This is the twelfth of the thirteen Dover Doomsday Classics I've read and reviewed and it has been a long
project, finally nearing the end. In all, I've not been as impressed with them as I expected to be. There were a number of them that I loved, a number that I
thought were ridiculous (as sometimes happens with apocalyptic writings and how they are perceived by each individual). The remainder fell somewhere in between.
To this point, by far my favorite had been City of Endless Night, but this one ties it. The qualities I use to help me determine whether or not I
think a book is excellent are: Do I care about the characters? Is the plot interesting and cohesive? Does it set out to make a point? Does the ending draw
the story to a logical and satisfying conclusion? Has the story caused me to ponder and expand at the mental and spiritual levels? This one answers in the
affirmative to all questions, as does the other one mentioned. Too many of this series began as a good story, but turned down the wrong path somewhere, turning
the plot into something ludicrous, as exemplified by the worst of the bunch, The Night Land and also In the Drift, both which began as excellent stories.
The latter went wrong, perhaps in the author's attempt to fill the story with surprises, but went too far. Having said that, I am still glad that I've read
them. Here in 2023, as we actually are facing imminent short-term extinction, every one of them gave cause to ponder, containing situations which
we are experiencing now, including loss of habitat and planetary life-support systems, war and social schisms, nuclear war and radiation
poisoning, planetary overheating/meltdown, plagues and oligarchy. And the takeover by Aliens, Artificial Intelligence, and Transhumanism, which also
entails a sharp divide between those who use morals and integrity to rule their lives, as opposed to those who live by greed, self-absorption, ignorance,
apathy, and the lust for power. And if you are one that still does not recognize that we are deep into a massive extinction event, I suggest you get
with the program and read my volumes of articles by clicking the link above. Also, listen to Dane Wigington's weekly
Global Alert News broadcasts. And last, please visit my
Futuristic, Apocalyptic, Time Travel Index Page,
where the Dover Doomsday Classics have a section all their own.
Incidentally, as with many Dover books I review, and most of these in this series, I do not actually own the paper version because they are now public domain works that are free to download as eBooks from Project Gutenberg and often from Internet Archive. PLEASE, do NOT purchase Dover eBooks. You are being ripped off. A good portion of their library are public domain/classics, so why would you pay for them? I personally own a couple thousand paper books from Dover, many of which are not yet in public domain, or books that are very lengthy, which requires too many battery charges on an eReader. And there are some which contain artworks not available elsewhere, or informative introductions from which I often learn useful facts. So I'm not in any way discouraging the purchase of Dover books, just not their eBooks. Here is the link from Project Gutenberg, where you can read this book online or in .epub or .kindle format, and .epub books can also be easily converted to PDF format using this link. The full name of the book is After London; Or, Wild England.
Richard Jeffries was born in 1848, in Coate, Swindon, Wiltshire, England, and died way too young in 1887 at age 38 in Sussex. It is amazing that such an extraordinary man has fallen into such neglect. There seems to be a number of these English writers that need to be recalled to the public eye. Wikipedia gives him a very complimentary write-up, yet they do not have a page for this book, or for most of his writings. His Project Gutenberg general page contains 20 books and can be accessed through the link above.
Amazingly, the Good Readers (or maybe not, in this case), at Goodreads, gave this one a three star average. I usually agree with the majority of reviewers, but decidedly, not for this one. The ones that didn't like it often said they liked the brief Part 1 best, but I totally disagree with that, in fact, at first I thought it would be another book I didn't care for, and I struggled through. But Part 2 was where the "novel" actually began, and that I zipped through. Many of the people who gave it three stars also had good things to say about it. Of the reviews on the first page, four gave it four stars and four, five stars. Of the five stars, Lorraine begins her review:
This book is amazing. I can't believe it's not more widely known. I would love to watch a movie/TV series based on it. It's astonishing to me how many of the hallmarks of our apocalyptic media are already present here in this 1885 text.
At the end she mentions this:
His accidental foray into the heart of London, which resembles nothing so closely as the site of a nuclear disaster, is truly chilling and a prescient ecological warning.
I have to admit, I never considered that, and I doubt that Jefferies did either, given his era and background. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense, not only because of the toxic cesspool that remained where London was putrefying deep underground, but also the mention of extremely cold winters, which was not normal for England, and drastic changes in sea levels. That is what we currently face, as those that control the world now are considering a nuclear war to cool the rapidly overheating planet. Look it up if you doubt me.
And Paul Reid begins:
At last, a beautifully crafted, beautifully formed, and highly realistic post-apocalyptic world! No Hunger Games here! An absolute pleasure to read. I want more of this world.
Well, I agree with both of those. Wikipedia describes Jefferies as "an English nature writer, noted for his depiction of English rural life in essays, books of natural history, and novels. His childhood on a small Wiltshire farm had a great influence on him and provides the background to all his major works of fiction." And though they don't have pages for most of his books, their commentary is positive. Here's the second paragraph from their page.
Jefferies's corpus of writings covers a range of genres and topics, including Bevis (1882), a classic children's book, and After London (1885), a work of science fiction. For much of his adult life he suffered from tuberculosis, and his struggles with the illness and with poverty also play a role in his writing. Jefferies valued and cultivated an intensity of feeling in his experience of the world around him, a cultivation that he describes in detail in The Story of My Heart (1883). This work, an introspective depiction of his thoughts and feelings about the world, gained him the reputation of a nature mystic at the time, but it is his success in conveying his awareness of nature and people within it, both in his fiction and in essay collections such as The Amateur Poacher (1879) and Round About a Great Estate (1880), that has drawn most admirers. Walter Besant wrote of his reaction on first reading Jefferies: "Why, we must have been blind all our lives; here were the most wonderful things possible going on under our very noses, but we saw them not."
In any case, I am looking forward to reading more of his books. And now, on to a bit of the story. There
is a lot of ambiguity as far as the setting of it. Written in 1885, Part I: "The Relapse into Barbarism" is set somewhere into the future. The unnamed writer
describes the years after some apocalyptic event has occurred that wipes out London and apparently what is now the U.K. and Ireland. Little is mentioned of
anything beyond. Since historical records have been destroyed, the narrator is using bits and pieces of what has been passed down through history. Chapter I: "The
Great Forest" begins thus: "The old men say their fathers told them that soon after the fields were left to themselves a change began to be visible. It
became green everywhere in the first spring, after London ended, so that all the country looked alike." He then goes on to describe the fields that were
abandoned—how the animals ate the ripened wheat, that reseeded itself, but as time went on, weeds, brambles, shrubs and trees gradually took over, and as the
decades passed, the footpaths, and eventually the roads disappeared. Because the wilderness took over, it began to change the entire layout of the land.
Water was no longer able to flow in its normal route. Land became flooded. Bridges cracked, buildings came down, or burned in the first generation. Mice
took over, though there were still some people who remained in the country. Cats from town escaped to the country and took care of the mice, along with
hawks and owls. Domestic farm animals that survived evolved into new breeds. Some dogs became vicious killers. There were few breeds left of any animal at
In the next chapter, "Wild Animals" he describes what the domestic animals became in detail. And again, referring to the comment about a nuclear disaster, a "nuclear winter" would be cold enough to kill off much remaining life.
When the ancients departed, great numbers of their cattle perished. It was not so much the want of food as the inability to endure exposure that caused their death; a few winters are related to have so reduced them that they died by hundreds, many mangled by dogs. The hardiest that remained became perfectly wild, and the wood cattle are now more difficult to approach than deer.
Chapter III is "Men of the Woods," and here he relates what has been passed down about the fate of humans, but admits the information is sketchy. He speaks of a historian named "Silvester," who is unreliable. What I haven't been able to figure out is who he is speaking of that he calls "the ancients." Now, here in this time period, generally "ancient" refers to those who lived in the BCE era, such as the Greeks and Egyptians, Biblical tribes, and also early CE, like the Romans. But by the time you get up to the late Medieval and Renaissance, we generally do not consider those "ancient." Or I don't. So, is the narrator that far ahead into the future that people in 1885, when this book was written, are the ancients? Or perhaps he is referring to the descendants of the ancients. Because the narrator speaks as if it hasn't been that many generations since the catastrophic event took place. It is a point of confusion to me that I still haven't resolved. Elsewhere he mentions the passing of a thousand years. That's why background info is helpful. (Part II, entitled "Wild England" takes place somewhat or much later, I believe, because cities now exist and people are now farming domestic animals and food crops which seem to be in abundance. And the wild animals are once more familiar—lots of birds, fish and game.) Here are a couple quotes from the beginning of this chapter.
So far as this, all that I have stated has been clear, and there can be no doubt that what has been thus handed down from mouth to mouth is for the most part correct. When I pass from trees and animals to men, however, the thing is different, for nothing is certain and everything confused. None of the accounts agree, nor can they be altogether reconciled with present facts or with reasonable supposition; yet it is not so long since but a few memories, added one to the other, can bridge the time, and, though not many, there are some written notes still to be found. I must attribute the discrepancy to the wars and hatreds which sprang up and divided the people, so that one would not listen to what the others wished to say, and the truth was lost.
Besides which, in the conflagration which consumed the towns, most of the records were destroyed, and are no longer to be referred to. And it may be that even when they were proceeding, the causes of the change were not understood. Therefore, what I am now about to describe is not to be regarded as the ultimate truth, but as the nearest to which I could attain after comparing the various traditions. Some say, then, that the first beginning of the change was because the sea silted up the entrances to the ancient ports, and stopped the vast commerce which was once carried on. It is certainly true that many of the ports are silted up, and are now useless as such, but whether the silting up preceded the disappearance of the population, or whether the disappearance of the population, and the consequent neglect caused the silting, I cannot venture to positively assert.
He also mentions the changes in sea levels, and the possibility that some "dark body" in space affected the tilt of the Earth. "And those whose business is theology have pointed out that the wickedness of those times surpassed understanding, and that a change and sweeping away of the human evil that had accumulated was necessary, and was effected by supernatural means." Prescient indeed! This sounds way too familiar. It continues:
All that seems certain is, that when the event took place, the immense crowds collected in cities were most affected, and that the richer and upper classes made use of their money to escape. Those left behind were mainly the lower and most ignorant, so far as the arts were concerned; those that dwelt in distant and outlying places; and those who lived by agriculture. These last at that date had fallen to such distress that they could not hire vessels to transport themselves. The exact number of those left behind cannot, of course, be told, but it is on record that when the fields were first neglected (as I have already described), a man might ride a hundred miles and not meet another. They were not only few, but scattered, and had not drawn together and formed towns as at present.
He further states that nothing was ever heard of again concerning all these people. He also states that "It is true that ships rarely come over, and only to two ports, and that the men on them say (so far as can be understood) that their country is equally deserted now, and has likewise lost its population." And all the inventions of the ancients have been lost. "As, for the most part, those who were left behind were ignorant, rude, and unlettered, it consequently happened that many of the marvelous things which the ancients did, and the secrets of their science, are known to us by name only, and, indeed, hardly by name." He describes trains, telephones, or some kind of wire communication.
They also sent intelligence to the utmost parts of the earth along wires which were not tubular, but solid, and therefore could not transmit sound, and yet the person who received the message could hear and recognise the voice of the sender a thousand miles away. With certain machines worked by fire, they traversed the land swift as the swallow glides through the sky, but of these things not a relic remains to us. What metal-work or wheels or bars of iron were left, and might have given us a clue, were all broken up and melted down for use in other ways when metal became scarce.
As for the men in the woods, there are two main types: the Bushmen and the Gipsies. Both are a dangerous
threat. The Bushmen are totally uncivilized, and the Gipsies are the same tribes as they had been for centuries, so nothing really changed for them.
Chapter IV is about "The Invaders," and it seems they are now in a much later time period, because here, cities, kingdoms, farms and towns are now developing, most centered around The Lake. You know, the huge lake in the center of southern England. (We'll get to that in a bit.) But they are not modern, in fact, they are what we would recognize as Medieval—as in knights. And they have not developed civility or morals. Or any laws that protect the citizens. Kings and Barons have great power. Those who are learned are mocked and those who excel in sports, hunting, weaponry and wars are the heroes. The great literary works of the past have been destroyed, either through the catastrophe or because the people think it's a sign of weakness to be intelligent. The knowledge of the scientists and other scholars is shunned. Therefore, the people exist now in ignorance and moral turpitude. Greed and power rules all. Again, this sounds painfully familiar, and is yet one more book that has reached out to me and said "Read me next. I am pertinent."
Justice is corrupt, for where there is a king or a prince it depends on the caprice of a tyrant, and where there is a republic upon the shout of the crowd, so that many, if they think they may be put on trial, rather than face the risk at once escape into the woods. The League, though based ostensibly on principles the most exalted and beneficial to humanity, is known to be perverted. The members sworn to honour and the highest virtue are swayed by vile motives, political hatreds, and private passions, and even by money.
Men for ever trample upon men, each pushing to the front; nor is there safety in remaining in retirement, since such are accused of biding their time and of occult designs. Though the population of these cities all counted together is not equal to the population that once dwelt in a single second-rate city of the ancients, yet how much greater are the bitterness and the struggle!
Yet not content with the bloodshed they themselves cause, the tyrants have called in the aid of mercenary soldiers to assist them. And, to complete the disgrace, those republics which proclaim themselves the very home of patriotic virtues, have resorted to the same means.
Oh, my. And the familiarity continues . . . . Yes, we can identify with this here in 2023.
The land, too, is weak, because of the multitude of bondsmen. In the provinces and kingdoms round about the Lake there is hardly a town where the slaves do not outnumber the free as ten to one. The laws are framed for the object of reducing the greater part of the people to servitude. For every offence the punishment is slavery, and the offences are daily artificially increased, that the wealth of the few in human beings may grow with them. If a man in his hunger steal a loaf, he becomes a slave; that is, it is proclaimed he must make good to the State the injury he has done it, and must work out his trespass. This is not assessed as the value of the loaf, nor supposed to be confined to the individual from whom it was taken.
Here is just a one more quote from this chapter that bridges the gap between Part I and Part II. It is in reference to the literate nobles who passed down their knowledge to their children, thus some remnant of the past was retained.
These men in turn taught their children to read and write, wishing that some part of the wisdom of the ancients might be preserved. They themselves wrote down what they knew, and these manuscripts, transmitted to their children, were saved with care. Some of them remain to this day. These children, growing to manhood, took more upon them, and assumed higher authority as the past was forgotten, and the original equality of all men lost in antiquity. The small enclosed farms of their fathers became enlarged to estates, the estates became towns, and thus, by degrees, the order of the nobility was formed. As they intermarried only among themselves, they preserved a certain individuality. At this day a noble is at once known, no matter how coarsely he may be dressed, or how brutal his habits, by his delicacy of feature, his air of command, even by his softness of skin and fineness of hair.
Still the art of reading and writing is scrupulously imparted to all their legitimate offspring, and scrupulously confined to them alone. It is true that they do not use it except on rare occasions when necessity demands, being wholly given over to the chase, to war, and politics, but they retain the knowledge. Indeed, were a noble to be known not to be able to read and write, the prince would at once degrade him, and the sentence would be upheld by the entire caste. No other but the nobles are permitted to acquire these arts; if any attempt to do so, they are enslaved and punished. But none do attempt; of what avail would it be to them?
And now, about the Lake. Until Chapter V, it was spoken of as if everyone should know there was a huge Lake
right about between Cornwall and London. I was quite certain there wasn't. I consulted my atlas. So this last chapter of Part I tells a bit of how it was
As mentioned earlier, because there were no people to maintain the fields and woodlands and everything went wild, thus cutting off the natural flow of the creeks and rivers and new bodies of water formed. The Lake was the biggest. But what I want to include here is the description of the festering, fetid—actually lethally toxic part of it that was once London and to which the Good Reader quoted above has referred. This is important because it plays a major role in Part II. It also may be symbolic, written by Jefferies as expression of his disdain for the evil that took place in this city. Charles Dickens spent his lifetime sharing his disdain with his readers.
There exhales from this oozy mass so fatal a vapour that no animal can endure it. The black water bears a greenish-brown floating scum, which for ever bubbles up from the putrid mud of the bottom. When the wind collects the miasma, and, as it were, presses it together, it becomes visible as a low cloud which hangs over the place. The cloud does not advance beyond the limit of the marsh, seeming to stay there by some constant attraction; and well it is for us that it does not, since at such times when the vapour is thickest, the very wildfowl leave the reeds, and fly from the poison. There are no fishes, neither can eels exist in the mud, nor even newts. It is dead.
The flags and reeds are coated with slime and noisome to the touch; there is one place where even these do not grow, and where there is nothing but an oily liquid, green and rank. It is plain there are no fishes in the water, for herons do not go thither, nor the kingfishers, not one of which approaches the spot. They say the sun is sometimes hidden by the vapour when it is thickest, but I do not see how any can tell this, since they could not enter the cloud, as to breathe it when collected by the wind is immediately fatal. For all the rottenness of a thousand years and of many hundred millions of human beings is there festering under the stagnant water, which has sunk down into and penetrated the earth, and floated up to the surface the contents of the buried cloacæ.
And with that, we begin Part II, which is the story of Sir Felix Aquila, eldest son of the Baron Constans
Aquila. It is an adventure and a romance. Rather than including so many quotes, I will just tell the story in my own words and impressions. But first I must
comment on the fact that these people are living a Medieval lifestyle set far into the future. This isn't the first Dover Doomsday Classic where this was the
case, in fact, the one mentioned above that I disliked the most, The Night Land, was set millions of years in the future and their culture was
One of the complaints I frequently have of futuristic sci-fi is that spiritual evolution is rarely taken into account. One of the things I liked about The Night Land, was that these people had greatly evolved at the spiritual level. In this present book, as I just pointed out, life is pretty barbaric. From the first chapter of Part II, where we meet Sir Felix, I made a note to myself that I liked him already. To me, Felix seemed like a breath of fresh air in a society filled with foul immoral stench. Felix is good. He has a loving heart where others are cold-hearted, thriving on the hunt and killing animals and war and killing people. Oliver is the middle son, the exact opposite of Felix. He is strong and athletic, excelling in anything physical. He is jovial and people love to be in his company. Felix prefers to be alone. He has no interest in sports and hunting. He prefers to study the few manuscripts he has been able to attain, and even though they, in their own time, were merely books that children would have used at school, to him they are treasures.
Felix feels that he is despised. Well, he's different. Of course he's despised. There are a great many of us now who fully understand. We are the ones who refuse to cooperate with the evil agenda. Therefore, we aren't trusted by the tyrants. We are considered threats. Contemplating acts of treason. Then and now.
Many of the Goodreads commenters said they thought this book was slow-moving or difficult to read, while I thought it flew by at a nice pace. Perhaps the reason is that I enjoy books that supply a great deal of visual descriptions. I am a visually-oriented person, and I like it when I can put myself into the environment along with the characters. There are also many action/danger scenes, so those went even faster. When I write my notes, I put a big arrow in the margin of passages I might want to include as quotes, and while I had a number of them in Part I, there were very few in Part II.
Though the story is about Felix and his love for Aurora, an equally good person, sketches of life in general, including detailed descriptions of the estate, the buildings, animals, crops, workmen, and the layout of the fortress and how it was guarded and protected are interwoven with his personal life. Though they are nobles, they are very poor, due to treachery on the part of other nobles out of jealousy for the brilliant inventions of the Baron. Felix's room lacks furniture, except for some rough pieces of wood. He has a wooden chest, and they did not have locks, but leather straps that were tied in a secret knot that only the owner could untie. Punishment would be swift and severe for any household worker who attempted to break into anyone's wooden chest. In his, Felix kept his beloved manuscripts, plus some gold coins which he found. By law, he was obligated to turn them in to the Prince, but he did not. Had he been caught, his entire family would have suffered great punishment. There is also an ivory cross hanging on the wall, given to him by Aurora.
Felix and his brother Oliver have a sort of love/hate relationship, and here I will include a quote because it is important for the story to know the personalities of these two. There is a younger brother, but he works in town and is only home on weekends. The third paragraph is especially important, because his skill at shooting arrows. . . . Well, I won't give the ending away.
Between the brothers there was the strangest mixture of affection and repulsion. The elder smiled at the excitement and energy of the younger; the younger openly despised the studious habits and solitary life of the elder. In time of real trouble and difficulty they would have been drawn together; as it was, there was little communion; the one went his way, and the other his. There was perhaps rather an inclination to detract from each other's achievements that to praise them, a species of jealousy or envy without personal dislike, if that can be understood. They were good friends, and yet kept apart.
Oliver made friends of all, and thwacked and banged his enemies into respectful silence. Felix made friends of none, and was equally despised by nominal friends and actual enemies. Oliver was open and jovial; Felix reserved and contemptuous, or sarcastic in manner. His slender frame, too tall for his width, was against him; he could neither lift the weights nor undergo the muscular strain readily borne by Oliver. It was easy to see that Felix, although nominally the eldest, had not yet reached his full development. A light complexion, fair hair and eyes, were also against him; where Oliver made conquests, Felix was unregarded. He laughed, but perhaps his secret pride was hurt.
There was but one thing Felix could do in the way of exercise and sport. He could shoot with the bow in a manner till then entirely unapproached. His arrows fell unerringly in the centre of the target, the swift deer and the hare were struck down with ease, and even the wood-pigeon in full flight. Nothing was safe from those terrible arrows. For this, and this only, his fame had gone forth; and even this was made a source of bitterness to him.
They have one thing in common, which deeply angers them both, and it is their father's stubbornness about
staying away from court and not claiming his rightful place. Because of the treachery of other Lords, he has been mistreated, and wants no part of them
now, so he pours all his love into the farm, even though it could be taken from the family at any time, seemingly oblivious to the disadvantage it is causing
for the other members of the family.
So on this beautiful spring morning, Felix and Oliver go down to the creek where Felix has been building a canoe. No one else knows about it. His goal? To get away and live his own life. To marry Aurora. But especially, to use his creative talents. (We learn just how much knowledge Felix has accumulated as the story moves along.) To have an adventure, or obtain a position with a king. To circumnavigate the Lake. To remain at home would be to stagnate with no hope of a life at all. Felix could take it no longer. As usual, the brothers start talking about their father and Oliver stalks off in anger. Felix quietly continues with his canoe.
The canoe is finally finished, and now Felix must stick to his resolution, even though it means he must leave Aurora for perhaps a long time. Felix will await the Feast of St. James to pay a last visit to Aurora at Thyma Castle. The day arrives and Oliver accompanies him.
Baron Thyma is just as impoverished as the Aquilas, but lives outside his means to keep up the appearance. He and Baron Aquila have a hearth-friendship, a type of vow, so even though he plans to have his daughter marry better than Felix, he cannot reject him, and always must offer hospitality. But it doesn't quite work like that. Felix is miserable at the feast (partially because of his own stubbornness and the ever-present feeling that he is mocked and despised). He is seated at the end of the table, near the one for the aged and feeble servants, while Oliver occupies a central area. Even worse, Lord Durand is next to Aurora, and has appeared to command all her attention. All he can see is the negative, not the little signs that have been given to him. One occurs during "tea." (They didn't actually have real tea anymore.)
A servant after a while came to him with a tray; he took some honey and bread. Almost immediately afterwards another servant came and presented him with a plate, on which was a cup of wine, saying, "With my lady's loving wishes."
As in duty bound, he rose and bowed to the Baroness; she smiled and nodded; the circle which had looked to see who was thus honoured, turned aside again, not recognising him. To send a guest a plate with wine or food is the highest mark of esteem, and this plate in especial was of almost priceless value, as Felix saw when his confusion had abated. It was of the ancient china, now not to be found in even the houses of the great.
The Baroness understands and sympathizes with the love between her daughter and Felix. She meant this as an
invitation for him to come and stand behind her, as was the custom, but again, his pride intervened.
When he retires early in the little room that is always his and Oliver's—Oliver is still partying—he notices a manuscript on the table. He investigates. "It was, in fact, a book of magic, written at the dictation, as the preface stated, of one who had been for seven years a slave among the Romany." The Romany was one of the main tribes of Gipsies. Felix studies until he is too weary then instantly falls asleep.
In his unsettled state of mind it did not once occur to him to ask himself how the manuscript came to be upon his table. Rare as they were, books were not usually put upon the tables of guests, and at an ordinary time he would certainly have thought it peculiar. The fact was, that Aurora, whom all day he had inwardly accused of forgetting him, had placed it there for him with her own hands. She, too, was curious in books and fond of study. She had very recently bought the volume from a merchant who had come thus far, and who valued it the least of all his wares.
She knew that Felix had read and re-read every other scrap of writing there was in the castle, and thought that this strange book might interest him, giving, as it did, details of those powers of the air in which almost all fully believed. Unconscious of this attention, Felix fell asleep, angry and bitter against her. When, half an hour afterwards, Oliver blundered into the room, a little unsteady on his legs, notwithstanding his mighty strength, he picked up the roll, glanced at it, flung it down with contempt, and without a minute's delay sought and obtained slumber.
The next morning the festival crowd is treated to a play by Sophocles—Antigone with Aurora playing the
heroine. She had chosen it because she wanted Felix to see it. The day continues with jousts and battles, but to Felix, it is painful and he wants to
be gone. Yet when the festivities are over, he sticks around hoping to get one moment alone with Aurora. Finally, he gives up and goes upstairs to bid
farewell to the Baroness. Aurora's maid meets him and whispers "The Rose arbour."
Felix is cold to Aurora, thinking that she had been fascinated with Lord Durand, but in fact she had been threatened that if she so much as looked at him, her father would have thrown Felix out, hearth-friendship or not. Felix finally breaks down and returns her passion. She tells him of her great faith—the faith carried down through the generations by the Barons of Thyma.
A girl, indeed, can do but little in our iron days, but that little she did. The chapel beside the castle, long since fallen to decay, was, at her earnest request, repaired; a pastor came and remained as chaplain, and services, of the simplest kind, but serious and full of meaning, took place twice a week. To these she drew as many as possible of the inhabitants of the enclosure; some even came from afar once now and then to attend them. Correspondence was carried on with the remnant of the faith.
That no one might plead ignorance (for there was up to the date no written record) Aurora set herself the task of reducing the traditions which had been handed down to writing. When the manuscript was at last completed it occupied her months to transcribe copies of it for circulation; and she still continued to make copies, which were sent by messengers and by the travelling merchants to the markets, and even across the sea. Apart from its intrinsically elevating character, the mere mental labour expended on this work had undoubtedly strengthened a naturally fine intellect. As she said, it was the faith, the hope that that faith would one day be recognised, which gave her so much influence over others.
Felix, though he doesn't follow her faith (yet), he smiles as he listens to her. But she must go now because
her mother has been calling for her. Felix doesn't tell her that he is going away. By this time it's getting dark. The groom had long since put his horse
back in the stable, and they urge him to spend the night. But again, he is stubborn, and insists on traveling alone, which is a bad choice. His adventures
actually begin at this point. And as for his canoe adventure, I will leave it to you to read this book.
Felix is one of those characters that we must like and care about and respect. He isn't a flawless hero, in fact he make one bad choice after another, but he is a hero just the same, learning and growing and becoming a better and stronger person with each experience. And together with Aurora, they are a ray of hope for a new dawn of moral integrity and spiritual courage in this dystopian world that they inhabit.
Absolutely highly recommended reading and remember, it's free from Project Gutenberg.
All material on this site copyright © 2023 by Laughing Crow.
This site designed and written by Laughing Crow.