A Lost Lady of Old Years

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A Lost Lady of Old Years - copertina
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Quarta di copertina

When Gideon Birkenshaw—of Birkenshaw Tower in the Forest and the lands of Markit beneath the brow of remote Cheviot—was summoned by death to his account, he left all to his eldest son and turned the other penniless upon the world. Robert, the heir, stepped unthinking into the dead man's shoes, and set himself to the family task of amassing gear. He was a man already grim and aging at thirty, with the stoop of an inquisitor and deep eyes to search out the intents of the heart. Of old the house had been insignificant raiders, adding field to field and herd to herd by a method which it seemed scarce fair to call plunder, so staidly was it pursued. No minstrel sang their deeds, no tale of them was told at nightfall in the village, but in all decency and hardness they went like oxen to their resting-places. They cared naught for politics, but every now and again the stock bred a religious enthusiast. A Birkenshaw had served with the Lords of the Congregation, and another had spoken his testimony in the face of the Grassmarket and a thousand people, and swung off valiantly into eternity. The watchword of all was decency and order, and as peace settled upon the land they had left off their old huntings and harryings and fallen to money-making with the heartiest good-will. And they prospered deservedly. While the old poor Lamberts, Horsebrocks, and Burnets, whose names were in a hundred songs and tales, who had fought with quixotic gallantry forever on the losing side, and spent their substance as gaily as they had won it, sank into poverty and decline, the crabbed root of the Birkenshaws budded and put forth shoots. With anxious eyes and prayerful lips they held on their wonted path, delighting in the minutes of bargaining and religious observance, yet full of pride of house and brave with the stubborn valour of the unimaginative.

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