he wouldn't see that. So I had to get up quickly so the father wouldn't hear his voice
from a distance. The slaves had run from him. `But they're out there, they're gathered in
the dark. I hear them,' said Lestat. And then he glared at the old man. `Kill him,
Louis!' he said to me, his voice touched with the first pleading I'd ever heard in it.
Then he bit down in rage. `Do it!'
" `Lean over that pillow and tell him you forgive him all, forgive him for taking you
out of school when you were a boy! Tell him that now.'
" `For what!' Lestat grimaced, so that his face looked like a skull. `Taking me out of
school!' He threw up his hands and let out a terrible roar of desperation. `Damn him!
Kill him!' he said.
" `Nor' I said. `You forgive him. Or you kill him yourself. Go on. Kill your own
"The old man begged to be told what we were saying. He called out, `Son, son,' and
Lestat danced like the maddened Rumpelstiltskin. about to put his foot through the moor.
I went to the lace curtains. I could see and hear the slaves surrounding the house of
Pointe du Lao, forms woven in the shadows, drawing near. `You were Joseph among your
brothers,' the old man said. `The best of them, but how was I to know? It was when you
were gone I knew, when all those years passed and they could offer me no comfort, no
solace. And then you came back to me and took me from the farm, but it wasn't you. It
wasn't the same boy.'
"I turned on Lestat now and veritably dragged him towards the bed. Never had I seen him
so weak, and at the same time enraged. He shook me off and then knelt down near the
pillow, glowering at me. I stood resolute, and whispered, `Forgive!'
"It's all right, Father. You must rest easy. I hold nothing against you," he said, his
voice thin and strained over his anger.
"The old man turned on the pillow, murmuring something soft with relief, but Lestat was
already gone. He stopped short in the doorway, his hands over his ears. `They're coming!'
he whispered; and then, turning just so he could see me, he said, `Take him. For God's
"The old man never even knew what happened. He never awoke from his stupor. I bled him
just enough, opening the gash so he would then die without feeding my dark passion. That
thought I couldn't bear. I knew now it wouldn't matter if the body was found in this
manner, because I had had enough of Pointe du Lac and Lestat and all this identity of
Pointe du Lac's prosperous master. I would torch the house, and turn to the wealth I'd
held under many names, safe for just such a moment.
"Meantime, Lestat was after the slaves. He would leave such-ruin and death behind him
no one could make a story of that night at Pointe du Lac, and I went with him. As before,
his ferocity was mysterious, but now I bared my fangs on the humans who fled from me, my
steady advance overcoming their clumsy, pathetic speed as the veil of death descended, or
the veil of madness. The power and the proof of the vampire was incontestable, so that
the slaves scattered in all directions. And it was I who ran back up the steps to put the
torch to Pointe du Lac.
"Lestat came bounding after me. `What are you doing!' he shouted. `Are you mad!' But
there was no way to putout the flames. `They're gone and you're destroying it, all of
it.' He turned round and round in the magnificent parlor, amid his fragile splendor. `Get
your coffin out. You have three hours till dawn!' I said. The house was a funeral pyre."
"Could the fire have hurt you?" asked the boy.
"Most definitely!" said the vampire.
"Did you go back to the oratory? Was it safe?"
"No. Not at all. Some fifty-five slaves were scattered around the grounds. Many of them
would not have desired the life of a runaway and would most certainly go right to
Freniere or south to the Bel Jardin plantation down river. I had no intention of staying
there that night. But there was little time to go anywhere else."
"The woman, Babette!" said the boy.
The vampire smiled. "Yes, I went to Babette. She lived now at Freniere with her young
husband. I had enough time to load my coffin into the carriage and go to her."
"But what about Lestat?"
The vampire sighed. "Lestat went with me. It was his intention to go on to New Orleans,
and he was trying to persuade me to do just that. But when he saw l meant to hide at
Freniere, he opted for that also. We might not have ever made it to New Orleans. It was
growing light. Not so that mortal eyes would have seen it, but Lestat and I could see it.
"Now, as for Babette, I had visited her once again. As I told you, she had scandalized
the coast by remaining alone on the plantation without a man in the house, without even
an older woman. Babette's greatest problem was that she might succeed financially only to
suffer the isolation of social ostracism. She had such a sensibility that wealth itself
mean nothing to her; family, a line . . . this meant something to Babette. Though she was
able to hold the plantation together, the scandal was wearing on her. She was giving up
inside. I came to her one night in the garden. Not permitting her to look on me, I told
her in a most gentle voice that I was the same person she'd seen before. That I knew of
her life and her suffering. `Don't expect people to understand it,' I told her. `They are
fools. They want you to retire because of your brother's death. They would use your life
as if it were merely oil for a proper lamp. You must defy them, but you must defy them
with purity and confidence.' She was listening all the while in silence. I told her she
was to give a ball for a cause. And the cause to be religious. She might pick a convent
in New Orleans, any one, and plan for a philanthropic ball. She would invite her deceased
mother's dearest friends to be chaperones and she would do all of this with perfect
confidence. Above all, perfect confidence. It was confidence and purity which were
"Well, Babette thought this to be a stroke of genius. `I don't know what you are, and
you will not tell me,' she said. (This was true, I would not.) `But I can only think that
you are an angel.' And she begged to see my face. That is, she begged in the manner of
such people as Babette, who are not given to truly begging anyone for anything. Not that
Babette was proud. She was simply strong and honest, which in most cases makes begging .
. . I see you want to ask me a question." The vampire stopped.
"Oh, no," said the boy, who had meant to hide it.
"But you mustn't be afraid to ask me anything. If I held something too close . . . "
And when the vampire said this his face darkened for an instant. He frowned, and as his
brows drew together a small well appeared in the flesh of his forehead over his left
brow, as though someone had pressed it with a finger. It gave him a peculiar look of deep
distress. "If I held something too close for you to ask about it, I would not bring it up
in the first place," he said.
The boy found himself staring at the vampire's eyes, at the eyelashes which were fine
black wires in the tender flesh of the lids.
"Ask me," he said to the boy.
"Babette, the way you speak of her," said the boy. "As if your feeling was special."
"Did I give you the impression I could not feel?" asked the vampire.
"No, not at all. Obviously you felt for the old man. You stayed to comfort him when you
were in danger. And what you felt for young Freniere when Lestat wanted to kill him . . .
all this you explained. But I was wondering . . . did you have a special feeling for
Babette? Was it feeling for Babette all along that caused you to protect Freniere?"