“To the readers of my stories who, by spoken or written word, have recognized beneath the magic glamour of romance and adventure the clear flame of my belief that the beautiful things of life are as real as the ugly things of life, that gay courage may turn threatened defeat into victory, that hitching one’s wagon to the star of achievement will lift one high above the quicksands of discouragement.” Dedication of Lighted Windows
If there is a quintessentially “Emilie” quote, this is it, and it appeared first as the dedication to Lighted Windows. It’s a wonderful statement. “The beautiful things of life are as real as the ugly things of life.” My family has heard me repeat that so often that my daughter put it on a mug for my birthday. (Yes, that is a blueberry birthday cake in the background.) But even without the dedication, Lighted Windows would be one of my favorite Emilie Loring books.
When asked where she got the ideas for her books, Emilie replied, “From everywhere.” In this case, inspiration came from an ad in the newspaper that a “black satin slipper with buckle” had been found in Boston’s Back Bay.
“Curious, I thought, that only one slipper had been lost. I wonder why—and the story had started.” Emilie Loring
Her publisher’s ad described:
Bruce Harcourt stopped short in his stride down Fifth Avenue at a quiet hour before dawn and gazed incredulously at a black satin, brilliant-buckled slipper. It spelled adventure, that slipper. Too bad he had to return to his Alaskan engineering outfit next day, he mused as he pocketed it. Even more reluctant was he to leave New York after his meeting with Janice Trent, owner of the impudent slipper. But the fates have their own plans for this personable young man and lovely girl…
When Emilie created her books’ settings, she often subscribed to newspapers from the locations, to be able to describe them well, but in this case, she had personal experience. She had been to Alaska, and she had lantern slides that she took herself from which to write her descriptions.
Water dotted with floating ice, about which mountains lifted snowy peaks gilded with sunlight, patched with purple shadows from the drifting clouds. Dead ahead a glacier sloped back for miles. Sunshine transformed the frozen cataract into a dazzling mass of glitter, set the blue water sparkling like a sea of sapphires and every scrap of ice gleaming like a huge emerald. Lighted Windows
After Swift Water’s wrenching struggle, Lighted Windows offered optimism.
She had been wise to follow her hunch. Transplanting had broken up the old design of her life. It had developed a determination to make an art of living, to conquer her fear complex, to meet problems and disappointments with gay courage. It had set her mind pulsing with new ideas, new ambitions, new plans.
Emilie kept the original paintings for all of her stories, and this one, by Manning de V. Lee, now hangs in her granddaughter Valentine’s home. It’s a cozy image, smoke rising from a chimney, windows golden in what appears to be twilight. Emilie used the image of lighted windows often in her books–a symbol of home, of loving reassurance.
All her life lighted windows had fascinated her. In the city at twilight she would pass them slowly, imagining what was going on behind them. Always to her they suggested home-coming men, someone calling, “Is that you, dear?” That had been her mother’s gay, tender greeting to her men-folk. Mother. She seemed very near out here under the stars. Lighted Windows
Lighted Windows was published in August, 1930, and despite the Depression, it sold briskly. Again, Emilie had sensed the public’s need: “that gay courage may turn threatened defeat into victory.” A Boston bookstore vouched that one man bought fifty-three copies as Christmas gifts! The book was in its third edition by May.
I love Lighted Windows, and it’s not for any of these more intellectual reasons. Emilie confessed that she fell a little bit in love with the men in her stories, and I think I could fall—probably do fall—a little in love with Bruce Harcourt every time I read it.
Bruce is imperturbable. He’s known Jan since school days, and he has his eye on the long goal. Quick on the uptake, he plays along with Jan’s lie to Ned Paxton that they are married, shoots a bear, and dances in black tie at his wedding celebration, all in the same day. He sees beyond the crises of the moment, amused and teasing by turns.
“Doing our prettiest to entertain you, Jan.” How one could love him for his smile, the girl thought.
But imperturbability goes only so far. Bruce is both human and in love, and Jan’s former fiancé shows up right when Bruce has to leave.
Then he had decided swiftly that it wouldn’t do for Jan and him to part as mere friends, he had caught her in his arms and—had lost his head. The memory set the blood humming in his ears.
For a girl who claims a fear complex, Janice acts on impulse rather a lot. She lost her slipper in the first place, because she started to leap from a moving roadster, and Mrs. Hale continues the list:
“You knew Bruce years ago, I hear. Met him again, ran away from the man you were to marry, disguised yourself as a boy, brought a trunkload of seductive clothes and came hotfoot after him, didn’t you?”
“And got him!” Janice banged the door behind her.
Janice is bursting from her conservative, New England upbringing, but her conscience is working overtime, and her inner dialogues feel comfortably familiar to anyone who’s made an earnest try to do something different, to do something better. I like Janice. In the end, it’s Janice who sees better than Bruce.
“You talk about love. A lot you know about it. I can see you following a person half across the world. Not a chance!”
“Jan!” The incredulous whisper brought her eyes to his.
However the stars aligned, Emilie Loring got it completely right in Lighted Windows. She sat down, straightaway, and began Fair Tomorrow.