Tuesday Terror! Eveline’s Visitant by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Revenge is sweet…

Wakey, wakey, Porpy! The evening are lengthening, the ghouls are returning from their summer vacations having noticeably failed to acquire a healthy tan, the people out there have been lulled into a false sense of security. This little story should remind us all of the terrors that await us in the long, dreadful months of darkness ahead…

Eveline’s Visitant
by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Mary Elizabeth Braddon

It was at a masked ball at the Palais Royal that my fatal quarrel with my first cousin André de Brissac began. The quarrel was about a woman. The women who followed the footsteps of Philip of Orleans were the causes of many such disputes; and there was scarcely one fair head in all that glittering throng which, to a man versed in social histories and mysteries, might not have seemed bedabbled with blood.

Yeah, blame the woman! Our narrator, Hector, is quite annoyed when his cousin, André, proves to be more attractive to the woman of his choice than he. So he strikes his cousin across his face…

…and the welt raised by my open hand was crimson upon his fair womanish face as he stood opposite to me. The eastern sun shone on the face presently, and dyed the cruel mark with a deeper red; but the sting of my own wrongs was fresh, and I had not yet learned to despise myself for that brutal outrage.

André wasn’t in a forgiving mood either, and so the two men settled it in the gentlemanly fashion, by attempting to kill each other in a duel.

We fought, and I wounded him mortally. Life had been very sweet for him; and I think that a frenzy of despair took possession of him when he felt the life-blood ebbing away.

Well, it would, wouldn’t it? The wounded André beckons Hector to come close, and with his dying breath, utters these words…

“Listen to me, Hector de Brissac,” he said. “I am not one who believes that a man has done with earth because his eyes glaze and his jaw stiffens. . . They will bury me, and sing masses for my soul; but you and I have not finished our affair yet, my cousin. I will be with you when you least look to see me,– I, with this ugly scar upon the face that women have praised and loved. I will come to you when your life seems brightest. I will come between you and all that you hold fairest and dearest. My ghostly hand shall drop a poison in your cup of joy. My shadowy form shall shut the sunlight from your life. Men with such iron will as mine can do what they please, Hector de Brissac. It is my will to haunt you when I am dead.”

Good curse, eh? However, Hector has killed men before in battle, and feels that his cousin deserved all he got, so he doesn’t worry. Men shun him for what he has done, and so he retreats to the castle which once belonged to André and is now his. A few years later he falls in love with sweet Eveline…

She loved me. The richest blessings of our lives are often those which cost us least. I wasted the best years of my youth in the worship of a wicked woman, who jilted and cheated me at last. I gave this meek angel but a few courteous words – a little fraternal tenderness – and lo, she loved me.

Isn’t that nice? He didn’t think to mention to Eveline that he was cursed, of course. For a few short months they lived a life of idyllic happiness. It wasn’t to last…

In her walks about the park and woods during the last month, she had met a man who, by his dress and bearing, was obviously of noble rank . . . I was at a loss to imagine who this stranger could be…

Now, who do we all think the stranger might be…?

* * * * *

Well, I was willing to feel a bit sorry for André over being killed for a bit of flirting with a woman who sounds as if she was no better than she ought to be, but really? Haunting your murderer’s wife seems a bit misogynistic, if you ask me! Was it Eveline’s fault, I ask you? I think not! But, ah me! It’s always the woman who suffers! Men! Tchah!

I’ve never read anything by Mary Elizabeth Braddon before, but know her name as one of the leading Victorian sensation novelists. Though I’m no expert, I suspect suffering women are a pretty big feature of sensation fiction, and that seems to be borne out in the three stories I’ve read so far in this new anthology of her Gothic tales. I like her style a lot – it has that Victorian feeling of heightened emotion without tipping over into pulpy melodrama.

This one isn’t too scary – it’s more a tale of revenge and repentance. But it’s very well told, and the revenge goes a little deeper than Eveline simply being haunted by a vision – the ending has a touch of eroticism which, although extremely mild, still surprised me a bit in a story from this era.

“His image haunted me perpetually; I strove in vain to shut his face out of my mind. Then followed an interval in which I did not see him; and, to my shame and anguish, I found that life seemed dreary and desolate without him.”

I’m looking forward to reading more of Braddon’s stories… I think I could become a fan…

The porpy is relaxed and ready for more…

If you’d like to read this one online, here’s a link

Fretful Porpentine rating:   😯 😯

Overall story rating:           😀 😀 😀 😀

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

* * * * *

NB For the benefit of new readers since it’s the porpy’s first appearance for the season, the fretful porpentine reference comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine

So the Fretful Porpentine rating is for the scariness factor, whereas the Overall rating is for the story’s quality.

42 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! Eveline’s Visitant by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

  1. Oh, this does sound like a proper Victorian tale, FictionFan. And what I like about it is the flow of the writing. It doesn’t have too much of the ‘clunkiness’ that Victorian writing sometimes has. Of course, not too happy about the views of men and women here (I know – I’m sure that shocks you! 😉 ), but it’s a great intro to this year’s porpy season.

    • She really is a very good writer – somehow I expected her to be more pulpy but she’s up there with the rest of that great generation of Victorian writers. And her horror so far is definitely at the mild end, which both the porpy and I are quite happy about! Haha – but yes, her women do tend to be the victim a bit too much for my liking. Some things never change, eh? 😉

  2. I thought you might like Braddon. I’ve never read any of her short stories, but her novels are very good in a slightly over the top kind of way. I agree with Margot and Cathy though about the somewhat problematic representations of gender, but I don’t think she was any worse in this regard than other Victorian writers. Just look at Dickens and all of what I call his Flimmy-flammy Heroines.

    • I thought I might have read Lady Audley’s Secret, but when I look at the blurb it rings no bells. Haha – no, indeed, her women are very typical of that era and secretly I enjoy that more than the current fad for women as brutal assassins or kick-boxing superheroes! It would be nice if they didn’t all have to come to sticky ends though… 😉

      • Very true. In trying to move away from the Damzel in Distress, we have swung too far in the opposit direction and ended up with the Strong Female Character, who is actually every bit as bad if fully examined, as she is just another idealised portrait of who/what a woman should be.

        • Yes, and unfortunately what it seems as if she should be these days is a man in a woman’s body – not quite what this feminist thought she was fighting for back in the day! Hopefully we’ll eventually reach a point where women can just be whatever they feel most comfortable with, whether that’s needlepoint or yodelling while swinging through the jungle on vines… 😉

  3. How did I miss that quote from Hamlet?? If I were a good girl, I’d go back and re-read all Shakespeare’s most noted works. Nah, I don’t see that happening! Anyway, this sounds like a good little selection — not too stay-up-all-night scary, but unnerving enough to be an entertaining read. And I love having Porpy back!!

    • Haha – I freely admit I know the quote because PG Wodehouse has Bertie Wooster quote it quite often, rather than from the original Shakespeare. Bang goes my aura of being a secret intellectual, eh? 😉 Yes, I’ve read a few more of these now and the horror side of them is pretty mild, though some of the stories are a bit darker than this one. But the Porpy and I are enjoying them! 😀

  4. This sounds like it would be a good story, but I’m not sure it could be as enjoyable as your telling of it here!! THAT was entertaining! 😂

    • I’m definitely a ghoul – so long as ghouls can get sunburned noses! 😉 Yes, these stories are very well written and the horror isn’t too horrific at all. The porpy and I are enjoying them a lot!

  5. So that is where the porpy comes from – glad to have that clarified 🙂. I like your little re-telling of the story, but you haven’t quite convinced me, I need to read it. Probably, you need higher fretful porpentine rating, to get me on board!

    • Haha – the porpy has been around for so long now that I have to remember to tell people why he’s my horror companion from time to time! Most of the horror so far in this collection is pretty mild but I have several more anthologies coming up so I’ll try to make your eyes, like stars, start from their spheres at some point over the winter… 😱

  6. Good to see the porpy back again! I have loved some of Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s novels, particularly Lady Audley’s Secret, but I don’t think I’ve read any of her short stories. This one sounds good – I hope you enjoy the rest of the collection!

    • The porpy says thank you – he’s glad to be back! I thought I might have read Lady Audley’s Secret at some point but the blurb isn’t ringing any bells so I think I can’t have. I’ve read a few more of the stories now and am enjoying them a lot – they’re very well written and not as schlocky as I thought they might be.

    • The porpy says thank you – he’s glad to be back! Yes, these stories are all fairly mild so far, but I’ve warned the porpy not to get complacent – plenty more anthologies to come! 😈

    • Haha – the porpy says thanks, he’s glad to be back! 😀 I really prefer milder horror too, so though hopefully we’ll find a few that are more hair-raising, I’m hoping we’ll both make it through the season shaken but not stirred… 😉

  7. Don’t you hate when women dare to show their faces in public and thereby force men to haunt other women after death? Welcome back to the Fretful Porpentine! I feel like this is one of the first signs of fall!

    • Haha – the porpy says thanks, he’s glad to be back! He also reckons he’s prettier than pumpkins… 😉 Yes, the women in this collection are having a pretty bad time of it so far – when I get my time machine I reckon we should all go back and give them some assertiveness training…

  8. So glad to see Porpy’s happy face once more, though I guess we were supposed to see a fretful face due to the scariness o the story. Oh well. Relaxed and ready for more is good too.

    • He’s been having intensive sleep therapy over the summer months and seems to have forgotten last year’s trauma. Hopefully, I’ll find something to remind him soon though… 😈😱

    • The porpy says thanks – he’s glad to be back! 🦔 Haha – yes, the women in this collection are really not having a good time! When I get my time machine, I’m going to pop back and run a few assertiveness courses…

  9. Very pleased that the fretful porpentine is back – I am far too much of a coward to read scary stories myself (except the occasional very mild thriller), but I always enjoy your reviews of them, so I look forward to more of them this autumn!

    • The porpy says thank you – he’s glad to be back! 🦔 I must say this collection has been very mild from the horror point of view so far but they’re very well written. The porpy and I are both wimps so we tend to prefer the mild stuff too… 😱

    • Some of the stories are a little darker but none of them so far have had me hiding behind the settee. She’s a very good writer, though – much better than I was rather snobbishly expecting. I think being called a “sensation novelist” made me think she’d be kinda pulpy…

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