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Authors: Elizabeth Goudge

The Little White Horse

BOOK: The Little White Horse
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A terrible sound
 . . .

In mid-gallop Maria was halted by a strange and terrible sound, a thin high screaming that came threading through the happy sounds of the wind and the crying gulls and Periwinkle’s galloping feet, and pushing into her heart like a sharp needle

She pulled in her pony and sat listening, her heart beating fast with sudden fear. Away to her right, beyond a sombre belt of pine-trees, was a deep hollow filled with gorse and blackberry bushes, and from it came the frightening sound. Somewhere down there some child or animal was being hurt. She hesitated for only a moment, and then, gulping down the fear that had come up like a hard lump in her throat, she turned Periwinkle and rode hard for the hollow beyond the pines
. . . .

“For imaginative readers . . . this tale will have a strong appeal. There are richness of detail and a lovely use of color and light—sunshine, moonlight, and shadows, symbolically contrasted—to catch the fancy, and a spiritual quality in this parable of greed and pride vanquished by innocence and goodwill.”

The New York Times

“Fantasy and reality meet on equal terms in an exciting mystery story in which all of the characters, both humans and animals, come alive, and stay alive from start to finish.”

The Horn Book


Five Children and It
    E. Nesbit

Linnets and Valerians
    Elizabeth Goudge

The Lost Flower Children
    Janet Taylor Lisle

The Secret Garden
    Frances Hodgson Burnett

Time Cat
    Lloyd Alexander

Little White Horse



Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers,

345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.

Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane, London W8 5TZ, England

Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia

Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2

Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England

First published in the United States of America by Coward McCann, 1946

Published by Puffin Books,

a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 2001

Copyright © Elizabeth Goudge, 1946

Copyright © renewed by Elizabeth Goudge, 1974

All rights reserved


Goudge, Elizabeth, date

The little white horse / Elizabeth Goudge.

p.    cm.

Summary: In 1854, thirteen-year-old orphan Maria Merryweather arrives at her ancestral home in an enchanted village in England’s West Country, where she discovers it is her destiny to right the wrongs of her ancestors and end an ancient feud.
Carnegie Medal, 1946

ISBN: 978-1-101-66418-6

[1. Fate and fatalism—Fiction. 2. Geneology—Fiction. 3. Vendetta—Fiction. 4. Magic—Fiction. 5. Orphans—Fiction. 6. England—Fiction.] I. Title.

PZ7.G71 Li 2001 [Fic]—dc21 2001019547

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.


Dedicated to


With my thanks


was under the white moon that I saw him,

The little white horse, with neck arched high in pride.

Lovely his pride, delicate, no taint of self

Staining the unconscious innocence denied

Knowledge of good and evil, burden of days

Of shame crouched beneath the flail of memory.

No past for you, little white horse, no regret,

No future of fear in this silver forest —

Only the perfect now in the white moon-dappled ride.

A flower-like body fashioned all of light,

For the speed of light, yet momently at rest,

Balanced on the sheer knife-edge of perfection;

Perfection of grass silver upon the crest

Of the hill, before the scythe falls, snow in sun,

Of the shaken human spirit when God speaks

In His still small voice and for a breath of time

All is hushed; gone in a sigh, that perfection,

Leaving the sharp knife-edge turning slowly in the breast.

The raised hoof, the proud poised head, the flowing mane,

The supreme moment of stillness before the flight,

The moment of farewell, of wordless pleading

For remembrance of things lost to earthly sight —

Then the half-turn under the trees, a motion

Fluid as the movement of light on water . . .

Stay, oh stay in the forest, little white horse! . . .

He is lost and gone and now I do not know

If it was a little white horse that I saw,

Or only a moonbeam astray in the silver night.

Table of Contents














carriage gave another lurch, and Maria Merryweather, Miss Heliotrope, and Wiggins once more fell into each other’s arms, sighed, gasped, righted themselves, and fixed their attention upon those objects which were for each of them at this trying moment the source of courage and strength.

Maria gazed at her boots. Miss Heliotrope restored her spectacles to their proper position, picked up the worn brown volume of French essays from the floor, popped a peppermint into her mouth, and peered once more in the dim light at the wiggly black print on the yellowed page. Wiggins meanwhile pursued with his tongue the taste of the long-since-digested dinner that still lingered among his whiskers.

Humanity can be roughly divided into three sorts of people — those who find comfort in literature, those who find comfort in personal adornment, and those who find comfort in food; and Miss Heliotrope, Maria, and Wiggins were typical representatives of their own sort of people.

Maria must be described first, because she is the heroine of this story. In this year of grace 1842 she was thirteen years old and was considered plain, with her queer silvery-grey eyes that were so disconcertingly penetrating, her straight reddish hair and thin pale face with its distressing freckles. Yet her little figure, small as that of a fairy’s child, with a backbone as straight as a poker, was very dignified, and she had exquisitely tiny feet, of
which she was inordinately proud. They were her chief beauty, she knew, which was why she took, if possible, a more burning interest in her boots than in her mittens and gowns and bonnets.

And the boots she had on today were calculated to raise the lowest spirits, for they were made of the softest grey leather, sewn with crystal beads round the tops, and were lined with snow-white lamb’s-wool. The crystal beads, as it happened, could not be seen, because Maria’s grey silk dress and warm grey wool pelisse, also trimmed with white lamb’s-wool, reached to her ankles, but she herself knew they were there, and the thought of them gave her a moral strength that can scarcely be overestimated.

She rested herself against the thought of those beads, just as in a lesser degree she rested herself against the thought of the piece of purple ribbon that was wound about her slender waist beneath the pelisse, the little bunch of violets that was tucked so far away inside the recesses of her grey velvet bonnet that it was scarcely visible, and the grey silk mittens adorning the small hands that were hidden inside the big white muff. For Maria was one of your true aristocrats; the perfection of the hidden things was even more important to her than the outward show. Not that she did not like the outward show. She did. She was a showy little thing, even when dressed in the greys and purples of the bereaved.

For Maria was an orphan. Her mother had died in her babyhood and her father just two months ago, leaving so many debts that everything he possessed, including the beautiful London house with the fanlight over the door and the tall windows looking out over the garden of the quiet London Square, where Maria had lived throughout the whole of her short life, had had to be sold to pay them. When the lawyers had at last settled everything to their satisfaction, it was found that there was only just enough money left to convey her and Miss Heliotrope and Wiggins by coach to the West Country, a part of the world that they had never seen, where they were to live with
Maria’s second cousin, her nearest living relative, Sir Benjamin Merryweather, whom they had never seen either, in his manor-house of Moonacre in the village of Silverydew.

But it was not her orphaned state that had depressed Maria and made her turn to the contemplation of her boots for comfort. Her mother she did not remember, her father, a soldier, who had nearly always been abroad with his regiment, and who did not care for children anyhow, had never had much hold upon her affections; not the hold that Miss Heliotrope had, who had come to her when she was only a few months old, had been first her nurse and then her governess, and had lavished upon her all the love that she had ever known. No, what was depressing Maria was the wretchedness of this journey and the discomfort of country life that it surely foreboded.

Maria knew nothing about the country. She was a London lady born and bred, and she loved luxury, and in that beautiful house looking out on the London Square she had had it; even though it had turned out at her father’s death that he really oughtn’t to have had it, because there had not been the money to pay for it.

And now? Judging by this carriage, there would not be many comforts at Moonacre Manor. It was an awful conveyance. It had met them at Exeter, and was even more uncomfortable than the stage-coach that had brought them from London. The cushions on the seat were hard and moth-eaten, and the floor had chickens’ feathers and bits of straw blowing about in the icy draughts that swept in through the ill-fitting doors. The two piebald horses, though they had shining coats and were obviously well loved and well cared-for, a fact which Maria noticed at once because she adored horses, were old and stout and moved slowly.

And the coachman was a wizened little old man who looked more like a gnome than a human creature, clothed in a many-caped greatcoat so patched that it was impossible even to guess at its original colour, and a huge
curly-brimmed hat of worn beaver that was so much too large for him that it came right down over his face and rested upon the bridge of his nose, so that one could scarcely see anything of his face except his wide toothless smile and the grey stubble upon his ill-shaven chin. Yet he seemed amiable and had been full of conversation when he tucked them up in the carriage, covering their knees tenderly with a torn and tattered rug, only owing to his lack of teeth they had found it difficult to understand him. And now, in the thick February mist that shrouded the countryside, they could scarcely see him through the little window in the front of the carriage.

BOOK: The Little White Horse
10.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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