Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
“The Cold Embrace” by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
Card picked: A nine.
From: Available online at Gaslight. I originally heard about this story at Paula Cappa’s blog. That particular entry also features Kelly Link’s “The Specialist’s Hat” which was my first Lunar Extra of 2015.
He was young, handsome, studious, enthusiastic, metaphysical, reckless, unbelieving, heartless.
And being young, handsome and eloquent, he was beloved.
The “he” above is a student and the ward of his uncle. The student pledges to marry his cousin Gertrude, who is very much in love with him. And he is in love with her, at least for the moment. Of course, the uncle wants better than the student for his daughter, and the two are forced to declare a secret engagement. The student vows:
I would return to you from the grave, Gertrude. My soul would come back to be near my love. And you–you, if you died before me–the cold earth would not hold you from me; if you loved me, you would return, and again these fair arms would be clasped round my neck as they are now.
Gertrude, being fairly pious despite keeping secrets from her uncle, replies that people who die and are right with God, go to heaven. Heaven is better than earthly love. “…[I]t is only the suicide–the lost wretch on whom sorrowful angels shut the door of Paradise–whose unholy spirit haunts the footsteps of the living.”
Of course, our handsome, heartless student goes off to Italy and forgets Gertrude. The uncle finds a rich suitor for her and she is contracted to be married in June. Gertrude, still desperately in love with he student, remembers his vow to her even if he doesn’t…
While maybe a tad predictable, this is still a nicely told tale. The end scene, with the student in Paris for Carnival, brings to mind Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Man of the Crowd.” A good end to my Lunar Extra experiment.
About the Author: I kept trying to remember how Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s name was familiar to me when I was certain I hadn’t read her before. Her novel Lady Audley’s Secret is on my Gothic TBR.