It was a rainy day, and the clouds poured since early morning. The skies were grieved, with Martha, Mr and Mrs. Tetterby, and William, as Officer Lucas had informed them about Patricia’s whereabouts. She was finally discovered, cold and lifeless. Few detectives stood around the corpse, and examined the situation. One of them was questioning a 12-year old boy, and his middle aged father, who found the body flowing in the Colne. Officer Lucas was examining the entire scenario. There was a doctor, who was examining the body, and writing his report in a paper.
William stood quiet at a distance, watching everything happening around that plot covered with green grass, where his daughter lay still. William had looked at her face once, and she appeared to have died with many secrets with her. Martha and Mrs Tetterby were weeping at one side and Mr Terrterby stood beside William, silent and not knowing what to speak to him.
The father and his son were explaining the detectives how they found her.
“I saw something floating in the water, sir”, replied the small boy, “I called Father immediately. He jumped in the cold water to bring the body to the bank. Father asked me to inform the police right ahead”.
Father stood behind the boy, explained further, “I was surprised and afraid to see the body, I thought for a moment that the person is alive, and I wanted to help. But I realised that it is too late, and she had already passed away.”
The father was afraid that the police would charge him for killing the girl. He was hoping that the detectives would believe his justification. The detectives were amazed to have found Patricia around nineteen miles away from Hamworth. Officer Lucas was discussing the possibilities of her death, when the doctor arrived with the observations.
“She died very recently, almost three days ago, and was attacked by a bear on her neck”, said the doctor in an unaffected tone and manner, “there was a wound on her neck, which looked like the bear attacked her with its paw. She had drowned and died. She came all through the Longford River till the Colne.”
Officer Lucas observed the report, and was puzzled. If she was attacked by a wild animal, why was just one wound on her body, why weren’t there any more marks anywhere? Where was she all these days, if she died only three days ago?
Officer Lucas was trying to think over all these clues. William overheard everything that the doctor discussed. He walked closer to the corpse of his daughter, looked at her well, and walked away slowly. He got in his carriage, where Mr Tetterby joined him too, and they left. Martha and Mrs Tetterby followed them in another carriage. The body was carried by a team of police men in a white carriage, which had “AMBULANCE” written on it, and everyone left to Hamworth.
In the Redlaw Mansion, the servants were preparing the house for a funeral. An expensive wooden casket was sent to the Hamworth Hospital for Patricia’s final journey. She was returning her house, finally, in a wooden box, in which dead remain asleep. The servants decorated the house with Orchids and Lilies, arranged the large hall for a public gathering. Martha’s hands shook terribly when she was trimming the flowers in a large vase. Never did she think that she would have to see such a day in her life, or would have to do any such thing.
William remained in his room for the entire time, and smoked his pipe. He did not speak to any one, he did not eat anything. He kept reading his daughter’s notebook. When people started gathering in the house, Mr Tetterby went to William’s room, to call him downstairs. William did not speak a word to him, and left his room. As he descended from the stairs, he saw many recognisable faces looking at him: the neighbours, the Tetterby family, few writers from the Association, Officer Lucas and his team of detectives, and Martha, weeping in a corner.
In the centre of the hall lied the casket containing Patricia, in it—soulless and still. Her body was not in a condition to leave the door of the casket open. Three days of soaking in water had ruined her tissues. As William walked towards the casket, the crowd made way for him. People tried to console him, “Mr Redlaw, I am deeply grieved about your loss”, said one, “Mr Tetterby, may God give you strength to stand strong at the moment of sorrow”, said others.
William did not care to respond to any of them. He kept quiet, looking only at the casket, and walked slowly toward it. He stopped next to it, and felt the surface with his hands. He thought in his head that now this is Patricia’s new home, forever. After an hour of people pouring in to console him, it was time for her final destination. A carriage laden with white flowers waited outside, as eight well-suited men carried the wooden box on their shoulders. They placed the casket on the carriage, and it left to the church. Few more carriages followed, where William, Mr and Mrs Tetterby, Martha, and few close friends were seated.
In the graveyard, a big rectangular patch of ground was dug for the coffin, right next to Victoria Redlaw’s grave. The pastor reading from his Bible, and people surrounded the grave to witness the final proceedings of the funeral.
William stood quiet, long with Mr Tetterby next to him. People took a handful of mud, and poured it in the grave, and left the place. William stood alone, waiting till the entire grave was filled with mud and sand. He quietly left the place when the process got done.
It had been just a month since the funeral, and the Redlaw Mansion was back to normalcy. William was busy writing most of the time. He tried to read, understand, and see through Patricia’s unfinished story, “The Harrowing Estrangement”. As far as he had read, the story is about Julia, and her lover, Jonathan, who fell in love, and went through difficult times, as Julia was a rich merchant’s widow, and Jonathan was a man much younger than her. But these two lovers do not care about the society, especially her dead husband’s brothers, who did not want any blot on their late brother’s reputation, and decided to run away to another town.
It occurred to William that after this point, whatever was written in the notebook was jumbled, and did not make any sense to him. And then the puzzling sentence kept staring him on his face. He was no sure what to predict out of it. He tore the pages where there was nothing more than, what occurred to him, rubbish, and kept them safe in a wooden box.
He started fresh, writing with the white quill that she possessed from Martha. Martha had always been devoted to her husband and daughter. When her husband went missing, she could not bear to see the beautiful quill lie withering away. Hence, with William’s permission, she decided to give it to the little aspiring writer. He remembered how his daughter was fond of the fairylike feather, and the beautiful carved nib. He felt obliged that Martha had looked after her so well. The quill and the notebook travelled all the places she went to, have seen everything she grew up to, and were her prized possession.
William theorised what he was going to write, and how he was going to continue the story, and stooped over his table to inscribe his thoughts. Patricia had left the story where the two lovers had to go through the hardest test of their lives, the harrowing estrangement, which was going to kill them. But he could not think of the way this had to happen.
He thought hard that what would have wanted to write, how she would have wanted the story to flow. He recalled one of their conversations in the past, about lovers and their pain of separation, and his eyes widened, when he finally knew what he is going to do. He told himself, “Julia must witness Jonathan dying”. He then thought how well it connects with the title of the story, and proceeded writing it.
In some time, a soft knock on his door stopped him from his work, and he asked the person to come in. It’s Martha on the door, which came in the room and said, “Mr Redlaw, Officer Lucas has come to pay a visit. May I let him come in?”
William closed the notebook, and nodded in acceptance. Martha bowed, and left the room as Officer Lucas entered.
“Good afternoon, Mr Redlaw, what a pleasant day!”
“A very good noon, to you too, Officer, it has been quite a while since we have spoken to each other.
“Well, the thefts and burglaries kept the department much occupied this month. God save the criminals. Why need a policeman when there is no thief in the town”, and he burst into laughter.
William smiled, though was not amused, and replied, “Well, what business brings you here, Officer?”
“Aah, business! Coming back to the business, I am here to talk about your daughter, Mr Redlaw. The autopsy report clearly tells that she had been attacked by a wild animal, and died because of drowning.”
“Well, the doctor had reported this earlier, on the same day as we found her, didn’t he? What now, Officer?”
“Mr Redlaw, we are not done here, we need to investigate where Miss Patricia did for the three months before we discovered her body. What had happened to her during that time, we need to find answers to all of them”.
“Do you think I am already acknowledged with these answers; have you assumed that I have had a vision of her story?”
“Mr Redlaw, you are our biggest source of information about your daughter, if you could help us with our enquiry, it would be in both of our welfare. Would you like to tell us anything that had been worrying her: any person blackmailing her, anyone behind her life, any debts, secret, or any lover whom you know?”
“Officer, I told you before, that I have no idea about any such thing related to her. Why would you not believe me?”
“Because, this is not helping us, Mr Redlaw, your silent composition is not taking us anywhere. Please try to understand!”
William was losing his temper, “Officer, it was nice to talk to you, but it would be nice if you leave now!”
Lucas was losing his patience, he nodded, and replied, “Very well, Sir! I should come back soon, when you decide to recall things about your daughter. May I question your servants for a while?”
William nodded, and looked away, paused for a moment, and got back to his work. Lucas passed by Martha, who was standing by the door, with a silver tray of two teacups for them, but did not dare to enter be seeing the stiffness in the environment. She had heard everything, and was wondering what is the Officer intending to find. However, she left the place, and went to the hall, where all the servants had gathered to talk to him.
Lucas was questioning the servants, and especially Martha, but failed to find anything, he left the mansion soon. He smelled suspicion and secrecy in the air, and he determined to find out the truth.