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Springhaven : a Tale of the Great War   By: (1825-1900)

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A Tale of the Great War

By R. D. Blackmore




In the days when England trusted mainly to the vigor and valor of one man, against a world of enemies, no part of her coast was in greater peril than the fair vale of Springhaven. But lying to the west of the narrow seas, and the shouts both of menace and vigilance, the quiet little village in the tranquil valley forbore to be uneasy.

For the nature of the place and race, since time has outlived memory, continually has been, and must be, to let the world pass easily. Little to talk of, and nothing to do, is the healthy condition of mankind just there. To all who love repose and shelter, freedom from the cares of money and the cark of fashion, and (in lieu of these) refreshing air, bright water, and green country, there is scarcely any valley left to compare with that of Springhaven. This valley does not interrupt the land, but comes in as a pleasant relief to it. No glaring chalk, no grim sandstone, no rugged flint, outface it; but deep rich meadows, and foliage thick, and cool arcades of ancient trees, defy the noise that men make. And above the trees, in shelving distance, rise the crests of upland, a soft gray lias, where orchards thrive, and greensward strokes down the rigor of the rocks, and quick rills lace the bosom of the slope with tags of twisted silver.

In the murmur of the valley twenty little waters meet, and discoursing their way to the sea, give name to the bay that receives them and the anchorage they make. And here no muddy harbor reeks, no foul mouth of rat haunted drains, no slimy and scraggy wall runs out, to mar the meeting of sweet and salt. With one or two mooring posts to watch it, and a course of stepping stones, the brook slides into the peaceful bay, and is lost in larger waters. Even so, however, it is kindly still, for it forms a tranquil haven.

Because, where the ruffle of the land stream merges into the heavier disquietude of sea, slopes of shell sand and white gravel give welcome pillow to the weary keel. No southerly tempest smites the bark, no long groundswell upheaves her; for a bold point, known as the "Haven head," baffles the storm in the offing, while the bulky rollers of a strong spring tide, that need no wind to urge them, are broken by the shifting of the shore into a tier of white frilled steps. So the deep waisted smacks that fish for many generations, and even the famous "London trader" (a schooner of five and forty tons), have rest from their labors, whenever they wish or whenever they can afford it, in the arms of the land, and the mouth of the water, and under the eyes of Springhaven.

At the corner of the wall, where the brook comes down, and pebble turns into shingle, there has always been a good white gate, respected (as a white gate always is) from its strong declaration of purpose. Outside of it, things may belong to the Crown, the Admiralty, Manor, or Trinity Brethren, or perhaps the sea itself according to the latest ebb or flow of the fickle tide of Law Courts but inside that gate everything belongs to the fine old family of Darling.

Concerning the origin of these Darlings divers tales are told, according to the good will or otherwise of the diver. The Darlings themselves contend and prove that stock and name are Saxon, and the true form of the name is "Deerlung," as witness the family bearings. But the foes of the race, and especially the Carnes, of ancient Sussex lineage, declare that the name describes itself. Forsooth, these Darlings are nothing more, to their contemptuous certainty, than the offset of some court favorite, too low to have won nobility, in the reign of some light affectioned king.

If ever there was any truth in that, it has been worn out long ago by friction of its own antiquity. Admiral Darling owns that gate, and all the land inside it, as far as a Preventive man can see with his spy glass upon the top bar of it... Continue reading book >>

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