The morning brought both happiness and worry, for me. When I saw Victoria again in the dining hall, I saw her as not only an enemy, but most probably a murderer. I tried to act as though nothing had changed between us, but though she may not have known it, so many things had changed. After one encounter with her in which I was almost sure she observed my strange actions, I then endeavoured to stay away from her so as not to spark her suspicions.
Sunday progressed as normal, with a two-hour service in the morning, and as we had no tests or exams approaching, the afternoon we used for socialising. As normal, we divided into the two groups of paying and non-paying, with those of us who were here without charge downstairs, and the other eleven girls upstairs. Matron observed and supervised from the side of the downstairs room, preventing any loud and excited conversations. Pru attempted to start one, but was quickly scolded by Matron. At about 4 o’clock, however, she did travel upstairs to see the paying girls. After we were sure she had left, and was staying upstairs, we began to discuss the ridiculousness of all the paying girls, Victoria Fitch, Matilda Moore and Charity Adams in particular. I did not contribute terribly to this conversation, for I was unsure of my ability to keep quiet about Victoria’s horrible deed. I did try to assure myself that Sam had possibly misunderstood her words, but I knew that was not possible. Nor could he have misheard or misremembered, for he had always pulled up the most insignificant of facts months after hearing them during conversations he was eavesdropping on in Karori. I thought about the possibility of having discovered the information from newspapers and through others, but the way she said it - I could not quite convince myself it was true.
I was lost in thought when Olivia interrupted me.
“Lydia, are you alright? You have been terribly quiet. Are you feeling sick?” I smiled faintly. “No, I am alright.”
“Are you sure? You seem awfully pale.” I frowned. I was pale? “Really, Olivia, I am quite alright. I suppose I am just nervous for the results tomorrow.” Olivia found this a suitable answer, and smiled sympathetically.
“Of course! I am very worried too. I am sure you have nothing to worry about, though. Your results so far have been amazing! The rest of us mortals should be the ones losing sleep.” I smiled.
“Thank you, Olivia. But I am sure that you, also, have no need to worry. You scored very well as well!”
“Thank you, Lydia. Would you like to come over here?” I smiled.
“No, thank you. I would rather spectate.” She smiled again, and returned to her seat next to Katie.
Eventually, the bell rang to summon us all to dinner, and we joined the 11 others coming from upstairs to go to the dining hall for tea. We chattered nervously as we made our way over to the hall, where a lovely, warm casserole was awaiting us. We ate as normal with the permanent staff of the hospital, and those who had night shifts. As the hours ticked by, and everyone became more aware of how close the results were to being revealed. We had been waiting for these for almost a week, and we wanted to find out how well our chances at being billeted to a good hospital at the end of the programme.
I, however, was not looking forward to the next day. If what Sam said was true, then I would be exposed by Victoria, and I was not looking forward to that. But, however, if what Sam said was true, then perhaps I could use it to contradict Victoria, or perhaps confront her about it, and persuade her to keep my secret a secret if I tell no one about hers. I was still debating what to do when I noticed almost everyone had left. It was only Olivia, Katie and I still at the table.
“Lydia?” Katie nudged me. “You seem terribly distracted today. Is it to do with the exams?” I looked at her.
“Yes, I suppose it is.” She smiled.
“Well, you do know you have no reason to worry.”
“That is what I told her!” Olivia exclaimed. I smiled.
“Maybe I am ill.” I said. “I am feeling quite strange.” But I knew it was nothing to do with the exams. I had to decide what I was going to do, and I could not very well accuse her after she had exposed me, for it may look as if I am simply making things up to avoid the accusation.
In bed that night, I decided I was going to do it tomorrow. It sounded absolutely terrible, but I was prepared to expose Victoria to avoid being exposed myself for something I was doing for the benefit of the community. I was following my passion. Victoria had killed an innocent lady. I slept fitfully, my sleep interrupted of thoughts of all the things that could go wrong. What if Victoria told someone before I managed to? These such thoughts interspersed my dreams, and I woke in the morning ill-rested and feeling slightly testy.
I had decided I would talk to Matron before we went to breakfast, and so I dressed quickly and walked downstairs as soon as the bell was rung. As usual, Matron was standing in the downstairs social room, and I approached her without hesitating.
“Matron,” I said, almost breathlessly, “I have a rather large accusation to make, but I believe making it will help the police in their investigations.” Matron looked puzzled.
“I am not quite sure what you are talking about, Lydia.” I sighed.
“No, of course you do not. Please, let me explain myself. I believe you have heard of the Lady Alison Walker murder of 1863?” Matron nodded.
“Of course. Terrible tragedy. It was Christmas Day, wasn’t it?” I nodded,
“Yes, it was. The police have never discovered who murdered her, did they?” Matron shook her head.
“No, I believe not.” I took a breath.
“Well, I think I have reason to believe that Victoria Fitch committed the murder.” Matron stared at me, mouth agape.
“That... That is a very large accusation Lydia... Are you sure?” I nodded, attempting a look of regret.
“Why? How can you be so sure?” I recounted to her the words Sam had told me Victoria had spoken. Matron again asked for my word I was telling the truth, and after I told her I absolutely was, she told me to fetch the supervisor, Mrs Dale. I nodded, and when she began giving me directions, I told her I remembered from the interview. She nodded grimly. I set off for the reception, hurrying through the hallways to Mrs Dale’s office. I had just realised that if this was to go through, surely the police would want my details, and... But I couldn’t think about that now. I knocked on the door.
An assertive voice from inside granted my entry. I gripped the handle and turned, entering timidly. I had no reason to be shy, though. As soon as the lady saw me, she was surprised, but not angry.
“Lydia? What brings you here?” I sighed.
“Matron told me to fetch you after I... Well, Matron asked me to take you to see her.” She looked concerned. I guessed that Matron did not want her often, and so when she did, she must take it seriously. We were silent as we walked back to the house. By now, some girls were in the room, and chatting in a corner. Katie and Olivia were there. As soon as they saw me, they hurried over.
“What is going on, Lydia? Matron said that lessons would be suspended for today.” Olivia asked.
“Did she?” I said vaguely, but was saved from more questioning by Matron, who called my name. I went over, and it seemed that she had updated Mrs Dale about what had happened. “And you swear that this is true, Lydia?” I nodded. “If you are lying, for some reason unfathomable to me, you do know that there will be consequences.” I nodded gravely.
“Of course I do. I would not tell you unless I was sure.” She nodded, turning to Matron.
“If you would contact the police force, please.” Mrs Dale nodded at me, signalling my departure. I took my leave of them, and went back over to Olivia and Katie.
“Lydia, what is going on?” Katie said.
“I am not so sure myself, Katie.” She was unsatisfied with this answer, but seemed to understand I could not say more. We saw Matron hurry off, and soon after she was escorting two policemen into the room. The girls, all of which were down, started to look slightly alarmed.
“If you would all return to your rooms, please. Victoria Fitch and Lydia Clark will stay here.” Everyone began talking loudly, and Matron had to clap her hands to quieten them.
“To your rooms, please.” Victoria was watching me, eyebrows arched, unsure of what was happening. I looked away from her. Once everyone had left the room, the policemen came over to us, still standing.
“Mrs Dale had told us of your accusation, Lydia. Would you please tell us yourself?” I took a breath, which turned out to be harder than I had expected.
“Victoria Fitch was heard saying, in relation to the Alison Walker murder, ‘People do always talk about her death in such a way. In reality, it was not terribly violent. It was definitely not bloody, or it would have been so much harder to clean up.’” The policemen looked at each other for awhile. Then, the shorter one said:
“Miss Fitch, is this true?” I waited, a silence filling the room. The policeman was opening his mouth to repeat the question, when Victoria rolled her eyes.
“It wasn’t just me.”