Margaret MontfortMay 14, 2008
The three books following Three Margarets deal separately with the Montfort girls. First comes Margaret, whose story is told in Margaret Montfort. While Rita had a father and a stepmother and both Peggy’s parents were living, Margaret was orphaned shortly before the start of Three Margarets by the death of her father. Since she’s also the kind, capable, well-educated and well-behaved one, Uncle John Montfort invited her to stay with him at Fernley House.
When Margaret Montfort opens, she has been living there about a year, and it has been several months since the death of Faith Cheriton, John’s 90-something-year-old aunt. Margaret is very happy with her uncle, although they both miss Aunt Faith, and the only problem Margaret runs into is a housekeeping-related one. She has never been in charge of a house before, and she doesn’t even really think about it until she overhears the cook and the housemaid saying that, although they know how to do their work, they would like Margaret to at least pay attention and see that they’re doing well. And also, they need new napkins. Margaret learns to show that she appreciates them and orders some new napkins, and everyone is happy.
Until Cousin Sophronia Montfort comes to stay. This is only the second time I’ve come across that name — Phronsie Pepper’s real name is Sophronia — and, knowing of Margaret Sidney’s fondness for ridiculous names, I always kind of thought she made it up. Apparently not. Anyway, Cousin Sophronia is kind of a bitch. She comes uninvited, announces that she’s come to keep house for John, and tries to replace Margaret. She’s also really passive aggressive and talks a lot about how the family silver that Margaret was given by her godmother never ought to have gone to her.
John attempts to get rid of Cousin Sophronia by inviting his cousin Anthony’s three bratty children to stay. Their names are Basil, Merton and Susan D., but their father calls them Battle, Murder and Sudden Death. Cousin Sophronia insists she knows all about raising children, and Margaret, who has never dealt with children before, has no idea what to do, but of course the children come to hate Sophronia and respect and love Margaret. Well, Basil and Susan D. do. Merton is pretty much a jerk. Eventually, once the children — with the help of the cook and a neighbor — have driven Sophronia out of the house, John and Margaret decide to keep Basil and Susan D. with them and send Merton the jerk back to his father, which is kind of mean, I think.
Not much happens really, although Margaret does meet Gerald Merryweather, one of the characters from the Hildegarde books. He’s in charge of some engineering work on John’s property, and he’s clearly attracted to Margaret, although I think he still likes Hilda best. Jerry was one of the nicest of the Merryweathers, in my opinion, so it was nice to see him show up here, but a little weird.