The Dark Portal | Chapter 5

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

As she stood undisturbed in the moonlight, erect and lovely, it seemed as if the care of years fell away and she was young again.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Audrey’s mother Gwen is another character who is slightly underappreciated. This is really a crying shame, because her story arc is one of the most touching in the entire Deptford Mice Trilogy.

Though she bears the common sign of the house-mouse as her brass, Gwen shows uncommon resilience and fortitude, and it’s easy to see where Audrey gets her inner strength from.  The little scene between Gwen and Arthur as they grieve for Albert is incredibly moving even in its simplicity; we feel their sorrow, but overshadowing it is a layer of worry for Audrey, who still refuses to accept the truth about her father.

Between Albert’s sudden death, Piccadilly’s arrival, the awkwardness between he and Audrey, and Audrey’s missing mousebrass, things are burgeoning into a veritable mousey soap-opera, but it’s the melodrama that makes this story so engaging. One can’t help but be swept along.

Twit’s eagerness to return to the sewers on Audrey’s behalf is very touching even if he ends up staying behind, and the fact that Oswald gamely offers to venture into danger shows that he possesses an internal moral compass quite as strong as his divining rod. A good thing too, as he’s going to need every ounce of courage and integrity he has in the chapters to come.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Aww …this chapter was a lot more sad than what I remember last time I read it. The scene with Gwen stoically remembering the past in the moonlight really got to me this time.

I don’t have a lot to comment on in this chapter except that I love the fact that Oswald is getting braver, and I’ve always liked the visual image – even though no illustration exists for this – of him chasing his divining rod through the sewers.

As for the cliffhanger chapter ending, well, what I can say? Beware of the Grill!

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4 thoughts on “The Dark Portal | Chapter 5

  1. Chapter Five of The Dark Portal is the shortest we’ve read thus far. One might suppose this indicates the beginning of a period of the story during which the tension will subside as the characters take a deep breath and relax after all they’ve been through. And if you think that, you must be new around these parts because that just ain’t how The Deptford Mice rolls at all.

    Audrey is reunited with her mother and Piccadilly explains what happened to Albert. Audrey cannot understand how Gwen can accept that her husband has been murdered with such grace that she even invites the bearer of this horrifying news to sit at the family table and have dinner with them as an honored guest. My answer to the question of Gwen’s serene response ties in with two comments which were made in our discussion of the previous chapter. Emma remarked about how awesome it is that Audrey was so determined to save her brother and friends from the rats that she didn’t even hesitate to leap into battle and Matt suggested that Audrey’s fiery spirit is a trait she inherited from her mother. Those remarks were excellent because they provide so much insight not only into Audrey but her mother too. The reason why Gwen is able to do what Audrey cannot and accept that Albert is gone forever is because she is older than Audrey and with age comes experience and with experience comes wisdom. Gwen has almost certainly known many mice who perished and thus when her husband disappeared without a trace, she was prepared for the worst even if a tiny part of her was hoping against hope that he would come home safely. Of course she’s heartbroken to receive the confirmation of his fate but with him gone, she knows that she is now the pillar of stability on which her family rests. She has to be strong for the sake of her children and so she does what she must, insisting that Audrey must let go of her quest before it gets her killed too. Gwen shares Audrey’s determination to protect their family but her way of ensuring their continued survival takes a different form from that of her fiery daughter, not by braving dangers but by keeping her loved ones as far away from them as she can. She is wise enough to know that they are mice, small creatures who have no recourse against the fiend who took Albert from them. The only way they can honor the memory of the one they have lost is by continuing to live their lives as he would have wanted and so she steels herself and does what she must. Of course, the evil force lurking The Grille is far from done with her daughter but you’ve got to give the lady respect for trying to do what any mother would in the situation and try to keep her children from wandering off into the dark.

    Another thing Gwen does that Audrey isn’t ready to is recognizing the horror of what Piccadilly has gone through and showing compassion to this mouse who is old enough to be one of her own children. When she invites him to stay with the family, it leads me to wonder how things would have been if Albert had survived the sewers and come home with Piccadilly in tow. Audrey would likely have been a lot more friendly to the grey mouse and agreeable to the notion of him sticking around. But then many things would have been different if not for Albert falling prey to the world of rats. The wheel of fate started turning when he died and for good or ill, nothing can stop it. We’ve seen it in motion during the past Chapters and will continue to see in the Chapter still to come.

    One of the most emotional moments in The Deptford Mice comes when Gwen is alone in the kitchen and her mind wanders back to the memory of the times she shared with Albert, the husband she has lost. The illustration that accompanies this short but bittersweet passage speaks a thousand words, depicting a forlorn mouse standing alone with moonlight weaving a veil upon her face as she bids farewell to the husband who made her so happy. We witnessed death in Chapter One but here we see what it is to be the survivor who has to go on without her lost love and be strong for the sake of their family. Chapter Five is low-key for the most part but it leaves a haunting impression upon you nonetheless. If Gwen proving how strong she is even when she has never felt sadder does not make you realize just what it truly means to be one of the Deptford Mice then I’m sorry but I don’t know what can.

    Audrey meets up with Twit and Oswald who have been concerned for her and confides in them about what happened in the grotto yesterday as well as her lost Mouse Brass. The three are joined by Piccadilly who overcomes his fear and agrees to accompany Oswald back into the sewer to retrieve the charm. I’ve got to say how compelling it is to see the various personalities and motivations in play here. Oswald knows what a terrible idea this is but resigns himself and gets ready for the expedition because his friends need him and he’s not going to let them down. Twit is the first to volunteer because he can see how much this means to Audrey and would do anything to make her happy. Piccadilly grits his teeth and steps forward for the chance to prove himself to Audrey and maybe banish the guilt he harbors over not being able to save Albert. Audrey is eaten alive with shame for having talked them into this but can’t bring herself to diffuse the situation as she watches them sally forth back into the sewers from which they only barely escaped so short a time ago. And Arthur is stunned by how quickly everything has gone spiraling into insanity while his back was turned. Seriously, this has got to be the least responsible thing any of the mice involved could possibly have done. Down to the cellar he storms to have it out with that sister of his only for the words to die on his lips when he discovers that Audrey has disappeared. And as he stands with his mouth dangling slack with shock, any reader who has watched Eastenders will surely be imagining the sound each episode of that show concludes with. Dun, dun, dun, dundundundundundundun!

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  2. I like to think that I have a good imagination (being a wannabe novelist, after all), but somehow I just can’t imagine fiery, speak-first-think-later Audrey ever growing up into the quiet, serene strength of her mother Gwen. (As everybody quite rightly notes, she is a wonderfully underdeveloped character – Jarvis skilfully lets us know in just a couple of scenes that there is so much more to Gwen than meets the eye.)
    But maybe this is the magic of children. They are never entirely like one parent or the other, but are completely different individuals with traits from both sides. So perhaps it is the fearlessness and strength of Gwen combined with the How-Did-I-Get-On-This-Side-of-the-Grill adventurousness/thoughtlessness of Albert that gives us Audrey.
    Food for thought. 🤔

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    • You may very well be right. Children are the most wondrous magic in this world. They start out so small but as their lives unfold, so too does a universe of boundless possibility that is all theirs for the taking. Who will they grow up to be? Whatever they choose to be.

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