In my world and yours I have seen many acts of hate: people driven by the desire to control others, greedy in their quest for power. I make no excuses for my own acts of wrongdoing, (and I shall talk about that another time), but if you remember, I have said that I’ve had to learn to use my abilities wisely. In certain circumstances I have had to use them in order to help others. Many times I have had to do this- hate and evil came to Collinwood all too often and it fell mostly to myself to defeat it. It was my responsibility to do so.
I crossed time to save my family from danger, and faced many dangers myself. I did this willingly- I did what had to be done. I met many powerful and ruthless adversaries during my travels into the past, and one of the worst were the Leviathans.
The Leviathans claimed to be all powerful ancient beings and for a time they had a firm grip on us at Collinwood. Part of their power lay in their lies- they had the ability to sound convincing and their hideous appearance only added to their menace. I have not known as many beings that had the level of arrogance they did- they acted as if they had a right to do what they did, and truly believed, it seemed, that they were superior to us. Had I stopped to think that they had needed me to carry out their plans and were fascinated by my ability to traverse time (which they could not), then I might have got out of their grasp sooner than I did. They seized my mind and almost my humanity, but deep within, my soul still carried the love and loyalty I had for all those at Collinwood. I was lost for a time, not only to myself but to my dear ones.
Love broke their control over me. Yes love. I would not and could not betray or hurt those I loved. Their command to kill my closest friend was the beginning of their downfall. Inside their soulless beings was only endless darkness, cruelty and coldness. They did not know what love is.
It is my humble observation that many people in my world and yours also do not know what love is, perhaps we are all learning, myself included, so I shall not make this into a lecture.
“Love conquers all” is a saying in your world, said by an ancient poet called Virgil. I would like to believe this is true, however I found many times that it took more than love to conquer evil and hatred. I wish it had not been so. Perhaps you are shocked by this admission- that at times I have had to resort to violence in order to bring peace.
I admire the concept of pacifism in your world and those who do much good towards others by following this philosophy. However in some situations I have faced I was forced to be violent myself or not only would I have been destroyed, but those I loved. It is not something I am proud of.
I have been very fortunate in that I had a friend in Julia Hoffman. She was willing on many occasions to risk her life in order to save mine; her loyalty to me knew no bounds. I will be eternally grateful for this. Julia taught me what true friendship is, and I showed the same loyalty to her. My love for her was brotherly, yet I could never quite find the words to express this to her, to my eternal regret.
“Never without you,” I once told her. Without her by my side I think I would truly have been lost.
In 1967 I was full of anger and torment. My heart had been hardened to love and I scornfully saw this as a weakness, a sentimentality that had led to nothing but pain, yet there was a deep scar within myself and when alone I often stood at Josette’s portrait willing her to return to me.
I was ill prepared for the arrival of Julia, who wished to help me. I was cruel to her many times and suspicious of her motives, yet she did not waver in her determination to help me. Perhaps I was cruel to her to test her, to see how far her loyalty would go, and test her I did, and for a time I almost drove her mad with fear.
For a long time we had a very uneasy partnership (I would not call it friendship then), constantly trying to outwit each other. I once tried to allude to our growing friendship as I mistakenly saw it at the time, and Julia replied that I was devious, and she was correct. She understood me well. I am ashamed to admit that she began to be drawn into my devious and questionable activities and became very distressed.
Much later in 1970, I made attempts to apologize for what I had put her through, but she did not wish to hear it.
“Oh Barnabas…don’t…” was all she said to that.
So my words were left unsaid, hanging heavy in the air above us. It was as though she could read me like a book that she had read many times before.
I was left wondering what to do about this. I respected her wishes not to talk of those terrible times in 1967, yet I wished to clear the air, seek her forgiveness. Perhaps there was some element of self indulgence to it, yet I truly wanted to her to know how sorry I was.
I spoke to Quentin about this; if anyone could understand how I felt it was him. He and I shared so many similar experiences and regrets. We both knew what it was like to live under the constant shadow of a curse and to fear oneself of a night.
And so I went over to Collinwood and found him standing pouring himself brandy into a glass and looking pensive. I wondered if it was the right time to speak to him, as he was much preoccupied at the time with his own problems, and growing distant.
He turned around as I came in.
“Oh Barnabas, it’s you. Care for a brandy?” He gulped down his drink, then poured himself another one.
“No thank you,” I said, thinking that perhaps he’d had enough brandy himself.
“Quentin, I need your help,” I said, deciding to get to the point.
“Oh?” and he gave one of his little laughs, “Well what can I do for you Barnabas?”
“It’s Julia, well I- you see I haven’t treated her very well in the past, and I want to put things right. I can’t explain it all now Quentin, but you know what it is like to live under a curse and have done things that you wish could be undone.”
“We can’t change the past Barnabas you know that.”
“Yes,” I said looking down at my hands. “I have tried to apologize of course, but she didn’t wish to hear it and changed the subject.”
Quentin fiddled with his brandy glass. “Well I don’t see what else you can do.” He then smiled. “Why don’t you give her a nice gift ?”
“A gift?” I repeated. No gift could ever make up for what I had done I thought; what on earth could I give her?
“Yes, something to show your appreciation. All women like that sort of thing, I’m sure Julia is no different.”
“Perhaps you are right,” I mused, “but I have no idea what to give her.”
“I’m sure you will think of something Barnabas,” he said setting down his glass on the table, “If you will excuse me, it’s late. I am tired and need to go to bed.”
“Of course,” I said, “Goodnight.”
“Good night Barnabas,” he said and went upstairs.
I stood staring into the fire, wondering what token of my appreciation I could give Julia, the one person who had been by my side through so many difficult times, even when I had been very unkind to her. I knew her so well, yet I had no idea what I could give her.
I lowered my head, realising the one thing she did want from me I could never give her, and felt ashamed that I could not do so. I wished it could be different, but I could not change that. How different she is to Angelique I thought, for Julia accepted how things were, how ever much she wished they could be different. This was one of the things I admired about her.
I put on my cape and picked up my cane to walk back to the Old House.
As I opened the door the night air cooled my hot brow and I looked up at the night sky. I felt a glimmer of the unwelcome craving inside me, and shook my head a little.
No, I will not give into that, I told myself. I walked through the woods telling myself as I had told myself a thousand times I would feel no comfort afterwards, only shame and regret.
Willie was in bed when I got back to the Old House. I did not think he would have been much help to me, so I was glad to be alone with my thoughts.
I sat in my chair by the fire, thinking, and then it came to me.
“Of course!” I said out loud.
At dusk I opened the gate of the basement, ascended the stairs and walked into the parlor to find Julia looking at the table.
“Who sent me these?”
“ I did,” I said.
The look of surprise on her face delighted me. ”You?”
“Well I had to send Willie to order them as I couldn’t go myself,” I said dryly with a small smile playing on my lips. “But yes, they are from me.”
“Oh Barnabas!” She picked them up, admiring them, and then noticed the card I had tucked inside. She gave me her quizzical look then read what I had written on it.
“Dear Julia, although these flowers will last only a few days, our friendship will bloom for a very long time. Your devoted friend, Barnabas.”
“Thank you,” she said quietly.
Her smile as our eyes met, showed me she understood what I was trying to say- what had passed between us all those years ago was gone. I could not change what had happened, nor forget it, and neither could she. I had to accept that as she had done. The look in her eyes as she held the flowers I had sent her showed me that I had been forgiven. The gift she gave me in that moment was one I would never forget.
“No, dear friend, thank you.” I said.