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Austin and His Friends   By:

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First Page:

AUSTIN AND HIS FRIENDS

by

FREDERIC H. BALFOUR

Author Of "The Expiation of Eugene," etc.

London Greening & Co., Ltd.

1906

[Illustration: DAPHNIS AT THE FOUNTAIN]

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The old fashioned ghost story was always terrifying and ghastly; something that made people afraid to go to bed, or to look over their shoulders, or to enter a room in the dark. It dealt with apparitions in a white sheet, and clanking chains, and dreadful faces that peered out from behind the window curtains in a haunted chamber. And the more blood curdling it was, the more keenly people enjoyed it until they were left alone, and then they were apt to wish that they had been reading Robinson Crusoe or Alison's History of Europe instead. Now the present book embodies an attempt to write a cheerful ghost story; a story in which the ghostly element is of a friendly and pleasant character, and sheds a sense of happiness and sunshine over the entire life of the ghost seer. Whether the author has succeeded in doing so will be for his readers to decide. It is only necessary to add that he has not introduced a single supernormal incident that has not occurred and been authenticated in the recorded experiences of persons lately or still alive.

Austin and His Friends

Chapter the First

It was rather a beautiful old house the house where Austin lived. That is, it was old fashioned, low browed, solid, and built of that peculiar sort of red brick which turns a rich rose colour with age; and this warm rosy tint was set off to advantage by the thick mantle of dark green ivy in which it was partly encased, and by the row of tall white and purple irises which ran along the whole length of the sunniest side of the building. There was an ancient sun dial just above the door, and all the windows were made of small, square panes not a foot of plate glass was there about the place; and if the rooms were nor particularly large or stately, they had that comfortable and settled look which tells of undisturbed occupancy by the same inmates for many years. But the principal charm of the place was the garden in which the house stood. In this case the frame was really more beautiful than the picture. On one side, the grounds were laid out in very formal style, with straight walks, clipped box hedges, an old stone fountain, and a perfect bowling green of a lawn; while at right angles to this there was a plot of land in which all regularity was set at naught, and sweet peas, tulips, hollyhocks, dahlias, gillyflowers, wall flowers, sun flowers, and a dozen others equally sweet and friendly shared the soil with gooseberry bushes and thriving apple trees. Taking it all in all, it was a lovable and most reposeful home, and Austin, who had lived there ever since he could remember, was quite unable to imagine any lot in life that could be compared to his.

Now this was curious, for Austin was a hopeless cripple. Up to the age of sixteen, he had been the most active, restless, healthy boy in all the countryside. He used to spend his days in boating, bicycling, climbing hills, and wandering at large through the woods and leafy lanes which stretched far and wide in all directions of the compass. One of his chief diversions had been sheep chasing; nothing delighted him more than to start a whole flock of the astonished creatures careering madly round some broad green meadow, their fat woolly backs wobbling and jolting along in a compact mass of mild perplexity at this sudden interruption of their never ending meal, while Austin scampered at their tails, as much excited with the sport as Don Quixote himself when he dispersed the legions of Alifanfaron. Let hare coursers, otter hunters, and pigeon torturers blame him if they choose; the exercise probably did the sheep a vast amount of good, and Austin fully believed that they enjoyed it quite as much as he did... Continue reading book >>




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