Moresby, Louis. Rubies. New York: George H. Doran Company, 1927, pp. 287.
Roger Pendarvis is a clean cut, strapping young lad growing up on a farm in Cornwall. Life is good, filled with honest hard work and simple pleasures. Late one evening Roger, while out rowing and just passing the time, sees Lord Kyriel receiving a package from a Monsieur Quesnel. The two are at a remote location. Smuggling is a common pastime along the coast and Pendarvis is not adverse to passing the time of day, or night as the case usually is, with the smugglers and getting his tobacco pouch refilled. He does not understand why Lord Kyriel, who is also the local magistrate, would be receiving packages in the dead of night. Magistrate Kyriel has a reputation for being harsh with those caught poaching or smuggling. Lord Kyriel is not particularly liked by the community, but he is given his due because of his station.
Roger mentions the meeting to his father who does not react as expected. The senior Pendarvis gives Roger a message to take to Kyriel but no one must know that a message is being passed.
So begins Roger’s descent into a murky world of intrigue. Soon everything is turned upside down. His father, who he sees as an upstanding man, now appears to be involved in Kyriel’s nebulous affairs. Surprisingly, the two seem to know each other quite well. Soon, Roger’s father disappears. Then a stranger, Ivan Vandaloff, is washed ashore from a shipwreck. He is taken into the Pendarvis home. A charming man, it turns out that he also knows Kyriel, far more than he is letting on at first.
Roger Pendarvis’s efforts to find his father lead him to London and then on to Burma and a ruined city hidden deep in the Burmese jungle. Somewhere in those jungles Roger hopes to find out about his father’s past and clues to his present.
Louis Moresby is one of the pseudonyms used by L. Adams Beck. Beck was born in Cork, Ireland as Elizabeth Louisa Moresby and travelled widely in the East, including India, Tibet, China and Japan. For a while she settled in Victoria B.C. Eventually she moved to Japan. Louisa was nearly sixty before she began publishing, sometime in 1919 and by the time of her death had published more than 35 books. She lived in Victoria for nearly a decade and was a member of the Canadian Authors Association, counting Duncan Campbell Scott among her friends. In the 1920’s she moved to Japan to continue her studies of Buddhism and there she died in 1931.
Louisa Adams Beck was a popular and prolific writer. she was also a committed Buddhist. As a result of her religious views her treatment of the Burmese religion is quite sympathetic. Roger Pendarvis is quite struck by the calmness of the Buddhists he meets. The final lines of the book are his wish to return some day “and try to pluck out the heart of their mystery.”
Still, Beck was a product of her time and could not escape its bigotry and racism. However sympathetic she was towards the religion, the races were to remain separate. Speaking about Europeans who go native and marry local women, “…These things are madness. The two civilizations and races cannot mix, and the children are more or less doomed.” (134) Doomed they are, by those around them. A self fulfilling prophesy. Similar sentiments about the so-called mixing of the races are present in some of her other works. (See “The Glory of Egypt” for other examples.) Still, despite the colonial attitude, the story is generally sympathetic in its portrayal of other religions and cultures. The mystery of what has happened to Roger’s father and what happened those many years ago in Burma do keep the story moving along.
The story was originally published in The Popular Magazine, Dec, 1925. A couple of year later, George Doran published a hardcover edition. No further editions have been published.