Day 29 – Installment b. Mountains

The second installment of day 29.  And only a little past the halfway mark.

Victor started his journey a month after his attack on Anton Leclerc.  The thought of the impending trip was apparently enough to keep him in bed at night for there were no more reports of his wandering.  And during the day he was often about the house writing letters and making his arrangements.  His conversations were mostly rational, although he remained agitated and would jump at the slightest noise.  And he continued to call Agatha, Belle, though nobody dared correct him.  When she asked Elizabeth about it she seemed to think it an understandable mistake as “the resemblance is not far off, if Belle had managed not to age in the last dozen years.  I suppose he sees what he wants to see.”

The family saw him off in the morning wishing him a safe journey and making sure he had not forgotten anything.  He held Elizabeth tenderly, assured her he would be fine and asked that she find a way to lift her own spirits and to watch for demons.  She assured him she would.  He then mounted his horse and was away.

The moment he left the city gates behind him he felt a great weight lifted.  He was a scholarly fellow it was true, but there were times when he required mountains and nothing and no one else.  He picked his way along his beloved alpine roads and admired the scenery.  Summer was now at its height and the trees danced about him in their full glory.  His gloom, though still present at the edges, could not withstand the majesty that surrounded him.  He and his troubles felt insignificant when confronted with the eternity of the mountains.

He went by horseback as far as he could and then switched to a more sure-footed mule as the trail became more treacherous.  The scenery was amazingly unchanged since his boyhood.  He would turn a corner and it was as if the last years had never happened.  He had not unleashed a monster onto the world.  William was still living.  Justine was never hanged.  These moments were brief and then his guilt would swell and he would be forced to stop and collect himself.  He looked at long abandoned castles, waterfalls, ancient glaciers and the ever present snowy peaks of the Alps.  None of these could be marked by his small troubles.  He was as insignificant as a buzzing insect, unnoticed by geological history.  He went on.

When at last he reached the village of Chamounix, he was exhausted in both mind and body.  He ate heartily and slept well that night.

The next morning he wandered the valley and continued to distract from his troubles.  The ramble did wonders for his ruined body.  He had not exercised it properly since his first year attending Ingolstadt.  The memory of his dreaded college and all that had gone on there brought a momentary pang, but the glory of the surrounding vista quickly banished such thoughts.  Once again he went to bed exhausted and slept well.

It was his plan to climb to the summit of Montanvert the next day.  When he awoke to rain he considered resting instead and tackling it on the morrow, but he was far too restless to stay and rain is only wet and what was that to aa man as himself.  He had his mule brought and started his trek.

The zigzagging route was a tricky one and perhaps unwise to take when wet, but neither he nor his mule slipped and the solemnity of the weather added to the atmosphere.  Ruined trees marked the trails of avalanches.  Rocks fell.  Trees shrank as he went higher and snow appeared in ribbons across his path.  It was all of it breath-taking and terrible.  He stopped at the magnificent ice field that wrapped the peak and felt joy enter his heart for the first time in many years.  He let the mountains absorb his insignificant being and thought die now or go on — there was hope for him still.

And then he saw it.  His peace was shattered.  A man approached him.  He was immense in proportion and going at an inhuman speed.  It seemed he was not ever to escape his abomination, for leaping effortlessly along a path that had taken Victor hours to negotiate, was his monstrous creation.

 

 

 

29th Installment – a. In the Open

One day left after this one and still plugging away.

After William’s dreadful murder, the creature retrieved his few possessions and ran as far from the location as possible.  He barely stopped to rest so determined was he to disappear.  He was afraid that if he was discovered they would not find the true monster, so he hid — he returned to the mountains.  He felt safer there.  He found comfort in their majesty and blank stare.  The hardness of rock does not judge or mock in the way the softer, prettier elements of nature appear to.

After two nights outside he found a suitable cave to move into.  Once concealed in his lair he allowed himself to grieve, sobbing and howling at the cold walls in despair, his cries echoing through the rocks.  Those below occasionally heard his inhuman wails and paused wondering if it was some sad ghost or just the wind.  He remained this way for three days until his hunger would allow it no longer.  He came down and skirted a nearby village, managing to pilfer some new greens from an outlying garden and to remove a nicely wrapped half-eaten lunch from a large rock.  He wasn’t sure which he enjoyed more, the meat and bread or its clean white handkerchief.  He had noticed that some men tied such things around their necks and so attempted to do the same in order to cover the jagged scar that ringed his poor borrowed neck, but as he had neither mirror nor experience the knot defeated him.  He put the cloth in a pocket and put his scarf back on, although it was too warm.

Feeling nicely fed and enjoying the late spring sun he found he had no wish to skulk back to his cave or linger in dark woods.  He wanted the light and warmth of the sun.  He dared a more open and meandering route.  He was beginning to notice that there was greater variety in human beings than he had initially thought, though some were looked upon more kindly than others.  He would risk a confrontation.  Whereas beatings and bruises had not killed him, he felt that loneliness just might.  So he kept walking, deliberately slowing his pace and occasionally clapping his hands and giggling with the excitement of it.  He was almost giddy.  He was on a path in open sun.  He wept only a little that night and slept soundly, dreaming happy dreams.

The next day he took another trip down from the mountain taking his same open route and humming a tune remembered from Mr. DeLacey.  He had met no-one on the previous occasion so he still could not know if this was a safe course of action but he had been emboldened by his experience.  As the area was sparcely populated he still met no-one.  He thought of walking to the village itself just to see what would happen, but decided the idea foolhardy.  As he didn’t wish to call attention to his presence by thievery he returned to his home, going through forest this time in order to collect wood.

It was on his third trip down that he met two men on his same path.  He said hello and they stared and nodded, but there was no violence, just a comment he managed to overhear:  “That I think is the strangest thing I have seen come off that mountain yet.”

It’s true that doors and windows were locked after his appearance.  But that was because the missing lunch had been remarked on, not for fear of physical safety.

Day 28 – b, Arrangements

Elizabeth and Agatha conferred on the incident involving Victor before lunch.

Agatha was very clear in her opinon.  “I am afraid, Elizabeth, that you are going to have to drop the matter of Justine, no matter how deeply felt.  I am not saying you must denounce her, just do not dwell on or bring up the subject.  I know that it is often a topic the two of you discuss.  Clearly, Victor is looking for the monster that killed his brother, a monster he believes is still out there.  And, judging from what you told me of this morning, anyone walking at night he condemns as the guilty party.  You don’t want this infatuation of his growing worse.”

“I fear you are right,” she said.  “But it is so hard.  To lose two that we loved so dearly.  I too am often caught up in the thoughts that this fiend still walks the earth, perhaps inflicting the same pain onto other families.  My heart breaks with the weight of it.”

“I am sorry, Elizabeth, but some of us are simply not allowed the same luxury of grief that is afforded to others.  And you, my dear friend, are one whose job it is to be stronger than others.  You have as much as said so to me in the past.”

Elizabeth had no choice but to agree with her friend.  She would let go the issue and find other topics when with Victor.  It seemed both their sanities rested on it.

 

When Mr. Frankenstein arrived home that evening he had news.

“Well, I have been to see the Leclercs to discuss the events of this morning and all has been sorted out.  They can see how Victor may have been startled by the sudden appearance of a man of Anton’s stature at that hour, especially given the terrible circumstances of this spring, and I have admitted that Victor should not be wandering about at that hour.  I have consented to compensate the young man for his pains and he for his part shall withdraw his complaint.  I have also agreed that Victor will remove himself from Geneva until he is in better health.  I think somewhere more rustic would lift his spirit.  Don’t you agree?”

Elizabeth was uncertain.  “But father, was that not rash?  We haven’t even spoken with Victor about the incident.  There may be a completely rational explanation for what transpired.  It may not have even been him.”

“I think we can be fairly certain that it was Victor and that he was in the wrong.  He has been behaving most irrationally and raving about monsters.  And he arrived home this morning with blood on him.  Your loyalty to him, Elizabeth, is most admirable, however, let’s not be foolish about it my dear.  But the situation is dealt with and we need not speak of it again.”

“Is Victor even capable of such a trip right now, father?” she asked.  “What if he is overcome and we are not there to help?”

“Victor will be fine once he finds himself in more pastoral surroundings.  I will let him know of what has been decided when he emerges.”

 

Victor was quite excited about the idea of leaving Geneva and suggested that he would visit Chamounix.  He had not been in the valley since leaving for university and missed it.  Elizabeth was concerned about him climbing up and down the mountains, but remained silent.

He had no explanation for the night before other that he he had been quite certain at the time that he had found the monster responsible for the deaths of Justine and his brother.  He felt quite badly for Anton Leclerc and hoped that he had not been too badly hurt.  His father assured him that the man was fine and had already forgiven him  for his actions.

Victor started planning his travels, already in finer spirits.  He actually ate dinner with his family that evening and other than continuously calling Agatha, Belle, spoke quite rationally while doing so.

Day 28 – a.The officer

It was 11:00 the next morning when an officer arrived at the door.  Mr. Frankenstein was fetched although that was not who was asked for.

“What is this about?” he asked the officer.  They remained standing in the hall.

“There was an incident last night, sir,”  he explained.  “An attack.  The culprit is said to be your son, Victor Frankenstein.”

“My son!?  What are you talking about man?”

“In the early hours of this morning, sir, a man was walking home…”

Mr. Frankenstein interrupted.  “What man?  I thought you said it was last night.”

“At about 2:00 this morning sir,” the officer said slowly and carefully,  “a man, Mr.Anton Leclerc, was walking when he was attacked and beaten with a large stick, a walking stick the victim believes, and was very badly bruised and bloodied before getting away.  He claims it was your son, Victor, that performed the deed.”

“Anton Leclerc?  Mr. Patrick Leclerc’s son?”   Mr. Frankenstein feigned astonishment.

“That would be him sir.”

“But the man must be a foot taller than my son!” exclaimed Mr. Frankenstein.  “How could a man of my son’s slight frame batter and bloody a specimen such as Anton Leclerc?  And what was the man doing out at such a time?”

“I cannot speak to why your son was out and about at that hour,” replied the officer, “but Mr Leclerc was simply walking home after a late evening with friends.”

“This all seems most suspicious to me,” grunted Mr. Frankenstein.

“Be that as it may, sir, Mr. Leclerc is quite clear that it was Mr. Victor Frankenstein that committed the act and I will have to speak with him.”

“Well you can’t speak to him.  He is in bed.  Ill.  I do not wish to wake him.”  He dare not allow access to his son until he first spoke to him.

“Can you speak to the whereabouts of your son at or around 2:00 this morning?”  asked the officer.

“Well, obviously he was in bed.  Which is where all respectable people should be at that hour.”  He was indignant.

“Can you say that for certain?”

“Clearly, I cannot say for certain as I too was in my bed.  But I can assure you that Frankensteins do not wander the streets of Geneva in the wee hours of the morning.”

“It is said that your son is often about at those hours, sir,” the officer informed him.

“Said by Mr. Anton Leclerc I assume,” Mr. Frankenstein snorted.

“By many people, sir.”

“Yes, well, as I said.  Respectable people are in their beds at those hours.  Those who find themselves about at that time I would think highly unreliable witnesses.”

“I will still need to speak with your son to clarify matters, sir,”  the officer said in his most reasonable tone.

“We will attend you at your offices when he is well enough to leave his bed.  Therese will show you out.”

The officer did not argue with the old man, but paused and turned when he reached the door.  “I  will need to speak to him.”

“I understand.” Mr. Frankenstein.

Elizabeth entered from the library after the officer had left.  “I could not help but hear, father.”

“Don’t worry yourself, Elizabeth.  There is obviously some misunderstanding.”

“But Victor did arrive home around two this morning covered in blood.  Blood that was not his own,” explained Elizabeth.  “I have yet to receive an adequate answer as to why.”

“Why was I not informed?”

“I didn’t wish to worry you and I did not know what happened,” she explained.  “I was hoping that perhaps Victor would be able to clarify things after he had rested.  He has been often walking late at night.  Though, this is the first night I have been aware of anything untoward happening.”

“I see.  Well, anything could happen to a person at that time.  He may have been startled by someone, may have genuinely feared for his life.  Who knows what manner of person you might meet at such a time.”  Mr. Frankenstein stood a while thinking.  “I am going out, my dear.  I may not be back for lunch.”

Mr. Frankenstein walked to the Leclerc house deep in thought.  Perhaps Elizabeth had been right in her objections to leaving Belrive.  It was true that Victor’s soul thrived in more natural settings.  But he had been truly fearful about his son’s wanderings there.  The lake was too close, and he didn’t like the way Victor looked at it.  No, Victor’s greatest problem was not that he was in Geneva.  It was that Elizabeth was not performing her usual function.  She who could be counted on to pull Victor out of his blackest moods and force him to focus on mores sensible things was failing as she struggled with her own despair.  Worse, they each shared the same ridiculous conviction that Justine was wrongfully condemned, so rather than distract Victor from his foolishness, Elizabeth was feeding his belief that some black-hearted wretch was still lurking and Victor for his part was returning the favour and worsening Elizabeth’s own grief and fear.  The two must be separated for a time.

He found himself at the Leclerc house and knocked on the door, feeling far happier than when he left his own home.

 

Installment 27-b – Geneva

Today’s a bit of a going backwards day as I clarify a bit more about arriving in Geneva.

Geneva had not been a good idea on Mr. Frankenstein’s part Elizabeth thought.  She had argued against it vehemently, but it was no use.  So she lost her lake, which would not be so available to her, and she lost William.

The house at Belrive was full of life.  The house in Geneva was quite the opposite.  The first thing you saw sitting atop the mantel when you entered the house was a large painting of the late Mrs. Frankenstein, then Miss Caroline Beaufort, consumed by her own grief as she knelt beside her dead father’s coffin.  It was a picture that Elizabeth hated and she wasn’t sure her mother liked it much more, although Mr. Frankenstein and his two older sons admired and loved it greatly.  They felt it heroic and that it epitomized her mother’s grace and all that was to be admired in women.  Elizabeth felt it ghoulish.

William was not present in a house as dead as the Geneva house — it was not a house for children.  It was why the family spent so little time there. William could be felt everywhere around their home in Belrive.  It was wrong to try to eliminate his presence like that as if eliminating his history could lessen their grieving.  The loss of his presence left a numbness far worse than grief.

To make matters worse, a number of the staff did not return with the family.  Elizabeth blamed herself for this.  She should not have been so open about her belief in Justine.  For if Justine was innocent, then someone must have planted the locket in her dress and whoever planted it must have been present at the murder.  So suspicion nibbled away, and those whose whereabouts that dreadful day were not known, found themselves without a position in the household.  Elizabeth’s own workload went up as a result.  No one was willing to look into new staff.

The DeLaceys remained with the family.   A small out building was provided for Mr. DeLacey, but it did not have space enough for his daughter.  Agatha was now in the main house in the bedroom next to Elizabeth’s.  They each enjoyed running into each other in the hall, but Elizabeth wondered if her friend would have liked a place to retreat to away from them all.

Everyone the Frankensteins knew or were in anyway acquainted with visited upon their arrival and gave their condolences.  The house was quite lively for close on two weeks.  But after that they all disappeared and the family received no more visitors.  Nor did they receive any invitations.  It was as if they had been deemed unlucky and their ill luck contagious.  And so a family that kept primarily to itself to begin with became even more insular.  Elizabeth was truly grateful for her friendship with Agatha.  It was she who pulled her away from her duties and made her go for walks around the town or stop somewhere for pastries in the afternoon.

And of course there was Victor.  Victor of all of them should have stayed at the lake, although his father may have been correct in his expressed concern that he might just walk into that lake.  Victor required nature around him to distract him from his darknesses.  A walk in trees or a trek through the mountains could do wonders in lifting his spirits.

 

 

Day 27a – a bit of a rewrite

So, looking at what I’ve written so far and need just a bit more tension I think.  So a rewrite to the discovery of William’s body.

He should have left the moment he place the locket. A man that looked as he did could not be found by a dead boy and thought innocent.  But he could not bring himself to desert the  child.  He should not be left alone.  He waited a number of hours.  The path was not well used, which  was why each party had chosen the location.  Neither Justine nor the creature wished to be seen.

He kept himself close enough to the woods to escape quickly, but he had not anticipated that it was from the woods that the next wanderers would appear.  He ducked into the nearby brush when he heard their approach and hoped they spotted the corpse before they noticed him.  The group, an older man and what looked to be his three sons, suddenly stopped and dropped the wood they were carrying.  It was the child they saw first.  The creature used the clatter to cover the noise of his leaving the bushes.  He managed to run twenty-nine of the thirty metres to the cover of the trees before the youngest of their group saw him.  The boy started to run after the creature before he called attention to him so the others did not manage to see him.  He had no trouble outrunning the boy but immediately stopped when his two brothers followed.  A forest cannot be run through silently and he did not want to be found, so he crouched behind a tree, listening.

“What is it boy.  What did you see?”

“I don’t know, but he was big.  A giant with bright red hair.  He’s up there I think.”

“This way?”

“Yes, maybe a bit more to the left.  Yes, that way.”

The creature could hear the two approaching.  All four of them held still and listened, the tallest with a hand up indicating silence.

One of them started to move.  The creature could hear the snapping of twigs as he neared.

There was a call from the clearing.  “Boys!  Out here.  I need a couple of you to watch the body.”  There was a whistle.  “Come on boys.  His family needs to know.”

The creature could hear two of them leave, but the closest didn’t move.

Some sort of conversation took place by the body and then one of them came back.

“Come on Walter.  Don’t know if Joseph’s giant exists or not.  But who ever killed the boy was small.  You can see the bruises on his poor neck.  And old lady Gerber says she saw some strange young woman coming out of her nephew’s barn earlier and she wouldn’t say what she was doing there when asked.”

Walter stood in his spot a moment or two longer and then the creature could hear him walk to his brother.

“Father says it’s the Frankenstein boy.  We’re just going to let the poor souls know.”

The creature stayed in his spot until he felt all danger had passed.  Then he ran.

Day 26 – Blood

Had a busy day out of town, so less than 400 words when I need 4,000.   But still plugging away.

The creature was finding it less and less fulfilling being a solitary being and taking more and more chances coming into the open.  No longer content hiding out in caves and deserted cabins in the mountains he was edging closer to civilization.  He had acquired a taste in his exchange with his two attempts at friendship, doomed as they were.  He required contact of some kind.  No matter how small.

And he spent considerable time looking at his notebooks wondering yet again, if anything in the drawings lived.  Were there others like him and if there were, were they loved?

 

Victor now spent most of his days lying in his bed drifting between waking and sleeping.  At night he wandered the streets certain he was being watched.  The creature had found him at Planpalais — he was obviously following him.  The closed gates of the city provided him no sense of security, they could just as likely shut the monster in as out.  It seemed to him that night would be the time to find him for clearly he would fear the light of day, such as he was.  Every now and then he spotted him, but only for a moment.  He carried one of his father’s heavier walking sticks, prepared for their eventual meeting.

 

Elizabeth found herself woken from her sleep at 2:00 on a Thursday morning.  It was Therese who shook her and whispered that she was needed in the kitchen.  She got up quickly, the urgency evident.  It was Victor, Therese told her.  She went downstairs where Gerta was sitting with him in the kitchen wiping his face with a cloth.  He had blood on him.

“Victor, what happened?”  Elizabeth asked.

“He won’t say, Miss.”  replied Gerta.  “Harold heard him arrive and put him in here so as not to wake the house.”  She paused and lowered her voice.  “I have found no injury, Miss.”

“I found the brute, but I lost him.  I got him though, got him a few times.” He looked at Elizabeth, momentarily afraid.  “I think it was him.  No. No, I’m sure.  I’m sure it was him.”

No other explanation could be pulled from him.  They cleaned him up as best as they could and put him to bed in hopes that more information would be forthcoming once he had slept.

 

Installment 25

Day 25 and alas, my word count has plummeted again.  But I continue regardless.

 

“I think I know what ails him,” Elizabeth said to Agatha.  She was speaking of Victor, naturally. Since the family’s return to Geneva, he had barely left his bed.  Not that he rested, any sleep had was fitful and filled with cries and whimpers.  When he did leave his bed, it was usually at night when he would roam the streets until exhausted, searching for some unknown thing, returning home trembling.

Agatha put her work down beside her and leaned forward awaiting Elizabeth’s theory.

“It is so obvious if one considers it.  He was in love with Justine.”

Agatha looked at her.  “Victor?  With Justine?!”

“Yes.  It makes perfect sense if you look at it.  His initial illness was not long after her mother’s ill treatment started taking its terrible toll on her.  His first letter to us after the start of his recovery was on the topic of Justine.  And his horror upon her being accused of the murder, his insistence on her innocence even upon her confession — surely all this shows a far more intimate knowledge of her character.  And yet he has been away these many years.  The only way he could be so certain of her character was if they were still in communication somehow.  It would explain Justine’s disappearances — she must have been reading his secret correspondence or penning her own.  And she would have resented many of her duties and found her relations with us difficult.  There may have even been an understanding.  You must admit that I have hit on something.”

“I don’t know,” replied Agatha.  “But then I am not that familiar with either of them.  Justine avoided me mostly.  And Victor has yet to even remember my name.”

“You had to see him at the prison, Agatha.  I had to hold him up when we entered, such was his torment.  And Justine, she pretended not to notice him until she and I had spoken some while, even though Victor entered with me, holding my hand.  Isn’t that the action of someone accustomed to pretending publicly not to feel for another?  He has been far more affected by the loss of Justine than by William.  It’s after her death that his fevers came on.  He calls her name as much as his brother’s when he sleeps.  And hunts everywhere for this phantom murderer of his.”

Agatha considered Elizabeth’s arguments.  “I suppose it could be the case.  But would he be so heartless as to let her die without any acknowledgement of this?  Especially if it could have explained some of her behaviour.”

“I love Victor very dearly but I hold no illusions as far as his virtues and failings.  Give Victor an idea and he will hold onto it unto death, but his strength fails on things more concrete.  He would have been utterly incapable of revealing his secret this far in.  He would not even know how.”

He also enjoys his grief and sorrows, thought Agatha, but kept silent.  She had never met a man so obsessed with his own miseries.  That he loved Justine seemed unlikely to her.  But Elizabeth knew Victor far better than she did, and she had to admit to a certain resentment towards a man who never even recognized her or her father’s presence.

 

 

 

 

 

24-b Leaving

Elizabeth Lavenza graph

 

And here is installment 2 of day 24.  Hurray!!

 

With the trial over and Justine dead, Mr. Frankenstein decided it was time to return to Geneva.  The house at Belrive no longer provided the cheer it was known for.  Nor did the lake or any of the walks.  He declared that a change was called for.

The family was not in any way repaired by the trial’s conclusion.  Victor and Elizabeth continued in their belief that Justine was innocent.  Ernest and their father were content with the verdict of the judges, as was most of the household staff.  There was naturally friction.  And Victor’s darkness was taking hold.  As the household busied itself with packing up, Victor brooded in various locations within the house and without, guilt gnawing at every organ.

Agatha tried to shake her friend of her conviction, or at least to silence her on the topic of Justine.  Elizabeth may not have been subject to Victor’s dark brooding, but she was eaten up in her own fashion and would often speak of “the terrible injustice.”

Agatha explained, “The staff were initially grateful for your display of loyalty to one of their own, but they are beginning to find it ghoulish and cruel.  They loved William and think it a betrayal of him and your family to carry on so.  They will grow to distrust you.”

Elizabeth was very much hurt by her friend’s lecture and would not speak to her for days.

“That Justine Moritz murdered young William there can be no doubt,” said Agatha’s father when they were discussing the falling out.  “That Elizabeth cannot know this is equally inarguable.  You yourself have pointed out on many occasions how Elizabeth sought to cover for Justine’s shortcomings.  To admit that Justine killed her brother would mean that she had abetted in the crime.”

“But, father, that is ridiculous.  Elizabeth is not responsible for Justine’s actions!”

“I think Elizabeth would argue with you,”  pointed out Mr. DeLacey.  “The girl takes on the troubles of all, and believes herself responsible for everyone and everything.  Even now, when she should be quietly mourning her loss, she is busy helping with this move.  I don’t know what Alphonse is thinking causing such disturbance at a time like this, but he is a father grieving and I will not argue with him.”

“There is one thing I cannot understand,” said Agatha.  “Why did Justine maintain her innocence after she had confessed?  She had nothing to gain by it — her fate was sealed.  But Elizabeth and her brother suffer so.”

“You have already answered your question.  To inflict yet another wound,” replied her wise father.  He grinned.  “Or maybe she had heard our own tale, and thought that Elizabeth would release her in the night in the way we led Safi’s father away just before he was to be executed.”  He grew serious again.  “I can only imagine what happens when one confesses in one ear and protests in another.  But if it is of consolation, I am absolutely certain what happens to the soul of a young, innocent boy cut down as William was.  We can all take solace in knowing that the anguish and miseries visited upon us, the living shall never touch him.”

“Poor Elizabeth, to have made such a mistake in caring for a girl like Justine,” sighed Agatha.

“Do not think ill of the actions of your friend.  It is the saddest truth, that all the kindnesses visited on Justine, regardless of her character, were right and good.  Sometimes the right thing is rewarded with sorrow.  It is only in the beyond that we receive that which we have earned.

“Anyway, my child, I have spoken to a number of people on this topic and I believe the talk will stop and your friend will be looked upon kindly again.  And you my dear are to hold your tongue.  All involved are now dead.  Nothing can be changed by a change of opinion.”  He considered the subject over.

“But, father, what of truth?  Isn’t it important that she know and accept the truth?”

“Your friend is not a fool.  I am sure that one day the truth will come to her without any of your assistance.  And it will arrive when she is of such a maturity that it will not break her.  Right now she is in a very delicate state, no matter how she darts about the house, helping here and there.  I wish she would follow the lead of that one brother of hers and just brood a bit and leave everyone else to do the work.  Really they should trade places, for he broods far too much, if what I hear is correct.”

The subject was now truly finished and Agatha gave her father a hug, grateful for his wisdom.

 

Mr. DeLacey was quite correct in his assessment of Victor.  He was completely and utterly consumed with grief.  Far beyond anyone else in the house.  And he was beginning to speak of monsters.  Elizabeth was starting to feel just a little afraid for him.  She almost wished that he had failed in his loyalty to her and Justine.  For if he could think Justine guilty, then this would all now be over for him and it would be one less grief.  As it was, the loss of Justine racked him more than WIlliam’s horrible end, she was certain.

It was then that she had a thought.  It made perfect sense to her…

Instalment 24a – an Appeal

Elizabeth Lavenza - graph

Day 24 and 2 installments.  Yay!!  Over double my word count 3 days running I think.  So here’s installment A.

 

Elizabeth was waiting for Victor’s return and he had barely landed through the door before she was there asking the news.

“It is done.  She is found guilty and condemned.”

Elizabeth turned deathly pale and it seemed to him that a lesser woman would have collapsed beneath the weight of his dreadful news.

“There is more,” he added softly.  “She has confessed.”

She remained standing but contrived to turn even paler yet and emitted a small whimper.  “But how can that be?!”  How can it be that Justine, our precious charge, entrusted to us when barely walking, could be the source of all our sorrows?  I relied firmly on her innocence.  Could I be so fooled?  Her virtue appeared unassailable.  She had not been herself of late, it’s true, but there was no malevolence visible in her, just a sad confusion.  Oh Victor, what have I partaken in?  For I have endeavoured to assist her in all manner of ways since her return.”

“I have no answer for you, cousin,” he replied, guiding her to the library and sitting her by the fire.  “I am no better at measuring human nature than you are, for even now I am near convinced of her innocence!”

It was then their father entered with the same news.  “Well, the matter is concluded.  The treacherous girl has been condemned.  I just received the news.  To add insult, the villain has the audacity to ask for a visit from Elizabeth!  Can you imagine it?  She has confessed you know and yet still believes herself deserving of rights.”

“She asked for me?”  Elizabeth was stunned.

“I said it was out of the question of course.  I was tempted to throw the fellow out bodily for even passing on such a request.”

Elizabeth’s demeanour changed, as she straightened her back and firmed her shoulders.  “Father,” she said, quiet but firm in her tone. “You needn’t have answered for me.  Naturally, I will go.”

“How could you possibly entertain such an idea!?” asked her father, aghast.

“I failed somewhere, father.  I must know how.  Whether I will find my answers in a prison confrontation, I do not know, but I will certainly not find them sitting at home.”

“She will not be alone father, I promise.  I will attend with her.”  Victor was in need of answers also, as well as concerned for his cousin’s well-being.

“Madness,” their father sighed, but without conviction.  He took a seat at his desk in the corner, but took up no papers.

 

Elizabeth visited the convicted girl that afternoon.  Victor gripped her hand as they entered the prison, but her strength would have held without his support, he knew.  For Elizabeth’s part she was shocked at how weakened Victor was upon their entering, and his trembling traveled through her palms.  They released each other when Justine entered.  The women’s interview would be their own.

Justine’s first thought was to throw herself at the skirts of her mistress, but decided against it.  Instead she simply stood erect and manacled in front of the woman.  She stood with more dignity than a confessed murderer ought was the thought that ran through the minds of both Victor and Elizabeth.

“I thank you for seeing me, dear lady,” was her hushed greeting.  She did not look at her but kept her eyes lowered.

“I have come, but why?  Why have you called me Justine?  Do you have new tortures to inflict upon me?”

Justine gave a sob, and that was when she collapsed at her lady’s feet.  She grasped her skirts and lamented.  “Dear lady, oh my dear, dear lady.  I could not bear it if I went to my death without assuring you of my innocence.  That you would believe that your love and generosity could be returned with such horrible thanks.  You who take responsibility for all, should not feel responsibility for this.  Please know that your humble servant had no hand in it.”  Justine wiped the tears from her eyes and stood, newly collected.  She motioned to a table and its two mean, wooden chairs.  They sat.

“But if you are innocent, why should you confess?” asked Elizabeth.

“I was forced into it, my dear lady.  I was haunted by my confessor.  Tortured day and night, even before the trial and its verdict.  I would receive no absolution, would descend into hell and purgatory.  I would be excommunicated!  The tortures of this life, even an ignominious death, I could bear, dear lady, but to bear these same tortures into the afterlife — it was too much.  I confessed.  I gave a lie in exchange for peace.  I do not know what this lie will cost me before our God, but as He knows my innocence, I believe he will not count it against me.  But I could not have you count it against me dear lady.  You, whom I love so much, who has loved me, no.  That I could not have.  Your opinion is all that I value in this life.”  She stopped and gave a single sob.  “I am sorry, dear lady.  Perhaps I should not have burdened you with this.  You would have probably been happier otherwise.  I…I apologize.”

“Oh no, Justine.  I will always prefer truth, no matter how hard.  You do not know what this means to me.  I was so convinced of your innocence, and to find my judgement so ill conceived, that was the greater burden, dear child.  But to hear your assurances once more brings me great solace, though obvious heart break with it.  Please forgive me for having even momentarily doubted you.”  She reached her hands across the table. Justine kept hers in her lap.

“Oh dear lady!” she sobbed and then raised her hands. She clasped both of Elizabeth’s and kissed them.  “Dear, dear lady.”  She continued her sobbing and landed more kisses on Elizabeth’s hands.  “You do not know what this means to me.  If I die, I die happy in the knowledge that at least you know the truth.”  She suddenly spied Victor standing in a corner. “Oh sir, forgive me.  I am so distracted.  I did not notice you.  Please, sir, I know that it is a lot to ask under these circumstances, but know, as your sweet cousin knows, that I am innocent.”

Victor came forward, but found himself unable to answer her, so despondent was he over their exchange.  He had hoped against hope that maybe he was incorrect in his assumptions, but it had proved otherwise.  He had no doubt that Justine was wrongly condemned, a victim of his terrible meddling with forces he had no right to.

“You have no worries there, Justine,” Elizabeth assured her.  “For where I have wavered, Victor has been steadfast.  He has never doubted your innocence.”

“I thank you, sir,” said Justine.

Victor wished to scream, so appalled was he at this terrible situation.  He nodded to her and fought back his tears.  He was unsuccessful.

The two women spoke a little longer, going over old memories, mostly about William.  They even laughed.  “I knew him from his birth.  It is a great sadness that he is gone,” remarked Justine.

“I will talk to who I can, Justine.  I will reverse this injustice,” Elizabeth promised.  She left the table and moved towards Victor. She squeezed his hand.  “We will both work on your behalf.”

“I thank you.  But know that no matter what the outcome you have brought me great peace and happiness.  God bless and keep you both.”  She rose and gave a small, dignified bow and artfully blinked back her tears.  They were dismissed.

 

Elizabeth was true to her word and appealed to all she could appeal to, but to no avail.  The decision remained.  Justine died the next morning.  Elizabeth and Victor were devastated.