Thursday, August 01, 2013

Into the Greenwood

Earlier this evening my friend and housemate Tim and I walked to our neighborhood library. Tim was returning a book and I was picking up The Loving Cup, the tenth novel in Winston Graham's acclaimed Poldark series.

I've mentioned before how fortunate I am to be living so close to Minnehaha Parkway in south Minneapolis and thus the beautiful Minnehaha Creek and an area of urban wilderness.

For Tim and I, a walk to our neighborhood grocery store, library, and coffee shop involves traversing the pathways alongside the picturesque Minnehaha Creek and, if we choose, a trek through what I've come to call 'the greenwood.'

It truly is a beautiful part of Minneapolis, and any amount of time spent there always renews my spirit.

I share in this post some images from earlier this evening in the greenwood and along the creek. I also continue highlighting the Poldark series and the wonderful writing of Winston Graham by sharing an excerpt from The Miller's Dance, the ninth Poldark novel, which I finished reading this past weekend.

This particular excerpt takes place at the Truro horse races, "on the last Tuesday in September," 1812. It focuses on Jeremy Poldark, the eldest son of Ross and Demelza, and Cuby Trevanion, the young woman he loves but whose family expects her to marry a far wealthier man than Jeremy so as to ensure the retaining of Caerhays, the family's extravagant castle-like home.

As you'll read, Graham offers a gentle exploration and evocative depiction of young love, the setting of which is a wooded area, close to the Truro River.

They had picnicked and wined excellently in the wagonette, with a lot of chatter and laughter, much of it contributed by . . . Jeremy who, released temporarily from the glooms of his passion, sparked in front of the object of that gloom and made her laugh. . . . About 3.15, with three more races still to go, an auction of some of the winning horses was held behind the first stand, and most of the party, having no interest in the next race, drifted across to watch the bidding.

Although clouds were building up again in the west, the sun was still brilliant and the heat that of high summer.

Jeremy said to Cuby: "Do you want to buy a horse?"

"I don't think so."

"Nor do I. Are you interested?"

"Oh, yes. I love horses.

"It will be very hot in the crowd. One will be jostled. Your frock might be trodden on. And the mud is not yet dry."

She lifted an eyebrow. "Why are we all going, then?"

"We need not. We could just walk."

She considered this. It was a challenge. "Where to?"

"You know, I suppose, we are near the river here."

"Fairly. But the ground must slope sharply. Here we are on top of the hill."

"Those woods lead down. About a mile perhaps. Even if we didn't go far, we could stroll. It would be pleasanter."

"And muddier."

"Oh no."

"Not muddier?"

"The tracks will be soft, perhaps. Damp leaves, perhaps. But mud is here only because of the carts and the horses."

Cuby glanced across at [her brother] Augustus who was talking flirtatiously with Elizabeth Boscawen. [Her sister] Clemency was with Nicholas Carveth.

"Well," she said, "then let us go for a stroll."

At the edge of the field a gate led into the wood. Jeremy unlatched the gate and they went in. The ground was damp and he glanced anxiously at his capture but she did not complain. His light-hearted approach of today had succeeded beyond all his expectations. Aware that this was a holiday occasion, and particularly aware that at the moment they had both drunk numerous glasses of canary wine, he was not at all sure that this apparent progress really was advancing his suit – not when it came down to the cold light of day. Yet merely to be with her gave him new life and hope. And, whatever the softening circumstances, it was very unlikely she would have agreed to come with him in this way if she did not find pleasure in it too.

She lowered her sunshade as they went further in and down. "When is your sister to marry?"

"At the end of next month. Would you come to the wedding?"

"I think not. That would be too formal an acknowledgement that I was going against my brother's wishes. Jeremy –"

"I know. I'm sorry. I was breaking our agreement. Nothing serious shall henceforth be said."

She stopped to examine one of her boots, pulled three large damp leaves off the heel. "I wish nothing serious ever had to be said. How agreeable if we could just meet people in so unserious a manner!"

"Perhaps we can."

"How?" she replied. "It is impossible! In any event pleasantries would soon wear thin. It was beginning just then. Let us enjoy today."

They walked on. There was an empty quiet in the wood, except for the thin rilling of water in a ditch. All the birds seemed to have fallen silent.

She said: "Tell me about your experiments with the steam engine."

"Oh, those. They are not prospering." He spoke of his meeting with Trevithick, his semi-abandonment of the project.

"But you should not!" she said. "If every inventor despaired when something went amiss, how little would ever be discovered."

"I'm not an inventor. I am a user and perhaps developer of other people's inventions."

"Even so."

"Well, yes, I suppose you are right, I should continue. Of course recently I have lacked –"

"Go on."

"You may guess what I have lacked, which proves again how right you are that pleasantries soon wear thin."

There were giant cow parsnips here, flowered and gone to seed, a thicket of gaunt stalks holding up Japanese heads. She flicked at one and broke the stem with her parasol.

He said: "Let me tell you of our new mine. It is open now and the engine I designed is working and working well. I have never told you of this?"

"No. Last year it was projected."

"But are you interested?"

"Of course I am interested! Just because . . ."

He told her. After a while she began to chat of her own life, of Augustus' holiday with them from his work in London, of Clemency's misunderstanding with her music teacher, of a visit from her aunt and of a spaniel that nipped her ankle. Jeremy told her of [his sister] Clowance and about [her fiancee] Stephen. The most ordinary information, the lightest of communication between them, assumed instant importance.

They went down and down, unheeding. Then Cuby slipped on a fallen branch half buried in the ground and damp with lichen. He caught her arm and she steadied herself. She looked at the slanting light and said: "Mercy, we must go back!"

"You can see the river from here."

"I know, but we must turn back nevertheless. I would not wish [my brother] John to join our party and find me wanting."

They began to retrace their steps. Jeremy retained her arm in a light, un-familiar fashion and did not find himself rebuffed. They climbed back along the rill of water, pushing among sycamore saplings whose huge damp leaves glowed in the shafts of sun.

After a bit they paused for breath and Cuby leaned back against a tree behind her. He put a hand on her other arm, smiled at her cheerfully. They stood for some seconds before he kissed her, and then it seemed as if her mouth came up to meet his own. The heightened sensation of face to face and lip to lip created emotions that made the rest of the day trivial and without point.

– Excerpted from The Miller's Dance: A Novel of Cornwall: 1812-1813 (1982)
by Winston Graham
pp. 263-266

For previous Poldark-related posts, see:
Passion, Time and Tide
A "Useful Marriage" for Morwenna
A Sea Dragon of an Emotion . . . "Causing Half the Trouble of the World, and Half the Joy"
"Hers Would Be the Perpetual Ache of Loss and Loneliness"

See also:
Springtime by the Creek
The End of a Very Long Winter
A Winter Walk Along Minnehaha Creek
An Autumn Walk Along Minnehaha Creek
A Springtime Walk Along Minnehaha Creek

Related Off-site Link:
Winston Graham’s The Miller's Dance: Alive with History – Ellen Moody (Ellen and Jim Have a Blog, Two, February 25, 2011).

Images: Michael Bayly and Tim Lynch.

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