Amy Foster HTML version
Kennedy is a country doctor, and lives in Colebrook, on the shores of Eastbay. The high
ground rising abruptly behind the red roofs of the little town crowds the quaint High
Street against the wall which defends it from the sea. Beyond the sea-wall there curves
for miles in a vast and regular sweep the barren beach of shingle, with the village of
Brenzett standing out darkly across the water, a spire in a clump of trees; and still
further out the perpendicular column of a lighthouse, looking in the distance no bigger
than a lead pencil, marks the vanishing-point of the land. The country at the back of
Brenzett is low and flat, but the bay is fairly well sheltered from the seas, and
occasionally a big ship, windbound or through stress of weather, makes use of the
anchoring ground a mile and a half due north from you as you stand at the back door of
the "Ship Inn" in Brenzett. A dilapidated windmill near by lifting its shattered arms from a
mound no loftier than a rubbish heap, and a Martello tower squatting at the water's edge
half a mile to the south of the Coastguard cottages, are familiar to the skippers of small
craft. These are the official seamarks for the patch of trust- worthy bottom represented
on the Admiralty charts by an irregular oval of dots enclosing several figures six, with a
tiny anchor engraved among them, and the legend "mud and shells" over all.
The brow of the upland overtops the square tower of the Colebrook Church. The slope
is green and looped by a white road. Ascending along this road, you open a valley
broad and shallow, a wide green trough of pastures and hedges merging inland into a
vista of purple tints and flowing lines closing the view.
In this valley down to Brenzett and Colebrook and up to Darnford, the market town
fourteen miles away, lies the practice of my friend Kennedy. He had begun life as
surgeon in the Navy, and afterwards had been the companion of a famous traveller, in
the days when there were continents with unexplored interiors. His papers on the fauna
and flora made him known to scientific societies. And now he had come to a country
practice --from choice. The penetrating power of his mind, acting like a corrosive fluid,
had destroyed his ambition, I fancy. His intelligence is of a scientific order, of an
investigating habit, and of that unappeasable curiosity which believes that there is a
particle of a general truth in every mystery.
A good many years ago now, on my return from abroad, he invited me to stay with him.
I came readily enough, and as he could not neglect his patients to keep me company,
he took me on his rounds--thirty miles or so of an afternoon, sometimes. I waited for him
on the roads; the horse reached after the leafy twigs, and, sitting in the dogcart, I could
hear Kennedy's laugh through the half-open door left open of some cottage. He had a
big, hearty laugh that would have fitted a man twice his size, a brisk manner, a bronzed
face, and a pair of grey, profoundly attentive eyes. He had the talent of making people
talk to him freely, and an inexhaustible patience in listening to their tales.