Soon, we resumed our walk, and I resumed my story about that drowning in 1822. “It was many days later before Mary and her friends got the news,” I said. “The news that three bodies had washed up on the shore near Viareggio.”
“A town about thirty miles north of where they’d set sail.”
Harriet didn’t say anything more, just kept walking slowly along.
“Anyway,” I said, “the Italian authorities required that they cremate the bodies on the beach. And so they did. Their friend Trelawny took care of the arrangements. He had an iron furnace built for the process.”
“I don’t think I’d want to see that.”
“Mary didn’t either,” I said. “She didn’t go.”
“Good for her.”
“And I read that the bodies had been in the water so long—”
“No,” said Harriet. “That’s enough.”
“But wait,” I said. “Here’s the bizarre part.”
“More bizarre that what you’ve already told me?”
“Yes.” I paused. “Do you want to know?”
Harriet looked at me. “Sure. I guess. You might as well tell it all.”
“Okay.” I took a deep breath. “Trelawny had rigged up the piles of wood below the furnace to burn the bodies. But they were so waterlogged that it took a long, long time for, you know, everything to burn up.”
“But here’s the amazing thing. When Shelley’s body was almost entirely gone, about the only thing remaining was his heart.”
I waited. “Are you ready for more?”
“More! What could you possibly … ?”
“Here goes. Trelawny—seeing the heart refusing to burn—decided he was going to pull it out of the fire.”
“Why? Why would anyone—?”
“It was common in those days for grieving friends and relatives,” I said, “to keep … uh … relics …”
“Sure, especially hair. People would have rings made from the hair of their loved ones …”
“I’m glad I live now.”
“You wouldn’t want a ring made out of my hair?” I joked.
She stopped again and looked at me. “I think I’d rather have one made out of my hair,” she said. “It’s prettier.”
We started to walk again. I wasn’t going to tell more—but then Harriet asked me, “So what was this guy Trelawny going to do with Shelley’s heart?”
“Keep it … as a, you know, a relic. A memento.”
“Well, why would he get to keep it? What about his family?”
“Exactly!” I said. “As soon as Mary found out what he’d done, she got word to Trelawny that she wanted it.”
“This all sounds like something out of a horror movie,” said Harriet.
By this time we had reached the place on the trail where we could see the Three Sisters Islands just to the south. We were about to move closer to get a better look when I noticed a large figure—a very large figure—standing with his back to us, staring off into the distance.
I grabbed Harriet’s arm and pointed.
And we both turned and ran for the restaurant.