Second installment of this 22nd day of NaNoWriMo. Will be over twice my daily average today, but just slightly above the required daily average to hit 50,000.
Elizabeth was permitted to visit with Justine two days after her arrest. When she entered the cell, Justine threw herself at her feet exclaiming, “I did not do it Miss! I did not do it! I promise on my mother’s grave I did not harm so much as a hair on the boy’s head! I loved him, Miss. As we all loved him. I cannot fathom it. Why would anyone do such a thing? He was the sweetest of children.” She wept into the hem of her mistress’s skirts.
Elizabeth crouched down and took the girl’s hands. “Dear Justine, don’t fret so. We know it couldn’t be you. We will figure this all out. You shall be freed shortly, I’m certain.” She stood up, raising Justine with her.
“Thank you, Miss. Thank you. It means so much to hear that from you.” She kissed her hands and wiped her tears on them. “I could not bear it if you believed me the monster they are saying.”
“Of course not. But we will have to clarify some matters. It does not look good against you. How did you come to have the locket?”
“I don’t know, Miss. Someone must have put it there. I did not know it was there, and then Alfred pulled it out of my dress. It makes no sense to murder someone for a locket and then leave it in a pocket. Surely a murderer would conceal such evidence.”
“And the bruising, my child?” asked Elizabeth. “They said you were bruised and scratched, as if from a fight.”
“They man-handled me terribly, Miss.” Justine shook her head as if in terror and put her hand to her throat. “Therese and Alfred and the others. Therese is the one who scratched me. She has always had a temper as you must know and I believe she has always been a bit jealous of me, of my position within the family.” Her speech quieted. “Of course everyone was very upset over William. It was most likely grief that caused them to treat me so. It’s quite understandable. How else would a person behave towards one he believed to have committed such a terrible deed. But I promise you I didn’t do it. No matter how it looks. I never left my bed, Miss.”
“Oh Justine. You cannot know how relieved I am to hear those words from your lips. I have not slept for fear that my own opinions were baseless. For I did not believe for one moment that you could commit such an act, nor does father. But to hear those words from you and to see you, gentle and blameless as you are have done my heart good. We will fight for you my dear child. You shall be freed, I promise.”
Justine thanked her in the most humble and grateful fashion and then asked after the family. They spent ten more minutes in smaller conversation until Elizabeth left.
Victor drove very quickly towards home, making very good time. But as he looked about him at water and hills that he had not seen in years and contemplated all that had occurred in that time a fit took hold of him. He was not able to go any further, such was the height of his fear and melancholy. What small thing, if altered would have prevented what he had done? What similar occurrence could have stopped his brother’s murder? What seemingly inconsequential actions do we take that unknowingly create an insurmountable movement toward disaster? These weighty considerations paralysed him. He stayed on in Lausanne for two days fighting insensibility until he was able to continue his journey, this time more slowly.
As the lake glistened in the distance, he found himself once more incapable of movement. He could very nearly see his family’s home, but misery overtook him and he stopped. What could a cursed wretch as himself offer to his grieving family. What could they offer him. He turned around and drove for an hour, completely unaware of where he was. Darkness descended and the surrounding trees and mountains stared at him, dangerous and accusing. He was forced to stop at the village of Secheron for the night. His attempts at sleep though, were in vain. Whereas his previous fit had left his body incapable of movement, this one had the opposite of effects, for he lay no more than a few minutes before he would get up again. He left his room and went for a walk. At some point he realized he was at the lake staring across towards Plainpalais, the last place his family had been happy. He had been in the midst of reading of their idyllic outing there when Henry had handed him that most awful letter. He stole a boat and rowed across the lake, staring at lightening play above Mont Blanc. A storm was approaching.
He landed the boat and made his way in the darkness, trying to imagine the route the happy band would have taken. What sites would they have stopped for at this time of year? He felt a drop of water on his face, then another. There was a mighty flash and the sky opened up. The ensuing deluge soaked him almost immediately, but he did not care. It seemed a fitting celebration for the tragedy that occurred. He watched the storm whirl around the heavens, lightening flashing here and then there, delighting in its raw beauty. He continued his walk when another flash illuminated the area and showed before him the unmistakeable silhouette of his abhorrent creation. He froze, momentarily blind in the blackness, staring at the spot the creature had been, and waited for the area to light up again. This time the creature was far ahead. He ran towards him but it was no use, his speed was inhuman. And then the idea planted itself. No human could kill a child such as his brother, but an inhuman monster certainly could. It was clear who the murderer was and why. The last year and a half played itself out in his mind. The terrible path he had taken and the resulting abomination. He had rained down a most terrible curse upon himself and his family. The resulting anguish was near unbearable. His actions had lead to the death of a dear brother and the misery of his beloved family. How was he to catch the fiend? And how could he explain what and how he knew of the killer?