Regular blog readers might remember than some years back I was involved in a project that required the creation of a rough draft of Emily Brontes second novel,not in any great detail but in order to be referred to in a short play I was co writing.While most of it I quickly forgot I always felt one character deserved a life outside that limited existence bestowed on him by the little plot synopsis ,from time to time in moments of leisure I have pondered his fate ,now I have the results of my pondering s,written very much in the vein of the original synopsis without beginning and probably without a neat and tidy ending.I do not claim any literary merit for them ,but now I think Zechariah can be laid to rest content.Its presented in the Victorian Gothic medium.
Looking back I do not remember when he changed ,when the iron entered his soul and the man of flesh began to die and all better feelings fall away from him like the old skin of a snake or spider.
I do however remember, when it most clearly came home to me that things where not as once they had been,that he who I was bound to irrevocably for life ,was now a cruel all-powerful jailer and not a helpmate and friend. Lulled by years of happiness with bright and kind soul I had met and married ,I was slow to see that now I lived with a different creature ,that to this new being ,I was no longer seen as his equal or my life as something mine to live freely but merely as something useful only in so far as it brought comfort or pleasure to himself.
I realised this surprisingly suddenly ,though it had taken some years for the evidence to accumulate and some months for me to organise it in such stark clarity .to think the unthinkable as it were .
I realised it, looking out over the garden one day,a sunny day, surprisingly for storms I gather are frequently presented as more peculiarly suited to revelations of misery and extreme distress) .We where due to spend several months alone in a distant and remote region ,surrounded by mountains ,far from the nearest town and in an essentially deserted village.
The house we had charge of was large and isolated perched precariously on a cliff edge, its only neighbour ,the unattended and half derelict church that was slowly edging closer and closer to annihilation, as the rock on which it was built crumbled and fell away .The once solid mass of its foundations ,worn away after centuries abraded by the snow and harsh gales of winter and the baking heat of summer .It seems not all houses built on a rock are in fact as safe and enduring as a superficial reading of scripture leads us to believe.
I digress ,to return to my sudden epiphany. I had just finished the creation of a “contract” which I had expended a great deal of thought creating and tentatively mentioned it to Zechariah for his approval.
I cannot now remember if I had written it in full or only my rough jottings lay before me ,but he refused utterly to consider it ,though he seemed in no way annoyed and calmly dismissed it before going off to finish some task .I should have picked up on the significance of this strange calm ,detached response ,surely outrage or hurt feelings ought to have ensued from my efforts to bind him to his word,but I did not,I was not yet ready to see that Zechariah was not only ,not what he had been ,but was also not as other men .
What struck me instead was my own ridiculous reaction,I was utterly wretched ,I had relied on his agreeing to the contract and to having it witnessed as my only protection against the months of time alone together when his control over my life was going to be absolute.
It seemed unreasonable to me that he chose to refuse me. Knowing how the trust between us had become eroded, he had claimed understanding and a wish to make amends.He had earnestly expressed his sorrow and repentance and been unequivocal in condemning his past misdemeanours.These protestations however had been made before others ,I now see they where merely for the benefit of his audience ,a wish to seem reasonable and caring,a wish in short to be seen now , as he had once been and not as the creature he had become.
I had expressed in the contract in some detail what I felt required in order to feel able to place my self safely so utterly under his control as I would soon be.Shortly I would be reliant on him for food,warm ,medical aid,even water .
Briefly In the contract ( had he signed it ) he promised before God and the chosen witness to provide certain necessities (I planned on having his signature witnessed and a copy of the contract left behind with the said witness.)
I insisted that enough food be provided and in sufficient variety to ensure health,I spent most of the time invovled in formulating the contract on this section as I felt a clear list of foods was necessary ,not specifying exactly the required quantities and variety might result in a limited diet of bread and butter or potatoes and water .I also specified that fuel enough to provide a decent heat source must be guaranteed as I did not plan on spending a winter in that high and drafty spot without warmth.I also specified access to water and that if I requested it I would be taken to the local town to seek medical aid ,whether or no Zechariah himself felt it was needed . In this way I ,while looking forward with dread, to what would once have been a delight ,time alone in a quiet beautiful place among the hills and mountains with Zechariah ,I had hoped to assure my safety and comparative comfort for the time when I could not relay on my own efforts to ensure survival.
What struck me forcibly and quite suddenly that day ,was how stupid it was to be so distressed by his refusal to sign the contract ,I realised instantly how utterly idiotic and blind I had been and how I had clearly lost all touch with actual reality .Why on earth was I so heartbroken at his “unreasonable ” refusal to sign the ridiculous contract?I realised then ,what I ought to have seen long before ,that there is something seriously wrong with your marriage when you have to rely on a water tight ,specific, highly detailed witnessed statement to ensure the person to who you are bound for life will provide you with the means of continuing life.That it is a sad thing to know you must have a witness and a oath to ensure your husband will feed ,cloth and keep you warm.
I also ought to have noted but didnt.that I did not feel in any way comforted that Zechariah had himself promised befo e God and witnesses to “love and to cherish” my inner self knew what my thinking self had not yet grasped,that no word or vow would be of any importance ,that Zechariah cared not one jot for breaking an oath to God or what he promised before men ,not if he could break them while seeming to be innocent of wrong doing.
I looked in vain for a way out ,an escape from the years of misery that stretched before me but knew there was none ,I was bound for life by sacred oath and law to Zechariah and my actions must therefore be guided by reality and I learned to look towards a future as bleak as grey day of interminable drizzle .I did not then see that the future might hold even worse.Flight ,,,
winter wanderings among lonely hills and mountains desperate to avoid capture
I did not then ponder that Zechariahs thoughts might also be moving from the arduous task of breaking his current wife’s will and moulding her into a more acceptable form ,and towards finding a more accommodating life partner .
For Zechariah ,”till death do us part” did not present the same insurmountable obstacle which it did to myself.Zechariah had become a man of action . He unlike myself was not willing to hope for some unforeseen illness or accident at some distant point in the future in order to gain his freedom,he was thinking ahead and my stay in the mountains was likely to prove much more dangerous than I had suspected in even the darkest recesses of my imagination.
So it was that I left friends,family and the restraining hand of civilisation and set my face towards the sea and mountains,,and whatever my future might hold