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Helbeck of Bannisdale — Volume I   By: (1851-1920)

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... metus ille ... Acheruntis ... Funditus humanam qui vitam turbat ab imo

In two volumes

Vol. I.


E. de V.

In Memoriam







"I must be turning back. A dreary day for anyone coming fresh to these parts!"

So saying, Mr. Helbeck stood still both hands resting on his thick stick while his gaze slowly swept the straight white road in front of him and the landscape to either side.

Before him stretched the marsh lands of the Flent valley, a broad alluvial plain brought down by the rivers Flent and Greet on their way to the estuary and the sea. From the slight rising ground on which he stood, he could see the great peat mosses about the river mouths, marked here and there by lines of weather beaten trees, or by more solid dots of black which the eye of the inhabitant knew to be peat stacks. Beyond the mosses were level lines of greyish white, where the looping rivers passed into the sea lines more luminous than the sky at this particular moment of a damp March afternoon, because of some otherwise invisible radiance, which, miles away, seemed to be shining upon the water, slipping down to it from behind a curtain of rainy cloud.

Nearer by, on either side of the high road which cut the valley from east to west, were black and melancholy fields, half reclaimed from the peat moss, fields where the water stood in the furrows, or a plough driven deep and left, showed the nature of the heavy waterlogged earth, and the farmer's despair of dealing with it, till the drying winds should come. Some of it, however, had long before been reclaimed for pasture, so that strips of sodden green broke up, here and there, the long stretches of purple black. In the great dykes or drains to which the pastures were due, the water, swollen with recent rain, could be seen hurrying to join the rivers and the sea. The clouds overhead hurried like the dykes and the streams. A perpetual procession from the north west swept inland from the sea, pouring from the dark distance of the upper valley, and blotting out the mountains that stood around its head.

A desolate scene, on this wild March day; yet full of a sort of beauty, even so far as the mosslands were concerned. And as Alan Helbeck's glance travelled along the ridge to his right, he saw it gradually rising from the marsh in slopes, and scars, and wooded fells, a medley of lovely lines, of pastures and copses, of villages clinging to the hills, each with its church tower and its white spreading farms a laud of homely charm and comfort, gently bounding the marsh below it, and cut off by the seething clouds in the north west from the mountains towards which it climbed. And as he turned homewards with the moss country behind him, the hills rose and fell about him in soft undulation more and more rich in wood, while beside him roared the tumbling Greet, with its flood voice a voice more dear and familiar to Alan Helbeck perhaps, at this moment of his life, than the voice of any human being.

He walked fast with his shoulders thrown back, a remarkably tall man, with a dark head and short grizzled beard. He held himself very erect, as a soldier holds himself; but he had never been a soldier.

Once in his rapid course, he paused to look at his watch, then hurried on, thinking.

"She stipulates that she is never to be expected to come to prayers," he repeated to himself, half smiling. "I suppose she thinks of herself as representing her father in a nest of Papists. Evidently Augustina has no chance with her she has been accustomed to reign! Well, we shall let her 'gang her gait.'"

His mouth, which was full and strongly closed, took a slight expression of contempt. As he turned over a bridge, and then into his own gate on the further side, he passed an old labourer who was scraping the mud from the road.

"Have you seen any carriage go by just lately, Reuben?"

"Noa " said the man. "Theer's been none this last hour an more nobbut carts, an t' Whinthrupp bus... Continue reading book >>

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