Welcome to today’s Mary Stewart quotation, taken from Thornyhold. I am building up to a proper re-read of this book but I find that I dip into a page or two from time to time, for the clues that it *may* offer to Mary Stewart’s childhood (why do I think there might be a correlation between the childhoods of narrator Gilly Ramsey and Mary Stewart herself? See here and here).

Today’s quote is a description of a magical moment in Gilly’s childhood, as remembered by her in adulthood. It is a hot summer’s day and she is only six years old.

I believe that I remember every moment of that afternoon, though at first it was only a blur, a richness of colour like something in an impressionist painting. There was a confusion of sound, birdsong from the wood beyond the hedgerow and grasshoppers fiddling in the long grass near at hand. It was hot, and the smell of the earth, of the crushed grasses, of the slightly-stagnant pond-water drugged the sleepy day. I sat dreaming, eyes wide open, focused on the glimmer of the pool where the lazy stream fed it.

Something happened. Did the sun move? What I seem to remember is a sudden flash from the pool as if a fish had leaped and scattered the light. The dreamy haze of colour sharpened. Everything, suddenly, seemed outlined in light. The dog-daisies, white and gold, and taller than I was, stirred and swayed above my head as if combed through by a strong breeze. In its wake the air stilled again, thick with scents. The birds had stopped singing, the grasshoppers were silent. I sat there, as still as a snail on the stem, in the middle of a full and living world, and saw it for the first time, and for the first time knew myself to be a part of it.

I looked up, and Cousin Geillis was standing there.

I love this scene, where Gilly has a moment of awakening in which she catches a glimpse of the wonder of life, and senses that she is part of something bigger than the eye can see. Mary Stewart’s description here had me catch my breath in wonderment. That this description of a momentous experience leads on immediately to Gilly’s first meeting with her godmother helps to underline the importance of Geillis to the lonely child.

Thornyhold, Reader’s Digest Association, 1989. Illustrator Sergio Martinez


What do you think about this quote? Please get in touch if you have any thoughts that you would like to share on this quote or the novel.