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3-173 (Raw)

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addressee author,male,Kingsley, Henry,29
Narrative Discourse
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Public Written
Kingsley, 1859
Vol I 1-10
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[1] i: Chapter I.
Near the end of February 1857, I think about the 20th or so, though it don't much matter; I only know it was near the latter end of summer, burning hot, with the bushfires raging like volcanoes on the ranges, and the river reduced to a slender stream of water, almost lost upon the broad white flats of quartz shingle. It was the end of February, I said, when Major Buckley, Captain Brentwood (formerly of the Artillery), and I, Geoffry Hamlyn, sat together over our wine in the veranda at Baroona, gazing sleepily on the grey plains that rolled away east and north-east towards the sea. 
We had sat silent for some time, too lazy to speak, almost to think. The beautiful flower-garden which lay before us, sloping towards the river, looked rather brown and sere, after the hot winds, although the orange-trees were still green enough, and vast clusters of purple grapes were ripening rapidly among the yellowing vine- leaves. On the whole, however, the garden was but a poor subject of contemplation for one who remembered it in all its full November beauty, and so my eye travelled away to the left, to a broad paddock of yellow grass which bounded the garden on that side, and there I watched an old horse feeding. [2]
A very old horse indeed, a horse which seemed to have reached the utmost bounds of equine existence. And yet such a beautiful beast. Even as I looked some wild young colts were let out of the stockyard, and came galloping and whinnying towards him, and then it was a sight to see the old fellow as he trotted towards them, with his nose in the air, and his tail arched, throwing his legs out before him with the ease and grace of a four- year-old, and making me regret that he wasn't my property and ten years younger; - altogether, even then, one of the finest horses of his class I had ever seen, and suddenly a thought came over me, and I grew animated. 
"Major Buckley," I said, "what horse is that?" 
"What horse is that?" repeated the major very slowly. "Why, my good fellow, old Widderin, to be sure." 
"Bless me!" I said; "You don't mean to say that that old horse is alive still?" [3] 
"He looks like it," said the major. "He'd carry you a mile or two, yet." 
"I thought he had died while I was in England," I said. "Ah, major, that horse's history would be worth writing." 
"If you began," answered the major, "to write the history of the horse, you must write also the history of every body who was concerned in those circumstances which caused Sam to take a certain famous ride upon him. And you would find that the history of the horse would be reduced into very small compass, and that the rest of your book would assume proportions too vast for the human intellect to grasp." 
"How so?" I said. 
He entered into certain details, which I will not give. "You would have," he said, "to begin at the end of the last century, and bring one gradually on to the present time. Good heavens! just consider." 
"I think you exaggerate," I said. 
"Not at all," he answered. "You must begin the histories of the Buckley and Thornton families in the last generation. The Brentwoods also, must not be omitted, - why there's work for several years. What do you say, Brentwood?" 
"The work of a life-time;" said the captain. 
"But suppose I were to write a simple narrative of the principal events in the histories of the three families, which no one is more able to do than myself, seeing that nothing important has ever happened without my hearing of it, - how, I say, would you like that?" [4]
"If it amused you to write it, I am sure it would amuse us to read it," said the major. 
"But you are rather old to turn author," said Captain Brentwood; "you'll make a failure of it; in fact, you'll never get through with it." 
I replied not, but went into my bedroom, and returning with a thick roll of papers threw it on the floor - as on the stage the honest notary throws down the long-lost will, - and there I stood for a moment with my arms folded, eyeing Brentwood triumphantly. 
"It is already done, captain," I said. "There it lies." 
The captain lit a cigar, and said nothing; but the major said, "Good gracious me! and when was this done?" 
"Partly here, and partly in England. I propose to read it aloud to you, if it will not bore you." 
"A really excellent idea," said the major. "My dear!" - this last was addressed to a figure which was now seen approaching us up a long vista of trellised vines. A tall figure dressed in grey. The figure, one could see as she came nearer, of a most beautiful old woman. 
Dressed I said in grey, with a white handkerchief pinned over her grey hair, and a light Indian shawl hanging from her shoulders. As upright as a dart: she came towards us through the burning heat, as calmly and majestically as if the temperature had been delightfully moderate. [5] A hoary old magpie accompanied her, evidently of great age, and from time to time barked like an old bulldog, in a wheezy whisper. 
"My dear," said the major; "Hamlyn is going to read aloud some manuscript to us." 
"That will be very delightful, this hot weather," said Mrs. Buckley. "May I ask the subject, old friend?" 
"I would rather you did not, my dear madam; you will soon discover, in spite of a change of names, and perhaps somewhat of localities." 
"Well, go on," said the major; and so on I went with the next chapter, which is the first of the story. 
The reader will probably ask: 
"Now, who on earth is Major Buckley? and who is Captain Brentwood? and last not least, who the Dickens are you?" If you will have patience, my dear sir, you will find it all out in a very short time - Read on.

[6] i: Chapter II.
Sometime between the years 1780 and 1790, young John Thornton, then a Servitor at Christ Church, fell in love with pretty Jane Hickman, whose father was a well-to-do farmer, living not far down the river from Oxford; and shortly before he took his degree, he called formally upon old Hickman, and asked his daughter's hand. Hickman was secretly well pleased that his daughter should marry a scholar and a gentleman like John Thornton, and a man too who could knock over his bird, or kill his trout in the lasher with any one. So after some decent hesitation he told him, that as soon as he got a living, good enough to support Jane as she had been accustomed to live, he might take her home with a father's blessing, and a hundred pounds to buy furniture. And you may take my word for it, that there was not much difficulty with the young lady, for in fact the thing had long ago been arranged between them, and she was anxiously waiting in the passage to hear her father's decision, all the time that John was closeted with him. [7]
John came forth from the room well pleased and happy. And that evening when they two were walking together in the twilight by the quiet river, gathering cowslips and fritillaries, he told her of his good prospects, and how a young lord, who made much of him, and treated him as a friend and an equal, though he was but a Servitor - and was used to sit in his room talking with him long after the quadrangle was quiet, and the fast men had reeled off to their drunken slumbers - had only three days before promised him a living of 300£ a-year, as soon as he should take his priest's orders. And when they parted that night, at the old stile in the meadow, and he saw her go gliding home like a white phantom under the dark elms, he thought joyfully, that in two short years they would be happily settled, never more to part in this world, in his peaceful vicarage in Dorsetshire. 
Two short years, he thought. Alas! and alas! Before two years were gone, poor Lord Sandston was lying one foggy November morning on Hampstead Heath, with a bullet through his heart. Shot down at the commencement of a noble and useful career by a brainless gambler - a man who did all things ill, save billiards and pistol-shooting; his beauty and his strength hurried to corruption, and his wealth to the senseless debauchée who hounded on his murderer to insult him. But I have heard old Thornton tell, with proud tears, how my lord, though outraged and insulted, with no course open to him but to give the villain the power of taking his life, still fired in the air, and went down to the vault of his forefathers without the guilt of blood upon his soul. [8]
So died Lord Sandston, and with him all John's hopes of advancement. A curate now on 50£ a-year; what hope had he of marrying? And now the tearful couple, walking once more by the river in desolate autumn, among the flying yellow leaves, swore constancy, and agreed to wait till better times should come. 
So they waited. John in his parish among his poor people and his school-children, busy always during the day, and sometimes perhaps happy. But in the long winter evenings, when the snow lay piled against the door, and the wind howled in the chimney; or worse, when the wind was still, and the rain was pattering from the eaves, he would sit lonely and miserable by his desolate hearth, and think with a sigh of what might have been had his patron lived. And five-and-twenty years rolled on until James Brown, who was born during the first year of his curateship, came home a broken man, with one arm gone, from the battle of St. Vincent. And the great world roared on, and empires rose and fell, and dull echoes of the great throes without were heard in the peaceful English village, like distant thunder on a summer's afternoon, but still no change for him. [9]
But poor Jane bides her time in the old farm-house, sitting constant and patient behind the long low latticed window, among the geraniums and roses, watching the old willows by the river. Five-and-twenty times she sees those willows grow green, and the meadow brighten up with flowers, and as often she sees their yellow leaves driven before the strong south wind, and the meadow grow dark and hoar before the breath of autumn. Her father was long since dead, and she was bringing up her brother's children. Her raven hair was streaked with grey, and her step was not so light, nor her laugh so loud, yet still she waited and hoped, long after all hope seemed dead. 
But at length a brighter day seemed to dawn for them; for the bishop, who had watched for years John Thornton's patient industry and blameless conversation, gave him, to his great joy and astonishment, the living of Drumston, worth 350£ a-year. And now, at last, he might marry if he would. True, the morning of his life was gone long since, and its hot noon spent in thankless labour; but the evening, the sober, quiet evening, yet remained, and he and Jane might still render pleasant for one another the downward road toward the churchyard, and hand-in-hand walk more tranquilly forward to meet that dark tyrant Death, who seemed so terrible to the solitary watcher. [10]