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Editorial Reviews. Review. Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain wants to I Capture the Castle - Kindle edition by Dodie Smith. Download it. Book [PDF] I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith Book Summary: One of the 20th Century's most beloved novels is still winning hearts! I Capture the Castle tells. I capture the castle by Dodie Smith, , Little, Brown edition, in English - [1st ed.].

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I CAPTURE THE CASTLE by Dodie Smith Also by Dodie Smith The Hundred and One Dalmatians The Starlight Barking I CAPTURE Author: Smith Dodie. I CAPTURE THE CASTLE by Dodie Smith Also by Dodie Smith The Hundred and One Dalmatians The Starlight Barking I CAPTURE T. Smith Dodie echecs16.infoioned: echecs16.infope: application/pdf I Capture The Castle.

Plot[ edit ] The novel takes place between April and October in a single year in the s. The Mortmain family is genteel, poor, and eccentric. Cassandra's father is a writer suffering from writer's block who has not published anything since his first book, Jacob Wrestling a reference to Jacob wrestling with the angel , an innovative and "difficult" modernist novel that sold well and made his name, including in the United States. Ten years before the novel begins he took out a forty-year lease on a dilapidated but beautiful castle, hoping to find either inspiration or isolation there. Now his family is selling off the furniture to download food. The widowed Mortmain's second wife, Topaz, is a beautiful artist's model who enjoys communing with nature, sometimes wearing nothing but hip boots.

Rose and I went back to the car with her, but Father wandered round until it was dark. I remember seeing him come out on the castle walls near the gatehouse -and marveling that I had been up there myself. Even in the dusk I could see his gold hair and splendid profile. He was spare in those days, but broad-always a large person. He was so excited that he started to drive back to King's Crypt at a terrific pace -Rose, Thomas and I simply bounced about at the back of the car.

Mother said it wasn't safe with the roads so narrow and he slowed down to a snail's pace which made Rose and me laugh a lot. Mother said: The next day, after making enquiries, Father went over to Scoatney Hall. When he got back he told us that Mr. Cotton wouldn't sell the castle, but had let him have a forty years" lease on it. There were many more things he meant to do, particularly as regards comfort--I know Mother wanted some central heating and a machine to make electric light; but he spent so much on antique furniture even before work at the castle began that she persuaded him to cut things down to a minimum.

There was always a vague idea that the useful things were to come later; probably when he wrote his next book. It was spring when we moved in. I particularly remember the afternoon we first got the drawing-room straight.

Everything was so fresh- the flowered chintz curtains, the beautiful shining old furniture, the white paneling--it had had to be painted because it was in such a poor condition. I was fascinated by a great jar of young green beech leaves; I sat on the floor staring at them while Rose played her piece "To a Water Lily" on Mother's old grand piano. Suddenly Father came in, in a very exulting mood, to tell us that there was a surprise for us outside the window.

He flung the mullioned windows open wide and there on the moat were two swans, sailing sedately. We leaned out to feed them with bread and all the time the spring air blew in and stirred the beech leaves. Then I went into the garden, where the lawns had been cut and the flower-beds tidied; there were a lot of early wallflowers which smelt very sweet.

Father was arranging his books up in the gatehouse room. He called down: But anyone who could enjoy the winter here would find the North Pole stuffy. How strange memory is! When I close my eyes, I see three different castles--one in the sunset light of that first evening, one all fresh and clean as in our early days here, one as it is now.

The last picture is very sad because all our good furniture has gone-the dining-room hasn't so much as a carpet; not that we have missed that room much--it was the first one we saw that night we explored the house and was always too far from the kitchen. The drawing-room has a few chairs still and, thank goodness, no one will ever download the piano because it is so big and old. But the pretty chintz curtains are faded and everything has a neglected look.

When the spring comes we must really try to freshen up our home a little-at least we can still have beech leaves. We have been poor for five years now; after Mother died, I fear we lived on the capital of the money she left. Not that I ever worried about such things at the time because I always felt sure Father would make money again sooner or later.

Mother brought us up to believe that he was a genius and that geniuses mustn't he hurried. What is the matter with him his And what does he do all the time his I wrote yesterday that he does nothing but read detective novels, hut that was just a silly generalization, because Miss Marcy can seldom let him have more than two a week although he will read the same ones again and again after a certain lapse of time, which seems to me amazing.

Of course he reads other books, too. All our valuable ones have been sold and how I have missed them! And I am sure he thinks very hard. Several times when he hasn't answered my knock on the gatehouse room door I have gone in and found him staring into space. In the good weather he walks a lot, but he hasn't now for months.

He has dropped all his London friends. The only friend he has ever made down here is the Vicar, who is the nicest man imaginable; a bachelor with an elderly housekeeper. Now I come to think of it, Father has dodged seeing even him this winter.

Father's un sociability has made it hard for any of us to get to know people here--and there aren't many to know. The village is tiny: It is a very pretty village and has the unlikely name of Godsend, a corruption of Godys End, after the Norman knight, Etienne de Godys, who built Belmotte Castle. Our castle--I mean the moated one, on to which our house is built- is called Godsend, too; it was built by a later de Godys.

No one really knows the origin of the name "Belmotte"-the whole mound, as well as the tower on it, is called that. At a guess one would say the "Bel" is from the French, but the Vicar believes in a theory that it is from Bel the sun god whose worship was introduced by the Phoenicians, and that the mound was raised so that Midsummer Eve votive fires could be lit there; he thinks the Normans simply made use of it.

Father doesn't believe in the god Bel theory and says the Phoenicians worshipped the stars, not the sun. Anyway, the mound is a very good place to worship both sun and stars from. I do a little worshipping there myself when I get time. I meant to copy an essay on castles I wrote for the school History Society into this journal, but I find it is very long and horridly overwritten how the school must have suffered , so I shall paraphrase it briefly: CASTLES In early Norman times, there seem to have been mounds with ditches and wooden stockades as de fences Inside the de fences were wooden buildings, and sometimes there was a high earthen motte to serve as a lookout place.

The later Normans began building great square stone towers called keeps , but it was found possible to mine the corners of these- mining was just digging then, of course, not the use of explosives --so they took to building round towers, of which Belmotte is one.

Later, the tower-keeps were surrounded with high walls, called curtain walls. These were often built in quadrangle form with jutting towers at the gatehouse, the corners and in the middle of each side so that the defenders could see any besiegers who were trying to mine or scale the walls, and fight them off. But the besiegers had plenty of other good tricks, notably a weapon called a trebuchet which could sling great rocks- or a dead horse--over your curtain walls, causing much embarrassment.

Eventually, someone thought of putting moats round curtain walls. Of course, the moated castles had to be on level ground; Belmotte tower-keep, up on its mound, must have been very much of a back number when Godsend Castle was built.

And then all castles gradually became back numbers and Cromwell's Roundheads battered two-and-a-half sides of our curtain walls down. Long before that, the de Godys name had died out and the two castles had passed to the Cottons of Scoatney, through a daughter. The house built on the ruins was their dower house for a time, then it became just a farm-house. And now it isn't even that; merely the home of the ruined Mortmains.

Oh, what are we to do for money his Surely there is enough intelligence among us to earn some, or marry some-Rose, that is; for I would approach matrimony as cheerfully as I would the tomb and I cannot feel that I should give satisfaction. But how is Rose to meet anyone his We used to go to London every year to stay with Father's aunt, who has a house in Chelsea with a lily-pool and collects artists.

Father met Topaz there--Aunt Millicent never forgave him marrying her, so now we don't get asked any more; this is bitter because it means we meet no men at all, not even artists. Oh, me! I am feeling low in spirits. While I have been writing I have lived in the past, the light of it has been all around me-first the golden light of autumn, then the silver light of spring and then the strange light, gray but exciting, in which I see the historic past.

But now I have come back to earth and rain is beating on the attic window, an icy draught is blowing up the staircase and About has gone downstairs and left my stomach cold. Heavens, how it is coming down! The rain is like a diagonal veil across Belmotte. Rain or shine, Belmotte always looks lovely. I wish it were Midsummer Eve and I were lighting my votive fire on the mound. There is a bubbling noise in the cistern which means that Stephen is pumping. Oh, joyous thought, tonight is my bath night!

And if Stephen is in, it must be tea-time. I shall go down and be very kind to everyone. Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression. IV Little did I think what the evening was to bring-something has actually happened to us! My imagination longs to dash ahead and plan developments; but I have noticed that when things happen in one's imaginings, they never happen in one's life, so I am curbing myself. Instead of indulging in riotous hopes I shall describe the evening from the beginning, quietly gloating- for now every moment seems exciting because of what came later.

I have sought refuge in our barn. As a result of what happened last night, Rose and Topaz are spring-cleaning the drawing-room. The morning is blithe too, warmer, with the sun shining, though the countryside is still half-drowned. The barn--we rent it to Mr. Stebbins but we owe him so much for milk and butter that he no longer pays--is piled high with loose chaff and I have climbed up on it and opened the square door near the roof so that I can see out.

I look across stubble and ploughed fields and drenched winter wheat to the village, where the smoke from the chimneys is going straight up in the still air. Everything is pale gold and washed clean, and hopeful. When I came down from the attic yesterday, I found that Rose and Topaz had dyed everything they could lay hands on, including the dishcloth and the roller towel.

Once I had dipped my handkerchief into the big tin bath of green dye, I got fascinated too-it really makes one feel rather Godlike to turn things a different color. I did both my nightgowns and then we all did Topaz's sheets which was such an undertaking that it exhausted our lust. Father came down for tea and was not too pleased that Topaz had dyed his yellow cardigan--it is now the color of very old moss. And he thought our arms being green up to the elbows was revolting. We had real butter for tea because Mr.

Stebbins gave Stephen some when he went over to fix about working he started at the farm this morning ; and Mrs. Stebbins had sent a comb of honey. Stephen put them down in my place so I felt like a hostess. I shouldn't think even millionaires could eat anything nicer than new bread and real butter and honey for tea.

I have rarely heard such rain as there was during the meal. I am never happy when the elements go to extremes; I don't think I am frightened, but I imagine the poor countryside being battered until I end by feeling battered myself. Rose is just the opposite--it is as if she is egging the weather on, wanting louder claps of thunder and positively encouraging forked lightning. She went to the door while it was raining and reported that the garden was completely flooded.

Father said: I told him the two attic leaks had started before I came down but there were buckets under them. He went to see if they were overflowing and returned to say that there were four more leaks. We had run out of buckets so he collected three saucepans and the soup-tureen. He took a book and some candle-ends and I thought how gloomy it would be for him reading poetry in the middle of six drips.

We washed the tea-things; then Rose and Topaz went to the wash-house to shake out the dyed sheets. Father stayed by the fire, waiting for the rain to stop before going back to the gatehouse. He sat very still, just staring in front of him. It struck me how completely out of touch with him I am. I went over and sat on the fender and talked about the weather; and then realized that I was making conversation as if to a stranger.

It depressed me so much that I couldn't think of anything more to say.

After a few minutes' silence, he said: I said that of course I did, though the poems were embarrassing. And be very matter of fact with him, my child--even a bit on the brisk side.

And you know how fond of me he's always been. Of course, he's a godlike youth. I'm rather glad he's not devoted to Rose," I must have been looking very much puzzled. He smiled and went on: You've so much common sense you'll probably do the right thing instinctively. It's no use telling Topaz to advise you because she'd think it all very splendid and natural--and for all I know, it might be. God knows what's to become of you girls.

And I wonder if it is really necessary--surely Stephen's devotion isn't anything serious or grown-up? But now that the idea has been put into my head, I keep remembering how queer his voice sounded when he asked me about being hungry. It is worrying--but rather exciting.. I shall stop thinking about it; such things are not in my line at all.

They are very much in Rose's line and I know just what Father meant when he said he was glad Stephen wasn't devoted to her. Topaz came from the wash-house and set irons to heat, so Father changed the subject by asking me if I'd dyed all my clothes green.

I said I had few to dye. I felt my lack of clothes was a reflection on Father and, in an effort to talk of something else, said the most tactless thing possible.

A closed-up look came over his face and he said shortly: You won't get any coming-out dresses from my earnings. I could have kicked myself for wrecking the first talk we'd had for months.

Thomas came in just then, wet through. I warned him not to use Father's bedroom as a passage, as we usually do, and he went up the front way. I took him some dry underclothes--fortunately the week's ironing was done--and then went up to see how Stephen was getting on.

He had stuck the candle-ends on the floor, close to his open book, and was reading lying on his stomach. His face was dazzlingly bright in the great dark attic -- I stood a moment watching his lips moving before he heard me. The saucepans were on the point of overflowing.

As I helped him to empty them out of the window I saw that the lamp was lit in the gatehouse, so Father must have gone back there through the rain. It was slackening off at last. The air smelt very fresh. I leaned out over the garden and found it was much warmer than indoors--it always takes our house a while to realize a change in the weather. We stood sniffing the air. The candle-ends on the floor cast the strangest shadows and made him seem enormously tall. I remembered what Father had said about his being a godlike youth; and then I remembered that I had not remembered to be brisk.

We went back to the kitchen and I got Thomas some food. Topaz was ironing her silk tea-gown, which looked wonderful-it had been a faded blue, but had dyed a queer sea-green color.

I think the sight of it made Rose extra gloomy. She was starting to iron a cotton frock that hadn't dyed any too well. Then she threw her head back, opened her arms wide and took a giant breath.

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I quite expected her to plunge into the night, but after some more deep breathing she went upstairs to try on her tea-gown. She slammed the door and said: We can at least get a laugh out of Topaz, but you're just monotonously grim.

I haven't any clothes, I haven't any prospects. I live in a moldering ruin and I've nothing to look forward to but old age. Rose had the sense to laugh a little herself. She came and sat on the table, looking a bit less glowering. Do they still believe in the Devil there? I'll sell him my soul like Faust did. Although she was so desperate, she was--well, more playful than I had seen her for a long time and I wanted to encourage her.

What we call our gargoyle is really just a carved stone head high above the kitchen fireplace. Father thinks the castle chapel was up there, because there are some bits of fluted stonework and a niche that might have been for holy water. The old wall has been white washed so often that the outlines are blurred now. The rack was pulled up high with the dyed sheets on it.

Rose told Stephen to let it down, but he looked at me to see if I wanted him to. She frowned and went to the pulley herself. I said: Thomas held the rope while she sat on the middle of the rack and tested its strength. I don't know about the rope and pulleys. I knew from the look in her eye and her deep flush that it wasn't any use trying to dissuade her.

We bounced about a bit and then she said: Pull me up. Anyway, it's you who want to wish on the angel, not Miss Cassandra. She sat swinging her legs a minute, then looked round at us all. She said: Haul me up. When she was about ten feet from the floor, I asked them to stop a minute.

Go on, boys. The carved head must be over twenty feet up and as she rose higher and higher I had an awful feeling in my stomach--I don't think I had realized until then how very dangerous it was. When she was within a few feet of the head, Stephen called up: Then she called down: The lamp on the table didn't throw much light up there, but it looked terribly dangerous to me. The backs of my legs as well as my stomach were most uncomfortable. She only had to take one step up the wall to reach the head.

I got the lamp and held it high, but it was still shadowy up there. She looked extraordinary, almost as if she were flying up the wall or had been painted on it. I called out: Heavenly devil or devilish saint, Grant our vish, hear our plaint. Godsend Castle a godsend craves-and then I got stuck. Just then a car on the Godsend road hooted loudly and he added: For one awful second I feared the boys might not be expecting the strain, but they were ready and lowered her carefully.

As soon as her feet were near the ground she jumped off and sat down on the floor. That is one great difference between us: I would have had any number of feelings and have wanted to remember them all; she would just be thinking of wishing on the stone head. She laughed. She said her dyed tea-gown had shrunk so much that she couldn't breathe in it and Rose could have it.

Then she strode out, leaving the door wide open. Thomas went to do his homework in his room, so I thought I might as well start my bath and asked Stephen if he minded me having it in the kitchen; I generally do have it there but, as it means he has to keep out of the way for a good long time, I always feel apologetic. He tactfully said he had a job to do in the barn and that he would help me get the bath ready. We emptied it and Stephen swilled it out.

I decided I would rather risk the dye. We carried the bath to the fire and Stephen baled hot water from the copper and helped me to make a screen of clothes-horses with the green sheets on- as a rule, I use dust-sheets for this.

As our clothes-horses are fully five feet high, I always have a most respectable and private bath, but I do feel more comfortable if I have the whole kitchen to myself.

I told him Vol. I like plenty of choice in my bath. Stephen set them all out for me while I collected my washing things. And then, after he had lit his lantern to go to the barn, he suddenly presented me with a whole twopenny bar of nut-milk chocolate.

He explained that he had got it on credit, on the strength of having a job. What with books and chocolate, there's not much else you could have in it, is there his Except, perhaps, a wireless.

But he wouldn't take any and went off to the barn. I was just getting into the bath when Heloise whined at the back door and had to be let in.

Of course she wanted to come to the fire, which was a slight bore as she is no asset to a bath -her loving paws are apt to scrape one painfully. However, she seemed sleepy and we settled down amicably. It was wonderfully cozy inside my tall, draught-proof screen; and the rosy glow from the fire turned the green sheets to a fascinating color. I had the brain wave of sitting on our largest dinner-dish to avoid the dye; the gravy runnels were a bit uncomfortable, though. I believe it is customary to get one's washing over first in baths and bask afterwards; personally, I bask first.

I have discovered that the first few minutes are the best and not to be wasted-my brain always seethes with ideas and life suddenly looks much better than it did.

Father says hot water can be as stimulating as an alcoholic drink and though I never come by one--unless the medicine-bottle of port that the Vicar gives me for my Midsummer rites counts-I can well believe it. So I bask first, wash second and then read as long as the hot water holds out.

The last stage of a bath, when the water is cooling and there is nothing to look forward to, can be pretty disillusioning. I expect alcohol works much the same way. This time I spent my basking in thinking about the family and it is a tribute to hot water that I could think about them and still bask. For surely we are a sorry lot: Father moldering in the gatehouse, Rose raging at life, Thomas- well, he is a cheerful boy but one cannot but know that he is perpetually underfed.

Topaz is certainly the happiest for she still thinks it's romantic to be married to Father and live in a castle; and her painting, her lute and her wild communing with nature are a great comfort to her. I would have taken a bet that she had nothing whatever on under her oilskins and that she intended to stride up the mound and then fling them off. After being an artists' model for so many years, she has no particular interest in Nudism for its own sake, but she has a passion for getting into closest contact with the elements.

This once caused quite a little embarrassment with Four Stones Farm so she undertook only to go nude by night. Of course, winter is closed season for nudity, but she is wonderfully impervious to cold and I felt sure the hint of spring in the air would have fetched her. Though it was warmer, it was still far from warm, and the thought of her up on Belmotte made my bath more comfortable than ever.

I ate half my chocolate and meant to offer the rest to Rose, but Heloise was lashing her tail so hopefully that I shared with her instead and her gratitude was so intense that I feared she might get in the bath with me.

I calmed her, discouraged her from licking the soap and had just started serious washing when there was a thump on the door. I still can't imagine what made me call out: I had just covered my face with soap, which always makes one feel rather helpless, and when I rashly opened my eyes, the soap got into them; I was blindly groping for the towel when I heard the door open. Heloise let forth a volley of barks and hurtled towards it--it was a miracle she didn't knock the clothes horses over.

The next few seconds were pandemonium with Hcl barking her hardest and two men trying to soothe her. I didn't call her off because I know she never bites anyone and I hated the idea of explaining I was in the bath--particularly as I hadn't even a towel to wrap around me; I had blinked my eyes open by then and realized I must have left it somewhere in the kitchen. Mercifully, Heloise quietened down after a minute or so. It was a pleasant voice, like the nice people in American films, not the gangsters.

He called out: It's magnificent. It didn't sound English but it didn't sound American either, yet it certainly had no foreign accent. It was a most unusual voice, very quiet and very interesting. This was not a happy moment as I thought he would come to look at the fireplace wall, but just then Thomas came out on the staircase.

The men explained that they had turned down our lane by accident and their car was stuck in the mud. They wanted help to get it out. But the other man began talking about how stuck the car was and asking if we had horses to pull it out, and in a minute or so Thomas went off with them. I heard the door slam and heaved a sigh of relief.

But I did feel a little flat; it was dull to think I had never even seen the men and never would. I tried to imagine faces to go with the voices--then suddenly realized that the water was cooling and I had barely begun washing.

I got to work at last, but scrub as I might, I couldn't make any impression on my green-dyed arms. I am a thorough washer and by the time I had finished, my mind was completely off the men. I hopped out and got another can hot water from the copper, which is close to the fire, and was just settling down to read when I heard the door open again.

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Someone came into the kitchen and I was sure it wasn't any of the family--they would have called out to me or at least made a lot more noise. I could feel someone just standing and staring. After a moment I couldn't bear it any longer so I yelled out: I've never seen anything like this place. I had mopped my face and neck on the drying sheets and still hadn't taken the cold walk to find the towel.

I asked him if he could see it anywhere but he didn't seem able to, so I knelt in the bath, parted the green sheets and put my head through. He turned towards me. Seldom have I felt more astonished. He had a black beard. I have never known anyone with a beard except an old man in the Scoatney almshouses who looks like Santa Claus. This beard wasn't like that; it was trim and pointed--rather Elizabethan. But it was very surprising because his voice had sounded quite young.

He found my towel and started to bring it over; then stopped and said: I'll put it down where you can reach it, and go right back to the yard. Won't you sit down his I'm sure I've no desire to appear inhospitable"--and that struck me as the most pompous speech of my life. I began to put one arm through the sheets for the towel.

I grabbed the towel from it and was just going to ask him to bring my clothes, too, when the door opened again. I shone my flashlight up at that tower on the hill and a white figure flitted behind it. But gosh, maybe I am going crazy- it didn't seem to have any legs. The bearded man came over with my clothes. It came out much higher than when I had been kneeling in the bath and he looked most astonished. As I took the clothes, I caught sight of the other man.

He had just the sort of face to go with his voice, a nice, fresh face. The odd thing was that I felt I knew it. I have since decided this was because there are often young men like him in American pictures--not the hero, but the heroine's brother or men on petrol stations. He caught my eye and said: Tell me some more about your legless stepmother-and the rest of your family. Have you a sister who plays the harp on horseback, or anything?

The young man began to laugh. A castle, a lute- his And then Rose came out on to the staircase. She was wearing the dyed-green tea-gown, which is mediaeval in shape with long flowing sleeves. She obviously didn't know that there were strangers in the house for she called out: For once Topaz had her lute in tune.

And she was, most appropriately, playing "Green Sleeves. Up on the chaff in the barn again. I had to leave Rose stranded at the top of the stairs because Topaz was ringing the lunch bell.

She had been too busy to cook, so we had cold Brussels sprouts and cold boiled rice -hardly my favorite food but splendidly filling. We ate in the drawing-room, which has been cleaned within an inch of its life. In spite of a log fire, it was icy in there; I have noticed that rooms which are extra clean feel extra cold. Rose and Topaz are now out searching the hedges for something to put in the big Devon pitchers.

Topaz says that if they don't find anything she will get bare branches and tie something amusing to them- if so, I bet it doesn't amuse me; one would think that a girl who appreciates nudity as Topaz does would let a bare branch stay bare.

None of us is admitting that we expect the Cottons to call very soon, but we are all hoping it like mad. For that is who the two men were, of course: I can't think why I didn't guess it at once, for I did know that the estate had passed to an American.

Old Mr. Cotton's youngest son went to the States back in the early nineteen hundreds- after some big family row, I believe- and later became an American citizen. Of course, there didn't seem any likelihood of his inheriting Scoatney then, but two elder brothers were killed in the war and the other, with his only son, died about twelve years ago, in a car smash.

After that, the American son tried to make it up with his Father, but the old man wouldn't see him unless he undertook to become English again, which he wouldn't. He died about a year ago; these two young men are his sons. Simon--he is the one with the beard--said last night that he had just persuaded his grandfather to receive him when poor lonely old Mr.

Cotton died, which seems very sad indeed. The younger son's name is Neil, and the reason he sounds so different from his brother is that he was brought up in California where his Father had a ranch, while Simon lived in Boston and New York with the Mother. Cotton is in London now and is coming down to Scoatney soon.

Father says Simon's accent is American and that there are as many different accents in America as there are in England-more, in fact.

He says that Simon speaks particularly good English, but of an earlier kind than is now fashionable here. Certainly he has a fascinating voice--though I think I like the younger brother best.

It is a pity that Simon is the heir, because Rose thinks the beard is disgusting; but perhaps we can get it off. Am I really admitting that my sister is determined to marry a man she has only seen once and doesn't much like the look of? It is half real and half pretence -and I have an idea that it is a game most girls play when they meet any eligible young men. They just.. And if any family ever had need of wondering, it is ours.

But only as regards Rose.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith | Book Club Discussion Questions |

I have asked myself if I am doing any personal wondering and in my deepest heart I am not. I would rather die than marry either of those quite nice men.

I'd rather marry both of them than die. But it has come to me, sitting here in the barn feeling very full of cold rice, that there is something revolting about the way girls' minds so often jump to marriage long before they jump to love. And most of those minds are shut to what marriage really means. Now I come to think of it, I am judging from books mostly, for I don't know any girls except Rose and Topaz.

But some characters in books are very real --Jane Austen's are; and I know those five Bennets at the opening of Pride and Prejudice, simply waiting to raven the young men at Netherfield Park, are not giving one thought to the real facts of marriage.

I wonder if Rose is? I must certainly try to make her before she gets involved in anything. Fortunately, I am not ignorant in such matters- no stepchild of Topaz's could be. I know all about the facts of life.

And I don't think much of them. It was a wonderful moment when Rose stood there at the top of the stairs.

It made me think of Beatrix in Esmond--but Beatrix didn't trip over her dress three stairs from the bottom and have to clutch at the banisters with a green-dyed hand.

But it all turned out for the best because Rose had gone self-conscious when she saw the Cottons--I could tell that by the way she was sailing down, graceful but affected. When she tripped, Neil Cotton dashed forward to help her and then everyone laughed and started talking at once, so she forgot her self-consciousness. I said I didn't think any food could give offence in our house and she said: "Oh, dear! I wanted to get back to the fire so I just said yes; but it wasn't true.

I am never used to the beauty of the castle. And after she and Stephen had gone I realized it was looking particularly lovely. It was a queer sort of night. The full moon was hidden by clouds but had turned them silver so that the sky was quite light. Belmotte Tower, high on its mound, seemed even taller than usual. Once I really looked at the sky, I wanted to go on looking; it seemed to draw me towards it and make me listen hard, though there was nothing to listen to, not so much as a twig was stirring.

When Stephen came back I was still gazing upwards. But I had forgotten about feeling cold, so of course I wasn't cold any more. As we walked back to the house he asked if I thought La Belle Dame sans Merci would have lived in a tower like Belmotte.

I said it seemed very likely; though I never really thought of her having a home life. After that, we all decided to go to bed to save making up the fire, so we got our hot bricks out of the oven and wended our ways. But going to bed early is hard on candles.

I reckoned I had two hours of light in mine, but a bit of wick fell in and now it is a melted mass. I wonder how King Alfred got on with his clock-candles when that happened. I have called Thomas to see if I can have his, but he is still doing his homework. I shall have to go to the kitchen-- I have a secret cache of ends there.

And I will be noble and have a companionable chat with Topaz, on the way down. I am back. Something rather surprising happened. When I got to the kitchen, Heloise woke and barked and Stephen came to his door to see what was the matter. I called out that it was only me and he dived back into his room.

I found my candle-end and had just knelt down by Heloise's basket to have a few words with her she had a particularly nice warm-clean-dog smell after being asleep when out he came again, wearing his coat over his nightshirt. I groped my way across the kitchen and humped into the table. Then Stephen took my arm and guided me to the foot of the stairs. He still kept hold of my arm. So I said: "Well, there generally is something or other, isn't there his Of course, it would be nicer to have lots of exciting food, but I do get enough.

Why did you suddenly want to know? Good night, Miss Cassandra. It was rather a dreadful thought but somehow comforting. Father was just arriving from the gatehouse. He didn't show any signs of having had his feelings hurt.

He remarked that he'd kept four chapters of his book to read in bed. Topaz looked rather depressed. I found Rose lying in the dark because Thomas had borrowed her candle to finish his homework by. She said she didn't mind as her book had turned out too pretty to be bearable.

I capture the castle

I lit my candle-end and stuck it on the melted mass in the candlestick. I had to crouch low in bed to get enough light to write by. I was just ready to start again, when I saw Rose look round to make sure that I had closed the door of Buffer.

I thought of the beginning of Pride and Prejudice where Mrs. Bennet says "Netherfield Park is let at last. Bennet goes over to call on the rich new owner. Bennet didn't owe him any rent," I said.

How I wish I lived in a Jane Austen novel! Now it is nearly midnight. I feel rather like a Bronte myself, writing by the light of a guttering candle with my fingers so numb I can hardly hold the pencil. I wish Stephen hadn't made me think of food, because I have been hungry ever since; which is ridiculous as I had a good egg tea not six hours ago.

Oh, dear --I have just thought that if Stephen was worrying about me being hungry, he was probably hungry himself. We are a household! I wonder if I can get a few more minutes' light by making wicks of match sticks stuck into the liquid wax. Sometimes that will work. It was no good- like trying to write by the light of a glowworm. But the moon has fought its way through the clouds at last and I can see by that.

It is rather exciting to write by moonlight. Rose is asleep--on her back, with her mouth wide open. Even like that she looks nice. I hope she is having a beautiful dream about a rich young man proposing to her. I don't feel in the least sleepy. I shall hold a little mental chat with Miss Blossom.

Her noble bust looks larger than ever against the silvery window. I have just asked her if she thinks Rose and I will ever have anything exciting happen to us, and I distinctly heard her say: "Well, I don't know, ducks, but I do know that sister of yours would be a daisy if she ever got the chance!

Contemplation seems to be about the only luxury that costs nothing. III I have just read this journal from the beginning. I find I can read the speed-writing quite easily, even the bit I did by moonlight last night. I am surprised to see how much I have written; with stories even a page can take me hours, but the truth seems to flow out as fast as I can get it down.

But words are very inadequate- anyway, my words are. Could any one reading them picture our kitchen by firelight, or Belmotte Tower rising towards the moon-silvered clouds, or Stephen managing to look both noble and humble? When I read a book, I put in all the imagination I can, so that it is almost like writing the book as well as reading it- or rather, it is like living it. It makes reading so much more exciting, but I don't suppose many people try to do it.

I am writing in the attic this afternoon because Topaz and Rose are so very conversational in the kitchen; they have unearthed a packet of green dye- it dates from when I was an elf in the school play--and are going to dip some old dresses. I don't intend to let myself become the kind of author who can only work in seclusion- after all, Jane Austen wrote in the sitting-room and merely covered up her work when a visitor called though I bet she thought a thing or two --but I am not quite Jane Austen yet and there are limits to what I can stand.

And I want to tackle the description of the castle in peace. It is extremely cold up here, but I am wearing my coat and my wool gloves, which have gradually become mittens all but one thumb; and About, our beautiful pale ginger cat, is keeping my stomach warm--I am leaning over him to write on the top of the cistern.

His real name is Abelard, to go with Heloise I need hardly say that Topaz christened them , but he seldom gets called by it. He has a reasonably pleasant nature but not a gushing one; this is a rare favor I am receiving from him this afternoon. Today I shall start with: How WE While Father was in jail, we lived in a London boardinghouse, Mother not having fancied settling down again next to the fence-leaping neighbor. When they let Father out, he decided to download a house in the country.

I think we must have been rather well-off in those days as Jacob Wrestling had sold wonderfully well for such an unusual book and Father's lecturing had earned much more than the sales.

And Mother had an income of her own. Father chose Suffolk as a suitable county so we stayed at the King's Crypt hotel and drove out house-hunting every day- we had a car then; Father and Mother at the front, Rose, Thomas and I at the back. It was all great fun because Father was in a splendid mood goodness knows he didn't seem to have any iron in his soul then. But he certainly had a prejudice against all neighbors; we saw lots of nice houses in villages, but he wouldn't even consider them.

It was late autumn, very gentle and golden. I loved the quiet-colored fields of stubble and the hazy water meadows. Rose doesn't like the flat country but I always did- flat country seems to give the sky such a chance.

One evening when there was a lovely sunset, we got lost. Mother had the map and kept saying the country was upside down- and when she got it the right way up, the names on the map were upside down. Rose and I laughed a lot about it; we liked being lost.

And Father was perfectly patient with Mother about the map. All of a sudden we saw a high, round tower in the distance, on a little hill. Father instantly decided that we must explore it, though Mother wasn't enthusiastic. It was difficult to find because the little roads twisted and woods and villages kept hiding it from us, but every few minutes we caught a glimpse of it and Father and Rose and I got very excited.

Mother kept saying that Thomas would be up too late; he was asleep, wobbling about between Rose and me. At last we came to a neglected signpost with To B.

Father turned in at once and we crawled along with the brambles clawing at the car as if trying to hold it back- I remember thinking of the Prince fighting his way through the wood to the Sleeping Beauty.

The hedges were so high and the lane turned so often that we could only see a few yards ahead of us; Mother kept saying we ought to back out before we got stuck and that the castle was probably miles away.

Then suddenly we drove out into the open and there it was- but not the lonely tower on a hill we had been searching for; what we saw was quite a large castle, built on level ground. Father gave a shout and the next minute we were out of the car and staring in amazement.

How strange and beautiful it looked in the late afternoon light! I can still recapture that first glimpse --see the sheer gray stone walls and towers against the pale yellow sky, the reflected castle stretching towards us on the brimming moat, the floating patches of emerald-green water-weed. No breath of wind ruffled the looking-glass water, no sound of any kind came to us. Our excited voices only made the castle seem more silent.

Father pointed out the gatehouse- it had two round towers joined half-way up by a room with stone-mullioned windows. To the right of the gatehouse nothing remained but crumbling ruins, but on the left a stretch of high, battlemented walls joined it to a round corner tower.

A bridge crossed the moat to the great nail-studded oak doors under the windows of the gatehouse room, and a little door cut in one of the big doors stood slightly ajar- the minute Father noticed this, he was off towards it. Mother said vague things about trespassing and tried to stop us following him, but in the end she let us go, while she stayed behind with Thomas who woke and wept a little.

How well I remember that run through the stillness, the smell of wet stone and wet weeds as we crossed the bridge, the moment of excitement before we stepped in at the little door! Once through, we were in the cool dimness of the gatehouse passage. That was where I first felt the castle--it is the place where one is most conscious of the great weight of stone above and around one.

I was too young to know much of history and the past, for me the castle was one in a fairy tale; and the queer heavy coldness was so spell-like that I clutched Rose hard. Together we ran through to the daylight; then stopped dead. On our left, instead of the gray walls and towers we had been expecting, was a long house of whitewashed plaster and herring-boned brick, veined by weather-bleached wood. It had all sorts of odd little lattice windows, bright gold from the sunset, and the attic gable looked as if it might fall forward at any minute.

This belonged to a different kind of fairy tale--it was just my idea of a "Hansel and Gretel" house and for a second I feared a witch inside had stolen Father. Then I saw him trying to get in at the kitchen door. He came running back through the overgrown courtyard garden, calling that there was a small window open near the front door that he could put Rose through to let us in.

I was glad he said Rose and not meI would have been terrified to be alone in the house for a second. Rose was never frightened of anything; she was trying to scramble up to the window even before Father got there to lift her.

Through she went and we heard her struggling with heavy bolts. Then she flung the door open triumphantly. The square hall was dark and cold and had a horrid moldy smell. Every bit of woodwork was a drab ginger color, painted to imitate the graining of wood.

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We followed him into a room on the left, which had a dark red wallpaper and a large black-leaded fireplace. There was a nice little window looking on to the garden, but I thought it was a hideous room. Rose and I ran across and knelt on the wide window seat, and Father opened the heavy mullioned windows so that we could look down and see ourselves in the moat. Then he pointed out how thick the wall was and explained about the Stuart house having been built on to the ruins of the castle. It certainly did, and there was a monstrosity of a fireplace surrounded by tobacco-colored tiles.

But the diamond-paned windows overlooking the garden and full of the sunset were beautiful, and I was already in love with the moat. While Rose and I were waving to our reflections, Father went off through the short passage to the kitchen we suddenly heard him shouting "The swine, the swine! The kitchen was really dreadful. It had been partitioned to make several rooms- hens had been kept in one of them; there was a great sagging false ceiling, the staircase and the cupboards were grained ginger like the hall.

What upset me most was a bundle of rags and straw where tramps must have slept. I kept as far away from it as possible and was glad when Father led the way upstairs. The bedrooms were as spoilt as the downstairs rooms -false ceilings, horrid fireplaces, awful wallpapers.

I am writing this journal partly to practise my newly acquired speed writing and partly to teach myself how to write a novel I intend to capture all our characters and put in conversations. It ought to be good for my style to dash along without much thought, as up to now my stories have been very stiff and self conscious.

The only time father obliged me by reading one of them, he said I combined stateliness with a desperate effort to be funny. He told me to relax and let the words flow out of me. I wish I knew of a way to make words flow out of father. Years and years ago, he wrote a very unusual book called Jacob Wrestling, a mixture of fiction, philosophy and poetry. It had a great success, particularly in America, where he made a lot of money by lecturing on it, and he seemed likely to become a very important writer indeed.

But he stopped writing. Mother believed this was due to something that happened when I was about five. We were living in a small house by the sea at the time. Father had just joined us after his second American lecture tour. One afternoon when we were having tea in the garden, he had the misfortune to lose his temper with mother very noisily just as he was about to cut a piece of cake.

He brandished the cake knife at her so menacingly that an officious neighbour jumped the garden fence to intervene and got himself knocked down. Father explained in court that killing a woman with our silver cake knife would be a long, weary business entailing sawing her to death, and he was completely exonerated of any intention of slaying mother.

The whole case seems to have been quite ludicrous, with everyone but the neighbour being very funny. But father made the mistake of being funnier than the judge and, as there was no doubt whatever that he had seriously damaged the neighbour, he was sent to prison for three months.

When he came out he was as nice a man as ever nicer, because his temper was so much better. Apart from that, he didn't seem to me to be changed at all. But Rose remembers that he had already begun to get unsociable it was then that he took a forty years' lease of the castle, which is an admirable place to be unsociable in. Once we were settled here he was supposed to begin a new book.

But time went on without anything happening and at last we realized that he had given up even trying to write for years now, he has refused to discuss the possibility. Most of his life is spent in the gatehouse room, which is icy cold in winter as there is no fireplace; he just huddles over an oil stove.

As far as we know, he does nothing but read detective novels from the village library. Miss Marcy, the librarian and schoolmistress, brings them to him. She admires him greatly and says "the iron has entered into his soul. But it has gone now; and his unsociability has grown almost into a disease I often think he would prefer not even to meet his own household.

All his natural gaiety has vanished.

Excerpt: 'I Capture the Castle'

At times he puts on a false cheerfulness that embarrasses me, but usually he is either morose or irritable I think I should prefer it if he lost his temper as he used to. Oh, poor father, he really is very pathetic. But he might at ] east do a little work in the garden. I am aware that this isn't a fair portrait of him. I must capture him later. Mother died eight years ago, from perfectly natural causes.

I think she must have been a shadowy person, because I have only the vaguest memory of her and I have an excellent memory for most things.

I can remember the cake knife incident perfectly I hit the fallen neighbour with my little wooden spade. Father always said this got him an extra month. Three years ago or is it four? I know father's one spasm of sociability was in a stepmother was presented to us.

We were surprised. She is a famous artists' model who claims to have been christened Topaz even if this is true there is no law to make a woman stick to a name like that. She is very beautiful, with masses of hair so fair that it is almost white, and a quite extraordinary pallor. She uses no make up, not even powder. There are two paintings of her in the Tate Gallery: one by Macmorris, called "Topaz in Jade", in which she wears a magnificent jade necklace; and one by H.

Allardy which shows her nude on an old horsehair covered sofa that she says was very prickly. This is called "Composition"; but as Allardy has painted her even paler than she is, "Decomposition" would suit it better.

Actually, there is nothing unhealthy about Topaz's pallor; it simply makes her look as if she belonged to some new race. She has a very deep voice that is, she puts one on; it is part of an arty pose, which includes painting and lute playing.

But her kindness is perfectly genuine and so is her cooking. I am very, very fond of her it is nice to have written that just as she appears on the kitchen stairs. She is wearing her ancient orange tea gown. Her pale, straight hair is flowing down her back to her waist. She paused on the top step and said "Ah, girls Now she is sitting on the steel trivet, raking the fire. The pink light makes her look more ordinary, but very pretty. She is twenty nine and had two husbands before father she will never tell us very much about them , but she still looks extraordinarily young.

Perhaps that is because her expression is so blank. The kitchen looks very beautiful now. The firelight glows steadily through the bars and through the round hole in the top of the range where the lid has been left off. It turns the whitewashed walls rosy; even the dark beams in the roof are a dusky gold.

The highest beam is over thirty feet from the ground. Rose and Topaz are two tiny figures in a great glowing cave.