The Vampire Maid
by Hume Nisbet
It was the exact kind of abode that I had been looking after for
weeks, for I was in that condition of mind when absolute renunciation
of society was a necessity. I had become diffident of myself, and
wearied of my kind. A strange unrest was in my blood; a barren dearth
in my brains. Familiar objects and faces had grown distasteful to me.
I wanted to be alone.
This is the mood which comes upon every sensitive and artistic mind
when the possessor has been overworked or living too long in one
groove. It is Nature's hint for him to seek pastures new; the sign
that a retreat has become needful.
If he does not yield, he breaks down and becomes whimsical and
hypochondriacal, as well as hypercritical. It is always a bad sign
when a man becomes over-critical and censorious about his own or other
people's work, for it means that he is losing the vital portions of
work, freshness and enthusiasm.
Before I arrived at the dismal stage of criticism I hastily packed up
my knapsack, and taking the train to Westmorland, I began my tramp in
search of solitude, bracing air and romantic surroundings.
Many places I came upon during that early summer wandering that
appeared to have almost the required conditions, yet some petty
drawback prevented me from deciding. Sometimes it was the scenery that
I did not take kindly to. At other places I took sudden antipathies to
the landlady or landlord, and felt I would abhor them before a week
was spent under their charge. Other places which might have suited me
I could not have, as they did not want a lodger. Fate was driving me
to this Cottage on the Moor, and no one can resist destiny.
One day I found myself on a wide and pathless moor near the sea. I had
slept the night before at a small hamlet, but that was already eight
miles in my rear, and since I had turned my back upon it I had not
seen any signs of humanity; I was alone with a fair sky above me, a
balmy ozone-filled wind blowing over the stony and heather-clad
mounds, and nothing to disturb my meditations.
How far the moor stretched I had no knowledge; I only knew that by
keeping in a straight line I would come to the ocean cliffs, then
perhaps after a time arrive at some fishing village.
I had provisions in my knapsack, and being young did not fear a night
under the stars. I was inhaling the delicious summer air and once more
getting back the vigour and happiness I had lost; my city-dried brains
were again becoming juicy.
Thus hour after hour slid past me, with the paces, until I had covered
about fifteen miles since morning, when I saw before me in the
distance a solitary stone-built cottage with roughly slated roof.
'I'll camp there if possible,' I said to myself as I quickened my
steps towards it.
To one in search of a quiet, free life, nothing could have possibly
been more suitable than this cottage. It stood on the edge of lofty
cliffs, with its front door facing the moor and the back-yard wall
overlooking the ocean. The sound of the dancing waves struck upon my
ears like a lullaby as I drew near; how they would thunder when the
autumn gales came on and the seabirds fled shrieking to the shelter of
A small garden spread in front, surrounded by a dry-stone wall just
high enough for one to lean lazily upon when inclined. This garden was
a flame of colour, scarlet predominating, with those other soft shades
that cultivated poppies take on in their blooming, for this was all
that the garden grew.
As I approached, taking notice of this singular assortment of poppies,
and the orderly cleanness of the windows, the front door opened and a
woman appeared who impressed me at once favourably as she leisurely
came along the pathway to the gate, and drew it back as if to welcome
She was of middle age, and when young must have been remarkably good-
looking. She was tall and still shapely, with smooth clear skin,
regular features and a calm expression that at once gave me a
sensation of rest.
To my inquiries she said that she could give me both a sitting and
bedroom, and invited me inside to see them. As I looked at her smooth
black hair, and cool brown eyes, I felt that I would not be too
particular about the accomodation. With such a landlady, I was sure to
find what I was after here.
The rooms surpassed my expectation, dainty white curtains and bedding
with the perfume of lavender about them, a sitting-room homely yet
cosy without being crowded. With a sigh of infinite relief I flung
down my knapsack and clinched the bargain.
She was a widow with one daughter, whom I did not see the first day,
as she was unwell and confined to her own room, but on the next day
she was somewhat better, and then we met.
The fare was simple, yet it suited me exactly for the time, delicious
milk and butter with home-made scones, fresh eggs and bacon; after a
hearty tea I went early to bed in a condition of perfect content with
Yet happy and tired out as I was I had by no means a comfortable
night. This I put down to the strange bed. I slept certainly, but my
sleep was filled with dreams so that I woke late and unrefreshed; a
good walk on the moor, however, restored me, and I returned with a
fine appetite for breakfast.
Certain conditions of mind, with aggravating circumstances, are
required before even a young man can fall in love at first sight, as
Shakespeare has shown in his Romeo and Juliet. In the city, where many
fair faces passed me every hour, I had remained like a stoic, yet no
sooner did I enter the cottage after that morning walk than I
succumbed instantly before the weird charms of my landlady's daughter,
She was somewhat better this morning and able to meet me at breakfast,
for we had our meals together while I was their lodger. Ariadne was
not beautiful in the strictly classical sense, her complexion being
too lividly white and her expression too set to be quite pleasant at
first sight; yet, as her mother had informed me, she had been ill for
some time, which accounted for that defect. Her features were not
regular, her hair and eyes seemed too black with that strangely white
skin, and her lips too red for any except the decadent harmonies of an
Yet my fantastic dreams of the preceding night, with my morning walk,
had prepared me to be enthralled by this modern poster-like invalid.
The loneliness of the moor, with the singing of the ocean, had gripped
my heart with a wistful longing. The incongruity of those flaunting
and evanescent poppy flowers, dashing the giddy tints in the face of
that sober heath, touched me with a shiver as I approached the
cottage, and lastly that weird embodiment of startling contrasts
completed my subjugation.
She rose from her chair as her mother introduced her, and smiled while
she held out her hand. I clasped that soft snowflake, and as I did so
a faint thrill tingled over me and rested on my heart, stopping for
the moment its beating.
This contact seemed also to have affected her as it did me; a clear
flush, like a white flame, lighted up her face, so that it glowed as
if an alabaster lamp had been lit; her black eyes became softer and
more humid as our glances crossed, and her scarlet lips grew moist.
She was a living woman now, while before she had seemed half a corpse.
She permitted her white slender hand to remain in mine longer than
most people do at an introduction, and then she slowly withdrew it,
still regarding me with steadfast eyes for a second or two afterwards.
Fathomless velvety eyes these were, yet before they were shifted from
mine they appeared to have absorbed all my willpower and made me her
abject slave. They looked like deep dark pools of clear water, yet
they filled me with fire and deprived me of strength. I sank into my
chair almost as languidly as I had risen from my bed that morning.
Yet I made a good breakfast, and although she hardly tasted anything,
this strange girl rose much refreshed and with a slight glow of colour
on her cheeks, which improved her so greatly that she appeared younger
and almost beautiful.
I had come here seeking solitude, but since I had seen Ariadne it
seemed as if I had come for her only. She was not very lively; indeed,
thinking back, I cannot recall any spontaneous remark of hers; she
answered my questions by monosyllables and left me to lead in words;
yet she was insinuating and appeared to lead my thoughts in her
direction and speak to me with her eyes. I cannot describe her
minutely, I only know that from the first glance and touch she gave me
I was bewitched and could think of nothing else.
It was a rapid, distracting, and devouring infatuation that possessed
me; all day long I followed her about like a dog, every night I
dreamed of that white glowing face, those steadfast black eyes, those
moist scarlet lips, and each morning I rose more languid than I had
been the day before. Sometimes I dreamt that she was kissing me with
those red lips, while I shivered at the contact of her silky black
tresses as they covered my throat; sometimes that we were floating in
the air, her arms about me and her long hair enveloping us both like
an inky cloud, while I lay supine and helpless.
She went with me after breakfast on that first day to the moor, and
before we came back I had spoken my love and received her assent. I
held her in my arms and had taken her kisses in answer to mine, nor
did I think it strange that all this had happened so quickly. She was
mine, or rather I was hers, without a pause. I told her it was fate
that had sent me to her, for I had no doubts about my love, and she
replied that I had restored her to life.
Acting upon Ariadne's advice, and also from a natural shyness, I did
not inform her mother how quickly matters had progressed between us,
yet although we both acted as circumspectly as possible, I had no
doubt Mrs Brunnell could see how engrossed we were in each other.
Lovers are not unlike ostriches in their modes of concealment. I was
not afraid of asking Mrs Brunnell for her daughter, for she already
showed her partiality towards me, and had bestowed upon me some
confidences regarding her own position in life, and I therefore knew
that, so far as social position was concerned, there could be no real
objection to our marriage. They lived in this lonely spot for the sake
of their health, and kept no servant because they could not get any to
take service so far away from other humanity. My coming had been
opportune and welcome to both mother and daughter.
For the sake of decorum, however, I resolved to delay my confession
for a week or two and trust to some favourable opportunity of doing it
Meantime Ariadne and I passed our time in a thoroughly idle and lotus-
eating style. Each night I retired to bed meditating starting work
next day, each morning I rose languid from those disturbing dreams
with no thought for anything outside my love. She grew stronger every
day, while I appeared to be taking her place as the invalid, yet I was
more frantically in love than ever, and only happy when with her. She
was my lone-star, my only joy--my life.
We did not go great distances, for I liked best to lie on the dry
heath and watch her glowing face and intsense eyes while I listened to
the surging of the distant waves. It was love made me lazy, I thought,
for unless a man has all he longs for beside him, he is apt to copy
the domestic cat and bask in the sunshine.
I had been enchanted quickly. My disenchantment came as rapidly,
although it was long before the poison left my blood.
One night, about a couple of weeks after my coming to the cottage, I
had returned after a delicious moonlight walk with Ariadne. The night
was warm and the moon at the full, therefore I left my bedroom window
open to let in what little air there was.
I was more than usually fagged out, so that I had only strength enough
to remove my boots and coat before I flung myself wearily on the
coverlet and fell almost instantly asleep without tasting the nightcap
draught that was constantly placed on the table, and which I had
always drained thirstily.
I had a ghastly dream this night. I thought I saw a monster bat, with
the face and tresses of Ariadne, fly into the open window and fasten
its white teeth and scarlet lips on my arm. I tried to beat the horror
away, but could not, for I seemed chained down and thralled also with
drowsy delight as the beast sucked my blood with a gruesome rapture.
I looked out dreamily and saw a line of dead bodies of young men lying
on the floor, each with a red mark on their arms, on the same part
where the vampire was then sucking me, and I remembered having seen
and wondered at such a mark on my own arm for the past fortnight. In a
flash I understood the reason for my strange weakness, and at the same
moment a sudden prick of pain roused me from my dreamy pleasure.
The vampire in her eagerness had bitten a little too deeply that
night, unaware that I had not tasted the drugged draught. As I woke I
saw her fully revealed by the midnight moon, with her black tresses
flowing loosely, and with her red lips glued to my arm. With a shriek
of horror I dashed her backwards, getting one last glimpse of her
savage eyes, glowing white face and blood-stained red lips; then I
rushed out to the night, moved on by my fear and hatred, nor did I
pause in my mad flight until I had left miles between me and that
accursed Cottage on the Moor.