Hollowdell Grange, by George Manville Fenn.
This is one of Fenn's earliest books. The theme is that a boy from
London goes down to stay in the country with his cousins, where the way
of life is so very different, and challenging, from all that he had
known in the great city. The descriptions of country life of those days
are very well done, but we must make one warning--that many of the
countrymen we meet in the story speak with a strong Lincolnshire accent,
and the author has done his best to represent these sounds with what
must very often look like mistakes in transcription.
There are all sorts of country situations to be encountered, from
working with animals, to meeting the various village characters, to a
near drowning, and even, at the very end to an attempted rescue, one
that failed, of a drowning boy caught in a sluice on the beach.
There may well be a few mistakes, because the copy used was very old,
and the pages very browned, while at the same time not very well
printed. But we have done our best and at least what we offer here is
better than what you would have got from the book itself in its aged
condition. As so often with this kind of book it makes a very good
audio-book, and listening to it is a great pleasure.
HOLLOWDELL GRANGE, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.
A FISH OUT OF WATER.
It was such a fine hot Midsummer day at Hollowdell station, that the
porter had grown tired of teasing the truck-driver's dog, and fallen
fast asleep--an example which the dog had tried to follow, but could
not, because there was only one shady spot within the station-gates, and
that had been taken possession of by the porter; so the poor dog had
tried first one place, and then another, but they were all so hot and
stifling, and the flies kept buzzing about him so teasingly, that he
grew quite cross, and barked and snapped so at the tiresome
that at last he woke Jem Barnes, the porter, who got up, stretched
himself, yawned very rudely
and loudly, and then, looking in at the
station-clock, he saw that the 2:30 train from London was nearly due, so
he made up his mind not to go to sleep again until it had passed.
It _was_ a hot day--so hot that the great black tarpaulins over the
goods-waggons were quite soft, and came off all black upon Jem Barnes's
hands. The air down the road seemed to quiver
and dance over the white
chalky dust; while all the leaves upon the trees, and the grass in the
meadows, drooped beneath the heat of the sun. As to the river, it shone
like a band of silver as it wound in and out, and here and there; and
when you looked you could see the reflection
of the great dragon-flies
as they flitted and raced about over the glassy
surface. The reeds on
the bank were quite motionless; while, out in the middle, the fat old
chub could be seen basking in the sunshine, wagging their great broad
fantails in the sluggish
stream, too lazy even to snap up the flies that
passed over their heads. All along the shallows the roach and dace lay
in shoals, flashing about, every now and then, in the transparent
like gleams of silver light. Down in the meadows, where the ponds were,
and the shady trees grew, the cows were so hot that they stood up to
their knees in the muddy water, chewing their grass with half-shut eyes,
and whisking their long tails about to keep the flies at a distance.
But it was of no use to whisk, for every now and then a nasty, spiteful,
hungry fly would get on some poor cow's back, creep beneath the hair,
and force its horny trunk into the skin so sharply, that the poor animal
would burst out into a doleful
lowing, and, sticking its tail up, go
galloping and plunging through the meadow
in such a clumsy
way as only a
cow can display. A few fields off the grass was being cut, and the
sharp scythes of the mowers went tearing through the tall, rich, green
crop, and laid it low in long rows as the men, with their regular
strokes, went down the long meadows. Every now and then, too, they
would make the wood-side re-echo with the musical
ringing sound of the
scythes, as the gritty rubbers glided over the keen edges of the bright
Hot, hot, hot!--how the sun glowed in the bright blue sky! and how the
down train puffed and panted, while the heat of the weather made even
the steam from the funneltransparent
as it streamed backwards
engine's green back! The driver and stoker were melting, for they had
the great roaring fire of the engine just in front of them, and the sun
scorching their backs; the guard was hot with stopping at so many
stations, and putting out so much luggage; while the passengers, in the
carriages said they were almost stifled, and looked out with longing
eyes at the shady green woods they passed. One passenger in particular,
a sharp-featured and rather sallow youth about twelve years old, kept
looking at the time-table, and wondering how long it would be before he
arrived at Hollowdell, for that was the name printed upon the ticket
Fred Morris held in his hand.
But just at this time there were other people travelling towards
Hollowdell station, and that too by the long dusty chalky road that came
through the woods and over the woodenbridge
right up to the railway
crossing; and these people were no others than Fred Morris's country
cousins, and the old man-servant--half groom, half gardener--who was
driving the pony chaise with Harry Inglis by his side, while Fred's
other cousin Philip was cantering along upon his donkey
such a donkey! with thin legs, and a thin tail that he kept closely
tucked in between the hind pair, as if he was afraid the crupper would
pull it off. He wanted no beating, although he could be obstinate
enough when he liked, and refuse to pass the green paddock where he
grazed; but he wanted no beating, while with his young master on his
back: he would trot off with his little hoofs going pitter-patter,
twinkle-twinkle over the road, at a rate that it used to puzzle
Dumpling, the fat pony, to keep up with.
Harry and Philip Inglis were rather different-looking boys to their
cousin, for, stouter in build, they bore upon their good-tempered faces
the brown marks made by many a summer's sun. And now, upon this
occasion, they were all impatience
to get to the station to meet Cousin
Fred, who was coming down to spend the Midsummer holidays. The visit
had been long talked about, and now the boys were in a state of the
lest any disappointment
might take place.
"Oh! do drive faster, Sam," said Harry, making a snatch
at the reins; "I
know he'll be there first. Tiresome old thing, you! Why didn't you
start an hour sooner?"
"What for?" said Sam, grumbling, and holdingtightly
to the reins; "what
was I to come an hour sooner for? Think I don't know how long it takes
to drive over to station?"
"But," said Philip, from his donkey, "I'm sure we shall be late.
There!" he continued, "I can hear the train now!"
"Nonsense!" said Sam. "Where's the steam? Why, you can see the steam
for two miles before the train gets in, and Dumps here could get in long
before the train."
But Philip was right, for just then the loud and shrillwhistle
engine was heard as it started again, after setting
down one solitary
little passenger in the shape of Fred Morris, who looked sadly
disappointed to find no one there to receive him but Jem Barnes, the
porter, who stared very hard at the young stranger from Lunnun.
Dumpling galloped, and Neddy went off at a double trot, upon hearing
along at such a rate that before Fred Morris
which path he was to take across the fields to go the
shortest way to Squire Inglis's, of the Grange, Hollowdell--and all of
which information he was getting very slowly out of Jem Barnes--Harry
had jumped out of the chaise. Philip leaped off his donkey, and they
were one on each side of Fred, heartily
shaking hands with him.
"I say, ain't you our cousin?" said Harry, breathlessly.
"Our cousin from London, you know," said Philip, "that was to come by
"My name is Morris," said the traveller, rather pompously, "and I'm
going on a visit to Mr Inglis's at Hollowdell."
"Yes, to be sure!" said Harry. "You're Cousin Fred, and I'm Harry, and
that's Phil. Come along into the chaise. Here Sam--Jem! bring the box
and let's be off. But I say, Fred, isn't it hot?"
Fred replied that it was, seeming
hardly to know what to make of the
manners of his cousins, and he looked, if anything, rather
disappointed when he was met by the rough grin of Sam, who was of
anything but a smooth exterior, and altogether
a very different man to
his father's well-brushed livery-servant, who had seen him safely
the station in the morning.
"I've come," said Fred at last, when they were fairly started with
Philip and Fred in the chaise, and Harry this time upon the donkey
bringing up the rear--"I've come because Papa said you would not like it
if I did not; but I'd much rather you had both come up to me in London.
One can find something to do there, and there's something to see. I
can't think how you people manage to live down here."
"Oh! we find something to do, don't we, Harry?" said Philip, laughing.
But Harry was very busy with Neddy, who had taken it into his head to go
down a lane which led to the pound--a place where he had been more than
once locked up; and it was as much as ever the lad could do to stop him;
so Philip's question remained unanswered. "I say," continued Philip at
last, after they had been conversing some time, during which Master Fred
had been cross-questioning Philip as to his educational
giving that young gentleman to understand what a high position he
occupied at Saint Paul's School--"I say," said Philip, "can you swim?"
"No," replied Fred.
"Can you play cricket?"
"No," said Fred.
"Fish, row, shoot, rat, and all that sort of thing?" said Philip.
"No!" said the other. "I have always lived in London, where we do not
practise that class of amusement."
"Oh! come, then," said Philip, "we shall be able to teach you something.
Only wait a bit, and you'll see how we live down here. But here we
are; and there's Papa waiting
for us under the porch."
As Philip said this, Sam had crawled down from his seat, opened a swing
gate, and led the pony into a garden through which wound a carriage
drive up to a long low house, all along the front of which extended
verandah, the supports and sloping roof being completely covered with
roses, clematis, and jasmine, which hung in the wildest profusion
amongst the light trellis-work, and then ran up the sides of the bedroom
windows, peeping in at the lattice panes, and seeming
to be in
competition with the ivy as to which should do most towards covering up
the brickwork of the pretty place; for it really was a pretty place,--so
pretty, that even Fred, who thought that there was nothing anywhere
compare with London, could not help casting admiring looks around him.
All along one side of the gravel
drive there was a tall,
smoothly-clipped hedge of laurels; while on the left the velvet
dotted all over with beds of scarlet
geranium, verbena, and calceolaria,
with here and there rustic
vases brimming over with blooming
swept down in a slope towards the park-like fields, from which it was
separated by a light ring fence. Right in front was another mighty
laurel hedge, that looked to be almost centuries old; and on the other
side was what was called the kitchen garden, though, I think, it might
have been called the parlour garden just as rightly, from the rich
banquets it used to supply of all kinds of luscious
nectarines, plums, strawberries, apples, pears, currants; and as to
gooseberries, the trees used to be so loaded with great rough golden and
crimson fellows, that they would lay their branches down on the ground
to rest them, because the weight was greater than they could bear. But
the greatest beauty of the house at Hollowdell, or, as it was called in
the neighbourhood, "The Grange," was the ivy, which did not creep there,
but ran, and ran all over the place--sides, roof, and all--even twining,
and twisting, and growing right up amongst
the two great old-fashioned
chimney-stacks, round the pots, and some shoots even drooping in them,
and getting black and dry amongst
the smoke that came curling and
wreathing out. For Squire Inglis would not have the ivy cut anywhere
excepting in the front, where he used to superintend
while Sam cleared
it away now and then, so as to give the roses and creeping plants a
chance to show their beauties in the bright summer-time. And there the
Grange stood, with flowers blooming
around it in every direction, as
sweet and pretty a place as could welcome
any one just come from the
great desert of bricks and mortar
called London, in which people who are
not compelled are so foolish as to go and spend their time in the
sunniest and brightest days of the year.
And, as Philip said, there stood Papa beneath the porch; and directly
after there stood Mamma too, to welcome
their sister's child, whom they
had not seen since he was almost a baby.
"Now, boys," said the Squire, after all the handshaking had been
finished, "I've nothing to do with this. Fred is your visitor
month, so I leave you to make him happy and comfortable, and mind you
see that he enjoys himself."
Philip and Harry promised readily
enough that they would. "But, Papa,"
said Harry, "Dr Edwards said, when we broke up, that we were to do a
little work every day during the holidays, and--and--"
"And what?" said his father. "Eh, now," said he, good-humouredly; "I
think I can make a good guess at what you would like. You'd like me to
write to the Doctor to let you off, wouldn't you?"
"Oh! yes, yes, yes, Papa," shouted the boys, clapping their hands.
"Hurrah, that's capital!"
"Well, but would it be right?" said their father, seriously.
"Oh! yes, Papa," said Harry; "for we will do so much after the holidays,
and work ever so hard to make up for it; and it is so very, very hard to
learn lessons away from school. I never can get on half so well, for
one can't help thinking of the games we want to play at, and then one
don't feel to be obliged to learn, and it does make such a difference:
so do please write, there's a good, good father," said Harry, coaxingly.
The Squire laughed, and that laugh was quite sufficient to satisfy the
lads, who gave two or three frisks, and tossed their caps in the air;
when Philip's fell on the top of the verandah, and had to be hooked
with a long hay-rake.
Dinner was nearly ready, so Fred followed his box up to the pretty
little bedroom he was to occupy--one which opened out of the room set
apart for Harry and Philip; and soon after he was down in the
dining-room eating a meal that called forth the remarks and comparisons
of his cousins, who were dreadful
trencher-men. They told him that he
must learn what a country appetite
meant, and so, by way of teaching
him, they dragged him off, as soon as dinner was over, to look at all
the wonders of the place. First over the flower-garden, and round by
the aviary, where Mamma's gold and silver pheasants were kept; and then
into the green-house, where Poll, the parrot, hung in her great gilt
cage, swinging about amongst
the flowers, dancing up and down, and
shrieking out whenever
anybody came by; then swaying backwards
forwards in the ring in the cage, and climbing up and down all over the
bars, this way and that way, head up and head down, and all the time
looking as wicked
as a hook-beaked old grey parrot
"Sam, Sam, where's the master?" shouted Poll, in a reedy-weedy tone,
like a cracked
clarionet, as soon as the lads came in sight. "Stealing
the grapes. Stealing the grapes," she shouted again. "Rogues, rogues,
rogues! Two in the morning, hi! hi!" And then she gave a shrill
whistle, and burst out into a loud hearty
laugh, that made Fred stare,
it was so natural.
"There," said Philip, proudly, "you haven't got such birds as that in