Moresby, Louis. Captain Java. Garden City: Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1928, pp. 368.
Captain Herbert Dixon, after 40 years work at sea is retired and pensioned off. He has to now live at his home, Paradise Place in Gravesend, with his wife, Betsy Dixon. Mrs Dixon is not known for her soft gentleness. The two have survived marriage because Captain Dixon has spent much of their married life away at sea. Mrs Dixon is a hard, shrewish woman. She is pernicious and quite put out that she will have Mr Dixon around the house now, indefinitely.
Captain Henry Homan is a retired widower and a good friend of Herbert’s. Mrs Dixon disapproves of Homan. Homan is also haunted by his spinster aunt, Miss Marlagon, who also disapproves, of Homan himself and of Dixon. Dixon and Homan, being at loose ends and facing a dreary prospect of being dominated by a couple of unpleasant women hatch a scheme to escape to the South seas. The plan is to set up on a quiet island and live their remaining days feasting on the bounty the island has to offer. To that end, Captain Homan is to marry again, said wife to voyage with the two men to their island and to look after them there. Mrs Dixon and Miss Marlagon are not invited, or told of the venture.
An advertisement is duly placed in the Marriage Broker. The selected respondent ends up being Java Hardy, the daughter of an old friend, Stormalong Hardy, and the niece of Miss Marlagon. Not only does java charm the two old men, there will be no marrying but rather the two acquire a new “niece”, she also possesses her own ship, the Spindrift. The plan has come together better than the two could ever have hoped it would.
Java is also seeking to escape a constrained life in England. Social conventions and a very disapproving aunt ensure that Java is severely constrained in her activities. The three quickly make their escape to Paradise Island where they begin an idyllic life of comfort and profit.
In due course of time we have a young shipwrecked sailor, Roger Wynyard join the band. Roger is quite insufferable in his views of women. “Very precious is a woman who can hold her tongue, and like all precious things uncommonly rare.” (212) The dolt is madly in love with Java, and she with him, although she refuses to admit it. So far, Java has maintained quite a nice level of independence from any and all.
Toss in a witch doctor, Hanua, and some marauding cannibals and you end up with a complete south sea adventure. Java is snatched by the cannibals. She holds up quite well but in the end she collapses into screaming hysterics and it is up to Wynyard to save the day. It is quite disappointing and rather a waste of a good, strong female character. It comes as no surprise that the two admit their love and are promptly married. Java becomes the dutiful wife.
The marriage of Java and Roger has some unintended consequences. The adventure with the cannibals and the subsequent marriage is reported in the papers. The story eventually makes its way to Gravesend and to the notice of Mrs Dixon and Miss Marlagon. The two are not amused and are determined to do something about this shameful state of affairs.
Louis Moresby is L. Adams Beck (c1860-1931). Mrs Beck’s maiden name was Moresby. This is the third of three Moresby novel that Beck wrote. (Her previous novel, Rubies, can be found here.) In her lifetime Mrs Beck published 35 novels. She did not start writing until she was 60, yet she proved to be prolific and successful. She began her writing career shortly after she moved to Victoria, B.C. in 1919. She remained in B.C. for more than a decade and was a member of the Canadian Authors Association. Before arriving in Canada, Mrs. Beck had traveled widely, especially in the east, to Tibet, India, Egypt and Japan. Mrs. Beck was a committed Buddhist. She eventually returned to Japan to continue her studies there where she died in Kyoto in 1931.