These are the diary pages we found most recently. They all appear in the same masculine script as one of the writers from the diary excerpts we discovered in the beginning.
1 July 1855
Today’s explorations took me beyond Honeysuckle Lake and off of the solid ground in pursuit of Bog Bryg, which I have seen often in charts but never in life, and what a singular exploration it became!
The bog was, as one might expect, sodden and sunken, as to be impossible on horseback, with great multitudes of knees of the bald cypress interrupting the way so as to render boat passage impossible as well.
Yet when I was at the point of turning Sebastian around to return the way I had come, there emerged from deeper into the bog such an unseasonably cool breeze that I was arrested in wonder. Apart from being pleasantly and unexpectedly cooled on a hot July day, I was inexorably drawn to investigate deeper to discover the source of this unnatural phenomenon.
I tethered Sebastian and waded through the bog, never sinking very deep, now and again guided and enticed by one preternaturally cool breeze after another.
Queerly, I lost track of myself, for when at last I perceived a change in my surroundings, I found that I no longer waded through the swamp, for it was frozen beneath me. Light snow drifted lazily over the icy surface and collected windward of every tree. And arising from the ice before me stood a single, frost-bound island with a blackthorn tree rooted at its pinnacle.
I had supposed to have lost myself in a dream and under that supposition, clomb the mound and plucked a blossom from the tree; and here, in my study, I sit at the desk with the flower in a vase before me and wonder. I may convince myself that the frigid center of Bog Bryg was only an hallucination, but whence this flower? It is none endemic to the land — or at least none that I recognize.
I have determined to invite Dr. Renault to visit tomorrow and have him examine it.
2 July 1855
At midnight I awoke to a rap at my chamber door. It repeated, so I donned my dressing gown and opened the door in annoyance, completely prepared to give Bernard what for but completely unprepared for the solitary apparition that greeted me—a ghostly woman, peerless for delicacy and beauty.
I could say nothing, and she waited not for me to speak: she gave me to understand that the flower I had taken at Bog Bryg was very dear to her and importuned that I please return it.
What could I do but surrender to the inducements of this angelic visitor? I led her to the study and presented her with the flower. She smiled upon me, and it seemed as if it were fortune itself smiling.
I have no recollection of how I returned to bed or indeed of anything that took place after I surrendered the flower. Yet after I rose this morning, I immediately took my way to the study and was not surprised find the flower absent from its vase. I did not send for Dr. Renault.
Instead, I breakfasted in haste and returned with Sebastian to Bog Bryg. As before, and scarcely knowing how, I found my way to the mound above the ice, and there I found the night’s apparition. She seemed pleased for my visit, so I introduced myself; and she gave her name as Brigit. She said her mother is the lady of Bog Bryg.
Exactly what all this can mean I am too charmed to question. I am inclined to proceed as if nothing of the matter were out of the ordinary. Together Brigit and I admired her flowering tree. Then we strode about the frozen swamp for some time, she introducing me to the surroundings, until I noticed that she was barefooted and clad only in a loose gown of no great weight. I do not suppose that she was uncomfortable, but I became aware that I was chilled to the bone and dressed no more warmly than a July day’s wont.
I expressed to Brigit that I was enchanted to know her and asked whether I might call in the future. She seemed well disposed to the prospect, so I invited her to join me to dinner and a gala for Agathe’s birthday when the lawn shall be lit with full moon. With her promise, I returned to Sebastian and rode home.
13 July 1855
Anticipation for last night’s gala was never far from my mind through all of the preceding ten days, and I’m sure that the memory of it shall be equally close to mind through the ten to come.
Brigit arrived a vision in white offset with a diadem of shining brilliance and tiny diamonds pinned along the length of her sash.
She was much admired by the guests. Few if any were so aloof to her charms that they did not seek a second audience with her before the night was through. But probably something of this attraction came from the aura of coolness, a welcome relief from the hot summer air, which emanated from her.
Sometime late in the event, I found myself without her. With no explanation at all, she had absented herself and made herself at home in the library, which is where I found her, tucked into a chair and engrossed in a volume of fairy tales. The unabashed interest in her pursuit was endearing, and I proposed that she take the book, along with a few others, home with her when she should retire. She made no concealment of her pleasure, profuse in declarations of gratitude.
16 August 1855
It having been several days since I last saw Brigit, and Agathe having returned to her new society in New York, I called at the frozen island in Bog Bryg. Brigit was not there. Instead, I was confronted by an older woman who treated me very coldly and forbade me to call on Brigit again.
With conciliatory words, I attempted to make peace with her, but she would not suffer it. She commanded me to depart, but I persisted and demanded to know where Brigit was. The strange woman opened her mouth wide and howled with the voice of the wind. Snow whirled down about me and fell so thick as to obscure everything from sight.
I stumbled away blindly for some time, wet and cold when I tripped over tree roots into the swamp. At length the air cleared, and I found my way free to solid ground.
I reached home, wet and possessed of a terrible chill, so I ordered Josephine from the kitchen, disrobed there, and sat before the fire, wrapped in a dry blanket. Probably I dozed, for I was suddenly aware of a well-proportioned but miniature young man standing on the ottoman and beside my feet. He was dressed only in a gown of Irish moss with a flower for a hat and a blade of grass for a belt.
He told me that I might find Brigit at Castle Rock at dusk. Having been slow in my escape from Bog Bryg and having been at the kitchen hearth for some time, the hour was already late in the afternoon, so I sprang from my seat, donned dry clothes in haste, and set out for Castle Rock. When I saw Brigit, I was possessed with the determination to ask her hand, though I had scarcely contemplated the subject previously.
Brigit accepted my token of betrothal and secured my promise to meet her tomorrow night that I might receive hers.
The woman I encountered this morning is Danu, Brigit’s mother, and a terribly jealous one, I perceive.
14 September 1855
Owing to Danu’s interference these several weeks, Brigit and I held some concern that she should prevent the wedding. Too often, Danu’s ignis fatuus has appeared at our trysts, and Danu herself has never been far behind. Therefore, except for the incident at Castle Rock, we spoke nothing of our engagement when in each other’s company and arranged our plans only through the medium of her homunculus, a discreet little creature; I have never noticed it coming and have often failed to notice it going. The only time I am sure to see or hear it is when it delivers its message.
By this means, then, we were able to appoint a day and hour for our union. I arranged for the attendance of the guests, the clerk, and the very Reverend Oury.
Oh black night! After the horror of all that went wrong, it is a terrible exercise to revive the gentle feelings which dominated the early part of the evening, to recall Brigit’s gentle beauty, to imagine the emollient touch of her cool hand. Now everything that took place before Danu’s arrival has been burned away like the left half of my face, and everything that once was beautiful is replaced by ridges and gouges which must in time become scars.
Danu arrived — or at least we first saw her — when Brigit and I turned from the chapel altar to face our guests, who were in the process of rising from their seats in anticipation of our returning promenade down the aisle. At the end of the aisle stood Danu, who released a howl so terrific that the church windows broke, and frigid winds burst through. The timbers of the church groaned above the bewildered shouts of the guests, and the walls bent; some must have broken, for a series of explosions was heard, and splintered wood lanced across the aisle. Danu caught up her ignis fatuus in one hand and cast it at us. I turned to push Brigit to the floor, and the fire struck me in the face.
The roof of the church fell in in places and created a barrier between Danu and us. I still had the use of one eye, so I picked up Brigit, who had not moved since I pushed her to the floor, and bore her away through one of the broken walls. I had not gone far when I became conscious that the flickering ignis fatuus yet clung to the left side of my face. I saw that evasion was impossible, and I fell to the ground, almost immediately overtaken by Danu.
She took Brigit from my arms, and I saw that she — Brigit, I mean — was impaled with multiple great splinters which must have come from the timbers of the west side of the church. Danu pulled the ignis fatuus from my face then held it against each of Brigit’s wounds as she extracted the splinters. Miraculously, the wounds disappeared without a trace, all except the last one, which was the smallest and most distant from the vitals: a single nail pierced her right hand, and in the short time since the violence was wrought, already her hand and wrist had changed color. Close about the nail, her skin was black and cracking. More distant from the site of injury, the color faded to gray, but unless my senses deceived me, the blackness was spreading to her arm before my eyes — or, rather, before my eye.
Danu commanded me to remove the nail, and although I might better have asked why she did not do so herself, I reached for the nail without thinking and plucked it free. No sooner was the nail free of Brigit’s hand than thick snow descended upon us, and when the air cleared again, the three of them — Danu, Brigit, and the ignis fatuus — were gone.
24 September 1855
This is the first day that I can move about the house after being confined to bed by the fever which followed my disastrous wedding.
The day after the wedding, I dispatched Bernard and Gilbert to Bog Bryg to find Brigit. On returning, they reported that they never made it as far as Bog Bryg, that in fact the whole of the northeast border of the estate had become impassable boggy ground. I sent them on the same errand twice more, but each time they returned with the same report.
Today, looking from the windows, their report is confirmed. The swamp has encroached further still and is nearly at the house.
During my illness, Dr. Renault bound my injured head and called only once more, a week later, to examine the wound’s progress. When he unbound my head, his face went pale and he crossed himself. He wrapped my head again in the same bandages as before, without washing the area, then made some stiff utterances to the effect that there was nothing in his education that would serve me and he might as well depart. He has not returned. Nor has there been any call by any other friend or associate.
It would seem that no one but the swamp wishes to associate himself to this house.
This morning at 11 o’clock, Brigit’s homunculus appeared, laden with a leathern pouch half as large as the tiny creature itself. With only the words “Use this. It is all here,” it disappeared in a wink.
I opened the pouch with high hopes but found only bitter, bitter disappointment. The pouch contained only a dour missive from Brigit, a silver key, and a single page from Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. It is Brigit’s favorite book.
Brigit’s letter allowed little hope for her survival. Tomorrow I shall undertake my own journey for Bog Bryg.
I attempted to comply with the directions in Brigit’s letter, to open the dowry box, but there appears to be something missing. The silver key does not open the box.
29 September 1855
After days and days without word from Bog Bryg, I had short relief in the appearance of Brigit’s homunculus, who arrived, unlooked for, under the lamp on the pianoforte. I say it was but short relief because almost immediately it was apparent that matters were worse in the swamp than at home. The homunculus’ pallor was sickly gray, and instead of his wonted garment of moss, he was dressed in a dirty handkerchief of sorts. He said nothing, swayed on his feet some moments, then crumpled in place and died.
I tried for some minutes to revive him, but I scarcely knew what I was doing. The little creature was cold as stone before he fell.
What this can mean I do not know, but I fear the worst for Brigit.