Tally Ho! and all that: The Straw, Rina Ramsay (1909)

This is a similar novel to Barnaby, by the same author, which I discussed in an earlier post. I didn’t think it was as good as Barnaby, and like Ian Hay’s novel Knight on Wheels, although it’s a romance it’s told from the hero’s POV. It features a similar range of characters to Barnaby, although the main players are not quite as well drawn as in the other novel. Here though, there is some wonderful comic relief from secondary characters, missing in the other.

The hero is a decent, likable fox-hunting sort of chap, a bit short of funds, and sadly reticent. These last two dreadful character flaws being the cause of most of the events in the novel. The heroine is the only character I found it hard to care much about – I felt she was a bit of a Mary Sue and her motivations were incomprehensible to this modern reader. She also has the major flaw of being an heiress. Finally the bad guy is a bit of moustache twirler, almost identical to the bad guy in Ramsay’s other novel, and incidentally very similar to Louise Gerard’s heroes.

The comic relief comes from two brothers known as The Babes. These young men are engaged in an early form of The Good Life, attempting to grow their own food, and make their own clothes etc, although they are not totally abandoned to the common decencies as they still have their valet. Finally there is the hero’s sidekick, who adds a note of sobriety to the proceedings and does eventually have a rather important part to play.

As noted, the heroine is lumbered with a fortune, and is therefore the object of much pursuit on the part of assorted fortune hunters. She is also, sadly, a girl of little strength of character and when her so-called friends introduce her to a most unsuitable party, she is induced to accept his offer of marriage because she feels sorry for him. See my comments re incomprehensible motivations above. This is shortly after the hero, a young man in sadly reduced circumstances, meets her, and falls in love with her. But too late; she goes off and marries the bad guy. For her pains, she is abominably treated, humiliated and bullied with more than a suggestion of physical abuse. Our hero is appalled, but being a gentleman knows there is no interfering. Instead he does his best to stand her friend. Then it gets interesting, when the bad guy is found dead, and we have a nice mystery as to whodunit. Naturally our two lovers end up together, although it does get a bit syrupy there, all is not revealed until the end, when I burst out laughing at not having guessed who it was, it was very clever. That more than made up for the wishy-washy heroine.

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