Dynasty of Death: A Novel

Dynasty of Death: A Novel

by Taylor Caldwell


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504050999
Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media LLC
Publication date: 08/21/2018
Series: Barbours and Bouchards Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 904
Sales rank: 649,358
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 2.00(d)

About the Author

Taylor Caldwell (1900–1985) was one of the most prolific and widely read authors of the twentieth century. Born Janet Miriam Holland Taylor Caldwell in Manchester, England, she moved with her family to Buffalo, New York, in 1907. She started writing stories when she was eight years old and completed her first novel when she was twelve. Married at age eighteen, Caldwell worked as a stenographer and court reporter to help support her family and took college courses at night, earning a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Buffalo in 1931. She adopted the pen name Taylor Caldwell because legendary editor Maxwell Perkins thought her debut novel, Dynasty of Death (1938), would be better received if readers assumed it were written by a man. In a career that spanned five decades, Caldwell published forty novels, many of which were New York Times bestsellers. Her best-known works include the historical sagas The Sound of Thunder (1957), Testimony of Two Men (1968), Captains and the Kings (1972), and Ceremony of the Innocent (1976), and the spiritually themed novels The Listener (1960) and No One Hears But Him (1966). Dear and Glorious Physician (1958), a portrayal of the life of St. Luke, and Great Lion of God (1970), about the life of St. Paul, are among the bestselling religious novels of all time. Caldwell’s last novel, Answer as a Man (1981), hit the New York Times bestseller list before its official publication date. She died at her home in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1985.

To read more about the life and work of Taylor Caldwell, please visit www.taylorcaldwell.com.

Read an Excerpt

Dynasty of Death

A Novel

By Taylor Caldwell


Copyright © 1938 Charles Scribner's Sons
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-3903-1


The twilight was like deep pale water standing movelessly over the countryside and the long low hills. It was a medium that held everything motionless and transfixed, not a rigid motionlessness, but a sleeping quiescence, or as though all things had lost the robust body of the day and had become liquid and vaporous dreams, that, should the pale medium that held them be disturbed by even a ripple of air, they would blur together, dissolve, dissipate into silent and spreading rings of water.

There was no definite color in this silent and prolonged spring landscape. All was dim purple, shadowy grays merging into dim blacks, whites spectral and diffused. The meadows, covered by acres of tiny March daisies hugging the soil, were whitish and illusive with a rising mist. The purplish hills were scuttled out at the base by this mist, so that they seemed rather a long baseless ridge of dusky clouds against a western sky that was all dreamlike pale green, cold and unfading. Here and there a lone tree seemed to float on a lonely field, bending its new burden of leaves as if weighed down by a wind too heavy to move. Occasional fences were made of black cobwebs. Over everything was a profound yet vaporous melancholy, drenched by moisture.

The deep hollow lowing of cattle rolled across the meadows, not with she suddenness that attends a more pellucid air, but rather as though it were thunder starting almost inaudibly at a distance and increasing imperceptibly into an all-embracing and imminent sound. Across the meadows came the indistinguishable blur of their plodding forms, white and spotted, dogged and docile. Behind them tramped a buxom milkmaid, her heavy cloak blowing heavily about her, her head bare to the watery coolness of the twilight. Around her jumped a shaggy shepherd dog whose occasional barking sounded thin and unreal. As if their coming were a signal, sudden yellow lights glowed in the dusk, giving evidence of human habitations without making their outlines more distinct.

The cattle had reached a closed gate and milled together patiently, lowing more deeply. The milkmaid opened the gate; she had begun to whistle tonelessly between her teeth. The dog barked irately, dashed through the gate as it began to open. A little boy paused in the road beyond. The milkmaid peered at him.

"Be that you, Martin Barbour?" she called. The little boy politely pulled off his round black hat and quavered an answer. He came to the fence as though with great and fearful resolution, staring at the cattle which lumbered through the gate.

"Still afeared of the poor beasties, Martin?" asked the milkmaid in a jeering but kindly voice. She was an illiterate and buxom wench, but she was unusually shrewd and understanding. "And there he stands, every evenin' comin' from school," she would relate each night to her sister milkmaids, "and frightened to the little heart of him, but standin' like a sojer, he does, and watches the beasties go through glowerin'-like at him with their big eyes. Sort as if he were thrashin' himself inside for being afeared."

Martin clung to the fence, shivering all through his small thin body, but upon his white little face the expression of rigid resolution tightened to one of almost ascetic gauntness. He was terribly frightened; his cold hands sweated on the wet wood which he clutched; he felt his senses swimming and sinking, yet he did not move until the last cow ambled through the gate and started down the road to the barns. Then he stepped away from the fence, not sheepishly before the quizzical eyes of the milkmaid, but quietly and with dignity, as if she understood and had witnessed a scene of acknowledged heroism. As indeed she had.

He stood before her, smiling diffidently, shabby but neat in his tight black coat, country boots and round black hat. His hands were ungloved and raw with cold as they clutched a number of old books. There was about him an air of fear and shrinking, and a self-acknowledged, self-despising scorn of this fear and shrinking, and refusal to surrender to them. He smiled with gentle dignity and sweet pride at the milkmaid. "A perfect little gentleman," thought the girl, as she always thought when encountering Martin. "His folks ain't gentry, but then, he don't seem to belong to them." She beamed at him affectionately, as she dropped the wooden bar of the gate into place.

"Ain't you worritin' your Ma, stayin' out so late at school?" she asked.

"No. Ma knows where I am," he replied in his piping child's voice. He tugged his cap and started away, adding: "Good evening, Miss Susy."

She watched his small figure trudging steadily down the road until it was lost and enveloped in the gathering mist. She shook her head a little with a strange and primitive sensation of melancholy, and her preoccupied whistling, as she followed the cattle, was more tuneless than ever. It was as if she had seen a childish ghost, without a past and without a destination, coming from nothingness into a vague present, and going into nothingness.

Martin could hardly see the road before him as he went on, though long familiarity with it and his quickened breath told him that it was beginning to rise. He curved his footsteps to follow the curve he knew was there. The road was winding behind a very low hill hardly more than a rising of the ground. He lifted his small cold face, which was wet with the moisture of the air. The sky was clearing. Between thick and curdled clouds like heavy sea foam a star or two glittered, and the tops of distant hills appeared in the distance. And now a wind rose, weighted with salt coldness and freshness. The mist swirled and twisted over the meadows, became horsemen and charging hosts of spectral vapor sweeping along on an unearthly momentum without sound and without fury. There was something awful in this silent but actively moving panorama, something unconnected with mankind and the earth on which mankind breathed and lived warmly. Martin watched with fear. He hurried a little, involuntarily, then becoming conscious of his hurry deliberately slowed down, sick with fear and self-contempt. "Coward, coward," he said aloud and the sound was almost a whisper. If only someone living and real would come down the road! But no one came, for the cattle were all home from the fields and every man at his hearth. There were only silence and mist, the wet rutted road, the remote and bitter sky. His imagination, acute and terrified, found fresh terrors in the inchoate monsters drifting along on the road before him. His bemused thoughts blended with them, filled his mind with vast and terrible shadows. What, he thought dimly, if his body slowly dissolved so that he became part of the mist and the mist part of him, so that there was no beginning nor end to him, and he drifted away, losing the sharpness of his consciousness, became only a watery dream terrible but unreal? He saw himself peering into cottage windows with vague eyes, drifting by doors opening on golden firelight, forever barred from the warmth and closeness of life.

And so, as he walked, he was no longer a small and frightened boy hurrying safely home, but a universal and diffused agony, voiceless and drifting, its very lack of consciousness only increasing its pain.

The road was steadily rising and gradually the ghosts fell back and the air freshened and chilled. Martin had reached the crest of the rise. He had to pause, for his heart was thundering and laboring, and his breath was quick and short and full of terror. He looked below him. There was no mist, only a slight valley lying in its dim and friendly lights in a pellucid dark air, safe and reassuring. The lights blinked a little like signals, and a dog barked jovially to the right. Over the distant village the very sky was clearer, pointed with stars and trembling with a rising moon. Martin's breath slowed down, became less painful. He smiled a little, tremulously. Then, just before setting out down the road he glanced back over his shoulder down the way he had come.

There lay the mysterious hidden meadows with their cloudy ghosts and monstrous, silent terrors. He felt as one would feel coming out of death into life and security and robust sweetness.

And yet, as he trudged confidently toward the village of Reddish, his home, he felt, as he was to feel during all the course of his short life, that, though he walked and Lived in an apparently real and reassuring life with outline and noise and force, the vagueness and shapelessness and chaos of the Things outside life were the only reality, the only terror, the only eternity.


In 1837 the little village of Reddish, near Manchester, presented almost exactly the same appearance that it does today. It is true that there are a few more houses now, and the cotton mills are vaster and busier, and the narrow turning streets sometimes roar with motor cars and smell of exhaust and petrol, and the whine and screech and tinny voices of the wireless sometimes tear the sweet English twilight into quivering ribbons. There is a dance hall now on the spot where the Blue Boar Inn stood in 1837, and the weavers and spinners can bring their lady friends of a Saturday night and dance until midnight and after for twelve pence. But the dancing in the garish cheapness of the hall is very little different in point of gaiety and good spirits than it was almost a century ago, and the girls might have been the same girls who laughed from the windows of the Blue Boar at the coachman and the passengers of the London Stage as that loaded vehicle thundered into the cobbled yard. There are many houses still standing over a century old, lived in contentedly and comfortably, and the new houses, with the exception of some cheap and gaudy little villas beyond Sandy Lane, are built very much on the order of the old houses. The inhabitants plant slips of lilac bushes in their new yards, but the slips are from old bushes and the scent of wet lilacs has not changed. Sandy Lane has changed little, rising from the village and winding gently and drowsily toward the green and rounded hills. When it leaves the village environs it loses itself in pleasant meadows lying under gauzy sunshine, recovers itself as it dips downward to a little stream and crosses an old wooden bridge, pauses for four or five minutes beside sleepy woods, creeps in enchantment by the hawthorn hedges, stops for a space beside Mill Pond to watch the cattle standing in their own reflections under the willows, then gently expires once more into the meadows, never to recover itself again.

In this March twilight of 1837 little Martin Barbour felt that he was reaching security and reality as his feet trudged rapidly down Sandy Lane to the village. The wet trees overhead, just bursting into bud, dripped little cold pellets upon his head, stirred uneasily in a waking night wind. But the air was cool and fresh, not humid and dank as it had been on the meadows. The moon began to brighten as it rose over the fading dim green of the western sky, and suddenly, without warning, a bird cried out once, and then was still. But the sound was so piercingly sweet and poignant that Martin stopped abruptly and waited, tears gushing into his eyes. He waited for several moments, but the ecstatic cry was not repeated, and he went on.

Everything was still silent and hushed, but it was the safe and familiar hush of home. Sandy Lane suddenly made a deep curve about a low stone wall, and beyond the wall the deep green earth rose to a low whitestone house under its tremendous trees. Squire Broderick lived there. Martin hurried a little, for Squire Broderick possessed hounds that were none too friendly and bayed terrifyingly. Martin liked to look at the old houses, and regretted the hounds. Lamplight was beginning to shine from the deep old windows, and he could see the reflection of firelight. Someone must have thrown fresh coal on some of the fires for the great old chimney belched forth red sparks and gray smoke into the dusk. The air was so still that Martin could hear the neighing of the Squire's horses in their comfortable stables and the voices of the grooms. From an upper window came the thin and acrid wail of a baby, the Squire's youngest. The house and all its environs seemed wrapped in safety and peace and warmth and ancient steadfastness, English and immovable.

He passed the little Nonconformist church near, the roadway, shining palely in the last dusk. Behind the church were the broken rows of the gravestones, immobile and silent. Martin began to run, then made himself stop, shaking internally.

The dark low shapes of houses began to appear along the lane, the deep small windows burning with lamplight and firelight. Now the houses were side by side behind prim front gardens with little iron fences, and the smell of fires hung in the brightening air. He could hear the creaking of invisible pumps. The sky was swimming in moonlight, and dogs were barking. From the wet earth rose a passionate smell, humid and breeding. Martin inhaled that smell, and felt ecstasy.

Just before Sandy Lane ended abruptly at the Common, the Blue Boar Inn stood at a wide curve in the road, set under bent oak trees. Its casements stood open to the spring night, and through them Martin could see the beamed ceiling trembling redly in firelight, and grotesque black shadows bowing and moving along the dark walls. Laughter, hoarse voices, thumping of sticks, came from the taproom, and the shrill mirth of the barmaids in their white aprons and mob caps. Several horses were hitched up in front of the inn, and they bent their heads patiently, their breath steaming from their nostrils. From the stables behind the Inn came the shouts of grooms and stableboys, and the pungent smell of hay and manure. A maid had been drawing water from the well, and had been waylaid by a groom; they were embracing with singular candor in the shadow of the eaves near the kitchen windows. Someone in the inn began to sing; it was a man's rich voice, rollicking and pleasant, singing an old drinking song. Others picked it up, swelled it, filled it with joy and coarse joviality, until all the night, cool and dark and still, retreated before the living sound. Martin hesitated for a moment or two. Like most reserved and intensely contained people, he was fascinated by color and movement and splendid living and warmth, all those things that have nothing to do with thought and intellect, and the cold bitterness of the mind. Mentally, he stood outside these things, eternally an exile, like the ghosts he had imagined on the meadows, peering in at windows they could not enter, and mentally he suffered. He went on, reluctantly, the singing following him into the darkness.

The Common, which he was approaching, was an irregular oval. Three-quarters of its sides were filled with the crouching homes of workingmen. The dim lights in their windows were like the eyes of waiting wolves. The last quarter of the rim of the Common was occupied by the cotton mill, where most of the men, many of the women, and too many of the children worked. Over the Common, which was ill-kept and muddy and sunken and almost bare, and which during rains accumulated stagnant water, and over the drab old houses, hung an air stifled and gaunt and desolate. Over this place the moon was not so bright, and the earth was not breathing out its fertility. There was only the smell of ashes and decay and hunger and cold hearths and dust and boiling cabbage.

He passed behind the house, came to the third one. He opened the gate of the barren little yard, closed it. There was a light in the kitchen, and a reflection of firelight. He pushed open the kitchen door. His mother, her heavy woolen skirt pinned back over her red flannel petticoat, her black curls crisp and bright under the frills of her cotton mob cap, was bending over the fire. Her sleeves were rolled up, and showed her arms, strong, plump and white. The firelight, leaping, profiled a face vigorous and unsentimental, handsome with the hardy resolution of the peasant. She stirred something in an iron pot, then swung it back over the fire. A cradle stood to one side, bathed in firelight, and in it a baby held up its fat fingers to view them against the flame. The wooden floor was scrubbed and bare, and the fire danced on polished andirons and on the few strictly utilitarian pieces of furniture. On one side of the fire a large, serious-faced, apple-cheeked boy of thirteen or so sat upright on the settle, reading with an air of profound concentration. A little girl of perhaps five sat on the floor at his feet, playing with a cloth doll. The table, with its red cover, was set for the meal with thick plates and pewter utensils. The iron kettle was singing on the fire, the copper vessels hanging on the walls winked like struck gold in a sudden flare-up of flame.


Excerpted from Dynasty of Death by Taylor Caldwell. Copyright © 1938 Charles Scribner's Sons. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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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Dynasty of Death 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Made it to page 630 and finally gave up--TEDIOUS!!!