The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories

The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories Summary and Analysis of The Queen's Twin


Mrs. Todd returns from an excursion. The narrator thought she had been gathering herbs, but it turns out that she was actually visiting her friend, Abby Martin. Abby had always been a good friend to Mrs. Todd, but they rarely visit because she lives in a remote location several miles inland, and the walking path is not always clear. On the way there, Mrs. Todd stopped at a swamp that had been flooded, and tells the narrator about it.

As Mrs. Todd explains, Abby Martin considers herself “the Queen’s Twin” (196). She was born on the same day as Queen Victoria (who reigned in England when the story collection was written), and shares many other similarities with her. The women decide to visit Abby again in two days. Mrs. Todd comments that Abby does not receive many visitors because most of her neighbors have died or moved away over the years.

On the day they depart, the weather is beautiful. They leave early to avoid unexpected visitors – the journey to visit Abby is long, and if Mrs. Caplin or Mrs. Blackett were to stop by to chat, they would have to postpone the trip until another day. They walk on an old Native American footpath, and the narrator is struck by how the landscape resembles the English countryside. She realizes that she is strangely anxious to visit "the Queen's twin," as though she were going to be received at court.

Mrs. Todd shows the narrator some gifts she has brought for Abby: some silk and gold thread, and some herbs that will prevent her from getting joint pain as the weather warms up. Mrs. Todd explains that Abby is kind but peculiar, which is why she does not move in with her children despite her old age. “I always think she’d know just how to live with great folks,” she says, “and feel easier ‘long of them an’ their ways” (202). She means "great folks" as opposed to common folks like those of rural Maine.

They stop for a picnic lunch, and Mrs. Todd tells how men have failed to tame this wild part of the country over the years, and had in fact been frightened of it for a long time. She also tells the narrator about Abby’s ‘best room,’ where she keeps pictures of Queen Victoria. Abby constructs all of the picture frames by hand, which is why Mrs. Todd is bringing silk and thread.

When they arrive, the narrator notes that Abby Martin appears beautiful and dignified. Abby immediately asks the narrator whether she’s ever been to London, and quickly turns all conversation towards her connection with the Queen. She lists some of their similarities: they were born on the same day and time, their husbands are both named Albert, and their children have the same names (despite the fact that Abby didn’t know about Victoria’s marriage or children when she married and had her own children).

Abby tells about the time she visited London when she had just married. Her husband was going to England as a ship’s accountant, and she begged to join him. She cooked and cleaned for the crew during the long voyage, so they accepted her. When they finally arrived, her husband was reluctant to let her go ashore, since he was too busy to row her over himself. Abby was devastated, but another sailor offered to take her into town. As it turned out, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were having a procession that day, and Abby got to see them up close. Since then, she has known that she and the Queen have a special bond.

Next, she tells a sadder story, about a day when she daydreamed that the Queen was going to visit her. She decorated the house and made a beautiful supper, and did not realize until night that she was all alone despite her preparations. Right as Abby realized this, an old cousin dropped by for a visit, and they ate the supper together.

Next, Abby shows the narrator her 'best room,' which holds the Queen's pictures. After that, the narrator and Mrs. Todd depart for home. Although the two older women warmly promise to visit each other soon, the narrator notices that Mrs. Todd gives Abby full instructions on how to use the herbs she brought for next spring – as if acknowledging that they won’t see each other before then.


Like “The Foreigner,” this story has a relatively downbeat mood, and focuses on the harsher elements of isolated life in coastal Maine. In Dunnet Landing, people’s quirks tend to be benign and even endearing. Consider Captain Littlepage’s eccentricity – which the neighbors tend to laugh off – or William’s pathological shyness, which does not prevent him from befriending the narrator or from getting married.

Abby Martin’s preoccupation with Queen Victoria is entirely different. Although her obsession certainly has a whimsical side, the moment when she deludes herself that the queen will visit lends the story a sense of pathos that arguably overshadows its upbeat ending (in which Abby’s cousin comes and helps her eat the elaborate supper she made for the queen). The narrator’s conversation with Abby predominantly focuses on Queen Victoria, but seemingly minor details enhance “The Queen’s Twin”’s elegiac tone. Abby subtly suggests that her family life has been less than ideal: she wanted a second daughter but never had one, and when she went to see the queen’s procession, her husband was too busy to accompany her.

In any section of The Country of the Pointed Firs, Dunnet Landing is the subject as much as any individual character, and this holds true for “The Queen’s Twin.” The haunting sketch of Abby Martin is preceded by a section in which Jewett highlights images of slow regional decay. As they walk to Abby’s house, Mrs. Todd gives the narrator extensive commentary on their surroundings. Despite the natural beauty of the area, it is clear that it is past its prime as a human settlement and will slowly return to nature.

Examples of this include the abandoned Indian footpath, and the fact that Abby’s neighborhood has gradually become a ghost town. In fact, it is geographically as well as socially isolated, since the swamps make travel easy only at certain parts of the year. It is also worth considering that every character in the story except the narrator is extremely old by nineteenth-century standards (and even the narrator’s age is uncertain). Like modern cities where the main industry has moved elsewhere, Dunnet’s population has aged as young people leave to seek their fortunes in more promising areas. Because the shipping industry has relocated, there is not much to keep young people there.

Jewett’s thoughtful narrator is eager to extract broader truths from her experiences in Dunnet Landing. If “The Queen’s Twin” has a simple moral, it might be that worldly experience is important even for people who live simple, parochial lives. The sailors of Dunnet Landing had once had access to the world through their sea industry. “They knew not only Thomaston and Castine and Portland, but London and Bristol and Bordeaux, and the strange-mannered harbors of the China Sea," she writes of Dunnet’s sailors (193). Abby’s trip to London encouraged her fascination with Queen Victoria, and she spent the rest of her life re-living it in various ways. Although this fascination sometimes comes off as ‘high-flown’ – or alternately, pathetic – it seems to have helped her through poverty and loneliness by giving her a sense that she is special.