentucky Cardinal and Aftermath
James Lane Allen (1849–1925)
Kentucky Cardinal, A, and Aftermath, by James Lane Allen (1895–96). The ‘Kentucky Cardinal’ is a fresh and dainty tale, which may be called an “idyl of the woods.” The story tells of the wooing of Adam Moss, a recluse who devotes himself to nature, and who dwells in a garden, which his loving touch converts almost into fairyland, where all the fruits and flowers blossom and ripen to perfection, and where all the birds have learned to rest on their migratory journeys. Adam knows all the birds and loves them best of all living creatures, until he meets Georgianna, his beautiful next-door neighbor. She is a lovely, tormenting, bewildering creature, who eludes him one day, encourages him the next, and scorns him on a third. Despite her endless resources for tormenting Adam, she is undeniably charming and alluring. She is, however, possessed by a vague fear that her lover’s fondness for nature and for his birds is something that must prevent his entire allegiance to her. She tests his affection by demanding that he cage for her the splendid “Kentucky cardinal”; and Adam wages a bitter warfare with himself before allowing his love for Georgianna to triumph over his lifelong principle and conscientious attitude towards his feathery friends. The caging of the bird, which beats its life out in the prison, is converted by the author’s skill into a veritable tragedy, wherein the reader keenly shares Adam’s remorse and Georgianna’s grief. The lovers quarrel; and then follows a reconciliation which reveals each more clearly to the other, and unites them finally. The conversations of Georgianna from her window to Adam in his strawberry bed below are a delightful feature of the story, which is enlivened by his dry humor and her witty repartee. ‘Aftermath,’ the second part of ‘A Kentucky Cardinal,’ follows the lovers through the days of their engagement and their brief wedded life, which is one of ideal happiness while it lasts. Georgianna strives to win her husband from his overmastering fondness for nature; and he, to please her, enters into social life and seeks to interest himself more in the “study of mankind.” At the birth of a son Georgianna passes away, leaving her husband to seek consolation where he can best obtain it,—from his beloved “nature.” Mr. Allen has a delicate touch and a charm of style; and his descriptions of nature and of bird life possess a really poetic beauty, while they are characterized by a ring of truthfulness which convinces the reader that the author’s heart is in his words. There is a blending of pathos and humor in the work which makes it delightful reading.  1

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