'Rebecca and the Angels' - Extract
An extract from Chapter 2 of ”Rebecca and the Angels”
Martha has had to put up with several personal tragedies, but she refuses to succumb to misery. She decides that she needs fresh air in her lungs, and that a visit to her secret cave is necessary…….
In the morning I woke early, while it was
still pitch black outside, and Liza was surprised to find me
up when she sidled in through my bedroom door with her basket
of kindling and small coals for the fire. “Good morning,
Mistress!” said she. “You look very sprightly this
morning, if I may say so.”
“I do not feel it, Liza, I can assure you,” I replied.
“In fact, I was up late and my sleep was somewhat disturbed.
But I do feel at ease with the world today, and I am minded
to climb up the mountain straight after breakfast.”
Liza looked amazed. “I do not advise it, Mistress,”
she said. “I have just walked up from the cottage, and
it is a horrid morning, with driving rain and low cloud. Even
when it is light, I swear that the summit will be invisible.”
“Do not try to change my course, Liza. I am set upon it,
and if I spread my arms wide, I will sail up the rocky slope
with a brisk following wind, and leave the rain behind.”
And so, with hot porridge in my stomach and stout boots on my
feet, and a felt hat strapped to my head, and Billy’s
old oilskins providing some little protection from the rain,
I headed out into the storm. As I climbed, of course I got very
wet indeed, but I felt a sort of exhilaration, and I was spurred
on by the thought that ahead of me was the warm dry sanctuary
of the cave. I passed St Brynach’s sacred spring, and
without thinking I anointed myself with a handful of its holy
water, just as I always do before tackling the last steep part
of the climb. Then my sombre mood gave way to laughter, as I
was struck by the absurdity of an anointment in weather such
as this, with water pouring out of the shredded cloud, sluicing
off my sodden hat and oilskins, and filling my clothes and my
boots. Thousands of gallons of it, straight from heaven. I was
still in good humour as I climbed up into the mist. I passed
between rock pillars and edged along rocky ledges, as I had
done hundreds of times before. Then I wound my way through the
last narrow crevices, passed the last fallen boulders, and saw
the entrance of my secret cave. Nobody else knows about it.
It belongs to me, as it once belonged to old Saint Brynach.
He came here to commune with his angels, as do I whenever I
Soon I was inside, and out of my boots and oilskins. Some years ago, when I slept in the cave occasionally, I carried up three sheepskins and a couple of thick woollen blankets, and I made the decision to leave them behind in case I should ever need them again. They were in the back corner of the cave, perfectly dry, and soon I was cuddled up snugly, as warm as a fluffy chick beneath the wing of a mother hen. Away from the wind and the rain, I found silence, although in truth it was quite noisy with the gale buffeting the rock surfaces outside and with the sound of running water echoing around me.