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A Life's Eclipse   By: (1831-1909)

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A Life's Eclipse, by George Manville Fenn.

This is a short book by G.M. Fenn's usual standards, but you will enjoy reading it. The hero is John Grange, a young gardener on Mrs Mostyn's estate, who finds himself to be in love with Mary Ellis, the daughter of the bailiff, James Ellis. But as he is no more than an under gardener Ellis is angry with him for even thinking of Mary.

There is an accident when John has ascended a large cedar tree that had lost a bough in a gale, and a broken branch needed to be tidied up. John falls from where he was sawing, onto the ground, landing on his head. He recovers from the concussion, but is now blind.

His rival not only for Mary's hand but also for promotion to Head Gardener when Dunton, the present Head Gardener, now very old, dies, is Daniel Barnett, who of course gets the job. But he is a nasty man, not very good at his work, while the blind John can do his work almost as well as before, working by touch. Barnett plays a number of most unkind tricks on his rival John. Eventually John disappears without trace and rumour is rife that Daniel Barnett had made away with him, so that he might have a clear run to Mary's hand not that Mary is interested in him.

There is a surprise ending to the story, of course.

All the characters are beautifully drawn, and this little book is quite a masterpiece. It was published by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge, and must have been within their guidelines, without being excessively pious. Do read it it won't take you long. NH



"What insolence!"

John Grange's brown, good looking face turned of a reddish brown in the cheeks, the warm tint mounting into his forehead, as he looked straight in the speaker's eyes, and there was a good, manly English ring in his voice as he said sturdily

"I didn't know, Mr Ellis, that it was insolent for a man to come in a straightforward way, and say to the father of the young lady simply yes, and humbly `I love your daughter, sir.'"

"But it is, sir, downright insolence. Recollect what you are, sir, only an under gardener living at the bothy on thirty shillings a week."

"I do recollect it, sir, but I don't mean to be an under gardener always."

"Oh, indeed," said James Ellis sarcastically, "but poor old Dunton is not dead yet, and when he does die, Mrs Mostyn is quite as likely to appoint Daniel Barnett to his place as you, and if she takes my advice, she'll give the post to neither of you, but get some able, sensible man from Chiswick."

"But, Mr Ellis "

"That will do, John Grange," said the owner of that name pompously. "I know what you are going to say. I am not ashamed of having been only a gardener once, but I am Mrs Mostyn's bailiff and agent now, sir, and, so to speak, your master. Let me hear no more of this nonsense, sir. That will do. But one moment. Have you had the I mean, does Mary I mean, does Miss Ellis know that you were going to speak to me this evening?"

"No, sir," said John Grange sternly. "I'm only an under gardener, but I've heard that it was the proper thing to speak out openly first."

"Then Mary does not know that you I mean, that you think about her?"

"I hope and believe she does; sir," said the young man warmly, and his eyes flashed, and a proud, joyful look came into his countenance.

"Then I beg you will not hope and believe anything of the kind, sir, again. My daughter will do precisely as I wish, and when I part with her, it will be to see her go to a substantial home. Good evening!"

James Ellis tucked his walking stick under his arm, took off his grey felt hat, drew a red silk handkerchief from the crown, rubbed his bald head, and made himself look hotter as he strode away, while after standing and watching him go toward the bailiff's cottage just outside the park fence at The Hollows on the hill slope, a quarter of a mile away, the young man uttered a sigh and turned in at an open doorway in a high wall, whose top was fringed with young shoots of peaches, nectarines, and apricots, suggestive of the horticultural treasures within... Continue reading book >>

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