Freedom Books and Plays


The thunder clouds gathered and in 1914 burst, shaking an established code as lightning strikes an old tree. Patriotism echoed round a world unable to comprehend its magnitude. To the far corners went a call to arms. The flower of manhood flocked to the colours, be it labelled friend or foe. By autumn of that fateful year Otway, proudly wearing khaki, was already on the Western Front, where massacre and slaughter would form a pyramid till Allied victory emerged four years later.

That same winter 'Tipperary' became an inspiration even in the grimmest trench, and with it came a telegram to Otway: "For your Christmas present have purchased Invernisk, Devotedly Muriel."

Otway had been born and brought up at Shannon Grove, the neighbouring estate to Invernisk, and his mother still lived there. As often happens there had long been a controlled rivalry between the two. Shannon Grove was older but Invernisk was a bigger house, built in splendidly proportioned terraces and beautifully laid-out gardens. His reaction was not happy. Why leave Cuba? What was this tactless "foreigner" doing to him?

The river, on which Otway had spent so much of his early life and in which his father had drowned, flowed gently through the grounds of both Invernisk and Shannon Grove, but all his life he had looked at Invernisk as a pompous mansion. How could he change his attitude now and what would be the reaction of his mother, whom he respected and loved, his outspoken sisters, all his senior, and those friends with whom he had sometimes scoffed at Invernisk Park. The incessant rattle of machine-gun fire, and the thudding of bursting shells made it impossible to feel any pleasure and excitement from the cable. True, Muriel, since their marriage about five years ago, had inherited a considerable fortune from an uncle. True too, that Cuba had only been rented. Originally Otway had intended to bring his bride to live in Shannon Grove, but at their very first meeting antagonism was apparent between his mother and his wife. One of these days he would try to get a short leave and surprise Muriel in her new home, without warning.

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