Day 22 and one instalment to be followed by another. The letter from Victor’s father is based on the one in the book so it was a little easier.
Victor and Henry had just spent a splendid fortnight on a final walking tour of the environs of Ingolstadt in preparation of Victor’s leaving. Victor was only awaiting communication of the date he was to return home. He would miss Henry, who had proven to be an invaluable friend, but his health was now returned and he had ensured that Henry was well settled in the college.
On his return to their rooms he found two letters for him, one from Elizabeth and a shorter one from his father. He eagerly picked up the one from Elizabeth and tossed the other to Henry saying, “Well, Henry, it looks like I am officially leaving. The date and the arrangements will be in that.” He returned to the news from Elizabeth, smiling at her descriptions of his family’s activities. He had not reached the bottom of the first page when his friend reached over and placed his hand on his and pushed the letter from him.
“I can read no more, Victor. I am sorry.” He removed Elizabeth’s correspondence and replaced it with his father’s.
“My dear Victor,
“You have doubtlessly waited impatiently for the letter to fix the date of your return to us; and how I wish to simply sit down and write just those few lines. But that would be a cruel kindness. What would be your surprise, my son, when you expected a happy and glad welcome, to behold, on your return, the contrary? For you shall find a house of tears and wretchedness. How, Victor, can I relate our misfortune? I wish to prepare you for the woful news, but I know it is impossible.
“William is dead! — that sweet child, whose smiles delighted and warmed my heart, who was so gentle, yet so gay! Victor, he is murdered!
“At this writing I am in possession of few details, but I shall relate what I can. William failed to appear for dinner and after a search was made for him in the house and the grounds, he failed to materialize. The search was broadened and at 9:00 this terrible night the beautiful boy that just hours before was blooming and in health, was discovered far from his home, stretched out on a neglected path, lifeless: the print of the murder’s finger on his throat.
“We are all of us greatly afflicted but Elizabeth is most particularly stricken with this news, for William had teased her to let him wear a valuable miniature that she possessed of your mother. The picture is gone from his neck, and was doubtless the temptation which urged the murderer to the deed. She believes herself responsible for the boy’s loss.
“Come, dearest Victor; you alone can console Elizabeth. She weeps continually, and accuses herself unjustly as the cause of his death; her words pierce my heart. Thank God your mother did not live to witness the cruel, miserable death or her youngest!
“Come Victor; enter the house of mourning, but I ask that you do so with kindness and affection for those who love you, and not with hatred for your enemies.
“Your affectionate and afflicted father,
Victor collapsed onto a chair in anguish. Henry knelt beside him, equally moved.
“I can offer no consolation, my friend,” he said then rose. “I will go to order the horses for your return.”
They walked there together. There was some small mentions made of fiends and monsters and murderers of children. And of course, the sweetness of William. But they were mostly silent, the echoing of their steps on the streets the most fitting accompaniment to their grief. Victor looked about and considered on the range of emotions spent in this place.
When the horses arrived, the two men said good-bye with an embrace and Victor climbed into the cabriolet. Henry watched him drive away.