Read Death of a Huntsman Online

Authors: H.E. Bates

Death of a Huntsman

Death of a Huntsman

H. E. BATES

Contents

A Note from the Family

Foreword by Lesley Pearse

Death of a Huntsman

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Night Run to the West

Summer in Salandar

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

The Queen of Spain Fritillary

Bonus Story

Victim of Silence

A Note on the Author

A Note from the Family

My grandfather, although best known and loved by many readers all over the world for creating the Larkin family in his bestselling novel
The Darling Buds of May
, was also one of the most prolific English short story writers of the twentieth century, often compared to Chekhov. He wrote over 300 short stories and novellas in a career spanning six decades from the 1920s through to the 1970s.

My grandfather's short fiction took many different forms, from descriptive country sketches to longer, sometimes tragic, narrative stories, and I am thrilled that Bloomsbury Reader will be reissuing all of his stories and novellas, making them available to new audiences, and giving them – especially those that have been out of print for many years or only ever published in obscure magazines, newspapers and pamphlets – a new lease of life.

There are hundreds of stories to discover and re-discover, from H. E. Bates's most famous tales featuring Uncle Silas, or the critically acclaimed novellas such as
The Mill
and
Dulcima,
to little, unknown gems such as ‘The Waddler', which has not been reprinted since it first appeared in the
Guardian
in 1926, when my grandfather was just twenty, or ‘Castle in the Air', a wonderful, humorous story that was lost and unknown to our family until 2013.

If you would like to know more about my grandfather's work I encourage you to visit the
H.E. Bates Companion
– a brilliant comprehensive online resource where detailed bibliographic information, as well as articles and reviews, on almost all of H. E. Bates's publications, can be found. I hope you enjoy reading all these evocative and vivid short stories by H. E. Bates, one of the masters of the art.

Tim Bates, 2015

 

We would like to spread our passion for H. E. Bates's short fiction and build a community of readers with whom we can share information on forthcoming publications, exclusive material such as free downloads of rare stories, and opportunities to win memorabilia and other exciting prizes – you can sign up to the H. E. Bates's mailing list
here
. When you sign up you will immediately receive an exclusive short work by H. E. Bates.

Foreword by Lesley Pearse

I have always believed that H.E. Bates was the absolute master of short story writing. He managed to create a little world for you to enter into, and that soft focus world would stay with you long after you'd finished the story.

When I first started writing I tried my hand at short stories, assuming quite wrongly it would be easier than attempting a book. Bates was my guiding light; there appeared to be a simplicity about his work that I sought to emulate. I did get a few short stories accepted by magazines, but they could never be in his league. I certainly never created anything as lovely as ‘The Watercress Girl'. Did any writer before or since? I think I found it in a magazine and read it curled up in my aunt's spare room one wet school holiday and then went on to rush to the library to find more of his work.
Fair Stood the Wind for France
was the first book I borrowed and I was totally hooked on his work, but it was always the short stories I really admired the most.

 

Lesley Pearse, 2015

Death of a Huntsman
Chapter 1

Every week-day evening, watches ready, black umbrellas neatly rolled and put away with neat black homburgs on carriage racks, attaché cases laid aside, newspapers poised, the fellow-travellers of Harry Barnfield, the city gentlemen, waited for him to catch—or rather miss—the five-ten train.

As the last minutes jerked away on the big station clock above wreaths of smoke and steam the city gentlemen sat with jocular expectation on the edges of carriage seats or actually craning necks from carriage windows, as if ready to check with stop watches the end of Harry Barnfield's race with time.

‘Running it pretty fine tonight.'

‘Doomed. Never make it.'

‘Oh! trust Harry.'

‘Absolutely doomed. Never make it.'

‘Oh! Harry'll make it. Trust Harry. Never fluked it yet. Trust Harry.'

All Harry Barnfield's friends, like himself, lived in the country, kept farms at a heavy loss and came to London for business every day. J. B. (Punch) Warburton, who was in shipping and every other day or so brought up
from his farm little perforated boxes of fresh eggs for less fortunate friends in the city, would get ready, in mockery, to hold open the carriage door.

‘Action stations.' J. B. Warburton, a wit, was not called Punch for nothing. ‘Grappling hooks at ready!'

‘This is a bit of bad. Dammit, I believe——' George Reed Thompson also had a farm. Its chief object, apart from losing money, was to enable him to stock a large deep-freeze, every summer, with excellent asparagus, strawberries, raspberries, spring chickens, pheasant, partridges, and vegetables, all home-raised. ‘Harry's going to let us down——!'

‘Nine-ten, nine-fifteen.' Craning from the window, Freddie Jekyll, who was a stock-broker and rode, every spring, with great success at local point-to-points, would actually begin to check off the seconds. ‘Nine-twenty——'

‘Officer of the watch, keep a sharp look-out there!'

‘Aye, aye, sir.'

‘All ashore who are going ashore.'

‘Aye, aye, sir.'

‘A firm hold on those grappling hooks!'

‘Dammit, he's missed it. I make it eleven past already.'

Sometimes a whistle would blow; sometimes a final door would slam with doom along the far hissing reaches of the waiting express. But always, at last, without fail, the city gentlemen would be able to raise, at first severally and then collectively, a joyful, bantering cheer.

‘Here, Harry, here! Here, old boy!'

Cheering, signalling frantically from windows, thrusting out of it malacca handles of umbrellas as if they
were really grappling hooks, they would drag Harry Barnfield finally aboard.

‘Five-nine point twelve,' they would tell him. ‘New world record.'

Panting, smiling modestly from behind sweat-clouded spectacles, Harry Barnfield would lean shyly on the handle of his umbrella, struggling to recover breath. Laughing, the city gentlemen would begin to unfold their papers, offering congratulations.

‘Well run, Harry. Damn near thing though, old boy. Thought you were doomed.'

But that, they always told themselves, was the great thing about Harry. You could always rely on Harry. You could always be sure of Harry. Harry would never let you down.

What a good sport he was, they all said, Harry Barnfield. There were no two ways, no possible arguments about that. There was no shadow of harm in Harry Barnfield.

Chapter 2

All his life Harry Barnfield, who looked ten years more middle-aged than forty-three, had been fond of horses without ever being a good rider of them.

His body was short and chunky. It had the odd appearance, especially when he rode a horse, of having had a middle cut of six or seven inches removed from between ribs and groin, leaving the trunk too short between legs and shoulders. It was also rather soft, almost pulpy, as if his bones had never matured. This pulpiness was still
more noticeable in the eyes, which behind their spectacles were shy, grey, protuberant and rather jellified, looking altogether too large for his balding head.

All this gave him, in the saddle, a floppy, over-eager air and, as the black tails of his coat flew out behind, the look of a fat little bird trying hard to fly from the ground and never quite succeeding. Riding, he would tell you, was awful fun, and his voice was high and squeaky.

Every evening, ten minutes before the arrival of the train that brought him back to the country with his friends the city gentlemen, he started to give a final polish to his spectacles, the lens of which were rather thick. For five minutes or so he polished them with scrupulous short sightedness on a square of cream silk that he kept in his breast pocket, huffing on them with brief panting little breaths, showing a pink, lapping tongue.

The effect of this scrupulous preparation of the spectacles was to make his face seem quite absurdly alight. Smiling from behind the glittering lenses, calling good-night to his friends, he came out of the station with wonderful eagerness, head well in front of the chunky body, black umbrella prodding him forward, attaché case paddling the air from the other hand, bowler hat tilted slightly backward and sitting on the loose crimson ears.

Once out of the station he sucked in a long deep breath—as if to say: ah, at last, the country! The short little body seemed transformed with eager exhilaration. Fields came down almost to within reach of the fences
surrounding the station coal-yards and on late spring evenings the greening hedges were brilliant and thick as banks of parsley. Primroses and sprays of pale mauve lady-smocks sprang lushly from damp dykes below the hedgerows and along the roads beyond these were black-boughed cherry orchards in white thick bloom. A few weeks later apple orchards and great snow mounds of hawthorn came into blossom and in the scent of them he could taste the first milkiness of summer just as surely as he tasted winter in the first sweet-acid tang of the big toothed Spanish chestnut leaves as they began to swim down from the trees in November, haunting the dark staves of baring copses.

Then, as he drove home in his car, much of his eagerness vanished. He gradually took on the air of being calm and free: free of the dusty odours of city offices, city termini, free of his friends the city gentlemen in the smoky train. His body relapsed completely into quietness. His big eyes stopped their agitation and became, behind the bulging lenses of the spectacles, perfectly, blissfully at rest.

It took him twenty minutes to drive out to the big double-gabled house of old red brick that had, behind it, a row of excellent stables with a long hay-loft above. He had been awfully lucky, he would tell you, to get the house. It was absolutely what he wanted. The stables themselves were perfect and at the front were four good meadows, all flat, bordered by a pleasant alder-shaded stream.

The fields were about twenty acres in all, and from
three of them, in June, he gathered all the hay he would need. Then in early autumn he took down part of the fences and put up a run of four brushwood jumps and over these, on Saturdays and Sundays, he started practising jumping. Sometimes, too, in the same inelastic way that never improved during the entire hunting season, he practised jumping the brook. Then by late November the alders lost the last of their leaves; the hazels, the willows and the sweet chestnuts became naked too and presently he could feel the sting of frost in his nostrils as he brought his horse in through the blue-grey twilights across which the sound of croaking pheasants settling to roost clattered like wintry frightened laughter.

‘That you, Harry? I hope to God you didn't forget the gin?'

‘Yes, it's me, Katey.'

If it had not been that he was almost always blinking very slightly, with a sort of mechanical twitch, behind the glasses, it might have seemed that he had never lost the habit of surprise as his wife called to him, her voice somewhere between a croak and a cough, from the kitchen.

Other books

Arrow Pointing Nowhere by Elizabeth Daly
Get Out or Die by Jane Finnis
The Promise by Dee Davis
The Same Stuff as Stars by Katherine Paterson
The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh
Chupacabra by Smith, Roland
All In by Gabra Zackman


readsbookonline.com Copyright 2016 - 2023