I did not live; yet I could not die.
I wandered the French countryside over the following months and years, returning to that place where she lived, every ten years or so, changing my appearance so that I was not recognized.
I never stayed for long. Just long enough to catch up on the intervening years, and to remake memories that would help me survive until my next visit.
Both children grew well. They had been well educated by their mother, but were never deep into the teachings of the Church.
I resided in Paris and slowly made a name for my company which I called just, ‘Guillaume’, behind which I hid myself away as I grew wealthy.
There were things that I’d begun to suspect about myself as the years rolled by.
I did not seem to age as other men aged. I did not seem to age at all. I did not understand it. Surely, I must be wrong about that.
Time would tell all, but I had seen enough.
Whenever I went back to ‘Deux Eglise’, I changed my appearance again, as I did every few years, but I never stayed for long, just long enough to see that they still thrived.
The farm had changed, and it was now what it should have been. I discovered that they even made a passable wine.
Each time I visited I brought my family tree up to date.
I saw both my son married, and then, my daughter. I held back, and then followed their children in turn. It was a very unsatisfying substitute for living among them, but I had learned to accept certain truths.
By then, of course, the church was no longer looking for me. Why would they be? They’d long ago purged me and my family, and even of that Chambertin family.... from their records.
But not yet from all of them.
Some records still could be found, so I became a searcher for those snippets of my family and those of Rossignol’s family before they were lost forever.
Our descendants would need some record of their past to take forward with them.
I was able to reconstruct my family tree and that of the Chambertins too. Rossignol and I were the only survivors that counted of that time, and I did it for her. I had lost sufficient of my hatred for her kin by then that I could do so.
It gave me some satisfaction to know that though each of our families’ trees had been pruned back to just two shoots (not considering the surviving females of her line), Rossignol and I persisted, creating a new lineage to go forward. She and I were the start of a new dynasty.
I had others in that village who knew of my interest, but without them knowing why, or who I was. They were to keep me indirectly informed of changes in that family; an impending birth, or marriage, or... the other.
Her mother died. I heard of that, and her sister moved away and married too, later in life.
Those agents gave me the most disturbing news that day, though I had anticipated it, knowing it would happen eventually. No one lived forever. It was about my Rossignol.
I set out for where she lived, within an hour of learning of it. She lay ill and was not expected to live.
I waited in the village Inn and kicked my heels, eating my heart out as my beloved died, surrounded by our children, and grandchildren, and I could do nothing except pray. I knew how to do that, well enough
I wept as I had never wept before; my heart, breaking.
At her funeral two days later, I stayed well back from everything in shadow at the back of the church. To them I was a stranger. A young man in that gathering, mourning the loss of a much older woman (she was almost eighty, when she died) would be peculiarly out of place.
I watched her burial.
I learned that the last word to have left her mouth, with her dying breath, had been, ‘Guillaume’; my name.
Oh, how I regretted not having identified myself to her that day when I had killed those pigs, or even before that. I should have taken my chances then. Anything, would be better than what I now faced.
There was little to hold me here now.
My visits became less frequent. I employed others to keep track of the family and its changes.
I did not age. Was I destined like Methusaleh, to wander the earth forever, bearing this curse I seemed to carry with me?
It was a difficult transition I was going through. My depression was so profound after my Rossignol died, taking the brightest light out of my pathetic life, that I actually tried to kill myself.
I tried, but there was some other force within me that held me back from that.
I knew what the church teaching was, on suicide. That had been drummed into me, lurking there, about the curse of suicide upon a devout catholic and how they could never enter the kingdom of Heaven, where my Rossignol waited.
God did not want me, and nor did the devil. He wanted me to live here on earth to be tormented forever in my own personal hell for what I had done.
Why would I care about that, and why was I deluding myself? Heaven was not where I was headed. I had already damned myself many times over by killing the Chambertins; the Bishop; and then the various posses of inquisitors (posse comitatus) hunting for me.
They had not known that it was me they wanted. I’d listened with delight to their screams, as they’d roasted upon their own funeral fires.
No, I despised weakness. Suicide was not the answer.
Though I may not kill myself, I could put myself in harm’s way, so that others would kill me, or the circumstance would do it for me. I took foolhardy risks with myself.
All it did was to make me rich, and shone a spotlight upon me as I gained notoriety and a dubious following I did not need.
I could not deliberately put my life in danger either.
It seemed that I was destined to wander the earth forever unless I could find some ‘legitimate’ way to end my life, if there was such a way.
My hands were tied, no matter what I hoped to do to stop this pain.
I made an annual pilgrimage to where she had lived. I ensured no one else saw me. I had a vault erected over her grave and saw her remains moved up into that, where I could sit with her and talk.
They must have noticed that vault, but they did not remove it. It was there when I returned a year later.
As our family joined her in death, I did the same for them. They must have wondered about that, but they changed nothing. Some benefactor was looking over them.
I tended to their graves, and to their vaults, keeping the bones of my Rossignol together in one place, where I could speak with her and tell her of me, and how sorry I was to have destroyed her family, and us. I did not see bones, lying there in repose as I sat with her, I saw the woman I knew and whom I still loved. I saw her with flesh, warm flesh upon her young and vibrant body as I’d remembered it.
Despite our tarnished history, which none of them knew, our descendants thrived.