The students on the MSc Publishing course are from all around the world, so we thought that it would be nice if you could hear our collection of different accents, whilst also listening to an extract of The New Road. This extract comes from Chapter Twenty Four, and reading out this first section are Carmen from Spain, Hannah from England and Ester from Iceland. We now have the written extract up to accompany the audio; please find it below. More recordings will be coming soon. Enjoy!
We now have part two of our extract available. Reading in this part are Karolina from Poland, Mariliis from Estonia, and Stefanie from Germany.
Last but not least, we now have part three! This time we have Monika from Poland, Lauren from Northern Ireland, and Natacha from France.
Without another word he left the door, and Forbes confounded on its threshold; gave a turn to the Virgin nut in the bottom of his sporran, and plucked tight his kilt.
Though he had spoken bravely of the winter to his girl, and truly felt, for ordinary, some sting in winter that called forth in him the best of manhood, quicker pulses, keener zests, this end to autumn, earlier than usual, found him now experiencing that droop of spirits which had sent his daughter crying. He had not left the door a moment when he felt as she (he thought) must feel – an eeriness to think of Aeneas amissing in that great cold country. So long as grass was green, while still the hills were blue, their passes open, and while yet the birds were blithe, the lad’s condition had not seemed so desperate, nor his own research so hopeless.
And now a hint of winter altered all!
It was as if a door had clashed on Aeneas and left him out from light and warmth till spring, perhaps forever. So much had happened since they left their home, that home seemed all at once unreal – the woods of Inveraray, pleasant gardens, streets well-kent and folk one knew. At least it seemed an age since they were there and heard the reaper’s song on Cairnbaan. And now, he wondered, where was Aeneas? In what hold or hollow of this dreary land? Or looking on it through what chink? In what sad stress?
Already had his scheme begun to look ridiculous.
When, having left the Advocate irresolute on his doorstep, he went crunching through the gravel round the lawn and reached the avenue, he turned and looked behind him at the house in which were lights now gleaming. Already the place seemed quite indifferent to his quest, and yet behind these black high walls he knew were fear and speculation. He seemed, himself, shut out; if Aeneas was lost forever like his father, who could face the lasting blame of Janet?
The thin moon, slicing through the mirk of clouds, lit wanly things about him but to make their shapes uncanny. An acre to the westward of the house was laid out trimly, level as a pond, with here and there some knots of evergreen, the myrtle and the holly, under them black shades that had a look of ambush. More solemn shadows, wider spread, more likely to be harbouring the men who sought him, lay below the thick groins of the trees, and spilled at intervals an inky pool half-way across the broad path of the avenue that stretched before him like a nightmare passage. Not life, nor living dangers in these glooms compelled him to stand still a moment, half-inclined to turn, but something very old and rediscovered in himself; forgotten dreads of boyhood in wild winter wastes of midnight, and his people breaking from some thicket under moon to see before them spread unfriendly straths and hear the wind in perished heather. The mist it was they cherished – not the moon who made their progress visible; too often had she brought calamity to old Clan Alpine trailing through the snow, a broken and a hunted band, with children whimpering.
The silliest of these old alarms, the ripple of the skin upon his back, this unco evening now restored to him; he felt like one awakened from a desperate dream, aware that nothing is about him but what man can combat, yet bringing from his dream unreasonable terrors all intractable to sense.
He had the worst ill of his race, the oldest dubhachas: he was forlorn, and feared his own forlornness as an omen.
“Tach!” said he to himself at last, and struck out boldly down the avenue, like a man not apprehending anything, yet all the way were his shoulders shrugged, and his eyes on either side of him expectant of a sally from the dark.
Nothing happened. He reached the gate that was of iron; opened it, passed through and made it swing. It bid a balance, shutting of itself upon a latch that loudly clanged at every swing before it settled. A bell could not more noisily attract attention.
A while he hung about it, peering round and listening. He now had cleared the wood; before him lay the fields, their boundaries vaguely visible, and farther south the rising ground with rocks encumbered, murmuring with the passage of the burn. No other house was near than Bunchrew, not even shed nor sheep-fold. Outside the trees a bitter wind was blowing; ice glittered in the ditches. His eyes searched every airt for movement; nothing moved. Nor was there any sound to show the wood was tenanted by other than its birds; he gave out once the howlet call, so natural an owl cried back, but then its grove relapsed to silence deeper than before. Only the breeze in beeches, high in the branches, harsh and dry, continuous, neither hum nor hiss, but a babbling about old things forgotten of the world, remembered by the great community of woods; the creak of boles, the tinkle of dead leaves.
He was surprised, uneasy. When he had entered on this project, driven to it by the blank despondency of Janet, each nerve of him was strung for something instant and decisive. But this unlooked-for absence of the men confounded him: they might be gone for good, so spoiling every chance of his manoeuvre leading him to Aeneas, and the moon was sinking.
A clamour of birds out on the ebb gave him a notion that men walked there – they were on the sands and watching Bunchrew from the back; he turned down to the shore.
The tide should now be flooding, but the sea was still far out, and in the bay of Bunchrew every waukrife bird that haunts the shore at night was screaming. He heard the grey goose call; peewits, too late of leaving, ducks and whaups were in a multitude that dinned astoundingly; somewhere an otter whistled.
A more melancholy place for ruffian engagements Ninian, who liked a wood or rock, had never seen, and the moon made worse its dreariness. The bay, for all its birds, was like a desert, and the breeze swept through it like a knife. Far off, disconsolate, the frith was moaning.
On a horn of the bay the burn came down, well-filled, and bordered with rough scrub of thorn and willow on the knolls of sand. Its channel thrust through the sands a bit, then branched in rivulets that rambled awkwardly in Ninian’s way, too deep to wade with comfort and too wide for jumping, and he found himself entangled. It vexed him most that nothing had been gained so far by his adventure; wherever the men were gone they were not visible; the wide stretch of the bay was empty save of birds. He peered, he listened uselessly, and then he sniffed, and, on the sniffing, started.
Green sticks were burning! The wind had brought on it the smell of fire.
Without a pause he waded through a pool and sought the channel of the burn, and followed it through stones. He stole across salt grass with caution, parted sauch-tree branches, and looked down into a linn, the last stand of the Bunchrew ere submitting to the sea.
And there he saw what instantly commanded flight.
He had never thought about a boat!
He knew that they were seamen who pursued him, who had followed him for hours the day before and found his covert in the eas that morning, but always he had thought of them as severed from their vessel, instruments of Lovat and his vaults. One glance at the linn corrected him – a boat was there in waiting for the tide, and four men round a fire were supping.
They heard him in the bushes, saw his face a moment in the firelight, and jumped. He turned to fly, his plan immediately abandoned in the face of dangers unforeseen, but slipped on the frosted grass, and, falling, rolled to their very feet.
They were on him in a swarm; he struggled only for a moment, then gave in.
“Thoir thairis!” said he. “Give over! Ninian’s done for.” He had not even time to draw the dirk that now was always down his back; he was got without a blow.
When they had done with him, “Well, bids,” said he, “this is a warm end to a cold day, whatever,” and started whistling a tune with unconcern.
It was a singular company in which he found himself so suddenly – three little men as black in the face as peat with weather, one of them a hunchback; the fourth a man gigantic, shouldered like an ox, with sleepy eyes and an open mouth that gave him a look of helpless laziness. The big one plainly had stood by the boat all day; the others were the hounds. This nook of the burn they occupied was chosen well for hiding. The rocks and scrub about it screened it from the land, and even from the frith it was invisible; a fire might burn in it in blackest night and not betray a glimmer. But for the scent of Ninian he had never found out where they lay.