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Captivity   By: (1889-1960)

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CAPTIVITY

by

M. LEONORA EYLES

Author of Margaret Protests

1922

TO E. J. R S.

You have often said that you could never write a book. You have written this one just as surely as Beatrice wrote the Vita Nuova for Dante. Until I talked with you I did not know that our lives are the pathway for God's feet; I had not realized that Trinity of body, brain and spirit; and it had never come to me before how, for each other's sake, we must set a censor, very strong and austere, upon our secret thoughts. I have learnt these things from you; the gold of your thoughts has passed through the crucible of my experience to make a book. Perhaps a little of the gold has been left clinging to the crucible and for that I have to thank you, my dear.

Margaret Leonora Eyles.

Bexhill on Sea, 1st February, 1920.

"Man comes into life to seek and find his sufficient beauty, to serve it, to win and increase it, to fight for it; to face anything and dare anything for it, counting death as nothing so long as the dying eyes still turn to it. And fear and dulness and indolence and appetite which, indeed, are no more than fear's three crippled brothers who make ambushes and creep by night are against him, to delay him, to hold him off, to hamper and beguile and kill him in that quest."

H. G. Wells ("The History of Mr. Polly").

Captivity

CHAPTER I

As long as Marcella could remember, the old farm house had lain in shadows, without and within.

Behind it rose the great height of Ben Grief, with his gaunt face gashed here by glowering groups of conifers, there by burns that ran down to the River Nagar like tears down a wrinkled old face. Marcella had read in poetry books about burns that sang and laughing waters that clattered to the sea for all the world like happy children running home from school. But the waters on Ben Grief neither laughed nor sang. Sometimes they ran violently, as though Ben Grief were in a rage of passionate weeping; sometimes they went sullenly as though he sulked.

It was upon Ben Grief that Marcella looked when she went to bed at night and when she wakened in the morning in her little stark room at the back of the house. There was another window in the room from which she could have seen the sea, but Aunt Janet had had a great mahogany wardrobe placed right across it, and only the sound of the sea, creeping sometimes, lashing most often, came to her as she lay in bed, reminding her that the sea was there all the time.

In front of the house rose Lashnagar, the home of desolation, a billowing waste of sand rising to about a thousand feet at the crest. Curlews called and sea gulls screamed over Lashnagar; heather grew upon it, purple and olive green; fennel and cooch and henbane sprang side by side with dwarfed stink nettles, stunted by the salt sand in which they were rooted. But the soil was not deep enough for trees or bushes to take root.

In Marcella's lifetime men had been lost on Lashnagar, and sheep and dogs, adventuring too far, had never come back. Legend had it that hundreds of years ago Lashnagar had been a quiet little village nestling round Castle Lashcairn, the home of Marcella's folks. That was in the year before Flodden Field, a hot, dry time that began with Lady Day and lasted till the Feast of All Souls without rain or storm. In that hot summer a witch woman, very beautiful, had come to Lashnagar to win the soul of Andrew Lashcairn, winning with his soul his bed and his board. A wild wooing it was, and a wilder wedding. All the wooing had been done by the woman as was the way of the Lashcairn women ever afterwards in the dry heat of that unnatural summer when the sap dried in the trees and the marrow in men's bones, while the heated blood surged through their veins more quickly than ever before. On the Feast of All Souls, the wedding day, a copper sun rose in a sky of blood and lead, and all the folks of Lashnagar drank deeply to drive away impending horror... Continue reading book >>




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