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Boyhood, Poachers

A boy, age eleven or twelve, travels with his uncle by horse cart to the garden of an eccentric old lady, where each year they pick fruit. In the course of the outing, the boy becomes enamored of a young girl, meets a darkly cunning and cynical poacher, and picks a forbidden apricot as a gift for the girl. His hopes to deliver the gift are dashed by his uncle's need to get home, and he is thrust into first reflections on pleasure, pain, and life itself.

The story is based very closely on trips Bates took with his grandfather George Lucas to nearby Stanwick (depicted in The Vanished World, pp. 85-97, in the essay "Victorian Garden" in In the Heart of the Country, and in a column Bates wrote for the Kettering Reminder.). Bates would return to the characters of Alexander and Uncle Bishop, as well as similar themes of boyhood, in the 1934 story "Harvest Moon" and the 1939 tale "The White Pony." Most of the reviews of Seven Tales and Alexander (attached) gave special attention to the title tale.

L.P. Hartley, in the Saturday Evening Post, wrote that Bates 'is especially successful in portraying the minds of children. All the adventures that befall the little boy during his country ride with his uncle are touched with magic; they are realized intensely but partially, in the manner of childhood. Mr. Bates could not have chosen a theme...better suited to his talents' (complete review attached to entry for Seven Tales and Alexander).

A holograph manuscript of four chapters is held in the Senate House Library archives at the University of London (https://archives.libraries.lon...). Another manuscript is in the collection of the Lilly Library, Indiana University, USA. (

In Seven Tales and Alexander (1929), Thirty Tales (1934), Twenty Tales (1951). Reprinted in Modern Short Stories (1939).