Ask me no more: the moon may draw the sea;
The cloud may stoop from heaven and take the shape,
With fold to fold, of mountain or of cape;
But O too fond, when have I answer’d thee?
Ask me no more.
Ask me no more: what answer should I give?
I love not hollow cheek or faded eye:
Yet, O my friend, I will not have thee die!
Ask me no more, lest I should bid thee live;
Ask me no more.
Ask me no more: thy fate and mine are seal’d:
I strove against the stream and all in vain:
Let the great river take me to the main:
No more, dear love, for at a touch I yield;
Ask me no more.
When we are suffering we may inadvertently create more suffering not only for ourselves but others we hold dear to us. I should never have gone to her that night, I know that now. But, truth be told I knew it then too, but I could not help myself. To live for eternity without her was an agony I knew I could not bear, yet to live with her meant death- her death. I was already dead, but in a cruel way also alive – and my feelings were intense, more so than when I had been an ordinary man. Now, I was a creature of the night with dark yearnings – cravings so strong that at times I thought I would go mad.
When her tearful eyes gazed into mine and she begged me to take her with me I felt an icy chill seep into my bones, for she had little idea of what this meant. How could I explain what I had become? That my love for her would bring her suffering then her death? I wanted more than anything to keep her safe, bring her love and joy. When we love someone the last thing we want is to make them suffer. Yet, when the witch had screamed at me that all who loved me would die, that became the only thing I could bring my dear Josette.
I was suffering enormously it is true: tormented by my need for blood each night and disgusted with myself afterwards I would slink into the shadows tears on my blood stained face.
How could I ask her to love me still? My loyal servant Ben pleaded with me to leave Collinsport for good, but I couldn’t bear to never see her lovely face again. Selfishly, I stayed and visited her of a night through the secret panel in her bedroom, taking her in my arms and loving her in the only way I knew how.
My plans to make her mine meant that she would live for eternity as I was cursed to do, but it was a living death; I knew Ben Stokes was right when he told me I was wrong to even consider it, but I didn’t know how else I could bear each night otherwise. Centuries of loneliness and suffering stretched out before me, unless I could find someone to end my suffering. Faithful Ben could not bring himself to do it. I longed for him to destroy me – being destroyed at the hands of a friend seemed to me a kindness, laying me to rest in peace, but to have been hunted down like an animal by the authorities was what I faced (it was inevitable) which was worse. I had left many victims of my blood lust in the short time since I had been cursed to this damned existence – already the inhabitants of Collinwood were gossiping about the “ blood thirsty beast” in their midst.
We are often told that we should not have regrets, for they are futile as we cannot change what has been. This I find to be false in light of what I am – for if I didn’t have any regrets how could I live with myself? I may not be able to put right many of the wrongs I have done, but I have realized that the experiences I’ve had have taught me to see how precious life really is. We must never waste a moment to show our loved ones how much they mean to us; we must show them that we care. We must. Having too many regrets eats at our souls and we cannot be at peace.
With regrets comes forgiveness, which I have talked about before. Forgiving other people is much easier in some ways than forgiving ourselves. I know now that Josette eventually forgave me for that terrible night on Widows Hill. Even now I feel the horror as vividly as I did over 200 years ago as she slipped from my arms down onto the rocks as the wind swept the sea into a frenzy.
As the elements claimed her spirit, and her broken body lay below the cliffs, my heart became as hard and as cold as the cruel stones that she lay upon, and for a long time after that I could only feel hate and despair. Many a night I would roam Widows Hill raging at the way it had stolen me from her, claimed her as its own. Her voice mingled with the ghosts of the weeping widows that haunted the place – my suffering was causing me great agony but in a perverse sort of way brought me some comfort, for I felt that one day I might find Josette again as I could often sense her presence in the wind that whipped my cloak around my legs as if she were angry with me for causing her to die.
In the new century I found myself in Josette’s spirit came to my aid twice when I was in danger and I knew then that she had forgiven me, even if I had not forgiven myself.
“My darling forgive me for the suffering I brought you,” I told her one night as I sat alone by my fire in the Old House, and outside the wind sighed at the window. Perhaps I was imagining it, but I felt some peace come over me as though she had heard me.
I climbed the stairs to her room and gazed at her portrait, holding a single candle above me which cast a wavering glow on her face. Her eyes were solemn.
A knock on the door broke me out of my reverie and reluctantly I turned away and went downstairs to open the door. It was Julia. As she walked into the drawing room she could see that my mood was particularly melancholy but did not press me on it, for I had had enough of an ordeal being bricked up by Trask’s spirit in my basement, and she kindly made a front of putting my mood down to that.
“I deserved it,” I told her simply, “for he was only doing what I did to him.” Trask had suffered and died at my hand and even though he had been a spiteful and vindictive man, his fanaticism bordering on mania, I had acted from the same emotions that he had shown to Victoria Winters – hate. Now we were even – he had got his revenge on me and his spirit lay quiet once again.
Julia turned away, pain reflected in her eyes at my words, for the prospect of losing me was as unbearable to her as losing Josette had been to me – and still was.
“Don’t Barnabas,” she said quietly and I looked down at my hands, understanding her, accepting what I meant to her. I said no more on the subject, for I knew how much she had worried when I had gone missing and regretted that I yet again had caused her so much upset.
At this moment in time, I was no longer a creature of the night, but it still felt to me that the curse was never far away from me, and my fears that it was laying in wait for me proved to be correct. The Leviathans returned the curse to me (although the witch made an attempt to and would have succeeded if it had not been for Adam). They prevented me from saving Josette’s death a second time, and reliving that agony once again was one of the worst nights of my life.
Death has touched me so many times, yet I am still alive- why, I don’t know. I have suffered and brought suffering to many; there are those who say that through suffering we can come to a state of enlightenment, or wisdom or something close to it, but I wish that I hadn’t had to have gone through all that suffering to have learned what I have. I have lost too much, caused too much losses. There must be better ways to learn: I believe there are better ways to learn, which I will save for another time.
*Poem: Ask Me No More, from The Princess by Tennyson.