Tag Archives: vampires

Good Lady Ducayne: 1896

good lady ducayne 1896 vampire story

Bella Rolleston had made up her mind that her only chance of earning her bread and helping her mother to an occasional crust was by going out into the great unknown world as companion to a lady. She was willing to go to any lady rich enough to pay her a salary and so eccentric as to wish for a hired companion. Five shillings told off reluctantly from one of those sovereigns which were so rare with the mother and daughter, and which melted away so quickly, five solid shillings, had been handed to a smartly-dressed lady in an office in Harbeck Street, W., in the hope that this very Superior Person would find a situation and a salary for Miss Rolleston.

The Superior Person glanced at the two half-crowns as they lay on the table where Bella’s hand had placed them, to make sure they were neither of them florins, before she wrote a description of Bella’s qualifications and requirements in a formidable-looking ledger.

“Age?” she asked, curtly.

“Eighteen, last July.”

“Any accomplishments?”

“No; I am not at all accomplished. If I were I should want to be a governess—a companion seems the lowest stage.”

“We have some highly accomplished ladies on our books as companions, or chaperon companions.”

“Oh, I know!” babbled Bella, loquacious in her youthful candour. “But that is quite a different thing. Mother hasn’t been able to afford a piano since I was twelve years old, so I’m afraid I’ve forgotten how to play. And I have had to help mother with her needlework, so there hasn’t been much time to study.”

“Please don’t waste time upon explaining what you can’t do, but kindly tell me anything you can do,” said the Superior Person, crushingly, with her pen poised between delicate fingers waiting to write. “Can you read aloud for two or three hours at a stretch? Are you active and handy, an early riser, a good walker, sweet tempered, and obliging?”

“I can say yes to all those questions except about the sweetness. I think I have a pretty good temper, and I should be anxious to oblige anybody who paid for my services. I should want them to feel that I was really earning my salary.”

“The kind of ladies who come to me would not care for a talkative companion,” said the Person, severely, having finished writing in her book. “My connection lies chiefly among the aristocracy, and in that class considerable deference is expected.”

“Oh, of course,” said Bella; “but it’s quite different when I’m talking to you. I want to tell you all about myself once and for ever.”

“I am glad it is to be only once!” said the Person, with the edges of her lips.

The Person was of uncertain age, tightly laced in a black silk gown. She had a powdery complexion and a handsome clump of somebody else’s hair on the top of her head. It may be that Bella’s girlish freshness and vivacity had an irritating effect upon nerves weakened by an eight hours day in that over-heated second floor in Harbeck Street. To Bella the official apartment, with its Brussels carpet, velvet curtains and velvet chairs, and French clock, ticking loud on the marble chimney-piece, suggested the luxury of a palace, as compared with another second floor in Walworth where Mrs. Rolleston and her daughter had managed to exist for the last six years.

“Do you think you have anything on your books that would suit me?” faltered Bella, after a pause.

“Oh, dear, no; I have nothing in view at present,” answered the Person, who had swept Bella’s half-crowns into a drawer, absent-mindedly, with the tips of her fingers. “You see, you are so very unformed—so much too young to be companion to a lady of position. It is a pity you have not enough education for a nursery governess; that would be more in your line.”

“And do you think it will be very long before you can get me a situation?” asked Bella, doubtfully.

“I really cannot say. Have you any particular reason for being so impatient—not a love affair, I hope?”

“A love affair!” cried Bella, with flaming cheeks. “What utter nonsense. I want a situation because mother is poor, and I hate being a burden to her. I want a salary that I can share with her.”

“There won’t be much margin for sharing in the salary you are likely to get at your age—and with your—very—unformed manners,” said the Person, who found Bella’s peony cheeks, bright eyes, and unbridled vivacity more and more oppressive.

“Perhaps if you’d be kind enough to give me back the fee I could take it to an agency where the connection isn’t quite so aristocratic,” said Bella, who—as she told her mother in her recital of the interview—was determined not to be sat upon.

“You will find no agency that can do more for you than mine,” replied the Person, whose harpy fingers never relinquished coin. “You will have to wait for your opportunity. Yours is an exceptional case: but I will bear you in mind, and if anything suitable offers I will write to you. I cannot say more than that.”

The half-contemptuous bend of the stately head, weighted with borrowed hair, indicated the end of the interview. Bella went back to Walworth—tramped sturdily every inch of the way in the September afternoon—and “took off” the Superior Person for the amusement of her mother and the landlady, who lingered in the shabby little sitting-room after bringing in the tea-tray, to applaud Miss Rolleston’s “taking off.”

“Dear, dear, what a mimic she is!” said the landlady. “You ought to have let her go on the stage, mum. She might have made her fortune as a hactress.”


Bella waited and hoped, and listened for the postman’s knocks which brought such store of letters for the parlours and the first floor, and so few for that humble second floor, where mother and daughter sat sewing with hand and with wheel and treadle, for the greater part of the day. Mrs. Rolleston was a lady by birth and education; but it had been her bad fortune to marry a scoundrel; for the last half-dozen years she had been that worst of widows, a wife whose husband had deserted her. Happily, she was courageous, industrious, and a clever needlewoman; and she had been able just to earn a living for herself and her only child, by making mantles and cloaks for a West-end house. It was not a luxurious living. Cheap lodgings in a shabby street off the Walworth Road, scanty dinners, homely food, well-worn raiment, had been the portion of mother and daughter; but they loved each other so dearly, and Nature had made them both so light-hearted, that they had contrived somehow to be happy.

But now this idea of going out into the world as companion to some fine lady had rooted itself into Bella’s mind, and although she idolized her mother, and although the parting of mother and daughter must needs tear two loving hearts into shreds, the girl longed for enterprise and change and excitement, as the pages of old longed to be knights, and to start for the Holy Land to break a lance with the infidel.

She grew tired of racing downstairs every time the postman knocked, only to be told “nothing for you, miss,” by the smudgy-faced drudge who picked up the letters from the passage floor. “Nothing for you, miss,” grinned the lodging-house drudge, till at last Bella took heart of grace and walked up to Harbeck Street, and asked the Superior Person how it was that no situation had been found for her.

“You are too young,” said the Person, “and you want a salary.”

“Of course I do,” answered Bella ; “don’t other people want salaries?”

“Young ladies of your age generally want a comfortable home.”

“I don’t,” snapped Bella: “I want to help mother.”

“You can call again this day week,” said the Person; “or, if I hear of anything in the meantime, I will write to you.”

No letter came from the Person, and in exactly a week Bella put on her neatest hat, the one that had been seldomest caught in the rain, and trudged off to Harbeck Street.

It was a dull October afternoon, and there was a greyness in the air which might turn to fog before night. The Walworth Road shops gleamed brightly through that grey atmosphere, and though to a young lady reared in Mayfair or Belgravia such shop – windows would have been unworthy of a glance, they were a snare and temptation for Bella. There were so many things that she longed for, and would never be able to buy.

Harbeck Street is apt to be empty at this dead season of the year, a long, long street, an endless perspective of eminently respectable houses. The Person’s office was at the further end, and Bella looked down that long, grey vista almost despairingly, more tired than usual with the trudge from Walworth. As she looked, a carriage passed her, an old-fashioned, yellow chariot, on cee springs, drawn by a pair of high grey horses, with the stateliest of coachmen driving them, and a tall footman sitting by his side.

“It looks like the fairy god-mother’s coach,” thought Bella. “I shouldn’t wonder if it began by being a pumpkin.”

It was a surprise when she reached the Person’s door to find the yellow chariot standing before it, and the tall footman waiting near the doorstep. She was almost afraid to go in and meet the owner of that splendid carriage. She had caught only a glimpse of its occupant as the chariot rolled by, a plumed bonnet, a patch of ermine.

The Person’s smart page ushered her upstairs and knocked at the official door. “Miss Rolleston,” he announced, apologetically, while Bella waited outside.

“Show her in,” said the Person, quickly; and then Bella heard her murmuring something in a low voice to her client.

Bella went in fresh, blooming, a living image of youth and hope, and before she looked at the Person her gaze was riveted by the owner of the chariot.

Never had she seen anyone as old as the old lady sitting by the Person’s fire: a little old figure, wrapped from chin to feet in an ermine mantle; a withered, old face under a plumed bonnet—a face so wasted by age that it seemed only a pair of eyes and a peaked chin. The nose was peaked, too, but between the sharply pointed chin and the great, shining eyes, the small, aquiline nose was hardly visible.

“This is Miss Rolleston, Lady Ducayne.”

Claw-like fingers, flashing with jewels, lifted a double eyeglass to Lady Ducayne’s shining black eyes, and through the glasses Bella saw those unnaturally bright eyes magnified to a gigantic size, and glaring at her awfully.

“Miss Torpinter has told me all about you,” said the old voice that belonged to the eyes. “Have you good health? Are you strong and active, able to eat well, sleep well, walk well, able to enjoy all that there is good in life?”

“I have never known what it is to be ill, or idle,” answered Bella.

“Then I think you will do for me.”

“Of course, in the event of references being perfectly satisfactory,” put in the Person.

“I don’t want references. The young woman looks frank and innocent. I’ll take her on trust.”

“So like you, dear Lady Ducayne,” murmured Miss Torpinter.

“I want a strong young woman whose health will give me no trouble.”

“You have been so unfortunate in that respect,” cooed the Person, whose voice and manner were subdued to a melting sweetness by the old woman’s presence.

“Yes, I’ve been rather unlucky,” grunted Lady Ducayne.

“But I am sure Miss Rolleston will not disappoint you, though certainly after your unpleasant experience with Miss Tomson, who looked the picture of health—and Miss Blandy, who said she had never seen a doctor since she was vaccinated”

“Lies, no doubt,” muttered Lady Ducayne, and then turning to Bella, she asked, curtly, “You don’t mind spending the winter in Italy, I suppose?”

In Italy! The very word was magical. Bella’s fair young face flushed crimson.

“It has been the dream of my life to see Italy,” she gasped.

From Walworth to Italy! How far, how impossible such a journey had seemed to that romantic dreamer.

“Well, your dream will be realized. Get yourself ready to leave Charing Cross by the train de luxe this day week at eleven. Be sure you are at the station a quarter before the hour. My people will look after you and your luggage.”

Lady Ducayne rose from her chair, assisted by her crutch-stick, and Miss Torpinter escorted her to the door.

“And with regard to salary?” questioned the Person on the way.

“Salary, oh, the same as usual—and if the young woman wants a quarter’s pay in advance you can write to me for a cheque,” Lady Ducayne answered, carelessly.

Miss Torpinter went all the way downstairs with her client, and waited to see her seated in the yellow chariot. When she came upstairs again she was slightly out of breath, and she had resumed that superior manner which Bella had found so crushing.

“You may think yourself uncommonly lucky, Miss Rolleston,” she said. “I have dozens of young ladies on my books whom I might have recommended for this situation —but I remembered having told you to call this afternoon—and I thought I would give you a chance. Old Lady Ducayne is one of the best people on my books. She gives her companion a hundred a year, and pays all travelling expenses. You will live in the lap of luxury.”

“A hundred a year! How too lovely! Shall I have to dress very grandly? Does Lady Ducayne keep much company?”

“At her age! No, she lives in seclusion—in her own apartments — her French maid, her footman, her medical attendant, her courier.”

“Why did those other companions leave her?” asked Bella.

“Their health broke down!”

“Poor things, and so they had to leave?”

“Yes, they had to leave. I suppose you would like a quarter’s salary in advance?”

“Oh, yes, please. I shall have things to buy.”

“Very well, I will write for Lady Ducayne’s cheque, and I will send you the balance— after deducting my commission for the year.”

“To be sure, I had forgotten the commission.”

“You don’t suppose I keep this office for pleasure.”

“Of course not,” murmured Bella, remembering the five shillings entrance fee; but nobody could expect a hundred a year and a winter in Italy for five shillings.


“From Miss Rolleston, at Cap Ferrino, to Mrs. Rolleston, in Beresford Street, Walworth.

“How I wish you could see this place, dearest; the blue sky, the olive woods, the orange and lemon orchards between the cliffs and the sea—sheltering in the hollow of the great hills—and with summer waves dancing up to the narrow ridge of pebbles and weeds which is the Italian idea of a beach! Oh, how I wish you could see it all, mother dear, and bask in this sunshine, that makes it so difficult to believe the date at the head of this paper. November! The air is like an English June—the sun is so hot that I can’t walk a few yards without an umbrella. And to think of you at Walworth while I am here! I could cry at the thought that perhaps you will never see this lovely coast, this wonderful sea, these summer flowers that bloom in winter. There is a hedge of pink geraniums under my window, mother—a thick, rank hedge, as if the flowers grew wild —and there are Dijon roses climbing over arches and palisades all along the terrace— a rose garden full of bloom in November! Just picture it all! You could never imagine the luxury of this hotel. It is nearly new, and has been built and decorated regardless of expense. Our rooms are upholstered in pale blue satin, which shows up Lady Ducayne’s parchment complexion; but as she sits all day in a corner of the balcony basking in the sun, except when she is in her carriage, and all the evening in her armchair close to the fire, and never sees anyone but her own people, her complexion matters very little.

“She has the handsomest suite of rooms in the hotel. My bedroom is inside hers, the sweetest room—all blue satin and white lace—white enamelled furniture, looking glasses on every wall, till I know my pert little profile as I never knew it before. The room was really meant for Lady Ducayne’s dressing-room, but she ordered one of the blue satin couches to be arranged as a bed for me—the prettiest little bed, which I can wheel near the window on sunny mornings, as it is on castors and easily moved about. I feel as if Lady Ducayne were a funny old grandmother, who had suddenly appeared in my life, very, very rich, and very, very kind.

“She is not at all exacting. I read aloud to her a good deal, and she dozes and nods while I read. Sometimes I hear her moaning in her sleep—as if she had troublesome dreams. When she is tired of my reading she orders Francine, her maid, to read a French novel to her, and I hear her chuckle and groan now and then, as if she were more interested in those books than in Dickens or Scott. My French is not good enough to follow Francine, who reads very quickly. I have a great deal of liberty, for Lady Ducayne often tells me to run away and amuse myself; I roam about the hills for hours. Everything is so lovely. I lose myself in olive woods, always climbing up and up towards the pine woods above—and above the pines there are the snow mountains that just show their white peaks above the dark hills. Oh, you poor dear, how can I ever make you understand what this place is like—you, whose poor, tired eyes have only the opposite side of Beresford Street? Sometimes I go no farther than the terrace in front of the hotel, which is a favourite lounging-place with everybody. The gardens lie below, and the tennis courts where I sometimes play with a very nice girl, the only person in the hotel with whom I have made friends. She is a year older than I, and has come to Cap Ferrino with her brother, a doctor—or a medical student, who is going to be a doctor. He passed his M.B. exam. at Edinburgh just before they left home, Lotta told me. He came to Italy entirely on his sister’s account. She had a troublesome chest attack last summer and was ordered to winter abroad. They are orphans, quite alone in the world, and so fond of each other. It is very nice for me to have such a friend as Lotta. She is so thoroughly respectable. I can’t help using that word, for some of the girls in this hotel go on in a way that I know you would shudder at. Lotta was brought up by an aunt, deep down in the country, and knows hardly anything about life. Her brother won’t allow her to read a novel, French or English, that he has not read and approved.

“‘He treats me like a child,’ she told me, ‘but I don’t mind, for it’s nice to know somebody loves me, and cares about what I do, and even about my thoughts.’

“Perhaps this is what makes some girls so eager to marry — the want of someone strong and brave and honest and true to care for them and order them about. I want no one, mother darling, for I have you, and you are all the world to me. No husband could ever come between us two. If I ever were to marry he would have only the second place in my heart. But I don’t suppose I ever shall marry, or even know what it is like to have an offer of marriage. No young man can afford to marry a penniless girl nowadays. Life is too expensive.

“Mr. Stafford, Lotta’s brother, is very clever, and very kind. He thinks it is rather hard for me to have to live with such an old woman as Lady Ducayne, but then he does not know how poor we are—you and I—and what a wonderful life this seems to me in this lovely place. I feel a selfish wretch for enjoying all my luxuries, while you, who want them so much more than I, have none of them—hardly know what they are like—do you, dearest?—for my scamp of a father began to go to the dogs soon after you were married, and since then life has been all trouble and care and struggle for you.”

This letter was written when Bella had been less than a month at Cap Ferrino, before the novelty had worn off the landscape, and before the pleasure of luxurious surroundings had begun to cloy. She wrote to her mother every week, such long letters as girls who have lived in closest companionship with a mother alone can write; letters that are like a diary of heart and mind. She wrote gaily always; but when the new year began Mrs. Rolleston thought she detected a note of melancholy under all those lively details about the place and the people.

“My poor girl is getting home-sick,” she thought. “Her heart is in Beresford Street.”

It might be that she missed her new friend and companion, Lotta Stafford, who had gone with her brother for a little tour to Genoa and Spezzia, and as far as Pisa. They were to return before February; but in the meantime Bella might naturally feel very solitary among all those strangers, whose manners and doings she described so well.

The mother’s instinct had been true. Bella was not so happy as she had been in that first flush of wonder and delight which followed the change from Walworth to the Riviera. Somehow, she knew not how, lassitude had crept upon her. She no longer loved to climb the hills, no longer flourished her orange stick in sheer gladness of heart as her light feet skipped over the rough ground and the coarse grass on the mountain side. The odour of rosemary and thyme, the fresh breath of the sea, no longer filled her with rapture. She thought of Beresford Street and her mother’s face with a sick longing. They were so far—so far away! And then she thought of Lady Ducayne, sitting by the heaped-up olive logs in the over-heated salon —thought of that wizened-nut-cracker profile, and those gleaming eyes, with an invincible horror.

Visitors at the hotel had told her that the air of Cap Ferrino was relaxing — better suited to age than to youth, to sickness than to health. No doubt it was so. She was not so well as she had been at Walworth; but she told herself that she was suffering only from the pain of separation from the dear companion of her girlhood, the mother who had been nurse, sister, friend, flatterer, all things in this world to her. She had shed many tears over that parting, had spent many a melancholy hour on the marble terrace with yearning eyes looking westward, and with her heart’s desire a thousand miles away.

She was sitting in her favourite spot, an angle at the eastern end of the terrace, a quiet little nook sheltered by orange trees, when she heard a couple of Riviera habitues talking in the garden below. They were sitting on a bench against the terrace wall.

She had no idea of listening to their talk, till the sound of Lady Ducayne’s name attracted her, and then she listened without any thought of wrong-doing. They were talking no secrets—just casually discussing an hotel acquaintance.

They were two elderly people whom Bella only knew by sight. An English clergyman who had wintered abroad for half his lifetime ; a stout, comfortable, well-to-do spinster, whose chronic bronchitis obliged her to migrate annually.

“I have met her about Italy for the last ten years,” said the lady; “but have never found out her real age.”

“I put her down at a hundred—not a year less,” replied the parson. “Her reminiscences all go back to the Regency. She was evidently then in her zenith; and I have heard her say things that showed she was in Parisian society when the First Empire was at its best—before Josephine was divorced.”

“She doesn’t talk much now.”

“No; there’s not much life left in her. She is wise in keeping herself secluded. I only wonder that wicked old quack, her Italian doctor, didn’t finish her off years ago.”

“I should think it must be the other way, and that he keeps her alive.”

“My dear Miss Manders, do you think foreign quackery ever kept anybody alive?”

“Well, there she is—and she never goes anywhere without him. He certainly has an unpleasant countenance.”

“Unpleasant,” echoed the parson, “I don’t believe the foul fiend himself can beat him in ugliness. I pity that poor young woman who has to live between old Lady Ducayne and Dr. Parravicini.”

“But the old lady is very good to her companions.”

“No doubt. She is very free with her cash; the servants call her good Lady Ducayne. She is a withered old female Croesus, and knows she’ll never be able to get through her money, and doesn’t relish the idea of other people enjoying it when she’s in her coffin. People who live to be as old as she is become slavishly attached to life. I daresay she’s generous to those poor girls—but she can’t make them happy. They die in her service.”

“Don’t say they, Mr. Carton; I know that one poor girl died at Mentone last spring.”

“Yes, and another poor girl died in Rome three years ago. I was there at the time. Good Lady Ducayne left her there in an English family. The girl had every comfort. The old woman was very liberal to her–but she died. I tell you, Miss Manders, it is not good for any young woman to live with two such horrors as Lady Ducayne and Parravicini.”

They talked of other things—but Bella hardly heard them. She sat motionless, and a cold wind seemed to come down upon her from the mountains and to creep up to her from the sea, till she shivered as she sat there in the sunshine, in the shelter of the orange trees in the midst of all that beauty and brightness.

Yes, they were uncanny, certainly, the pair of them—she so like an aristocratic witch in her withered old age; he of no particular age, with a face that was more like a waxen mask than any human countenance Bella had ever seen. What did it matter? Old age is venerable, and worthy of all reverence; and Lady Ducayne had been very kind to her. Dr. Parravicini was a harmless, inoffensive student, who seldom looked up from the book he was reading. He had his private sitting-room, where he made experiments in chemistry and natural science— perhaps in alchemy. What could it matter to Bella? He had always been polite to her, in his far-off way. She could not be more happily placed than she was—in this palatial hotel, with this rich old lady.

No doubt she missed the young English girl who had been so friendly, and it might be that she missed the girl’s brother, for Mr. Stafford had talked to her a good deal—had interested himself in the books she was reading, and her manner of amusing herself when she was not on duty.

“You must come to our little salon when you are ‘off,’ as the hospital nurses call it, and we can have some music. No doubt you play and sing?” upon which Bella had to own with a blush of shame that she had forgotten how to play the piano ages ago.

“Mother and I used to sing duets sometimes between the lights, without accompaniment,” she said, and the tears came into her eyes as she thought of the humble room, the half-hour’s respite from work, the sewing-machine standing where a piano ought to have been, and her mother’s plaintive voice, so sweet, so true, so dear.

Sometimes she found herself wondering whether she would ever see that beloved mother again. Strange forebodings came into her mind. She was angry with herself for giving way to melancholy thoughts.

One day she questioned Lady Ducayne’s French maid about those two companions who had died within three years.

“They were poor, feeble creatures,” Francine told her. “They looked fresh and bright enough when they came to Miladi; but they ate too much, and they were lazy. They died of luxury and idleness. Miladi was too kind to them. They had nothing to do; and so they took to fancying things; fancying the air didn’t suit them, that they couldn’t sleep.”

“I sleep well enough, but I have had a strange dream several times since I have been in Italy.”

“Ah, you had better not begin to think about dreams, or you will be like those other girls. They were dreamers —and they dreamt themselves into the cemetery.”

The dream troubled her a little, not because it was a ghastly or frightening dream, but on account of sensations which she had never felt before in sleep—a whirring of wheels that went round in her brain, a great noise like a whirlwind, but rhythmical like the ticking of a gigantic clock: and then in the midst of this uproar as of winds and waves she seemed to sink into a gulf of unconsciousness, out of sleep into far deeper sleep— total extinction. And then, after that blank interval, there had come the sound of voices, and then again the whirr of wheels, louder and louder—and again the blank —and then she knew no more till morning, when she awoke, feeling languid and oppressed.

She told Dr. Parravicini of her dream one day, on the only occasion when she wanted his professional advice. She had suffered rather severely from the mosquitoes before Christmas—and had been almost frightened at finding a wound upon her arm which she could only attribute to the venomous sting of one of these torturers. Parravicini put on his glasses, and scrutinized the angry mark on the round, white arm, as Bella stood before him and Lady Ducayne with her sleeve rolled up above her elbow.

“Yes, that’s rather more than a joke,” he said; “he has caught you on the top of a vein. What a vampire! But there’s no harm done, signorina, nothing that a little dressing of mine won’t heal. You must always show me any bite of this nature. It might be dangerous if neglected. These creatures feed on poison and disseminate it.”

“And to think that such tiny creatures can bite like this,” said Bella; “my arm looks as if it had been cut by a knife.”

“If I were to show you a mosquito’s sting under my microscope you wouldn’t be surprised at that,” replied Parravicini.

Bella had to put up with the mosquito bites, even when they came on the top of a vein, and produced that ugly wound. The wound recurred now and then at longish intervals, and Bella found Dr. Parravicini’s dressing a speedy cure. If he were the quack his enemies called him, he had at least a light hand and a delicate touch in performing this small operation.

“Bella Rolleston to Mrs. Rolleston.— April 14th.

“Ever Dearest,—Behold the cheque for my second quarter’s salary— five and twenty pounds. There is no one to pinch off a whole tenner for a year’s commission as there was last time, so it is all for you, mother, dear. I have plenty of pocket-money in hand from the cash I brought away with me, when you insisted on my keeping more than I wanted. It isn’t possible to spend money here—except on occasional tips to servants, or sous to beggars and children—unless one had lots to spend, for everything one would like to buy—tortoise-shell, coral, lace—is so ridiculously dear that only a millionaire ought to look at it. Italy is a dream of beauty: but for shopping, give me Newington Causeway.

“You ask me so earnestly if I am quite well that I fear my letters must have been, very dull lately. Yes, dear, I am well- but I am not quite so strong as I was when I used to trudge to the West-end to buy half a pound of tea—just for a constitutional walk —or to Dulwich to look at the pictures. Italy is relaxing ; and I feel what the people here call ‘slack.’ But I fancy I can see your dear face looking worried as you read this. Indeed, and indeed, I am not ill. I am only a little tired of this lovely scene—as I suppose one might get tired of looking at one of Turner’s pictures if it hung on a wall that was always opposite one. I think of you every hour in every day—think of you and our homely little room—our dear little shabby parlour, with the arm-chairs from the wreck of your old home, and Dick singing in his cage over the sewing-machine. Dear, shrill, maddening Dick, who, we flattered ourselves, was so passionately fond of us. Do tell me in your next that he is well.

“My friend Lotta and her brother never came back after all. They went from Pisa to Rome. Happy mortals! And they are to be on the Italian lakes in May; which lake was not decided when Lotta last wrote to me. She has been a charming correspondent, and has confided all her little flirtations to me. We are all to go to Bellaggio next week—by Genoa and Milan. Isn’t that lovely? Lady Ducayne travels by the easiest stages — except when she is bottled up in the train de luxe. We shall stop two days at Genoa and one at Milan. What a bore I shall be to you with my talk about Italy when I come home.

“Love and love—and ever more love from your adoring, Bella.”


Herbert Stafford and his sister had often talked of the pretty English girl with her fresh complexion, which made such a pleasant touch of rosy colour among all those sallow faces at the Grand Hotel. The young doctor thought of her with a compassionate tenderness—her utter loneliness in that great hotel where there were so many people, her bondage to that old, old woman, where everybody else was free to think of nothing but enjoying life. It was a hard fate; and the poor child was evidently devoted to her mother, and felt the pain of separation— “only two of them, and very poor, and all the world to each other,” he thought.

Lotta told him one morning that they were to meet again at Bellaggio. “The old thing and her court are to be there before we are,” she said. “I shall be charmed to have Bella again. She is so bright and gay—in spite of an occasional touch of home-sickness. I never took to a girl on a short acquaintance as I did to her.”

“I like her best when she is home-sick,” said Herbert; ” for then I am sure she has a heart.”

“What have you to do with hearts, except for dissection? Don’t forget that Bella is an absolute pauper. She told me in confidence that her mother makes mantles for a Westend shop. You can hardly have a lower depth than that.”

“I shouldn’t think any less of her if her mother made match-boxes.”

“Not in the abstract — of course not. Match-boxes are honest labour. But you couldn’t marry a girl whose mother makes mantles.”

“We haven’t come to the consideration of that question yet,” answered Herbert, who liked to provoke his sister.

In two years’ hospital practice he had seen too much of the grim realities of life to retain any prejudices about rank. Cancer, phthisis, gangrene, leave a man with little respect for the outward differences which vary the husk of humanity. The kernel is always the same—fearfully and wonderfully made—a subject for pity and terror.

Mr. Stafford and his sister arrived at Bellaggio in a fair May evening. The sun was going down as the steamer approached the pier; and all that glory of purple bloom which curtains every wall at this season of the year flushed and deepened in the glowing light. A group of ladies were standing on the pier watching the arrivals, and among them Herbert saw a pale face that startled him out of his wonted composure.

“There she is,” murmured Lotta, at his elbow, “but how dreadfully changed. She looks a wreck.”

They were shaking hands with her a few minutes later, and a flush had lighted up her poor pinched face in the pleasure of meeting.

“I thought you might come this evening,” she said. “We have been here a week.”

She did not add that she had been there every evening to watch the boat in, and a good many times during the day. The Grand Bretagne was close by, and it had been easy for her to creep to the pier when the boat bell rang. She felt a joy in meeting these people again: a sense of being with friends: a confidence which Lady Ducayne’s goodness had never inspired in her.

“Oh, you poor darling, how awfully ill you must have been,” exclaimed Lotta, as the two girls embraced.

Bella tried to answer, but her voice was choked with tears.

“What has been the matter, dear? That horrid influenza, I suppose?”

“No. no, I have not been ill—I have only felt a little weaker than I used to be. I don’t think the air of Cap Ferrino quite agreed with me.”

“It must have disagreed with you abominably. I never saw such a change in anyone. Do let Herbert doctor you. He is fully qualified, you know. He prescribed for ever so many influenza patients at the Londres. They were glad to get advice from an English doctor in a friendly way.”

“I am sure he must be very clever!” faltered Bella, “but there is really nothing the matter. I am not ill, and if I were ill, Lady Ducayne’s physician–”

“That dreadful man with the yellow face? I would as soon one of the Borgias prescribed for me. I hope you haven’t been taking any of his medicines.”

“No, dear, I have taken nothing. I have never complained of being ill.”

This was said while they were all three walking to the hotel. The Staffords’ rooms had been secured in advance, pretty ground-floor rooms, opening into the garden. Lady Ducayne’s statelier apartments were on the floor above.

“I believe these rooms are just under ours,” said Bella.

“Then it will be all the easier for you to run down to us,” replied Lotta, which was not really the case, as the grand staircase was in the centre of the hotel.

“Oh, I shall find it easy enough,” said Bella. “I’m afraid you’ll have too much of my societv. Lady Ducayne sleeps away half the day in this warm weather, so I have a good deal of idle time; and I get awfully moped thinking of mother and home.”

Her voice broke upon the last word. She could not have thought of that poor lodging which went by the name of home more tenderly had it been the most beautiful that art and wealth ever created. She moped and pined in this lovely garden, with the sunlit lake and the romantic hills spreading out their beauty before her. She was home-sick and she had dreams : or, rather, an occasional recurrence of that one bad dream with all its strange sensations — it was more like a hallucination than dreaming—the whirring of wheels; the sinking into an abyss; the struggling back to consciousness. She had the dream shortly before she left Cap Ferrino, but not since she had come to Bellaggio, and she began to hope the air in this lake district suited her better, and that those strange sensations would never return.

Mr. Stafford wrote a prescription and had it made up at the chemist’s near the hotel. It was a powerful tonic, and after two bottles, and a row or two on the lake, and some rambling over the hills and in the meadows where the spring flowers made earth seem paradise, Bella’s spirits and looks improved as if by magic.

“It is a wonderful tonic,” she said, but perhaps in her heart of hearts she knew that the doctor’s kind voice, and the friendly hand that helped her in and out of the boat, and the watchful care that went with her by land and lake, had something to do with her cure.

“I hope you don’t forget that her mother makes mantles,” Lotta said, warningly.

“Or match-boxes: it is just the same thing, so far as I am concerned.”

“You mean that in no circumstances could you think of marrying her?”

“I mean that if ever I love a woman well enough to think of marrying her, riches or rank will count for nothing with me. But I fear—I fear your poor friend may not live to be any man’s wife.”

“Do you think her so very ill?”

He sighed, and left the question unanswered.

One day, while they were gathering wild hyacinths in an upland meadow, Bella told Mr. Stafford about her bad dream.

“It is curious only because it is hardly like a dream,” she said. “I daresay you could find some common-sense reason for it. The position of my head on my pillow, or the atmosphere, or something.”

And then she described her sensations; how in the midst of sleep there came a sudden sense of suffocation; and then those whirring wheels, so loud, so terrible; and then a blank, and then a coming back to waking consciousness.

“Have you ever had chloroform given you —by a dentist, for instance?”

“Never—Dr. Parravicini asked me that question one day.”


“No, long ago, when we were in the train de luxe.”

“Has Dr. Parravicini prescribed for you since you began to feel weak and ill?”

“Oh, he has given me a tonic from time to time, but I hate medicine, and took very little of the stuff. And then I am not ill, only weaker than I used to be. I was ridiculously strong and well when I lived at Walworth, and used to take long walks every day. Mother made me take those tramps to Dulwich or Norwood, for fear I should suffer from too much sewing-machine; sometimes—but very seldom—she went with me. She was generally toiling at home while I was enjoying fresh air and exercise. And she was very careful about our food—that, however plain it was, it should be always nourishing and ample. I owe it to her care that I grew up such a great, strong creature.”

“You don’t look great or strong now, you poor dear,” said Lotta.

“I’m afraid Italy doesn’t agree with me.”

“Perhaps it is not Italy, but being cooped up with Lady Ducayne that has made you ill.”

“But I am never cooped up. Lady Ducayne is absurdly kind, and lets me roam about or sit in the balcony all day if I like. I have read more novels since I have been with her than in all the rest of my life.”

“Then she is very different from the average old lady, who is usually a slavedriver,” said Stafford. “I wonder why she carries a companion about with her if she has so little need of society.”

“Oh, I am only part of her state. She is inordinately rich—and the salary she gives me doesn’t count. Apropos of Dr. Parravicini, I know he is a clever doctor, for he cures my horrid mosquito bites.”

“A little ammonia would do that, in the early stage of the mischief. But there are no mosquitoes to trouble you now.”

“Oh, yes, there are; I had a bite just before we left Cap Ferrino.”

She pushed up her loose lawn sleeve, and exhibited a scar, which he scrutinized intently, with a surprised and puzzled look.

“This is no mosquito bite,” he said.

“Oh, yes it is — unless there are snakes or adders at Cap Ferrino.”

“It is not a bite at all. You are trifling with me. Miss Rolleston—you have allowed that wretched Italian quack to bleed you. They killed the greatest man in modern Europe that way, remember. How very foolish of you.”

“I was never bled in my life, Mr. Stafford.”

“Nonsense! Let me look at your other arm. Are there any more mosquito bites?”

“Yes; Dr. Parravicini says I have a bad skin for healing, and that the poison acts more virulently with me than with most people.”

Stafford examined both her arms in the broad sunlight, scars new and old.

“You have been very badly bitten, Miss Rolleston,” he said, “and if ever I find the mosquito I shall make him smart. But, now tell me, my dear girl, on your word of honour, tell me as you would tell a friend who is sincerely anxious for your health and happiness—as you would tell your mother if she were here to question you—have you no knowledge of any cause for these scars except mosquito bites—no suspicion even?”

“No, indeed! No, upon my honour! I have never seen a mosquito biting my arm. One never does see the horrid little fiends. But I have heard them trumpeting under the curtains, and I know that I have often had one of the pestilent wretches buzzing about me.”

Later in the day Bella and her friends were sitting at tea in the garden, while Lady Ducayne took her afternoon drive with her doctor.

“How long do you mean to stop with Lady Ducayne, Miss Rolleston?” Herbert Stafford asked, after a thoughtful silence, breaking suddenly upon the trivial talk of the two girls.

“As long as she will go on paying me twenty-five pounds a quarter.”

“Even if you feel your health breaking down in her service?”

“It is not the service that has injured my health. You can see that I have really nothing to do—to read aloud for an hour or so once or twice a week: to write a letter once in a way to a London tradesman. I shall never have such an easy time with anybody else. And nobody else would give me a hundred a year.”

“Then you mean to go on till you break down; to die at your post?”

“Like the other two companions? No! If ever I feel seriously ill—really ill—I shall put myself in a train and go back to Walworth without stopping.”

“What about the other two companions?”

“They both died. It was very unlucky for Lady Ducayne. That’s why she engaged me; she chose me because I was ruddy and robust. She must feel rather disgusted at my having grown white and weak. By-the-bye, when I told her about the good your tonic had done me, she said she would like to see you and have a little talk with you about her own case.”

“And I should like to see Lady Ducayne. When did she say this?”

“The day before yesterday.”

“Will you ask her if she will see me this evening?”

“With pleasure! I wonder what you will think of her? She looks rather terrible to a stranger; but Dr. Parravicini says she was once a famous beauty.”

It was nearly ten o’clock when Mr. Stafford was summoned by message from Lady Ducayne, whose courier came to conduct him to her ladyship’s salon. Bella was reading aloud when the visitor was admitted ; and he noticed the languor in the low, sweet tones, the evident effort.

“Shut up the book,” said the querulous old voice. “You are beginning to drawl like Miss Blandy.”

Stafford saw a small, bent figure crouching over the piled-up olive logs: a shrunken old figure in a gorgeous garment of black and crimson brocade, a skinny throat emerging from a mass of old Venetian lace, clasped with diamonds that flashed like fire-flies as the trembling old head turned towards him.

The eyes that looked at him out of the face were almost as bright as the diamonds —the only living feature in that narrow parchment mask. He had seen terrible faces in the hospital—faces on which disease had set dreadful marks—but he had never seen a face that impressed him so painfully as this withered countenance, with its indescribable horror of death outlived, a face that should have been hidden under a coffin-lid years and years ago.

The Italian physician was standing on the other side of the fireplace, smoking a cigarette, and looking down at the little old woman brooding over the hearth as if he were proud of her.

“Good evening, Mr. Stafford: you can go to your room, Bella, and write your everlasting letter to your mother at Walworth,” said Lady Ducayne. “I believe she writes a page about every wild flower she discovers in the woods and meadows. I don’t know what else she can find to write about,” she added, as Bella quietly withdrew to the pretty little bedroom opening out of Lady Ducayne’s spacious apartment. Here, as at Cap Ferrino, she slept in a room adjoining the old lady’s.

“You are a medical man, I understand, Mr. Stafford.”

“I am a qualified practitioner, but I have not begun to practise.”

“You have begun upon my companion, she tells me.”

“I have prescribed for her, certainly, and I am happy to find my prescription has done her good; but I look upon that improvement as temporary. Her case will require more drastic treatment.”

“Never mind her case. There is nothing the matter with the girl—absolutely nothing— except girlish nonsense; too much liberty and not enough work.”

“I understand that two of your ladyship’s previous companions died of the same disease,” said Stafford, looking first at Lady Ducayne, who gave her tremulous old head an impatient jerk, and then at Parravicini, whose yellow complexion had paled a little under Stafford’s scrutiny.

“Don’t bother me about my companions, sir,” said Lady Ducayne. “I sent for you to consult you about myself—not about a parcel of anaemic girls. You are young, and medicine is a progressive science, the newspapers tell me. Where have you studied?”

“In Edinburgh—and in Paris.”

“Two good schools. And you know all the new-fangled theories, the modern discoveries—that remind one of the mediaeval witchcraft, of Albertus Magnus, and George Ripley; you have studied hypnotism — electricity?”

“And the transfusion of blood,” said Stafford, very slowly, looking at Parravicini.

“Have you made any discovery that teaches you to prolong human life—any elixir—any mode of treatment? I want my life prolonged, young man. That man there has been my physician for thirty years. He does all he can to keep me alive—after his lights. He studies all the new theories of all the scientists—but he is old; he gets older every day—his brain-power is going—he is bigoted—prejudiced—can’t receive new ideas—can’t grapple with new systems. He will let me die if I am not on my guard against him.”

You are of an unbelievable ingratitude, Ecclenza,” said Parravicini.

“Oh, you needn’t complain. I have paid you thousands to keep me alive. Every year of my life has swollen your hoards; you know there is nothing to come to you when I am gone. My whole fortune is left to endow a home for indigent women of quality who have reached their ninetieth year. Come, Mr. Stafford, I am a rich woman. Give me a few years more in the sunshine, a few years more above ground, and I will give you the price of a fashionable London practice—I will set you up at the West-end.”

“How old are you, Lady Ducayne?”

“I was born the day Louis XVI. was guillotined.”

“Then I think you have had your share of the sunshine and the pleasures of the earth, and that you should spend your few remaining days in repenting your sins and trying to make atonement for the young lives that have been sacrificed to your love of life.”

“What do you mean by that, sir?”

“Oh, Lady Ducayne, need I put your wickedness and your physician’s still greater wickedness in plain words? The poor girl who is now in your employment has been reduced from robust health to a condition of absolute danger by Dr. Parravicini’s experimental surgery; and I have no doubt those other two young women who broke down in your service were treated by him in the same manner. I could take upon myself to demonstrate—by most convincing evidence, to a jury of medical men—that Dr. Parravicini has been bleeding Miss Rolleston, after putting her under chloroform, at intervals, ever since she has been in your service The deterioration in the girl’s health speaks for itself; the lancet marks upon the girl’s arms are unmistakable ; and her description of a series of sensations, which she calls a dream, points unmistakably to the administration of chloroform while she was sleeping. A practice so nefarious, so murderous, must, if exposed, result in a sentence only less severe than the punishment of murder.”

“I laugh,” said Parravicini, with an airy motion of his skinny fingers; “I laugh at once at your theories and at your threats. I, Parravicini Leopold, have no fear that the law can question anything I have done.”

“Take the girl away, and let me hear no more of her,” cried Lady Ducayne, in the thin, old voice, which so poorly matched the energy and fire of the wicked old brain that guided its utterances. “Let her go back to her mother—I want no more girls to die in my service. There are girls enough and to spare in the world, God knows.”

“If you ever engage another companion —or take another English girl into your service, Lady Ducayne, I will make all England ring with the story of your wickedness.”

“I want no more girls. I don’t believe in his experiments. They have been full of danger for me as well as for the girl–an air bubble, and I should be gone. I’ll have no more of his dangerous quackery. I’ll find some new man —a better man than you, sir, a discoverer like Pasteur, or Virchow, a genius—to keep me alive. Take your girl away, young man. Marry her if you like. I’ll write her a cheque for a thousand pounds, and let her go and live on beef and beer, and get strong and plump again. I’ll have no more such experiments. Do you hear, Parravicini?” she screamed, vindictively, the yellow, wrinkled face distorted with fury, the eyes glaring at him.

The Staffords carried Bella Rolleston off to Varese next day, she very loth to leave Lady Ducayne, whose liberal salary afforded such help for the dear mother. Herbert Stafford insisted, however, treating Bella as coolly as if he had been the family physician, and she had been given over wholly to his care.

“Do you suppose your mother would let you stop here to die ?” he asked. “If Mrs. Rolleston knew how ill you are, she would come post haste to fetch you.”

“I shall never be well again till I get back to Walworth,” answered Bella, who was low-spirited and inclined to tears this morning, a reaction after her good spirits of yesterday.

“We’ll try a week or two at Varese first,” said Stafford. “When you can walk half-way up Monte Generoso without palpitation of the heart, you shall go back to Walworth.”

“Poor mother, how glad she will be to see me, and how sorry that I’ve lost such a good place.”

This conversation took place on the boat when they were leaving Bellaggio. Lotta had gone to her friend’s room at seven o’clock that morning, long before Lady Ducayne’s withered eyelids had opened to the daylight, before even Francine, the French maid, was astir, and had helped to pack a Gladstone bag with essentials, and hustled Bella downstairs and out of doors before she could make any strenuous resistance.

“It’s all right,” Lotta assured her. “Herbert had a good talk with Lady Ducayne last night, and it was settled for you to leave this morning. She doesn’t like invalids, you see.”

“No,” sighed Bella, “she doesn’t like invalids. It was very unlucky that I should break down, just like Miss Tomson and Miss Blandy.”

“At any rate, you are not dead, like them,” answered Lotta, “and my brother says you are not going to die.”

It seemed rather a dreadful thing to be dismissed in that off-hand way, without a word of farewell from her employer.

“I wonder what Miss Torpinter will say when I go to her for another situation,” Bella speculated, ruefully, while she and her friends were breakfasting on board the steamer.

“Perhaps you may never want another situation,” said Stafford.

“You mean that I may never be well enough to be useful to anybody?”

“No, I don’t mean anything of the kind.”

It was after dinner at Varese, when Bella had been induced to take a whole glass of Chianti,and quite sparkled after that unaccustomed stimulant, that Mr. Stafford produced a letter from his pocket.

“I forgot to give you Lady Ducayne’s letter of adieu!” he said.

“What, did she write to me? I am so glad—I hated to leave her in such a cool way; for after all she was very kind to me, and if I didn’t like her it was only because she was too dreadfully old.”

She tore open the envelope. The letter was short and to the point:—

“Good-bye, child. Go and marry your doctor. I inclose a farewell gift for your trousseau.—Adeline Ducayne.”

“A hundred pounds, a whole year’s salary — no — why, it’s for a — ‘A cheque for a thousand!'” cried Bella. “What a generous old soul! She really is the dearest old thing.”

“She just missed being very dear to you, Bella,” said Stafford.

He had dropped into the use of her Christian name while they were on board the boat. It seemed natural now that she was to be in his charge till they all three went back to England.

“I shall take upon myself the privileges of an elder brother till we land at Dover,” he said; “after that —well, it must be as you please.”

The question of their future relations must have been satisfactorily settled before they crossed the Channel, for Bella’s next letter to her mother communicated three startling facts.

First, that the inclosed cheque for £1,000 was to be invested in debenture stock in Mrs. Rolleston’s name, and was to be her very own, income and principal, for the rest of her life.

Next, that Bella was going home to Walworth immediately.

And last, that she was going to be married to Mr. Herbert Stafford in the following autumn.

“And I am sure you will adore him, mother, as much as I do,” wrote Bella. “It is all good Lady Ducayne’s doing. I never could have married if I had not secured that little nest-egg for you. Herbert says we shall be able to add to it as the years go by, and that wherever we live there shall be always a room in our house for you. The word ‘mother-in-law ‘ has no terrors for him.”

“Good Lady Ducayne,” Miss Braddon, The Strand, 1896.

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  What an eminently suitable vampiric tale for “World Goth Day.”  And a most satisfactory conclusion, particularly for the lady so heartlessly described as “that worst of widows, a wife whose husband had deserted her,” as if she were somehow responsible for the scoundrel-hood of her vanished spouse. We might also note the usefulness of those often-despised fancy-work skills, which meant that clever needlewoman Mrs Rolleston managed to eke out a crust for her little family, until the third-reel happy ending.

One wonders just how happy that ending will be with a heroine so vastly loquacious and oblivious as Bella. Let us hope that the soon-to-be Doctor Stafford proves himself a clever physician, saves the life of some wealthy old gentleman, who places him on a retainer and then leaves him a fortune in his will, rendering him independently wealthy.

As for “good” Lady Ducayne, perhaps she found a Swiss clinic providing plastic-surgeries and life-extending treatments or even cryonics. It is more likely she hired another companion under a false name and at premium rates from the odious Superior Person.

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 anecdote

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.

Feast of the Vampires: 1892




At Their Initial “Death Watch” They Partake of Hair-Curdling Viands

They are a Non-Superstitious Crowd.

New York, May 4. “Skeleton Fodder,” “Vampires’ Wings, Breaded,” and “Headstone Croquettes” are a few of the delightful articles on the menu spread at the initial death watch of the Vampires in Mazzetti’s, and a crowd of black-robed waiters stood ready to bring you “graveyard cough drops” or “fried souls” if you preferred them.

Over the head of Chief Ghoul John M. Turner hung a huge bat, holding in his claws a human skull, the sign of the organization, and Electrocutionist Fred Bennett had the outfit fixed up with colored glass eyes, into which he occasionally threw an electric current with startling effect. Back of the emblem hung a gigantic horn, fitted with an electrical attachment, which made it emit a frightful groan whenever anybody arose to speak. In front of the Chief Ghoul was a loving cup filled with “vampires’ blood,” in which an electric light glowed fitfully. Every bottle of wine had a vampire blood label pasted on it, and whenever a toast was drunk the Vampires applauded by moving their arms slowly up and down to their sides like wings.

But with all this grewsomeness the “death watch” was a great success, and the pale dawn saw 100 men vowing to be Vampires to the end.

The Vampires is a brand new organization started early in April by Mr. Turner and a dozen other non-superstitious theatrical people. It is a secret society and its motto is, “Unity, Affinity, Fidelity;” but it has no other purpose than good fellowship and mutual aid and encouragement.

It is simply an organization in which if a Vampire goes “broke” every other Vampire will “chip in” and help him out.

Its officers are: Chief Ghoul, J.M. Turner; Vice Ghoul, H.H. Levy; Recording Angel, Dr. I.E. Nasher; Body Snatcher, James B. Radcliffe; Coffin Nailer, Schnitz Edwards; Imp of Darkness, Charles Strohmenger, Jr.; Dirge Chanter, Signor Carlos Serrano; Bone Polisher, Fred Bohlman; Electrocutionist, Fred Bennett, and Sexton, Charles Angus.

It has a Cross Bones band, composed entirely of orchestra leaders, including William Johnson of the New York Park theatre, W. Lloyd Bowron of the Fourteeneth Street, Charles Mollenhauer of the Bijou and E.C. Gohl of the Windsor Theater, and it has a Monument Quartette made up of forcibly-retired comic opera singers. Among the other full-fledge vampires are T. Edward Reed, Thomas Jackson, Philip Smalley, the Tipaldi brothers, Thomas McQueen and Manager Price of the Lee Avenue Academy. Among the guests who are clamoring for a perch in Roost No. 1 are President Hotchkiss of the Thirteen Club, John Waller, Frank Dupree, E.A. Pratt, “Dick” Gorman, Harry Fisher, H.F. Seymour, Treasurer Rice of the Standard Theater, James Dixon, Cecil Kingston, Albert Henschel and Albert Hart.

After the viands had been dissected the loving cup was passed around, and while one vampire drank his four score fellow flapped their “wings” and sang their “Shriek,” which begins:

By gravestone cold and white

We spread our wings at night:

Over the mounds we love to dance

And wake a corpse right out of his trance.

His trance, trance, trace.

Anybody was welcome to get up for a speech, but as the trump horn drowned every word he said the feasters go along very comfortably.

It is proposed to hold these death watches once a month from now on until the supply of New York hotels is exhausted.

State [Columbia, SC] 7 May 1892: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: In post-Civil-War America there was a flowering of whimsical fraternal organisations: the Military Order of the Serpent (also known as “The Snaix”), The Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo, Odd Fellows, and The Ancient Mystic Order of Bagmen of Bagdad. Britain boasts one of the oldest of these groups: The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, founded in 1822. They all provided a convenient excuse to get together and “raise hell” in rather puerile ways, as we note in the account above.

“The Vampires,” seem to have been an organisation of much the same ilk as The Thirteen Club. One would expect these sorts of hi-jinks in the Parisian death-cafes, Café du mort/Café du neant, where the “decadent”—or, more often the tourists, wishing to be thought daring—sipped absinthe and watched weird shows of the living turning to corpses, then to skeletons, and back, rather like a skeletal strip-tease.

A Café Neant, 1900

A Café Neant, 1900

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.


The Undertaker’s Story: A Gothic Narrative: 1886


Artwork by Jessica Wiesel

Mrs Daffodil was interested to read that 22 May was denominated “World Goth Day,” celebrating “Goth Music and Culture. It was pleasing to think that these plucky opponents of the Roman Empire were at last going to get their own gala day. Alas! On further investigation, Mrs Daffodil’s hopes were dashed to find not Visigoths, but vampires celebrating a festival of kohl, black tulle,  and misery. Not quite the sacking of Rome for which one had longed… But never mind. It furnishes Mrs Daffodil an excuse to share this gripping Gothic tale of terror.


Perhaps I am more sensitive to the horrible than most of my fellow-men—am, in fact, more easily wrought upon. At all events, I have fancied that at times, when I have been telling this experience of mine, I could detect certain indications that some of my hearers were of that opinion; but I have not yet so far failed in charity as to wish any of these scoffers put to a similar test.

I had run over to Paris, had spent a couple of weeks in that bright city, and was on my way home again. I took a night train from Dover to London, and in the compartment which I occupied there was but one other passenger—a sharp, intelligent-looking man, with a very grave face. We got into conversation after traveling more than half the distance in that silence which is invariably adopted by Englishmen when they meet. After discussing general subjects, a remark of my companion’s led me to say that he seemed to have had a very wide experience and among nearly all classes of society.

“Yes,” he answered, slowly, and with a marked hesitation. “Yes, I am an undertaker. I have had a good deal of experience, and I have had my share, I think, of remarkable adventures. I never take this ride from Dover to London without a very painful recollection of one such.”

We had still nearly a half-hour’s ride before us, and his manner, as much as his words, roused my interest. “Do you care to tell it?” I asked. A quick, involuntary shudder gave to his voice a slight tremor, as he answered:

“I wish I could keep from thinking of it, but I might as well tell it as sit here quaking in silence over the awful memory of it.” He paused a moment, drew a long, shuddering breath, and then he commenced:

“A little over a year ago what I am about to relate happened to me. I had established a very good business, chiefly among the upper class of tradespeople—though, of course, I did not decline any call upon me that promised a reasonable profit. I received one day a telegraphic dispatch from Paris, asking me to take charge of a dead body that was to be sent from Paris to London for burial. I was to meet it at Dover on the arrival of the night-boat from Calais, and make all the arrangements for its further transportation by rail, and I was referred to a well-known banker as security for my expenses.

“This looked like good business, so I lost no time in getting the necessary permits, and went to Dover in the evening. I had some details to attend to there, in order that everything might be in readiness and no time lost after the boat arrived. Then I had nothing to do but wait. I sat up reading to keep myself awake.

“It was a beautiful, still night in the late fall, with an almost full moon, I remember; and the boat got in to time. I received the box containing the body, and saw it placed in one of the luggage-vans of the train, and in due course arrived with it at Victoria Station. One of my wagons was there, waiting to take the body to my place, where I was instructed to keep it until the next morning, when the proper parties would call to make arrangements about the burial.

“So far, of course, there was nothing specially remarkable about the affair. It is a little unusual in such cases not to find some one connected with the deceased accompanying the body; but I hardly gave that matter a second thought. I had no doubt but that the right persons would appear later in the day.

“When I got to my shop it still lacked about two hours of daylight, and, as I felt no slight responsibility, I didn’t think of going home, but made myself as comfortable as possible in my office for the rest of the night. You must bear in mind that all the sleep I had secured was a broken, uneasy slumber on the journey from Dover to London, and when I went to sleep in my chair, after stirring the fire into a blaze, I slept very soundly—very soundly, that is, for awhile, for it was still dark when I woke up in a sudden and startling way.

“Have you ever wondered,” the undertaker asked, turning his eyes full upon mine for the first time since he had begun his story, “what mysterious influence that is which makes you feel another presence in the same room as yourself, though you hear no one and see no one? It’s a queer feeling at any time, but I don’t know of any occasion when it can seem more queer and awful than when it comes to a man locked up in the dead of night, with nothing but black plumes and grave-clothes and palls and coffins about him.”

He turned his eyes to the floor again, and a cold tremor crept through my own flesh in the brief and ominous pause he made before he went on, in a lower voice:

“That was the feeling I had when I suddenly woke from sound sleep to full consciousness with a chilling shudder of horror. I was sitting before the fireplace, with my back to the door that led from the office to the shop. I had purposely left the door ajar. The fire had died down to a dull glow, and it seemed to me that a breath from the Arctic Zone had penetrated the room. I cannot describe the kind of cold it was. My very bones seemed to be ice. And then I felt that presence!”

The undertaker seemed terribly affected even now by his recollections of that night. It was impossible to resist the infection, and my own flesh was creeping in a very uncomfortable way. He made a strong effort to recover himself and to steady his voice, but, in spite of all, it trembled with an ever-deepening terror as he went on, curdling my very blood in sympathy.

“I had turned the gas out when I sat down in my chair to sleep, so that the only light in the room came from the dying fire. I became aware of that presence the very instant I awoke. Mind, sir, this is not a dream. I was as fully awake as I am at this moment. The thing was there! It was at the back of me. It was between me and the door. I had got to turn my head to see it. But I knew it was there! Who it was, or what it was, I didn’t know; but I was sure that some living thing was standing behind me motionless in the dim, ghostly light, and was looking at me. My God, sir! it was awful to sit still and feel this thing, and try to make up my mind to turn my head toward it! I am pretty well accustomed to corpses, but I can tell you that I did not feel just then that the corpse out in the other room was any company for me.

“Well, there I sat—feeling that horrible gaze fixed upon me in the utter silence, and the deathlike cold creeping through my veins—striving, struggling to nerve myself to look around and to face the thing, whatever it was.

“Were you ever locked up in a tomb at night?” the undertaker suddenly asked me. I could only shake my head in response; I could not speak.

“I have been,” he said, ” but it was nothing— nothing to those few minutes, while I sat palsied with terror, with that thing behind me! At last, in a kind of nervous spasm, I sprang to my feet, and turned toward the door. The sight froze me! There is no other word for it—I was rigid. I could no more stir than I could arrest the motion of this train now and instantly. My very heart stopped its beating. I wonder I didn’t drop dead myself, for there—not six feet from me—with the livid pallor of death on its face, and its glassy eyes glued to mine, stood the corpse!

“Then it began to approach me. It did not seem to walk—it glided, and not till it reached me did it make a single apparent movement.

“Then—just stand up, will you? I can illustrate better what occurred.”

I did so, and he arose at the same time, and we stood facing each other in the compartment. I was dimly conscious at the moment that we were crossing Battersea Bridge. The undertaker, as he went on, repeated upon me the actions he described.

“Then this dead thing,” he said to me. “slowly lifted its arms and laid its icy lingers on my cheeks and moved them gently downward to my shoulders, pressing hard against me all the time on either side, as I do now on you, and wherever the hands lay they seemed to draw the very life out of the flesh beneath them. Slowly—oh! how slowly—they glided on downward from my shoulders to my breast, beneath my coat, like this. Try to conceive it —try, if you can. Wherever they touched they drew something away from me—some virtue seemed to go out of me. And then the frightful thought came to me that I was dying by piecemeal!—that I was parting with something dear to me as life—bit by bit I could feel it ebbing— ebbing, and at last the horror grew to a conviction. This ghoul was drawing my life’s blood into his own veins! was sucking my substance! What I lost he gained! He enriched himself by making me poor, and it would end—”

“Victoria!” shouted a guard, opening the carriage-door.

“Bless my soul!” exclaimed the undertaker, “are we in? I must hurry to catch my train out.” He seized his satchel, and was on the step before I could get my breath to say, “But the story! I want to hear the end of it.”

He was on the platform now. “Oh! there isn’t much more,” he called back. “The ghoul succeeded—that’s all!”—and he was gone before I could say another word.

As I followed a porter to a cab, and all the way home, I tried to conceive what the undertaker could mean. How could the dead man have succeeded? Here the undertaker was alive and well, and telling me the story. It was very annoying and disappointing to be so baulked, after being so wrought upon. The undertaker had left me no address, so that I was, apparently, doomed never to know the solution.

Only “apparently,” however. When I got out of the cab at my own door I could find no loose change to pay the driver—yet I had some when I took that train at Dover; my well-furnished pocket-book—though that, too, I had at Dover—was gone as well; and my watch and chain had followed suit.

It is painful to lose confidence in human nature in this way.

Arthur’s Home Magazine, 1886

For “The Countess Elga,” an authenticated vampire story, see this link over at the Haunted Ohio books blog.

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.


The Strange Appetites of a Hungarian Count

kiss pianist

A postcard, later in date than our story, but expressive of the Count’s strange lusts.


Though In Human Form.

Strange Appetite of a Hungarian Count.

Nothing Save the Taste of Human Blood Satisfied Him.

Disguised as a Music Teacher He Got a Number of Girl Pupils,

Picked Out His Victim, and, With the Aid of His Wife,

He Would Make a Sharp Cut in the Back of the Neck,

Then Suck the Warm Blood Until He Had His Fill.

How a Clever Detective Got On To the Fiend and Brought Him To Justice.

Translated for The Enquirer from the French Police Records, by E.C. Waggener.

One morning in the year 1867 [another edition says 1880], third-floor apartments were taken at 319 Rue St. Honore, Paris, by a couple with Austrian passports, who called themselves Jean Kislov and wife. Kislov gave out his occupation as that of musician, a teacher as well as composer. He was also a man of education, well-informed on many subjects, haughty and aristocratic in manner, and unusually striking in appearance, with his long, cadaverous face set in a frame of thick, black hair and ornamented with a long mustache that hung to his breast. His eyes, intensely black and singularly brilliant, flashed and burned as if they belonged anywhere in the world rather than in that ghastly white mask, cold and expressionless as stone and the pallor of it heightened by vividly red lips.

He was thin, too, as a shadow, though there was nothing of the look or the languor of disease about him. On the contrary, a fire and vim about all he did that, coupled with his dress—entirely black and of the finest fabric, was of itself impressive.

Mme. Kislov was a less distinguished person, a florid blonde, with the white-eyebrows and the pinkish tint of the skin about them, peculiar to Albinos. She was very plump, as well, and with the rose bloom laid on her glistening white skin, looked precisely like a wax doll.

They had lived in the Rue St. Honore in the neighborhood of four months when something happened that, taken with later developments, brought Kislov under the surveillance of the police. Riding in a fiacre on day on the Boulevard Montmartre, he was assaulted by a workman with a knife, who would have killed him, but for the prompt assistance of a sergeant de ville.

He was arrested, but, strange to say, Kislov refused to testify against him, and Jasz, who was a Hungarian, was finally discharged. All that he would say was that he knew Kislov, and that he was a monster.

Naturally this statement and Kislov’s refusal to appear against the assassin provoked inquiry into the musician’s antecedents. Two things were promptly demonstrated—that his name was not Kislov, and that he was a buyer of considerable arsenic in the pharmacies of his neighborhood.

Further inquiry, however, soon set the official curiosity at rest. The Austrian Embassy, which had stamped Kislov’s passport, told the Paris authorities that they knew him well, and were satisfied with his reason for living incognito. He was a Hungarian nobleman of rank and great wealth, and had left his estates to live in France under an assumed name because the stupid and ignorant peasantry had got it into their heads that he was a vampire who lived on human blood.

This explained the attempt made on his life by Jasz, who was doubtless from his neighborhood. As for the arsenic, Mme. Kislov was a Styrian and an accredited arsenic eater; while the professional teaching of Kislov was the simple eccentricity and fad of an artistic enthusiast.

The agent of the Police Bureau, however, was not satisfied with the report of the Austrian officials, and determined to pursue the inquiry on his own account. To this end, Sylvain, a man of great shrewdness and authority, hunted up Jasz, and learned by persistence questioning, that the vampirism business and charges against Kislov were intimately connected with this alleged music mania, and absolutely in some ways inexplicable.

It was a clew for Sylvain. He set to work to look into Kislov’s pupils and teaching methods. The first point discovered was that Kislov’s classes were composed entirely of young women; that he gave his instruction for a merely nominal pay, but exacted perhaps the most arbitrary conditions: in short exercised over his pupils a species of despotism as strange as it was imperious. He dismissed or received them at pleasure and without cause; assumed a right of arbitrary selection that he allowed no one to dispute; He would have absolutely none but good-looking pupils and these always must be blondes. The fairer they were the more likely they were to be accepted. More than this, he confined his pupils to the middle classes, only in very rare instances consenting to receive one from the higher social circles.

To offset all this Kislov was said to be and was, an extraordinary teacher, thoroughly master of his art and possessing the faculty of imparting to his pupil his own enthusiasm. When a pupil pleased him he spared no time or pains to cultivate and improve her efficiency. A fine conversationalist and with a fund of widespread information, his pupils seemed to find a magnetic spell in the somber mystery of his flashing eyes, the tender courtesy of his sympathetic manners, which made them not only like the man, but improve rapidly and charmingly under his guidance.

Still, this was the curious point, as Sylvain had discovered—there was always an impassioned end to this triumphal progress, and the relations of master and pupil abruptly terminated. The pupil, after an almost tender friendship with the teacher, would be startled by a sudden inexplicable coldness and a dismissal so abrupt, rough, and peremptory, as to admit of no protest; else invited to go to Mme. Kislov’s apartment to practice some original music on his own piano, one of incomparable tone. In the last case, the pupil was never taught again; in the second case the pupil never returned to the wife’s apartment to practice a second time. The circumstances, as Sylvain found. When he personally investigated the cases of the favored pupils invited to practice at Kislov’s house, were mainly the same with one and all.

The case of Mlle. Swartz, for instance, the daughter of a German concierge. She was a brilliant blonde, young, about 17 years, with a very fair voice and preparing to go on the stage. A plump, good-natured soul, full of archness and a frank grace that would greatly aid her in her profession, she was the picture of joyous health; a rosy Hebe of Saxon lineage, with the blue eyes of Franconia and the yellow locks of the English girl.

She was received at Kislov’s house with delighted courtesy by the tutor and with gracious ease by madame, his wife. The team room was rather dark, shaded by crimson curtains that shed a deep glow on everything, and in the air a strong, tropical odor of perfume that was somewhat oppressive. Mlle. Swartz’s faith and admiration for her teacher were unbounded, though mingled with a little awe, which made her feel confused and a little dizzy when, presently, after a little chat, Kislov advanced to lead her to the piano, a confusion that did not wear off, but rather increased as she began to play the opening bars of a piece of music. Kislov accompanying her with a flute and Mme. Kislov occasionally chiming in with a chord on the guitar.

All at once there was a blank, and when she came to herself, she was at an open window, and Mme. Kislov was bending over her with gentle solicitude.

“You are better now?” she asked. “You are not alarmed, my dear? The room is too warm, and made you faint.”

Then Kislov, in his deep, sonorous voice added: “Stafosta, you had better call a carriage and accompany Mlle. Swartz home.

Unhappily, owing to the dizziness and languor that possessed her, Mlle. Swartz scarcely noticed anything. All she thought of or desired was to be taken home, which was speedily done.

She was as white as linen, and frightened her people cruelly. But Mme. Kislov explained it as the result of a fainting fit and declared that she would be quite well the next day. She was not well the next day, however, and it was fully three months before the deadly pallor left her. Meanwhile a note had come from Kislov, stating that, owing to unavoidable circumstances, &c., he would not be able to permit Mlle. Swartz to resume her studies under his direction—something she had no intention of doing, her liking and reverence having given place to an invincible repugnance.

Four others among Kislov’s pupils, Sylvain found, had suffered almost identical experiences with those of Mlle. Swartz. He was still pondering the mystery, when a sixth case came to his ears that was exciting interest in a considerably higher circle. A Mlle. Goijoux-Enchuysen, daughter of a rich Dutch banker, who had been in Paris since 1868, and also been taking music lessons from Kislov. She was as perfect a blonde as Mlle. Swartz, but delicate, less robust and exceedingly nervous. She returned from her visit to Kislov’s house in a dead swoon, followed by fever and delirium.

In seeking to quiet her restless tossings the nurse found the pillow supporting her head stained with blood and examination disclosed a small wound on the back of the neck from which the blood oozed freely. A surgeon was promptly called, who found the hemorrhage, though small, stubbornly persistent and only to be conquered by powerful styptics. The character of the wound also puzzled him greatly, being, as he said, with the attending bleeding, singularly like an exaggerated leech bite.

Kislov stoutly denied that she had been hurt while with him, and the doctor could not dispute it, since he had found no trace of it in his first examination of his patient. He was, nevertheless, worried enough to appeal to the police for particulars, concerning Kislov and thus it came to Sylvain’s ears.

Sylvain called at once on the doctor, and finally induced him to see Mlle. Swartz and the other pupils of Kislov similarly troubled. Three weeks later Jean Kislov and wife were summoned before the Judge d’Instruction—Sylvain had made his case.  

Kislov at first haughtily refused to answer, but finally admitted that he was not Jean Kislov, but the Comte Hadnaji Jotintzo; that his wife was the Comtesse Starnoska, and that his Hungarian estate lay on the Teiss, near the town of Madriega. The practices attributed to him were ridiculous rubbish and simply incredible that the authorities of enlightened Paris should be touched with the childish superstition of ignorant peasant boors.

Mlle. Swartz and the other pupils called—Mlle. Goijoux-Enchuysen being still too ill to appear—and testified to the facts already told. The surgeon of Mlle. Goijoux-Enchuysen, however, appeared, and testified to his patient’s condition. She was as feeble as a babe, as if sapped of all strength, and though superficial in depth, the character of the wound was such that he would stake his reputation on the fact that she had either been cupped there or that the wound had been sucked. The neck of Mlle. Swartz, also the other four pupils, showed a small scar, precisely in the position of the wound on his patient’s neck.

Then Mlle. Leonide Saumaise was called, a handsome blonde, with a resolute chin, but a face betraying the pallor of recent illness. In obedience to the instruction of M. Sylvain, she had applied to Kislov for music lessons; had been received into his classes, and at last invited to his house, according to the regular programme.

Briefly, she was a spy, and her object to find out the truth of Kislov’s practices for the information of the police. Sylvain watched her movements and was always at hand in case his services were needed, and she herself was provided with ammonia and stimulants to enable her to resist the stupor that had vanquished the others. She had succumbed, however, like the rest, and recovered to find herself pale and faint, as if from copious bleeding.

Instead of going or being taken home at once like the others, she had gone immediately with M. Sylvain to the doctor, the same whose testimony had just been taken and who attended Mlle. Goijoux-Euchysen, and had her neck examined. There was no pain, and at first no appearance of a wound, but the microscope revealed a place over which a sort of membranous film had been skillfully applied. This removed disclosed a shallow lancet wound, the bleeding from which had been checked with styptics and the cut closed with consummate skill.

Here the examination had to close for the day to be resumed on the morrow, and Comte Jotintzo and his wife, under heavy bonds, allowed to go home, but under the secret surveillance of Sylvain, still determined to keep the couple in constant sight.

Armed with a provisional warrant, he took up his watch in a room that he had hired for the purpose immediately beneath the apartment of Kislov and his wife.

Everything seemed as usual, but toward midnight Sylvain was suddenly startled by a piercing shriek in the room above him and a heavy fall. Without losing a second, he darted upstairs and burst open the door. Here a scene met his gaze never to be forgotten.

The gas-jets flamed high, the room was filled with a stifling odor, and on the floor in her night robe, white and still as marble, lay the Comtesse full length, with the Comte kneeling beside her, his lips glued to her neck.

As Sylvain burst the lock he turned upon him eyes glaring like a madman’s, his face and shirt were bespattered with blood, and his mouth and chin literally dripping gore. Even as Sylvain looked the wretch dropped his head and seized again the throat of his victim, snarling and gulping like a feeding tiger.

Recovering himself the officer leaped forward, pistol in hand, but Jotintzo, with a wild cry and bound, sprung to his feet, thrust him like a feather out of his way and fled the room. Sylvain vainly firing upon him as he ran.

The alarm was given and surgeon summoned, but Mme. Jotintzo never regained consciousness. Her neck and flesh were frightfully torn and she died during the night. Her husband, escaping for the moment, was two days later found in the wood of Vincennes, and found dead, as the post-mortem demonstrated, from arsenical poisoning. His wife’s blood had killed him, though the precautions she had taken to preserve her own life had failed of their purpose.

Examination of the apartment showed that the Comte produced insensibility in his victims by means of a preparation of ether, disguised by strong perfumes and diffused by the piano keys. Once overcome, he renewed the dose as long as needed. This apparatus, together with another of rubber, constructed for tapping a vein without injuring the integuments, a box of styptic ointment, and one of leaf fat skin for the closing of incisions, settled the fact that the wretch was fully equipped for the gratification of his horrible appetites and to escape detection.

Moreover, Jotintzo’s vampirism was well known to his family. He had killed two other wives by the same mad thirst for human blood, and had been forced by his relatives to marry this Styrian arsenic-eater, believing she would be safe. In a word, she was Kislov’s keeper—a woman of low birth, who knew whom she was marrying, and who consented to live with him and prevent his doing murder, at the same time permit him a moderate indulgence in his devilish appetites whenever it could be done safely, she always to approve the victim, be present at the time and regulate the quantity of blood taken.  Mme. Kislov had met the fate she deserved.

Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 26 June 1892: p. 17 

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil really cannot censure the negligent parents of these young lady pupils sufficiently. Are they mad? Entrusting their ewe-lambs to a foreigner, a Count, dressed all in black, with pale skin and flashing eyes! With incarnadined lips! Do these parents not read serialized Gothic novels? 

However Mrs Daffodil is full of admiration for the notions of ether being released by piano keys and the Styrian arsenic-eater’s blood poisoning her vampiric husband. They are truly inspired ideas and deserve a wider and more practical application.

For a truly gorge-rising post of another human vampire–from 1870 New York–please visit this Haunted Ohio blog link.

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.


The Black Cat Horror: 1880

black cat2

Winter set in very early that year, and it was extraordinarily cold. By late fall, they were cutting ice two feet thick on the canal, and storing it in the great ice houses which then lined the banks. A certain man had died, when the weather was at its coldest, and I was one of the three men chosen to keep the night watch.

The body was laid out in the parlor of the home on an old-fashioned bier, which was too short, as he was a very tall man, and was covered with a black pall, which hung down over the feet. There was no fire in the room, and the window was opened about two inches, with the result that the corpse was frozen as hard as marble. Notwithstanding this, the undertaker left a jar of some embalming fluid, with which the body was to be covered every two or three hours. We three sat in another room, and punctually at the proper hours performed this gruesome function, whiling away the rest of the time as best we might.

Just as the clock struck midnight we heard one of the women come downstairs to prepare some coffee and food for us, and I suggested that before we partook of it we should attend to the body again. We crossed the wide hall, the wind moaning in gusts around the house, and the freezing atmosphere already chilling our blood, and entered the parlor. I went in first, the candle in my hand. I had taken two or three steps when I stopped, simply appalled. One leg of the frozen corpse was rising and falling beneath the pall, silently, but unmistakably, as though kicking in convulsive agony. Peterman, a powerful young German, who was next to me, caught sight of it the next moment, and, throwing his hands, with a cry of “My God!” fell fainting to the floor.

How long I stood gazing at the ghastly movement I do not know. The hot tallow fell unheeded from my hand, until it formed a little mound. At length I was aroused by Peterman coming to his senses, and commencing to vomit terribly. This changed the current of my thoughts, and I ran out for a basin. Before I could return he saw the leg move again, and fell in another swoon. Finding him thus, my fear suddenly left me, and I was determined to solve the mystery. I walked to the bier and pulled back the pall.

I found there a lean and savage black cat, gnawing at one of the frozen legs, and the arching of whose back, in the effort to tear the flesh, had caused the horrible appearance. Though I knocked it away and kicked it, the brute, with eyes glowing like coals, sprang back each time to its awful meal and I dared not touch it with my hands for fear a bite or scratch from those tainted fangs and claws should cause blood poisoning. It was literally mad with hunger. At length I fetched a long, heavy bootjack, and beat it over the head with that until it lay still, when I threw it out of doors. The only way it could have gotten in was through the window, but how it squeezed through such a narrow aperture is a mystery. Peterman was sick in bed for months after the shock, while as for our third companion, he ran at Peterman’s first scream and did not appear at all.

Sidney Journal, December, 1897

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil thanks Mr Rich Wallace of the Shelby County Historical Society for unearthing this dire eyewitness account of an event which occurred in Cynthian Township, Ohio in the fall of 1880.  In a case of art imitating life, the Ohio author, Ambrose Bierce [1842–1914] wrote the equally dire “John Mortonson’s Funeral,” published in Can Such Things Be? [1893]  The ignorant and superstitious held that if a cat jumped over a corpse, the dead person would become a vampire.

For more tales of malign cats, please see this post at the Haunted Ohio blog. The story above is also found in The Face in the Window. Other stories of cats as a menace at wakes may be found in The Victorian Book of the Dead, available as a paperback here and at other online retailers (or ask your library or local bookstore to order it) and for Kindle.

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.


Vampire Superstition in Pennsylvania: 1893

killing vampireAs it is the Eve of St. George’s Day, when, according to the Reverend Montague Summers, all evil things, including vampires, have full sway, here is a story of

Vampire Superstition in Pennsylvania

In a paper recently read before the New York Folk-lore Society, Mr. Lee J. Vance narrates some curious facts showing the survival of the vampire superstition among the Hungarian miners in Pennsylvania. One of these miners at Antrim, who was suffering from consumption, conceived the idea that his suffocation and shortness of breath was caused by the ghost of a former boss, who in life had tyrannized over him, sitting on his breast and sucking his life-blood. In Hungary, ghosts who thus prey on the living are exorcised by burning the hearts which beat in the bodies they inhabited before death. The proof that a body is that of a vampire is a heart still fresh and full of blood when the rest of the corpse may be decayed. When a heart which is thus proved to be that of a vampire is burned the live person who has been the ghost’s victim recovers from the effects of the visitation. Believing all this implicitly, the miner, aided by his brother, dug up the corpse of the dead boss and cut out the heart. It was found to be fresh and full of blood, as they expected, and they accordingly burned it, with full faith that good results would follow to the sufferer from consumption. The immediate result was the arrest of the disturbers of the dead. They were not prosecuted, however, allowances being made for their ignorance. In spite of the burning of the boss’ heart the consumptive miner, although he professed at first to feel perfectly well, died not long afterward.

Times-Picayune [New Orleans, LA] 24 April, 1893: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The custom was well-known in New England, where it was believed that burning and ingesting the deceased’s heart would prevent “The White Death,” as consumption was called, from spreading to the rest of the family. Sadly, it did not.

For more on blood-drinkers of various sorts, please see this post  and this at the Haunted Ohio blog.

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.