“The House of the Deer” is the sequel to “Gerald and Elizabeth”, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Gerald’s sister Bess, the famous actress, is now married to the shipyard owner, Walter McCallum. Hired by his new brother-in-law to help with security, Gerald begins to regain his confidence and we follow his adventures in this story set in Scotland. Gerald joins a house party in the north, hosted by the MacAslan family, to stalk deer. Lots in here about hunting and conservation that I hadn’t known!
“A certain number of deer must be killed every year to prevent the herd from increasing.’
‘But why don’t they want their herd to increase?’ asked Gerald in bewilderment.
‘Because there’s only a limited supply of food for them… In Scotland the forests have no roads or tracks; there are mountain and moors and bogs. As a matter of fact MacAslan said he was going to try feeding the stags this year as an experiment…”
One member of the party is particularly offensive and jeers at Gerald’s story of shooting lions in Africa but he eventually gets his comeuppance (DE Stevenson always satisfactorily ties up all the loose ends in her stories!)
“…Oliver leaned forward and burst out: ‘Mac, listen to me! There’s something wrong about that fellow!’
‘Something wrong? Do you mean he’s not well?’
“No, I don’t mean that at all. I mean there’s something fishy about him. He isn’t straight.”
This book was not sophisticated or especially clever, but it was enjoyable nonetheless! I was anxious to follow Gerald’s story and find out if his name is ever cleared from the first book. I really appreciated Gerald’s character in this story as the author contrasts him with the indulged and selfish Oliver Stoddart, a friend of the MacAslan family.
The author gives us a window into Oliver’s private thoughts: “Phil was a sensible girl and would realise her good fortune in having attracted such an eligible suitor as Oliver Stoddart.”
Gerald has no pretensions. How many of us would bluff our way through a talent or skill that we were lacking in? but not Gerald Burleigh Brown.
“I’ve never shot deer,’ said Gerald. ‘I know nothing about stalking but Sir Walter said you would be able to teach me. You’ll find me very ignorant, I’m afraid’….
“I’ve never done any stalking,’ Gerald added. ‘I expect you’ve realized that I know nothing about it.’
Mac had. He said rather anxiously, ‘Sir Walter said you could shoot?’
‘I’ve shot lions,’ admitted Gerald. ‘But that’s different, of course.’
Besides the intrigue of the story, there is the scenery of Scotland and, as always in Stevenson’s books, a satisfying romance.