Shades, by Marguerite Poland
Marguerite Poland's novel 'Shades' is exquisitely written, delicate and totally absorbing.
Prologue, October 1900
It was already dark by the time they brought the body of Crispin Farborough home. Standing on the veranda of the mission house, Walter Brownley saw the procession of lanterns moving slowly down the hill, accompanying the Cape cart. It rolled like a tumbrel, its wheels hooping the ironstone. He could only see the lights and hear the rumble of the wagon. No voices came to him. The night wind was hot, the restless, wild hotness of a wind that had blown in from Xhosaland. It came in fierce, sudden gusts across the beaten yard, like spirits disembodied. Walter tugged at his clergyman's collar, easing it. His neck was damp. He could feel the sweat between his shoulder blades and on his face. He might have prayed but he felt only anger at himself for having waited long enough to witness all this madness and a weariness so old, so invasive, that he waited motionless, standing in the shadow of the porch. The lights moved on, disappearing one by one as the procession dipped towards the drift out of sight below the ridge. There was a stillness then for he could no longer hear the horses' hooves, and only the leaves of the oak before the porch turned restlessly against each other. Beyond, where the bush reached down to the edges of the kitchen garden, the twigs of thorn trees tapped rhythmically: a small, secret tattoo in the dark. The front door opened. A flat wedge of light widened on the flagging of the floor. Walter turned. Helmina Smythe came out, her steps tentative. She looked at him fearfully, head inclined, listening. The cart?' Her voice broke. He wished he could have comforted her in a way that she deserved. To have lived, dependent, in a household for eleven years assumed a place within the family. Yet he knew she would withdraw in deference to the Farborough's loss, recalling her status as a paid employee of the mission, and deny herself the right to mourn. But mourn she would, in solitude. He touched her arm reassuringly and said, T must tell them where the coffin is. The carpenter said he'd put it in the porch of the church when he had finished it. Perhaps you should prepare something. Mrs Farborough will need reviving.' She nodded and slipped away, closing the door behind her. Walter took the path to the yard as, one by one, the lights reappeared and the cart came into view. He could hear the voices. Benedict's. Then Victor's. He hurried on to meet them as they took the stretcher down. It lay on the ground, dark figures gathered round it, lantern beams catching the angle of a face, the hollow of an eye. The mission people waited silently in the lee of the church. Then Walter heard their voices, the soft beginnings of lament. A hymn, counter-harmony to wind surging in the trees, echoed up and out into the night. He could see Father Charles Farborough climbing down from the trap, the white of his helmet in the gloom, and Emily, his wife, so small and upright at his side, reaching for his arm. They seemed to cling together, just a moment, two bewildered old people, and then they turned and came towards him, walking slowly, and Walter went to meet them. [...]
This is an excerpt from the novel 'Shades', by Marguerite Poland.
Author: Marguerite Poland
Publisher: The Penguin Group (South Africa)
4th edition. Cape Town, South Africa 2012
ISBN 9780143530237 / ISBN 978-0-14-353023-7
Softcover, 13 x 20 cm, 402 pages
Poland, Marguerite im Namibiana-Buchangebot
'Shades' is a novel of huge integrity that represents a valuable contribution to a new direction in contemporary South African literature.
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