The Story of Lucy Gault
1 journaler for this copy...
********************************** ** SPOILER ALERT ** **********************************************
Until 1921 Captain Everard Gault, his wife Heloise, and daughter Lucy lived happily in their beautiful ancestral home of Lahardane. But the Troubles had begun in Ireland and one senses from the first page that their lives will be forever and tragically changed. Their dogs had been poisoned, and then an attempt was made to set fire to their home. In firing a warning shot, Gault unintentionally wounded one of the intruders. He visited the local priest as well as the boy's family to let it be known that no harm had been intended and to make amends, but to no avail. The Gaults feared retaliation, particularly Heloise since she was English. They decided to close up the house and leave for England. But nine-year-old Lucy was unhappy about this decision and refused to go. The night before their departure she ran away from home, childishly reasoning that once they found her they would decide to stay. Due to tragic chance she was presumed drowned, and no search of the countryside was made. Her disconsolate parents left but following this devastating loss England did not seem far enough away, and they fled to the continent breaking all contact with their past lives. Meanwhile, Lucy had injured her leg and nearly perished from exposure and hunger. She was found by Henry, the caretaker, and he and his wife Bridget nursed her back to health and determined to care for her until her parents' return. But all attempts to locate Everard and Heloise failed. Years passed, war intervened, and Lucy's life was left on hold. She would occasionally visit the village but never went into the nearest town. She isolated herself, waiting for her parents' return and their forgiveness. The family solicitor and an elderly Canon were her only visitors until a young man drove up accidentally one summer. Lucy and Ralph fell in love but Lucy did not feel worthy of love until she could be redeemed and forgiven her childish actions. She turned down Ralph's repeated proposals. He enlisted, and even after his safe return she could not bring herself to choose happiness for both of them. Eventually Ralph married. Thirty years after their departure, Everard returned alone, a widower. Heloise's will to live had not been strong enough for her to survive influenza. Lucy and her father were strangers to each other, and it appears that Lucy regretted not taking the chance for happiness when she had it. She wrote to Ralph, but, an honourable married man, he did not visit her. Another life was also affected by what had happened in 1921. The boy who had been wounded soon realized that had he and his mates successfully fired the house, a child would have died. He spent years seeking redemption and respite from his dreams, ultimately losing his sanity.
This short novel was beautifully written (as expected from this author), not overly sentimental although it was a powerful and unrelievingly sad story. I was overwhelmed by the characters' loneliness. The novel's only weakness is that it is somewhat hard to believe that Everard and Heloise would remain completely out of contact for so many years. Allowing for the time period, it would not have been easy to search for them in foreign countries but I expected that after a few years, they would initiate contact themselves and find out that their daughter was alive. I was able to suspend disbelief by reasoning that they had little family, an aunt on Heloise's side, and a brother stationed overseas on Everard's side, with whom they were not close. Also,they had appeared isolated right from the start of the novel; their protestant acquaintances had already left Ireland due to the Troubles. Everard did actually compose a few letters, but misguidedly supporting Heloise's apparent need to completely escape their past life, he was unable to bring himself to post them. In some ways, this loving couple were sufficient to each other. Their tragedy was that they moved on completely, whereas Lucy's tragedy was her inability to move on, spending a lonely life, wasting her years in waiting.