“…and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lifted up above the earth.” Genesis 7:17
The opening is a dramatic scene with rain falling and water rising simultaneously and a detailed description of the interior plan of the ark and its four decks with the “Well of darkness…right at the centre of the ark and its depth was the depth of the lower three decks.” Places must be found, hiding places, for Crowe and Mottyl who have come aboard in Mrs. Noyes’ apron with the apples. Mottyl has begun to give birth and a place must be found quickly: Lucy and Ham are instrumental in helping Mrs. Noyes with this secreting away of two of the beings classified as “not wanted on the voyage”. In the midst of all this business, Japeth appears and informs his mother that she and the others are wanted for a meeting: “He wants you up, now,” he said.
Mrs. Noyes has lost none of her spirit: “I assume you mean your father,” said Mrs. Noyes. “And – if you do – then please call him by name.”
The meeting does not go well from the beginning. On one side of the table sat Noah, Hannah, Shem and Japeth and, on the other, Mrs. Noyes, Emma, Ham and Lucy. It occurred to Mrs. Noyes that there was a distinct division based on power apparent in the seating arrangement. The meeting ended with Mrs. Noyes’ dramatic departure and these words: “WE ARE A FAMILY!!!” Mrs. Noyes bellowed. “NOT A TOWN COUNCIL!” Upon further reflection, she remains genuinely puzzled: “What does it mean?” she said. “I don’t understand. We were a family….”
Mrs. Noyes is called into Noah’s presence again shortly after this meeting and it is then revealed that things on the upper deck are not running quite as Noah might wish. Mrs. Noyes helps him out on this occasion probably because of patterns set over several hundred years but this reader found she was disappointed in the apparent co-operation of Mrs. Noyes.
While the above meetings have been going on, Mottyl has had an unexpected adventure and accident while out looking for a place to make scat and as a result has been separated from her kittens at a crucial time – supper time! You might recall that Mottyl is almost completely blind now and is, as well, a stowaway. She is injured after her accident and wakes up unable to move. It is then that she meets one of the other animals – a very large animal. And so, through Mottyl’s experience, Findley makes us more aware of the experience of the animals on the ark. He writes of Hippo’s need for water and Rhino’s need for a dust wallow. Mottyl’s story is a wonderfully positive experience which feeds the needs we all have for hope. Then Mrs. Noyes realizes Mottyl has been gone too long and she has no gin to tide her over “the tensions crowding around her: the horror of the ark itself – the loss of her cat – the loss of her place in the scheme of things.” I love her thoughts when she is at her low point: “If only I had imagined I would be here, I would have filled whole bins with gin jars….”
Time passes and changes occur: “Although Noah was quite unaware of it, Hannah was gradually gaining more control over his daily routine – the kind of control a nurse will exert when dealing with an elderly, confused patient. Sometimes they simply sat together for hours – silent and still.” Below decks everyone is very busy with the labour of caring for the animals. Mrs. Noyes begins to sleepwalk and comforts the bears.
Then comes a pirate attack! and a massacre! then domestic violence, mutilation, and sacrifice.
Desolation and heartbreak. And finally, transformation.
I will borrow Lucy’s words to close out the discussion of this third book: “All that was magical and wonderful has been left behind us – drowned – in my world that was before your world – and in your world that was before this…. So I am starting a rumour, here and now, of yet another world. I don’t know when it will present itself – I don’t know where it will be. But – as with all those other worlds now past – when it is ready, I intend to go there.”
And Mrs. Noyes, passing lit candle ends from the depths of her pockets hand to hand, says to Lucy:
“Even if it takes a thousand years – we want to come with you…Wherever you may be going.”