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

Hand and rose coffin furniture.

Hand and rose coffin furniture.

Part one is here.

In a minute all the consequences rushed on my mind, but I couldn’t help that. We took him and put him to bed in our best room, and as soon as the light fell on his face, I saw it was marked for death. I sat up with him all night. He didn’t sleep much, and seemed to want to talk, and I knew it could not make much difference, so I let him have his way. He told me he had written home by every mail for more than a year after he stopped getting any letters in return. From all I could make out he had gone on just in his old way, trying first one thing and then another, always thinking he was just going to make a great fortune.

“But I never was unfaithful to Georgine, not for one moment,” said he. “I always loved her and I never distrusted her. When my health failed, and I knew I must die, I felt I must see Georgine once more. I landed in New York, and there I heard she was married, and saw her walking with her husband.”

And then he begged me to ask Miss Georgine to come and see him if only for a moment, before he died.

“I will never betray her!” said he. “No one will think it strange that she should come to see me. But oh, mammy,”—he used to call me mammy,— “I can’t leave the world till I see her once more.”

The next morning at breakfast-time I went up to the house, and told the Judge and Miss Georgine that Mr. Bogardus was at my house; that he hadn’t many hours to live, and would take it kind if they would come and see him.

“Poor young man, is he so low?” says the Judge. “He should have come to us; but he was always fond of you, Dolly. I will certainly come over, and you must take anything he needs from the house.” And then he turns to his daughter and says, “You will go to see your poor cousin, Georgine?”

“Why no, I think not!” says she, pouring out her coffee as unconcerned as could be. “I never took any special interest in your clerk, papa, and I am not fond of doleful scenes. I don’t think I could endure to be in the house with a dying person.”

I saw Mr. Livingstone look at her as she said these last words, and he answered her very gravely: —“Sometime, Georgine, you will have to be in the room with a dying person.”

“Time enough when it comes!” said she lightly. “Of course I am sorry for the poor man, but it is quite out of the question that I should go to see him. He is nothing to me! ”

I wasn’t going to be put off like that. I followed her to her room and says I to her, “Mrs. Livingstone, what answer am I to carry to that dying man?”

“Tell him I will not see him!” said she, speaking hard and slow. “He is nothing to me, nor I to him.”

“Won’t you send him your forgiveness?” I asked her.

“No!” she cried passionately. “I will never forgive him—never. Tell him that, if you like.”

“Mrs. Livingstone,” said I, “you will bring down the judgment of Heaven on your head!” And with that I left her. I wasn’t afraid of her, whoever else was.

It was hard to go back to Mr. Bogardus with such a message, but he would have me tell him her very words. He groaned, and was silent for a few minutes, and then says he, “Dolly, tell her she shall see me, alive or dead!” And then he fainted, and I had hard work to bring him to. Later in the day Judge Cleaveland and Mr. Livingstone came down. Mr. Bogardus didn’t say much to them, only thanked the Judge for his goodness to him, and begged forgiveness if he had ever injured him. The Judge said everything that was kind—he was a good deal softened in those days. Then Mr. Livingstone asked Mr. Bogardus if he should read and pray with him, and Mr. Bogardus said yes. So Mr. Livingstone read a chapter, and made a beautiful prayer. He was a very religious man in his quiet way, which made it the more strange that he should be taken with Miss Georgine. When he got up from his knees, Mr. Bogardus stretched out his hand to him.

“Thank you, Livingstone; you have done me good!” said he, squeezing his hand hard. “I want to tell you that there is no bitterness in my heart toward any human being. It is all washed away. God bless you! ”

Honey, it did me good to hear him speak in that way to the man who was, as you might say, standing in his shoes. The minute they were gone Mr. Bogardus fainted once more. I thought he would never breathe again, but he did, and seemed to brighten up a good deal. Zack thought he was better, but I didn’t. I had seen too many people die, not to know the lighting up for death. About midnight, when we were both sitting by him, he asked to be raised up and have his head laid on my breast, and then he asked Zack to get him some fresh water from the spring. When we were alone together, he looked up in my face and says he, —“Mammy, tell Georgine that I have never been unfaithful to her, and I shall be faithful still. She must see me, alive or dead.”

Says I, “Oh, Mr. Bogardus, my dear boy, you mustn’t bear malice now.”

“I don’t!” said he. “I told Livingstone true when I said that all bitterness was washed away. But it is borne in on my mind, that for her own sake, alive or dead, Georgina must see me, and you must tell her so. Will you? ”

“I will!” says I. I never mistrusted that he meant anything but that she should come and look at him after he was dead.

“That ’s all! ” said he. “Kiss me, mammy. You ’ve been more like a mother to me than any woman was before, and you won’t lose by it, I know.”

Then I kissed him, and he just laid his head on my breast and with one sigh he was gone.

Never mind me, Miss Bessy, honey! You see I loved him dearly, with all his faults, and dying on my breast and all . . .

We laid him out, Zack and I, and though I’ve done the same for many a one, I never saw a sweeter smile on the face of man, woman, or child, than rested on his. As soon as it was time in the morning, I went up to the house and told them as they sat at breakfast.

“So he is gone, poor soul!” says the Judge, wiping his eyes. “Take no trouble about the funeral, Dolly; I will arrange it all. Georgine, can you find some mourning for Dolly? I dare say she will like to wear it.”

“I should be much obliged if you would, Mrs. Livingstone,” says I.

She told me to come to her room and she would see. So I went up after breakfast, and she pulled out a couple of nice black dresses and a black bonnet and crape veil which she had worn a year before in mourning for her grandma.

“There, you may have those!” said she, in a careless, contemptuous way, “though I don’t see why you should wear mourning. But I suppose you think it’s genteel.”

She always riled me when she spoke in that way, but I kept myself down, and after I had thanked her for the things, I told her Mr. Bogardus’ message. She winced a little in spite of herself, and the scared look came into her eyes again, but it was gone in a minute, and she said coldly, —“Dolly, there has been enough of this! If you mention that person’s name to me again we shall quarrel! ”

I had no call to mention it again, for I had cleaned my conscience, and that was enough. Mr. Bogardus was buried next day from the church, the weather being warm and our house small. Mr. Livingstone sent the carriage for Zack and me, and Zack and Mr. Livingstone, and some gentlemen from the village, were the bearers. It was quite a large funeral, and the coffin and everything was as nice as one could wish to see.

The next morning Judge Cleaveland and Mr. Livingstone went down to the city to some convention, expecting to be gone a week. That very day the cook they had brought from New York took offense at something, and she and the other woman packed up and went over to the village, leaving Miss Georgine alone. So she sent down to ask if Zack and I would come up and stay, because she was expecting company; so we went, of course. I found everything at sixes and sevens—no cake in the house fit to look at, all the summer fruit spoiling to be done up, and so on. I sent for my niece Car’line to come and help, and we soon got things in order.

The second night, I sent Zack and Car’line off to bed, and sat up till late, attending to some plum cake I had in the great oven. It was a fancy of mine when I had any special baking, to do it late in the evening, when I had the kitchen to myself. Well, I got my cake done to my liking — I little knew what kind of party I was baking for— and then I thought I would take a look through the house and see that all was right, as I used to do when I lived there before.

The house was an odd one in its shape. A long, wide hall ran through the front part. When it got to the back it turned in an L, as they say now, and went on to a side door, and in this side hall were the stairs. At the top of them was Miss Georgine’s own room, and at the foot a door leading by a passage to the kitchen. Half-way from this door to the front was the library door, with a narrow glass window over it.

I had opened the passage door, and had just turned down the lamp that always burned at the foot of the stairs, when I saw that there was a light in the library. Thinks I, “What in the world is Miss Georgine doing in the library at this time of night?” Before I could move I heard some one’s hand on the lock, and stood still to see who it should be. Miss Bessy, as sure as you sit there, I saw the appearance of Mr. Bogardus, just as he used to look when he was a young man and worked in that library for Judge Cleaveland. I wasn’t scared, that I know of, but I couldn’t move. He came straight toward me, but didn’t look at me, and passing as close to me as I am to you he walked rather slowly up the stairs to Miss Georgine’s room. When he reached it, he turned and looked at me, holding up his hand in a warning kind of way, and then he opened the door and went in.

I couldn’t go up-stairs — something held me back. I sat down on the bottom stair and listened a long time, but I didn’t hear a sound, and by and by I crept away to bed, my teeth chattering as if I had an ague fit.

The next morning I was in the dining room when Miss Georgine came down. Child, I shouldn’t have known her! She was gray as ashes, only with a purple spot in each cheek, and her face was all drawn and sunken. She looked thirty years older than when she went to bed.

Says I, “Mrs. Livingstone, are you sick?”

“I have a headache, but the air will drive it off,” says she, proud to the last. “I think, Dolly, that as our friends have written to put off their visit, I will go down to the city to Mr. Livingstone. I need a little change, and I suppose you won’t mind staying here a few days with Car’line for company,” says she. “You won’t be afraid without your husband, will you?”

Well, I was,—a little, —after what I had seen, there is no denying it; but I felt that somehow she ought to be with her husband; so I said, “Oh no, I wasn’t afraid, I had Carline for company, and the gardener could sleep in the house.” I helped Miss Georgine put up her things, and dressed her. She was quiet and gentle-like for her, but when I said, “Mrs. Livingstone, I ’m afraid you ain’t well enough for such a long ride all by yourself,” she just laughed that hard laugh I hated so to hear.

“You’re nervous yourself, Dolly!” says she. “I have only a headache, but you know that always makes me look ghastly. It will all be gone in an hour.”

I didn’t say any more, but I knew better. On the steps she turned to me and held out her hand.

“Good-by, Dolly,” said she. “You’ve always been good to me, and I’m afraid I have sometimes been cross to you, but don’t remember it against me.”

Child, I was always glad she said that. I watched the carriage away, and then I went back to her room and put it all in nice order with my own hands. I felt full of anxiety, and I kept myself as busy as I could. Zack didn’t come back the next day, nor the next; but the morning of the fourth day, Car’line looked out of the window when she got up, and says she, “Aunt Dolly, Uncle Zack’s coming on horseback as hard as he can drive. Something must have happened! ”

Something had happened, sure enough. Zack had been riding ever since midnight, and he could hardly speak, he was so tired; but at last he got it out. Miss Georgine had died in a fit the night before, and the body was to be brought home that day.

“What time did she die?” I asked presently.

“It was just half-past eleven when she took the first fit,” said he; “and she died at the same hour last night.” Then I knew.

Well, they brought her home in her coffin and laid her in the front parlor, and when all was done, I went to the Judge and told him I was going to watch myself, and nobody else would be needed. You see, I didn’t know what might happen, and I didn’t want stories going all over the country. I told Zack he might take a blanket and lie down on the sofa in the back parlor, and I would sit up.

About half-past eleven, I went into the room where the corpse lay. I had half a mind to call Zack to go with me, but I knew how tired he was, and I let him sleep. There was a shaded lamp in the room, and I had a candle in my hand that I set down on a table nearby, and stood a few minutes looking at her. She wasn’t a pleasant corpse to look at. Those same purple spots were on her cheeks, and a dark frown on her forehead; but the worst was that her eyes wouldn’t stay shut. I had tried every way to close them, and the doctor had tried, but they wouldn’t stay shut!

I turned away and went to the window, when something, I don’t know what, made me look round. Then I saw him for the second time — saw Mr. Bogardus looking into his wife’s coffin, with just the same sad, sweet smile that was on his face when he bade me goodbye. As I stood looking—for I had no power to move –the appearance stooped down, and seemed to kiss the corpse, and then it vanished away, and I saw it no more.

I was like one turned to stone for a few minutes. When I came to myself, Miss Bessy, there was a change! Her eyes were shut, closed as naturally as a sleeping babe’s, with the long curled lashes resting on her cheeks. The ugly purple spots had faded away; the face was like fine marble, and the pale lips had a meek, peaceful look, such as I had never seen them wear since the days that she and Mr. Bogardus were lovers.

That’s all the story. Poor Miss Georgine was buried next day, alongside the only man she ever really loved. I can’t but hope it was well with both of them, poor unlucky children. The doctor, he talked learnedly about contraction of muscles and what not, but doctors don’t know everything, and he hadn’t seen what I had. My own opinion is that she wasn’t free to go till it was made up, and that they made it up then.

Lucy Ellen Guernsey.

The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 34, 1874

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Lucy Ellen Guernsey was a writer of moral fiction, with titles such as Rhoda’s Education; or, Too Much of a Good Thing and Myra Sherwood’s Cross, and How She Bore It. This tale seems rather an anomaly in her oeuvre, much of which was published by the American Sunday-School Union. Miss Guernsey never married.

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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