Gormenghast

“It was not that Fuchsia did not struggle against her mounting melancholia.But the black moods closing in on her ever more frequently were becoming too much for her.

The emotional, loving, moody child had had small chance of developing into a happy woman. Had she as a girl been naturally joyous yet all that had befallen her must surely have driven away the bright birds, one by one, from her breast. As it was, made of a more sombre clay, capable of deep happiness, but more easily drawn to the dark than the light, Fuchsia was even more open to the cruel wind of circumstances which appeared to have singled her out for particular punishment.

Her need for love had never been fulfilled; her love for others had never been suspected, or wanted. Rich as a dusky orchard, she had never been discovered. Her green boughs had been spread, but no travelers came and rested in their shade nor tasted the sweet fruit.

With her mind for ever turning to the past, Fuchsia could see nothing but the ill-starred of a girl who was, in spite of her title and all it implied, of little consequence in the eyes of the castle, a purposeless misfit of a child, hapless and solitary. Her deepest loves had been for her old nurse Nannie Slagg, for her brother for the Doctor, and in a strange way for Flay. Nannie Slagg and Flay were both dead; Titus had changed. They love one another still but a wall of cloud lay between them, something that neither had the power to dispel.

Therr was still Dr Prune. But he had been so heavily overworked since the flood that she had not seen him. The desire to see the last of her true friends had weakened with every black depression. When she most needed the counsel and love of the Doctor, who would have left the world bleeding to help her, it was then that she froze within herself and locking herself away, became ill with the failure of her life, the frustration of her womanhood, and tossing and turning in her improvised bedroom twelve feet above the flood, conceived, for the first time, the idea of suicide.
What was the darkest of the causes for so terrible a thought it is hard to know. Her lack of love; her lack of a father or a real mother? Her loneliness. The ghastly disillusion when Steerpike was unmasked, and the horror of having been fondled by a homicide. The growing sense of her inferiority in everything but rank. There were many causes, any one of which might have been alone sufficient to undermine the will of tougher natures than Fuchsia’s.

When the first concept of oblivion flickered through her mind, she raised her head from her arms. She was shocked and she was frightened. But she was excited also.

She walked unsteadily on the window. Her thought had taken her into a realm of possibility so vast, awe-inspiring, final and noiseless that her knee felt weak and she glanced over her shoulder although she knew herself to be alone in her room with the door locked against the world.

When she reached the window she stared out across the water, but nothing that she saw affected her thought or made any kind of visual impression on her.

All she knew was that she felt weak, that she was not reading about all this in a tragic book but that it was true. It was true that she was standing at a window and that she had thought of killing herself. She clutched her hands together over her heart and fleeting memory of how a young man had suddenly appeared at another window many years ago and had left a rose behind him on her table, passed through her mind and was gone.

It was all true. It wasn’t any story. But she could still pretend. She would pretend that she was the sort of person who would not only think of killing herself so that the pain in her heart should be gone for ever, but be the kind of person who would know how to do it, and be brave enough.

And as she pondered, she slid moment by moment even deeper into a world of make-believe, as though she were once more the imaginative girl of many years ago, aloft in her secret life. She had become somebody else. She was someone who was young and beautiful and brave as a lioness. What would such a person do? Why, such a person would stand upon the window sill above this water. And…she…would…and as the child in her was playing the oldest game in the world, her body, following the course of her imagination, had climbed to the sill of the window where it stood with its back to the room.

For how long she would have stood there had she not been jerked back into a sudden consciousness of the world – by the sound of someone knocking upon the door of her room, it is impossible to know, but starting at the sound and finding herself dangerously balanced upon a narrow sill above the deep water, she trembled uncontrollably, and in trying to turn without sufficient thought or care, she slipped and clutching at the face of the wall at her side found nothing to grasp, so that she fell, striking her dark head on the sill as she passed, and was already unconscious before the water received her, and drowned her at its easy.”

 

(Mervyn Peake)

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