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Chapter 7
On my return, I found the following letter from my father:--
"My dear Victor,
"You have probably waited impatiently for a letter to fix the date of your return to us; and
I was at first tempted to write only a few lines, merely mentioning the day on which I
should expect you. But that would be a cruel kindness, and I dare not do it. What would
be your surprise, my son, when you expected a happy and glad welcome, to behold, on
the contrary, tears and wretchedness? And how, Victor, can I relate our misfortune?
Absence cannot have rendered you callous to our joys and griefs; and how shall I inflict
pain on my long absent son? I wish to prepare you for the woeful news, but I know it is
impossible; even now your eye skims over the page to seek the words which are to
convey to you the horrible tidings.
"William is dead!--that sweet child, whose smiles delighted and warmed my heart, who
was so gentle, yet so gay! Victor, he is murdered!
"I will not attempt to console you; but will simply relate the circumstances of the
"Last Thursday (May 7th), I, my niece, and your two brothers, went to walk in
Plainpalais. The evening was warm and serene, and we prolonged our walk farther than
usual. It was already dusk before we thought of returning; and then we discovered that
William and Ernest, who had gone on before, were not to be found. We accordingly
rested on a seat until they should return. Presently Ernest came, and enquired if we had
seen his brother; he said, that he had been playing with him, that William had run away to
hide himself, and that he vainly sought for him, and afterwards waited for a long time,
but that he did not return.
"This account rather alarmed us, and we continued to search for him until night fell, when
Elizabeth conjectured that he might have returned to the house. He was not there. We
returned again, with torches; for I could not rest, when I thought that my sweet boy had
lost himself, and was exposed to all the damps and dews of night; Elizabeth also suffered
extreme anguish. About five in the morning I discovered my lovely boy, whom the night
before I had seen blooming and active in health, stretched on the grass livid and
motionless; the print of the murder's finger was on his neck.
"He was conveyed home, and the anguish that was visible in my countenance betrayed
the secret to Elizabeth. She was very earnest to see the corpse. At first I attempted to
prevent her but she persisted, and entering the room where it lay, hastily examined the
neck of the victim, and clasping her hands exclaimed, `O God! I have murdered my
darling child!'