Miss Georgine’s Husband: A Gothic Tale, Part One

MISS GEORGINE’S HUSBAND.

—Did I ever see a ghost? I don’t know just what you mean by a ghost, Miss Bessy, but if you mean the appearance of a person after I had seen him die with my own eyes, and laid him out with my own hands .’

I don’t exactly know about telling you the story. You see, it’s a true story, and a very solemn one, and I shouldn’t like to have it laughed at, or to have any one tell me I didn’t see what I did see. But you was always a pretty-behaved young lady, and you know I can’t refuse you anything, so if you will sit down quiet and take your work, I’ll tell you all about it, my dear.

You know, honey, I’m a very old woman, and when I was young I was a slave to old Judge Cleaveland, over on the Flats. There were slaves in York State then. I was born down in Maryland, but the Judge moved up to these parts when I was very small, and brought his servants with him. We were well enough treated. Judge Cleaveland was a hard, high-tempered man, and used to have awful ugly fits sometimes, but, like most folks of that kind, he could keep his temper well enough when it suited him, and he knew it was easy enough for his servants to run away if they didn’t like their treatment. When I was eighteen I married Zack Davis, the coachman, and after that we lived mostly in a house of our own. We were free by that time, and we bought a nice little log-house and some land for a garden, but we worked up at the house all the same.

The old Judge was a widower when he moved up here, but very soon he married a pretty young lady from the Mohawk Valley. She was only eighteen, and a sweet child as ever I saw. The Judge meant to be good to her, I guess, but she never seemed very happy. When the second little girl was born the Judge was dreadfully disappointed. I suppose he wanted a son, to inherit his great estate and keep up the family name. He never was the same to his wife after that. He was polite to her, especially before company, but he had a kind of cold, sneering way with her that I could see cut her to the heart. Her health failed, and she went home to her father’s house for a change, and there she died. The Judge seemed a good deal cast down by her death — more than I should have expected. I dare say some things came back to him when it was too late. After the funeral he shut up the house and went abroad. He was in foreign parts or down in New York for ten years and more. The young ladies, Miss Anna and Miss Georgine, stayed with their grandma some years, and then they were put to school in New York. All that time Zack and I lived in the old house, to take care of it. It was lonesome enough sometimes, especially in winter, but though I used to go all over the great rooms alone by day and by night, I never saw anything then — not a thing.

Well, when the young ladies were sixteen and seventeen, the Judge wrote and told me to clean up the rooms, and have everything ready, for he was coming home. His wild land was growing very valuable, and there was no one to see to it properly, and for that and other reasons he had decided to come home to the Flats to live. So at the time set they came, with loads of new furniture and carpets and what not, and a very nice widow lady for housekeeper. She had a son, an officer in the army and a very fine man, who would willingly have supported her, but she preferred to do for herself.

I expected to see Miss Anna the favorite, as she was the elder, and Miss Georgine had so disappointed her pa by not being a boy; but I soon found out it was the other way. Miss Anna was not pretty. She looked like her ma, and had just such a quiet, gentle way with her. She was afraid of her father, too, as her mother had been, and with some reason — and she was afraid of her sister. She didn’t care much for company, but liked best to sit down and sew or read. Miss Georgine was like her father, and had just his free, bold way. She wasn’t afraid of anything at all except that she should not be first in everything. She was very handsome, with regular features, and beautiful wavy black hair, and long curled eyelashes. I don’t know that I ever saw a handsomer girl, but for real goodness and truth she was no more to be compared to Miss Anna than a great red woodpecker is to a little sweet bluebird. She always contrived to get the best of everything, and if she got into any trouble or mischief, she generally made her father believe it was Miss Anna’s fault. She made a great show of openness and saying what she thought, but she didn’t think all she said, by a great deal.

When Miss Anna was about eighteen, Mrs. Gracie’s son came to visit his mother, and a very fine, sober, nice young man he was. Everyone liked him, especially the Judge, who could not make enough of him till he found that the captain and Miss Anna were taking to each other; then he began to cool off. Captain Gracie stayed at the tavern in the village, and called most every day to see his mother, and before he left he asked the Judge for Miss Anna. Then there was a time. The Judge went into one of his furious rages, ordered both mother and son out of the house, and shut Miss Anna up in her room. Miss Georgine was as bad as her father, and the way they treated that poor girl was shameful. But Miss Anna had got her spunk up, and she contrived — I never knew how —to send word to Captain Gracie. A few days after, when the Judge was out about his land, Captain Gracie drove up to the door, and asked for Miss Anna. She must have expected him, for she came down in her traveling-dress, and with her bag in her hand. Miss Georgine stormed and scolded and sent all ways for her father, but nobody could find him, and in fact I don’t think anybody tried. Miss Anna bade her sister a kind farewell and got into the carriage, and that was the last we saw of her for many a year. They were married that same day in the city, and went away wherever his regiment was. Captain Gracie sent her father his address and a copy of his marriage lines, but the Judge never took any notice; only he handed me the paper and told me to pack up her clothes and things and send them to her. I don’t approve of runaway matches as a general thing, but I can’t say I blamed Miss Anna one bit.

About this time Judge Cleaveland found out that he needed a clerk. or secretary as he called it; so he sent for Mr. Bogardus, a cousin of his wife’s, to come and live in his house and attend to his business. Mr. Bogardus was a fine, handsome man, about thirty, very grave and sober; but with beautiful manners—a real fine gentleman. The Judge made much of him in his pompous, condescending way. Miss Georgina began by being very cold and scornful, but she soon changed her tone when she found her cousin did not take any particular notice of it or of her, and began to be very polite to him. He had a fine voice, and played beautifully on the violin, and she used to ask him to sing and play with her, especially when they had company; but he almost always excused himself and would often stay in the library till midnight, writing or reading. He seemed like a smart man, and yet he never accomplished anything for himself. He was one of the unlucky ones, poor fellow.

But the more Mr. Bogardus kept out of Miss Georgine’s way, the more she courted him. That was her fashion. If there were ten men in the room and she had nine of them around her, she didn’t care anything about it till she got the tenth. She always had plenty of sweethearts, being such a beauty and a great heiress besides. Mr. Bogardus resisted a good while, but by and by l saw a change. He began to be more attentive to his cousin — to sing with her evenings, and sometimes to go out riding and walking with her. Miss Georgina was altered too. I never saw her so gentle and so — “lovable?” yes, that’s just the word, my dear! as she was that summer; and I thinks to myself, “My beauty, you ’re caught at last, but I wonder what your father will say.” For you see he looked on Mr. Bogardus only as a kind of upper servant, for all he was Mrs. Cleaveland’s own cousin.

The Judge didn’t seem to notice for a while, but by and by I think he got his eyes open. He went down to New York for a week or two, and when he came back, he called Mr. Bogardus and told him he had found him a fine position with a gentleman who was going out to Brazil to set up some kind of manufactures, — a place of great trust, and where he would make a fortune in no time. Mr. Bogardus was much pleased. He was always ready to take up any new notion, and he thought he should make himself rich directly. But Miss Georgine had a bad headache that day, and she wasn’t well for a week afterward.

The very day Mr. Bogardus left, I was sitting in my own door, and as I looked up I saw Miss Georgine walking across the field toward my house. I was rather surprised, for she wasn’t fond of walking, and almost always rode her pony wherever she wanted to go. She walked in a weary kind of way too, and when she came near, I saw she looked very pale. I got out the rocking-chair for her, and made much of her, but she sat down on a little stool and put her beautiful head in my lap, as her poor mother had done many a time, and says she, bursting out crying, .

“Oh, Aunt Dolly! My husband’s gone!”

Honey, you might have knocked me down with a feather. I couldn’t think what she meant at first, and thought she had got light-headed from being out in the sun.

“Child!” says I, “you don’t know what you are saying!”

“Yes I do—too well!” says she; and then she told me between her sobs that she and Mr. Bogardus had been privately married while her father was away, the day that they went down to the city together, and that they meant to keep it quiet till Mr. Bogardus made his fortune.

“I never meant to tell anybody,” says she, “but, Aunt Dolly, I couldn’t bear it all alone, and I knew I could trust you!”

Well, I could have wished she had chosen someone else, but I tried to comfort her as well as I could. Presently I said, “Ah, child, you can feel for your poor sister now!”

“That was very different!” says she, lifting up her head as proud as could be; “I haven’t disgraced myself as Anna did. My husband is a gentleman — not a servant’s son! ”

When she said that, Miss Bessy, I knew she had more yet to suffer.

Says I, “Miss Georgine, I shall never betray you, you may be sure, but you ought to tell your pa. Suppose he finds it out: what will he say, and what will you do? ”

“He won’t find it out!” says she, “and if he does, I shall know what to do.” But then she put her head down in my lap again, and oh, how she did cry! I couldn’t but pity her, though she showed such a wrong spirit; and I tried to tell her of a better comfort than mine, but she wouldn’t hear a word of that. She didn’t want any cant, she said. By and by I made her some tea and coaxed her to drink it and to eat a little, and when the sun got low, I walked home with her. She was always gentler with me after that, and whenever she got a letter from Mr. Bogardus she would come and tell me about it. I was on thorns for a while, and watched her as a cat watches a mouse; but everything went on as usual, and nobody but our two selves knew or mistrusted anything about the matter.

Miss Georgine got her letters pretty regular for about six months, and then they stopped, and she never had another. At first she pined a good deal, and l was afraid she was going into a decline; but presently I saw a change. Her old proud self came back, only harder and colder than before. She was handsomer than ever, and more fond of company and admiration. One day I ventured to ask her if she had heard any more of Mr. Bogardus.

Oh, how her eyes flashed as she said, “Never mention that man’s name to me again! He has shamed and deserted me!” says she.

“You don’t know that,” says I; “he may be dead.”

“He isn’t dead!” she answered. “My father heard he was married to a rich Spanish widow up at the mines.”

“I don’t believe it!” says I boldly. “It isn’t a bit like him.” For you see I had come to know him pretty well. I had nursed him in his sick turns, of which he had a good many, and though I didn’t approve of the secret marriage, I liked him and felt like standing up for him.

“Never mention his name to me again, Dolly!” says she, and I didn’t for a long time, till the day came that I had to do it.

Well, the time went on, year after year in much the same way. Our folks spent the summers on their own estate, and the winters in New York or at the South with the Judge’s family, spending a deal of money and seeing a deal of fine company. It was nine years that very spring since Mr. Bogardus went away, when, after they had been home a couple of days, Miss Georgine rode over to see me. She brought me a fine gown and some other things from New York, and after she had showed them to me, says she, speaking proud and careless like, —

“Aunt Dolly, I want you to come up to the house next week, to make my wedding cake and keep house a while, because I am going to be married.”

Miss Bessy, I couldn’t believe my ears; and says I, “Miss Georgina, I don’t know as I quite understand you.”

“You are growing stupid, Dolly!” says she pettishly. “I’m going to be married to Mr. Philip Livingstone, and I want you to make the cake.”

I don’t know what made me, but I spoke right out. “Mrs. Bogardus,” says I, “have you told your pa and Mr. Livingstone about your first marriage?”

“How dare you call me by that name?” says she, and her eyes fairly blazed. “No, I have not told them and I shall not. You can, if you choose!” says she. “How much do you mean to ask me as the price of keeping the secret I was fool enough to tell you?”

Then I flared up. “Mrs. Bogardus,” says I, “there’s the door. Please walk out of it, and don’t come insulting a woman in her own house that thinks as much of herself as you do, if she is black! If that’s what you think of me, you may get someone else to make your cake! ” says I.

Well, she saw she had gone too far. Like her father, she could command her temper well enough when she chose, and she knew she couldn’t get any one to make such cake as mine, if she went down on her knees to them. Besides, I knew all the ways of the house, and they couldn’t do without me. So she came down and said she was sorry, and she did not mean anything, and so on, till she coaxed me round, and I promised to do all she wanted.

“But if it was the last word I ever spoke, I do say you ought to tell Mr. Livingstone,” says I. “What if Mr. Bogardus should come back some day?”

I knew I was doing right, but I felt sorry for her when I saw how pale she turned. long ago,” says she, “ and if he were not, it is nearly nine years since I heard from him, and that is enough to release me. But you’ll be glad to hear,” says she, “that I have coaxed my father to write to sister Anna, and ask her and her son to the wedding. You know she is a widow now, and there is no use in keeping up the quarrel any longer.”

So then I agreed to make the cake, and keep house for her father while she was away. They were coming back to spend the summer at home. But I didn’t feel happy. I knew she was doing wrong, and that harm would come of it.

The wedding went off nicely. Mr. Livingstone was a fine, handsome man, a good deal older than Miss Georgine. He looked good and sensible, and it was easy to see that he fairly worshiped his wife. My heart ached for both of them, because I knew as things were they never could be happy. You see I felt sure Mr. Bogardus wasn’t dead.

How did I feel sure? Well, it was just like this. Whenever any of my folks had died away from me, I had always seen them in my dreams that same night. I saw my own brother, who was drowned in the lake, and my aunt with her baby, and Miss Georgine’s mother. Now Mr. Bogardus was fond of me. He said once that l was more like a mother than any one had ever been to him, and I knew he wouldn’t die without coming to let me know.

Miss Anna, that was, and her boy were at the wedding and stayed a fortnight after. She wore her deep widow’s weeds, and looked thin and worn, but she had a sweet, placid, happy look, worth more than all her sister’s beauty. She told me that through all her trials, in sickness and loneliness, and losing her husband and her children, she had never regretted her marriage, not one minute.

The boy was a fine, manly fellow, the image of his father. The Judge took to him greatly, and wanted Mrs. Gracie to come home to live; but she excused herself and said she must take care of her husband’s mother, who was feeble and needed her. She told me privately that she didn’t think such a life would be good for her boy, and I dare say she was right.

The bride and bridegroom came home after a month and settled down with us for the summer, and the day she came home, I noticed a scared look in Miss Georgine’s face that I never saw there before.

That night I was sitting in my own house (and glad enough I was to get back to it), when someone knocked softly at the door. Zack opened it, and the minute he did so, he cried out, “Lord ’a’ mercy!” I jumped up, and then I thought surely I saw a ghost, but I didn’t. It was Mr. Bogardus himself, but oh how thin and pale, and with his beautiful hair white as snow!

“Will you take me in, Dolly?” says he. “I am sick to death, old friend, and I have come to die with you.”

[To be continued tomorrow at this link. Mrs Daffodil, who understands the impatience of some modern readers with the leisurely progress of nineteenth century fiction, assures those readers that there will be a ghost.]

Lucy Ellen Guernsey.

The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 34, 1874

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

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