Fragments of Shelley’s Heart

 

As he opens the satchel, the crumbled fragments pour out. He has discovered this silk purse inside an old box-desk, the same small portable unit his mother used when writing her vaunted first novel, Frankenstein, the story of a mad genius destroyed by overweening ambition, a topic all too familiar to the wife of the most radical of all of the romantic poets, Percy Bysshe Shelley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Shelley’s Desk

Despite Victor Frankenstein’s dire fate, our hero momentarily wishes that he too could resurrect the dead, for he is now clutching what was once his father’s animating force. Studying the charred remains, Percy Florence Shelley strains to recall something, anything about the man. He likes to believe that he has inherited some small measure of the imaginative gifts that made his parents world famous and, yes, infamous, but in truth, he has trouble summoning a single memory. Nonetheless, some thirty years after his father's untimely death, the two of them have been suddenly and unceremoniously reunited. Indeed, they are closer than ever, for resting in his palm are the few surviving fragments of is his late great namesake’s heart.

Percy Florence Shelley

In truth, it is little more than a heap of burnt-black particles, oddly rigid, as if calcified. Did he cause the heart to shatter when he he brusquely poured it from the satchel? Possibly. This thought supplants the thrill of discovery with a sting of remorse. Studying the  dark gem-like remnants, he longs to somehow make them cohere into a fixed shape again, but, alas, the best that he can do is clean up the mess that he has made before his wife, Lady Jane, discovers him clutching this precious broken relic. Steady now. Not to worry. He need only return the fragments of the heart to the silk satchel and sweep away the dust. He can explain that he found it in this condition. After that, she will not express the slightest concern. To the contrary, she will be delighted by this grand discovery.

Although it is finally in their possession, Shelley's heart will always belong to his mother, for she undoubtably cherished the thing as no other could, keeping it tucked away in that little desk for thirty years, a jealously guarded secret. Yet even before she took hold of its physical form, it was her most valued keepsake. Throughout the eight tumultuous years when its ceaseless wandering left her feeling increasingly injured and estranged, it never left her, not entirely, and now, it is with her still. Such a morbid prize, fitting, really. Even as a child, she had a flare for the macabre, would picnic at the tombstone of her late mother. Years later, she met her married lover at that same spot in secret. He took her in his arms, pressed his lips to hers, then pushed her down atop her mother’s grave, but wait! This is not the type of thing a son should be thinking about, especially as he is still in mourning.

 

It has been a year since she was buried, but Percy Florence is still grief stricken. Lady Jane has been urging him to focus on other to things. She wants him to complete his new play. She says it will be therapeutic to focus is on this task, but he is less convinced. You see, not long ago, on a whim, he mentioned that he might be interested in dabbling in a bit of amateur dramatics, perhaps outlining 

a few scenes for a light comedy. Lady Jane immediately seised on this idea and began imploring him to produce a work of towering theatrical genius. She said he had a sacred obligation to follow in the footsteps of his parents and grandparents and to show the world that he too is a brilliant writer. Ha! She thinks that she can will great writing into being, that by applying enough pressure, she can actually force a man of his noble pedigree to spontaneously produce artistic diamonds. This is why she had the carpenters construct a theatre in their new home. She wants his plays to be performed there and has even volunteered her services as a lead actress. She says it is only natural, that the world is breathlessly clamouring for his birthright to be affirmed. Perhaps, but for the moment, Percy Florence is far too distracted by the past to ponder any future triumphs.

 

He studies the other contents of the desk, some locks of hair belonging to his mother’s other ill-fated progeny, three of them, all perishing in childhood. Small wonder she was so devoted to her one remaining child, lavishing him with sweet maternal affection, shielding him like a guttering flame against the winds of providence. For decades, Percy Florence had been her last precious link to the world of the living, and she had cleaved to him thusly.

To her credit, Lady Jane had never been threatened by the close bond between mother and son. Indeed, in recent years she had encouraged Mary to leave London and to come live with her and Percy Florence in the south of England. Mary’s health had been failing, and it was suggested that a bit of sunshine would do her good. To make this proposal especially appealing, Lady Jane oversaw the construction of new family home in Boscombe, yet, tragically, a month before Shelley Manor was complete, Mary died of a sudden brain tumour.

 

Shelley Manor, Boscombe

 

A lesser soul might have been deterred by this tragic event, but Lady Jane was still determined that her beloved mother-in-law should reside close to her remaining family. She also believed that Mary final resting place should be with her parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, but they had been buried in St. Pancras churchyard in London. What to do?  Percy Florence was far too overcome with grief to offer any useful advice, but in spite of this, Lady Jane devised a brilliant scheme.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas Hardy

A young engineer from Dorset, Thomas Hardy, was tasked with overseeing the excavation. Under Hardy's supervision, the bodies of Mary’s parents were to be exhumed and transported south to join their daughter and be buried in St. Peter's churchyard in Bournemouth town centre, yet to Lady Jane's dismay, the Vicar of St. Peter's had other plans. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. Peter's Church

When the coach bearing the three coffins arrived at the church's lychgate, the Vicar refused to let them enter. He had no intention of allowing all of these radical writers to be buried in “his churchyard.” Lady Jane would have none of this and ordered her coachman to hold his ground.  A stand off ensued. Lady Jane and the Vicar stood, eye to eye, neither willing to budge.

 

Local wags and gossips gathered to gawk at the proceedings and murmur speculation about what was likely to transpire. Would the bodies start to rot until the stench convinced the Vicar to relent? Would a lightning flash from heaven spook the horses, causing them to bolt? The one thing that they all agreed upon was that Lady Jane was unlikely to buckle. For it was well understood that she had nominated herself to the saviour of the Shelley legacy. As Mary had fiercely guarded her son, Percy Florence, so Lady Jane would now defend and repair the embattled reputation of a little tribe too often pilloried by narrow conventions and lashed by poison tongues. It was Lady Jane who had dispensed with the most shocking pages of Mary’s diary, and it was Lady Jane who had hidden his father’s most pagan and seditious works far away from prying eyes. 

 

In life, Percy Shelley had been branded a lotherio, an atheist, a traitor, and a madman. Few of his poems or philosophical screeds were published, and those that did appear were roundly criticised. In those early years, Mary had faired even worse. She had been considered a fallen woman, a pregnant teenaged runaway adulteress and, according to the Quarterly Review, the author of a “tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity.” Then there were Mary’s infamous parents, her father William had called for the abolition of religion, the aristocracy and all forms of government, and her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, had championed the education of young women and opposed the sacred institution of marriage. She had even had her first child out of wedlock!

"I am sorry," said the Vicar. "I cannot abide such desecration."

"'Desecration?!'"

"I mean no disrespect, but--"

"Do you have any idea who these people are, these noble souls you mean to turn away?"

 

The Vicar scowls. "There is nothing noble about blasphemy, adultery and treason."

"And there is nothing Christian about cruelty," counters Lady Jane.

 

Observing this confrontation from the thick of the gathering crowd, Percy Florence shook his head. He was tired of all of the myth making and the scandal mongering. His late parents and grandparents were not angels or devils, saints or monsters. Perhaps one day, the public would realise this and stop attempting to canonise or vilify these all-too-human creatures and finally accept them for what they were, complicated mortal beings with immense talents and virtues but also a great many failings. He might not live to see that day, but he dearly hoped that it would eventually dawn. 

 

Nonetheless, watching Lady Jane step off of the carriage and approach the lychgate made his flagging spirits soar. Never had he felt greater affection for his wife than at that moment when she leaned close to the Vicar and declared his mother's worth for all to hear. "This churchyard is where Mary Shelley and her parents belong!" she shouted. "We are all fortunate to be in the company of such bold visionaries. We owe them out deepest gratitude and respect and, at the very least, the simple kindness of a proper burial. To deny them this would be an unspeakable outrage. Mark this, Vicar, if you wish to avoid a scandal, I advise you to stand clear."

The sheer force of this pronouncement appeared to throw the Vicar off balance, and as he stumbled back, Lady Jane strode into the churchyard, signalling her coachman to follow. The stand off was over. The Vicar had seen the wisdom of acquiescing. The shame-stained figures could be buried in St. Peter's, but only under cover of the night and with no religious ceremony.

 

Slam! The sound of a door flying shut causes Percy Florence to flinch and the fragments cupped within his palm to shake. Lady Jane is stomping about in the other end of the house, upset that he is not hard at work, finishing his play. She is marching from room to room, rearranging the furniture as she is wont to do when agitated, which is all too often lately. He looks down at the strange gems he is holding, each a minor universe, radiating  a small but, nonetheless, exquisite truth. His task, to delve into his father’s heart, the heart of the matter, the pith of the man. What does it mean to find the thing likes this, shattered and laid bare? He cannot help but speculate about the many secrets these fragments must contain, glimpses of the glorious exploits of his parents and all of their glamorous friends and relations.

 

He plucks up a single, luminous, speck. Its surface is caked with red splotches. Seeing this, he is transported to the streets of Paris in 1792. The surface he is seeing now is the blood spattered blade of a guillotine. The eyes observing it are welling with tears. In that instant, he has shifted shapes, become a woman in her early thirties, his own grandmother, the nan he never knew, Mary Wollstonecraft! This brilliant young woman once described herself as a “new genus,” something unique to her age, or any other, a self-sufficient female intellectual.

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Wollstonecraft

It is the dawn of the French Revolution and Mary has travelled to France alone with the express purpose of witnessing this historic social upheaval first hand, and witness she has: the executions, the riots, the blood-thirsty mobs, and still she has not lost faith in the idea that a new age is dawning, an era free from monarchs and dictators in which the common man, and yes, even the common woman, will have a proper voice in all essential affairs of state.

As fireworks explode overhead, the acrid scent of gunpowder lingers, an insult to the crisp night air. A fresh body is dragged from the gibbet. Blood flows in the gutter. A few droplets splash her white stockings. The sight of this makes her shudder, not with fear, but with rage. As she attempts to wipe away these splotches, a young Jacobin mocks her. He even leans and grabs the hem of her dress. Repulsed by this, she kicks him. He lurches back, murder in his eyes, but before he can attack, unseen arms yank her swiftly into the dark.

 

“Percy? Percy Florence?!” Lady Jane is calling from the other end of the house, searching for him now. Dear Lord! He drops the fragment back into the silk satchel then selects a new one to inspect. Instantly, he is again transformed. Now he is a middle aged man, pacing the floor of a small study, attempting to gather his thoughts as shrieking is heard from the next room, a young girl, age three is crying out, pleading for her mother, but her mother cannot hear.

 

William Godwin

Two weeks earlier, the little girl’s half-sister, Mary, was born. The child was pale and weak and not expected to live. Soon, her mother’s health was also in decline. For Godwin, the supreme rationalist, the circumstances were beyond absurd. As Mary suckled Mary, it became painfully apparent that they were poisoning each other. According to their doctor, remnants of the placenta had infected the mother’s body and, in turn, her milk had grown toxic to the daughter. Wollstonecraft had to stop nursing her infant girl. Thus, over his wife's violent protestations, Godwin was required to wrest the wailing infant child from her arms, an act of such unspeakable cruelty, he could scarcely bare recalling it now, yet recall it he must, for how else could he finally set the record straight?

 

The sobs of his three-year-old stepdaughter are now joined by the bawling of the newborn child. A wet nurse calls through the door. His wife’s funeral will commence within the hour, but he has already told her he cannot attend. The ritual is pointless. It will not bring his beloved back to life. Besides, more pressing matters require his immediate attention. He is formulating the plan for a new book, a biography, nay, a “memoir” of his late great wife, her story told from her perspective, as only he can tell it, the most sympathetic portrait of a woman imaginable. This is what her noble spirit demands! A work that will silence all the critics, those who would name her a virago, an unwomanly Amazon. He will expose the painful truths that she kept hid, the doomed love affairs, the suicide attempts, everything. He will introduce them to the Mary that he knew, make them love her and care for her as he had. This shall be his final gift to his immortal darling beloved wife. Blocking out the cries of the two little girls and the sound of the maid now pounding on the door, he sits calmly, takes pen in hand, leans over a blank page and begins to write. 

 

“Percy? Percy Florence?! I know you’re here!” Lady Jane is closer now. If she discovers him hunched over these glittering fragments, what will she think? Will she accuse him of carelessly violating his father’s precious remains? Perhaps. Yet much of the damage is quiet old. The next fragment that he picks up has been severely charred. It is coal-black yet still strikingly radiant, glimmering like the tip of a silver pen dipped in India ink, evoking the vision of yet another figure sat at a writing desk, a desk quiet similar to the one in front of him actually. He is no longer a middle-aged man. Instead, he has become a pale girl working feverishly on an academic assignment, her breath coming in shallow gasps, her palms sweating, rendering the pen in her hand slippery, hard to grasp, causing her handwriting to grow unsteady, which, in turn, makes her all the more nervous, which makes her hands perspire even more. Above her hangs a large oil painting, the image of a mother more infamous than ever, her once tarnished reputation now indelibly stained by the scandalous memoir penned by her father in an ironic attempt to vindicate the author of the “vindications.” He is pacing in the next room now, eavesdropping. She writes faster, as he monitors each scribble, determined to keep her focused on her current task. He wants her to have the best education possible so she can grow up to become a brilliant writer like her mum. She must keep her mother’s spirit alive. No! More than that, she must become her mother! She must bring her back to life!

 

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin

The pacing grows louder. Mary pauses, nonetheless, and takes a moment to collect her thoughts, looking up, scanning the features of the woman looming over her, recognising them as her own, same dark auburn hair, same sea-green eyes. She did not ask for this resemblance, wants to be so much more than an echo of some tragic figure now consigned to ignominy, yet this is precisely what her father’s unyielding resolve is moulding her into. 

 

As she laments her woeful lot, the germ of an idea begins to take hold, the seedling of a tale that she alone is best equipped to tell, a premonition really, the first vague glimmers of a kind of horror story. In the years to come, when she is no longer forced to heed her father’s incessant demands, she might just commit a saga like this to writing, the type of story that even her brilliant mother would have been ill-equipped to tell, at least not as well as she can, the story of a beast like her, a creature brought back from the dead by an obsessive necromancer to elicit horror from gawking strangers, a pariah, a fiend, a monster.

 

As the pacing in the next room stops, she is jarred back into action. She scribbles faster, harder, until… a shock. She flinches, having jabbed her left hand with the tip of the pen. Blood spatters the desktop, but, thankfully, none of it lands on her work. Now the footsteps resume, growing louder and closer. She must get back to work, and yet, she finds herself fixating on the red droplets on the desktop, daubing them with her pen-tip, contemplating the hideous, the unspeakable, the abject. She holds down the top of the pristine page then and swiftly signs her name, their name. She signs, Mary.

 

“Percy Florence? Can you hear me?” Lady Jane is now ascending the stairs, a ravenous she-wolf sniffing out her prey. He studies the few small bright fragments still winking up at him, reminded of the glittering compatriots of his dashing parents. He reaches for the brightest/darkest one, and once again, his familiar surroundings melt away, replaced by stark stone walls. The fragment is transformed too; it has become a sparkling emerald dangling from a necklace draped around the throat of a trembling five-year-old girl. He is kneeling before this child, fastening the bobble. Velvet cuffs and neatly manicured hands suggest a privileged station. As a stern nun takes the hand of the young girl, her eyes narrow with contempt. She has already expressed her discomfort with the arrangement. This is a convent, not a nursery. They are ill-equipped to care for a child so young, yet, all the same, so is he, “he,” being Lord Byron, the esteemed poet and notorious philanderer.

 

 

Lord Byron

With her dour expression and pouting lips, the child looks nothing like him. He would be tempted to deny paternity were it not for a certain feral quality to the eyes. Like him, this creature has spent her early years in the erratic care of a neglectful mother. Like him, she has had scant contact with her father. And, as with him, this lack of proper parenting his allowed certain pernicious traits to flourish: selfishness, impulsiveness, an unquenchable need for attention, attributes that have marked the little beast as aberrant and rendered her utterly unmanageable. Still, despite the child's frightful appearance, he hazards a small pat to the head then hands the nun a purse of coins. She snatches it from him then roughly grabs the girl. After this she turns and marches off, retreating down a long hall, dragging his sobbing daughter behind her.

Claire Clairmont

As Allegra glances back, fixing him with her imploring eyes, his Lordship stands, unmoving, if not entirely unmoved. His one time mistress, Claire Clairmont, had attempted to raise the child alone, but she was no fit mother, traipsing about the continent, no money or fixed address. Her half-sister, Mary Shelley, had already lost two children due to such aimless wandering. Byron had to intervene and insist that Claire surrender Allegra to his care. She had reluctantly agreed, but the truth be told, he soon discovered that he was also quite incapable of tending to a child so young, hence this convent, the only sensible solution. As the nun and Allegra shrink into the shadows at the end of the hall, the little girl cries out one last time and then vanishes from view. 

 

“Percy, darling, I know you’re up here.” Lady Jane has reached the top of the stairs.He hears her entering the hallway and plucks another glittering fragment from his hand. It glows between his forefinger and thumb, bright as a setting sun, its dying rays stretching out across the red title roofs of Rome. He is a young man now, his father’s dead departed friend, John Keats, stood upon the Spanish Steps just outside his final home. He clutches a sealed envelope addressed to him, the work of a delicate female hand, that of his beloved fiancée, Fanny Brawne.

 

 

 

 

John Keats
 

He holds it up against the sun and squints, attempting to discern the precious words folded inside. He will not open it. His sickness is entering its final phase, the stage where any hint of pleasure manifests as pain. To read her loving lines would be sheer torture, so he opts for the lesser torment, merely imagining the sweet sentiments contained therein.

 

 

Fanny Brawne

His tear-stung eyes stop squinting as he gazes at the cloud-smeared sky and feels the step supporting him turn to wet clay. That is when his legs go and he begins to fall. In that instant, he sees the scenery blur and imagines flying forward, as his torso twists, his limbs flail, and his head collides with unforgiving paving stones, at last! The end! Sweet release! Only, not just yet, for, in the crucial instant before all control is lost, some bothersome instinct interferes and rights his footing, steadies his legs, stiffens his spine and thwarts the deadly fall. What wicked impulses is this that, even now, when his lungs are ravaged, and boiling phlegm clogs his throat, still clings to the meagre semblance of life that he has left? At this point, he looks up and spots something floating in the rosy sky above. An envelope!  The letter! Somehow, it has slipped from his grasp only to be borne up and away by a warm breeze, another torment he can savour as he stares into the fast expiring light.

 

Lady Jane is just outside the door now, breathless from the stairs, yet still prepared to pounce, convinced that her husband has been hiding from her, which is true, of course, which is why Percy Florence lifts the final fragment with utmost care so as to avoid betraying his location. This one is quite cool to the touch with the luminous aspect of an ice-sliver, thus the icy imagery it now invokes, a whole tub full of the stuff. A young maid pours a bucket in. Then another maid with another bucket follows suit. Percy junior is now Percy Senior. He oversees their progress with an air of grave concern.

 

Mary had been in the final term of her last pregnancy when, suddenly, she was caught in the grips of a violent miscarriage. Amid agonised convulsions, the embryo gushed out. Painful too was the realisation that yet another child was dead, but soon, there was an even more pressing concern; the bleeding would not stop! A doctor has been called, but he will have to travel from a distant village. Blankets and sheets and towel have been employed in an attempt to staunch the deadly flow, but nothing is working. Mary’s pale skin has grown paler still, translucent as the ice now over-spilling the brim of the tub. Still, Percy orders the maids to bring more, his voice cracking with trepidation as he lifts Mary from the bed, carries her over, cradles her close, hears her panting softly in his ear. He places her atop the frozen heap, and she convulses, her fingers clawing deep into his arm, her hunched shoulders shivering. Her feverish form melts much of the ice on contact. He is leaning over her now, holding her down, pushing her deep into the ruddy half-frozen stew. She thrashes and begs him to release her, to please, please, stop torturing her this way, but there is no other way. Her dark eyes, so often haunted and remote, are now burning into his, as perspiration rivulets drip down her knitted brow and then harden into frost. He meets their fearsome gaze and holds it fast until, gradually, her eyelids flutter and close and her flailing frame goes limp.

 

She is asleep for now and the bleeding has begun to slow. Still, he will stay vigilant, he must. Hours pass. Twilight turns to dawn. Finally, the doctor makes his way up the footpath. The villa is silent now. He finds Percy still awake, still clutching Mary who is bundled in a woollen blanket on their bed. Percy gently wakes her and, after a brief inspection, the doctor confirms that the bleeding has stopped. He then explains that Percy’s actions saved her life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Percy Bysshe Shelley

When the doctor leaves, Mary drifts back to sleep and Percy heads to the veranda and stares out at the sea. He can scarcely comprehend what has just transpired. He has come so close to losing her. Through the years, he has neglected her, which is why, in recent months, they have been sleeping in separate bedchambers. Some might say he has driven her away by pursuing other women and fleeing her dark moods, but never once has he considered living without her entirely, the thought of it reduces him to tears. Lately, he has been feeling so unmoored, plagued with nightmares of death and murder, waves crashing into the villa, a small child drowning amid a storm-tossed sea. He has been taking laudanum to induce sleep, but this has made him restless and agitated in his waking hours. His thirtieth birthday is rapidly approaching and he feels the need to break away somehow, to strike out for new adventures and perhaps escape a darkly looming fate.

 

A few days later, whilst Mary is sleeping again, still recovering from the trauma of her near-fatal miscarriage, he enters her room quietly and finds a boy of three curled in a small bed. Careful to avoid rousing his wife, or his sleeping son, he stands there for several moments, studying a face so like his own, and yet, different somehow, tranquil. Observing this, he reflects upon the many violent upheavals that have, thus far, defined his brief existence, and silently hopes for a much different destiny for his one surviving heir, his precious little lamb, Percy Florence. He then leans to kiss the boy’s tender cheek and whispers, “Goodbye, love.” 

 

A few days later, Percy’s sailing boat will be scuttled whilst crossing the Gulf of Spezia and his drowned body will be discovered on a beach near Viareggio. Mary will be unable to travel there and observe the cremation, but a friend, Edward Trelawny will pluck Percy’s heart from the fire. Years later, it will be gifted to his widow, and once in her possession, it will be locked away, not to be seen or discussed for years to come, although, always, it will be treasured.

 

The final fragment gleams brighter still as Percy Florence holds it over the open satchel. These fanciful visions are proof that he has inherited at least some small kernel of his parents’ talent, yet unlike his vaunted kin, he has never been one to alight the imagination of the general public. He now considers the likely fate of his discovery. This desiccated relic, even in its fractured form, remains far more worthy of note than his stalwart, but lacklustre, reputation ever can be.

Lady Jane bursts through door now, startling Percy Florence, who drops the final fragment, which, thankfully, falls straight into the satchel. “What have you been up to?! Did you not hear me calling?!” Before he can answer, she notices the silk object that he’s clutching. “What is this?”

 

“I, uh…”

 

“Have you been searching through your mother’s things again, daydreaming about the past? Honestly, darling, if your head was not tethered to your shoulders it would float away upon slightest breeze.”

 

“I found it,” he interjects.

 

“Sorry?”

 

“The heart.” As he holds out the satchel, she seizes it and peers inside, her eyes alight with avarice. “Is this really it? Are you certain?”

 

“What else could it be?”

 

Through the years, the two of them had heard rumours of the fabled relic, but neither had ever found the nerve to inquire after it. Would his mother have found such questions distasteful? Had the author of Frankenstein actually grown so squeamish in her final years? Perhaps not. Still, for whatever reason – decorum, prudence, timidity – they had refrained from broaching the topic, even once, and indeed, they had come to suspect that the story of Shelley's heart was just another lie wove within the gauzy fabric of romantic lore.

 

A fine residue of dust is still just visible atop the desk, but all of the fragments are gone, returned to the silk satchel now covetously clasped by Lady Jane. Percy Florence presses his fingers together and feels soft powder clinging to them, the remnants of a spectre whose absence weighs so heavily upon his small life as to render it almost entirely inconsequential. Lady Jane says otherwise, but Percy Florence knows better. He will never escape the long dark shadows of his father’s romantic death and his mother’s gothic legend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shelley Theatre

Of course he will follow her instructions and complete his new play. Of course they will present it on the stage in Shelley Manor. Of course their friends and relations will come and applaud the work, and, of course, they will praise it, drawing comparisons to his late great forbearers. He will graciously deflect such compliments, not out of humility, but merely to resist the lure of bogus flattery. Of course, his little scribbles will never come close to equalling the exalted brilliance of his parents or his grandparents. Of course Lady Jane will gradually tire of promoting his frivolous little productions and invest more and more time celebrating those ingenious relations who will somehow continue to both precede and supersede him and, of course, none of this is finally his concern.

 

“We should display it,” Lady Jane concludes.

 

“Right.”

 

“And when the time comes, it should be buried in the family tomb.”

 

“What time?”

 

“You know, my dear.”

 

“I do?”

 

“Your departure from this mortal realm.”

 

She is correct. He does know. He just wanted to hear her describe the moment when his parent’s grand romantic legacy will inextricably merge with his own small life, for in that precious instant when Shelley's heart is buried with him, its glory will be synonymous with his. This is what Lady Jane has always wanted for him. When that day arrives, her fondest dream will finally come true. 

The Shelley Tomb

 

Lady Jane leans and gleefully kisses Percy Florence on the cheek, draws the satchel to her breast, then turns and swiftly quits the attic room. Alone again, he shuts the desk and then gazes at his reflection in a windowpane across the way. He takes a step back, then another, receding into a haze of light glancing across its shining surface to finally, faithfully disappear.

- Bradford G, 2018