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January 30 , 2011

At Midnight and Other Stories


Just below and before them rose an ancient gateway, iron and stone, with much heraldic ornament. An ivy-mantled lodge with curly chimney-stacks stood immediately within; and beyond, sloping gently upward for a mile or more, a straight, grassed drive between thick woods – a beautiful green vista, three times as wide as an ordinary park avenue – was closed, on an elevated horizon, by the indistinct but imposing mass of a great grey house, one of those "stately homes of England" which are our pride and boast. It was a lovely picture, and a lovely atmosphere through which to view it – tinted with the hues of approaching sunset on a late summer day. A few head of deer were browsing quietly on the shadow-patterned sward; thrushes were calling to each other from wood to wood; partridges flying homeward to their nests in the corn, disturbed by the sound of the horses' hoofs. "There it is," said the bridegroom, his eyes kindling, his voice full of feeling, evoked by thronging memories of the splendid days of youth. "And you should see it when the pink may is out and those woods full of rhododendron in flower! Look at that grass ride – the deer like to come out there to feed, though they hide in the fern to rest – and what a stretch for a gallop! There wasn't the shooting in my time that there is now, but many a jolly day have I had with Walter Desailly in those fields over there, walking up our birds with one old dog through the turnips and stubble. You see that water shining through the trees? There was duck there; we shot them with a rook rifle by moonlight out of a bedroom window, and scared the maids with the row we made; once we caught a forty-two pound pike on a night-line; Walter had been fishing for it all his life, and found three sets of his tackle rusted in its jaws. The old squire had it stuffed for a curiosity. I wonder if Walter has it still, and whether he ever thinks of those old days?" The speaker sighed inaudibly. He was a fine man, in his prime, inclining to stoutness, and with a suspicion of frost upon his short brown beard. "Those old days" were nearly twenty years ago.
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