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Authors: Miss Read

Tags: #Country life, #Pastoral Fiction, #Thrush Green (Imaginary Place), #England, #Fiction

Thrush Green

BOOK: Thrush Green
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Thrush Green
Thrush Green [1]
Miss Read
Houghton Mifflin (1959)
Rating:
★★★★☆
Tags:
Fiction, England, Country Life, Thrush Green (Imaginary Place), Pastoral Fiction
Fictionttt Englandttt Country Lifettt Thrush Green (Imaginary Place)ttt Pastoral Fictionttt

Product Description

Miss Read's charming chronicles of small-town life have achieved an almost legendary popularity worldwide by offering a welcome return to a gentler time and "wit, humor, and wisdom in equal measure" (Cleveland Plain Dealer). This volume introduces Thrush Green, the neighboring village to Fairacre: its blackthorn bushes, thatch-roofed cottages, enchanting landscape, and jumble sales. Readers will delight in a new cast of characters and also welcome familiar faces as they become immersed in the village's turn of events on one pivotal day -- May Day. Before the day is over, life and love and perhaps eternity will touch the immemorial peace of the village.

About the Author

Miss Read is the pseudonym of Mrs. Dora Saint, a former schoolteacher beloved for her novels of English rural life, especially those set in the fictional villages of Thrush Green and Fairacre. The first of these, Village School, was published in 1955, and Miss Read continued to write until her retirement in 1996. In the 1998, she was awarded an MBE, or Member of the Order of the British Empire, for her services to literature. She lives in Berkshire.

Thrush Green

Miss Read

Illustrated by J. S. Goodall

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
Boston New York

First Houghton Mifflin paperback edition 2002
Copyright © 1959 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.

Visit our Web site:
www.houghconmifflinbooks.com.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available.
ISBN
0-618-22759-8

Printed in the United States of America
QUM
10 9 8 7 6

To Edie
with love

Contents

PART ONE

Morning

1
THE DAY BEGINS
3

2
THE GREAT MRS. CURDLE
14

3
BEN CURDLE MEETS HIS FATE
26

4
THRUSH GREEN ASTIR
42

5
DR. LOVELL'S PATIENTS
51

6
COFFEE AT "THE FUCHSIA BUSH
"67

PART TWO

Afternoon

7
NOONDAY HEAT
83

8
A CHAPTER OF ACCIDENTS
94

9
AT "THE DROVERS' ARMS"
106

10
SAM CURDLE IS TEMPTED
119

11
MRS. BAILEY VISITS NEIGHBORS
131

12
A FAMILY FIGHT
143

PART THREE

Night

13
MUSIC ON THRUSH GREEN
159

14
ALL THE FUN OF THE FAIR
171

15
MR. PIGGOTT GIVES HIS CONSENT
181

l6
DR. BAILEY ASKS FOR HELP
193

17
DR. BAILEY GIVES SOME HELP
200

18
THE DAY ENDS
213

PART ONE

Morning

1. The Day Begins

A
S SOON AS
he opened his eyes the child remembered, and his heart soared. This was the day he had waited for so long—the day of the fair.

He lay there for a minute, beneath his tumbled bedclothes, savoring the excitement. His mind's eye saw again, with the sharp clarity of a six-year-old, the battered galloping horses with flaring nostrils, the glittering brass posts, twisted like giant barley-sugar sticks, the dizzying red and yellow swing boats and the snakes of black flex that coiled across the bruised grass of Thrush Green waiting to ensnare the feet of the bedazzled.

His nose tingled with the remembered scent of the hot oily smell which pulsed from the blaring roundabout and the acrid odor of his own hands, faintly green from clutching the brass post so tightly. In his head rang the music of the fair, the raucous shouting, the screams of silly girls in swing boats, the throbbing of the great engine which supplied the power and, over all, the head-hammering mammoth voice which roared old half-forgotten tunes from among the whirling horses of the roundabout.

At last—at last, Paul told himself, it was the first day of May! And at this point he sat up in bed, said "White Rabbits!" aloud, to bring luck throughout the coming month, and looked eagerly out of the window into the dewy sunshine which was beginning to shimmer on Thrush Green.

And then, with a horrid shock, the child remembered something else. His heart stopped singing and dropped like a lark to the ground. Would he be able to go? Could he? Would he?

Frantically he clawed at the buttons of his pajama jacket, tore it open, and surveyed his chest with agonized anxiety.

"The rash has almost gone," young Dr. Lovell had said to Aunt Ruth the night before. "If his temperature stays down, I don't see why he shouldn't have an hour at the fair."

Aunt Ruth had smiled at Paul who had bounced up and down on the mattress with excitement.

"But you've got to take it quietly, young man," went on Dr. Lovell, "otherwise, no fair!"

They had left the child in bed and gone downstairs to the cool hall. The front and back doors of the pleasant old house stood hospitably open and the low rays of the setting sun crept in through the back door with the fragrance of the wallflowers which lined the garden path.

"He'll be so pleased if he can go," said the girl. "They say that this will be the last time the fair comes here."

"Oh, you've heard that too?" observed Dr. Lovell. "Evidently the old lady who runs the thing—Mrs. Whatsit—" He snapped his fingers and cocked his long dark head sideways in an effort to remember.

"Mrs. Curdle," prompted Ruth. "The great Mrs. Curdle. Why, I remember her when Joan and I used to come here to stay as children! She always looked about eighty—and as tough as they make them!"

"That's it—Mrs. Curdle. They were saying at 'The Vine' last night that she's decided to sell the business."

"It seems impossible," said the girl, as they paced slowly down the short flagged path to the gate.

"And what her family will do without her to bully them all I can't think."

The doctor opened the gate and stood outside. Ruth rested her bare arms on top and they gazed across Thrush Green to the half-dozen or so caravans which clustered at the farther corner near the church some hundred yards away. Most of them were gleaming modern beauties, flashing with chromium plating and fresh paint; but two of them were the traditional horse-drawn ones painted gaily with green and red, with yellow wheels and a bucket or two swinging from the axle, and in one of these, Ruth knew, lived the old matriarch who had ruled the fair for so many years.

In the still evening air blue smoke rose from the little tin chimney to the lime trees above. There was a faint whiff of frying onions, and a lurcher dog was sitting close to the caravan, his nose pointed expectantly upward. Nearby two skewbald ponies, tethered to the trees, cropped the new grass.

"Looks the perfect life," sighed Ruth longingly. "Just wandering from place to place. Nothing to remind you of things you want to forget...." Her voice trailed away and her companion looked at her quickly. She was uncomfortably pretty, gazing into the distance like that, he thought, and looked much better than she had when he had first met her six weeks before. Then she had been a pathetic little ghost, sitting listlessly in her sister's house, answering politely when addressed, with her heart and mind in some far-distant place.

Damn that fellow! thought young Doctor Lovell savagely, for the hundredth time. And I suppose she'd take him back again if he came crawling, blast his eyes! He fought down his useless anger and spoke equably. The calm evening gave him courage to speak more intimately than he had dared before.

"You will forget," he assured her seriously. "Look at the day ahead and never backward. You don't need a caravan for happiness, you know."

The girl looked at him directly and gave a quick warm smile. The young man laughed with relief and raised a hand in farewell.

"I'll look in tomorrow morning," he promised, and set off across Thrush Green to his own temporary home.

Thrush Green stood on high ground at the northerly end of Lulling, a small sleepy prosperous town, which had been famous in the days of the wool trade.

The town itself lay some half a mile distant, its gentle gray houses clustered, in a hollow, on each side of the twining silver river, like a flock of drowsy sheep. The streets curved and twisted as pleasantly as the river, but shaded by fine lime trees, now breaking into delicate leaf, instead of the willows, soon to shimmer summer through, above the trout-ringed reaches of the river Pleshy.

The high street tilted abruptly to rise to Thrush Green. It was a short sharp hill, "a real head-thumper of a hill" in hot weather, as old Mr. Piggott, sexton of St. Andrew's, often said. In the grip of winter's ice the same hill was feared by riders, drivers and those on foot. Years before, a wooden handrail polished by generations of hands had lined the high pavement, but the town council had decided that it served no useful purpose and detracted from the charm of the stone-walled cottages perched high on the bank above, and when the handrail had become shaky with age it had been dismantled, much to the annoyance of the Thrush Green residents.

The green itself was triangular, with the church of St. Andrew standing at the southerly point. The main road from Lulling to its nearest neighboring Cotswold town, ran along one side of Thrush Green, and a less important lane threading its way to half a dozen or so sleepy little hamlets skirted the other side. Across the base of the triangle at the northern end ran a fine avenue of horse chestnut trees, linking the two roads, and behind them, facing toward St. Andrew's, across the green, stood five sturdy old houses, built of that pleasantly sunny Cotswold stone which reminds one of honeycombs, golden afternoons and warm and mellow bliss.

BOOK: Thrush Green
11.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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