LITTLE WHITE HORSE Elizabeth Goudge
This magical tale, written for children, is washed through with such a rare, spiritual quality that we recommend you don't miss reading it - however old you are! We ourselves have read it loads of times, and it never fails to enthrall and inspire us. The beautiful valley of Moonacre is shadowed by the memory of the Moon Princess and the mysterious little white horse. To her surprise, Maria Merryweather, a stranger to Moonacre Manor, finds herself involved with what happened to the Moon Princess so many years before. Not at all deterred by the fact that none before her have succeeded, nor by any discouragement that crosses her path, she is determined to restore peace and happiness to the whole of Moonacre Valley. This brand new edition, published to coincide with the release of the new film adaptation, The Secret of Moonacre, has eight pages of colour photos of the story's delightful characters.
222pp, 125mm x 198mm, illus. in colour, Paperback, 2008
Merryweather Bay was shaped like the crescent moon. Beautiful rocky cliffs, full of caves, enclosed a little beach of coloured pebbles, and then a strip of golden sand and scattered over with rocks that held pools of scarlet sea anemones, and shells, and coloured seaweeds like satin ribbon. Beyond the bay the sea was deep blue, flecked with white-capped waves that looked like galloping horses, hundreds of white horses stretching to the horizon in a glory of sparkling light that made Maria want to shout aloud for the very wonder of it. Within the bay this glorious sea came to meet them in wave after shining wave that curved and broke and fell, flinging showers of bright foam and rainbow-coloured bubbles to lie like tossed flowers at her feet. The salt smell of the sea, the cool breath of it, seemed to be sending great surges of strength through her tired body, and over her head the seagulls wheeled in splendour and cried their strange strong cry.
An ancient stone jetty was built out into the bay, and on it fishing nets had been laid to dry, and some ugly little fishing boats, with dirty black sails furled around their masts, were rocking on the blue water. At sight of these fishing boats Maria felt suddenly angry. Black sails! Ugly little boats on that sparkling sea. They should have been blue boats, red boats, green boats, yellow boats, with white sails like the wings of birds... And so they would be, when the wickedness of the Men from the Dark Woods was banished from this place.
But at the present moment it wasn't, and her efforts at banishment had been a complete failure, and Robin was pulling at her skirt with a warning cry. She looked round and saw them coming pouring out of the cave like horrible black beetles out of their lair.
'Run!' cried Robin.
A steep dangerous little path wound up the rock to the top of the cliff above, and they ran for it, Serena leaping ahead and Zachariah coming behind. Unused as she was to rock climbing, Maria found the scramble very difficult, and Robin did not find it any too easy with Wiggins under one arm. He tried to put Wiggins down and make him climb by himself, but Wiggins wasn't used to rocks either and refused to budge, so he had to pick him up again. It was a horrible climb, because very soon they heard the feet of the men behind them, gaining on them fast. It was a nightmare. And Maria wondered if when they got to the top they would be able to run fasst enough to get away. Why, oh why, had Wrolf and Periwinkle deserted them? But they never would get to the top, she thought. In a very few moments now they would feel the hands of the Men from the Dark Woods closing round their ankles. She knew they were terribly close because of the way Zachariah was spitting and swearing in the rear.
'Go on!' gasped Robin behind her. 'Faster! Faster!'
But poor Maria couldn't go faster. Her limbs seemed to have turned to lead, and her hands were sore and bleeding from holding on to the sharp rocks. The only way she could get along at all was by fixing her eyes upon the white blob of Serena's tail, bobbing up the rock in front of her, and the hare's two long ears waving like flags in the air. There was something very soothing in the sight of that blob of a tail, something invigorating in those cheerfully waving ears. Serena was apparently quite serene. On and on went Maria, seeing nothing at all now except Serena.
And suddenly the hare gave a great leap and disappeared, and Maria's sore hands were clutching not rock but tufts of heather, and she was looking straight up into the brown furry face of Wrolf. They had reached the top of the cliff, and Wrolf and Periwinkle were waiting there for them. She should not have doubted those beloved animals. 'Wrolf! Wrolf!' she cried, and flinging her arms round his neck she kissed him passionately upon his cold black nose.
'Don't waste time kissing them!' cried Robin behind her in exasperated tones. 'Get on him!'
She got on him, Zachariah leaping up behind her, and Robin and Wiggins got on Periwinkle, and with Serena leaping ahead they rode like the wind for home, the seagulls wheeling and crying triumphantly over their heads. The pine-trees sped by them, and the clumps of golden gorse. Up hill and down dale they rode, and presently they reached Primrose Hollow, where they had found Serena, and then the pine-trees gave way to the oaks and beeches, and they saw the apple blossom waving over the orchard wall, with the towers of the manor-house rising beyond. They were safe now, with home in sight and the wicked men left far behind, and the galloping of Wrolf and Periwinkle changed to a gentle trotting. Maria and Robin could get their breath and smile at each other, and be happy because they were safe.
'Well, it's been a grand day!' said Robin.
'Yet we haven't done what we meant to do,' said Maria. 'The Men from the Dark Woods are just as wicked as ever and angrier than they were before. We haven't made them better, we've made them worse.'
'Yet I don't seem to mind, do you?' asked Robin.
'No, I don't,' said Maria. 'I suppose we couldn't expect to succeed at the first try. But there has to be a first try, and now we've had it, and it's behind us.'
From The Little White Horse: The Secret of Moonacre, ?2008 by Elizabeth Goudge, published by Lion Hudson.
If you like this, you might also like: