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Bulldog And Butterfly From "Schwartz" by David Christie Murray   By: (1847-1907)

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By David Christie Murray

Author Of 'Aunt Rachel,' 'The Weaker Vessel,' Etc.


Castle Barfield, Heydon Hey, and Beacon Hargate form the three points of a triangle. Barfield is a parish of some pretensions; Heydon Hey is a village; Beacon Hargate is no more than a hamlet. There is not much that is picturesque in Beacon Hargate, or its neighbourhood. The Beacon Hill itself is as little like a hill as it well can be, and acquires what prominence it has by virtue of the extreme flatness of the surrounding country. A tuft of Scotch firs upon its crest is visible from a distance of twenty miles in some directions. A clear but sluggish stream winds among its sedges and water lilies round the western side of the Beacon Hill, and washes the edge of a garden which belongs to the one survival of the picturesque old times Beacon Hargate has to show.

The Oak House was built for a mansion in the days of Queen Elizabeth, but who built it nobody knows at this time of day, or, excepting perhaps a hungry minded antiquary or two, greatly cares to know. The place had been partly pulled down, and a good deal altered here and there. Stables, barns, cow sheds, and such other outhouses as are needful to a farm had been tacked on to it, or built near it; and all these appurtenances, under the mellowing hand of time and weather, had grown congruous, insomuch that the Oak House if stripped of them would have looked as bare even to the unaccustomed eye as a bird plucked of its feathers.

The house faced the stream, and turned its back upon the Beacon with its clump of fir trees. It had chimneys enough for a village an extraordinary wealth of chimneys 'twisted, fluted, castellated, stacked together in conclave or poised singly about the gables. The front of the house was crossed laterally and diagonally by great beams of black painted oak. The windows, which are full of diamonded panes, were lowbrowed, deep sunken, long, and shallow. The door had a porch, and this porch was covered with creepers. In summer time climbing roses and honeysuckle bloomed there. The garden ran right up to the house, and touched it all round. The fragrant sweet william, nestling against the walls, looked as though it were a natural fringe. Without the faintest sense of primness, or even of orderliness, everything had an air of being precisely where it ought to be, and conveyed somehow a suggestion of having been there always. The house looked less as if it had been built than as if it had grown, and this feeling was heightened by the vegetable growth about it and upon it the clinging ivy, the green house leek, the purple and golden moss on the roofs and walls. In the course of its three hundred years the Oak House had stood long enough to be altogether reconciled to nature, and half absorbed by it.

In 1850 which, though it seem a long while ago, is well within human memory and for many years before, the Oak House was tenanted by a farmer who bore the name of Fellowes, a sturdy and dogmatic personage, who was loud at the table of the market ordinary once a week, and for the most part silent for the rest of his life at home. The gray mare was the better horse. Excepting within doors at the Oak House, Fellowes ruled the hamlet. There were no resident gentry; the clergyman was an absentee; the tiny church was used only as a chapel of ease; and Fellowes was the wealthiest and most important personage for a mile or two. He was a little disposed to be noisy, and to bluster in his show of authority, and therefore fell all the more easily captive to his wife, who had a gift for the tranquil saying of unpleasant things which was reckoned quite phenomenal in Beacon Hargate. This formidable woman was ruled in turn by her daughter Bertha.

Bertha, unless looked at through the eyes of susceptible young manhood, would by no means be pronounced formidable. She was country bred and quite rustic; but there are refinements of rusticity; and for Beacon Hargate, Bertha was a lady... Continue reading book >>

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