Shakespeare's Dark Lady
All's Well That Ends Well, Act V, Scene 3
He was hovering around the kitchen helping Amelia prepare dinner when the phone rang. She started and stared through the door to the living room as it continued to ring, then walked unsteadily over and picked up the receiver. She listened for at least a minute after answering.
"Okay," she said. "Was he with anybody?"
He was astonished to see her clawing her neck on the left side, gouging the flesh. When she pulled her hand away her fingers were smeared with blood.
He came over, mouthing: Who is it? You're bleeding.
She was looking straight through him. "All right," she said into the receiver, hung up and sank into an armchair. He tried to dab at her neck with a damp towel, but she pushed him away.
"Who was it, for God's sake?"
Now she had both hands around her throat, thumbs forward. Blood seeped between the left fingers. Her head nodded, listlessly. Then she looked up, as if noticing him for the first time.
"Lawrence died three hours ago. Heart failure. That was David."
"Dinner," she said. "Let's eat dinner."
"Amelia, for god's sakes. . .Your father's dead."
She took the towel, wrapped it round her neck and disappeared to the bathroom.
He followed and hugged her from behind where she stood at the basin, his hands pressing down on her belly, faintly swollen under a knit skirt. He kissed the contusions on the side of her neck, tasting blood. Amelia gently unclasped his hands, went to the kitchen, and switched on the oven before making herself a freshly pressed and very sugary lemon juice.
She barely spoke while they ate, and when they went to bed she curled up alone on her side. He longed to comfort her but had no earthly idea how you comforted someone who wouldn't respond when you spoke to her, whose cheek was dry when you touched it.
The next afternoon Bendix called again. Amelia was out, so Daniel took the call. Bendix asked him to tell her that Lawrence would be cremated without ceremony, but there would be a memorial service in Washington. The information that came next surprised Daniel, unprepared for being treated as if he were a member of the Hungerford family. Apparently Lawrence's will made Bendix his executor. One half of his well sheltered estate, mainly Old Masters from the Georgetown collection, Lawrence had bequeathed to the Met. The other half would be held in trust for his unborn grandson: William Bosworth. The details were in a codicil signed only days before he died.
Was it legal to leave a legacy to a fetus? Two weeks after finding out that she was pregnant, Amelia had decided that it was going to be a boy, a conviction that Daniel had been unable to shake, any more than he was seemingly going to be able to stop her from referring to the baby as William.
"When is the cremation?" Daniel asked.
"It's being done tomorrow, Daniel--d'you mind if I call you Daniel? But tell Amelia I know from something he once said that he wouldn't want anyone to be there. I guess he didn't want to make her sad. Ask her if she wants me to organize anything special for the memorial service. Of course, you both can call me any time."
"I'll call next week to let you know the details. Amelia will be able to tidy up the legal side of things while she's over."
When he gave her Bendix's message, she thanked him but had no questions, showed no curiosity about the details of her father's death, or will, or cremation.
She was wearing a turtleneck to cover her throat. Her injuries were the only physical sign that anything out of the ordinary had happened.
For two days she said so little that he found himself longing to hear her voice. She ate almost nothing but drank one citron presse after another. He took time off to be with her in the evening, going out late to get fresh supplies of lemons from the corner Indian.
She seemed grateful, and he sensed that she was even more grateful not to be hugged or questioned about Lawrence.
Most days he didn't have time to read the papers, and it was Tillman who spotted Lawrence's obituary in The Times, beneath a very old photo. The article was mostly about his contribution to museums and art. It said he'd been one of the richest men in Washington, thanks to his art collection, and referred to Amelia as an heiress. The newswriter had even thrown in a token negative: thousands of acquaintances, but few if any real friends. That figured.
What didn't figure was the reality that while Amelia was not mourning, Daniel was missing Lawrence.
By the third day she seemed almost herself again, though he now had the impression she could live without Shakespeare. A week after Lawrence died, she phoned the Radcliffe Seminars office to resign as tour guide before the job even started. And two weeks after the resignation, she told him she was going back to America.
"The day for the memorial service is fixed," she said. "I'm also going to give my lecture, the one I missed in the spring--it's time to tell the world who the Dark Lady really was. I spoke to Bob Carr, and it's all fixed for the day after tomorrow. I didn't want to tell you sooner in case you tried to stop me." She patted her belly. She was nineteen weeks pregnant.
"I'll be too pregnant to move in a few weeks," she said, "and if I wait till afterward, I'll be too busy. Bob's fixed Sanders Theater--it was to be Harvard Hall, but he thinks there will be more than enough students to fill Sanders. . . . I thought I'd have a last session or two with Katie, just for a check-up. Also there's dozens of papers to sign to sort out the estate."
"What does Joblove say?" Philip Joblove was her much respected obstetrician. Twice Daniel had been with her to visit him at the Radcliffe.
"He says take it easy and I'll be fine. So will William."
"You'll miss my birthday."
"I know, lover. I'll make up for it when I get back."
"Promise to phone."
"Promise. By the way, the service for Lawrence is at St. Dunstan's on Tuesday. I didn't imagine you'd rush to be there."
"How did you know I didn't want to come? People will expect me to be there with you. . . . Who's going to show up, do you think?"
"A few hundred politicians and hangers-on, distant cousins, aunts and uncles."
Had she asked him to go with her, he'd have said no. Too much work. But it would have been nice to be invited.
They spoke very little on the drive to Heathrow the next morning. There was no crowd this time. She cut an ultra-conservative figure in a brown tweed suit; skirt let out at the waist, jacket left unbuttoned. Her normally rebellious hair was tied back in a severe but elegant barrette.
Outside the boarding pass control point he gave her a quick hug. She put a hand to his ear and whispered, "Luvya. We both do." Her other hand went to her distended belly, and he noticed a gold bracelet he hadn't seen before.
"Where did you get that?"
"A present from Marcus."
As they crossed over to the river Katie concluded that she and Rosie had been right to get outside for some fresh air. The day was a scorcher; house crews were out on the river, and the grassy bank was filling fast Katie never wore a bra, and her breasts lolloped in counterpoint to her hips beneath a mid-calf rayon dress that eddied in the breeze.
"Let's sit over there." She ran a twitchy hand through her hair. Rosie looked where she was pointing, a little back from the water. A few yards from the spot a girl in cut-off jeans sat gazing intently at a man reading a book. Not a couple likely to eavesdrop on their conversation.
"I'm going ahead with the paper," Katie said, "even though Amelia pulled out early."
"Think you've got enough to go on?"
"Not until last week. Then she came back from England, and a lot happened." Katie fought from fidgeting with her hands. It had been two weeks now without a cigarette.
"Were you right?" Rosie said. "Is she boffing her dad?"
"He died last month."
"Oh. I'm sorry."
"Not me. Not that she was unhappy. A lecture she'd just given had made a big splash and she was bursting with pregnancy."
"So what happened?"
"Well, in the first hour her eyes were on the ceiling fan. It was the first really hot day, as hot as today. She'd been talking normally, then there was silence for maybe a minute. I leaned over to see her better. Her eyes seemed to be glued to the fan. Her pupils had grown wider and she blinked a couple of times."
"The stroboscopic effect of the fan produced a reflex epilepsy. Did you hear anything?"
"Rosie, I'd forgotten you studied epilepsy under Lennox. Anyway, Amelia made a swallowing noise, stiffened for maybe twenty seconds and appeared to stop breathing. Her body jerked a few times. Next thing I knew she was in a cataleptic state. She'd turned almost blue."
"Catalepsy is one of the psychomotor--"
"Don't patronize me," Katie snapped. "Sorry. It's just so hot. . ." The bank of the Charles was getting more crowded as the temperature rose. Katie turned onto her back to catch the sun on her face. "Anyway, Amelia started twitching and after a couple of minutes the color came back to her skin in a flush. She was sweating buckets, seemed confused. Then quiet-kind of a twilight state-then complained she felt feverish and wanted to vomit. Afterward, she had absolutely no recall of missing time."
"That's some seizure," Rosie said, looking around as she spoke. "Come on, let's walk as far as Eliot Bridge. And get to the point. Incest--did she or didn't she?"
"Patience, Rosie. In the third hour a lot more stuff came up under hypnosis about her childhood--her father desperately wanted a son, but the mother seems to have had trouble conceiving.
"Anyway, Amelia was brought up Episcopalian. When she was twelve, she was confirmed." Katie stared into space as if conjuring up a vision of a twelve-year-old in an immaculate white dress. "Only on the day of her confirmation her mother got too drunk to go to church. This was just a few months after she'd lost her baby. She was forty-six--Lawrence Hungerford must have considered the pregnancy a miracle--but the baby was born prematurely and died soon after birth. The son Lawrence had surely prayed for."
"Except he probably never prayed in his life."
"Maybe ," Katie said, "but he had the baby's remains baptized. Amelia even remembered the name: William Randall Lawrence Hungerford. Then it was cremated, and together Lawrence and Amelia scattered the ashes in the sea off Nantucket. It was the closest her father got to producing a son and heir."
"And to Lawrence, Amelia was son and daughter both."
"A few months later she and her father come back from her confirmation. Amelia's wearing her pretty white dress. . ."
"She remembered that under hypnosis?"
"Right down to the rose the bishop gave her. And they get back to find her mother dead. Asphyxiated on her own vomit, according to the pathologist who showed up when David Bendix called the police."
"And Amelia calmly told you all this?"
"Oh, she was having a fair old cry. All to the good."
"What do you think?"
"You've got to imagine Amelia--twelve years old and raging with conflicts. Who does she identify with? The side of her that loved her mother hated her father. And the part of her that worshipped her father felt ashamed of her mother. All of her must have felt unloved. It's no wonder she became promiscuous."
"What about her Black Jenny fantasy? Any connection with this childhood trauma?"
Katie sighed. "She brought up a lot of memories about the day her mother died. . . Maybe incest was at the bottom of Amelia's fantasy. I have a hunch she may have unconsciously tried to bring her mother back to life....through her fantasy."
"Are you serious? Are you saying that in her dreams she becomes her mother?" Rosie said.
"Yes. And she fantasizes making love to her father, who's disguised as Othello. Remember how I said she tended to confuse her father and Shakespeare? As the prostitute personality she dreams she's having sex of a kind with him in a sadomasochistic scenario where she's dressed in black French lingerie, all that frou-frou kind of thing, and gets suffocated like Desdemona in Othello."
"But are you saying she used to do this for real? With her father? Come on, Katie, you can't rule out false memory syndrome, especially if hypnosis is involved."
"That's what I can't figure out. We know how obedient she was and still is to her father."
"What about her mother?"
"Like I said, Amelia's original motivation at the deepest level would be to bring her mother back to life."
"As a hooker?" Rosie stopped and took off her sandals. "Katie, you've gone over the top this time."
"Well, there has to be some connection with Amelia's mother. Who, I suspect, may not have just choked on her vomit. Someone--Lawrence Hungerford--stifled her to death, I'm almost certain."
"But that means. . ." For the first time since they'd begun talking, Rosie looked shocked. "Are you saying that Amelia witnessed her own mother's murder?"
"Her funeral, too. I checked with the coroner. Lawrence cremated his wife in the baker's oven in the cellar of Hungerford House."