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Authors: Miss Read

Tags: #Fiction, #England, #Country life, #Country Life - England

(11/13) Celebrations at Thrush Green

BOOK: (11/13) Celebrations at Thrush Green
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Celebrations at Thrush Green
Thrush Green [11]
Miss Read
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (1992)
Rating:
★★★★☆
Tags:
Fiction, England, Country Life, Country Life - England
Fictionttt Englandttt Country Lifettt Country Life - Englandttt

From Kirkus Reviews

For the fans, another deep dream of peace--in the doings of that Cotswold English village of Thrush Green, endearingly chronicled as civil neighbors enjoy little pleasures and major satisfactions. In this roughly 42nd tribute to utopian village life (Thrush Green, Fairacre, or Lulling), retired gentleman Harold Shoosmith- -who once in Africa had admired the mission school founded in 1892 by Nathaniel Patten, a Thrush Green native, and had caused a statue in his honor to be erected in Thrush Green--is thrilled when Vicar Charles Henstock receives word that a packet of letters from Patten has been found. Ah, the excitement, the flurry! A dinner party is planned for the man who found the letters and for a young woman who is a direct descendent of Patten's (they're both single--ah, how things work out!). There are plans for a joint celebration of both Patten's contributions and Thrush Green's own schoolhouse centenary. Along the way, there are also, of course, vibrations from former teachers Dorothy and Agnes, and contributions for the mission present-day are meager until.... Meanwhile: Winnie Bailey has an operation; Dotty Harmer is writing a book about her fierce schoolmaster father; and there's the usual hubbub at Christmas. A bedtime soother of remarkable potency for the following. Again, the illustrations by John S. Goodall have a neat, affectionate intimacy. --
Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Review

"For the fans, another deep dream of peace--in the doings of that Cotswold English village of Thrush Green, endearingly chronicled as civil neighbors enjoy little pleasures and major satisfactions. In this roughly 42nd tribute to utopian village life (Thrush Green, Fairacre, or Lulling), retired gentleman Harold Shoosmith- -who once in Africa had admired the mission school founded in 1892 by Nathaniel Patten, a Thrush Green native, and had caused a statue in his honor to be erected in Thrush Green--is thrilled when Vicar Charles Henstock receives word that a packet of letters from Patten has been found. Ah, the excitement, the flurry! A dinner party is planned for the man who found the letters and for a young woman who is a direct descendent of Patten's (they're both single--ah, how things work out!). There are plans for a joint celebration of both Patten's contributions and Thrush Green's own schoolhouse centenary. Along the way, there are also, of course, vibrations from former teachers Dorothy and Agnes, and contributions for the mission present-day are meager until.... Meanwhile: Winnie Bailey has an operation; Dotty Harmer is writing a book about her fierce schoolmaster father; and there's the usual hubbub at Christmas. A bedtime soother of remarkable potency for the following. Again, the illustrations by John S. Goodall have a neat, affectionate intimacy." (_Kirkus Reviews_ )

Celebrations At Thrush Green

Miss Read

Illustrated by John S. Goodall

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
Boston • New York

First Houghton Mifflin paperback edition 2008

Copyright © 1992 by Miss Read

All rights reserved

For information about permission to reproduce
selections from this book, write to Permissions,
Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South,
New York, New York 10003.

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

www houghtonmifflinbooks.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Read, Miss
Celebrations at Thrush Green / Miss Read ;
illustrations by John S. Goodall.—1st American ed.
p. cm.
ISBN
0-395-65030-5
1. Thrush Green (Imaginary place)—Fiction
2. Country life—England—Fiction.
I. Title.
PR
6069.
A
4.2
C
45 1993 93-22983
823'.914—dc20
CIP

ISBN
978-0-618-88443-8 (pbk.)

Printed in the United States of America

DOC
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

To Babs
with love

Contents

1 One Wet Day 1

2 The Search Begins 16

3 A Memorable Evening 32

4 Harold Is On The Trail 46

5 New Light On Old Times 61

6 Hard Weather 75

7 Comings and Goings 89

8 Plans Go Ahead 103

9 Getting Ready 118

10 Celebration 133

1. One Wet Day

O
NE WET
November morning, Winnie Bailey stood at her bedroom window and surveyed the rain-drenched view of Thrush Green.

Usually at this time of the morning, a little past nine o'clock, things were stirring. One or two late arrivals at the school across the green would be running in breathlessly. Percy Hodge's milk float would be making its slow way from house to house. A few housewives would be hurrying downhill to the shops in Lulling, baskets in hand.

But today there was little movement. A wet umbrella passed below, its carrier hidden from Winnie's view. A duster flapped from an upstairs window of the Two Pheasants across the green, hard by the school, and two excited dogs cavorted by the deserted and dripping children's play area.

Winnie Bailey had lived at Thrush Green for over fifty years, ever since she arrived as the bride of young Dr Bailey. He had died some years before, but Winnie stayed on in the house she loved, sharing it with Jenny, her friend, companion and maid.

She could hear Jenny now, singing some unrecognizable tune as she washed up the breakfast things. And here she was, Winnie told herself briskly, supposed to be dusting bedrooms, and instead she was idling her time away gazing at the rain!

She was about to turn to her duties when she saw a small black car moving decorously along the road opposite, skirting the Two Pheasants and the school and finally drawing up outside Harold Shoosmith's house.

Surely, it was the rector's car, thought Winnie, peering again through the rain-spotted window, dusting forgotten.

A small chubby man emerged from the driver's seat and hurried through the downpour to the shelter of the Shoosmiths' porch.

The Reverend Charles Henstock, rector of Thrush Green and vicar of Lulling, was paying an early morning call on his old friend.

Winnie took up her duster again, and speculated.

'Come in! Come in!' cried Harold. 'Good grief, man, haven't you got a raincoat?'

'I didn't think I'd need it,' replied Charles.

'Let's have your jacket,' said his host, stripping it from the rector's back and shaking it energetically.

'Isobel's away for two nights, in Sussex. Come into the kitchen, it's warmer.'

The two men settled at the kitchen table. Outside the rain lashed at the window, and gurgled in the gutter. A pigeon sat hunched on the bird-table, presumably seeking shelter rather than food, raindrops dripping from the little roof above it.

'Coffee?' asked Harold.

The rector shook his head. He had turned round to try to extricate an envelope from the inside pocket of his wet jacket.

'Such a strange letter,' he said, puffing slightly as he pulled it free. 'It arrived yesterday but I didn't have a chance to get in touch with you.'

He handed it to Harold and sat back to watch his friend's reaction as he read.

Harold skipped the preliminaries and perused the second paragraph onward with growing concentration. He read:

I have been clearing up my late aunt's effects recently, and came across some letters and a diary among her papers. The letters are from one Nathaniel Patten and are addressed to the Reverend Octavius Fennel of Thrush Green. The diary, which also appears to he an account hook, is that of Mr Fennel.
I have no idea how these papers came into my aunt's possession, but she lived for a time near Thrush Green, and only moved here to the Lake District a few years ago to be near her daughter, as she was becoming infirm.
It seems right to me that these papers should be returned to the church, and I shall be pleased to let you have them if you send word.

Harold peered closely at the signature. 'Can't make out the chap's name. "Wellbeloved"? "Wobblefoot"?'

'Wilberforce,' said the rector. 'And isn't it extraordinary?'

'It is indeed,' agreed Harold warmly. 'We must get hold of these letters. To think that we shall see Nathaniel's actual handwriting after all this time.'

The rector smiled indulgently upon his friend. He knew how much Nathaniel Patten meant to him.

Nathaniel had been a Thrush Green boy born and bred in Queen Victoria's reign, and had travelled to Africa as a missionary. There Nathaniel had set up a church, a mission hall, a school and the beginnings of a medical centre.

His project flourished, and Nathaniel Patten was greatly loved by the people he cared for.

His reputation grew over the years. His devotion, wisdom and sound common sense were widely recognized for miles around his settlement, but those in Thrush Green had forgotten the young man who had left his home.

He never in his lifetime returned. His duties and shortage of funds kept him at his post. But at his death his body was returned, at the express wish and expense of the Reverend Octavius Fennel, who himself conducted the funeral service.

Elderly inhabitants of Thrush Green and Lulling had memories of their parents' respect for the former rector. The Reverend Octavius Fennel had befriended the young Nathaniel, encouraging him in his missionary work and helping, it was believed, with financial support.

It was known that Octavius dearly wished Nathaniel to take Holy Orders, but the strongly evangelical nature of the younger man would not allow him to accept all the tenets of the established Church of England, and he was never ordained.

Over the years, Nathaniel was forgotten by Thrush Green. It was not until Harold Shoosmith had arrived some years before that Thrush Green folk became aware that it was the birthplace of their most distinguished son.

In a strange way it was Nathaniel Patten who had brought Harold Shoosmith to Thrush Green. Harold had lived near the community in Africa where the Victorian missionary had worked, bringing spiritual comfort and practical help to hundreds of his flock. By the time Harold was there, Nathaniel was dead, but his work still thrived and the small stone cross which was his memorial was kept immaculate with lime-wash, and flowers always lay at its foot.

The tales of the villagers about their hero moved Harold deeply, and when he had decided to retire he was excited to find that a house in Nathaniel's birthplace was on the market.

It suited him well, and he had become one of Thrush Green's most active and well-liked residents.

It was something of a shock to him to realize that Nathaniel meant nothing to his neighbours. His tombstone was overgrown, the inscription indecipherable. No one, it seemed, had heard of him. The parish register noted his birth and burial, and that seemed to be the only mention of the great man.

Harold set about remedying this matter, and was instrumental in getting a statue put up on the green on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of Nathaniel's birth. It now stood, a matter of pride and affection, and Nathaniel had been restored to the hearts of those in Thrush Green.

Harold and the rector had worked hard to trace any descendants of Nathaniel when the business of the memorial statue was afoot. Evidently he had married whilst abroad. His wife, debilitated by the rigours of the climate, had died giving birth to a daughter.

When the child was old enough, she had been sent to friends in Yorkshire to be housed and educated. She had married a man called Michael Mulloy, borne a son and daughter, and the family had moved to Pembrokeshire to work on a farm.

BOOK: (11/13) Celebrations at Thrush Green
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