I have these fits, you see.
One would hesitate to countenance my roaming at this late hour, especially with no chaperone to right my path. However, the moon is bright and full tonight, casting its cool glow over the road. It is the moon that so pulls my moods these days that I feel as though the moon himself should act as my guide. Dear Lucy only resides a bit further down this way, and I should come to no trouble in the short time that will pass before my arrival.
Oh! It should come as a surprise that she might see me this night, for she is set to be married to Lord William Henceforth in two days’ time. His wealth will surely provide for her a most promising future, though his courtship of Miss Lucy has caused a certain cessation in our once joyous social encounters. A man of his prominence sees no sense in feminine foolery that may distract his dear wife into hysterics. Certainly he must be correct in his assumptions, and fond Lucy should see herself dearly lucky to be the match of Lord Henceforth.
I have not found myself to be granted such luck. Not suited for matrimony. I crept to the drawing room door and heard, with pressed ear, Father utter this phrase with great regret at the prospect of a suitor, one Sir Edgar Marron, aged forty and seven, who had come to call upon my availability one Sunday afternoon. I will make no pleasing wife, not with the fits that so plague my being. Father has brought forth the greats of the medical profession to come to the cause of these furies, but no resolution has been unearthed. I confound the doctors who know not than this began after the June night when Lucy and I escaped to the orchards.
There is no surer way than to marry to a husband and to be his wife. This truth, I resolutely believe, made it all the more difficult to bear when Lucy gave announcement of her pending marriage. Though she bore a smile, she spoke through hushed whispers and downturned eyes — blue eyes as luminescent as the rising moon — that gave warning of her dread. Pray, what direction should one look than to that of matrimony? Lucy would make a most solemn governess.
“I do not know him,” she sighed with heavy heart.
I wished to ease such worries but found no ability to do so within myself. It was in this moment that I mused how better suited it might be if ladies were permitted to carry out our days together on some distant shore, far beyond the reach of our present woes. “We get on far better than with any dusty suitors. Think, it would be a joyous life if only…”
I had let my imagination carry me further than the hesitation that should have been given by my tongue. Immediately, I felt regret for my bold speech and turned from the open window to face Lucy who, I discovered, was lost among her thoughts, wholly unaware of my sudden pause. “A joyous life, indeed,” she said, knotting her rose shawl around her forefinger.
I looked once again upon the yard and the grand peach orchard that stretched forth under the milky moonlight. “Then let us go.”
“Go?” Lucy looked up with a start.
“Yes, let us go to some distant shore.”
Lucy laughed, a crop of mischief growing inside her being. “Then let us go!”
Hand in hand, we stowed away into the shroud of night, laughing at ourselves as though we had been transformed to infant babes. We bounced through the side gardens, into the near lying meadow, finding ourselves deep within the fruit orchards.
“Shall we grow peach trees like this at our house?” Lucy asked, brushing the fuzz of peach flesh, hanging low and heavy from a branch.
“Certainly. We shall grow all the fruits one could ever want. It will be a long voyage; we should gather some of these to take with us. Must keep our spirits high!”
We both pulled peaches from their drooping branches. I remember so distinctly the smell of the fruit coupled with the perfume of the night air — the soil and the leaves. We had run so far and the night grown so long that we rested at the base of a tree, making our bed of the orchard floor.
As the moon held its throne high above our heads, we sat such great distance from the estate — all those inside believing Lucy slept soundly as death within her bed when she truly lied beside me. It is this distance, I believe, that brought Lucy a certain bravery in her thoughts.
“I do not think,” she said, sleepily pulling me nearer, “that I should want to be married to Lord Henceforth.”
“Should you not?”
“No, I do not think he would permit me to grow peaches,” she said, pressing her lips to mine before wordlessly drifting to sleep.
Our earthen bed was home to vivid dreams that night. I dreamed of ships sailing into navy blue waters. I dreamed of small cottages by the sea with sprawling gardens and of a rosy cheeked Mademoiselle made joyous by the salty air. I dreamed of such beautiful scenery and awoke to my own sharp screams.
So deep I fell into these dreams that I did not rouse when the beast came stalking about. Lucy woke with a start and pulled away, shouting fearfully as the canine — so monstrous and angered — pulled with its teeth at my dresses and shook me through the dirt as if I were but a doll. I kicked about, fought with all the strength I held in my being, and was frightfully able to free myself from its grasp. I was tattered, scratched from razored claws, and bled deeply from a bite about my leg.
I have been stayed in bed since that evening. Father knew not why I had ventured to the orchards and blamed a certain somnambulance precursing my condition. Though resting heavily we marked no improvement before this date, only sickness and thrashing that built with each coming night.
It is such an unusual occurrence that on this evening I should feel so wholly better from such a sickened state. Pulling myself from my bed, I could not resist but to open my windows — the moon glowing so round and proud in the sky such as it did on the night Lucy and I stole away. It pained me to be reminded of dear Lucy who had sent her most solemn regards but had been kept at distance from my fevers.
It struck me that I should see her on this night of good health and so set forth along the path to her home. Such a short walk it is that my memories of the night in the orchard have no more than played in the image of my mind than I have arrived. Pink roses blooming along the side of the courtyard and the air heavy with summer, I creep to Lucy’s chambers, quiet as a mouse, and find her nestled in her bed.
Lucy…Lucy, wake up. I’ve come to see you.
Slowly, she stirs and looks at me with puzzled eyes, her hair splayed across her pillow. As she becomes more conscious of her visitor, her face turns to one of joy.
“Are you well?” she asks with excitement.
“I feel as well as I did those weeks before. You were the first I wanted to see on this night, as if the very earth pulled me to this house.”
“That is marvelous! Come. Come into bed and tell me all that I have missed in your absence.”
She fluffs the pillow and I crawl beneath the down. We talk of lost days, and when the moon has risen above us, hanging just as it did the night in the orchard, I am unable to offer any forbearance against that which possesses me.
I shift, hungry and mad, and tear Lucy’s flesh — as tender as the peaches that hang on the trees just beyond the house. Feathers fly from the ripped bed, and I plunge my teeth deep, grinding and gnawing on her bones. As the moon hangs pale and round in the sky, the night hears nothing but Lucy’s wailing screams.
I have these fits, you see.
We read William Wordsworth’s “Lucy” poems in Gender in 18th Century Literature class during undergrad. The poems exist as a series, and while I focused on poem 1 for this prompt, they are all pretty strange and creepy. We played around in class with the idea that Wordsworth’s speaker might be a serial killer, but you know what is more interesting than a serial killer? Lesbian werewolves. You’re welcome.
Shout out to the Ladies of Llangollen (who really did run away together) for inspiring part of my plot.
STRANGE fits of passion have I known:
And I will dare to tell,
But in the lover’s ear alone,
What once to me befell.
When she I loved look’d every day
Fresh as a rose in June,
I to her cottage bent my way,
Beneath an evening moon.
Upon the moon I fix’d my eye,
All over the wide lea;
With quickening pace my horse drew nigh
Those paths so dear to me.
And now we reach’d the orchard-plot;
And, as we climb’d the hill,
The sinking moon to Lucy’s cot
Came near and nearer still.
In one of those sweet dreams I slept,
Kind Nature’s gentlest boon!
And all the while my eyes I kept
On the descending moon.
My horse moved on; hoof after hoof
He raised, and never stopp’d:
When down behind the cottage roof,
At once, the bright moon dropp’d.
What fond and wayward thoughts will slide
Into a lover’s head!
‘O mercy!’ to myself I cried,
‘If Lucy should be dead!’