Letter the Fifth
To Mrs E— Kirk
E—ton House, —shire
13th October 18—
My Darling Sister,
Words cannot surprise my happiness – my surprise – at receiving your letter which informs me that you were, in that short period during which I fought for my life, happily engaged in the pursuit of Matrimony. What a shock it was, indeed, to open a letter addressed to me and signed by Mrs Kirk, wife to the esteemed Captain Kirk of the Royal Navy!
My reply comes later than expected, and for that I am truly sorry.
I have been taking short airings, supported by Miss Jane and the Innkeeper (a rough, but a kind-hearted fellow) and upon returning do not find myself up to the task of writing. But I have resolved today to put that at rest. Indeed, these past few days have been gloriously happy, for the company of Miss Jane and Elder, the son of the local factory-owner (not, perhaps, the most esteemed of company, but this is Wales, after all) has been a delight. Both are devoted and caring creatures, and I should have been indeed lost without their guiding hands.
But now I come to my Tale; and I would not sooner delay it than cut off my own hand. It is indeed a fascinating Story, and the more I consider it, the more I believe it would make a very fine Novel; but you yourself may judge from the letters I have sent you. And now to continue with Miss Jane’s Narration.
“He planned his murder carefully. He withdrew himself from the Countess’ society, and as he had hoped, this drew the Countess and the Nephew together more and more, as she relied on his charms to ease the many tedious hours she spent in the house; and ease them he did, so thoroughly that she soon became so absorbed in the Nephew that she barely saw the changing of the seasons nor the dawning of a new day and the setting of the evening sun. It is happy that the Countess knew such gladness before her untimely End; for her husband, in her days of Joy, was plotting and scheming. She suspected nothing, for her mind was on one thing alone, and that was the Nephew. At last, one night, about the midnight hour, the Knight crept up to the Countess’ chamber, where he knew her to be secluded with the Nephew. The Knight had added a little sleeping-herb to their drinks at the dinner table, and so when he crept up he knew them well to be fast asleep. He had with him a shining Knight’s dagger, studied with rubies along the hilt. He entered the Countess’ chamber, where he found the nephew and the countess wrapped in each other’s arms, the Countess with a look of contentment on her beautiful face, the Nephew wearing a serene and blissful expression on his own. They lay like two young fawns, or birds; tender and innocent young forest-animals, as the hulking Bear approached them. The Knight was quick in the deed; with one well-executed thrust, he stabbed his wife straight through the Heart. The woman had been wearing a beautiful white gown, and when the blade pierced her heart, the scarlet blood quickly soaked through the dress and pooled about her heart where the blade had entered. And strange as it may seem, as the blood pooled, it formed a very distinct shape; a kind of shimmering ring about the heart of the Countess.”
As Jane described this to me, I suddenly recalled the pattern of the dress which the Lady had been wearing as I had been dancing with her. The rubies on her bodice had indeed formed the shape of two intertwining rings, though I had not recognised it as such. Was this, then, the lady? But before I could ask, Miss Jane had continued her Narration.
“The Nephew, meanwhile, had been somewhat aroused by the force of the blow and the small gasp the Countess had given upon her demise. The drug, too, was beginning to wear off, and the Nephew was stirring. For him, the Knight had reserved the worse punishment; his face was deformed by the Knight as he wielded the small dagger. His Heart the Knight cut out of his chest while it was still beating, and threw it out of the window. With that, the Knight left the two lovers entwined together in the Countess’ chamber. Though the Nephew’s wounds bled profusely, the Countess’ bled only into the pattern of two interlocking rings, and after that she bled no more.
“The Knight cleverly convinced the Household that the Nephew had been murdered by the Countess before she had turned the blade on herself; but one servant – the Housekeeper, in fact – protested that this was a lie. The pattern on the Countess’ chest, and the way in which the pair were entwined together, suggested to the Housekeeper that this had not been a suicide, or a crime of passion on the part of two young lovers. She suspected the Knight, and openly denounced him. The Knight, enraged by her penetration of the case, hastily left the house and wandered onto the moor in search of a rare herb which grew there, to place in Mrs Forbeson’s drink, which would kill her without leaving a trace.”
Miss Jane now calls me from below, My Dearest E—. Rest assured, however, that I shall not long leave you in suspense in this Tale of Horror.
My compliments to your new husband, Dearest E—, and I remain Yours Ever, &c., &c.,