I have found out that surprisingly, we are still very near to Mr. Troxill's house. Violet said she only knows the city from looking at maps in his home, but apparently her memory is very good, for she has been leading us on a careful circuit of the blocks surrounding Mr. Troxill's house. Her logic was that he would expect us to flee as far and as fast as possible, and so would ignore the area nearest him in searching for us. Other than the close call yesterday, her plan has worked well thus far.
We are currently in another park, smaller than the last. Most of the snow has melted, so we have been trudging through slush all day. We are now avoiding the busiest streets since Zebediah got splashed with freezing muddy water and half-soaked as a cabriolet flew past and hit a puddle. He said several times that he was fine, but I noticed how he shivered for quite a while afterwards. We are all cold, of course, but being hit with a wall of water that had been ice just a few hours before would make the chill even worse.
In the quiet hours when I cannot sleep these past couple of nights, I have been reading back through this diary to keep my mind off of all the fears that threaten to overwhelm me and have realized (again), that for the past several weeks, life has been alternately terrifying and dreary. At least when things were boring at Saint Anne's, I always knew what to expect. I had the same schedule every day of waking and dressing and eating and lessons. Weekends were for chores with a little recreation, church on Sundays, and trips into town now and then on Saturdays.
I had such high hopes for excitement when I left the orphanage! I simply knew that when I left Saint Anne's on my eighteenth birthday, wonderful, splendid things were bound to happen. And indeed, things did happen, but it wasn't the kind of excitement I would have willingly welcomed into my life. Kidnapping and battles, gunfire and "gliding," lectures and terrible truths learnt. Some good has come of all this, I admit. I am very glad to have met Captain Jack Winters, even if he was not quite what I expected. I am happy to have finally learnt about my parents--where they came from and what they did--though it is more tragic than I ever imagined, even if they died heroes. And of course Zebediah's friendship has been invaluable, and I have thought often how very many times I would surely have given up if he had not been by my side.
And then there is my Gift, wonderful and terrible at once. Violet knows about it, of course, because of the posters, but she has not asked for a demonstration and I have not offered one. I am nervous about using my Illumination unless there is great need, as there was in the forest when I needed it to make a fire at night, and when at last I remembered that I could draw water from the earth. When I was taking lessons from Professor Eberhart, I knew he was near and able to either correct me, or help me if anything went terribly wrong. But now I am without a tutor!
All in all, the last month and a half has been very full and very exciting, and I find myself now wishing for some normality! Which is something I never thought I would do, after longing for adventure all my life. Miss P___ always said to be careful what you wished for....
Oh dear, Violet is doing very badly. I noticed she had been walking more slowly all day, and not long ago when we sat down to another awful supper of lukewarm chicken soup (which contained no chicken) she hardly ate at all. Now we are crammed into a corner upstairs from a third soup kitchen (it would be unsafe to visit the same one twice, as we are on the run) and her breathing is laboured. Her face is frighteningly pale, and she seems to be drifting in and out of consciousness. Zebediah went to get her a glass of water while I sat with her, but she drank only a sip before pushing it away. She will not speak, and I fear that if she tried, we would not be able to understand her for stuttering, as it has grown steadily worse all day.
Oh, Dear Reader! Terrible news! Violet is gone, dead! I was not even particularly fond of her in life, but now that she is gone, I feel so very sad and empty. I feel that I have witnessed too much death lately: in the battle on the Erebos, in the forest with the attack, and just tonight, here at Mr. Troxill's. Yes, we are back.
As I do not think I will be able to sleep for a while, I shall now related what happened.
Not long after I last wrote here, Violet begged us to take her back to Mr. Troxill. It took some time to understand her, since her voice was so weak and she stuttered so badly, but eventually we became aware of her wishes. At first I tried to dissuade her, saying that we could find her a doctor, but she was insistent and said that only Mr. Troxill could help her now.
Reluctantly, I helped her into her coat and gloves, and Mr. Miller and I, supporting her on each side, got her downstairs. The man at the door said we could not come back once we had left, and though we were worried about where we would stay for the rest of the night, we simply nodded at him and went outside into the freezing cold. One comfort was that surely no one who had been following us (if, indeed, anyone had been following us), would be out at this late hour and likely to run into us.
Thank goodness (yet again) for Zebediah, since he was able to lead us back to Mr. Troxill's house. I had no idea whatsoever where we were in relation to the man's home, and Violet was, of course, unable to direct us. But Zebediah started off with determination, which in turn helped to bolster my own spirits a little. Still, it seemed that we trudged through the frozen sludge for hours, but at last the back door of Mr. Troxill's house appeared before us. Propping Violet between himself and the wall, Zebediah told me to get the key from her pocket so we could get in. I wondered why we could not knock, but he told me the servants would surely wake, and we should not bother them at such a late hour. So I searched through all of Violet's coat pockets as well as those in her skirt before finally finding the key on the blue ribbon. Once the door was open, I helped get her inside and lay her on the sofa in the library, then sat next to her while Zebediah bravely went to retrieve Mr. Troxill.
For several agonizing minutes, I sat in terror that Mr. Troxill would come out of his room armed, having disposed of Zebediah, and take me as well, since he had missed out on the bounty he would have received if he'd turned us in to Belleclaire as planned. But the man who followed Zebediah into the library looked haggard, with dark circles under his eyes and his grey and white hair standing up from his head. "Violet," he whispered, and fell onto his knees beside her, taking her frail little hand between both his own. He bent over her silently for a minute, and I stood up and crossed the room to give them some space. Zebediah looked as worried as I felt, and we stood close together.
Eventually Mr. Troxill looked up, then over his shoulder so his gaze fell upon us both. "Thank you," he said in a voice raspy with tears. "Thank you." He kissed Violet's hand and smoothed her hair back from her face, looking on her with all the love in the world.
"Eli," Violet whispered, her eyes fluttering open as if she only just noticed the man bending over her.
"Yes, my love, I am here," he replied. This shocked me greatly, for how could a woman of Violet's age have a lover of Mr. Troxill's age? And she had seemed to hate him, almost, the night we left. She had not spoken of him since, but... she had asked for him when she grew so ill. I looked to Zebediah, but he had averted his eyes from the two and I could not tell what he was thinking.
"H-hurt," she breathed, though I saw her squeeze his hand weakly.
"I know, I know, my darling. This is why I did not want you to leave me. I knew this would happen."
"W-w-wanted.... to. H-had to." It seemed as though every word she spoke cost her a lot of energy. She was so pale now that I could see a web of blue veins through the thin skin of her face.
"I am sorry, so sorry, my love. Wait, I shall return in a moment," he said. He kissed her forehead, then rose and hurried out of the room.
I ventured a little nearer, looking down at poor Violet. "Can I... get you anything?" I asked softly. She stared up at me for a moment as though she did not hear me, then her eyes focused and she shook her head slowly side to side. Biting my lip, I stepped back again, feeling terribly useless, but at least not quite so frightened that Mr. Troxill would turn us over to Belleclaire any minute.
He returned quickly with something in his hand; as he approached, Violet began to look a little less pale and a little more alert. He knelt next to her again and opened his hand; a pale blue glow emanated from whatever it was that he held. "Here," he murmured, and held it close to her face.
But Violet flinched back from it, squinting her eyes against the light. She shook her head again, though it looked as though she could speak if she wished.
"Darling, you need it."
"N-no," she said. "Please." She took several deep breaths, then lifted her hand to push his away.
"Violet, please, you--"
"No," she said again, with a little more strength in her voice. "Eli... Please." Another couple of deep breaths. "L-let me... go."
"My love, no," he said, appalled, grief-stricken. He closed his hand around the glow to comply with her wishes, but leaned closer over her. "You can't leave me, not now! I've only just got you back, and you'll see, things will be different! I swear, whatever you--"
"Eli," said Violet again. "Please. P-please, I n-need this. It has been... too long."
Mr. Troxill stared at her for a long minute. My eyes were filled with tears, even though I understood little of what was being said. It sounded like Violet was asking him to let her die, but why would she do that? This had been going on for some time, she said, but what, exactly, had been going on? And how could Mr. Troxill love her so dearly while she wanted nothing more than to get away from him?
"Violet," he whispered, and bent over her so far that his forehead rested against hers. His shoulders shook, and I realized he was crying. As I turned to look at Zebediah, he touched my elbow and began leading me out of the room, as if he had read my mind. I closed the door softly, then wandered toward the dining room, it being the only other room I was comfortable going into.
We waited only a few minutes, then Mr. Troxill opened the door, a terribly grave look on his face. "She is gone," he whispered, not even bothering to wipe his eyes as more tears fell. Inexplicably, I began to cry as well. Zebediah, who was sitting next to me, put his hand on my shoulder, and I was glad of his nearness.
We are now installed in our old rooms upstairs with Mr. Troxill's solemn promise that we would be safe here for as long as we wished to stay. He repented of his greed which caused him to (almost) turn us over to Captain Belleclaire, and swore that he would be our friend forever because we brought his beloved wife back to him.
Yes, his wife. He said he would explain all tomorrow, so I must put this away and sleep for a few hours, which now seems like it would be the easiest thing in the world, since I am so exhausted