The Four Feathers

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This classic adventure story -- first published in
1902 -- gains new life in a blockbuster motion picture epic
from Paramount Pictures and Miramax Films and remains
a timeless novel of love, honor, and courage.

A Soldier's Shame...

It is 1882 and British officer Harry Feversham has it all: a loving fiancée, the camaraderie of fellow soldiers, a bright future in a nation at ...

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Overview

This classic adventure story -- first published in
1902 -- gains new life in a blockbuster motion picture epic
from Paramount Pictures and Miramax Films and remains
a timeless novel of love, honor, and courage.

A Soldier's Shame...

It is 1882 and British officer Harry Feversham has it all: a loving fiancée, the camaraderie of fellow soldiers, a bright future in a nation at the height of its imperial power. But before he is deployed to battle in Africa, he resigns -- and receives white feathers, symbols of cowardice, from three friends...and then a fourth from his fiancée.

A Love Lost...

Ethne Eustace has pushed Harry out of her life, but not out of her mind. Still, when another suitor comes calling she makes a decision that could destroy Harry...and alter her life forever.

A Heroic Redemption...

His world in tatters, Harry goes undercover in Africa to win back the respect of his comrades. From the bustling markets of Cairo to the sizzling sands of Omdurman prison, he fights with everything he has to bring honor back to his name...and Ethne back to his heart.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Mason's 1902 classic adventure about British army officer Harry Feversham's endeavor to overcome the false label of "coward" is back again in an affordable paperback. Although this has already been filmed at least four times, it is about to go before the cameras once again, so be sure to have a few copies on your shelves. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781587244261
  • Publisher: Cengage Gale
  • Publication date: 4/28/2003
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.16 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

A. E. W. Mason (1865-1948) was a British author and politician. He is best remembered for his 1902 novel The Four Feathers. His first novel, A Romance of Wastdale, was published in 1895. He was the author of more than 20 books, including At The Villa Rose (1910), a mystery novel in which he introduced his French detective, Inspector Hanaud. His best-known book is The Four Feathers, which has been made into several films. Many consider it his masterpiece. Other books are The House of the Arrow (1924), No Other Tiger (1927), The Prisoner in the Opal (1929) and Fire Over England (1937). He contributed a short story, The Conjurer, to The Queen's Book of the Red Cross. Mason was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament for Coventry in the 1906 general election. He served only a single term in Parliament, retiring at the next general election in January 1910. Mason served with the Manchester Regiment in the First World War, being promoted Captain in December 1914. He transferred to the General List in 1915 and the Royal Marine Light Infantry in 1917 with the rank of Major. His military career included work in naval intelligence, serving in Spain and Mexico, where he set up counter-espionage networks on behalf of the British government. He died in 1948 while working on a non-fiction book about Admiral Robert Blake.
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The Four Feathers

CHAPTER I

A Crimean Night

LIEUTENANT SUTCH WAS THE FIRST OF GENERAL FEVERSHAM'S guests to reach Broad Place. He arrived about five o'clock on an afternoon of sunshine in mid June, and the old red-brick house, lodged on a southern slope of the Surrey hills, was glowing from a dark forest depth of pines with the warmth of a rare jewel. Lieutenant Sutch limped across the hall, where the portraits of the Fevershams rose one above the other to the ceiling, and went out on to the stone-flagged terrace at the back. There he found his host sitting erect like a boy, and gazing southwards towards the Sussex Downs.

"How's the leg?" asked General Feversham, as he rose briskly from his chair. He was a small wiry man, and, in spite of his white hairs, alert. But the alertness was of the body. A bony face, with a high narrow forehead and steel-blue inexpressive eyes, suggested a barrenness of mind.

"It gave me trouble during the winter," replied Sutch. "But that was to be expected." General Feversham nodded, and for a little while both men were silent. From the terrace the ground fell steeply to a wide level plain of brown earth and emerald fields and dark clumps of trees. From this plainvoices rose through the sunshine, small but very clear. Far away towards Horsham a coil of white smoke from a train snaked rapidly in and out amongst the trees; and on the horizon rose the Downs, patched with white chalk.

"I thought that I should find you here," said Sutch.

"It was my wife's favourite corner," answered Feversham, in a quite emotionless voice. "She would sit here by the hour. She had a queer liking for wide and empty spaces."

"Yes," said Sutch. "She had imagination. Her thoughts could people them."

General Feversham glanced at his companion as though he hardly understood. But he asked no questions. What he did not understand he habitually let slip from his mind as not worth comprehension. He spoke at once upon a different topic.

"There will be a leaf out of our table to-night."

"Yes. Collins, Barberton, and Vaughan went this winter. Well, we are all permanently shelved upon the world's half-pay list as it is. The obituary column is just the last formality which gazettes us out of the Service altogether," and Sutch stretched out and eased his crippled leg, which fourteen years ago that day had been crushed and twisted in the fall of a scaling-ladder.

"I am glad that you came before the others," continued Feversham. "I would like to take your opinion. This day is more to me than the anniversary of our attack upon the Redan. At the very moment when we were standing under arms in the dark—"

"To the west of the quarries, I remember," interrupted Sutch, with a deep breath. "How should one forget?"

"At that very moment Harry was born in this house. I thought, therefore, that if you did not object he might join us to-night. He happens to be at home. He will, of course, enter the service, and he might learn something, perhaps, which afterwards will be of use—one never knows."

"By all means," said Sutch, with alacrity. For since his visits to General Feversham were limited to the occasion of these anniversary dinners, he had never yet seen Harry Feversham.

Sutch had for many years been puzzled as to the qualities in General Feversham which had attracted Muriel Graham, a woman as remarkable for the refinement of her intellect as for the beauty of her person; and he could never find an explanation. He had to be content with his knowledge that for some mysterious reason she had married this man so much older than herself, and so unlike to her in character. Personal courage and an indomitable self-confidence were the chief, indeed the only qualities which sprang to light in General Feversham. Lieutenant Sutch went back in thought over twenty years as he sat on his garden-chair to a time before he had taken part, as an officer of the Naval Brigade, in that unsuccessful onslaught on the Redan. He remembered a season in London to which he had come fresh from the China Station; and he was curious to see Harry Feversham. He did not admit that it was more than the natural curiosity of a man who, disabled in comparative youth, had made a hobby out of the study of human nature. He was interested to see whether the lad took after his mother or his father—that was all.

So that night Harry Feversham took a place at the dinner-table and listened to the stories which his elders told, while Lieutenant Sutch watched him. The stories were all of that dark winter in the Crimea, and a fresh story was always in the telling before its predecessor was ended. They were stories of death, of hazardous exploits; of the pinch of famine and the chill of snow. But they were told in clipped words and with a matter-of-fact tone, as though the men who related them were only conscious of them as far-off things; and there was seldom a comment more pronounced than a mere "that's curious," or an exclamation more significant than a laugh.

But Harry Feversham sat listening as though the incidents thus carelessly narrated were happening actually at that moment and within the walls of that room. His dark eyes—the eyes of his mother—turned with each story from speaker to speaker, and waited wide-open and fixed until the last word was spoken. He listened fascinated and enthralled. And so vividly did the changes of expression shoot and quiver across his face, that it seemed to Sutch the ladmust actually hear the drone of bullets in the air, actually resist the stunning shock of a charge, actually ride down in the thick of a squadron to where guns screeched out a tongue of flame from a fog. Once a major of artillery spoke of the suspense of the hours between the parading of the troops before a battle and the first command to advance; and Harry's shoulders worked under the intolerable strain of those lagging minutes.

But he did more than work his shoulders. He threw a single furtive, wavering glance backwards; and Lieutenant Sutch was startled, and indeed more than startled, he was pained. For this, after all, was Muriel Graham's boy.

The look was too familiar a one to Sutch. He had seen it on the faces of recruits during their first experience of a battle too often for him to misunderstand it. And one picture in particular rose before his mind. An advancing square at Inkermann, and a tall big soldier rushing forward from the line in the eagerness of his attack, and then stopping suddenly as though he suddenly understood that he was alone, and had to meet alone the charge of a mounted Cossack. Sutch remembered very clearly the fatal wavering glance which the big soldier had thrown backwards towards his companions—a glance accompanied by a queer sickly smile. He remembered, too, with equal vividness, its consequence. For though the soldier carried a loaded musket and a bayonet locked to the muzzle, he had without an effort of self-defence received the Cossack's lance-thrust in his throat.

Sutch glanced hurriedly about the table, afraid that General Feversham, or that some one of his guests, should have remarked the same look and the same smile upon Harry's face. But no one had eyes for the lad; each visitor was waiting too eagerly for an opportunity to tell a story of his own. Sutch drew a breath of relief and turned to Harry. But the boy was sitting with his elbows on the cloth and his head propped between his hands, lost to the glare of the room, and its glitter of silver, constructing again out of the swift succession of anecdotes a world of cries and wounds, and maddened riderless chargers and men writhing in a fog of cannon-smoke. The curtest, least graphic description ofthe biting days and nights in the trenches set the lad shivering. Even his face grew pinched, as though the iron frost of that winter was actually eating into his bones. Sutch touched him lightly on the elbow.

"You renew those days for me," said he. "Though the heat is dripping down the windows, I feel the chill of the Crimea."

Harry roused himself from his absorption.

"The stories renew them," said he.

"No. It is you listening to the stories."

And before Harry could reply, General Feversham's voice broke sharply in from the head of the table—

"Harry, look at the clock!"

At once all eyes were turned upon the lad. The hands of the clock made the acutest of angles. It was close upon midnight, and from eight, without so much as a word or a question, he had sat at the dinner-table listening. Yet even now he rose with reluctance.

"Must I go, father?" he asked, and the General's guests intervened in a chorus. The conversation was clear gain to the lad, a first taste of powder which might stand him in good stead afterwards.

"Besides, it's the boy's birthday," added the major of artillery. "He wants to stay, that's plain. You wouldn't find a youngster of fourteen sit all these hours without a kick of the foot against the table-leg unless the conversation entertained him. Let him stay, Feversham!"

For once General Feversham relaxed the iron discipline under which the boy lived.

"Very well," said he. "Harry shall have an hour's furlough from his bed. A single hour won't make much difference."

Harry's eyes turned towards his father, and just for a moment rested upon his face with a curious steady gaze. It seemed to Sutch that they uttered a question, and, rightly or wrongly, he interpreted the question into words—

"Are you blind?"

But General Feversham was already talking to his neighbours, and Harry quietly sat down, and again propping his chin upon his hands, listened with all his soul. Yet he wasnot entertained; rather he was enthralled, he sat quiet under the compulsion of a spell. His face became unnaturally white, his eyes unnaturally large, while the flames of the candles shone ever redder and more blurred through a blue haze of tobacco-smoke, and the level of the wine grew steadily lower in the decanters.

Thus half of that one hour's furlough was passed; and then General Feversham, himself jogged by the unlucky mention of a name, suddenly blurted out in his jerky fashion—

"Lord Wilmington. One of the best names in England, if you please. Did you ever see his house in Warwickshire? Every inch of the ground you would think would have a voice to bid him play the man, if only in remembrance of his fathers ... . It seemed incredible and mere camp rumour, but the rumour grew. If it was whispered at the Alma, it was spoken aloud at Inkermann, it was shouted at Balaclava. Before Sebastopol the hideous thing was proved. Wilmington was acting as galloper to his General. I believe upon my soul the General chose him for the duty, so that the fellow might set himself right. There were three hundred yards of bullet-swept flat ground, and a message to be carried across them. Had Wilmington toppled off his horse on the way, why, there were the whispers silenced for ever. Had he ridden through alive he earned distinction besides. But he didn't dare, he refused! Imagine it if you can! He sat shaking on his horse, and declined. You should have seen the General. His face turned the colour of that Burgundy. 'No doubt you have a previous engagement,' he said, in the politest voice you ever heard—just that, not a word of abuse. A previous engagement on the battle-field! For the life of me I could hardly help laughing. But it was a tragic business for Wilmington. He was broken, of course, and slunk back to London. Every house was closed to him, he dropped out of his circle like a lead bullet you let slip out of your hand into the sea. The very women in Piccadilly spat if he spoke to them; and he blew his brains out in a back bedroom off the Haymarket. Curious that, eh? He hadn't the pluck to face the bullets when his name was at stake, yet he could blow his own brains out afterwards."

Lieutenant Sutch chanced to look at the clock as the story came to an end. It was now a quarter to one. Harry Fev ersham had still a quarter of an hour's furlough, and that quarter of an hour was occupied by a retired surgeon-general with a great wagging beard, who sat nearly opposite to the boy.

"I can tell you an incident still more curious," he said.

"The man in this case had never been under fire before, but he was of my own profession. Life and death were part of his business. Nor was he really in any particular danger. The affair happened during a hill campaign in India. We were encamped in a valley, and a few Pathans used to lie out on the hillside at night and take long shots into the camp. A bullet ripped through the canvas of the hospital tent—that was all. The surgeon crept out to his own quarters, and his orderly discovered him half an hour afterwards lying in his blood stone dead."

"Hit?" exclaimed the Major.

"Not a bit of it," said the surgeon. "He had quietly opened his instrument-case in the dark, taken out a lancet, and severed his femoral artery. Sheer panic, do you see, at the whistle of a bullet."

Even upon these men, case-hardened to horrors, the incident related in its bald simplicity wrought its effect. From some there broke a half-uttered exclamation of disbelief; others moved restlessly in their chairs with a sort of physical discomfort, because a man had sunk so far below humanity. Here an officer gulped his wine, there a second shook his shoulders as though to shake the knowledge off as a dog shakes water. There was only one in all that company who sat perfectly still in the silence which followed upon the story. That one was the boy Harry Feversham.

He sat with his hands now clenched upon his knees and leaning forward a little across the table towards the surgeon; his cheeks white as paper, his eyes burning and burning with ferocity. He had the look of a dangerous animal in the trap. His body was gathered, his muscles taut. Sutch had a fear that the lad meant to leap across the table and strike with all his strength in the savagery of despair. He had indeed reached out a restraining hand when GeneralFeversham's matter-of-fact voice intervened, and the boy's attitude suddenly relaxed.

"Queer incomprehensible things happen. Here are two of them. You can only say they are the truth and pray God you may forget 'em. But you can't explain. For you can't understand."

Sutch was moved to lay his hand upon Harry's shoulder.

"Can you?" he asked, and regretted the question almost before it was spoken. But it was spoken, and Harry's eyes turned swiftly towards Sutch, and rested upon his face, not, however, with any betrayal of guilt, but quietly, inscrutably. Nor did he answer the question, although it was answered in a fashion by General Feversham.

"Harry understand!" exclaimed the General with a snort of indignation. "How should he? He's a Feversham."

The question, which Harry's glance had mutely put before, Sutch in the same mute way repeated. "Are you blind?" his eyes asked of General Feversham. Never had he heard an untruth so demonstrably untrue. A mere look at the father and the son proved it so. Harry Feversham wore his father's name, but he had his mother's dark and haunted eyes, his mother's breadth of forehead, his mother's delicacy of profile, his mother's imagination. It needed perhaps a stranger to recognise the truth. The father had been so long familiar with his son's aspect that it had no significance to his mind.

"Look at the clock, Harry."

The hour's furlough had run out. Harry rose from his chair, and drew a breath.

"Good night, sir," he said, and walked to the door.

The servants had long since gone to bed; and, as Harry opened the door, the hall gaped black like the mouth of night. For a second or two the boy hesitated upon the threshold, and seemed almost to shrink back into the lighted room as though in that dark void peril awaited him. And peril did—the peril of his thoughts.

He stepped out of the room and closed the door behind him. The decanter was sent again upon its rounds, there was a popping of soda-water bottles, the talk revolved again in its accustomed groove. Harry was in an instant forgottenby all but Sutch. The Lieutenant, although he prided himself upon his impartial and disinterested study of human nature, was the kindliest of men. He had more kindliness than observation by a great deal. Moreover, there were special reasons which caused him to take an interest in Harry Feversham. He sat for a little while with the air of a man profoundly disturbed. Then, acting upon an impulse, he went to the door, opened it noiselessly, as noiselessly passed out, and, without so much as a click of the latch, closed the door behind him.

And this is what he saw: Harry Feversham holding in the centre of the hall a lighted candle high above his head, and looking up towards the portraits of the Fevershams as they mounted the walls and were lost in the darkness of the roof. A muffled sound of voices came from the other side of the door-panels. But the hall itself was silent. Harry stood remarkably still, and the only thing which moved at all was the yellow flame of the candle as it flickered apparently in some faint draught. The light wavered across the portraits, glowing here upon a red coat, glittering there upon a corselet of steel. For there was not one man's portrait upon the walls which did not glisten with the colours of a uniform, and there were the portraits of many men. Father and son, the Fevershams had been soldiers from the very birth of the family. Father and son, in lace collars and bucket boots, in Ramillies wigs and steel breastplates, in velvet coats with powder on their hair, in shakos and swallow-tails, in high stocks and frogged coats, they looked down upon this last Feversham, summoning him to the like service. They were men of one stamp; no distinction of uniform could obscure their relationship—lean—faced men, hard as iron, rugged in feature, thin-lipped, with firm chins and straight level mouths, narrow foreheads, and the steel-blue inexpressive eyes; men of courage and resolution, no doubt, but without subtleties, or nerves, or that burdensome gift of imagination; sturdy men, a little wanting in delicacy, hardly conspicuous for intellect; to put it frankly, men rather stupid—all of them, in a word, first-class fighting men, but not one of them a first-class soldier.

But Harry Feversham plainly saw none of their defects.To him they were one and all portentous and terrible. He stood before them in the attitude of a criminal before his judges, reading his condemnation in their cold unchanging eyes. Lieutenant Sutch understood more clearly why the flame of the candle flickered. There was no draught in the hall, but the boy's hand shook. And finally, as though he heard the mute voices of his judges delivering sentence and admitted its justice, he actually bowed to the portraits on the wall. As he raised his head, he saw Lieutenant Sutch in the embrasure of the doorway.

He did not start, he uttered no word; he let his eyes quietly rest upon Sutch and waited. Of the two it was the man who was embarrassed.

"Harry," he said, and in spite of his embarrassment he had the tact to use the tone and the language of one addressing not a boy, but a comrade equal in years, "we meet for the first time to-night. But I knew your mother a long time ago. I like to think that I have the right to call her by that much misused word—friend. Have you anything to tell me?"

"Nothing," said Harry.

"The mere telling sometimes lightens a trouble."

"It is kind of you. There is nothing."

Lieutenant Sutch was rather at a loss. The lad's loneliness made a strong appeal to him. For lonely the boy could not but be, set apart as he was no less unmistakably in mind as in feature from his father and his father's fathers. Yet what more could he do? His tact again came to his aid. He took his card-case from his pocket.

"You will find my address upon this card. Perhaps some day you will give me a few days of your company. I can offer you on my side a day or two's hunting."

A spasm of pain shook for a fleeting moment the boy's steady inscrutable face. It passed, however, swiftly as it had come.

"Thank you, sir," Harry monotonously repeated. "You are very kind."

"And if ever you want to talk over a difficult question with an older man, I am at your service."

He spoke purposely in a formal voice lest Harry with aboy's sensitiveness should think he laughed. Harry took the card and repeated his thanks. Then he went upstairs to bed.

Lieutenant Sutch waited uncomfortably in the hall until the light of the candle had diminished and disappeared. Something was amiss, he was very sure. There were words which he should have spoken to the boy, but he had not known how to set about the task. He returned to the dining-room, and with a feeling that he was almost repairing his omissions, he filled his glass and called for silence.

"Gentlemen," he said, "this is June 15th," and there was great applause and much rapping on the table. "It is the anniversary of our attack upon the Redan. It is also Harry Feversham's birthday. For us, our work is done. I ask you to drink the health of one of the youngsters who are ousting us. His work lies before him. The traditions of the Feversham family are very well known to us. May Harry Feversham carry on! May he add distinction to a distinguished name!"

At once all that company was on its feet.

"Harry Feversham!"

The name was shouted with so hearty a goodwill that the glasses on the table rang. "Harry Feversham, Harry Feversham," the cry was repeated and repeated, while old General Feversham sat in his chair, with a face aflush with pride. And a boy a minute afterwards in a room high up in the house heard the muffled words of a chorus—and believed the guests upon this Crimean night were drinking his father's health. He turned over in his bed and lay shivering. He saw in his mind a broken officer slinking at night in the shadows of the London streets. He pushed back the flap of a tent and stooped over a man lying stone-dead in his blood, with an open lancet clenched in his right hand. And he saw that the face of the broken officer and the face of the dead surgeon were one; and that one face, the face of Harry Feversham.

"For he's a jolly good fellow, For he's a jolly good fellow, For he's a jolly good fellow, And so say all of us,"

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First Chapter

Chapter One: A Crimean Night

Lieutenant Sutch was the first of General Feversham's guests to reach Broad Place. He arrived about five o'clock on an afternoon of sunshine in mid June, and the old red-brick house, lodged on a southern slope of the Surrey hills, was glowing from a dark forest depth of pines with the warmth of a rare jewel. Lieutenant Sutch limped across the hall, where the portraits of the Fevershams rose one above the other to the ceiling, and went out on to the stone-flagged terrace at the back. There he found his host sitting erect like a boy, and gazing southwards towards the Sussex Downs.

"How's the leg?" asked General Feversham, as he rose briskly from his chair. He was a small wiry man, and, in spite of his white hairs, alert. But the alertness was of the body. A bony face, with a high narrow forehead and steel-blue inexpressive eyes, suggested a barrenness of mind.

"It gave me trouble during the winter," replied Sutch. "But that was to be expected." General Fever-sham nodded, and for a little while both men were silent. From the terrace the ground fell steeply to a wide level plain of brown earth and emerald fields and dark clumps of trees. From this plain voices rose through the sunshine, small but very clear. Far away towards Horsham a coil of white smoke from a train snaked rapidly in and out amongst the trees; and on the horizon rose the Downs, patched with white chalk.

"I thought that I should find you here," said Sutch.

"It was my wife's favourite corner," answered Feversham, in a quite emotionless voice. "She would sit here by the hour. She had a queer liking for wide and empty spaces."

"Yes," said Sutch. "She had imagination. Her thoughts could people them."

General Feversham glanced at his companion as though he hardly understood. But he asked no questions. What he did not understand he habitually let slip from his mind as not worth comprehension. He spoke at once upon a different topic.

"There will be a leaf out of our table to-night."

"Yes. Collins, Barberton, and Vaughan went this winter. Well, we are all permanently shelved upon the world's half-pay list as it is. The obituary column is just the last formality which gazettes us out of the Service altogether," and Sutch stretched out and eased his crippled leg, which fourteen years ago that day had been crushed and twisted in the fall of a scaling-ladder.

"I am glad that you came before the others," continued Feversham. "I would like to take your opinion. This day is more to me than the anniversary of our attack upon the Redan. At the very moment when we were standing under arms in the dark -- "

"To the west of the quarries, I remember," interrupted Sutch, with a deep breath. "How should one forget?"

"At that very moment Harry was born in this house. I thought, therefore, that if you did not object he might join us to-night. He happens to be at home. He will, of course, enter the service, and he might learn something, perhaps, which afterwards will be of use -- one never knows."

"By all means," said Sutch, with alacrity. For since his visits to General Feversham were limited to the occasion of these anniversary dinners, he had never yet seen Harry Feversham.

Sutch had for many years been puzzled as to the qualities in General Feversham which had attracted Muriel Graham, a woman as remarkable for the refinement of her intellect as for the beauty of her person; and he could never find an explanation. He had to be content with his knowledge that for some mysterious reason she had married this man so much older than herself, and so unlike to her in character. Personal courage and an indomitable self-confidence were the chief, indeed the only qualities which sprang to light in General Feversham. Lieutenant Sutch went back in thought over twenty years as he sat on his garden-chair to a time before he had taken part, as an officer of the Naval Brigade, in that unsuccessful onslaught on the Redan. He remembered a season in London to which he had come fresh from the China Station; and he was curious to see Harry Feversham. He did not admit that it was more than the natural curiosity of a man who, disabled in comparative youth, had made a hobby out of the study of human nature. He was interested to see whether the lad took after his mother or his father -- that was all.

So that night Harry Feversham took a place at the dinner-table and listened to the stories which his elders told, while Lieutenant Sutch watched him. The stories were all of that dark winter in the Crimea, and a fresh story was always in the telling before its predecessor was ended. They were stories of death, of hazardous exploits; of the pinch of famine and the chill of snow. But they were told in clipped words and with a matter-of-fact tone, as though the men who related them were only conscious of them as far-off things; and there was seldom a comment more pronounced than a mere "that's curious," or an exclamation more significant than a laugh.

But Harry Feversham sat listening as though the incidents thus carelessly narrated were happening actually at that moment and within the walls of that room. His dark eyes -- the eyes of his mother -- turned with each story from speaker to speaker, and waited wide-open and fixed until the last word was spoken. He listened fascinated and enthralled. And so vividly did the changes of expression shoot and quiver across his face, that it seemed to Sutch the lad must actually hear the drone of bullets in the air, actually resist the stunning shock of a charge, actually ride down in the thick of a squadron to where guns screeched out a tongue of flame from a fog. Once a major of artillery spoke of the suspense of the hours between the parading of the troops before a battle and the first command to advance; and Harry's shoulders worked under the intolerable strain of those lagging minutes.

But he did more than work his shoulders. He threw a single furtive, wavering glance backwards; and Lieutenant Sutch was startled, and indeed more than startled, he was pained. For this, after all, was Muriel Graham's boy.

The look was too familiar a one to Sutch. He had seen it on the faces of recruits during their first experience of a battle too often for him to misunderstand it. And one picture in particular rose before his mind. An advancing square at Inkermann, and a tall big soldier rushing forward from the line in the eagerness of his attack, and then stopping suddenly as though he suddenly understood that he was alone, and had to meet alone the charge of a mounted Cossack. Sutch remembered very clearly the fatal wavering glance which the big soldier had thrown backwards towards his companions -- a glance accompanied by a queer sickly smile. He remembered, too, with equal vividness, its consequence. For though the soldier carried a loaded musket and a bayonet locked to the muzzle, he had without an effort of self-defence received the Cossack's lance-thrust in his throat.

Sutch glanced hurriedly about the table, afraid that General Feversham, or that some one of his guests, should have remarked the same look and the same smile upon Harry's face. But no one had eyes for the lad; each visitor was waiting too eagerly for an opportunity to tell a story of his own. Sutch drew a breath of relief and turned to Harry. But the boy was sitting with his elbows on the cloth and his head propped between his hands, lost to the glare of the room and its glitter of silver, constructing again out of the swift succession of anecdotes a world of cries and wounds, and maddened riderless chargers and men writhing in a fog of cannon-smoke. The curtest, least graphic description of the biting days and nights in the trenches set the lad shivering. Even his face grew pinched, as though the iron frost of that winter was actually eating into his bones. Sutch touched him lightly on the elbow.

"You renew those days for me," said he. "Though the heat is dripping down the windows, I feel the chill of the Crimea."

Harry roused himself from his absorption.

"The stories renew them," said he.

"No. It is you listening to the stories."

And before Harry could reply, General Feversham's voice broke sharply in from the head of the table --

"Harry, look at the clock!"

At once all eyes were turned upon the lad. The hands of the clock made the acutest of angles. It was close upon midnight, and from eight, without so much as a word or a question, he had sat at the dinner-table listening. Yet even now he rose with reluctance.

"Must I go, father?" he asked, and the General's guests intervened in a chorus. The conversation was clear gain to the lad, a first taste of powder which might stand him in good stead afterwards.

"Besides, it's the boy's birthday," added the major of artillery. "He wants to stay, that's plain. You wouldn't find a youngster of fourteen sit all these hours without a kick of the foot against the table-leg unless the conversation entertained him. Let him stay, Feversham!"

For once General Feversham relaxed the iron discipline under which the boy lived.

"Very well," said he. "Harry shall have an hour's furlough from his bed. A single hour won't make much difference."

Harry's eyes turned towards his father, and just for a moment rested upon his face with a curious steady gaze. It seemed to Sutch that they uttered a question, and, rightly or wrongly, he interpreted the question into words --

"Are you blind?"

But General Feversham was already talking to his neighbours, and Harry quietly sat down, and again propping his chin upon his hands, listened with all his soul. Yet he was not entertained; rather he was enthralled, he sat quiet under the compulsion of a spell. His face became unnaturally white, his eyes unnaturally large, while the flames of the candles shone ever redder and more blurred through a blue haze of tobacco-smoke, and the level of the wine grew steadily lower in the decanters.

Thus half of that one hour's furlough was passed; and then General Feversham, himself jogged by the unlucky mention of a name, suddenly blurted out in his jerky fashion --

"Lord Wilmington. One of the best names in England, if you please. Did you ever see his house in Warwickshire? Every inch of the ground you would think would have a voice to bid him play the man, if only in remembrance of his fathers....It seemed incredible and mere camp rumour, but the rumour grew. If it was whispered at the Alma, it was spoken aloud at Inkermann, it was shouted at Balaclava. Before Sebastopol the hideous thing was proved. Wilmington was acting as galloper to his General. I believe upon my soul the General chose him for the duty, so that the fellow might set himself right. There were three hundred yards of bullet-swept flat ground, and a message to be carried across them. Had Wilmington toppled off his horse on the way, why, there were the whispers silenced for ever. Had he ridden through alive he earned distinction besides. But he didn't dare, he refused! Imagine it if you can! He sat shaking on his horse, and declined. You should have seen the General. His face turned the colour of that Burgundy. 'No doubt you have a previous engagement,' he said, in the politest voice you ever heard -- just that, not a word of abuse. A previous engagement on the battle-field! For the life of me I could hardly help laughing. But it was a tragic business for Wilmington. He was broken, of course, and slunk back to London. Every house was closed to him, he dropped out of his circle like a lead bullet you let slip out of your hand into the sea. The very women in Piccadilly spat if he spoke to them; and he blew his brains out in a back bedroom off the Haymarket. Curious that, eh? He hadn't the pluck to face the bullets when his name was at stake, yet he could blow his own brains out afterwards."

Lieutenant Sutch chanced to look at the clock as the story came to an end. It was now a quarter to one. Harry Feversham had still a quarter of an hour's furlough, and that quarter of an hour was occupied by a retired surgeon-general with a great wagging beard, who sat nearly opposite to the boy.

"I can tell you an incident still more curious," he said. "The man in this case had never been under fire before, but he was of my own profession. Life and death were part of his business. Nor was he really in any particular danger. The affair happened during a hill campaign in India. We were encamped in a valley, and a few Pathans used to lie out on the hillside at night and take long shots into the camp. A bullet ripped through the canvas of the hospital tent -- that was all. The surgeon crept out to his own quarters, and his orderly discovered him half an hour afterwards lying in his blood stone dead."

"Hit?" exclaimed the Major.

"Not a bit of it," said the surgeon. "He had quietly opened his instrument-case in the dark, taken out a lancet, and severed his femoral artery. Sheer panic, do you see, at the whistle of a bullet."

Even upon these men, case-hardened to horrors, the incident related in its bald simplicity wrought its effect. From some there broke a half-uttered exclamation of disbelief; others moved restlessly in their chairs with a sort of physical discomfort, because a man had sunk so far below humanity. Here an officer gulped his wine, there a second shook his shoulders as though to shake the knowledge off as a dog shakes water. There was only one in all that company who sat perfectly still in the silence which followed upon the story. That one was the boy Harry Feversham.

He sat with his hands now clenched upon his knees and leaning forward a little across the table towards the surgeon; his cheeks white as paper, his eyes burning and burning with ferocity. He had the look of a dangerous animal in the trap. His body was gathered, his muscles taut. Sutch had a fear that the lad meant to leap across the table and strike with all his strength in the savagery of despair. He had indeed reached out a restraining hand when General Feversham's matter-of-fact voice intervened, and the boy's attitude suddenly relaxed.

"Queer incomprehensible things happen. Here are two of them. You can only say they are the truth and pray God you may forget 'em. But you can't explain. For you can't understand."

Sutch was moved to lay his hand upon Harry's shoulder.

"Can you?" he asked, and regretted the question almost before it was spoken. But it was spoken, and Harry's eyes turned swiftly towards Sutch, and rested upon his face, not, however, with any betrayal of guilt, but quietly, inscrutably. Nor did he answer the question, although it was answered in a fashion by General Feversham.

"Harry understand!" exclaimed the General with a snort of indignation. "How should he? He's a Feversham."

The question, which Harry's glance had mutely put before, Sutch in the same mute way repeated. "Are you blind?" his eyes asked of General Feversham. Never had he heard an untruth so demonstrably untrue. A mere look at the father and the son proved it so. Harry Feversham wore his father's name, but he had his mother's dark and haunted eyes, his mother's breadth of forehead, his mother's delicacy of profile, his mother's imagination. It needed perhaps a stranger to recognise the truth. The father had been so long familiar with his son's aspect that it had no significance to his mind.

"Look at the clock, Harry."

The hour's furlough had run out. Harry rose from his chair, and drew a breath.

"Good night, sir," he said, and walked to the door.

The servants had long since gone to bed; and, as Harry opened the door, the hall gaped black like the mouth of night. For a second or two the boy hesitated upon the threshold, and seemed almost to shrink back into the lighted room as though in that dark void peril awaited him. And peril did -- the peril of his thoughts.

He stepped out of the room and closed the door behind him. The decanter was sent again upon its rounds, there was a popping of soda-water bottles, the talk revolved again in its accustomed groove. Harry was in an instant forgotten by all but Sutch. The Lieutenant, although he prided himself upon his impartial and disinterested study of human nature, was the kindliest of men. He had more kindliness than observation by a great deal. Moreover, there were special reasons which caused him to take an interest in Harry Feversham. He sat for a little while with the air of a man profoundly disturbed. Then, acting upon an impulse, he went to the door, opened it noiselessly, as noiselessly passed out, and, without so much as a click of the latch, closed the door behind him.

And this is what he saw: Harry Feversham holding in the centre of the hall a lighted candle high above his head, and looking up towards the portraits of the Fevershams as they mounted the walls and were lost in the darkness of the roof. A muffled sound of voices came from the other side of the door-panels. But the hall itself was silent. Harry stood remarkably still, and the only thing which moved at all was the yellow flame of the candle as it flickered apparently in some faint draught. The light wavered across the portraits, glowing here upon a red coat, glittering there upon a corselet of steel. For there was not one man's portrait upon the walls which did not glisten with the colours of a uniform, and there were the portraits of many men. Father and son, the Fevershams had been soldiers from the very birth of the family. Father and son, in lace collars and bucket boots, in Ramillies wigs and steel breastplates, in velvet coats with powder on their hair, in shakos and swallow-tails, in high stocks and frogged coats, they looked down upon this last Feversham, summoning him to the like service. They were men of one stamp; no distinction of uniform could obscure their relationship -- lean-faced men, hard as iron, rugged in feature, thin-lipped, with firm chins and straight level mouths, narrow foreheads, and the steel-blue inexpressive eyes; men of courage and resolution, no doubt, but without subtleties, or nerves, or that burdensome gift of imagination; sturdy men, a little wanting in delicacy, hardly conspicuous for intellect; to put it frankly, men rather stupid -- all of them, in a word, first-class fighting men, but not one of them a first-class soldier.

But Harry Feversham plainly saw none of their defects. To him they were one and all portentous and terrible. He stood before them in the attitude of a criminal before his judges, reading his condemnation in their cold unchanging eyes. Lieutenant Sutch understood more clearly why the flame of the candle flickered. There was no draught in the hall, but the boy's hand shook. And finally, as though he heard the mute voices of his judges delivering sentence and admitted its justice, he actually bowed to the portraits on the wall. As he raised his head, he saw Lieutenant Sutch in the embrasure of the doorway.

He did not start, he uttered no word; he let his eyes quietly rest upon Sutch and waited. Of the two it was the man who was embarrassed.

"Harry," he said, and in spite of his embarrassment he had the tact to use the tone and the language of one addressing not a boy, but a comrade equal in years, "we meet for the first time to-night. But I knew your mother a long time ago. I like to think that I have the right to call her by that much misused word -- friend. Have you anything to tell me?"

"Nothing," said Harry.

"The mere telling sometimes lightens a trouble."

"It is kind of you. There is nothing."

Lieutenant Sutch was rather at a loss. The lad's loneliness made a strong appeal to him. For lonely the boy could not but be, set apart as he was no less unmistakably in mind as in feature from his father and his father's fathers. Yet what more could he do? His tact again came to his aid. He took his card-case from his pocket.

"You will find my address upon this card. Perhaps some day you will give me a few days of your company. I can offer you on my side a day or two's hunting."

A spasm of pain shook for a fleeting moment the boy's steady inscrutable face. It passed, however, swiftly as it had come.

"Thank you, sir," Harry monotonously repeated. "You are very kind."

"And if ever you want to talk over a difficult question with an older man, I am at your service."

He spoke purposely in a formal voice lest Harry with a boy's sensitiveness should think he laughed. Harry took the card and repeated his thanks. Then he went upstairs to bed.

Lieutenant Sutch waited uncomfortably in the hall until the light of the candle had diminished and disappeared. Something was amiss, he was very sure. There were words which he should have spoken to the boy, but he had not known how to set about the task. He returned to the dining-room, and with a feeling that he was almost repairing his omissions, he filled his glass and called for silence.

"Gentlemen," he said, "this is June 15th," and there was great applause and much rapping on the table. "It is the anniversary of our attack upon the Redan. It is also Harry Feversham's birthday. For us, our work is done. I ask you to drink the health of one of the youngsters who are ousting us. His work lies before him. The traditions of the Feversham family are very well known to us. May Harry Feversham carry them on! May he add distinction to a distinguished name!"

At once all that company was on its feet.

"Harry Feversham!"

The name was shouted with so hearty a goodwill that the glasses on the table rang. "Harry Feversham, Harry Feversham," the cry was repeated and repeated, while old General Feversham sat in his chair, with a face aflush with pride. And a boy a minute afterwards in a room high up in the house heard the muffled words of a chorus --


"For he's a jolly good fellow,
For he's a jolly good fellow,
For he's a jolly good fellow,
And so say all of us,"

and believed the guests upon this Crimean night were drinking his father's health. He turned over in his bed and lay shivering. He saw in his mind a broken officer slinking at night in the shadows of the London streets. He pushed back the flap of a tent and stooped over a man lying stone-dead in his blood, with an open lancet clenched in his right hand. And he saw that the face of the broken officer and the face of the dead surgeon were one; and that one face, the face of Harry Feversham.

Copyright © 2002 by Simon & Schuster

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 32 )
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(13)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2007

    A reviewer

    Set in Colonial Africa, this fast-paced novel is filled with an exciting plot, including a heart-stopping prison escape. A. E. W. Mason cleverly intertwines the themes of perserverance and self-confidence throughout the book. I read this in 8th grade and throughly enjoyed reading it. I would recommend this to any fan of the 'Classics', especially boys.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2004

    Yahooo!

    This is a great book for adventure, classic literature, and romance lovers. No wonder I liked it :-) The way the hero lives to regain his lost honor for the sake of his (ex)fiance is truly touching. Another character that I really admired was Feversham's freind, Jack Durrance, who shows just as much strength of character. When I finished it I was just like 'Sniff, that's so great!' And, uh...yes, being a fourteen year old girl I did see the movie with Heath Ledger. Don't miss it either, friends!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2003

    A REAL Romance

    Larry D. Bohall, author of Martyr's Cry (ISBN 1591295327): A.E.W. Mason's The Four Feathers is a romance in every meaning of the word. Certainly a romance between Harry and Ethne (the main characters), but it's also filled with the romance of adventure, of loyalty, of honor. It is a period piece, and 21st century readers might have trouble with some of it. But if one can set that aside, and read the novel for the story, you'll have a rousing great time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2014

    Taylor's review....

    I liked it. Not the best of the best but not bad either. There could be some edits l'm sure. It was good but not overly great so far. Same for the next chapter.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2014

    The House-

    "Clarity!" Her mom called, from the empty house. "Clarity are you ready to go? Make sure you have all your bags packed." Clarity looked around her room, going back around to make sure she didn't forget anything." "YES MOM!" Clarity yelled back letting her mom know she had everything packed. "Why do we have to move? I mean why can't we stay here in Sunny California instead of moving to Chilly Alaska. Whats sooo great about Alaska? Nothing! Its cold!" Clarity rubbed her face, hoisting her backpack up onto her shoulder shutting her door behind her. "Bye house"
    <p>
    Now I don't enjoy long car rides at all but mom made me bring a notebook pencil and my iPod to keep busy. Yeah sure if only my iPod could stay charged for twenty plus hours I'd be fine with it but noooooo. Sorry I should stop complaining as most of you know I'm Clarity James, born and raised in California until now, I'm a Freshmen in High-School and my wonderful parents decided to take me from all my friends to some other state. Lets just say I wasn't the happiest girl plus being on your period doesn't help either. Yes TMI but oh well.
    <p>
    I keep looking out the window sighing watching raindrops fall down the window. I tapped away on my iPod leaning my head against the window I got a text from Emilia my best friend.
    <p>
    Sup Brat?
    <br>
    Nothing Much Bored.
    <br>
    Oh that sux.
    <br>
    Ditto. Gtg we're at Mickey D's
    <p>
    We walked into McDonalds and got our food then sat down. I picked around at my food but never ate it I did take small sips of my Coke.
    <p>
    TBC IN NEXT RESULT

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2013

    Another boring one.

    Too much talking and too many footnotes.

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  • Posted April 29, 2012

    Harry Feversham, son of a British general during the Crimean War

    Harry Feversham, son of a British general during the Crimean War, is haunted by both his family&rsquo;s remarkable history of service in the British army and the stories of cowardice that he had heard told as a boy during his father&rsquo;s annual &ldquo;Crimea Nights&rdquo; reunions. Due to his fear of becoming a coward and staining his ancestors&rsquo; reputation, Harry resigns his commission in the East Surrey Regiment just prior to Sir Garnet Wolseley's 1882 expedition to Egypt to suppress the rising of Urabi Pasha. Yet three of his comrades, Captain Trench and Lieutenants Castleton and Willoughby, send him three white feathers to express their disapproval of his act, and his Irish fianc&eacute;e, Ethne Eustace, presents him with a fourth feather and breaks their engagement. Harry&rsquo;s best friend in the regiment, Captain Durrance becomes his rival for Ethne.
    After talking with Lieutenant Sutch, a friend of his father, Harry decides to redeem himself by acts that will force his former friends to take back the feathers and might in turn encourage Ethne to take back her feather. Thus, he travels on his own to Egypt and Sudan. Meanwhile, Durrance is blinded by sunstroke and is sent home. Over the next six years, Castleton is killed at Tamai, but Willoughby is now a commander and Harry, with the aid of a Sudanese Arab Abou Fatma, succeeds in recovering some lost letters and getting them to Willoughby. Then he learns that Trench is imprisoned in the &ldquo;House of Stone&rdquo; at Omdurman and allows himself to be captured in an attempt to rescue him. Meanwhile, Durrance and Ethne become engaged, though each secretly realizes that there are problems in their relationship. Will Harry and Trench escape? Does Ethne take back her feather? Can Durrance find a cure for his blindness? And who will marry whom?
    This book was recommended to me by my friend Thaxter Dickey, a professor at Florida College. Alfred Edward Woodley Mason (1865-1948) was a British politician and author, of whom it is said that he delighted readers with adventure novels and detective stories written in a style reminiscent of Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, and Arthur Conan Doyle. I would add that this book reminds me of H. Rider Haggard, author of King Solomon&rsquo;s Mines and She. Mason wrote more than twenty books but is best known for The Four Feathers. There is very little objectionable in the story. A few minor references to smoking tobacco, drinking alcoholic beverages, and dancing occur, and the name of God, as in &ldquo;Good God,&rdquo; &ldquo;My God,&rdquo; and &ldquo;O God,&rdquo; is used as an interjection. However, the facts that people prayed, trusted in God, and looked to His providence are also mentioned. And the idea of honor is quite strong. The plot may move a little too slowly and be a bit too complex for young children, but teens as young as thirteen and adults who like exotic adventure stories should enjoy it. I know that I did.

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  • Posted April 10, 2012

    good book

    if you enjoy the great game and great fictional history this is the book for you.

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  • Posted July 19, 2011

    Great Read!

    Excellent book! Highly recommended.

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  • Posted April 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Misleading

    Well, the summary on the back of the book makes it sound like an engaging tale of adventure. However, what we are not told is that all of the adventures are related by people thousands of miles away. Only within the last one-hundred pages or so does some adventure become a first hand account. There are some interesting points, but missing this book would not be a tragedy.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    "welcome back Muriel Graham's son with his honour redeemed and his great fault atoned"

    Harry Feversham was born June 15, 1855 in Broad Place, his ancestral home in Surrey, England. His Scottish mother Muriel nee Graham gave birth while on the same day in the Crimea his father was assaulting a Russian "Redan" or fortification before Sebastopol. It took 100,000 French and British lives to capture that fort.

    A. E. W. Mason's 1902 novel THE FOUR FEATHERS covers nearly thirty years in the life of Harry Feversham. We meet him in 1869, on the 14th anniversary of the attack on the Redan by Harry's father, now, in retirement, an Army general, like generations of Fevershams before him. For the first time young Harry, home from school, is invited to take part in this annual meeting of the thinning ranks of Crimean War veterans. General Feversham says this about Harry to his first guest to arrive, navy lieutenant Sutch: "He will, of course, enter the service, and he might learn something, perhaps, which afterwards will be of use -- one never knows." ***

    Sutch had known and admired Harry's now dead mother perhaps even longer than had Harry's father. When he meets her son, Lt. Sutch recognizes Muriel Graham: imagination, refinement of intellect, beauty of person. Absent in young Harry are his father's "personal courage and an indomitable self-confidence." Crippled in the attack on the Redan, Sutch had ever since made himself a thorough scholar of human nature. Sutch soon grasped that Harry's imagination made him powerfully forsee a military career in which fear would be his constant companion and cowardice in the face of the enemy a real likelihood. ***

    We next meet 27-year old Harry Feversham in London in 1882. With others of his India-based regiment he is on a long vacation. He has just become engaged to marry an enchanting 21-year old Irishwoman of County Donegal, Ethne Eustace. Attending a party in Harry's tenth storey London flat are three army friends, including his closest, Jack Durrance. They had been together at Oxford, had competed together in rowing. And both had loved Ethne Eustace. A mysterious telegram arrived during the party, from an absent regimental companion who was dining with a a high ranking person in the Foreign Office. That telegram, and especially, its timing, once it was pieced together, caused the three regimental companions to send Harry three feathers, accusing him of cowardice. ***

    Harry opens their package at Ethne's home and in her presence. She too over hastily concludes that her fiance is a coward. She breaks off the engagement. On the spot, however, Harry conceives a plan of redemption. A few days later he reveals it to Lt. Sutch: Harry will go to Sudan, where his old regiment has been deployed, and do such deeds of bravery as will compel his onetime friends to take back their feathers and carry them to Ethne in Ireland, where, Harry hopes, she too will take back the fourth feather she gave her lover. Lt. Sutch from then on lives only to "welcome back Muriel Graham's son with his honour redeemed and his great fault atoned" ***

    Six years later the story reaches its conclusion. This is not a story so much of external action as of internal growth, of sorrow for pain inflicted on others, on self-imposed labors, not far below the 12 of Hercules, to prove one's courage, redeem honor and to rekindle a lost love. As a novel of interior growth, THE FOUR FEATHERS has to rank as one of the great achievements of English literature. -OOO-

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2008

    A Great Read

    This book is outstanding. I could not put it down. The magnificent plot, interesting characters and dramatic scenes all add up to definite classic.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2008

    Fair

    Well written, poor storyline. Very interesting in some parts, though.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2006

    i cried from the middle on

    what a great story about friendship! After I saw the movie I went out and bought the book! It is a wonderful book as well! Highly recommended!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2005

    smashing

    great story in the tradition of stevenson. shows the better nature of men, if only in fiction. In the tried and true tradition of courage and honor.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2009

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