Cranford

( 102 )

Overview

In this classic portrait of life in a quiet English village of the early nineteenth century, Elizabeth Gaskell writes with wit and affection of the foibles, follies and endearing eccentricities of its occupants as they struggle to maintain standards in their genteel poverty. This witty and poignant comedy, with its ironic observations on the pretensions of class is told through the eyes of a young woman who befriends the elderly ladies of Cranford.

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Cranford

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Overview

In this classic portrait of life in a quiet English village of the early nineteenth century, Elizabeth Gaskell writes with wit and affection of the foibles, follies and endearing eccentricities of its occupants as they struggle to maintain standards in their genteel poverty. This witty and poignant comedy, with its ironic observations on the pretensions of class is told through the eyes of a young woman who befriends the elderly ladies of Cranford.

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Editorial Reviews

Eileen Gillooly Columbia University
"Elizabeth Langland's edition of Cranford is likely to introduce a new generation of readers to the pleasures of Gaskell's most delightful but least immediately appreciated novel. By including in her appendices of historical materials choice selections from conduct books and writings on political and domestic economy, as well as in her informed, accessible introduction, Langland demonstrates that, appearances aside, the world of Cranford is firmly located in its Victorian context and addresses, however obliquely, some of the most intractable problems of its age—and of ours."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781142584559
  • Publisher: Nabu Press
  • Publication date: 1/12/2010
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 0.67 (w) x 7.44 (h) x 9.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell was born in London in 1810, but she spent her formative years in Cheshire, Stratford-upon-Avon and the north of England. In 1832 she married the Reverend William Gaskell, who became well known as the minister of the Unitarian Chapel in Manchester’s Cross Street. As well as leading a busy domestic life as minister’s wife and mother of four daughters, she worked among the poor, traveled frequently and wrote. Mary Barton (1848) was her first success.

Two years later she began writing for Dickens’s magazine, Household Words, to which she contributed fiction for the next thirteen years, notably a further industrial novel, North and South (1855). In 1850 she met and secured the friendship of Charlotte Brontë. After Charlotte’s death in March 1855, Patrick Brontë chose his daughter’s friend and fellow-novelist to write The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857), a probing and sympathetic account, that has attained classic stature. Elizabeth Gaskell’s position as a clergyman’s wife and as a successful writer introduced her to a wide circle of friends, both from the professional world of Manchester and from the larger literary world. Her output was substantial and completely professional. Dickens discovered her resilient strength of character when trying to impose his views on her as editor of Household Words. She proved that she was not to be bullied, even by such a strong-willed man.

Her later works, Sylvia’s Lovers (1863), Cousin Phillis (1864) and Wives and Daughters (1866) reveal that she was continuing to develop her writing in new literary directions. Elizabeth Gaskell died suddenly in November 1865.

Patricia Ingham is senior research fellow and reader at St. Anne's College, Oxford. She is the general editor of Thomas Hardy's fiction in Penguin Classics and edited Gaskell's North and South for the series.

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Read an Excerpt

Cranford


By Elizabeth Gaskell, JOSLYN T. PINE

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2003 DOVER PUBLICATIONS, INC.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-11094-3



CHAPTER 1

OUR SOCIETY

IN the first place, Cranford is in possession of the Amazons; all the holders of houses above a certain rent are women. If a married couple come to setle in the town, somehow the gentleman disappears; he is either fairly frightened to death by being the only man in the Cranford evening parties, or he is accounted for by being with his regiment, his ship, or closely engaged in business all the week in the great neighbouring commercial town of Drumble, distant only twenty miles on a railroad. In short, whatever does become of the gentlemen, they are not at Cranford. What could they do if they were there? The surgeon has his round of thirty miles, and sleeps at Cranford; but every man cannot be a surgeon. For keeping the trim gardens full of choice flowers without a weed to speck them; for frightening away little boys who look wistfully at the said flowers through the railings; for rushing out at the geese that occasionally venture into the gardens if the gates are left open; for deciding all questions of literature and politics without troubling themselves with unnecessary reasons or arguments; for obtaining clear and correct knowledge of everybody's affairs in the parish; for keeping their neat maid-servants in admirable order; for kindness (somewhat dictatorial) to the poor, and real tender good offices to each other whenever they are in distress, the ladies of Cranford are quite sufficient. "A man," as one of them observed to me once, "is so in the way in the house!" Although the ladies of Cranford know all each other's proceedings, they are exceedingly indifferent to each other's opinions. Indeed, as each has her own individuality, not to say eccentricity, pretty strongly developed, nothing is so easy as verbal retaliation; but, somehow, good-will reigns among them to a considerable degree.

The Cranford ladies have only an occasional little quarrel, spirted out in a few peppery words and angry jerks of the head; just enough to prevent the even tenor of their lives from becoming too flat. Their dress is very independent of fashion; as they observe, "What does it signify how we dress here at Cranford, where everybody knows us?" And if they go from home, their reason is equally cogent, "What does it signify how we dress here, where nobody knows us?" The materials of their clothes are, in general, good and plain, and most of them are nearly as scrupulous as Miss Tyler, of cleanly memory; but I will answer for it, the last gigot, the last tight and scanty petticoat in wear in England, was seen in Cranford—and seen without a smile.

I can testify to a magnificent family red silk umbrella, under which a gentle little spinster, left alone of many brothers and sisters, used to patter to church on rainy days. Have you any red silk umbrellas in London? We had a tradition of the first that had ever been seen in Cranford; and the little boys mobbed it, and called it "a stick in petticoats." It might have been the very red silk one I have described, held by a strong father over a troop of little ones; the poor little lady—the survivor of all—could scarcely carry it.

Then there were rules and regulations for visiting and calls; and they were announced to any young people who might be staying in the town, with all the solemnity with which the old Manx laws were read once a year on the Tinwald Mount.

"Our friends have sent to inquire how you are after your journey to-night, my dear" (fifteen miles in a gentleman's carriage); "they will give you some rest to-morrow, but the next day, I have no doubt, they will call; so be at liberty after twelve—from twelve to three are our calling hours."

Then, after they had called—

"It is the third day; I daresay your mamma has told you, my dear, never to let more than three days elapse between receiving a call and returning it; and also, that you are never to stay longer than a quarter of an hour."

"But am I to look at my watch? How am I to find out when a quarter of an hour has passed?"

"You must keep thinking about the time, my dear, and not allow yourself to forget it in conversation."

As everybody had this rule in their minds, whether they received or paid a call, of course no absorbing subject was ever spoken about. We kept ourselves to short sentences of small talk, and were punctual to our time.

I imagine that a few of the gentlefolks of Cranford were poor, and had some difficulty in making both ends meet; but they were like the Spartans, and concealed their smart under a smiling face. We none of us spoke of money, because that subject savoured of commerce and trade, and though some might be poor, we were all aristocratic. The Cranfordians had that kindly esprit de corps which made them overlook all deficiencies in success when some among them tried to conceal their poverty. When Mrs Forrester, for instance, gave a party in her baby-house of a dwelling, and the little maiden disturbed the ladies on the sofa by a request that she might get the tea-tray out from underneath, everyone took this novel proceeding as the most natural thing in the world, and talked on about household forms and ceremonies as if we all believed that our hostess had a regular servants' hall, second table, with housekeeper and steward, instead of the one little charity-school maiden, whose short ruddy arms could never have been strong enough to carry the tray upstairs, if she had not been assisted in private by her mistress, who now sat in state, pretending not to know what cakes were sent up, though she knew, and we knew, and she knew that we knew, and we knew that she knew that we knew, she had been busy all the morning making tea-bread and sponge-cakes.

There were one or two consequences arising from this general but unacknowledged poverty, and this very much acknowledged gentility, which were not amiss, and which might be introduced into many circles of society to their great improvement. For instance, the inhabitants of Cranford kept early hours, and clattered home in their pattens, under the guidance of a lantern-bearer, about nine o'clock at night; and the whole town was abed and asleep by half-past ten. Moreover, it was considered "vulgar" (a tremendous word in Cranford) to give anything expensive, in the way of eatable or drinkable, at the evening entertainments. Wafer bread-and-butter and sponge-biscuits were all that the Honourable Mrs Jamieson gave; and she was sister-in-law to the late Earl of Glenmire, although she did practise such "elegant economy."

"Elegant economy!" How naturally one falls back into the phraseology of Cranford! There, economy was always "elegant," and money-spending always "vulgar and ostentatious"; a sort of sour-grapeism which made us very peaceful and satisfied. I never shall forget the dismay felt when a certain Captain Brown came to live at Cranford, and openly spoke about his being poor—not in a whisper to an intimate friend, the doors and windows being previously closed, but in the public street! in a loud military voice! alleging his poverty as a reason for not taking a particular house. The ladies of Cranford were already rather moaning over the invasion of their territories by a man and a gentleman. He was a half- pay captain, and had obtained some situation on a neighbouring railroad, which had been vehemently petitioned against by the little town; and if, in addition to his masculine gender, and his connection with the obnoxious railroad, he was so brazen as to talk of being poor—why, then, indeed, he must be sent to Coventry. Death was as true and as common as poverty; yet people never spoke about that, loud out in the streets. It was a word not to be mentioned to ears polite. We had tacitly agreed to ignore that any with whom we associated on terms of visiting equality could ever be prevented by poverty from doing anything that they wished. If we walked to or from a party, it was because the night was so fine, or the air so refreshing, not because sedan-chairs were expensive. If we wore prints, instead of summer silks, it was because we preferred a washing material; and so on, till we blinded ourselves to the vulgar fact that we were, all of us, people of very moderate means. Of course, then, we did not know what to make of a man who could speak of poverty as if it was not a disgrace. Yet, somehow, Captain Brown made himself respected in Cranford, and was called upon, in spite of all resolutions to the contrary. I was surprised to hear his opinions quoted as authority at a visit which I paid to Cranford about a year after he had settled in the town. My own friends had been among the bitterest opponents of any proposal to visit the Captain and his daughters, only twelve months before; and now he was even admitted in the tabooed hours before twelve. True, it was to discover the cause of a smoking chimney, before the fire was lighted; but still Captain Brown walked upstairs, nothing daunted, spoke in a voice too large for the room, and joked quite in the way of a tame man about the house. He had been blind to all the small slights, and omissions of trivial ceremonies, with which he had been received. He had been friendly, though the Cranford ladies had been cool; he had answered small sarcastic compliments in good faith; and with his manly frankness had overpowered all the shrinking which met him as a man who was not ashamed to be poor. And, at last, his excellent masculine common sense, and his facility in devising expedients to overcome domestic dilemmas, had gained him an extraordinary place as authority among the Cranford ladies. He himself went on in his course, as unaware of his popularity as he had been of the reverse; and I am sure he was startled one day when he found his advice so highly esteemed as to make some counsel which he had given in jest to be taken in sober, serious earnest.

It was on this subject: An old lady had an Alderney cow, which she looked upon as a daughter. You could not pay the short quarter of an hour call without being told of the wonderful milk or wonderful intelligence of this animal. The whole town knew and kindly regarded Miss Betty Barker's Alderney; therefore great was the sympathy and regret when, in an unguarded moment, the poor cow tumbled into a lime-pit. She moaned so loudly that she was soon heard and rescued; but meanwhile the poor beast had lost most of her hair, and came out looking naked, cold, and miserable, in a bare skin. Everybody pitied the animal, though a few could not restrain their smiles at her droll appearance.

Miss Betty Barker absolutely cried with sorrow and dismay; and it was said she thought of trying a bath of oil. This remedy, perhaps, was recommended by some one of the number whose advice she asked; but the proposal, if ever it was made, was knocked on the head by Captain Brown's decided "Get her a flannel waistcoat and flannel drawers, ma'am, if you wish to keep her alive. But my advice is, kill the poor creature at once." Miss Betty Barker dried her eyes, and thanked the Captain heartily; she set to work, and by-and-by all the town turned out to see the Alderney meekly going to her pasture, clad in dark grey flannel. I have watched her myself many a time. Do you ever see cows dressed in grey flannel in London?

Captain Brown had taken a small house on the outskirts of the town, where he lived with his two daughters. He must have been upwards of sixty at the time of the first visit I paid to Cranford after I had left it as a residence. But he had a wiry, well-trained, elastic figure, a stiff military throw-back of his head, and a springing step, which made him appear much younger than he was. His eldest daughter looked almost as old as himself, and betrayed the fact that his real was more than his apparent age. Miss Brown must have been forty; she had a sickly, pained, careworn expression on her face, and looked as if the gaiety of youth had long faded out of sight. Even when young she must have been plain and hard- featured. Miss Jessie Brown was ten years younger than her sister, and twenty shades prettier. Her face was round and dimpled. Miss Jenkyns once said, in a passion against Captain Brown (the cause of which I will tell you presently), "that she thought it was time for Miss Jessie to leave off her dimples, and not always to be trying to look like a child." It was true there was something child-like in her face; and there will be, I think, till she dies, though she should live to a hundred. Her eyes were large blue wondering eyes, looking straight at you; her nose was unformed and snub, and her lips were red and dewy; she wore her hair, too, in little rows of curls, which heightened this appearance. I do not know whether she was pretty or not; but I liked her face, and so did everybody, and I do not think she could help her dimples. She had something of her father's jauntiness of gait and manner; and any female observer might detect a slight difference in the attire of the two sisters—that of Miss Jessie being about two pounds per annum more expensive than Miss Brown's. Two pounds was a large sum in Captain Brown's annual disbursements.

Such was the impression made upon me by the Brown family when I first saw them all together in Cranford Church. The Captain I had met before-on the occasion of the smoky chimney, which he had cured by some simple alteration in the flue. In church, he held his double eye-glass to his eyes during the Morning Hymn, and then lifted up his head erect and sang out loud and joyfully. He made the responses louder than the clerk-an old man with a piping feeble voice, who, I think, felt aggrieved at the Captain's sonorous bass, and quivered higher and higher in consequence.

On coming out of church, the brisk Captain paid the most gallant attention to his two daughters. He nodded and smiled to his acquaintances; but he shook hands with none until he had helped Miss Brown to unfurl her umbrella, had relieved her of her prayer- book, and had waited patiently till she, with trembling nervous hands, had taken up her gown to walk through the wet roads.

I wondered what the Cranford ladies did with Captain Brown at their parties. We had often rejoiced, in former days, that there was no gentleman to be attended to, and to find conversation for, at the card-parties. We had congratulated ourselves upon the snugness of the evenings; and, in our love for gentility, and distaste of mankind, we had almost persuaded ourselves that to be a man was to be "vulgar"; so that when I found my friend and hostess, Miss Jenkyns, was going to have a party in my honour, and that Captain and the Miss Browns were invited, I wondered much what would be the course of the evening. Card-tables, with green baize tops, were set out by daylight, just as usual; it was the third week in November, so the evenings closed in about four. Candles, and clean packs of cards, were arranged on each table. The fire was made up; the neat maid-servant had received her last directions; and there we stood, dressed in our best, each with a candle- lighter in our hands, ready to dart at the candles as soon as the first knock came. Parties in Cranford were solemn festivities, making the ladies feel gravely elated as they sat together in their best dresses. As soon as three had arrived, we sat down to "Preference," I being the unlucky fourth. The next four comers were put down immediately to another table; and presently the tea-trays, which I had seen set out in the store-room as I passed in the morning, were placed each on the middle of a card-table. The china was delicate egg-shell; the old-fashioned silver glittered with polishing; but the eatables were of the slightest description. While the trays were yet on the tables, Captain and the Miss Browns came in; and I could see that, somehow or other, the Captain was a favourite with all the ladies present. Ruffled brows were smoothed, sharp voices lowered at his approach. Miss Brown looked ill, and depressed almost to gloom. Miss Jessie smiled as usual, and seemed nearly as popular as her father. He immediately and quietly assumed the man's place in the room; attended to every one's wants, lessened the pretty maid-servant's labour by waiting on empty cups and bread-and-butterless ladies; and yet did it all in so easy and dignified a manner, and so much as if it were a matter of course for the strong to attend to the weak, that he was a true man throughout. He played for threepenny points with as grave an interest as if they had been pounds; and yet, in all his attention to strangers, he had an eye on his suffering daughter—for suffering I was sure she was, though to many eyes she might only appear to be irritable. Miss Jessie could not play cards: but she talked to the sitters-out, who, before her coming, had been rather inclined to be cross. She sang, too, to an old cracked piano, which I think had been a spinet in its youth. Miss Jessie sang "Jock of Hazeldean" a little out of tune; but we were none of us musical, though Miss Jenkyns beat time, out of, time, by way of appearing to be so.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell, JOSLYN T. PINE. Copyright © 2003 DOVER PUBLICATIONS, INC.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

I Our Society 1
II The Captain 9
III A Love Affair of Long Ago 20
IV A Visit to an Old Bachelor 26
V Old Letters 35
VI Poor Peter 43
VII Visiting 52
VIII "Your Ladyship" 59
IX Signor Brunoni 69
X The Panic 76
XI Samuel Brown 87
XII Engaged to Be Married 95
XIII Stopped Payment 101
XIV Friends in Need 110
XV A Happy Return 123
XVI Peace to Cranford 132
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 102 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(57)

4 Star

(21)

3 Star

(10)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(11)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 103 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Ah, Cranford

    Cranford is a charming book about a small English village. It is more of a survey of the people who inhabit the town than it is a plot driven story. The characters are so full of life and are so charming and oftentimes hilarious that you may feel like you are reading a letter from dear friends from home. They have issues to overcome and problems to solve an the ways they go about doing this are circuitous and very entertaining. I laughed at loud and indeed, cried a bit. It's a very short little novel and as the price is more than reasonable, I feel it's essential to the library of anyone wanting the call themselves well read. Their was a delightful movie made about this book which has it's own merits.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 11, 2009

    My favorite Gaskell

    Out of all the E. Gaskell books I've read, Cranford is now my favorite. This publication of the book is deceptively small; there are a lot of words on each page, so it takes longer to read than one would assume at first glance. However, this is a book to be savored and read slowly and, when finished, leaves the reader wanting to return to Cranford. I want to live in the Shire, Narnia, and Cranford.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2011

    One Of My Favorite Books

    Cranford is a wonderful story. I fell in love with all the characters, their personalities, and their charming little town. Gaskell does a great job weaving the story of the daily lives of the town's folk, as well as breaking off crumbs of their history to us as the story moves along. This is a book that you can read more than once and always walk away with a good feeling, like spending time with dear old friends. Highly recommended to anyone who hasn't read it or hasn't read it in a while.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2012

    Very Interesting...

    Has anyone else noticed that the reviews above mine are posted for at least four different versions of this book? Do they automatically do that? Because some versions are actually formatted more nicely than others... If I were you, I'd go for the cheap one; it has the same reviews as the others!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 15, 2010

    I love her work

    I love this time period in England and though this seams like going against the gods she's better at capturing peoples charter than jane austen. Austen is amazing and her chaters are true to themselves but almost to a point of not taking in reality at times. while Gaskells charters true to themselves also but change with the story more. they are lovely acounts of small town life for a upper middle class women of the day. wives and daughters is still my favorite work of hers but this brought a smile to my face.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2007

    A reviewer

    This is a truly remarkable book, similar to Jewett's 'Country of the Painted Firs' and Jan Neruda's 'Prague Tales.' It's an episodic account of the idiosyncratic world of genteely poor women in a tiny village, portrayed with warmth, sadness, and pride. You can't help but love these women and, like the narrator from a nearby city, to be part of their world for at least a while. Gaskell is magnficent.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A mirror of modern life

    This Elizabeth Gaskell book was an interesting study of village life ... the importantce of appearance and pride, and the distortion of gossip. Very much like life today. Things haven't changed that much, and that is what struck me most about this book. I admit, I enjoyed Wives and Daughters much more than Cranford. Cranford was more a book of vignettes, so it was difficult to attach myself to an individual character, other than the naive, sweet, and delightful Miss Matty. She brought both tears and smiles.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2008

    My opinion

    Well it moves kinda slow, but I do applaude Elizabeth Gaskell's fee flow of mannerly gossip and phrasing.One can definitely picture the characters of this story through the way they respond to each other in conversation.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2008

    Delightful Classic

    Cranford is a wonderful light hearted classic. The story is narraited by Mary Smith as she relates the adventures of the residents of the small country village of Cranford in England during the late 1830's to the early 1840's.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2014

    Goldensoul

    The gathering will be at 'wings of fire the brightest night'. Dont even think about bloodshed because wolves trained to kill the first to cause bloodshed will be hiding here and there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2014

    Goldenheart

    What tasks?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2014

    Goldenheart

    "I am expecting kits and as a qieen in waiting he told me he wouldnt do anything until the kits are gone. Tell Kos not to mess with me. Crystalkit, come now!"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2014

    Dark

    He growls. "You have a fierce kit there."

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2014

    To Burning Cinder

    Go to cave res 2, it is called longarm and the death cave.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2014

    Diciplus Red Wing

    See ya' *gazes up at the clouds*

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2014

    Fang correction

    *orginial classic

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2014

    Catalus Flame

    She padded around, her kits following her.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2014

    Diciplus Red Wing

    *turns to crystalkit* what do want? Why are you avoiding her?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2014

    Supernova ( StarClan)

    The giant winged ocelot exploded from the storm cloud and roared: " I may not be THE Fatespeaker, but I can still tell u guys one thing: prepare for the war of your life 'coase y'alls gonna die and StaryStar ain't gonna accept y'all cause y'all break his code every other day." He bellowed. "And don't even think about harmin' Bushfire or StarClan'll join the war, too." The giant ocelot finished then leaped up into the stormy darkness with a drum of thunder and a flash of lightning.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2014

    Firiceclaw

    Did you say i could join? I will slash your neck if yu said no! (Was away)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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