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Friday, April 21, 2006

The Bamboo Palace

Tolly went to sleep, but for some reason he woke very early, when it was just beginning to get light, too soon for any bird but the thrush to be awake. He looked out of the window and saw the garden dim and far below, with wisps of mist caught in the bushes. When the thrush was silent, there was not a sound in the world. The garden was waiting to be brought to life. He dressed and slipped quietly downstairs and out, feeling inclined in the half-light to keep near cover, to move carefully and look and listen like a wild animal. He didn't know if he was play-acting or not, the dawn was so hushed and hushing. The bamboo hedge and willow thickets seemed to be the places of most attraction. Bamboo is jungle-like, beautiful, light and swaying (though not swaying at all now, but still as in a trance). No one can see what is hiding in it, and any bird that is startled there makes a loud rattle of canes and stiff leaves as it breaks out. Tolly crept along, watching the ground because a fallen cane in the rough bumpy grass could easily trip him up. He heard a startling, rushing noise close behind him, and two swans passed low overhead, the sound of their flight, once they had gone by, continuing far up the river, and in the water underneath them their refelctions flew upside down. After that the world began to tick, faint tuts and chucks, and little flutters and cracklings, as the birds woke up, talked in their sleep, stretched their wings, scratched their ears, and shifted their positions. And all the insects did the same. Even the leaves had a look of waking up, lifting themselves a little toward the sky as it got bluer. The thrush was singing quietly now from the knob on the point of the gable, and a robin close to Tolly's ear was just trying under his breath to see if he was in voice, when a moor hen shot out from under the bamboo calling in a panic to her chicks to come away from danger. Several bobbin-sized babies ran after her...

--from L. M. Boston, Treasure of Green Knowe

The nesting cardinal is from Laurelines,
Creative Commons License.


  1. I read and reread this excerpt so carefully. Yes, that is the way it is, if you're lucky. Today I walked the dog at dawn. We passed deep thickets of cane and caused some alarm among the nesting birds there. I'm going to read this book. I never have, not even to my children. So glad the chatelaine is back in her nest again.

  2. The first one is The Children of Green Knowe. I missed them as a child, but I would have loved them.

  3. I too missed the Green Knowe books as a child (and would have loved them) but encountered them with my own children. One of the benefits they don't tell you about in having children.
    I love this excerpt, and your perfect picture. Your blog is such a work of art in itself, Marly.

  4. I always feel as if I have tresspassed on a solemnly stunning landscape in the early morning. The excerpt is idyllic. I wonder how, in my incessant search for books, I skipped these books.

    I feel sorry for Tolly, stuck with such a name. Similarly, I pity anyone with an equally unusual name- Mullygrubs, Desdemona, Phineas and India Opal Buloni from Because of Winn-Dixie.

  5. I like that part of having children as well--and reading as a family group when children are the right ages. The last book I read aloud to my entire family was Leon Garfield's Smith, another book that I wish I'd met earlier.

    One thing I like about reading good books that I "missed" is recapturing that sensation of being a child in the act of reading. Delicious.

    And I also like The Sea Egg--not a Green Knowe book but full of the same spirit as those. Robbie Mayes (one of my editors at FSG) gave me a lovely copy. He also reprinted Smith and some other Garfield books.

    Thank you for the compliment... The picture, of course, belongs to Laura--or did until she gave its e-selves away.

    Poor Mullygrubs. It is rather a trial to have such a name, even as a nickname.

    However, I'm sure that from the point-of-view of some other world or other country, "Megan" and "Marly" might be as strange!

  6. Absolutely. Which makes me wonder: has our society invented so many thing that we cannot tell where reality begins and ends? Intelligence, beauty, social status- are all of these abstract and molded by...? Very confusing. Although I still fell sorry for anyone named Desdemona.

  7. I live in a village that has become, over the years, quite confused about matters of so-called reality and unreality, history and fiction...


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.