It was late when Barnabas returned to the house. He hung his cloak upon the peg in the entryway, and then turned toward the study, intending to find some measure of solace in a glass of sherry when he heard Natalie's voice. "Barnabas."
Turning, he waited for her to descend the stairs. "I was about to have a glass of sherry," he told her.
"The children are waiting for you to say good night," she said. "I was beginning to be concerned. You were gone for a long time."
"I walked to Widows' Hill and stood looking out over the ocean," he told her. Seeing her look of concern, he smiled, a sad, tired movement. "I am not going to do anything so rash, Natalie." He looked upwards. "I suppose I should go up to them before I have my sherry. Will you join me afterwards?"
"Of course." She remained at the bottom of the stair as he slowly climbed them. Closing her eyes, she said a quick prayer, crossing herself. This might be their only hope.
Barnabas entered Rebecca's room, crossing quietly to the small bed. The child's blonde hair was like spun gold in the light that came from the window, and Barnabas paused to touch it. So like her mother -Natalie was right. She was going to be such a beauty. He left her sleeping soundly to go next to Lucas' room. That child was also already asleep, restlessly, as if he had so much energy that he had to run it off in dreams. He smiled as he recalled Lucas' story of having dreamt that he was captain of a big, fine ship, serving beside John Paul Jones.
Sighing, Barnabas made his way to Bramwell's room. He fully expected that his older son would still be awake, reading, waiting for him to come in. But the room was dark, and Barnabas paused in the doorway, an eerie feeling of having been through this once before. There was something in the bed, and Barnabas touched it- it was too soft to possibly be flesh and blood. Pulling the covers back, Barnabas discovered that the "body" was indeed pillows, and that Bramwell was nowhere to be found. He checked the secret panel, but it was secure, thanks to Ben's handiwork a year ago.
"Bramwell is not in his room," he told Natalie.
"He was there before you came in. I left him there, in his room, reading -"
"He had put pillows in his bed," Barnabas said, looking
up as Ben came to the doorway of the backstairs. "Ben. Have
you seen Bramwell this evening?"
Ben swallowed heavily, glancing at Natalie. "No, sir. Ain't seen him since this afternoon." He turned to Natalie. "I need t'speak to Deborah, Countess-"
"She is in my room," Natalie told him. The two servants had married six months ago, and had set up housekeeping in Ben's little cottage. Natalie had never imagined that Deborah would blossom as she had - the young woman had a beauty that Natalie had always overlooked, somehow. She silently pleaded with Ben to remember that Barnabas wasn't to know what was going on. Ben started up the stairs as Barnabas spoke again.
"Where could he have gone, Natalie?" he wondered. "He hasn't been troubled with nightmares in over a year -"
"Where does he always go when he is troubled, Barnabas?" Natalie asked. "His IS troubled, you know. He worries about you, about Lucas -"
"The Old House?" Barnabas said. He had deliberately avoided going to his childhood home in the last year, remaining as far as possible away from there. He couldn't find it within himself to face the ghost of his first wife. He felt as much guilt over her death as he did Angelique's. "Will you go, Natalie -?"
She shook her head. "You must go, Barnabas. No one else can do this for you."
Deborah looked up. "Has he gone?"
Ben nodded. "He was just leavin' as I came upstairs." He shook his head as he watched her fold a gown. "I hope the Countess knows what she's doin'."
His wife smiled. "I think she does, Ben. I think she does."
The door of the house was open, and Barnabas paused before entering. The last time he had been here, he had come with Angelique, and Josette had warned them of great danger. At the time, she hadn't been able to tell them what the danger was. Well, he knew now, didn't he?
"Bramwell?" he called into the darkness within. "Are you here?"
His son came slowly down the stairs, his eyes clear as they sought him out. "I am here, Father."
"I thought we agreed the last time, Bramwell - that you would not come here unless you told someone -"
"I had to come, Father. She wants to see you."
Barnabas glanced up the stairs, as if expecting to find Josette there, behind her son. "I don't -"
"Don't be afraid, Father. She has something important to tell you." He held out his hand. "Please listen to her."
Barnabas placed his hand in that of his son and followed him up the stairs to the room where Josette had died. There were candles in the room, illuminating the portrait that hung above the fire. "Thank you, Bramwell," her soft voice came, bringing with it the scent of jasmine. "Go back to Collinwood now."
Bramwell smiled at her, then at his father before turning to leave the room, closing the door behind him. Barnabas Collins was alone with the spirit of his first wife, Josette du Pres Collins. "Bramwell said you wished to see me, Josette, I -"
"Bramwell has told me how unhappy you are. How unhappy all of you are. Of how the villagers call him names and whisper behind his back when he passes by them. Of how much Lucas misses his mother, how terribly your Cousin Daniel's wife treats them both."
"Josette, I cannot control another man's wife," he began.
"I know, my darling. Bramwell is more concerned about you than anyone else. He tells me that you rarely go into the village -"
"Daniel handles the business as well as I did, and I have no desire to go into Collinsport -"
"Because you hold them responsible for what happened to Angelique?"
"They stood by, did nothing to stop Trask," he said, his voice tortured. "No one lifted a finger -"
"Because they were under a spell, Barnabas. Nicholas Blair used the entire village, not just Trask and Lucy Mitchell. Angelique made the only choice she could, Barnabas."
"Choice? She was given no choice-"
"She knew what could happen. She saw it as the only way to save you and the entire Collins family."
"Then, she's alive?"
"I do not know," Josette said. "But you must stop blaming yourself. For her death--and for mine."
"How can I? When I know that you would both have been better off if you had never met me? You would have married a man who deserved you, lived a long, happy life. And Angelique -"
"Would have ended her days as a servant, Barnabas, never knowing what it was like to be loved as much as you loved her. She would never have known what it was like to hold the child of the man she loved in her arms. Not once, but twice. You have nothing to feel guilty for, Barnabas. Except for remaining here where you are so desperately unhappy."
"Natalie suggested we go to Martinique."
"You should. No, you MUST. For the sake of your sanity, for the sake of the children in your care. They have no chance for a happy life here at Collinwood, with the ghosts of the past. Give them a life free of that, free of such chains."
"Will it be any different there?" he asked. "I have memories of you - and Angelique there, as well."
"But aren't they happier memories? Memories of a much simply, much more innocent time? Go to Martinique, Barnabas. Give Collinwood to your cousin, for his sons to inherit. Neither Bramwell nor Lucas would be happy as Master of Collinwood. No happier than you are."
Barnabas sat down, his head in his hands. "I do not know if I have the strength, Josette."
"Look deep within yourself, my darling, and you will find the strength you need to do what you know you must."
"But what of you? If we leave, Bramwell -"
"He worried about me as well. Once you and they are gone, I shall remain here, and watch over the remaining Collins family. Already there are problems at Collinwood - your cousin's wife -"
Barnabas nodded. "I've heard the servants whispering about her. I know that she and Daniel no longer share a room -"
"They will have need of my protection. And I will remain here - until one day a member of the Martinique branch of the Collins family returns to Collinwood."
"Thank you, Josette."
"No, thank you, Barnabas. For my son, for the time we shared together. We were happy, in the early days, you know." She sighed, and the sound seemed to fill the room. "Go now, Barnabas. Leave for the island. Begin your new life there."
Barnabas Collins decided to take one of the Collins ships to the island. He stood at the rail for a long time, watching as the great house on the cliffs faded into the distance. Ben and Deborah had agreed to accompany them, with Natalie assuring Ben that there would be work for a man with a strong back and willing hands. Work was important, since Deborah had informed him just prior to their leaving that she was going to give him a child. Barnabas shook his head in surprised response to Ben's loyalty. As he stood there, searching the misty distance for a last sight of the house, he felt a small hand curl into his and he looked down to find Bramwell standing at his side. "Don't be sad, Father. She asked you not to be sad. To think of the new life that awaits us in Martinique."
"Yes," Barnabas agreed, taking a deep breath. He would never see that house again. Daniel would take care of it. He and his sons would carry on the family name. "Would you like to me tell you what I remember about Martinique?"
"Oh, yes, please," the boy said eagerly. "Oh, yes." He leaned against the rail as his father began to tell him about this island that they would call home for the remainder of their lives.
The du Près Plantation, Martinique, 1808
Deborah Stokes smiled as she watched her husband as he gingerly held his son. "He won't break, Ben," she assured him.
"I can't get over how tiny he is."
"He is not tiny," she told him. "He is quite large for an infant of three months old." Young Alexander had been large at birth, as well, Deborah recalled quite well.
"To me, he's tiny."
"To you, everyone is tiny," she teased, watching as he placed the sleeping child in his bed. He looked up at her, a big grin on his face. He had changed so much since their arrival on the island, Deborah thought. No one here knew that he had been in prison, or that he had begun his service to Barnabas Collins' family as a bond-servant. It had seemed a new beginning for them all, Deborah thought, then sighed. Except for Mr. Barnabas. "How was Mr. Collins today?" she asked.
Ben shook his head as he sat across from his wife. "Not much different. He spends most of his time at the old summer house."
"The Countess is very concerned for him," she said. "He attends to his duties on the estate, pays attention to the children, but he smiles so seldom."
"The children seem happier here," Ben pointed out. "Old Rascon said today that he'd never seen anyone take to learning about the cane as quickly as Master Bramwell has."
"I hoped that coming here would give Mr. Collins happier memories to live with," Deborah sighed. "But it has only served to deepen his depression. I had hoped -" she didn't finish the sentence. She knew well how Mr. Collins had investigated the possibility of a coven on the island, how he had searched for anyone who had seen a beautiful blonde woman who was in charge of that coven. But there was no major coven on the island, only a small one, composed of locals, run by the local mambo woman. The only thing he had discovered was the fact that the du Mont plantation house had burned to the ground only days after Angelique's death in Collinsport. There had been nothing left of the once beautiful house, and Barnabas had decided to purchase the estate from du Mont's widow through her agent, and had ordered the rubble razed to make way for more cane.
Deborah rose from her chair to begin preparing their evening meal, and happened to glance out of the window. From this window of their cottage, she had an excellent view of the path from the main house to the gardens. Walking alone in the deepening purple shadows was Barnabas Collins, head down, his expression one of utter despair, and Deborah felt her eyes fill with tears. He deserved so much more than he had, she thought. So very much more.
Barnabas moved through the garden, not seeing the flowers, nor hearing the soft music of the water from the fountain. In his mind, he was seeing her again, seeing her as he had seen her in those early days when he had slipped from his room in the house to wait for her here. Her hair had shone like white gold in the moonlight, and he had been totally entranced by its glow. She had seemed like some impossibly lovely angel back then - He turned away, closing his eyes. Coming here had been a mistake. Yes, the memories were good ones, not tinged with loss, but they were even more potent. He could almost feel her soft lips on his, hear her laughter. His steps took him from the garden to the small summer house out of sight of the main building, which had been rebuilt upon their arrival in Martinique.
Angelique had called this her 'special place', a place where
she would come to be alone, to think. She told him that the Countess
had agreed to let her use it, since none of the family ever went
there. It has been in this small building that he had made love
to her for the first time- and it was here that he had told her
that he was going to marry Josette.
She had been furious, then accepting of his decision. He hadn't realized how much is decision had hurt her until much later, after she had become his mistress, borne him a child. It was becoming more and more difficult for him to look at Rebecca. With every day that passed, the little girl looked more and more like her mother. Sun-gold hair and blue eyes that seemed lit with an inner fire. Sighing heavily, Barnabas entered the summer house, intending to lose himself in his memories of those early days.
But when he looked across the room, he froze. Standing there, smiling at him, her blue eyes filled with love and something else, was - "Angelique?" he asked, thinking that perhaps his had summoned her spirit from wherever it might reside.
She looked nervous. "Barnabas. Yes, my darling. I'm here."
He shook his head. "No. You died. In my arms. I watched as you took your final breath -"
Angelique held out a hand to him. "Touch me. You'll see that I am quite alive."
Tentatively, Barnabas reached out. The flesh was warm, soft. With a sob, he drew her into his arms, holding her tightly, kissing her face, her lips, as if he never wanted to let her go. "How?" he asked at length, when he began to be able to think again. "How is this possible? You were dead."
Angelique touched his face. "It wasn't me," she told him. "It was a -replica. Designed to die in my place. By the time she was buried, I was no longer in Collinsport."
"I don't understand," he said. "Why?"
"It was the only way to save you, my darling, and the family. Nicholas agreed to end Judah's curse if I came away with him. I knew you would never agree to such a thing, so Nicholas created a double of me, intended to exist only for as long as needed."
"You don't know what I went through, Angelique, thinking you were dead- Where have you been all this time? It's been almost two years -"
"It took some time for me to convince - my former master that I would never be happy unless I could return to you and my children."
He frowned. "Former master?"
"If you'll let me explain - It would be best if I start at the beginning, I suppose."
"Yes," he agreed, seeing the way the lamp light glinted on her hair. "When did you make your bargain with Blair?"
Angelique moved away, aware that he was watching her closely. "The afternoon of Jeremiah's funeral, I went for a long walk. Nicholas had made his offer the evening before, and I was confused, uncertain whether I should take it or not. Near dusk, I found myself at the Old House, and I saw Josette - beckoning me to come inside."
"We talked - for the first time, Barnabas, as true equals. And Josette devised a plan-"
"Josette devised a plan?" he repeated, aware that he was sounding the fool, but he was so surprised by her statement that he couldn't help himself.
"I agreed to Nicholas' offer, with the proviso that there would be some reason why you would not try to find me. That you would have to believe I was dead. Nicholas went to Lucy Mitchell and planted the idea that a gunshot wouldn't be fatal in her mind, telling her that he had decided not to help her in her quest for Collinwood- because of me. He knew she would be furious and would go to Trask, tell him that it was I who was the witch, not you, and suggest a way to prove it to the entire village-"
"By shooting you," Barnabas said. "If you
lived, you would be convicted and hanged-"
"Exactly. After I left the house that morning, I met Nicholas in the woods. He created the replica and sent her off in the carriage - to her death. He allowed me to watch the scene, to tell the replica what to say -" she looked at him. "So it was my words you heard, Barnabas. My words telling you that I loved you, to always remember that."
"I've thought of little else since that day," he said in a voice filled choked with emotion. "What happened after that? You didn't return to Martinique. I looked everywhere for you when we first arrived."
"I was in - what you would call Hell, I suppose, being prepared to fulfill my destiny as the bride of my master." She shivered, not from cold, as the evening was quite warm. She saw Barnabas' expression, saw the concern on his face. "Time- time is different there, Barnabas. What was two years for you, here, was only a short while for me there."
"How did you return?" he wanted to know. What he wanted more than anything at the moment was to take her into his arms and carry her to the narrow bed against the far wall. But he also needed to know the answers to his questions.
"He finally understood that I was never going to be able to concentrate on him as he wanted me to as long as I was so unhappy." She looked at him with eyes that revealed the depth of her unhappiness. "And I was unhappy. No matter what he did, what he promised, nothing seemed to matter to me. He called me to him, told me that He was going to release me from my covenant with Him."
"He released you?"
She nodded. "The woman you see before you is exactly that: a woman. Not a witch. I have no powers, Barnabas. The only master I have stands across the room, looking at me as if he still doesn't believe that I'm really here."
"He would not have released you without expecting some payment, Angelique."
"You're right, of course. I've been released - but only temporarily. I will live out a normal, mortal span, and upon my death, I will return to fulfill my pact with Him."
Barnabas looked at her. "I don't know what to think, Angelique - to be so indebted to -"
"You are not indebted to Him, Barnabas. It is I who will owe him -and I will pay that debt gladly, if it means that we can be together for the rest of our lives." She turned away, her face in the shadows. "But if you decide that you cannot take me back, I will leave, now, before the children see me, before they ask their questions."
The children. How was he ever going to explain any of this to the children? He was across the room in three steps, taking her into his arms. "You're not going anywhere, my love, my beautiful Angelique. We've been given a second chance - and I don't care where it came from, only that I'm going to do everything in my power to make you happy."
She gazed up at him, her blue eyes filled with love. "Are you certain, Barnabas?"
"All I know is that you're here, and I don't intend to let you go again. Even if I have to fight the devil himself to keep you." His lips met hers, and Barnabas felt the ice that had formed around his heart begin to melt away in the heat of the passion that flared so easily between them. Time enough later to decide what to tell the children, how to tell Natalie- She would be pleased to have Angelique back, he thought.
Although the Countess had tried to put on a show of strength, Barnabas had heard her quiet sobs during the night, heard her sorrow for the loss of her only daughter.
With an easy movement, Barnabas lifted Angelique into his arms and carried her to the bed where they had made love for the first time - where he hoped they would make love many more times as he made a new life here, with his children, and his wife.
Nicholas Blair watched the scene before him, his fist clenching and unclenching in leashed anger. As the image began to fade, he heard a soft chuckle. "So the lovers have been reunited," was the softly spoken comment. "How- touching."
"I fail to understand why you allowed her to return to him. After everything I did-"
The heat became even more unbearable, and the cries of those eternally damned, always present, rose in pitch. "Are you questioning my decision, Nicholas?" He asked.
Nicholas heard the steel in that dangerous tone and bowed his head. "Of course not, Master. I simply wish to understand what can you possibly hope to gain by letting her go?"
"A willing bride, Nicholas. She would have been of little use to me, constantly pining for what might have been. When she returns, she will be grateful to me, grateful for my allowing her to watch her children grow to adults, for allowing her to guide them. Grateful for her time with him." His slitted eyes glowed with anticipation. "Yes, she will be far more useful to me when she returns. And I can afford to wait for her. After all, time has very little meaning here, doesn't it, Nicholas?"
"Yes, Master," Nicholas agreed, obviously still disturbed.
The being sitting on the raised chair sighed. "You see, Nicholas, when she does return, she will bring a new convert with her. Barnabas Collins will be willing to follow her even here to remain with his Angelique - and it will be he and his gratitude for my allowing him to have her with him that I will use to finally gain what I truly desire from the Collins family -"
Nicholas smiled, understanding at last. "Collinwood."
The answering smile was pure evil. "Yes. Collinwood. It is mine by right of prior claim, and the day will come when I lay claim to it and its inhabitants. I can bide my time. Be patient. And my patience shall have its reward." He sat back. "Until then, hadn't you better attend to your new convert, Nicholas? And do be quick about it," he said, sounding slightly bored. "After all, I will need something to keep me occupied until my bride returns from her little sojourn as a mortal."
Nicholas' smile mirrored that of his master. "Of course," he said, looking forward to his task.
He turned and left the chamber, finding himself immediately in another. The other occupant of the room looked at him - green eyes filled with terror. Nicholas reached out to touch her face, his finger moving inexorably down to the deep vee between her naked breasts. "Welcome to Hell, Lucy," he said, smiling.
Lucy screamed. "Noooooooo!"