Saturday, 5 March 2011

Whitby Steps

. All this now brings us to “Mystery Mine”(1959), the twelfth book in the “Lone Pine” series which is set in north Yorkshire and which has many key scenes in the town of Whitby. In particular it takes us to the heart of Saville’s presentation of the unfolding love between Jon and Penny.
Penny is red-headed, full of life and vitality, a natural mixer with a strong impetuous streak. Jon is more reserved, an intellectual who tries to think his way out of every situation. His apparent coldness and reserve towards her is something that Penny finds very frustrating. When he opts to go away on holiday with David she can’t help showing her anger. Later when most of the Lone Pine gang are together again at a small village near Goathland she finds that he is no friendlier towards her than towards any of the others. In fact he seems totally wrapped up in the details of the new mystery that they have come across. A trip to Whitby changes their lives for ever. It plants the seed that is seen to grow and mature in the later stories of “Rye Royal” and “Home to Witchend”.
Whilst Jon follows up a clue in Whitby public library Penny wanders the quayside and then the back streets of the town. She follows a suspect and ends up being imprisoned in the top room of a house up a dirty back alley. What started as an adventure turns into a nightmare from which she finally escapes when the crooks decide to clear out to another headquarters. Thoroughly shocked and frightened, Penny stumbles through the streets of the town desperately trying to find Jon. For a while they miss each other and then, finally, they meet on the steps leading up to the church on the edge of the cliff. She is staggering up whilst Jon is rushing down. She stands there waiting for him to speak. Instead of comfort she gets anger. Instead of understanding she gets accused of being untrustworthy. She has finally aroused some passion in him but it’s the very last emotion she actually wanted.
Her own anger comes to the rescue and she blurts out what has happened. He takes hold of her shoulders and won’t let go. When she looks in his eyes she realises that he wasn’t really angry with her – he was just frightened that he had lost her. He takes her by the hand and tells her that he has been a fool for a very long time. The word “love” isn’t mentioned but his feelings are implied. His affection for her is sealed by the way in which he takes her injured hand and kisses it gently – a remarkable step for this previously undemonstrative character. In the context of the immediate story it is important for the readers to know that Penny is still shocked and upset by her recent encounter with the crooks, but, in the framework of the entire series, Saville makes it clear that she feels a deeper happiness than she has known before.
It must be made clear that such moments of revelation and understanding are rare and that the main thrust of the plot is still around the mystery to be solved and the dangers to be gone through. However, the subtlety with which he writes scenes like this classic encounter on the steps in Whitby helps to underpin the essential reality of the relationships so that the implausible plot material can be more readily accepted. It also means that Saville’s readers are not just waiting for the next story to witness another adventure, they are also anxious to find out what happens next in the core relationships.

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