Before The Storm: An utterly unforgettable tale of love, family and secrets

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Storms Over Secrets (Over, #3) by J.A. DeRouen

The Winter House: A sweeping drama of love and friendship. I was torn between giving this book 2 or 3 stars. The Secret Between Us seemed to be a decent book at first and moved forward fairly quickly, but the story wrapped up far too neatly and the main characters are too goody-goody. I'm not sure how to describe it, but the daughter is boo-hooing about not being held accountable for what she did wrong and about everyone giving her a pass on all her mistakes. I just find it hard to believe a teenager being this altruistic. The mother, Deborah, is also s I was torn between giving this book 2 or 3 stars.

The mother, Deborah, is also sickeningly perfect, wanting to make sure she takes care of everyone and everything involved with the accident. It just felt false. Her only so-called flaw, lying to protect her daughter, still seemed only to portray her as the pure, loving mother.

His brother was just hit and killed by her car! It seemed he was only present in the story in order to reveal some of the problems of the man who died. The problem and lie in the novel wrapped up quickly and neatly and no one was responsible for the accident because the man ran out in front of the car. It was ok that the mother lied about who was driving? Neither of them suffered any repercussions?

Also, having experienced a suicide in my family, the coroner with whom I spoke explained that it's actually less common for there to be a suicide note than not. It seems a man running out in front of a car wouldn't have had the foresight to mail a suicide note far away to a place that his brother would eventually, but weeks after, find it.

Again, this just seemed like an event created to neatly wrap up the novel. I was also disturbed by the author perpetuating the myth that the family of someone who has committed suicide will not receive life insurance. This is typically only if the person committing suicide took out a policy and completed suicide within two years of taking out the policy. The man in the book had been working for the school district for years and his life insurance was through the school district. Grace was at the wheel, but Deborah sends her home before the police arrive, determined to take responsibility for the accident.

But that story takes on a life of its own and threatens to damage the whole family. The storytelling is first rate. I was riveted. The main character, a woman named Barbara, is likeable and believable. She's a divorced mother of two, a small-town doctor. In the opening pages, she and her daughter, Grace, have a terri "Expectations are a powerful motivational tool" 3. In the opening pages, she and her daughter, Grace, have a terrible accident, when their car hits a pedestrian on a dark, rainy night. The story unfolds from there, when Deborah takes the blame, even though her year-old daughter was behind the wheel.

Probably the strongest message coming from these pages is about parent and child relationships, and how expectations can both help and hinder. It certainly made me think about my relevant relationships. Deborah's sister, Jill, an independent bakery owner and somewhat of family black sheep, is likeable too. As for most of the other characters, I'm afraid I found them not only unlikable, but also contrived.

All these characters notwithstanding, the story was compelling, truly outlining how a seemingly normal life can change in an instant. View 1 comment. Shelves: read-but-unowned , , paperback , bookmooch , contemporary-fiction , As Deborah Monroe and her teenage daughter, Grace, are driving home from a party that Grace attended; the unthinkable happens. Their car is in an accident; striking a man who is running in the dark.

Although sixteen-year-old Grace was the one at the wheel, Deborah sends her daughter home before the police arrive, determined to shoulder the blame for the accident herself. Deborah's rash decision, made in an attempt to protect Grace, quickly takes on a life of its own.

Her decision soon morphs into As Deborah Monroe and her teenage daughter, Grace, are driving home from a party that Grace attended; the unthinkable happens. Her decision soon morphs into a deception, one that ultimately threatens the special bond between mother and daughter. In The Secret Between Us, Barbara Delinsky explores the limits of personal responsibility - responsibility of a mother to a daughter, of a daughter to a father, and of a husband to a wife. Once again, Ms.

Delinsky has delivered a riveting, superbly crafted family story. This book was absolutely great. I find that Ms. Delinsky is wonderful at creating nuanced family relationships and dramatic plots. I do like reading books that deal with secrets and deceptions, and how such things can detrimentally affect the family dynamics. Nov 21, Mackenzie rated it really liked it Shelves: library , This book is the story of Deborah Monroe and her daughter, Grace.

One night when Grace is driving home with her mother from her friend's house, a man comes hurtling in front of their car. It is raining heavily so visibility is far from good that night, because of this Deborah and Grace don't see the man until it's too late. Deborah, after finding out who the man is and making sure he isn't fatally injured, calls the cops and sends Grace home to take care of her brother, Dylan; which ultimately c This book is the story of Deborah Monroe and her daughter, Grace.

Deborah, after finding out who the man is and making sure he isn't fatally injured, calls the cops and sends Grace home to take care of her brother, Dylan; which ultimately covers up Grace's involvement, as the driver, in the accident. I enjoyed this book. I found that The Secret Between Us was a book based on lies and how they can affect people, adding guilt and pain to their lives and affecting their performance in daily tasks.

The only thing I had a real problem with, was that I found the ending was tied up too well. Nothing was really left in the balance. Besides that, I really liked the characters. Grace is a teenage girl with wholly believable problems. Deborah, as a doctor, ex-wife, daughter, mother and sister has many problems she has to solve as well. Barbara Delinsky did a really good job on this book!

This book was my first introduction to Barbara Delinsky. My mom loaned it to me and said it was so good she lost sleep trying to finish it. Wow was she right. I could not put this book down! Like Jodi Picoult, Delinsky writes about family issues and weaves a compelling drama that pulls you in instantly and hooks you all the way to the end. However, Picoult likes to write about somewhat obscure issues, or highly controversial topics, whereas Delinsky chooses topics that could easily happen to any This book was my first introduction to Barbara Delinsky.

However, Picoult likes to write about somewhat obscure issues, or highly controversial topics, whereas Delinsky chooses topics that could easily happen to any of us at any given time. Or at least that's what this one was The Secret Between Us is a story about a fateful night when Grace and her mom, Deborah, are driving home in the rain and hit a man.

I definitely recommend this book, and not just for the women out there. There is a definite message in this one that even seemingly innocent white lies can quickly snowball into something much bigger. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. The plot is interesting, the characters are well-developed, and the story is well told. There are, however, a few things I didn't like much about the book.

First, there are sometimes long descriptions that are not always helpful to the story. There are also some details that seemed inconsistent to me. For example, I didn't understand how Deborah knew where Tom lived. It is never said in the book that he gave her his address.

In fact, he never even gave Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. In fact, he never even gave her his phone number; she got it from the caller ID. Also, at one point, Deborah is speaking on the phone with John and says she realized she spoke his name, view spoiler [so the investigators that are with her know who she was talking to hide spoiler ]. However, I reread the dialogue, and Deborah not once said his name I know these are not important details, but there the kind of things that annoy me as a reader.

Nevertheless, this was a great book, and I will not hesitate to read more of Barbara Delinsky's books.

COMING SOON MOVIES

The Secret Between Us is a book all about, as you can guess, secrets. The main plot is about Deborah and her daughter Grace. One night, while Grace is driving, they hit a man on the road. Deborah decides to shoulder the blame by saying that she was the driver of the car. But, can the two of them live with the secret?

Every character in the book conveniently has a secret. Drinking problems, eye sight problems, affairs, pregnancies, and the list goes on. The idea is how secrets, especially amongst The Secret Between Us is a book all about, as you can guess, secrets. The idea is how secrets, especially amongst family, can really do us more harm than good. Better out than in! The book is a bit contrived, trying to ram the "theme" down your throat, while everything wraps up in a neat package with a bow.

How convenient! Would be an interesting book for book club, as there would be a lot of ethical questions to discuss with the book. Jul 22, Jill rated it it was ok. I'm giving this book two stars because I didn't mind reading it. But when that's the best thing you can say about a book, that's really saying something, isn't it?


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Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if the book had stayed focused on the main "secret" of the mother covering for her daughter during a car accident. Instead, pretty much every other character in the book had to have a "secret", too, so the whole deception-eats-away-at-you theme got old real fast. The saccharine-sweet ending bugged me I'm giving this book two stars because I didn't mind reading it.

The saccharine-sweet ending bugged me, too. How is it that all of these lies ultimately led to happiness? Life ain't that neat, Delinsky. Not one of those "I couldn't put it down" type books, but interesting enough to keep the pages turning. A teenage daughter is driving the car when they hit a man. The mother doesn't correct the police when they assume it was her behind the wheel.

And thus, a lie is born. And the web gets tangled. Father had never, alas! The tall man and the little child would go round hand-in-hand, greeting every flower, talking to them—as you would talk to a friend. When we arrived in Glasgow we were not given any time to get into mischief. After hearing about the different schools, Father decided to send John to Hutcheson's Grammar School.

It was within walking distance of our home, which was an advantage, and he liked the sound of it. For one thing it had a long record, having been founded in by one George Hutcheson and his brother Thomas as a hospital and school. It had continued through the centuries, and was now a grammar school under the Hutcheson Trust. Willie and Walter and I became pupils at a little school with the high-sounding name of Queen's Park Academy and presided over by Mr. Moses Park. He taught the older children downstairs, we younger ones sat on low forms in an upper chamber, where Miss Marshall worked hard to get some ideas into our heads.

She was pretty, I remember, and sweet. I hope I did not age her before her time. The only encounter I remember having with Mr. Moses Park was one morning when he was giving us a Bible lesson. He fixed me with a stern eye and asked me to name anyone I knew who was a servant of God. I replied firmly that I did not know any, whereupon he made me come out to the middle of the floor and shake him by the hand.

I was not only shamed by this publicity but very sceptical about the statement. I knew all about servants of God, they had long white beards and tables of stone and brazen serpents, not in the least like our nice cheery-faced Mr. We liked Queen's Park Academy and the teachers and the pupils.

Marjorie Gullan, of verse-speaking fame, and her brother, Campbell Gullan, the actor, also children of the manse, were our fellow-pupils. But life at that time was darkened for me owing to Mother making me wear a pinafore. She said all little girls wore pinafores, but the other girls at our school had tidy dresses, and their hair tied neatly back with a ribbon, while I had to flop about in a loose pinafore, with my curls completely untrammelled. Mother might have remembered that it is torture to a child to be different in the slightest degree from her contemporaries, but I expect she was too busy to give any thought to my whims.

It was no light task to come to a strange place and have to begin at once to know everyone in a congregation, as well as get a household into proper order, and look after four wild children and a tiny baby. And Ellie Robbie was not there to help, having married a joiner. When trout were brought in she called them 'thae herring,' and her voice sounded shrill compared with the soft Glasgow tones. Believing that we should do in Rome as the Romans, Willie, Walter, and I at once acquired a rich Glasgow accent of which we were very proud.

Father, however, did not admire it, so we kept it for school and spoke at home as we had always done. Father's church was called John Knox Church, rather a fine building near the Clyde. It had been a fashionable locality in the days when Paisley Road was lined with the gardens of prosperous business men who had built villas there, when Kelvinside as a suburb did not exist, and Blythswood Square was considered well on to the Highlands. When we knew it, it was rather a dreary place, and all who could afford it were acquiring new houses or flats in outlying suburbs, so that the churches in the centre of the city were growing every year emptier and emptier.

To keep them going at all meant hard and unceasing toil for the ministers. In one way Knox's was fortunate. The old minister, Ralph Smith, to whom Father was appointed colleague and successor, was a wealthy man and a very generous one, and he loved his church. He was not so very old when first we became acquainted with him, but owing to some ailment he could only walk with the aid of an arm and a stick, and even then with difficulty. He had a place in Lanarkshire, and came to preach at long intervals. I suppose Mr. Smith was what is called 'narrow,' certainly he would never have sung a hymn, and he believed in the Bible as it stood.

He was full of gentle charity, only to the Higher Critics did he feel bitterness. We children loved him from the first. He was never facetious with us, so we were always at our ease with him. I remember some of his wise words even now. When John told him he meant to go into Parliament, he said, "Look higher than the Woolsack, John," and he once laid his large soft hand on my unruly head and gave me the best advice he knew, "Take Jesus, Anna.

Smith could not have got a more considerate and understanding colleague than my father. He, too, loved old ways though he knew it was not possible to keep things standing , and he introduced as few 'innovations' as possible. The service had to be brought into line with present-day ideas, and the old precentor, who for long had raised the tune, had to give place to an organist and choir. Smith never mentioned the subject, but, when a hymn was given out, he sang a psalm.

No one, I expect, noticed, except one little pitcher with long ears who stood beside him in the pew. It was hard for the old people—most of them Highland and very conservative—to like the new ways. When the choir was going to produce a cantata, an old woman, whom Father happened to be visiting, said bitterly, "I hear there's going to be a comedy in Knox's tonight.

Happily for us Father never preached long sermons. He had a singularly beautiful voice, and when he stretched out both arms in the Geneva gown and gave the Benediction, " May the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds ," we really felt that we had been blessed. Knox's congregation came from all parts of the city, 'from Maryhill to Pollokshaws, from Govan to Parkhead,' and most of the people seemed to live on the top flat of the highest tenements, so Father had many a weary trek. It is not easy work to build up a congregation that has dwindled away.

True, the people who were left were ' stone and lime ' people and could be depended on always, but new blood was badly needed and gradually it came. It was hard work for both our parents, but it was repaying work and their hearts were in it. It is odd to remember that we regarded Mother—who must have been then just over thirty—as perilously old. We sometimes got quite worked up after she had been round saying good-night, that she couldn't live much longer, and then what would we do?

There was no end to Mother's activities. Most women find a house and family quite enough to keep them busy, but besides visiting constantly in the congregation she started a Women's Meeting which met every Monday, and took over a Bible Class for older girls on Sunday evening. Generally she spoke herself, but one evening, I remember, a man came to speak. He had a long mild face like a sheep, and he took as his subject, Jezebel.

He wagged his head at us warningly and said, "Oh girrls, girrls, Jezebel was a bad one, girrls. Speaking in public was always a terror to Mother, which made the work rather a strain. When I grew old enough to help, I could sympathise with her. Sometimes Mother was not present, and then I had to open the meeting with prayer. That was a great ordeal, and too much to ask of a young girl.

I was so apt to forget everything I had meant to say that I got into a way of speaking in a very low voice so that nobody would know whether I had stuck or not. This amused my brothers, and they asked if I didn't mind God knowing I had stuck. Of course I didn't. After all, it is to be supposed God knew what I was trying to say. On school days in winter we never saw each other in daylight. We went off after an early breakfast and did not return till the lights were lit.

The day always began with prayers. Father, as he read the Bible it was always the Old Testament in the morning , used to put an arm round the youngest so that she would not run about and make the rest of us laugh. Now I never read Christ's words to Jerusalem, "How often would I have gathered thee," without seeing that encircling arm.

John gained a scholarship in his first year, and the other two did quite well also, but—with shame I confess it—I was the dunce of the family. It was not so bad in a little private school where nothing much was expected of one, but in a big school, one of a crowd, I simply sank to the bottom. Besides being naturally stupid, I must also have been careless and inattentive, not listening unless I was interested, and when exams came my sins found me out. Once I had to draw a map of Australia, and I made a sort of fret-saw outline which might have been anything; some nameless 'hairy oobits' stood for mountains; Sydney and Melbourne, the only two towns I remembered, I put one at the top and the other at the bottom, and New Zealand I joined to Australia as a small excrescence.

This achievement was sent to my father to see what he thought of his daughter's work. He did not say much, merely drew his hand over his mouth in a way he had, and asked what was to be expected of a girl who couldn't read Scott. Mother said briskly that she was ashamed of me, and recalled that she had once got a prize for Geography, while my brothers, hooting with laughter, congratulated me on my effort. My ignorance was certainly not the fault of my English teacher, Miss Flora Sharp, who was a most efficient instructor of youth.

She did not, however, suffer fools gladly, and had the sense to see that if a child sets herself not to learn it is labour lost trying to teach her. I can see her now, with her iron-grey fringe and piled-up hair and rigidly neat figure, eyeing me sardonically as I sat resisting education.

Books by Judith Lennox

Years later when I happened to be lecturing in Glasgow, I was aware of something vaguely familiar in a front seat. It was Miss Sharp, still smiling sardonically. With school-work and play-time the winters passed and spring came, and always at the end of June we escaped to Broughton—more loved and sighed for than ever, now that we had become city-dwellers. One May we got a great and unexpected treat because of Walter. After being over-heated at football he had stood in a biting east wind and, as a consequence, went down with pneumonia.

So many eggs did he devour that John told him he would never be able to look a hen in the face again, and drew a series of pictures portraying him turning gradually into an egg. When he was well enough we all went for a month to the Island of Arran. Nothing could really spoil Arran, most lovely of islands, but in those days it was a paradise—only a very few houses, a handful of people, and complete freedom. There was a boat belonging to the house we had, and we spent most of our time in it, rowing out to get into the wash of the steamers, when we whummelled violently, in imminent danger of being capsized and drowned.

One day in the midst of a furious altercation in the boat, Walter so recently an invalid fell into the sea and was rescued with difficulty. We took him home with the water from his clothes making pools at every step, and fled again seawards when we heard the lamentation with which Mother and Marget received him. We met in Arran a race of people very different from the folk of Fife or our friends in the Borders. They spoke Gaelic among themselves and to 'the visitors' a curious soft English with a lilt in it, rather like the Welsh. One summer when we took a little house under Goatfell we had so many visitors that we were crowded out, and the boys and their friends had to sleep in a cottage belonging to our landlady, Mrs.

This cottage had a byre containing a cow attached to it, and the walls were so thin that every movement of the cow was heard. The first morning when we asked how they had slept they said, "Oh, well, you see, the cow had a restless night. Currie belonged to an earlier and grimmer age. Father rather applauded her rigid notions, but we did not feel that they added to the joy of life. Currie's feelings we were not allowed to bathe on Sunday mornings, and as a bathroom was the last thing you expected to find in an Arran house in those days, it was a real deprivation.

When the hymn was given out in church, "O day of rest and gladness," we thought "O day of dirt and sadness. Currie supplied us with milk as usual on Sundays but refused to take payment for it, and her husband shaved on Saturday night that he might use 'no edged tool' on the Sabbath day. We sometimes used to listen as we passed their cottage and heard her reading aloud from the Bible awesome things like "I have said to corruption, Thou art my father: to the worm, Thou art my mother and my sister.

Another summer, some years after we had left Fife, we spent September in Dysart, about three miles from our old home in Pathhead. Mother had taken the house without seeing it, and was surprised to find that the owner had left not only her cat—named Gentle Annie—but also a clocking-hen under one of the beds. It really was a delightful house had it been clean , right down on the sea-front, looking into the harbour. When the tide was high, we looked on nothing but water, and in the distance, my old friend the Inchkeith Light. The living-room, a long low room, had four windows.

We felt it almost disloyal to Broughton, to enjoy so much being back on the Fife Coast, but it was such fun to race over the firm sand and see the salmon-cobles drawn up on the beach, to fish for 'poddleys' off the rocks. It was fine, too, to meet the old friends and to be invited to parties and feted, our faulty tattered past forgotten. Nowhere are more loyal friends to be found than in the Kingdom of Fife.

One old elder came up to us and said: "Ye would mebbe no' hear that I'd lost ma wife? Ay, she slippit awa mair than a year syne. Her last thought was that Mr. Buchan would gie her a welcome ower yonder. At first Violet was merely a new possession, one so small and weak and infinitely precious that we hardly dared to touch her. Later she became the most entrancing of playthings. We sat on the nursery floor when she was being bathed, laughing at the faces she made when she tasted soapy water on the sponge, playing the clown to make her chuckle.

Her first attempts at walking and talking excited and thrilled us, but it was not until she was old enough to be a companion that I realised what it meant to have a sister. Though she was so much younger than I was, I found that we spoke the same language, liked the same things, and were contentedly happy in each other's company. Up to this time I had asked nothing better than to be allowed to play wild games with the boys, but now I gladly gave up hours to take Violet out. It was my delight on a summer afternoon to brush her hair till it shone—I was proud of her beauty—and dress her in a fresh white frock and a little blue cloak that was the colour of her eyes, and, holding her hand tightly in mine, set off for a walk.

The Queen's Park was quite near our house and was always suggested to us as the nicest place to walk, but what we found much more alluring was a wide street of shops leading up to the Park, called Victoria Road. It was our game to choose what hats we liked best, what dresses, coats, and shoes, and when that palled she would say, "Now go on with our story. It was a story without beginning or end, added to every time we were alone together, all about what we would do 'some day.

It had always been my dream to do that. As I looked wistfully into cottages I thought how snug it must be to sleep in the kitchen, with people all about, drinking tea and talking; no loneliness, no long passages between you and other friendly humans. And we were going to carry our babies as we had seen the village women do, with a plaid wrapped round both the mother and baby.

We expected to have a very busy life, baking and cooking and making jam, and scraping our pots on a flat stone by the burnside, sluicing them clean in a pool. The boys were going to be quite near, in another cottage, and we meant to ask them to meals and give them the things we liked best—roast chicken and cutlets, apple tart and trifle, and toasted cheese for tea. We often got so excited about this blissful future that we forgot where we were and bumped into passers-by, who must have wondered what made us so 'hiloarious.

On occasion Willie and Walter were not above listening to this family chronicle and contributing to it, though they always preferred the tales John told them, yarns of breathless adventure. Never were two children less alike, but in spite of that—or because of it—they were great friends. Bessie was a tough child. She had no use for fairy-tales or any such nonsense "Is it true?

No one could bring more verisimilitude into 'playing houses,' or bringing up a family of dolls. Once, buried in a chair with a book, I watched the couple. Violet had been told to get a bed ready for two dolls, ill of some mysterious disease known only to Bessie, and was shaking up pillows and smoothing blankets, while Bessie undressed a patient expertly, discoursing the while about her father's business. You're past five, Bessie; I expect you go to church. You've much need to cry—bringing 'fectious disease into my nursery. The whole lot of you'll be down with it tomorrow I wouldn't wonder, and me just beginning the spring cleaning.

Sunday's Pa's day at home. People come and we go places. Well, who did make me then? Violet knew all Father's fairy-tales, Hans Andersen and Grimm, George Macdonald, besides his own special ones, and she had a fairy of her own—Whuppity Stourie, who lived in the study chimney. It was this fairy's lovable habit to send small presents once a week or so to her friend, and Willie, Walter and I spent a good deal of time searching in little shops for things within reach of our small means, to tie into parcels as presents from Whuppity.

They were placed one at a time, generally on a Saturday, on the fender-stool, and Violet, who was on the watch, would tiptoe in, looking half-scared, half-jubilant, grab the parcel and, with a gasped-out "Thank you, Whuppity," would rush off to show it to Mother. One morning she came down to find the study in disorder—dust sheets over the furniture and a sweep hooting up the chimney. She ran with a stricken face to Marget, crying that the sweeps were in the study chimney. Violet was not comforted until evening, when a note was found from Whuppity, saying he was glad to have his house spring-cleaned.

Then all was well. To outsiders Violet seemed rather an unapproachable child. She hated to be kissed by strangers, and did not respond to blandishments, and was sometimes devastatingly honest in her replies. On winter evenings when the time came near for our return from school, she would watch the tea being laid, the fire brought to a blaze, the curtains drawn, with a radiant face, and when the door was shut and we were all seated round the table she would give a deep satisfied sigh, and say, "I do like my own people. Her fourth Christmas was a particularly joyous season.

She seemed positively transported with happiness, watching the parcels arrive, helping Father to cut holly and ivy and decorate the house, trotting after Mother, as she put out the extra silver and china that would be used, and trying to imagine what Santa would bring to her. Mother was pleased to have a daughter who cared for dolls I had never been worthy of a good doll , and was sitting late every night dressing two for her—a golden-haired beauty and a baby in long clothes.

After much searching I had found in an obscure little shop a doll's feeding-bottle, and was looking forward eagerly to Vi's delight. We had no Christmas-tree, but in the early morning we had the excitement of our stockings, at breakfast the cards and parcels that had been arriving for days, our Christmas dinner in the middle of the day and, after tea, Mother dressed like Santa Claus came in laden with presents.

As the youngest, Violet was called up first, and her awe-struck face was a study, as she came forward timidly, but when she saw the dolls she forgot everything else. When we were all examining our presents, there was a sudden wail from Violet. Even to comfort her not one of us would have cast a shadow of doubt on her belief that the real Santa Claus had paid us a visit. That was Violet's last Christmas. She died, the beloved child, three months after her fifth birthday. Died at Broughton—the place that we had fondly believed could cure all earthly ills—as the dawn was breaking on a perfect June day.

Perhaps nothing was ever quite the same after Violet's death, certainly not to her parents: nor to poor Marget. One afternoon when she brought in the letters, she threw them on the table, salver and all, and said bitterly, "News frae a'body, but nane frae her ," and wept into her apron. Life changed for me in the autumn of that year when I went away to school: only to Edinburgh, for Mother wanted to have me as near home as possible, and not to a boarding-school, but to old family friends—the Norman Walkers.

Walker had been minister in Dysart when my father was in Pathhead, and he and his wife were always welcome guests at our manse. He was Editor of the Free Church Record , a scholarly man, with a witty, sarcastic tongue: his wife was highly original and amusing. Theirs was a delightful house to live in, for all sorts of interesting people came to it, and it was full of books. Walker 'the D. When I went home it took the combined efforts of my three brothers to reduce me to order.

Walker was a continual diversion. Immediately after breakfast she would summon me to 'classify' the dishes. Then we saw that the marmalade dish was ready for next morning's breakfast, and got fresh jam and butter for the tea. My bedroom had to be left scrupulously neat every morning, all the things pulled off to air the bed, night things folded, hot-water bag emptied.

Continually busy with self-invented jobs, she regarded reading as rather a waste of time, but she saw to it that the flood of reading matter that came to the house was put to good use. The American picture-papers were carried to mothers who had sons in the States; invalids were kept supplied with suitable reading, and all the highly-coloured adventure books were put aside for boys. One pile of pleasant happy-ending stories she described as 'capital for a confinement. The book's lying where you laid it down.

A penny that you might have gone And spent like other folks. When we went out together, it was my duty to see that she had not tied her veil so tightly as to crush her nose to one side. She rarely looked in a mirror, or cared what she wore, remarking that she had never been anything but plain. Plain she was, but there was something both interesting and attractive in her little blunt face.

At sixty-odd she was almost as small and light as a child. She liked to sit with one foot under her, curled up in a corner of a sofa, with a bit of knitting in her hand, and tell the saga of her life to me, an absorbed listener, in the other corner. Her sisters had married in India, one a soldier, the other an Indian civilian, and their children had been sent to their aunt in Dysart to bring up with her own.

I cannot imagine a better person to bring up children. Life to her was so teeming with interest that no one could be bored and listless in her company. She had no use for a child who said:. She believed in children finding their own ploys, but saw that they had plenty material to work on.

I particularly liked her stories of the escapades of her nephews Frank and Pat. She would finish:. Sometimes she told me of the changes she had seen in her life; old families decaying, new ones rising up. No, I daresay not; your mother would know them. They were plain people who rose to great wealth. They put on no airs, but thought quite rightly that something was expected of them, so they built a very grand house, furnished it regardless of expense, and when all was finished sent out invitations to an evening party.

The cards had R.


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I remember Maggie Lownie, an outspoken spinster, when she met Mrs. Langton in the town, greeted her with:. The napkins like everything else were brand new, and old Grandmother Langton, resplendent in black satin and a lace shawl, said, as her napkin skidded for the third time to the floor:. As she looked round at the company and the marvellous supper, she said:. The school I attended was a small private school, kept by two French ladies.

Nothing could have been a greater contrast to my former school, that hive of industry, known as Hutcheson Girls'. Here there was no striving, no competition: it seemed to me a veritable land of afternoons. I was gratified to find that instead of being the dunce at the bottom of the class I was regarded as advanced in learning to an almost indecent degree. On the other hand, my French had a Britannia-metal quality that was much deplored, and my German was hardly there at all. No fairy came to my christening to endow me with the gift of tongues. The English Literature class was taken by a dapper little gentleman, very keen on his work, and thankful when he could raise even a spark of interest in his pupils.

Thrilled by the way he taught us, for the first time I shone in a class, and at the end of the year carried proudly home a handsome volume, the one and only prize of my life. There were only about thirty pupils in the school, carefully brought up girls, with well-brushed hair and nice manners. I liked them all and sometimes went to parties at their houses, but I was never intimate with any of them. Brought up with boys, I found girls of my own age difficult to understand. And there was not much time to get to know anyone, our school-day was so ridiculously though pleasantly short: from nine-thirty till two, with a break at noon, when we devoured scones and drank milk.

I used sometimes to wonder what I was doing in this placid backwater of education, what had made my parents choose such a school? It pleased me very well, but it certainly did not fit one for the battle of life. Hitherto I had only known Edinburgh as a place to pass through on our way from Fife to Tweeddale, and it was thrilling to live in Pet Marjorie's Conspicuous Town. John had given me the previous Christmas Dr. John Brown's book containing his account of this amazing child. He would read ballads to her, and she would repeat to him Constance's speeches in King John like one possessed.

Everything about the child was so lovable, "her vivacity, her passion for nature, for swine, for all living things, her reading, her satire, her frankness, her little sins and rages, her great repentances. But hark! And I suppose she has gained a prize. But there is one thing I must tell, Elizabeth went to fire and hell; He who would teach her to be civil It must be her great friend the divil. She did not give a single dam.

My music teacher lived in Queen Street, so it was easy for me to visit Castle Street on my way home and stand and stare at No. Royal Terrace was another place that had a fascination for me. The Walkers had a friend whose house was in that high-set place, by name Watty Dundas, but always to me The White Knight. He had the same high forehead and gentle surprised eyes as Alice's friend, and the same passion for repeating poems, long but very beautiful. Sometimes he asked me to tea on a Saturday afternoon, and that was a great treat.

Apart from the excellent tea provided by his old housekeeper, there were treasures in the way of picture-books which I was allowed to handle at my pleasure, and—best of all—I found that in the early dark of a winter evening I could see from this 'quarter deck of Edinburgh' my old friend the Inchkeith Light. Another house I sometimes visited on a Saturday afternoon was that of a grand-aunt, the eldest sister of my father's mother.

It was a perfect specimen of an Early-Victorian interior. Nothing had been changed, I suppose, since about It was ugly, but there was something attractive in its very ugliness, for the materials and workmanship had been of the very best, and each bit of furniture had been 'kept' meticulously through the years.

They looked very much alike, with hair parted in the middle and brushed smoothly back into neat coils, dresses tightly buttoned down the front with the high collars fastened with large cameo brooches. Their faces were gentle and withdrawn, and they made me so nervous that when I was alone with them I spoke without intermission, telling them everything I knew in the hope of lighting one spark of interest in their eyes. But I never did. Great-aunt Elliot herself was strangely young compared to her daughters.

She was a gay, pretty old lady with a lace cap with lappets on her silver hair, and over a soft grey dress wore a fluffy white shawl. Father once told me that she had been the beauty of the family, and she still had the air of expecting homage. It was obvious that she was her daughters' whole life: they seemed to exist merely to keep the lamp of her life burning.

We got on together admirably, Great-aunt and I, for she was interested in everything. I told her of my brothers, our home, of Violet, and the games we had played: about the Walkers and the people I met there. She even wanted to know the names of the girls at school, and wondered if they were the grandchildren of this one or that with whom she had once danced.

It did not seem incongruous to hear her speak of dancing, she could still, one felt sure, make a pretty figure at it. One day, when I was saying good-bye after a happy hour with her, she said as she looked at me buttoned up in an ulster, with a Cossack fur cap on my curls:. I used to enjoy doing battle with it. Oh, I wish I were young again, as young as you, Anna. Her tone more than her words startled me. I had thought—when I thought of it at all—that the old accepted their limitations patiently, that they were glad that the long day's task was over and rest in sight.

This desire to be young again seemed to me horribly pathetic and a little unseemly. Very earnestly—with some dim idea of comforting her—I reminded my great-aunt that it wasn't much fun to be young, too much was expected of one, and, anyway, it wasn't as if being young was any guarantee of going on living. Run away now. Bethia will be waiting for you.

Here was another of the indignities of being young. Bethia, the old housemaid, was sent with me to see me home. Not that I objected to Bethia, indeed I was very grateful to her. The teas at Great-aunt's were not suitable for a hungry school-girl. One afternoon Bethia put on the table a plate of large, filling, currant buns.

Cousin Janet looked at them, and said in her gentle, cold voice:. But it was galling not to be allowed to go home alone. Bethia, in a circular waterproof and elastic-sided boots, spoiled everything. It was my desire to go along Princes Street and see the tall 'lands' of the Old Town lit and peering down, but Bethia decided, naturally, on the shortest way. How could one ponder on the glory of Old Edinburgh, and try to picture Prince Charlie as he held all too brief state in Holyroodhouse, when common decency made it necessary to carry on a certain amount of conversation with one's companion—and very uninteresting conversation it was, for Bethia knew her place and made only the briefest replies to my efforts.

Although I was happy in Edinburgh, very much at home with the Walkers and their friends, and actually enjoying school, I longed desperately to be with my own people again, and when in June came the astonishing news that I had got another brother I begged and prayed to be allowed to come home. I could have lessons at home, I pointed out, and later attend lectures at Queen Margaret College, and in the end, like the Importunate Widow, I prevailed by my much asking.

Of course, when the end of the term came, I was a little sad to leave. I had got much kindness from many people, and was honestly attached to the Walkers, to whom I felt I owed a debt. They had done their best to put my feet in the right way, though 'the D. Walker took me one Sunday to a strange church to hear a noted preacher, and afterwards, at lunch, I remarked that the woman whose pew we sat in had offered us a million Bibles. Walker mildly, and all that week, if there were strangers at a meal, he never failed to say:.

Anna was offered a million Bibles. I got so sick of this statement that I could have screamed, and was covered with shame and confusion of face.

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On Saturday, when the White Knight was at luncheon, I nearly disgraced my years when the story was again repeated, by breaking into loud sobs. If he had become facetious, as so many had done, or looked sorry for me and changed the subject, I would have wept, but he merely looked interested. I never came under a million. It was strange to have a tiny baby in the house. When I went home I heard that Marget had announced his arrival when she went up to waken Willie and Walter John was away with:. Between Marget and Willie there was always a sort of subterranean feud which broke out once in a while, and this time Willie felt that he had just cause for wrath.

He got up remarking, "Well, that's a lie anyway," and pushed Marget out of the room. The baby was christened Alastair but he was seldom called by that name. The first time John saw him he said, "Hullo! Peter," and Peter he was for the first few years. When he began to develop a personality of his own he was re-named 'the Mhor'—Gaelic for 'the great one. He was a plain baby, and grew into a very plain little boy, with a rather Mongolian cast of countenance. He had his own name for each of us.

From the first he belonged specially to me. Mother was busy with a multitude of things, housekeeping, church work, and a certain amount of public work.


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