In today’s blog I thought I would provide an excerpt from my first horror novel ‘Retribution.’ In this scene, which occurs in the Prologue to the book, Victoria Marchbank and her husband Samuel are given the heartbreaking news that their two children have died from the effects of the killer plague which is sweeping around the neighbourhood. After Samuel goes upstairs to be with his children for one last time, Victoria and Doctor Mathewson converse with each other in the drawing room. The doctor is shocked as to how Victoria reacts to her children’s deaths:
Doctor Mathewson tried his best to soothe Victoria’s grief, but in so doing he had a most dispiriting effect. Rather than joining in with her husband’s display of abject desolation, she turned her emotions firmly on the doctor.
“I don’t understand how my children could have died,” she began to say in an incredulous manner.
“Yes,” returned the doctor in a comforting way. “It was all very sudden the way Edward and Norma-Louise caught the plague. I did all I could for them, but they were beyond my hands and skill.”
At this, Victoria eyed him suspiciously. It was as if she doubted these words and needed the full facts from the doctor. “But were they?” she asked him enquiringly. “I mean, you’re supposed to know your business very well. Indeed, you’re known as one of the best in your field. So why, I ask you, doctor, were you unable to do anything to help my poor Edward and Norma-Louise?”
“I did all I could for your children, Mrs. Marchbank. You must surely believe that. It was the plague they were afflicted by…”
“Oh, don’t tell me that! I know damn well what my children died of, you old man, and I don’t think you did all you could to save them. The question is why?”
The poor doctor at this time was becoming overwrought. He couldn’t understand why Victoria had turned on him in such a way. Good God! Didn’t she realize that it was the death-threatening plague which her children had been struck down by? Nobody had yet survived who had contracted that killer disease. So, why did this woman now choose to make these accusations against him? Putting it down to her grievous state, the doctor tried to soothe the woman’s fury, but without success.
“I don’t want any of your excuses, doctor,” she bellowed at him. “You should have been able to save my children with all the knowledge you possess. But no, you failed my little ones and you failed me. You let them die, without doing anything to help them and I curse you for that. Samuel and I trusted in your ability.”
“But I did all I could…”
“Shut up, and listen to me, you poor excuse for a medical man! You came to this district with a fine reputation, but you failed. Looking at you now, though, I can see what I couldn’t before. You’re nothing but a broken-down old man. How could anyone put their lives in your hands? Why, you are barely able to keep your own body and soul together. And yet we were foolish enough to place the lives of our children in the hands of such a one as yourself!”
Doctor Mathewson, who had been visibly shaken by the diatribe aimed at him, now seemed barely able to stand on his own two feet. Indeed, he cut a pathetic figure, as he leaned on the walking stick which was a permanent reminder of what living in the country had done to him. Well, not so much the living; more his line of work. Even though he had only been working in this area of the country for a few years, it had greatly aged him.
It had been the savage changes in the weather which had had such a debilitating effect on Doctor Mathewson. Being the only doctor for miles around, he had to be ready to go out in all weathers, riding on horseback along rough roads which were so bad there was a constant fear of injury for anyone who traversed their path. Allied to these difficulties was the fact that the doctor was on call at all times of the day and night. Despite all these problems, which would have defeated a lesser man, Doctor Mathewson carried on regardless. This stemmed from his delight in helping others, especially the more unfortunate members of the community.
Now, though, he was having to take all this abuse from Victoria Marchbank. He felt her antics were uncalled for. Oh, for sure, she was grieving for her dead children, but there was no need to take it out on him. Unfortunately, the woman herself seemed incapable of viewing the situation in this light.
“No matter how ill-suited you are for the hard-working occupation which is the lot of a country doctor,” she told him. “I hold you accountable for the deaths of my little ones.”
At this point, the doctor felt he could take no more from the embittered woman and made a hasty retreat. Venturing out to the main hallway, he made to collect his coat and hat, but even then he could not release himself from the vitriolic menace that was Victoria Marchbank.
“I will gain vengeance on you,” she warned him. “Even if it takes the rest of my life, or even beyond that! I promise you will pay for what you have done to my little ones. I will see to it!”