Recalling Scarborough

The sun was shining through the blind, and I thought how pleasant it would be to pass through the quiet town and take a solitary ramble on the sands while the world was in bed.
(from ‘ Agnes Grey’, a novel by Anne Bronte)

     Her first glimpse of the sea was from a room as small as the experience was vast. It wasn’t the best lodging in Scarborough, except as could be afforded, but there was a brightening view of the bay below the promotory where a castle crumbled, sands stretching wider and wider along the indecisive surf, and stars quickly fading.
     Wintry gusts whined against and even through her grimy window. She dressed warmly and decided to go out before breakfast.
     Things were happening in the harbor with fishing boats, and on the pier shops and stalls were preparing to open. Until that morning she’d only ever seen gulls playing flying games over plowed fields for the freedom of having lost their way. Now they seemed agitated in a place they belonged. Her footprints on the sand were the first since the last tide so she could imagine she was walking where no one had before. It was even colder than expected but nothing could dissuade her from approaching the sea and what it might do next. If it had been summer she would’ve taken off her shoes and stockings and tiptoed into little bursts of foam at the water’s edge, seaweed bobbing to and fro as though the land wouldn’t let go. Instead her gloves were washed in icy sand as she examined shells and pebbles.
     Seagulls were circling her now, the sun dispersing any clouds as it enlarged and chose to illuminate her for whoever was there to see. She looked around and saw a man coming down the strand in a great cape that belonged to an actor’s wardrobe, hailing her with hand and voice, assuming she was glad to see him.
     She surrendered long before he caught up with her.
     “You must be perished. Here.”
     She stopped the cape from sliding off his shoulders. “Then you’ll be cold.”
     “I can bear it.” He turned, wondering what distracted her from him.
     It was just a thought. That she might share a little of her passion without any impropriety, looking beyond his intention and the onlooking tiers of tile-roofed houses, pointing to the northern gray of a simple church presiding like a cathedral.
     “That’s St Mary’s. Where Anne Bronte is buried.”
     “Interesting.” His smile said otherwise.
     “Scarborough is where she saw the sea for the first time too.”
     He rubbed her hands with the coldness of his own.
     She no longer had a choice, his cloak embracing as if to hide her, stroked over her ears and cheeks, fastened under and lifting her chin. She was ashamed she could be so ready for his adulterous advances, a long kiss, an uncertain happiness, a dance without music, a pleasure that didn’t know how to be.
     The Cathedral bells signalled a chance passing. He held her arms when they separated a little and didn’t seem to notice she was crying. “Ah. I can smell chestnuts roasting. Breakfast!”
     In another moment it wasn’t that hard to let him go.

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

Before me rose a lofty hill, Behind me lay the sea . . .
(from ‘The Bluebell’, a poem by Anne Bronte)

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

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33 thoughts on “Recalling Scarborough

  1. Me too! This feels both complete in itself and as if it could be part of a longer piece of writing. It’s very visual; I felt as if I were watching this like a scene from a film. Very atmospheric. I like the image of the cloak, both in itself (a dramatic touch!) and as evoking the idea of thoughts, impulses and emotions being cloaked or hidden/suppressed. I very much like the change of emotion at the end, too; like the tide going out, appropriately enough!

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    • ‘…as if it could be part of a longer piece of writing’–how perceptive you are (see my comment to Cindy Pugliese). I’m glad you were able to visualize and feel the atmosphere. The cloak was a very real ‘prop’ for the ‘gentleman’…and I love how you interpreted its metaphoric meaning. The end line was a surprise for me! (Let’s say I wouldn’t have written it when this scene was originally conceived 15 years or so ago). I hadn’t consciously considered how it incorporated the tide going out…thank you for all your insights!

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    • Ah, Anne Bronte…often overlooked writer of the Bronte clan. She was very special. Visiting her grave at Scarborough and the Bronte Parsonage at Haworth Yorkshire remain among the highlights of my life! Thank YOU!

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  2. Oooh, gave me shivers, I know all of those emotions so very well, the whole gamut! Just incredible, so evocative, opening up worlds before and after in my imagination. I would love to read more, but also find it quite enough in itself. Another gem 🙂

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  3. You prose sings of a woman of my own heart. As I advanced through the piece, your character became so alive (and akin) to me, that I could almost feel I was standing in the sand myself… I was fully drawn into the scene. (You might know why the following passage echos so truly for me!) 😉

    “She looked around and saw a man coming down the strand in a great cape that belonged to an actor’s wardrobe, hailing her with hand and voice, assuming she was glad to see him.
    She surrendered long before he caught up with her.
    “You must be perished. Here.”
    She stopped the cape from sliding off his shoulders. “Then you’ll be cold.”
    “I can bear it.” He turned, wondering what distracted her from him.”

    Diane, beyond your superb writing, you happened to wistfully touch what I’ve known in my life of romance…. What a gift. xx

    Love,
    Angela

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    • Yes, somehow I knew you would relate to this, Angela. I like the thought of it ‘wistfully’ touching your own experience…with poignancy but not tragedy.

      Thank you so much for your generous appreciation! Have a wonderful evening. Love, Diane

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  4. Oh goodness me, you have such a gift!

    This piece is so, so beautiful and I could read the novel!!

    “A pleasure that didn’t know how to be” is just wonderful and only one of many parts of this that I love.

    It also brought back memories of childhood holidays in Scarborough! Wintry gusts didn’t quite whine through the windows but not exactly five star!

    Love

    Christine

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  5. Beautiful Diane, I was there as it is one of my favourite places in England and yes, Anne is much overlooked and you have captured her memory with this story – Jane x

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  6. Hi Diane, such a lovely romantic scene! I hope I am going to be in Scarborough next week, as my husband and I will be staying in Whitby. I will be thinking of this story!

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