Deborah in Langdale Find!
This fictional story of two sisters, Deborah and Enid Machell, was written by E. M. Ward and published in 1933. The story begins in Folkstone where the two unmarried sisters are living with their aged uncle. Life is hard and when Deborah receives a letter telling her that she has inherited a house with a small income in Langdale they decide they must make the move north. They arrive at Thrang End late at night after a long, tiring journey from the south of England. They go to bed, "but not to sleep" for it is now that the landscape outside the house intrudes on them in the most alarming way. "Even Enid the tranquil lay, rigid with listening, afraid to turn so that either ear should be muffled in the pillow. To hear no sound was dreadful to them, and yet, if some sudden noise came, they felt, being so tired and still rather light-headed, as if they would at once die of fright". Living in the countryside we tend to forget how dark it is at night without street lights and how quiet it is without the sound of passing traffic but I'm sure today's city visitors to Cumbria still sometimes feel aware of the looming and rather menacing great outdoors outside their hotel bedroom windows.
Into their life at Thrang End comes an interesting cast of characters including David Chant who is an engineer working on the building of the new dam at Haweswater. (This links to Helen's blog about Sarah Hall's novel 'Haweswater'). Gradually Deborah starts to be swayed by the beauty of the landscape before her. "Langdale had gifts for Miss Machell: moments of exquisite delight when the lights of sunrise and sunset moved upon the fells; when in the twilight Elterwater shone silver through a network of leafless branches; when cloud shadows, blue as wood-smoke, lay on the slopes of Bowfell, and the murmur of the Langdale beck spoke of old, old things in the sunlit stillness of the valley bottom".
Meanwhile Enid sets her eye on Mr Clarence Baybutt, an older wealthier man, who can take her away from the wild landscape she has found so daunting and overwhelming at times. Deborah and David, after some misunderstandings, declare their love for each other and settle quite happily in Langdale where they feel such affinity with the magnificent country all around them.
Although this appears a rather light-hearted story the author conveys a real sense of place in her writing and the reader is treated to some wonderful descriptions of the towering landscape of the Langdale valley.
11 September 2009 from Mary Rossall
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