The lantern's dull light hit the fishpond, sending its inhabitants darting this way and that, some hid under lily pads others showed increasing levels of distress as if another disturbance was in the area, apart from the lady and her lantern.
Night had just fallen and this landmark was the chosen place for this most discreet meeting. Pamela Andrews B had left her children at a local inn, her coachman Humphrey Clinker had parked the vehicle four hundred yards away on the road and was awaiting her return; she was alone as the situation required. The parkland had statues, monoliths, trees and paved footpaths, but more important privacy.
"Madam, you wanted to see us?" Uttered a voice in the darkness.
Pamela raised her lantern at the source and saw three figures in its light, they were Patience, Diligence and Chastity, representing the Seven Virtues.
"I commissioned you to do a service in Dijon. "Said Pamela." Virtue was to be triumphant over a sickening lodestone of vice named Juliette; but it wasn't; not only did you fail to wipe away that scum, she shows up in my presence in Nevers and injures me with a hatpin."
The Englishwoman shows the three virtues her bandaged arm. Patience placed a hand on his chest in humble apology; Diligence did likewise but in such a way that conveyed continued effort until the task was done; Chasity followed suit, but being one of the two women in the a team of seven, she stood in awe at the persona of virtue Pamela Andrews had become.
"Our apologies Madam." Patience said eloquently. "We moved on her of course, but she was defended by an interfering fellow sinner who is now in a hospital with sword wounds. Despite this interference one of us did catch her sneaking out a secret exit, he failed to do his duty and paid with his life. So humility is no longer with us."
"However Madam." Diligence added. "The crusade against this particular creature of vice is still on and you can rest assured that Juliette de Lorsange will be removed from all concern."
"Virtue can do naught else but prosper in the long run." Said Chastity. "While vice will be the downfall of all who practice it."
Pamela lowered her lantern then began. "I have called you here to Gevaudan because this is where she is. You must track the loathsome viper down and finish your work. I am going back to England tomorrow morning, this crusade is in your hands now. Virtue must be triumphant."
The three virtues swore the oath of completion on behalf of themselves and the other three remaining virtues. Pamela acknowledged their pledges then bid them to depart, she will wait ten minutes before returning to her coach as she does not wish to be seen with or near them.
It was eight minutes after the virtues departure into the darkness that Pamela noticed a great deal of agitation among the goldfish in the pond, much more than that generated by her presence. She would be gone soon, she would walk back to her coach, Humphrey Clinker would take her back to the inn, tomorrow morning she would take her children and ride to Calais, take a ship back to England then watch the French newspapers for the report she wanted.
It was when Pamela began her stroll back to the coach that a savage roar from nearby reverberated through peaceful parkland. Turning to the source of this noise the Englishwoman saw two blazing red eyes in front of a huge black figure running down an adjacent hill towards her; dropping her lantern she fled in terror, realising that this was the dreaded Beast of Gevaudan.
Her dress and shoes were not made for running but Pamela made the most frantic effort possible; she had left the path to her coach, fear had distorted her sense of direction, she ran blindly through the parklands, often clawing madly through tree branches and bushes while the guttural growls of her pursuer drew closer. Screams for help became shrill and desperate but she realised nobody was around to hear them. The virtues has left, her coachman was too far down the road, she no longer knew in which direction she was running, there was no protection available; not her husband, not her valets, not even a chaperon.
A frantic look back revealed the savage horror was bearing down on her fast, it was a big black wolf, but when it bounded over obstructions it looked demonic with its burning red eyes. Pamela wondered, while she continued to run and scream, why a hellhound would come after her; the most virtuous woman; the answer that came to her frightened mind was that by enforcing virtue with conspiracy to murder a person of vice, she had ceased to bear her most proud quality; virtue.
Tree branches whipped her face, sticks bruised her shins and rocks stubbed her toes, but it was when she ran into a sundial that her desperate run in the darkness ended with her falling flat on her face. The instant before the beast pounced on her she quickly whispered her last words.
"Oh Juliette forgive me."
The Beast's forepaws landed on her back pinning her down to the ground, its huge jaws bit into the back of her neck with such ferocity that it twisted while it crushed. Pamela's screams of pain disappeared with shock. The tearing, mauling and devouring would last a while but for Pamela Andrews the ordeal and life itself ended early with a quick snap of her neck.