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.