How pleasant it can be, alone in a first-class railway carriage, on the first day of a holiday that is to be fairly long, to dawdle through a bit of English country that is unfamiliar, stopping at every station. You have a map open on your knee, and you pick out the villages that lie to right and left by their church towers. You marvel at the complete stillness that attends your stoppage at the stations, broken only by a footstep crunching the gravel. Yet perhaps that is best experienced after sundown, and the traveler I have in mind was making his leisurely progress on a sunny afternoon in the latter half of June.You can read it online here. It was adapted for television in 2005:
He was in the depths of the country. I need not particularise further than to say that if you divided the map of England into four quarters, he would have been found in the south-western of them.
He was a man of academic pursuits, and his term was just over. He was on his way to meet a new friend, older than himself. The two of them had met first on an official inquiry in town, had found that they had many tastes and habits in common, liked each other, and the result was an invitation from Squire Richards to Mr. Fanshawe which was now taking effect.
The journey ended about five o’clock. Fanshawe was told by a cheerful country porter that the car from the Hall had been up to the station and left a message that something had to be fetched from half a mile farther on, and would the gentleman please to wait a few minutes till it came back? ‘But I see,’ continued the porter, ‘as you’ve got your bystile, and very like you’d find it pleasanter to ride up to the ‘all yourself. Straight up the road ‘ere, and then first turn to the left — it ain’t above two mile — and I’ll see as your things is put in the car for
You’ll excuse me mentioning it, only I though it were a nice evening for a ride. Yes, sir, very seasonable weather for the haymakers: met me see, I have your bike ticket. Thank you, sir; much obliged: you can’t miss your road, etc., etc.’
The two miles to the Hall were just what was needed, after the day in the train, to dispel somnolence and impart a wish for tea. The Hall, when sighted, also promised just what was needed in the way of a quiet resting-place after days of sitting on committees and college-meetings. It was neither excitingly old nor depressingly new. Plastered walls, sash-windows, old trees, smooth lawns, were the features which Fanshawe noticed as he came up the drive. Squire Richards, a burly man of sixty odd, was awaiting him in the porch with evident pleasure ‘Tea first,’ he said, ‘or would you like a longer drink? No? All right, tea’s ready in the garden. Come along, they’ll put your machine away. I always have tea under the lime-tree by the stream on a day like this.’ Nor could you ask for a better place. Midsummer afternoon, shade and scent of a vast lime-tree, cool, swirling water within five yards. It was long before either of them suggested a move. But about six, Mr. Richards sat up, knocked out his pipe, and said: ‘Look here, it’s cool enough now to think of a stroll, if you’re inclined? All right: then what I suggest is that we walk up the park and get on to the hill-side, where we can look over the country. We’ll have a map, and I’ll show you where things are; and you can go off on your machine, or we can take the car, according as you want exercise or not. If you’re ready, we can start now and be back well before eight, taking it very easy.’
‘I’m ready. I should like my stick, though, and have you got any field-glasses? I lent mine to a man a week ago, and he’s gone off Lord knows where and taken them with him.’
Mr. Richards pondered. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I have, but they’re not things I use myself, and I don’t know whether the ones I have will suit you. They’re old-fashioned, and about twice as heavy as they make ‘em now. You’re welcome to have them, but I won’t carry them. By the way, what do you want to drink after dinner?’
Monday, May 14, 2018
A View from a Hill
A View from a Hill is a 1925 ghost story by M.R. James. It begins,