A second volume of the ghostly and weird by a mistress of her craft
Florence Marryat was the daughter of the author Captain Frederick Marryat, who was famous during the Victorian age for his adventure stories for young readers, including ‘The Children of the New Forest’ and ‘Mr Midshipman Easy’ among others. Florence was no prim British Victorian lady. She married an officer of the Indian army, bore him eight children, and travelled extensively in India, before beginning an adulterous affair with another officer whom she subsequently married. She developed a taste for stage performance and became an actress, appearing in a variety of roles including comic opera with the D’Oyly Carte company. Marryat became renowned for her interest in spiritualism, which certainly provided inspiration and backgrounds for her supernatural fiction. In common with many popular writers of her day, Florence Marryat’s literary output was prodigious. She wrote over 70 books, as well as articles for magazines and newspapers, short stories and stage plays. She knew well that there was a ready readership for the sensational fiction in which she excelled. This quite naturally included stories of the weird and other worldly, a genre in which she was particularly prolific and, like several lady writers of her era, at which she was extremely capable, this Leonaur collection of her highly regarded weird and supernatural fiction therefore spans two substantial volumes.
In volume two is the novel,’The Blood of the Vampire’, and seven short stories including ‘Sent to His Death’,’The Ghost of Charlotte Cray’,’The Invisible Tenants of Rushmere’ and others.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
The allusion appeared to stir up all her misery again. She sat upright and grasped the doctor by the arm as she had done at first.
“You must tell me,” she said breathlessly, “you must tell me all I want to know. They say you knew my father and mother in Jamaica! Is that true!”
The old doctor began to feel uncomfortable. It is one thing to warn those in whom you are interested against a certain person, or persons, and another to be confronted with the individual you have spoken of, and forced to repeat your words. Yet Doctor Phillips was innocent of having misjudged, or slandered anyone.
“I did know your father and mother—for a short time!” he answered cautiously.
“And were they married to each other?”
“My dear young lady, what is the use of dragging up such questions now? Your parents are both gone to their account—why not let all that concerned them rest also?”
“No! no! you forget that I live—to suffer the effects of their wrong-doing! I must know the truth—I will not leave the house until you tell me! Were they married? Am I a—a—bastard?”
“If you insist upon knowing, I believe they were not married—at least it was the general opinion in the Island. But would not Mr. Tarver be the proper person to inform you of anything which you may wish to know?”
Harriet seized his hand and carried it to her forehead—it was burning hot.
“Feel that!” she exclaimed, “and you would have me wait for weeks before I could get any satisfaction from Mr. Tarver, and not then perhaps! Do you think I could live through the agony of suspense? I should kill myself before the answer to my letter came. No! you are the only person that can give me any satisfaction. Madame Gobelli told me to ask you for the truth, if I did not believe her!”
“Madame Gobelli,” reiterated the doctor in surprise. “Yes! I was staying with her at the Red House until last night, and then she was so cruel to me that I left. Her son Bobby is dead, and she accused me of having killed him. She said that my father was a murderer and my mother a negress—that they were both so wicked that their own servants killed them, and that I have inherited all their vices. She said that it was I who killed Mrs. Pullen’s baby and that I had vampire blood in me, and should poison everyone I came in contact with. What does she mean? Tell me the truth, for God’s sake, for more depends upon it than you have any idea of.”
“Madame Gobelli was extremely wrong to speak in such a manner, and I do not know on what authority she did so. What can she know of your parents or their antecedents?”
“But you—you—” cried Harriet feverishly, “what do you say?” Doctor Phillips was silent. He did not know what to say. He was not a man who could tell a lie glibly and appear as if he were speaking the truth. Patients always guessed when he had no hope to give them, however soothing and carefully chosen his words might be. He regarded the distracted girl before him for some moments in compassionate silence, and then he answered:
“I have said already that if a daughter cannot hear any good of her parents, she had better hear nothing at all!”
“Then it is true—my father and mother were people so wicked and so cruel that their names are only fit for execration. If you could have said a good word for them, you would! I can read that in your eyes!”
“The purity and charity of your own life can do much to wipe out the stain upon theirs,” said the doctor. “You have youth and money, and the opportunity of doing good. You may be as beloved, as they were—”
“Hated,” interposed the girl, “I understand you perfectly! But what about my possessing the fatal power of injuring those I come in contact with! What truth is there in that? Answer me, for God’s sake! Have I inherited the vampire’s blood? Who bequeathed to me that fatal heritage?”
“My dear Miss Brandt, you must not talk of such a thing! You are alluding only to a superstition!”
“But have I got it, whatever it may be?” persisted Harriet. “Had I anything to do with the baby’s death, or with that of Bobby Bates? I loved them both! Was it my love that killed them? Shall I always kill everybody I love? I must know—I will!”
“Miss Brandt, you have now touched upon a subject that is little thought of or discussed amongst medical men, but that is undoubtedly true. The natures of persons differ very widely. There are some born into this world who nourish those with whom they are associated; they give out their magnetic power, and their families, their husbands or wives, children and friends, feel the better for it. There are those, on the other hand, who draw from their neighbours, sometimes making large demands upon their vitality—sapping their physical strength, and feeding upon them, as it were, until they are perfectly exhausted and unable to resist disease. This proclivity has been likened to that of the vampire bat who is said to suck the breath of its victims. And it was doubtless to this fable that Madame Gobelli alluded when speaking to you.”
“But have I got it? Have I got it?” the girl demanded, eagerly.
The doctor looked at her lustrous glowing eyes, at her parted feverish lips; at the working hands clasped together; the general appearance of excited sensuality, and thought it was his duty to warn her at least a little, against the dangers of indulging such a temperament as she unfortunately possessed. But like all medical men, he temporised.
“I should certainly say that your temperament was more of the drawing than the yielding order, Miss Brandt, but that is not your fault, you know. It is a natural organism. But I think it is my duty to warn you that you are not likely to make those with whom you intimately associate, stronger either in mind or body. You will always exert a weakening and debilitating effect upon them, so that after a while, having sapped their brains, and lowered the tone of their bodies, you will find their affection, or friendship for you visibly decrease. You will have, in fact, sucked them dry. So, if I may venture to advise you I would say, if there is any one person in the world whom you most desire to benefit and retain the affection of, let that be the very person from whom you separate, as often as possible. You must never hope to keep anyone near you for long, without injuring them. Make it your rule through life never to cleave to any one person altogether, or you will see that person’s interest in you wax and wane, until it is destroyed!”
“And what if I—marry?” asked Harriet, in a strained voice.
“If you insist upon my answering that question, I should advise you seriously not to marry! I do not think yours is a temperament fitted for married life, nor likely to be happy in it! You will not be offended by my plain speaking, I hope. Remember, you have forced it from me!”
“And that is the truth, medically and scientifically—that I must not marry?” she repeated, dully.
“I think it would be unadvisable, but everyone must judge for himself in such matters. But marriage is not, after all, the ultimatum of earthly bliss, Miss Brandt! Many married couples would tell you it is just the reverse. And with a fortune at your command, you have many pleasures and interests quite apart from that very over-rated institution of matrimony. But don’t think I am presuming to do more than advise you. There is no real reason—medical or legal—why you should not choose for yourself in the matter!”
“Only—only—that those I cling to most nearly, will suffer from the contact,” said Harriet in the same strained tones.
“Just so!” responded the doctor, gaily, “and an old man’s advice to you is, to keep out of it as he has done! And now—if there is anything more—” he continued, “that I can do for you—”
“Nothing more, thank you,” replied the girl rising, “I understand it all now!”
“Will you not see your old friend, Mrs. Pullen, before you go?” asked the doctor. “She and her husband are staying with me!”
“O! no, no,” cried Harriet, shrinking from the idea, “I could not see her, I would rather go back at once!”
And she hurried from the consulting room as she spoke.
Doctor Phillips stood for a while musing, after her departure. Had he done right, he thought, in telling her, yet how in the face of persistent questioning, could he have done otherwise? His thoughts were all fixed upon Ralph Pullen and the scenes that had taken place lately with him, respecting this girl. He did not dream she had an interest in Anthony Pennell. He did not know that they had met more than once. He thought she might still be pursuing Ralph; still expecting that he might break his engagement with Miss Leyton in order to marry herself; and he believed he had done the wisest thing in trying to crush any hopes she might have left concerning him.