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The Shadow Of Ashlydyat
by Mrs. Henry Wood
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THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT is, unusually for Mrs. Henry Wood, touched with a tinge of Gothic, in the form of the curse on the house of Godolphin and the ominous shadow that sometimes appears on the Dark Plain. In another sense, however, such fare is typical of Wood's belief in destiny: one slip, one instance of trifling with the rules of fate or morality, will bring doom upon the miscreant's head. Mr. George Godolphin gets wet and sits in his shirtsleeves, and brings on infirmity that has him on crutches for months. He ought to have known, then, that more serious lapses in judgment would bring on his ruin. The reader does know, and part of the fascination of the book is the satisfying horror of watching it all happen. Anything to do with the body, of course, is entirely taboo, which makes it all the more remarkable that scandals of the body are at the center of the book. Even Maria's pregnancies, as far from scandal as the book comes, are couched in such veiled terms that a modern reader has to be alert to catch them. When, for instance, Mrs. Verrall notes that Maria has lost the roses in her cheeks, Maria's incomplete reply gives away the secret.
He came in and stood in the doorway, smiling down upon her. So shadowy, so thin! his face utterly pale, his dark blue eyes unnaturally large, his wavy hair damp with the exertion of walking. Maria's heart stood still. She rose from her seat, unable to speak, the colour going and coming in her transparent skin; and when she quietly moved forward to welcome him, her heart found its action again, and bounded on in tumultuous beats. The very intensity of her emotion caused her demeanour to be almost unnaturally still.
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