Good Lady Ducayne by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1896)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror February 9, 2015 Classic Tales from Women In Horror
This is the second week of celebrating Women in Horror Month. Are you ready to explore the short stories of Mary Elizabeth Braddon?
“They were dreamers—and they dreamt themselves into the cemetery.”
Young and healthy Bella Rolleston takes a job as a companion with Old Lady Ducayne. Bella quickly learns that Ducayne’s previous two companions became ill and died while caring for her. Mosquito bites? Or something more sinister? When Bella begins to show the same symptoms, dreams of whirring of wheels, sinking into an abyss, and struggling to regain consciousness, she is too innocent to see the truth of her employer and the local physician Dr. Parravicini.
What is curious in this story is how the author Mary Elizabeth Braddon uses science and medicine instead of the supernatural to build a chilling story of suspense. Aging and vanity vs. youth and beauty are the hallmarks of this story not to mention poverty vs. money. The subtext runs a lovely quiet horror tone that is smoothly written by a master writer.
Mary Elizabeth Braddon, born in London in 1835, wrote some ninety books, short stories, essays, and plays and was revered for her ‘sensation novels.’ She was rated alongside Wilkie Collins and admired by Charles Dickens and Henry James. Lady Audley’s Secret was her most popular novel. She introduced one of the first female detectives Eleanor Vane in Eleanor’s Victory (1863) and then again in 1864 created sleuth Margaret Wilmot in Henry Dunbar. At Chrighton Abbey, Dead Love Has Chains, and The Doctor’s Wife are worthy of rediscovery.
You can read Good Lady Ducayne online at Gutenberg.net.au. Scroll down to the title.
Listen to audio versions of Braddon’s short stories (Sorry, Lady Ducayne is not among them but other short stories here are quite good) at Librivox.org Library.
I can highly recommend Braddon’s At Chrighton Abbey. This is Downton Abbey with a ghost. Sarah Chrighton returns to her homestead Chrighton Abbey, to the wintery “fairy forests and snow wreathed trees.” The abbey is a stately grey stone, ivy- and moss-covered estate. Carriage rides, drawing room firesides, hunts and hounds, a servant’s ball, and of course the Butler Truefold and Housekeeper Mrs. Marjurum make this short story a snuggle-up read. Not to mention the family curse coupled with shadowy presences that only Sarah can see. I found this story to be one of Braddon’s most gracefully written ghost stories ever. Read it here at Gutenberg.net.au.
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