Thursday, August 18, 2005

Arabella's Journals

23 March 19--
Praetorius Tower
Neuraesthenia Isle

Although I had thought myself, both by the engraved reference works in Bleak library, and by the instructive aspects of the family rituals at Bleak Abbey, well-instructed in the mysteries of marital intimacy, my recent experience of conjugal duties with Nigel P. has proved the shortcomings of my sentimental education. Nor do my father-in-law's hideous experiments in his underground laboratory conform at all with what I now perceive to have been naive deficiencies in my conception of the "facts of life." Indeed, life here would seem to proceed quite independently of its natural origins in private human relations -- and those relations to bear no natural connexion to the creation of life; nor indeed to any expression of normal feeling.

Dirk, whom I had never previously encountered, returned from the war, exhibiting strange variations from the conventional manner that I was wont to explain as a result of his having been gassed in the trenches. But his nanny, who is surpassing strange herself, maintains that there has been no drifting in his nature -- that indeed he "was always this way, Lord luv 'im -- a strange 'un, he was." But she is an idiot. Dirk has begun working at a forty-ton chunk of marble, the sculpture resulting from which will be "as if from the loins of the gods," whatever this may mean, if indeed it has any fixed meaning, which is doubtful, given Dirk's regular consumption of absinthe and his regular pursuit of that "strange whispering laughter" he claims to hear from "distant chambers" he has yet to locate. His father, unhelpfully, has "forbidden" him to seek for "rooms which, you may take my word for it, do not exist."

My stepchildren, Flora and Miles, have a good deal too many "funeral services" for dead animals they stumble across in their daily rambles. It would seem that the forest creatures hereabouts are singularly clumsy, as all seem to die with the head protruding at an unnatural angle from the body. And, although they ought to be buried, as a precaution against disease, hyenas, and nocturnal resurrections, F. and M. take what I think is an extraordinary, and extraordinarily detailed, interest in the disposal of their remains. However, Nigel forbids me to correct them or to instruct them, and Miss Bly, their pale governess of indeterminate years, seems content to allow them to dress in vaguely religious costume, erect small headstones, and engage in rites of their own creation in what seems to be an imaginary language. Surely such harmless play is but the regular stuff of childhood - ?

Many questions remain unanswered: Why are the servants all below three foot six in height? Why did the vicar who officiated at our wedding hang himself at an obscure crossroads within a fortnight of our vows? Why do so many of the villagers wear eyepatches? What is the nature of that freakish creature whose hideous remains washed ashore last week? (I scarcely credit the explanation of a nervous local fisherman: "Just a common fish, missus. Naught to worry on." It was twenty meters long, not counting the segmented ocular organ.) Why is the notorious prison on the other side of the island overgrown with sickly vegetation, and so strangely silent whenever I come within hearing distance of its crumbling walls -- only to be stopped in my tracks by the two gaunt and sickly guards who with intense fervor always prevent my closer approach? Why does the sun set off of a different area of coastline every evening? Why can I never see it rise no matter how early I awake? What is the peculiar aftertaste in my tea?

Apart from these flights of disquiet, which Dr. P. insists are caused by effeminacy of the nerves, I find myself quite content, and anxious to be lover, wife, and helpmeet to N., regardless of his oddities of disposition, which I am coming to find endearing, at least in their less extreme manifestations. Tonight I shall examine the volume of photographic plates I found hidden in a recess in the wall; perhaps these will assuage my occasional doubts, and shed light on a few dark areas of my inquiry into this secretive family.