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The White Gauntlet   By: (1818-1883)

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The White Gauntlet By Captain Mayne Reid Published by G.W. Dillingham, New York. This edition dated 1892.

The White Gauntlet, by Captain Mayne Reid.


Volume One, Chapter I.

A woman in a wood encountered accidentally, and alone. 'Tis an encounter to challenge curiosity even though she be but a gipsy, or a peasant girl gathering sticks.

If a high born dame, beautiful, and, above all, bright haired, curiosity is no longer the word; but admiration, involuntary, unrestrained bordering upon adoration. It is but the instinct of man's heart to worship the fairest object, upon which man's eye may rest; and this is a beautiful woman, with bright hair, met in the middle of a wood.

Marion Wade possessed all the conditions to merit such exalted admiration. She was high born, beautiful, and bright haired. She was alone in a wood.

It did not detract from the interest of the situation, that she was mounted on a white horse, carried a hawk on her hand, and was followed by a hound.

She was unaccompanied by human creature hawk, hound, and horse being her only companions.

It must have been her choice to be thus unattended. Wishing it, the daughter of Sir Marmaduke Wade might have had for escort a score of retainers.

Autumn was in the sky: and along with it a noon day sun. The golden light straggling through the leaves was reflected upon a field of blue, brilliant as the canopy whence it came. It was not the blue of the hyacinth gleaming in the forest glade, nor the modest violet that empurples the path. In October it could not be either. More attractive was that cerulean tint, seen in the iris of a woman's eye the eye of Marion Wade.

The sunbeams danced upon her yellow hair, with apparent delight, kissing its tresses of kindred colour kissing her radiant cheek, that, even under the shadow of the trees, looked luminous.

What does she in the wild wood unguarded unattended? Is she a hawking?

The kestrel perched upon her gloved hand should say, yes. But more than once game has sprung up temptingly before her; and still the hood has been suffered to stay upon the hawk, and its jesses are retained in leash.

Has she lost her way is she wandering?

Equally unlike. She is upon a path. A noble park is in sight, with a road that runs parallel to its palings. Through the trees she can obtain glimpses of a stately mansion standing within its enclosure. It is the famed park of Bulstrode ancient as Alfred the Great. As she is the mistress of its mansion she cannot have lost her way? She cannot be wandering?

And yet, why does she fret her palfrey in its paces now checking, now urging it onward? If not wandering in her way, surely is she astray in her thoughts?

She does not appear to be satisfied with the silent solitude of that forest path: she stops at short intervals, and leans forward in her saddle, as if listening for sounds.

Her behaviour would lead to the belief, that she is expecting some one?

A hoof stroke is heard. There is a horseman coming through the wood. He is not yet in sight; but the sound of his horse's hoofs striking the solid turf tells that he is riding upon the track, and towards her.

There is an opening in the forest glade, of some six roods in extent. It is cut in twain by a path, which parts from the high road near one of the gates of Bulstrode Park; thence treading over the hills in a north westerly direction.

On this path rides Marion Wade, straying, or dallying certainly not travelling.

She has entered the aforementioned opening. Near its centre stands a tree a beech of magnificent dimensions whose wide spreading boughs seem determined to canopy the whole area of the opening. The road runs beneath its branches... Continue reading book >>

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