Sounds creepy, right? That’s what I thought at first when I began looking for a horror classic to pair with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (published by Totally Bound May 2013) Poe was always my first choice, but I had a minor issue. Everything he writes is gloomy, depressing, and typically ends in multiple gruesome deaths. Sexy.
What brought me back to Poe was The Fall of the House of Usher. It’s always been one of my favorites, but it seemed to be impossible to reconcile with Madeline and her brother dying horribly, as well as Madeline only being in the entire story at all for no more than a dozen or so sentences. But when I re-read it, my thoughts went to a couple of different ‘what-if’s’, and I came up with a story line that turned doom and gloom into a happily-ever-after.
To give you a little hint as to how I morphed the story without changing any of Poe’s original words (part of the Clandestine Classic rules), I’m including the following excerpt from when Edward – Roderick’s boyhood chum – is finally able to locate the mysterious Lady Madeline Usher and sneak into her room late at night.
Gloom, dread and fear possess the House of Usher and its inhabitants. But Edward sees nothing but light and love in the fair Madeline. Can he save her from the deadly illness that has plagued the Usher family for centuries—before it is too late?
Invited to the gloomy, decaying House of Usher by a boyhood chum, Edward is perplexed by his friend’s mysterious affliction. Roderick tells him that it is a curse on his family, and that all of the Ushers must eventually succumb. Upon briefly viewing Roderick’s sister—the lovely Madeline—Edward determines to save both her and Roderick from their awful fate.
But there are strange twists and turns that Edward encounters in his quest to discover the truth of the puzzling illness. Is the valet Henry up to no good? Does the house itself hold some unnatural sway over its residents? Or is there an even more sinister explanation? When Edward finally chances to meet the Lady Madeline secretly, he has no doubt that only his love and resolve can save her.
One night, it appears that he hasn’t acted soon enough. Is there still hope that he can rescue sweet Madeline from the clutches of the evil House of Usher?
Excerpt from The Fall of the House of Usher
By Edgar Allen Poe & Morticia Knight
“I am afraid I have no wine or any drink other than water to offer you.”
Here she was, for all practical purposes a prisoner in her own home, and yet she was worried about being a proper hostess. I was quickly reaching the conclusion that my affections for this woman were building as each moment passed between us, and I was determined to find a way out for her.
“Please, Madeline, do not worry about me, for I have had all the hospitality your brother has to offer. I am only regretful that I could not bring you more without causing undue question. Please, my dear, eat. You must be famished.”
“Thank you, Edward. I have been considering all day just how thoughtful it was for you to offer to help me. I know it is at a great risk, especially as you do not know me and should not care what happens to me.”
“Why do you think that I should not care? Even if you were nothing more to me than your brother’s sister, that alone should compel me to be interested in your well-being. Anything less than that would make me an animal, and not worth your consideration.”
“Oh?” she said, and popped a grape into her delectable mouth. After consuming her treat, she continued. “Then you desire to be worthy of my consideration?”
I flushed a little. I was not entirely sure what she meant. She was a gentlewoman, and I had not detected any signs of coquettishness in her, so I was a little confused as to what she was suggesting. If indeed there was anything she wished to suggest.
She finally laughed at what I am sure was a stunned expression on my face.
“I do not understand…”
“I am sorry, Edward, I should not tease you. I am being perfectly awful. It is just that I feel so much lighter since I met you earlier, so much freer. I suddenly feel as though everything is going to be fine. And having a handsome man to come and rescue me, why, it is just like in the fairy tales.”
I had not been called handsome since my younger school days, and I had never cared one way or another until that very moment. To have this stunning woman think of me in that regard caused a little giddiness to wash over me.
“You are much too generous, Lady Madeline. But I accept your compliment gratefully. And I wish you to know that my concern for you exceeds my allegiance to your brother.”
She had been eating a bit of bread with some cheese, and she put it back down on the napkin. “Really? Why is that?”
I immediately felt that I had spoken in haste. I was not sure where the conversation might go, and under the circumstances—being alone together in her room at night—I needed to be careful. She was waiting on me to answer.
“Well, I do not wish to discomfit you in any way, but I find you to be a very engaging and lovely woman. I believe had we met outside of your current situation, I would have sought to court you as a proper gentleman.”
“Oh. I see.”
She looked down, and I had the sense that what I had said disappointed her in some way, but I could not fathom why.
“What is it, Madeline?” I reached across the table and took her hand in mine. The heat between us was palpable, and I could feel my excitement growing. It was a dangerous situation for us both.
“I am hopeless when it comes to talking with a gentleman. There has been little opportunity for me to converse properly with men in society. In addition, I have been accustomed to speaking plainly with Roderick my whole life. I was only ever given the chance to have one season before Roderick insisted I stay with him here at the mansion. I was but sixteen at the time, and now, well, I am just an old maid.”
She looked down at the ground and tried to pull her hands away from me, but I would not allow it. This time it was I who knelt before her.
“Sweet Madeline, whatever do you mean? You have said nothing to offend me. And the last thing I would ever consider you to be is an old maid—you are a wondrously beautiful woman. It is I who feel as if I have said something wrong.”
She sighed, but relaxed her hands into mine. She still would not meet my gaze however.
“I am just afraid that you are placating me with talk of courting if things were different. I am sure you do not say it in earnest, and I would not expect it of you.”
I was perplexed. I had never been one to do well with females myself, and seemed to consistently cause them to turn away from me through my words. Even the daughter of my friend had eventually tired of my attentions. I had considered recently that I would like to take a woman in marriage, but I was unable to find any who caused a spark in me. Until Madeline. I had only sought to keep from sounding too forward, and thus to be perceived as a rake trying to court a lady in the middle of the night while she was being held captive. It seemed rather bizarre.
“You have misjudged me, Madeline. I am not seeking to appease you whatsoever. I do see you as a woman whom I would want to court, but I was afraid you might think me too brazen. I have not been what I would consider to be the most eloquent of men when it comes to conversing with young ladies, but I implore you to believe me in this matter. I feel a strong attraction to you that goes beyond just helping a good friend’s sister. I would court you in any way that I could, under any conditions, and hope that you do not take offence to that.”
This time she looked me straight in the eyes. “Can it be so? I believed that Gregory was serious in his attentions, yet he abandoned me after that last day. I have never even received so much as a letter from him since. Just recently, Roderick mentioned that Gregory is engaged to Victoria, a woman younger than me, and with only a slightly less substantial dowry than mine.”
So that is it then, I thought. The poor thing had been cast aside, and her paramour had not even endeavoured to fight for her when an easier target had made itself available.
“I should not tell you any of this,” she continued. “The girls my first season warned me against speaking my mind openly. They said I did not know how to play the game of matchmaking properly. They told me that the only way to win your desired man’s heart was to feign disinterest and turn up your nose. None of their advice made sense to me. How is one supposed to know when to cease acting indifferently, so that they can get to the stage of engagement?”
I laughed heartily at her question. By Jove if I had not wondered the very same thing. When a woman seemed uninterested in me, I simply walked away!
She tried to pull her hands away, mistaking my laughter as mocking her.
“No, no, Madeline. Listen to me. I too have felt that way when I was interested in a woman. They would ignore me, so I gave up. Maybe they were all actually madly in love with me!”
She laughed then too, a charming musical sound, and I was relieved that she was not cross with me.
“Let us speak plainly then, Madeline, as it would seem that is what we do the best.”
“Quite right, Edward, I agree.”
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Morticia Knight Author BioErotic Romance author Morticia Knight enjoys a good saucy tale, whether it is contemporary, paranormal, historical, ménage, M/M or BDSM - she loves it all! One of her passions is bringing people's fantasies to life on the page, because life is too short for even one boring moment. Her stories are volcanic in heat, deep in emotion, and sprinkled with doses of humor.
When not indulging in her passion for books, she loves the outdoors, film and music. Once upon a time she was the singer in an indie rock band that toured the West Coast and charted on U.S. college radio. She currently resides on the northern coast of Oregon, where the constant rain and fog remind her of visits to her family in England and Scotland when she was a child.
For 2014, Morticia has additional installments coming out in the historical M/M romance series, Gin & Jazz, as well as her best-selling Uniform Encounters series.
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