A small handful of people have been loosely indulging in a "#summerwiththebrontës" project, prompting us to make our way through any ol' Brontë novels we choose this summer. I've read Jane Eyre and Villette thus far, and am now over halfway through that dark classic Wuthering Heights. If you have not read the Brontës, I certainly recommend them. I feel foolish recommending such renowned writers, but if you have not, then I say that you should. The writing is deep, elegant, raw, profound, insightful, inspiring. Need one say more?
And, of course, I've been making my way through the rewrite of Adamantine. As usual, I am feeling my way as I go, which makes for slow going, but I think this overhaul holds promise. ("Methinks the lady doth protest too much...") I haven't yet got to the point of being excited for the plot. Some of you perhaps know that phenomenon: at the moment I'm writing metaphorically in the dark, not at all sure where I am going is worthwhile; but eventually you hit that sweet spot when things start to come together, a clearing in the distance is seen, and you begin to catch fire for the story. Well, I am not there yet. Give it time... Meanwhile, a small taste of what I've been writing:
adamantine snippets // chunks
In the grey distance I saw sudden, high-heaped hills, matte-purple like the mothy, soiled robes of a decrepit empire...
It must be only a stray dog, wandered, perhaps, from a menial’s hovel in the hills: a small, cold part of my mind reasoned with me as a bent, wizened, senile councillor reasons with a young, inexperienced monarch. Yet the royal youth in me was the stronger, the better at instinct: I had known that dog, and it had known me, as strangers who had already met, and a dangerous, powerful understanding—which I did not at all comprehend—had charged like lightning between us. More than ever I hated and dreaded this country!
Suddenly Miss Coventry was back. She swept through the door and clapped it shut behind her, leaning on the panelling. Her face was white and her eyes lit up splendidly with haste and rage.
“Quiet, both of you!” she lashed out at her sisters. In two strides she was across the room and had flung herself in a whirl of sombre grey linen into her chair. “Father is coming with his guests. Mabel! stop crying at once!”
Aunt Coventry also fell upon Mabel until I was sure the girl could do nothing but cry. “Lord!” exclaimed Agnes Anne. She bounced back onto the sofa, her tirade forgotten, her curls bobbing with energy. “Are they men? are they goodly? are they come for tea?”
His skin was as pale as breakers; his hair, in the weak light, was grey-flaxen and, no doubt to many, unremarkable—but to my eye it was unusual. Even my relatives, although British-white, had all brown eyes and hair running brown to black. [He] looked like an errant shaft of sunlight, travelling so long from its source to reach the pole of Earth, half-dead with the distance and panting for want of blood and breath, had come to stand out of the rain in my aunt’s cheerless parlour.
“How are you feeling?” he asked, gently yet pointedly.
I looked away to consider. My body felt as though it had been cut out of paper and thrown away: I was the hollow silhouette left behind. My spirits flagged black and foam-flecked beneath my desperate flogging.
“As well as can be expected,” I replied.
My body ached with fatigue and soul-weariness; I dragged it through the doorway, dragged off its black coverings, flung it upon the hard bed to drown it in sleep. For a space I lay awake, quiet, my throat raw but my eyes dry. Staring into the darkness of the window where September night was rushing fast across a doomed sky and dark grey banners of a storm’s victory were flying tattered beyond the shivering ranks of the trees, I picked up alternately two images to view: the yellow and blue of my mother’s painting, the other, Mr. Tennfjord’s austere and handsome face. Why the latter charmed me so completely, I could not say. “He was kind.” I heard my own words patter with old, blown rain against the window: cold, quivering, piercing to my heart. Those three words, more than my aunt’s blighting suspicion of my illness and my cousins’ ruthless, indelicate tongues, made me want to cry—as blood coming back into a frozen limb tingles and stings and cries as with serrated pain.
The breakfast mollified me. It was erring to bland, but hearty and filling, and when I was finished I felt the calm sleepiness of a duck ripened and fat for Christmas dinner.
“Do you go out into the country much?” I asked.
“Lord! the country?” repeated Agnes Anne—Mabel had her lips screwed over a needle and was fighting with a spool. “No! Why should we? There is nothing of interest there. Life gets so dull here sometimes, except in high summer when there are actually interesting folk about to walk and dine with. People come up from Manchester and London,” she explained, with such stress as though she were speaking to a child.
I pressed the point. “I changed carriages outside of London and went up a bit of hilly, wooded land they called Hampstead Heath, I believe.” I twisted toward the window for more light. “My carriage companion at the time was an elderly gentleman—I never got his name—who informed me that the heath dated back to Saxon or Danish times. He said the land was charted in the Domesday Book, and was an important piece of historic property. It was dusk, and rainy,” I added ruefully, “so I wasn’t able to see much, but from the sounds outside the carriage I got the idea it was a large place. Have you anything of the sort here in Aylesward?”
Agnes Anne and Mabel had stopped working—the latter with the needle still clenched between her teeth—and were staring at me. Mabel finally took the needle from her lips and opened her mouth to speak, but her sister caught her up.
“Lord! you are bookish! Who cares about some grass and trees? You’re as bad as Margaret, I swear. I don’t know but that we’ve got more lakes than I can count, and people come from all over in the summer to visit them, but they’re nothing special.”
“You won’t find them in the Domesday Book,” said a brisk, ominous voice in the doorway. “The Normandians never took them.”
I turned to find Miss Coventry herself watching us, cold and disobliging. More than ever she looked unfriendly, but I was glad to see her. “Are they quite old, then?” I asked. “Older than the Normans?”
“Old as the hills,” she replied. She lifted her shoulders, as if it did not matter. “Coventrys are part Saxon, part Norman. We go all the way back.”
I do not know if she meant to do it, but in that remark I was made to feel how homeless and rootless I was. In this place I was like Melchizedek, without father and without mother, with no genealogy and no portion.