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Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf

Thanks to Balladeer’s Blog, I became aware of another Victorian Gothic horror penny dreadful, Wagner the Wehr-Wolf. It was written by George William MacArthur Reynolds (1814-1879) and serialized in Reynold’s Miscellany between November 6, 1846 and July 24, 1847. Later, it was published in novel form by Hurst & Company Publishers, New York. During his lifetime, G.M. Reynolds was considered the “Master of the Penny Dreadful” and as popular as Charles Dickens. Few people have heard of him, nowadays. Yet, his werewolf story was one of the first to be written in England.

EXCERPT:

WAGNER, THE WEHR-WOLF.

By GEORGE W. M. REYNOLDS.

NEW YORK
HURST & COMPANY
Publishers

PART I.

PROLOGUE.

It was the month of January, 1516.

The night was dark and tempestuous; the thunder growled around; the lightning flashed at short intervals: and the wind swept furiously along in sudden and fitful gusts.

The streams of the great Black Forest of Germany babbled in playful melody no more, but rushed on with deafening din, mingling their torrent roar with the wild creaking of the huge oaks, the rustling of the firs, the howling of the affrighted wolves, and the hollow voices of the storm.

The dense black clouds were driving restlessly athwart the sky; and when the vivid lightning gleamed forth with rapid and eccentric glare, it seemed as if the dark jaws of some hideous monster, floating high above, opened to vomit flame.

And as the abrupt but furious gusts of wind swept through the forest, they raised strange echoes—as if the impervious mazes of that mighty wood were the abode of hideous fiends and evil spirits, who responded in shrieks, moans, and lamentations to the fearful din of the tempest.

It was, indeed, an appalling night!

An old—old man sat in his cottage on the verge of the Black Forest.

He had numbered ninety years; his head was completely bald—his mouth was toothless—his long beard was white as snow, and his limbs were feeble and trembling.

He was alone in the world; his wife, his children, his grandchildren, all his relations, in fine, save one, had preceded him on that long, last voyage, from which no traveler returns.

And that one was a grand-daughter, a beauteous girl of sixteen, who had hitherto been his solace and his comfort, but who had suddenly disappeared—he knew not how—a few days previously  to the time when we discover him seated thus lonely in his poor cottage.

But perhaps she also was dead! An accident might have snatched her away from him, and sent her spirit to join those of her father and mother, her sisters and her brothers, whom a terrible pestilence—the Black Death—hurried to the tomb a few years before.

No: the old man could not believe that his darling granddaughter was no more—for he had sought her throughout the neighboring district of the Black Forest, and not a trace of her was to be seen. Had she fallen down a precipice, or perished by the ruthless murderer’s hand, he would have discovered her mangled corpse: had she become the prey of the ravenous wolves, certain signs of her fate would have doubtless somewhere appeared.

The sad—the chilling conviction therefore, went to the old man’s heart, that the only being left to solace him on earth, had deserted him; and his spirit was bowed down in despair.

Who now would prepare his food, while he tended his little flock? who was there to collect the dry branches in the forest, for the winter’s fuel, while the aged shepherd watched a few sheep that he possessed? who would now spin him warm clothing to protect his weak and trembling limbs?

“Oh! Agnes,” he murmured, in a tone indicative of a breaking heart, “why couldst thou have thus abandoned me? Didst thou quit the old man to follow some youthful lover, who will buoy thee up with bright hopes, and then deceive thee? O Agnes—my darling! hast thou left me to perish without a soul to close my eyes?”

It was painful how that ancient shepherd wept.

Suddenly a loud knock at the door of the cottage aroused him from his painful reverie; and he hastened, as fast as his trembling limbs would permit him, to answer the summons.

He opened the door; and a tall man, apparently about forty years of age, entered the humble dwelling. His light hair would have been magnificent indeed, were it not sorely neglected; his blue eyes were naturally fine and intelligent, but fearful now to meet, so wild and wandering were their glances: his form was tall and admirably symmetrical, but prematurely bowed by the weight of sorrow, and his attire was of costly material, but indicative of inattention even more than it was travel-soiled.

The old man closed the door, and courteously drew a stool near the fire for the stranger who had sought in his cottage a refuge against the fury of the storm.

He also placed food before him; but the stranger touched it not—horror and dismay appearing to have taken possession of his soul.

Suddenly the thunder which had hitherto growled at a distance, burst above the humble abode; and the wind swept by with so violent a gust, that it shook the little tenement to its foundation, and filled the neighboring forest with strange, unearthly noises.

 Then the countenance of the stranger expressed such ineffable horror, amounting to a fearful agony, that the old man was alarmed, and stretched out his hand to grasp a crucifix that hung over the chimney-piece; but his mysterious guest made a forbidding sign of so much earnestness mingled with such proud authority, that the aged shepherd sank back into his seat without touching the sacred symbol.

The roar of the thunder past—the shrieking, whistling, gushing wind became temporarily lulled into low moans and subdued lamentations, amid the mazes of the Black Forest; and the stranger grew more composed.

“Dost thou tremble at the storm?” inquired the old man.

“I am unhappy,” was the evasive and somewhat impatient reply. “Seek not to know more of me—beware how you question me. But you, old man, are not happy! The traces of care seem to mingle with the wrinkles of age upon your brow!”

The shepherd narrated, in brief and touching terms, the unaccountable disappearance of his much-beloved granddaughter Agnes.

The stranger listened abstractedly at first; but afterward he appeared to reflect profoundly for several minutes.

“Your lot is wretched, old man,” said he at length: “if you live a few years longer, that period must be passed in solitude and cheerlessness:—if you suddenly fall ill you must die the lingering death of famine, without a soul to place a morsel of food, or the cooling cup to your lips; and when you shall be no more, who will follow you to the grave? There are no habitations nigh; the nearest village is half-a-day’s journey distant; and ere the peasants of that hamlet, or some passing traveler, might discover that the inmate of this hut had breathed his last, the wolves from the forest would have entered and mangled your corpse.”

“Talk not thus!” cried the old man, with a visible shudder; then darting a half-terrified, half-curious glance at his guest, he said, “but who are you that speak in this awful strain—this warning voice?”

Again the thunder rolled, with crashing sound, above the cottage; and once more the wind swept by, laden, as it seemed, with the shrieks and groans of human beings in the agonies of death.

The stranger maintained a certain degree of composure only by means of a desperate effort, but he could not altogether subdue a wild flashing of the eyes and a ghastly change of the countenance—signs of a profoundly felt terror.

“Again I say, ask me not who I am!” he exclaimed, when the thunder and the gust had passed. “My soul recoils from the bare idea of pronouncing my own accursed name! But—unhappy as you see me—crushed, overwhelmed with deep affliction as you behold me—anxious, but unable to repent for the past as I am, and filled with appalling dread for the future as I now proclaim myself to be, still is my power far, far beyond that limit which hems mortal energies within so small a sphere. Speak, old man—wouldst thou change thy condition?  For to me—and to me alone of all human beings—belongs the means of giving thee new life—of bestowing upon thee the vigor of youth, of rendering that stooping form upright and strong, of restoring fire to those glazing eyes, and beauty to that wrinkled, sunken, withered countenance—of endowing thee, in a word, with a fresh tenure of existence and making that existence sweet by the aid of treasures so vast that no extravagance can dissipate them!”

A strong though indefinite dread assailed the old man as this astounding proffer was rapidly opened, in all its alluring details, to his mind;—and various images of terror presented themselves to his imagination;—but these feelings were almost immediately dominated by a wild and ardent hope, which became the more attractive and exciting in proportion as a rapid glance at his helpless, wretched, deserted condition led him to survey the contrast between what he then was, and what, if the stranger spoke truly, he might so soon become.

The stranger saw that he had made the desired impression; and he continued thus:

“Give but your assent, old man, and not only will I render thee young, handsome, and wealthy; but I will endow thy mind with an intelligence to match that proud position. Thou shalt go forth into the world to enjoy all those pleasures, those delights, and those luxuries, the names of which are even now scarcely known to thee!”

“And what is the price of this glorious boon?” asked the old man, trembling with mingled joy and terror through every limb.

“There are two conditions,” answered the stranger, in a low, mysterious tone. “The first is, that you become the companion of my wanderings for one year and a half from the present time, until the hour of sunset, on the 30th of July, 1517, when we must part forever, you to go whithersoever your inclinations may guide you, and I—— But of that, no matter!” he added, hastily, with a sudden motion as if of deep mental agony, and with wildly flashing eyes.

The old man shrank back in dismay from his mysterious guest: the thunder rolled again, the rude gust swept fiercely by, the dark forest rustled awfully, and the stranger’s torturing feelings were evidently prolonged by the voices of the storm.

A pause ensued; and the silence was at length broken by the old man, who said, in a hollow and tremulous tone, “To the first condition I would willingly accede. But the second?”

“That you prey upon the human race, whom I hate; because of all the world I alone am so deeply, so terribly accurst!” was the ominously fearful yet only dimly significant reply.

The old man shook his head, scarcely comprehending the words of his guest, and yet daring not to ask to be more enlightened.

“Listen!” said the stranger, in a hasty but impressive voice: “I require a companion, one who has no human ties, and who still ministers to my caprices,—who will devote himself wholly and solely to watch me in my dark hours, and endeavor to recall me  back to enjoyment and pleasure, who, when he shall be acquainted with my power, will devise new means in which to exercise it, for the purpose of conjuring up those scenes of enchantment and delight that may for a season win me away from thought. Such a companion do I need for a period of one year and a half; and you are, of all men, the best suited to my design. But the Spirit whom I must invoke to effect the promised change in thee, and by whose aid you can be given back to youth and comeliness, will demand some fearful sacrifice at your hands. And the nature of that sacrifice—the nature of the condition to be imposed—I can well divine!”

“Name the sacrifice—name the condition!” cried the old man, eagerly. “I am so miserable—so spirit-broken—so totally without hope in this world, that I greedily long to enter upon that new existence which you promised me! Say, then, what is the condition?”

“That you prey upon the human race, whom he hates as well as I,” answered the stranger.

“Again these awful words!” ejaculated the old man, casting trembling glances around him.

“Yes—again those words,” echoed the mysterious guest, looking with his fierce burning eyes into the glazed orbs of the aged shepherd. “And now learn their import!” he continued, in a solemn tone. “Knowest thou not that there is a belief in many parts of our native land that at particular seasons certain doomed men throw off the human shape and take that of ravenous wolves?”

“Oh, yes—yes—I have indeed heard of those strange legends in which the Wehr-Wolf is represented in such appalling colors!” exclaimed the old man, a terrible suspicion crossing his mind.

“’Tis said that at sunset on the last day of every month the mortal, to whom belongs the destiny of the Wehr-Wolf, must exchange his natural form for that of the savage animal; in which horrible shape he must remain until the moment when the morrow’s sun dawns upon the earth.”

“The legend that told thee this spoke truly,” said the stranger. “And now dost thou comprehend the condition which must be imposed upon thee?”

“I do—I do!” murmured the old man with a fearful shudder. “But he who accepts that condition makes a compact with the evil one, and thereby endangers his immortal soul!”

“Not so,” was the reply. “There is naught involved in this condition which—— But hesitate not,” added the stranger, hastily: “I have no time to waste in bandying words. Consider all I offer you: in another hour you shall be another man!”

“I accept the boon—and on the conditions stipulated!” exclaimed the shepherd.

“’Tis well, Wagner——”

“What! you know my name!” cried the old man. “And yet, meseems, I did not mention it to thee.”

“Canst thou not already perceive that I am no common mortal?” demanded the stranger, bitterly. “And who I am, and  whence I derive my power, all shall be revealed to thee so soon as the bond is formed that must link us for eighteen months together! In the meantime, await me here!”

And the mysterious stranger quitted the cottage abruptly, and plunged into the depths of the Black Forest.

One hour elapsed ere he returned—one mortal hour, during which Wagner sat bowed over his miserably scanty fire, dreaming of pleasure, youth, riches, and enjoyment; converting, in imagination, the myriad sparks which shone upon the extinguishing embers into piles of gold, and allowing his now uncurbed fancy to change the one single room of the wretched hovel into a splendid saloon, surrounded by resplendent mirrors and costly hangings, while the untasted fare for the stranger on the rude fir-table, became transformed, in his idea, into a magnificent banquet laid out, on a board glittering with plate, lustrous with innumerable lamps, and surrounded by an atmosphere fragrant with the most exquisite perfumes.

The return of the stranger awoke the old man from his charming dream, during which he had never once thought of the conditions whereby he was to purchase the complete realization of the vision.

“Oh! what a glorious reverie you have dissipated!” exclaimed Wagner. “Fulfill but one tenth part of that delightful dream——”

“I will fulfill it all!” interrupted the stranger: then, producing a small vial from the bosom of his doublet, he said, “Drink!”

The old man seized the bottle, and speedily drained it to the dregs.

He immediately fell back upon the seat, in a state of complete lethargy.

But it lasted not for many minutes; and when he awoke again, he experienced new and extraordinary sensations. His limbs were vigorous, his form was upright as an arrow; his eyes, for many years dim and failing, seemed gifted with the sight of an eagle, his head was warm with a natural covering; not a wrinkle remained upon his brow nor on his cheeks; and, as he smiled with mingled wonderment and delight, the parting lips revealed a set of brilliant teeth. And it seemed, too, as if by one magic touch the long fading tree of his intellect had suddenly burst into full foliage, and every cell of his brain was instantaneously stored with an amount of knowledge, the accumulation of which stunned him for an instant, and in the next appeared as familiar to him as if he had never been without it.

“Oh! great and powerful being, whomsoever thou art,” exclaimed Wagner, in the full, melodious voice of a young man of twenty-one, “how can I manifest to thee my deep, my boundless gratitude for this boon which thou hast conferred upon me!”

“By thinking no more of thy lost grand-child Agnes, but by preparing to follow me whither I shall now lead thee,” replied the stranger.

“Command me: I am ready to obey in all things,” cried Wagner. “But one word ere we set forth—who art thou, wondrous man?”

 “Henceforth I have no secrets from thee, Wagner,” was the answer, while the stranger’s eyes gleamed with unearthly luster; then, bending forward, he whispered a few words in the other’s ear.

Wagner started with a cold and fearful shudder as if at some appalling announcement; but he uttered not a word of reply—for his master beckoned him imperiously away from the humble cottage.

(To continue reading Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf, the book can be purchased on Amazon or downloaded for free at Project Gutenberg.)

Dawn Pisturino

September 21, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Varney the Vampire; Or, the Feast of Blood

Project Gutenberg

Varney the Vampire; Or, the Feast of Blood, was published in serial form as a penny dreadful in 109 episodes between 1845 and 1847. These episodes were subsequently collected into a three-volume work. Both Thomas Peckett Prest (1810-1859) and James Malcolm Rymer (1814-1884) have been credited with authorship, with most scholars leaning towards Rymer. The series was published by E. Lloyd, located at 12 Salisbury Square, Fleet Street, London, England. Varney is a fine example of Victorian Gothic horror literature that may have inspired such great writers as Bram Stoker and Edgar Allan Poe. Barnabas Collins, the daytime soap opera vampire created by producer Dan Curtis for Dark Shadows, may have been modeled after Varney the Vampire.

Excerpt:

CHAPTER I.

——”How graves give up their dead.

And how the night air hideous grows

With shrieks!”

MIDNIGHT.—THE HAIL-STORM.—THE DREADFUL VISITOR.—THE VAMPYRE.

The solemn tones of an old cathedral clock have announced midnight—the air is thick and heavy—a strange, death like stillness pervades all nature. Like the ominous calm which precedes some more than usually terrific outbreak of the elements, they seem to have paused even in their ordinary fluctuations, to gather a terrific strength for the great effort. A faint peal of thunder now comes from far off. Like a signal gun for the battle of the winds to begin, it appeared to awaken them from their lethargy, and one awful, warring hurricane swept over a whole city, producing more devastation in the four or five minutes it lasted, than would a half century of ordinary phenomena.

It was as if some giant had blown upon some toy town, and scattered many of the buildings before the hot blast of his terrific breath; for as suddenly as that blast of wind had come did it cease, and all was as still and calm as before.

Sleepers awakened, and thought that what they had heard must be the confused chimera of a dream. They trembled and turned to sleep again.

All is still—still as the very grave. Not a sound breaks the magic of repose. What is that—a strange, pattering noise, as of a million of fairy feet? It is hail—yes, a hail-storm has burst over the city. Leaves are dashed from the trees, mingled with small boughs; windows that lie most opposed to the direct fury of the pelting particles of ice are broken, and the rapt repose that before was so remarkable in its intensity, is exchanged for a noise which, in its accumulation, drowns every cry of surprise or consternation which here and there arose from persons who found their houses invaded by the storm.

Now and then, too, there would come a sudden gust of wind that in its strength, as it blew laterally, would, for a moment, hold millions of the hailstones suspended in mid air, but it was only to dash them with redoubled force in some new direction, where more mischief was to be done.

Oh, how the storm raged! Hail—rain—wind. It was, in very truth, an awful night.


There is an antique chamber in an ancient house. Curious and quaint carvings adorn the walls, and the large chimney-piece is a curiosity of itself. The ceiling is low, and a large bay window, from roof to floor, looks to the west. The window is latticed, and filled with curiously painted glass and rich stained pieces, which send in a strange, yet beautiful light, when sun or moon shines into the apartment. There is but one portrait in that room, although the walls seem panelled for the express purpose of containing a series of pictures. That portrait is of a young man, with a pale face, a stately brow, and a strange expression about the eyes, which no one cared to look on twice.

There is a stately bed in that chamber, of carved walnut-wood is it made, rich in design and elaborate in execution; one of those works of art which owe their existence to the Elizabethan era. It is hung with heavy silken and damask furnishing; nodding feathers are at its corners—covered with dust are they, and they lend a funereal aspect to the room. The floor is of polished oak.

God! how the hail dashes on the old bay window! Like an occasional discharge of mimic musketry, it comes clashing, beating, and cracking upon the small panes; but they resist it—their small size saves them; the wind, the hail, the rain, expend their fury in vain.

The bed in that old chamber is occupied. A creature formed in all fashions of loveliness lies in a half sleep upon that ancient couch—a girl young and beautiful as a spring morning. Her long hair has escaped from its confinement and streams over the blackened coverings of the bedstead; she has been restless in her sleep, for the clothing of the bed is in much confusion. One arm is over her head, the other hangs nearly off the side of the bed near to which she lies. A neck and bosom that would have formed a study for the rarest sculptor that ever Providence gave genius to, were half disclosed. She moaned slightly in her sleep, and once or twice the lips moved as if in prayer—at least one might judge so, for the name of Him who suffered for all came once faintly from them.

She has endured much fatigue, and the storm does not awaken her; but it can disturb the slumbers it does not possess the power to destroy entirely. The turmoil of the elements wakes the senses, although it cannot entirely break the repose they have lapsed into.

Oh, what a world of witchery was in that mouth, slightly parted, and exhibiting within the pearly teeth that glistened even in the faint light that came from that bay window. How sweetly the long silken eyelashes lay upon the cheek. Now she moves, and one shoulder is entirely visible—whiter, fairer than the spotless clothing of the bed on which she lies, is the smooth skin of that fair creature, just budding into womanhood, and in that transition state which presents to us all the charms of the girl—almost of the child, with the more matured beauty and gentleness of advancing years.

Was that lightning? Yes—an awful, vivid, terrifying flash—then a roaring peal of thunder, as if a thousand mountains were rolling one over the other in the blue vault of Heaven! Who sleeps now in that ancient city? Not one living soul. The dread trumpet of eternity could not more effectually have awakened any one.

The hail continues. The wind continues. The uproar of the elements seems at its height. Now she awakens—that beautiful girl on the antique bed; she opens those eyes of celestial blue, and a faint cry of alarm bursts from her lips. At least it is a cry which, amid the noise and turmoil without, sounds but faint and weak. She sits upon the bed and presses her hands upon her eyes. Heavens! what a wild torrent of wind, and rain, and hail! The thunder likewise seems intent upon awakening sufficient echoes to last until the next flash of forked lightning should again produce the wild concussion of the air. She murmurs a prayer—a prayer for those she loves best; the names of those dear to her gentle heart come from her lips; she weeps and prays; she thinks then of what devastation the storm must surely produce, and to the great God of Heaven she prays for all living things. Another flash—a wild, blue, bewildering flash of lightning streams across that bay window, for an instant bringing out every colour in it with terrible distinctness. A shriek bursts from the lips of the young girl, and then, with eyes fixed upon that window, which, in another moment, is all darkness, and with such an expression of terror upon her face as it had never before known, she trembled, and the perspiration of intense fear stood upon her brow.

“What—what was it?” she gasped; “real, or a delusion? Oh, God, what was it? A figure tall and gaunt, endeavouring from the outside to unclasp the window. I saw it. That flash of lightning revealed it to me. It stood the whole length of the window.”

There was a lull of the wind. The hail was not falling so thickly—moreover, it now fell, what there was of it, straight, and yet a strange clattering sound came upon the glass of that long window. It could not be a delusion—she is awake, and she hears it. What can produce it? Another flash of lightning—another shriek—there could be now no delusion.

A tall figure is standing on the ledge immediately outside the long window. It is its finger-nails upon the glass that produces the sound so like the hail, now that the hail has ceased. Intense fear paralysed the limbs of that beautiful girl. That one shriek is all she can utter—with hands clasped, a face of marble, a heart beating so wildly in her bosom, that each moment it seems as if it would break its confines, eyes distended and fixed upon the window, she waits, froze with horror. The pattering and clattering of the nails continue. No word is spoken, and now she fancies she can trace the darker form of that figure against the window, and she can see the long arms moving to and fro, feeling for some mode of entrance. What strange light is that which now gradually creeps up into the air? red and terrible—brighter and brighter it grows. The lightning has set fire to a mill, and the reflection of the rapidly consuming building falls upon that long window. There can be no mistake. The figure is there, still feeling for an entrance, and clattering against the glass with its long nails, that appear as if the growth of many years had been untouched. She tries to scream again but a choking sensation comes over her, and she cannot. It is too dreadful—she tries to move—each limb seems weighed down by tons of lead—she can but in a hoarse faint whisper cry,—

“Help—help—help—help!”

And that one word she repeats like a person in a dream. The red glare of the fire continues. It throws up the tall gaunt figure in hideous relief against the long window. It shows, too, upon the one portrait that is in the chamber, and that portrait appears to fix its eyes upon the attempting intruder, while the flickering light from the fire makes it look fearfully lifelike. A small pane of glass is broken, and the form from without introduces a long gaunt hand, which seems utterly destitute of flesh. The fastening is removed, and one-half of the window, which opens like folding doors, is swung wide open upon its hinges.

And yet now she could not scream—she could not move. “Help!—help!—help!” was all she could say. But, oh, that look of terror that sat upon her face, it was dreadful—a look to haunt the memory for a lifetime—a look to obtrude itself upon the happiest moments, and turn them to bitterness.

The figure turns half round, and the light falls upon the face. It is perfectly white—perfectly bloodless. The eyes look like polished tin; the lips are drawn back, and the principal feature next to those dreadful eyes is the teeth—the fearful looking teeth—projecting like those of some wild animal, hideously, glaringly white, and fang-like. It approaches the bed with a strange, gliding movement. It clashes together the long nails that literally appear to hang from the finger ends. No sound comes from its lips. Is she going mad—that young and beautiful girl exposed to so much terror? she has drawn up all her limbs; she cannot even now say help. The power of articulation is gone, but the power of movement has returned to her; she can draw herself slowly along to the other side of the bed from that towards which the hideous appearance is coming.

But her eyes are fascinated. The glance of a serpent could not have produced a greater effect upon her than did the fixed gaze of those awful, metallic-looking eyes that were bent on her face. Crouching down so that the gigantic height was lost, and the horrible, protruding, white face was the most prominent object, came on the figure. What was it?—what did it want there?—what made it look so hideous—so unlike an inhabitant of the earth, and yet to be on it?

Now she has got to the verge of the bed, and the figure pauses. It seemed as if when it paused she lost the power to proceed. The clothing of the bed was now clutched in her hands with unconscious power. She drew her breath short and thick. Her bosom heaves, and her limbs tremble, yet she cannot withdraw her eyes from that marble-looking face. He holds her with his glittering eye.

The storm has ceased—all is still. The winds are hushed; the church clock proclaims the hour of one: a hissing sound comes from the throat of the hideous being, and he raises his long, gaunt arms—the lips move. He advances. The girl places one small foot from the bed on to the floor. She is unconsciously dragging the clothing with her. The door of the room is in that direction—can she reach it? Has she power to walk?—can she withdraw her eyes from the face of the intruder, and so break the hideous charm? God of Heaven! is it real, or some dream so like reality as to nearly overturn the judgment for ever?

The figure has paused again, and half on the bed and half out of it that young girl lies trembling. Her long hair streams across the entire width of the bed. As she has slowly moved along she has left it streaming across the pillows. The pause lasted about a minute—oh, what an age of agony. That minute was, indeed, enough for madness to do its full work in.

With a sudden rush that could not be foreseen—with a strange howling cry that was enough to awaken terror in every breast, the figure seized the long tresses of her hair, and twining them round his bony hands he held her to the bed. Then she screamed—Heaven granted her then power to scream. Shriek followed shriek in rapid succession. The bed-clothes fell in a heap by the side of the bed—she was dragged by her long silken hair completely on to it again. Her beautifully rounded limbs quivered with the agony of her soul. The glassy, horrible eyes of the figure ran over that angelic form with a hideous satisfaction—horrible profanation. He drags her head to the bed’s edge. He forces it back by the long hair still entwined in his grasp. With a plunge he seizes her neck in his fang-like teeth—a gush of blood, and a hideous sucking noise follows. The girl has swooned, and the vampyre is at his hideous repast!


CHAPTER II.

THE ALARM.—THE PISTOL SHOT.—THE PURSUIT AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.

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Lights flashed about the building, and various room doors opened; voices called one to the other. There was an universal stir and commotion among the inhabitants.

“Did you hear a scream, Harry?” asked a young man, half-dressed, as he walked into the chamber of another about his own age.

“I did—where was it?”

“God knows. I dressed myself directly.”

(To continue reading Varney the Vampire; Or, the Feast of Blood, the book can be purchased on Amazon or downloaded for free at Project Gutenberg.)

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Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: The Marriage Game

Photo from the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice.

Throughout Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet schemes to marry off her five daughters. Driven by anxiety over an uncertain economic future, she struggles to overcome the entailment of her husband’s property, his indolence, and her own feelings of powerlessness, in order to secure their futures.

Marriage, in Austen’s time, was a social and economic necessity, particularly for women. Any single man of means who appeared on the scene became an instant target for cultivation and courtship. Mrs. Bennet expresses this clearly in Chapter One: “A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls.”

Mrs. Bennet is focused solely on the economic advantages of such a marriage. She wastes no time considering the disadvantages. She hopes that Mr. Bingley, the new gentleman in the neighborhood, will fall in love with one of her daughters. regardless of how her daughters feel about it. And she pushes her daughters into competition with all of the other available daughters in the neighborhood. This is her duty as a wife and mother. Even Mr. Bennet, despite his cynicism, recognizes this: “But if we do not venture, somebody else will . . .” He does his duty and makes the necessary introductions to open up opportunities for his daughters to marry well.

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet were subject to the same social and economic pressures when they were young. The question is — did they both marry well? Austen makes it clear throughout the novel that the marriage is not a happy one. Each partner seems disillusioned by the other. Mrs. Bennet accuses her husband of taking pleasure in “vexing” her. Mr. Bennet is aware that twenty-three years of marriage have not helped his wife to “understand his character.” Each partner finds comfort in his or her own interests. Mrs. Bennet distracts herself with matchmaking, local gossip and news, and social duties. Mr. Bennet escapes into his library. They keep up appearances, for the sake of their standing in the neighborhood, but find no pleasure in each other.

Before his death, Mrs. Bennet’s father was an attorney. Her sister married her father’s office clerk, and he eventually took over the practice. Her brother moved to London and became a successful tradesman. Mrs. Bennet improved her economic and social standing by marrying her husband.

As a member of the lower landed gentry, Mr. Bennet has a small estate and an income of two thousand pounds a year. His assets would have been considered modest for that time. But his social status makes him one of the leaders of the local community. And that brings upward mobility to Mrs. Bennet and her family. She seeks to do the same thing for her daughters.

The dark side of Mrs. Bennet’s improved status is the entailment of her husband’s estate. Once her husband dies, the entire estate will be inherited by a distant male cousin, Mr. Collins. This puts Mrs. Bennet and her daughters in a precarious situation. Mrs. Bennet inherited four thousand pounds from her father. But this is not enough money to sustain a family and help her daughters’ marriage prospects. She bitterly points this out to Mr. Collins himself: “It is a grievous affair to my poor girls . . . they will be destitute enough.” Since he is more than willing to marry one of the daughters to make things right, Mrs. Bennet is more than willing to accommodate him.

Mr. Collins improved his economic and social status by gaining the patronage of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. He wants a wife who will meet with Lady de Bourgh’s approval. He is steered toward Elizabeth by Mrs. Bennet since Jane is expected to marry Mr. Bingley. Elizabeth refuses him, however, and Mrs. Bennet is distraught when her husband sides with his daughter. She continues to hound Lizzy, considering her selfish and foolish: “But I tell you what, Miss Lizzy, if you take it into your head to go on refusing every offer of marriage in this way, you will never get a husband at all — and I am sure I do not know who is to maintain you when your father is dead — I shall not be able to keep you — and so I warn you.”

To add salt to the wound, Lizzy’s friend, Charlotte Lucas, “accepted him solely from the pure and disinterested desire of an establishment.” Right away, Mrs. Bennet blames Lizzy and refuses to forgive her for many months. She has been publicly humiliated by her daughter. The Lucas family will ultimately benefit from her husband’s estate.

Mrs. Bennet bitterly resents her husband for the entailment of his estate, and she does not hesitate to remind him. “I do think it is the hardest thing in the world, that your estate should be entailed away from your own children; and I am sure that if I had been you, I should have tried long ago to do something or other about it.”

Mr. Bennet, for his part, had expected to have a son, who would nullify the entailment of his estate and provide for his wife and daughters after his death. Although his wife and children will eventually divide five thousand pounds among themselves, he regrets that he was not more proactive about their futures. His five daughters have no property or income to entice possible marriage partners. He convinces himself that his two eldest daughters, Jane and Elizabeth, “must be respected and valued” wherever they go, so their natural qualities will secure for them appropriate husbands. He, therefore, leaves his daughters to the whims of Fate. And by the end of the book — when Darcy has arranged the Fate and fortune of the Bennet family — he is relieved and grateful, saying to Lizzy, “So much the better. It will save me a world of trouble and economy. Had it been your uncle’s doing, I must and would have paid him; but these violent young lovers carry every thing their own way. I shall offer to pay him to-morrow; he will rant and storm about his love for you, and there will be an end of the matter.”

Lizzy’s father is, therefore, vindicated in his belief that his two eldest daughters will secure worthy husbands for themselves based on their own natural qualities. He, himself, was not so wise. “Captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour, which youth and beauty generally give,” he marries a woman whose natural charms, poor manners, and intellectual ignorance quickly lose his interest. He turns his affection and attention to his daughter, Lizzy, who “has something more of quickness than her sisters,” whom he regards as “silly and ignorant” — just like their mother. His disappointment in his wife and three youngest daughters becomes evident through his sarcastic comments, cynical view of life, and lack of motivation to do more for his family.

Mrs. Bennet’s powerlessness and frustration come through loud and clear. She may have achieved her goal, while young, of marrying well, but once married, her charms can no longer keep Mr. Bennet under her control. Throughout the novel, Mrs. Bennet is characterized as “intolerable.” When her schemes do not come to fruition, she feels herself “barbarously used.” She suddenly becomes ill, retires to her room, cries, curses the world, feels sorry for herself, and imagines the worst catastrophes. She takes no responsibility when Lydia disgraces herself and the family. She takes to her bed, expecting the rest of the family to wait on her hand and foot. Mr. Bennet is so disgusted by her self-absorption and self-pity, he threatens to “do the same; I will sit in my library, in my night cap and powdering gown, and give as much trouble as I can — or, perhaps, I may defer it, till Kitty runs away.” Mrs. Bennet is more of a burden than a help to her husband.

In the end, Mrs. Bennet improves her position in life through marriage, while Mr. Bennet suffers from marrying a woman who is clearly beneath him. Mrs. Bennet takes pride in the marriages of her two eldest daughters, even though her vulgar behavior drives the Bingleys away. Mary remains at home to attend to her mother’s needs. And Mr. Bennet, missing his favorite daughter, Elizabeth, escapes frequently to Pemberley to visit her.

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Ed. Donald Gray. New York: Norton, 2001.

Dawn Pisturino

November 7, 2017

Thomas Edison State University

Copyright 2017-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth vs. Lydia

Photo from the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice.

The novel Pride and Prejudice is a remarkable portrait of Regency England and society’s obsession with marriage. If a woman did not marry — whether for love or financial security — she was doomed to spinsterhood and poverty. Through the use of contrasting characters, expectations, and situations, author Jane Austen highlights Elizabeth’s desire to marry a man who will make her happy, regardless of wealth, which sharply contrasts the goals and desires of her sister Lydia, and her mother, Mrs. Bennet.

Mrs. Bennet’s chief concern is the entailment of her husband’s estate. Once her husband dies, the whole family “will be destitute enough.” Marrying her daughters off is crucial to the family’s future — and she is not too particular about whom they marry. When Lydia disgraces the family, Mrs. Bennet never scolds her daughter but waxes triumphant that one of her daughters will finally be married.

In spite of her ignorance, silliness, and embarrassing behavior, Mrs. Bennet is fulfilling her perceived duty by desperately pushing to get her daughters married.

Lydia, the youngest daughter, is spoiled, indulged, and never held accountable for her questionable behavior. She is almost the mirror image of her mother in every respect because “she has never been taught to think on serious subjects . . . she has been given up on nothing but amusement and vanity. She has been allowed to dispose of her time in the most idle and frivolous manner, and to adopt any opinions that [come] in her way.”

Even the elopement with Wickham appears frivolous, as she brags to her sister, Kitty: “What a good joke it will be! I can hardly write for laughing . . .”

Lydia sees no shame in running off with Wickham. She only cares about her own self-indulgence. Although her family believes that marriage “with such an husband, her misery [is] considered certain,” Lydia cannot envision the consequences of her actions. When she returns to Longbourn after her wedding, the whole family sees that “Lydia [is] Lydia still; untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless.” She immediately demands to replace Jane in the family hierarchy, insisting, “Ah! Jane, I take your place now, and you must go lower, because I am a married woman.” Lydia does not care what kind of man she has married; only that she is married.

Instead of symbolizing the fallen woman, Lydia reflects her mother’s desperation to marry off her daughters at any cost. She is proud of being the first daughter to marry, regardless of the circumstances, saying, “I am sure my sisters must all envy me” — and offers to become the matchmaker for the rest of them. “You may leave one or two of my sisters behind you; and I dare say I shall get husbands for them before the winter is over.” She is oblivious when Elizabeth remarks, “I do not particularly like your way of getting husbands.”

Throughout Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth rejects the dishonesty and superficiality of the “marriage game,” while examining “the unhappy defects of her family.” She loses respect for her parents, despite her father’s affection. Their character flaws will make it difficult for Elizabeth and her sisters to marry well. She does not want to marry for the sake of marriage alone. She wants to marry a man who will complement her and make her happy, even if he has little money or social position.

Although intelligent, judgmental, and keenly observant of others, Elizabeth is blind to her own faults. It is not until she rejects Darcy and reads his letter that Elizabeth honestly examines her own behavior and emotions. “I meant to be uncommonly clever in taking so decided a dislike of him, without any reason.” She realizes that he is the only man that can make her happy.

But it is Elizabeth’s honesty and sincerity that attracts Darcy to her and makes him fall in love. He is willing to change his own attitudes and behavior to win her over. He is even willing to overlook the flaws in her family, and the objections of his own family, in order to marry her. They both have a chance at happiness because they are honest and willing to change.

In this respect, she is uniquely different from Lydia and her mother, who willingly overlook the dishonesty in their relationships and the flaws in themselves in order to conform to society’s expectations about marriage.

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Ed. Donald Gray. New York: Norton, 2001.

Dawn Pisturino

October 18, 2017

Thomas Edison State University

Copyright 2017-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Right Reserved.

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Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: The Dysfunctional Bennets

Photo from the Houstonia

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet clearly depict the typical unhappily married couple whose loveless marriage was prompted by social expectation and confirmed by an economic social contract. Mr. Bennet is witty and intelligent. He likes to escape into his study to read and ruminate. He prefers his second daughter, Elizabeth, because she is most like him. He recognizes that she “has something more of quickness than her sisters.” Mrs. Bennet, on the other hand, is so frivolous, superficial, inappropriate, and self-absorbed, she seems to come from a lower class than her husband. Mr. Bennet consistently responds to his wife with sarcastic comments and regards his three youngest daughters as silly and ignorant — just like his wife.

Although his property is entailed, Mr. Bennet does not seem very motivated to provide for his daughters. He expects them to follow the precepts of society and marry as well as they can, if possible. He is, therefore, willing to go meet Mr. Bingley in order to pave the way for his daughters’ introduction to their new neighbors. He has full faith that his daughters, Jane and Elizabeth, have the sincerity and moral character to find suitable husbands. He does not seem to have much expectation for his younger daughters. Despite Elizabeth’s warning, he is caught by surprise when Lydia disgraces herself. However, Lydia’s disgrace makes him realize that he has not done enough to secure his daughters’ futures. And he goes to the other extreme and threatens to severely restrict Kitty’s life until she is properly married. Mary seems to be overlooked here, as if her only expectation is to become an old maid.

Mr. Bennet recognizes the ludicrousness of a marriage between Elizabeth and Mr. Collins. He knows that Elizabeth is worthy of so much better — unlike his wife, who feels it is “the business of her life” to get her daughters married off, regardless of the unsuitability of the match. Secretly, Mr. Bennet would like to spare his two older daughters the unhappiness and torture of a loveless marriage.

Exposed to the dysfunctional dynamics of her family, Elizabeth is determined to avoid the same fate as her father. She acknowledges his faults, empathizes with him, and longs to escape her mother and younger sisters and their constant nagging and bickering. She disdains superficiality and shallowness because she experiences it every day with her own mother and younger sisters. She hates being pressured to conform to her mother’s irrational will. She is embarrassed by her mother’s uncontrolled tongue and thoughtless behavior. She is humiliated by the carelessness and impropriety displayed by her younger sisters. She wants to be better than all of them. When she sees the same vanity and artificiality in the upper classes, she is unimpressed.

Elizabeth realizes that her family is a hindrance to her chances of securing a happy marriage. She feels this even more acutely when she begins to fall in love with Darcy. When she visits Pemberley and realizes that Darcy is well-regarded and burdened with many responsibilities, she longs to be a part of his world. She fiercely defends herself when Lady Catherine de Bourgh confronts her. And when she finally gives in and accepts Darcy, her father welcomes the marriage as the best course of action for Elizabeth and her family. Darcy has proven that he is a responsible, morally upright man.

The fairy-tale ending is not unreasonable, however. Both Elizabeth and Darcy complement each other in positive ways that convince the reader that a happy marriage will, indeed, be the end result.

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Ed. Donald Gray. New York: Norton, 2001.

Dawn Pisturino

October 3, 2017

Thomas Edison State University

Copyright 2017-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth Bennet

How Elizabeth Bennet Conformed to her Society’s Standards and How She Did Not

Elizabeth Bennet is a conventional country girl whose life revolves around family and social obligations. She believes local gossip and hearsay, enjoys parties and balls, and socializes with the military officers stationed at the nearby village with her younger sisters, Kitty and Lydia. When her mother schemes to get her older sister, Jane, married to the wealthy Mr. Bingley, Elizabeth participates in the plot. She reads, plays the piano, enjoys nature, and does all the things that country girls do. Elizabeth is different, however, because she “has something more of quickness than her sisters.” Elizabeth likes to observe and analyze the people and situations around her.

As a member of the lower landed gentry, Elizabeth understands the importance of marriage, money, and social position. When Mr. Collins asks Elizabeth to marry him, she defies her mother and social expectations by declining. She cannot bring herself to marry someone who cannot make her happy. When Charlotte Lucas turns around and accepts him, Elizabeth is disgusted by her friend’s mercenary reasons for marrying him. She doesn’t share Charlotte’s view that “happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.”

Elizabeth forms a negative first impression of Mr. Darcy and believes all the bad gossip she hears about him. She always reminds him of his bad manners when she sees him, and he does likewise to her. When Darcy finally reveals his love to her, she becomes indignant, points out his flaws, and rejects him — once again, defying family and social expectations. Even the entailment of her father’s estate cannot sway her.

Mr. Wickham entertains Elizabeth, makes her laugh, and appeals to her sexual attraction to him. He is so charming that, if he had money, Mrs. Bennet would heartily approve of a marriage between them. Elizabeth believes all the negative information Wickham imparts about Mr. Darcy and all the positive hearsay she hears about Mr. Wickham. Elizabeth is finally forced to realize Wickham’s bad character after reading Darcy’s letter. She take s a good, long look at herself and admits that “till this moment, I never knew myself.”

Elizabeth recognizes the large social gap between Jane and Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy and herself. She admits to her sister, Jane, that “we are not rich enough, or grand enough, for them.” She is embarrassed by her family’s bad manners and behavior on more than one occasion. She embarrasses herself when she walks to Netherfield Park and presents herself with a muddy dress and shoes. Miss Bingley describes her behavior as “conceited independence.” She understands Darcy’s objections to her family. But her sole concern is with happiness, not wealth and social position.

When Lady Catherine de Bourgh confronts Elizabeth about an impending engagement to Darcy, she responds, “And if I am that choice, why may not I accept him?” And when Lady Catherine admonishes her to be sensible, she says, “He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s daughter; so far we are equal.” Clearly, love and happiness are not dependent on wealth and social class to Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

As Elizabeth learns more about Mr. Darcy, his honesty, character, and responsibilities, she begins to conform to his expectations for her. Finally, she reveals to her sister, Jane, “that we are to be the happiest couple in the world.” Concerned, Jane tells her to “do anything rather than marry without affection.”

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Ed. Donald Gray. New York: Norton, 2001.

Dawn Pisturino

September 27, 2017

Thomas Edison State University

Copyright 2017-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Right Reserved.

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Miss Lizzie’s Tea Party

lamug_miss-lizzie

Miss Lizzie’s Tea Party

by Dawn Pisturino

Illustration by Ken Lamug

I never wanted to attend Miss Lizzie’s tea party, but mama insisted I go.

“Miss Borden is a kind and gentle lady,” she scolded. “I don’t want to hear anymore nonsense about those grisly axe murders! Rich young ladies like Miss Borden don’t go around chopping up people’s heads.”

“But Mama,” I protested. “Miss Lizzie and the maid were the only ones at home. Who else could have chopped off her father’s nose and split his eyeball in two?”

“That’s enough, Olivia,” Mama warned. “You’re going to the party, and that’s final.”

* * *

I had often seen Miss Lizzie sitting in an upstairs window, beckoning the neighborhood children inside for homemade cookies.

Every time she waved at me, my body quivered like gelatin fresh out of the mold. After all, this was the woman accused of hacking up her father and stepmother with a hatchet!

And even though the jury found Miss Lizzie innocent way back in 1893, folks ’round these parts never forget.

But I always reluctantly waved back, as Mama had taught me, and hurried home.

Then the invitation came. Miss Lizzie was hosting an afternoon tea party for all the children in the neighborhood.

Mama was so thrilled, she cleaned and pressed my prettiest, frilliest party dress and bought me a shiny new pair of shoes. “Papa’s law practice has been falling off lately,” she explained. “He needs a wealthy client like Miss Borden to get going again.”

Annie, the housemaid, curled my hair. “You can’t go, Miss Olivia, you just can’t. My mama told me never to go inside that house. I mean, never! And she should know. Bridget Sullivan, the Borden’s housemaid, told her there was blood and brains splattered everywhere. They found Abby Borden’s hair braid lying on the rug, sliced clean from her head!”

Tears welled up in my eyes. “I have to go, Annie. Mama will whip me with Papa’s razor strap if I don’t.”

“Well, don’t eat anything. She never admitted it, but Miss Lizzie tried to buy poison from Smith’s Drug Store right before the murders.”

* * *

Miss Lizzie opened the front door with a wide, toothy grin.

Every muscle in my body screamed, Run! Now! While you can!

But mama’s voice kept ringing in my ears. Miss Borden is a kind and gentle lady . . .

So I followed Miss Lizzie down the hall to an elegantly furnished drawing room — an empty drawing room. None of the other children had come. Cowards!

And then I saw it, gleaming by the fireplace, a shiny new axe!

Gold paint glittered along the sharp edge, marred by dark stains that looked like blood. I clenched my fists, trying hard to ease the queasiness in my stomach.

“You’re admiring my new axe,” Miss Lizzie said. She stepped closer, her pale blue eyes foggy with distant memories. “My father was quite skilled with an axe. One afternoon, I went into the barn and found my beloved pigeons lying on the ground with their heads chopped off. My father was standing over them, holding a bloody axe. I screamed and ran into the house.

“That night, Bridget served pie for dinner. Pigeon pie!” she said as her lips twisted into a smile.

The drawing room door opened then and a fat cook with a red face entered carrying a large pie in her hands. “Sit yourself down, my dear. The pie is ready to eat! I got lucky, Miss Lizzie. I found our special ingredient at Smith’s Drug Store.”

Smith’s Drug Store! I grabbed my reeling head, ready to faint at any moment. Pie! Poisoned pigeon pie!

Screaming, I lunged for the axe and swung it around, knocking the pie out of the cook’s hands, slicing off her forefinger. She howled in pain as blood spurted from the wound. I swung the axe around again, nicking Miss Lizzie’s ear. Fluffy brown curls fluttered to the floor, sliced neatly from her head.

Miss Lizzie tackled me to the ground and held me there while the cook bound her bloody hand with a towel and telephoned the police. My chest heaved with great, gulping sobs as Miss Lizzie’s face drew closer and closer until her lips brushed against my ear.

You see how easy it is,” she whispered.

THE END

Published in the February 2012 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree.

Copyright 2012-2016 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! MAKE IT SCARY!

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Rainbows: A Sweet Vignette

Water_DROP_colored_rainbow

 

Dedicated to my Husband and Daughter

It was early in the morning, and a young woman and her husband were driving to the train station. Temporarily, at least, the rain had stopped. The air was pleasantly fresh and clear, though oh! so cold, and here and there a patch of blue showed through the thick November clouds. Pale sunlight shone thinly against the grey morning dampness, brightening just a little the depressing aspect of the city.

“Oh look, a rainbow!” the young woman cried, pointing out the window.

Her husband, who was driving, looked up into the distant sky. Sure enough, half of a large rainbow emerged from a thick grey cloud.

The woman’s face beamed with happiness. “Isn’t that lovely?” she said. “It makes the whole morning beautiful.”

As they drove down the muddy narrow road which ran alongside the railroad tracks, the rainbow seemed to grow more distinct. Soon they could see each end of the rainbow, though the middle was still hidden by clouds.

“Now you can see both ends,” the woman cried eagerly.

“See where it goes,” her husband said. “Maybe I can find my pot of gold.”

The woman searched the sky, trying to determine beginning and end.

“It seems to stretch between the hills over there” — (she pointed left) — “and downtown over there” — (she pointed right.)

“Where does that story come from, anyways?” her husband asked.

“The Irish, I think. You know, leprechauns and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”

“Yeah,” said her husband, a greedy grin on his youthful face. “I’d like to find a pot of gold at the end of it.”

The young woman frowned. “Oh, Jim, that’s all you care about is money. Can’t you think of anything else?”

“Not when we don’t have any,” he answered.

The woman said nothing more, and they drove along in silence until they arrived at the station. But when Jim was helping her out of the car, she suddenly noticed the other rainbow.

“Now look,” she said triumphantly, pointing at the sky. “There are two rainbows!”

Above the first rainbow, which was growing brighter by the minute, half of a second rainbow could be seen. 

“That’s unusual to see two rainbows,” she said thoughtfully. While the young couple watched together, the first rainbow grew stronger and more distinct as the sunlight shifted.

“Now you can see the whole arch!” the woman exclaimed. Truly, it was lovely. The rainbow colors stood clear and vivid against the somber grey sky. “That’s rare to see such a rainbow,” she said, grabbing her husband’s hand and squeezing it tightly. Indeed, the colors seemed almost unnatural.

“And remember, Sharon, there are two,” Jim reminded her gently. “Perhaps they’re man and wife — like us.”

Sharon giggled. “Which one is the man?” she asked playfully.

“The one on the bottom is the strongest.” Jim put his arm around his wife’s ample waist and hugged her close.

“On the bottom, right where he belongs,” Sharon teased.

Her husband laughed. “Actually, I rather like it when you’re on top.”

Sharon pounded him lightly in the stomach. “You’re incorrigible, you beast!”

The young man patted his wife’s swollen belly, feeling the unborn child move inside. “When rainbows make love, do they make little rainbows?” he whispered in her ear.

“How else could there be rainbows,” she whispered back.

“Actually, there are rainbows all the time. We just don’t see them.”

“My husband, the brilliant scientist!”

Suddenly the skies opened up, and a great rain began to fall. The wind whipped up, chilling them to the bone. Laughing wildly, the young couple ran onto the covered platform.

“I love rain like this!'” shouted the young woman over the roar of the downpour.

“I don’t like getting wet all the time,” shouted her husband, who was more practical. “Here comes the train!”

Down the track, the two bright headlights pierced the misty, watery veil of rain, and in a few moments, the train pulled into the station. The woman hugged her husband tightly and kissed him passionately on his warm lips. “You smell so good,” she murmured, snuggling close to his big, warm body.

“I have to go,” he said, disentangling himself from her clinging embrace. “Have a good day. Rest!”

“I will,” she promised, smiling. “Have a good day!”

She waited until he was safely on the train, waved good-bye, then ran into the rain. Behind her, the train began to move slowly down the track. She couldn’t help herself. She stopped and watched as the train gathered speed and chugged out of sight. She pulled her drenched jacket closer around her bulging body. Rain poured down her face and hair. In a moment, she heard the train whistle blasting farther down the track. “I love you,” she whispered, and a lump formed in her throat. Tears watered her eyes, spilled over, and ran down her cheeks, mingling with the rain. She turned and ran as fast as she could to the car.

She climbed into the car and turned the key. The engine sputtered, died, then caught again. She pulled out of the parking space and followed once more the primitive road which ran beside the railroad tracks. She was wet and cold and eager to get home to a hot shower. Her husband was gone to work, the babe was safe and warm inside her. The day would be long and lonely. The rain would carry on, darkening their small apartment. Still, she was happy and content. She had followed her rainbow long ago. She had found her pot of gold.

Dawn Pisturino

November 1983

A true story. Written while I was pregnant.

Copyright 1983-2016 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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The Punishment

325275_274750275892317_205816152785730_902438_315260233_o (2)

The Punishment

Click photo to enlarge, download, and read.

Story by Dawn Pisturino. Graphics by Rebekah Joy Plett.

Published October 18, 2011 on Underneath the Juniper Tree.
Copyright 2011 Dawn Pisturino and Rebekah Joy Plett. All Rights Reserved.

Published on The Brooklyn Voice, June 25, 2012. Read it here.

Troberg Punishment ill

Artwork by Asheka Troberg, The Brooklyn Voice. Click to enlarge.

Copyright 2012 Dawn Pisturino and Asheka Troberg. All Rights Reserved.

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The oak chest and the bride who rushed to her death

Everybody loves a good ghost story! Click on photo to read the story.

freaky folk tales

The Mistletoe Bride

“Within lay the body of his lost bride, now a fleshless skeleton, wearing the beautiful wedding robes in which he had last seen her. The wedding dress was yellow and stained with age and corruption. Her fleshless hand was raised in a pathetic attitude as it trying to open the door of her tomb.”

Read the whole story: http://freakyfolktales.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/how-a-new-york-society-girl-came-to-inherit-the-ghost-of-an-english-bride/

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