A Figure from the Common Lot
Readers, A Figure from the Common Lot is off the blog, as I’m preparing a fresh edit; next to send it out for consideration by publishers. But I’ll leave behind a sample, below.
Book One: 1870-1871
Chapter One: Cette Illusion de la Mortalité
Book Two: 1876
Chapter Two: Possente Spirto
Chapter Four: The Eye of a Magpie
It was Eugene Ebrach she thought of…
She could bear the headaches more easily, her temple throbbed less, when she lay on the floor. The floorboards were cold and unyielding; the ice bag―a strange receptacle for faith and duty―lay where she had discarded it, sweating, dampening the sleeve of her gown. It followed her to her room, carried upstairs by Sarah.
To accept that offered with gratitude, and with a young lady’s reticence, was what Mother expected of her, what Élucide had been taught. Always afterwards she said, “Yes, ma’am, thank you, it does help.”
It didn’t. The ice bag was too much; it sagged and needed shoving this way and that, woke her when it slid onto her shoulder or dropped to the floor; and she could only endure the migraine by keeping still. She had kicked away her shoes. She had crawled under the bed. And that was why she’d turned the key…even this locking of the door was a fault. The greater fault was to be odd, not normal…to behave in ways unladylike and uncivilized. There was a depth of torment to this pain she could make no one understand. But that, as her father would say, was presupposing. So long as she took herself out of the way when she was sick, her torments seemed not much puzzled over by her family.
While the headache, once gone, tended to leave her dull and sleepy, until it had ended she could never quite drift into a doze. Behind closed eyes, Élucide hovered…it felt to her as though this were really so; that from this low place she looked up at herself, and while floating above looked down…seeing the corporeal Élucide (Mr. Ebrach’s word) push her palms against her temples, bend her knees, then stretch her legs out flat. She saw vivid auroras, red waves that played across her eyelids. Her thoughts cycled, one thing arising from another. It was uncouth, she knew it, writhing on the floor, dirtying her nightgown with the coal dust that found its way into every out-of-mind corner, her hair coming unpinned, teasing itself into a coarse cloud. She pressed fingertips against her eyes, and forced her mind to make a picture of Mr. Ebrach.
The headache could go crouch in a corner, from which it might spring or slink away.
No, they held her in restraint, as though she were an imbecile, a child who would never grow up. And Mr. Ebrach had looked at her…all the while her mother was drawing conversation from Mr. Jerome. He, this new cousin, was horribly thin, his pale translucent skin bluish from the veins that showed through…
He was actually dying of consumption. In her sitting room, when she’d told them how to behave towards Mr. Jerome, Mother had said this to Ranilde and Élucide. They had never seen anyone dying up close. “I don’t suppose he can do any sort of work…Mr. Ebrach calls him an assistant—but I imagine he’s befriended Mr. Jerome, and is only trying to sponsor him. Your father may be asked to pay his way into a sanatorium. And if he has really come to America by himself, and has no money, we likely will have to, of course.”