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The Thorogood Family   By: (1825-1894)

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The Thorogood Family, by R.M. Ballantyne.

Although the book is written with Ballantyne's usual great skill in descriptive passages, the actual plan of the book is most unusual for him. In Chapter 1 he describes a young family, then describes the exploits of some of the boys of the family, now grown up, in Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5. But in Chapter 5 there is introduced a story about a schoolboy who is nothing to do with the Thorogoods, though it is quite a good story, parts of it reminding one of "Martin Rattler," and his days at school. In Chapter 6 we are back to one of the Thorogood boys, who is a missionary in London, working among the poor. The final chapter also contains a long story about a third party, and ends with most of the family emigrating to the Rockies in North America. Here again the enwrapped short story is a good read.

We must remember that in Ballantyne's usual style there are often two stories in some way running parallel with each other. In this case there are no less than six, and two of those enwrap a further story. It is really quite unusual for Ballantyne to write in such a convoluted manner.

But be not afraid. The stories are very short. Ballantyne normally writes with each of his chapters nearly of the same length, but here we have 7, 6, 7, 8, 23, 9, 36 pages in the seven chapters, and it consists of at least ten exciting episodes. It is worth a read.



This family was not only Thorogood but thorough going. The father was a blacksmith, with five sons and one daughter, and he used to hammer truth into his children's heads with as much vigour as he was wont to hammer the tough iron on his anvil; but he did it kindly. He was not a growly wowly, cross grained man, like some fathers we know of not he. His broad, hairy face was like a sun, and his eyes darted sunbeams wherever they turned. The faces of his five sons were just like his own, except in regard to roughness and hair. Tom, and Dick, and Harry, and Bob, and Jim, were their names. Jim was the baby. Their ages were equally separated. If you began with Jim, who was three, you had only to say four, five, six, seven Tom being seven.

These five boys were broad, and sturdy, like their father. Like him, also, they were fond of noise and hammering. They hammered the furniture of their father's cottage, until all of it that was weak was smashed, and all that was strong became dreadfully dinted. They also hammered each other's noses with their little fat fists, at times, but they soon grew too old and wise for that; they soon, also, left off hammering the heads of their sister's dolls, which was a favourite amusement in their earlier days.

The mention of dolls brings us to the sister. She was like her mother little, soft, fair, and sweet voiced; just as unlike her brothers in appearance as possible except that she had their bright blue, blazing eyes. Her age was eight years.

It was, truly, a sight to behold this family sit down to supper of an evening. The blacksmith would come in and seize little Jim in his brawny arms, and toss him up to the very beams of the ceiling, after which he would take little Molly on his knee, and fondle her, while "Old Moll," as he sometimes called his wife, spread the cloth and loaded the table with good things.

A cat, a kitten, and a terrier, lived together in that smith's cottage on friendly terms. They romped with each other, and with the five boys, so that the noise used sometimes to be tremendous; but it was not an unpleasant noise, because there were no sounds of discontent or quarrelling in it. You see, the blacksmith and his wife trained that family well. It is wonderful what an amount of noise one can stand when it is good humoured noise... Continue reading book >>

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