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Crown and Sceptre A West Country Story   By: (1831-1909)

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Crown and Sceptre, a West Country Story, by George Manville Fenn.

I groaned a bit when I saw that this story was about the Civil War in England, in the mid seventeenth century. But I soon realised that it was a very good story, told in the tension laden Fenn style.

We start off in the Devon coombes (valleys near the sea) with two families that are close friends. The Markhams live at The Hall, while the Forresters live at The Manor. There are two teenage boys: Scarlett Markham and Fred Forrester. The boys come upon secret passages and secret chambers in the Hall, and also some other long forgotten shafts and wells leading to the outside.

Then came the Civil War, in which the Roundheads fought for a country subservient to Parliament, while the Cavaliers fought for the King. The Markhams and their household became Cavaliers, while the Forresters were Roundheads. Thus the two families became, at least in theory, deadly enemies. Needless to say, it didn't always work out exactly like that, and the boys at least, now young officers, and the family retainers, sometimes helped one another in ways the fathers would not approve of.

The manor is burnt down, and Sir Godfrey Markham very seriously wounded. It is only by Scarlett's knowledge of the secret passages that he is saved. We will not spoil the rest of the story for you by telling you the rest of it, but we assure you that it very well written, and did not at all merit my initial groans. Another very good read, or listen.




"Derry down, derry down, derry down!"

A cheery voice rolling out the chorus of an old west country ditty.

Then there was a run of a few yards, a sudden stoppage, and a round, red missile was thrown with considerable force after a blackcock, which rose on whirring wings from among the heather, his violet black plumage glistening in the autumn sun, as he skimmed over the moor, and disappeared down the side of a hollow coombe.

"Missed him," said the thrower, thrusting his hand into his pocket, and bringing out a similar object to that which he had used as a missile, but putting it to a far different purpose; for he raised it to his mouth, drew back his red lips, and with one sharp crunch drove two rows of white teeth through the ruddy skin, cut out a great circular piece of apple, spat it out, and threw the rest away.

"What a sour one!" he cried, as he dived after another, which proved to be more satisfactory, for he went on munching, as he made his short cut over the moor towards where, in a sheltered hollow, a stone building peeped from a grove of huge oaks.

The sun shone brightly as, with elastic tread, the singer, a lad of about sixteen, walked swiftly over the elevated moorland, now descending into a hollow, now climbing a stiff slope, at whose top he could look over the sea, which spread away to north and west, one dazzling plain of damasked silver, dotted with red sailed boats. Then down another slope facing the south, where for a moment the boy paused to deliver a sharp kick at something on the short fine grass.

"Ah, would you!" he exclaimed, following up the kick by a jump which landed him upon a little writhing object, which repeated its first attack, striking with lightning rapidity at the lad's boot, before lying crushed and helpless, never to bask in the bright sun again.

"Serve you right, you nasty poisonous little beast!" cried the boy, crushing his assailant's head beneath his heel. "You got the worst of it. Think the moor belonged to you? Lucky I had on my boots."

He dropped upon the ground, drew off a deer skin boot, and, with his good looking, fair boyish face all in wrinkles, proceeded to examine the toe, removing therefrom a couple of tiny points with his knife... Continue reading book >>

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