Day 23, and over 1700 words. If only had routinely had that count at the beginning. Still, pleased with my progress.
So here’s the next instalment…
Victor arrived home to a dark and sombre house. The house at Belrive was usually the one full of light compared to the more formal Geneva house, but its light was now extinguished. His arrival barely marked 5:00 in the morning, but the servants had heard the horses pull up and so someone was there to greet him. It was only then that he realized he brought no luggage and felt strangely embarrassed at what must be the state of his attire. No one appeared to notice though, but simply guided him to his room and told him that they would draw a bath for him.
“You will no doubt need one after so great a journey. The family won’t be up for a while. Would you like some breakfast? We can have something ready for you in the library.” He nodded as if in a dream.
When he was made more presentable he went downstairs to the library. Ernest had heard his arrival and was already waiting for him. He made straight for Victor and embraced him.
“Oh dear brother, that you could return to a happier home. What was less than a week ago filled with careless cheer and noisy life has been reduced to a place of absolute misery. I know that this grief cannot and should not be broken, but your presence will at least lift the spirits of father somewhat. He has suddenly aged so. I fear this is a blow from which he will never recover. And Elizabeth needs you to speak some sense to her. She blames herself and I think would throw herself onto the gallows if she could, such is the guilt that torments her. And of course, now that they have caught the fiend, she is even more inconsolable.”
“They have caught him!?” exclaimed Victor. “But how is that even possible. One might as well try catching the wind. And he could never be held!”
Ernest looked at his brother oddly. “It is not a man they have caught dear Victor, but our own Justine. If our hearts were not truly broken before, they most certainly are now. To have someone as close to our bosoms as Justine Moritz betray us in this cruel and inhuman fashion. I do not know what poison her mother filled her with after she took her from us, but it has been fatal. We should have seen it. Her behaviour was not of someone sane.”
Victor listened to his younger brother’s speech with shock and horror. “But she didn’t do it! I know the murderer and I assure you it is not Justine. They cannot keep her! They mustn’t!” His voice rose, quite startling Ernest.
“But who is it you speak of, Victor? If you know something reveal it now, for Justine is to be tried this very day and as it stands likely to be found guilty!”
“Victor, my dear, dear boy!!” Their discussion was ended as their father entered the room and went to his eldest son. Ernest was quite right, the man had aged considerably and shrunk somehow, but endeavoured to be cheerful for his son.
“Father, Victor says he knows the murderer!”
“We all know the murderer, or thought we did. It seems we did not know her at all. Our own Justine Moritz whom we so loved and provided for beyond all that was called for, has displayed the most heinous ingratitude and repaid our kindness with this most dastardly and horrific act. Our family receives blow after blow.”
“But, he says it’s not Justine, but someone else.”
“That is what Elizabeth says also, but there is evidence against her. Not to mention her irrational behaviour over the last year. I do hope you are right. I hate to think I have housed a monster all this time.” Mr. Frankenstein took his seat as if greatly fatigued. “And if you are right I hope there is evidence to that effect. I must say, I would rather the girl be acquitted, than be so deadfully betrayed.”
The men, young to old, sat in silence until Elizabeth appeared. She and Victor shared the same sad embrace as the others and repeated the same sentiments. Elizabeth had aged also, but not in the way of their father. She had matured in beauty and Victor found himself admiring the magnificent woman she was clearly becoming.
“Oh, Victor. How can such a thing be? Our own Justine, to be accused so! She could no more kill our dear William as I could. Her sweet innocence is what I have turned to so often when my heart was in need of cheering. I cannot bear it. Did they tell you she is to be tried today? We have to attend as witnesses. They surely cannot convict!”
“I promise you, Elizabeth she is innocent. And so cannot possibly be convicted. How can there be evidence against someone for a crime that he or she did not commit. She will be returned to us.” Victor felt a terrible burning as he considered that Justine could be put to death for a crime committed by his abomination.
Elizabeth was much cheered by Victor’s agreement on Justine’s innocence. Her father and brother had not been so constant in their conviction and were content to let a jury decide on it.
They continued the morning politely in conversation on weather and Victor’s travels and what plans Ernest had. They managed in this vein until 11:00, the time of Justine’s trial, neared.
Victor attended the trial as he must. He dared not turn away from it, though he wished to. His part in this terrible play tortured him into his very marrow. He was accompanied by Agatha, whom he barely noticed, such was his agitation.
Justine appeared, and was as much an angel as Victor recalled. Her mourning garb and her immense sadness only increased her appeal. As far as he was concerned she emanated innocence by her very presence. Her posture, her clear eyed stare and her confident demeanour spoke of a character incapable of what she had been accused. He stifled a gasp. Others in the court were not so discreet, but gasped in unison, shocked that evil could be so disguised.
The case proceeded. It was as his father had said, there was much evidence against the girl. The details of the crime were revealed and then witnesses brought forward. Justine’s behaviour was discussed and the appearance of the locket in her dress. Worse still, she was remarked as missing in the night even though she had claimed to be in bed and was said to have been seen by a market woman near where the murder had taken place. It was admitted that upon interrogation by family and authorities the accused had appeared most confused by the matter and did not seem to know what they were telling her when they explained to her how William Frankenstein’s lifeless body had been discovered or when confronted about the necklace, but she was often known to be in a confused state. Victor grew afraid.
Justine was then brought forward to defend herself. She assured the court that she was innocent, her eyes never bluer or bigger as she did so. She had loved the boy as a brother, she explained. Her own beloved brothers were now all dead, and his importance to her could not be overstated. It was true that she had not been in her bed when she was supposed to be, but had left it to search for William, as had the rest of the house. Her illness though, had only allowed her to travel so far. She had rested in a barn. Perhaps it was there that the locket had been inserted, for she had slept quite deeply — alas, it seems it had not been far from where the body had been found. She could give no reason as to why a killer would remove the necklace, only to place it in the pocket of a stranger, somehow found in a barn. But a killer of a boy was clearly not of normal mind, and doubtless could do anything.
She ended with a speech upon her innocence. “I assure the courts that I am guiltless in this matter. The Frankenstein family has been kindness itself towards me, taking me in as a small child and treating me as their own. There is no one I hold dearer. To cause them such pain as I know them to be suffering is horror itself to me. As is the thought that they might think that their sweet generosity towards one so lowly could have been repaid with such monstrous ingratitude and treachery. I have no explanation as to the supposed evidence against me, other than such devilry that takes an innocent child is surely capable of building suspicions against another innocent. For what reason, I cannot guess, how can any of us follow the logic of evil itself. I do not expect the court to rely on my own word. It would be unwise to do so considering the straits I am in, but ask that they listen to the words of those who know me, those who have been with me most of my life and can assure you of the purity of my character and the gentleness of my manner. I thank you.” With that Justine lowered her head, the picture of virtue and humility.
Elizabeth was the second to speak on the girl’s behalf. She spoke of the great love she had for her. How the family treasured her as their own. The loss of such a prized member of their household would add more grief to their current burden she said. It was unimaginable that such a sweet creature could be guilty of something so despicable. She explained how close she was to all the members of the family, including their precious William. Such an appeal to the members of the court by a member of the boy’s family however, only made the crime committed appear that much more despicable. Victor could hear the murmur of disgust travel through those in attendance. There was no mistaking the countenance of the judges either. That they believed in Elizabeth’s goodness was evident, but they believed this to handicap her own judgement and only served to magnify the terrible crime presented. Justine’s fate was clear.
The family returned home heartsick. Not much was eaten at dinner and conversation barely occurred. Two members of the family despondent that someone so loved and cherished by them could suddenly turn violently against them, two because they believed steadfastly in the girl’s innocence.
The next morning Victor returned alone to the court. The ballots were cast, he was told, all black. Justine was condemned.
Upon this dreadful news, Victor felt the world tilt beneath him with a sickening lurch. He had never felt so miserable. That his terrible creation had committed this vile act he was certain. And now it seemed his creature was to take the life of fair Justine. He alone knew with absolute certainty that she was innocent for only he knew the facts of the matter and these could not be revealed to anyone. For him to explain the origins of all his ills would be futile, he would be considered a mad man. And if it was believed that he created this inhuman being, it did not incriminate the devil or change the evidence against Justine. It simply uncovered his own miserable crime. There was nothing to be done but watch the terrible results of his youthful conceit
It was while he dwelt on his own wretchedness that the officer who had given him this first news added to it. “It is a terrible thing to have to decide on such a matter when death may be its end. Fortunately the girl has since confessed, so the judges may sleep easier in this case.”
Victor stared at him in shock. “She has confessed?!” The world swayed back again as he started to question his own sanity. Had he not seen the brute dancing around the very spot where his dear brother’s life had been choked out of him?
“Yes, shortly after the verdict. The judges will be greatly relieved to be so justified.”