A Traveller in Time
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Penelope Taberner Cameron is a solitary and a sickly child, a reader and a dreamer. Her mother, indeed, is of the opinion that the girl has grown all too attached to the products of her imagination and decides to send her away from London for a restorative dose of fresh country air. But staying at Thackers, in remote Derbyshire, Penelope is soon caught up in a new mystery, as she finds herself transported at unforeseeable intervals back and forth from modern to Elizabethan times. There she becomes part of a remarkable family that is, Penelope realizes, in terrible danger as they plot to free Mary, Queen of Scot, from the prison in which Queen Elizabeth has confined her.
Penelope knows the tragic end that awaits the Scottish queen but she can neither change the course of events nor persuade her new family of the hopelessness of their cause, which love, loyalty, and justice all compel them to embrace. Caught between present and past, Penelope is ever more torn by questions of freedom and fate. To travel in time, Penelope discovers, is to to be very much alone. And yet the slow recurrent rhythms of the natural world, beautifully captured by Alison Uttley, also speak of a greater ongoing life that transcends the passage of years.
days I used to lean over them and breathe the strange mildewed odours which seemed to rise from them like incense. When we were allowed a special treat, and it was my turn to choose, I always asked for the pleasure of rummaging in a great oak chest. My mother gave me a worn, heavy key, and I unlocked it, using both hands for it was stiff and the lock in the carved hollowed panel was unyielding. Then as the key turned I lifted the lid and stood for a moment smelling rapturously at a delicate
It was quiet in the passage and I tiptoed along it, but my feet made no sound. Gradually I became accustomed to other scents and the atmosphere of the other time. I was elated and filled with curiosity about the house. I softly lifted the latch of the first room and saw it was only a wardrobe, filled with clothes hanging from wooden pegs, faded farthingales and kirtles of taffeta and rusty silk, petticoats and velvet cloaks, and much-boned corsets which must have belonged to Mistress Foljambe and
that’s none of yourn. Here, get you gone, and leave that book alone, and help Dame Cicely. Away you go!” I dropped the book reluctantly, and walked slowly along the passage. I could hear Tabitha thumping and banging about with her besom, and the sound gave me courage, so that I stepped up boldly to a handsome door which had a large key in the lock. With both hands I turned it, and pushed the door. Nobody was there, and I stood for a moment on the threshold, gazing entranced at the beautiful room
with him.” We reached a great oak wood, and threaded our way through ancient, twisted oak-trees, where swineherds guarded their pigs, and wood-cutters stopped their work to have a word. Francis talked to every one, finding the men from Thackers who were there, asking after the herds. He was a friendly, happy person, careless of appearance, full of good humour. Arabella was in constant spasms of rage with him, for his unbuttoned coat, his free manners, but I thought he was right to treat the
followed from the stable, and Mistress Foljambe came running downstairs white as a ghost, trembling with apprehension. Mistress Babington clasped his arm as he strove to speak. “What is it, Anthony? What has happened?” she asked. “Listen all of you,” he panted, choking on the words. “We are ruined. We are discovered.” He groaned and sank to a seat, shivering violently. “The queen, Mary Stuart. We cannot save her now,” he muttered, as all waited horror-stricken. “What is it, Anthony? Tell us