Wednesday, November 19, 2014

ELIZABETH ENCOUNTERS THE VAMPIRE..... 11/19/14

Treadwell.... Their name was Treadwell, a rather financially secure old Methodist family with Episcopalian leanings. The Missus wanted a place near the square, Rittenhouse Square, or possibly out in the new suburb of Chestnut Hill. With the train one could be there in half an hour. She had cousins there and spent Saturdays with them along the cozy, commercial elegance of Germantown Avenue. Ladies never traveled alone, even on what was essentially a commuter line. Shop girls might, or domestics engaged for 'day work' for more or less middle class housewives. But strivers like the Missus never would. So I went with her to carry parcels, or ask the man in the little ticket booth what time the train would leave..... Was she so anxious to get home? No. The Mister only married her for the money. She knew that, but never let on. Why give him the satisfaction?

I'd have lunch with them, the Missus and her cousin, in a snug, little tearoom fronting 'The Avenue' right where it met Mermaid Lane. They'd sit at a small table near the window. Not right in the window. That spot was for ignorant parnevues. And sunlight through the multi-paned bay could be so unflattering at certain times of year, even with the white, shear curtains meant to soften it.... Excuse me. Did I say I had lunch with them?... Well, we were in the same room. But there was a low shelf, like a counter along a wall. Lady's maids ate there. While the carriage trade lunched on delicate tea sandwiches filled with cold, flaked salmon and cucumber salad dressed in savory, Provencal mayonnaise, those 'in service' ate plain cheese sandwiches on thick slices of what I suppose was French bread and peppery home fries. Whose meal was better? You be the judge. Mortal fare means little to me now.

It is I, Elizabeth. We met a few nights ago. I am with the Ironstones now. We help each other. In a sense I lured them into it... First the sons (still technically mortal when that happened)...Next the Father, though I was never intimate with him and the Mother never liked me at all. I was their 'familiar' and they were mine. To be truthful, they never used that term. I did. Learned it from him, the vampire. I believe he followed us home from Chestnut Hill that time. It was dusk. The Missus' cousin had her coachman drive us to the train. He went in to purchase the tickets. We waited in the brougham, snug under lap robes and fortified with a bit of sherry from a crystal flask slipped out from a cunning, little burgundy velvet compartment built into the door. Excuse me for elaborating. But life was elegant then and I wanted you to know. There was another velvet, fold down compartment for tiny matching glasses. I was surprised when they passed me one, but grateful just the same. Obviously, you know how cold a Philadelphia November can be.

There were three of us in the car. The coachman brought in our packages.... not that many. When he left we were alone with a strange man seated down at the other end of the car. He was clean shaven, unusual for the time. I learned later that vampires almost never have facial hair what with the blood and all. You can imagine. He had carefully brushed dark locks and fine, smooth skin. Gentleman always removed their hats in the presence of ladies. It's odd. I can't remember if I saw it, but I think it was a bowler... a crisp, dark bowler...Must have been next to him on the seat. He pretended to read a book. There were small oil lamps, sconces really, with clear, glass, tubular shades... No, not shades... Of course not shades... Like a wind break. Like a hurricane lamp. Forgive me, but I cannot remember the term.... We rode in silence. The Missus read a book too, a small leather bound volume by Henry James. She liked mysteries and gothic stories... The Turn of The Screw, or something like that. I know it had a ghost in it.... If she only knew.... Soon after, the conductor came through collecting tickets. Then I watched my reflection in the mirror-like blackness of the window, as we rolled along. 

Our own coachman met us in the city at the big Fifteenth Street Terminal. When we got back to the house, nine or ten blocks away, it was snowing. Before stepping inside, I turned to watch the flakes... And there in a weak pool of light from the street lamp, perhaps thirty feet down the sidewalk, was the man from the train. He nodded and tipped his hat. I returned the nod and went inside....

THAT'S how I knew it was a bowler.

In nights to come, I'd learn so many things.

<more next time>

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