Thursday, 4 September 2014

Woman At The Window

That woman was skulking at the window again!” the smugglers grumbled as they unloaded their cargo from the wagons.
The landlord's niece thinks we don't see her, but we do.” Said Harry the pedlar with an evil chuckle. He swung his lantern up so that she again withdrew sharply into the black damp room with its peeling wallpaper.
Jamaica Inn. Joss and Jem Merlyn. Aunt Patience. Mary and charlatan parson Francis Davey. Smugglers, wreckers and horse thieves...
Maria pulled herself out from her daydream, letting go of the scene she'd just created. She'd inserted herself as if she was in the novel: drawn to the goings-on outside her window and had conjured up Du Maurier's dark, fugitive world of moonlight, clopping hoofs, low voices and drizzle. Imagined herself in Mary's place, but without her boyish senses: she had been seen!
How was it that the scenes Du Maurier painted were more real than those in front of her? She was not Mary, she was not in Cornwall, and she was not in the nineteenth century!
She reluctantly dragged her full consciousness back to the view that could be seen from her hotel window: the bay of a Spanish seaside town, but as she did she spoke aloud the words of Francis Davey, “Yes, I am a freak in nature and a freak in time. I do not belong here, and I was born with a grudge against the age, and a grudge against mankind.”
Maria too felt that same grudge, like the stab of a knife in her side; she was a freak like Davey which meant that peace was still hard to find in the twentieth century. The opposite to Davey, she was not an albino so unlike him had no halo of white hair. She was squat, with skin as brown as a nut and coal-black curls, and she wore white with vertical stripes instead of Davey's sombre black. She disliked people seeing her up close, but didn't mind if they stared at her back. Her darker skin, she felt, was unsightly and her face resembled that of a pug's: eyes too close together and nose squashed flat, and so when she ventured outside she hid behind a white scarf.
The staff at the hotel were used to her peculiar sense of herself and eccentric nature since she'd been holidaying here since she'd been struck with a childhood fever. A fever which had left her lungs scarred, and which for the sake of her health meant abandoning England for six months every year. A life sentence of quietude where only novels were allowed to excite her, so that now even being abroad with people whose skin was as gypsy-looking as hers was not enough. She craved old-fashioned adventure: desolate landscapes, tossing seas, and unruly characters who intrigued and never reacted quite how you expected them to. Reality however only gave her peacefulness: blue rippled waters, a light refreshing breeze and a lone dingy. Calm and order. A sense of nothingness. Monotony and boredom.
Maria, as always under doctor's orders, tried to desperately hold on to this restorative scene, but like a caught fish it slipped from her grasp. The daylight faded, the wind blew harder and the lone dingy with the barely-filled sail became a galleon heading for the rocks. She could clearly see the wreckers waiting on the shore to launch themselves into the stormy seas and retrieve the floating goods: rolls of silk, cases of oranges, brandy and tobacco.
Her pose at the open window said she thought she should move, but was compelled to stay with her private picture. She was drunk and giddy, like the landlord of Jamaica Inn, on Daphne Du Maurier's words.
*Inspired by Salavador Dali and Daphne Du Maurier's Jamaica Inn