“Oh you look different!”
Different? How so?” I smiled at the little girl standing next to me peering down into the rippling water.
“You look funny!” She giggled. “Look!” she pointed. “Your nose is moving and become a funny shape!”
I looked at the face reflected back at me as it wavered over the pool.
“I see what you mean. I don’t really look like that at all do I?”
“No, you have a good nose,” Sarah laughed then she knelt and picked up a stone and threw at my face, or rather the face that was in the water.
My face shattered into many tiny pieces as the water claimed my reflection.
“Oh look– your face is coming back again!”
“So it is,” I agreed. The face stared back at me but this time, it changed in a curious and strange way. I bent down to take a closer look.
Then all of a sudden a very fat toad plopped into the water and broke up my face again. As he did so, a heavy cloud covered the sun and I shivered. I lifted my face to the sky and a few tiny raindrops dripped onto my head.
The clouds were coming thick and fast and the temperature had dropped considerably.
“Come Sarah,” I said taking her little hand and helping her stand up,” It’s going to storm, we’d better go back to the house.”
As we opened the front door, we were greeted by my mother.
“Barnabas, Sarah, you are only just in time for dinner. Wherever have you been?”
“Down by the pool, looking for frogs. I didn’t see even one, but a fat toad who broke up Barnabas’s face!”
My mother gave me a quizzical look.
“My reflection in the pool,” I explained.
“Oh I see, well, I will see you at the table,” and with that my mother went into the dining room.
“Mother seems sad,” remarked Sarah as we hung up our cloaks.
I pretended not have noticed, and told Sarah so, making up some excuse that Mother was tired and did not like the rain; for by now it was raining very heavily. We had to light the candles early which made my father grumble, for being wasteful. He thought it was light enough to see to eat by the firelight and dim daylight, but my mother and I both sided with each other saying we could not see well enough to cut the meat.
That night we all retired early, and as I stood by my mirror and brushed my hair I gave my face some consideration. I was looking rather pale I thought, but my father told me that was a sign of good breeding. I laid the brush down and climbed into bed.
Blowing out the candle I thought about the pool and how my face had changed. I didn’t mention it to Sarah for fear of scaring her, but for one moment my own reflection had unnerved me, as another face had stared back at me, grinning maliciously, with teeth that had looked much sharper than my own. My face, but not my face at the same time. Had my eyes been playing tricks on me? I reasoned that it must have been the sunlight and rippling of the water affecting my vision just before the toad had leaped into my reflection and broke it up.
Some of the local villagers claimed that the pool could show you your true face if you looked into it long enough. Of course, it was all nonsense and my Aunt Abigail tutted and muttered about “pagan ways” whenever she heard anyone mention it.
But mirrors, well they showed you your true face didn’t they? Abigail thought so. I told her that it was impossible to see one’s own true face as it was always in reverse, and that a good artist could show one their true face more accurately. On a whim I had a local artist paint me, and many people said it was an excellent likeness and I thought so too, although when I held it up to the mirror and looked at it and myself I could see many differences.
“What on earth are you doing Barnabas?” My father asked when I was studying the two faces in the mirror.
“Seeing which looks like me the most.”
“Well, when you have quite finished wasting your time on idle pursuits the ledger book needs your attention!”
I sighed and laid my portrait against one of the chairs. How I wished I was not my father’s clerk!
“Yes, I will see to the figures Father,” I sighed and went to the study.
I could never have known it then, but that portrait became rather a talking point over the two centuries at Collinwood.
A very clever woman came to the old house one night in 1967 and brought me a book of the family history, one that had reproductions of family portraits in it. She used this as a way to distract my attention whilst she took out a small mirror and attempted to see if I would appear in it for her or not.
I was very angry of course, for a vampire can never reflect his likeness in a mirror, but I pretended to believe her absurd story about checking her cosmetics. Her own vanity betrayed her: for she thought herself cleverer than she actually was. I knew she had seen only the candles in her mirror.
But this vanity of hers became useful to me much later on, as Julia Hoffman was as determined as I that one day I would be able to look upon my face again, even if it were a version of my face.
I must also confess to a little vanity of my own, for I commissioned Sam Evans to paint my portrait, and of course everyone all thought it was of the descendent of the first Barnabas. I took some pleasure in the fact that I chose to pose in a similar way to my first portrait and was emulating my “ancestor.” I enjoyed the little joke.
I realized too, that I was taking a risk in my identity being found out one day, but I thought myself too clever for anyone to truly know who I was. I was new to the modern age and the tenacity of the educated modern woman such as Julia Hoffman.
To a vampire mirrors hold a morbid fascination- for my face I showed to those around me was never my whole face. The fangs hidden from view could never be revealed except for when it was time to take the blood of another. I showed a version of my face that I wanted them to see: the human Barnabas, and the one I longed to be.
The portrait in the foyer was not the real Barnabas either, for he had died long ago, even if he was now in the present. It always gave me a strange feeling to look upon it, remembering the artist painting me and little Sarah’s fascination watching my face appear with each brush stroke.
“Will you do a drawing of me?” Sarah asked the artist.
“ If you brother says I may, “ he smiled.
“Of course,” I agreed.
And so he did a most beautiful drawing of Sarah, but sadly she lost it. One of the servants carelessly used it to light the fire- it had fallen onto the floor one night and in the early pre dawn light, the stupid girl had taken it thinking it one of Sarah’s discarded spelling papers and twisted it up to use for kindling.
We knew nothing of it until Sarah came into my mother’s room crying, saying she could see one of her eyes, and the corner of her face burning in the fire.
The artist had gone away to visit his own sister, so we could not ask him to draw another. I made some clumsy attempt to replace it but drawing portraits was not one of my talents.
But I digress.
That night in 1967, I resolved to be more careful about being near mirrors, except the one in Josette’s bedroom. Very few people were allowed in there. Her room was to be a shrine to her memory and it drove me to do some terrible things. I made Maggie Evans sit at that mirror many times and see Josette in it instead of herself. But even I could not make this last- for when we look into a mirror, we see a version of yourself, and sometimes we will not like what we see. Maggie did not like to see Josette, and I understand how wrong that was now.
I secretly envied her to be able to look into her own face and know who she was, although I never admitted it or even gave her a hint I felt this way. It had been a long long time since I had known who I truly was.