The Mirrors (conclusion)
She was in a basement room, of welled windows along Centre Street, a lunchtime parade of legs, then quiet and pecking pigeons. Like the research library this was, the room had long, wide tables stacked with reference books; and filing cabinets, cubbies flanking the librarian’s desk, name-tagged for the staff.
Charmante with a cubby of her own, where she could stow her files-in-progress, have requested items placed for her by the interns. You could not escape the Institute. So Veronica said; so for Charmante it proved. She had been of the Institute all her life, unknowing. William had, without belief or benefit, only sorrow. Even Nathaniel Carmine was of the Institute.
His new self, though, showed signs of wanderlust.
“You see what I mean. Or…what I meant whenever we were having that talk.”
Veronica, perched on the table, waving that hand that breezed away obstacles, liked to come down daily. She’d had other talks with Charmante, any number. To be what Veronica’s students were, an archival researcher, was a great step up from maiding.
Hackled a bit by the sinister weight of it, the fine line of studying the human species for hardiness, selecting for promise—the Dumain territory stepped into when the line was crossed—Charmante still found no justification for refusing this honor. She could be of some help to her husband, track clues, locate the woman who’d lured Harold.
And earn good wages. Childless as all Dumain’s damaged were, she would make a scholarship in her father’s name. Daddy had been blessed with optimism, the rising view. It was fitting Benjamin Oriah Bonheur should be the hope of some young person’s future.
“Nat’s got an entrepreneurial bent. He’s not the sweet thing we knew…he’s itching to try his luck at large. And I can hardly make him a prisoner, perfectly sane, perfectly capable. I think, I do think, he’ll start up with the mirrors. What else would that fragment possessing him have in mind? But how can we know distance from this place, the center, won’t be better than worse?”
“But…it’s terribly dangerous.”
“It is, and I’ve got no answers, girlfriend. Anytime you think of one, call me up. Even in the middle of the night.”
For now the specters must brood, on the Ile St-Hubert. But were at least two of its ghosts laid?
Guide. Charmante addressed him. Not her father, she was certain. An ancient spirit, a low-country angel. Guide, I have seen and pitied Charleton.
Been shown how he died, some unnamed crime of forced self-murder.
The impulse was to despise that murdering hand, that foul and ugly man, unredeemed, unseeking of redemption. She couldn’t…because she’d been Godfrey.
Is that the lesson, the antidote to evil, when it comes again?
Our doom not tragic high feeling, but petty reluctance, moral laziness? We don’t want to walk in the shoes; we want to cast our despising eyes here and there—and feel comfy, pleased with ourselves, unchallenged.
Through Godfrey’s eyes Charmante had seen, and not Old Dumain’s.
The Guide was kind in that, but he had shown her more. Dumain, rich, free in his dealings to conceive a thing and have it done, hadn’t the pitifulness of his grandsons. Suffering was the way in; a man without suffering was the devil.
And so remember.
For here was one question answered. The spirit of Dumain could not die with Rothesay. It hummed, on its island, and would come again.
(2020, Stephanie Foster)