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The Well in the Desert An Old Legend of the House of Arundel   By: (1836-1893)

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The Well in the Desert, An Old Legend of the House of Arundel, by Emily Sarah Holt.

The action takes place at the end of the fourteenth century and the start of the fifteenth. It deals largely with a family connected with Arundel in Sussex. They seem to have been rather nasty people, highly motivated by greed and desire for even higher stations in life. They were fairly well placed by today's standards, being closely related to various of the Kings of England of the day. Some of the women in the story are quite as bad as many of the men.

When these wicked people had done their wicked deeds there were often unfortunate children, dispossessed or forgotten in some attic of the castle. One of these is the heroine of this story. She had never been told who or where her mother was. By a series of coincidences she comes across the name of a person who may know the answers to these questions. I will not spoil the story for you by telling you any more.

Throughout the book there is constant reference to Christ as the Well, the supplier of the vital Water of Life. Christianity was in a terrible mess at the time, with numerous sects, and with the members of any one sect feeling free to execute by any means the members of any other sect. There's plainly a modern parallel here.

On the whole the story is based on fact and on valuable contemporary records. When Miss Holt wrote the story it seemed likely that Philippa, the central figure, was accurately represented. Unfortunately, after the book was complete it was found that she could never have existed, so the poor authoress had to present her book as it stands, with an apology at the end.



It is said that only travellers in the arid lands of the East really know the value of water. To them the Well in the Desert is a treasure and a blessing: unspeakably so, when the water is pure and sweet; yet even though it be salt and brackish, it may still save life.

Was it less so, in a figurative sense, to the travellers through that great desert of the Middle Ages, wherein the wells were so few and far between? True, the water was brackish; man had denied the streams, and filled up the wells with stones; yet for all this it was God given, and to those who came, and dug for the old spring, and drank, it was the water of eternal life. The cry was still sounding down the ages.

"If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink." And no less blessed are the souls that come now: but for us, the wells are so numerous and so pure, that we too often pass them by, and go on our way thirsting. Strange blindness! yet not strange: for until the Angel of the Lord shall open the eyes of Hagar, she must needs go mourning through the wilderness, not seeing the well.

"Lord, that we may receive our sight!" and may come unto Thee, and drink, and thirst no more.



"I am too low for scorn to lower me, And all too sorrow stricken to feel grief."

Edwin Arnold.

Soft and balmy was the air, and the sunlight radiant, at an early hour of a beautiful June morning; and fair was the landscape that met the eyes of the persons who were gathered a few feet from the portcullis of a grand stately old castle, crowning a wooded height near the Sussex coast. There were two persons seated on horseback: the one a youth of some twenty years, in a page's dress; the other a woman, who sat behind him on the pillion. Standing about were two men and a woman, the last holding a child in her arms. The woman on the pillion was closely veiled, and much muffled in her wrappings, considering the season of the year and the warmth of the weather; nor did she lift her veil when she spoke... Continue reading book >>

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