A Rough Shaking by George MacDonald

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How I Came to know Clare Skymer. It was a day when everything around seemed almost perfect: everything does, now and then, come nearly right for a moment or two, preparatory to coming all right for good at the last. It was the third week in June. The great furnace was glowing and shining in full force, driving the ship of our life at her best speed through the ocean of space. For on deck, and between decks, and aloft, there is so much more going on at one time than at another, that I may well say she was then going at her best speed, for there is quality as well as rate in motion. The trees were all well clothed, most of them in their very best. Their garments were soaking up the light and the heat, and the wind was going about among them, telling now one and now another, that all was well, and getting through an immense amount of comfort-work in a single minute. It said a word or two to myself as often as it passed me, and made me happier than any boy I know just at present, for I was an old man, and ought to be more easily made happy than any mere beginner. I was walking through the thin edge of a little wood of big trees, with a slope of green on my left stretching away into the sunny distance, and the shadows of the trees on my right lying below my feet. The earth and the grass and the trees and the air were together weaving a harmony, and the birds were leading the big orchestra—which was indeed on the largest scale. For the instruments were so different, that some of them only were meant for sound; the part of others was in odour, of others yet in shine, and of still others in motion; while the birds turned it all as nearly into words as they could. Presently, to complete the score, I heard the tones of a man's voice, both strong and sweet. It was talking to some one in a way I could not understand. I do not mean I could not understand the words: I was too far off even to hear them; but I could not understand how the voice came to be so modulated. It was deep, soft, and musical, with something like coaxing in it, and something of tenderness, and the intent of it puzzled me. For I could not conjecture from it the age, or sex, or relation, or kind of the person to whom the words were spoken. You can tell by the voice when a man is talking to himself; it ought to be evident when he is talking to a woman; and you can, surely, tell when he is talking to a child; you could tell if he were speaking to him who made him; and you would be pretty certain if he was holding communication with his dog: it made me feel strange that I could not tell the kind of ear open to the gentle manly voice saying things which the very sound of them made me long to hear. I confess to hurrying my pace a little, but I trust with no improper curiosity, to see—I cannot say the interlocutors, for I had heard, and still heard, only one voice. About a minute's walk brought me to the corner of the wood where it stopped abruptly, giving way to a field of beautiful grass; and then I saw something it does not need to be old to be delighted withal: the boy that would not have taken pleasure in it, I should count half-way to the gallows. Up to the edge of the wood came, I say, a large field—acres on acres of the sweetest grass; and dividing it from both wood and path stood a fence of three bars, which at the moment separated two as genuine lovers as ever wall of "stones with lime and hair knit up" could have sundered. On one side of the fence stood a man whose face I could not see, and on the other one of the loveliest horses I had ever set eyes upon. I am no better than a middling fair horseman, but, for this horse's sake, I may be allowed to mention that my friends will all have me look at any horse they think of buying. He was over sixteen hands, with well rounded barrel, clean limbs, small head, and broad muzzle; hollows above his eyes of hazy blue, and delicacy of feature, revealed him quite an old horse. His ears pointed forward and downward, as if they wanted on their own account to get a hold of the man the nose was so busily caressing. Neither, I presume, had heard my approach; for all true-love-endearments are shy, and the man had his arm round the horse's neck, and was caressing his face, talking to him much as Philip Sidney's lady, whose lips "seemed at once to kiss and speak," murmured to her pet sparrow, only here the voice was a musical baritone. That there was something between them more than an ordinary person would be likely to understand appeared patent. Whether or not I made an involuntary sound I cannot tell: I was so taken with the sight, bearing to me an aspect of something eternal, that I do not know how I carried myself; but the horse gave a little start, half lifted his head, saw me, threw it up, uttered a shrill neigh of warning, stepped hack a pace, and stood motionless, waiting apparently for an order from his master—if indeed I ought not rather to call them friends than master and servant

About George MacDonald

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Published May 16, 2012 by George Routledge and Sons, Limited. 328 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History, Children's Books, Religion & Spirituality, Education & Reference, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Action & Adventure, Travel. Non-fiction

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