A completely different sort of Arsenic and Old Lace…

A long time ago, in the mid-19th Century, there was a very wealthy aristocratic family who lived in a castle just outside Le Puy-en-Velay.  The mother was very beautiful, and apparently quite adept at using that to her advantage.  She also wasn’t in the picture much, choosing to spend most of her time in Le Puy.  The daughter was somehow at once the spitting image of the mother and not pretty at all, so that the former was considered a sort of characature of the latter.  Nevertheless, when she came of age, her father was able to arrange a suitable marriage to another young aristocrat, who happened to be quite handsome to boot.

As the years progressed, the young couple learned to love one another, and together brought two sons into the world.  The girl’s father hired her husband as the manager of his estate, and all concerned were in the process of living happily ever after.  Eventually, her father died, and in his will left the entirety of his estate to his son-in-law.

One day, seemingly out of nowhere, the girl’s mother arrived at the door of the castle.  Even in her fifties, she was a stunning beauty, and expressed her desire to come and live amongst her kin.  Her son-in-law welcomed her into his home, and while everything seemed to go swimmingly at first, before long he realized she was swindling money out of him and his wife.  He confronted her with this accusation, a terrible argument ensued, and he threw her out.  She moved to a house just next to the Cathédral de Notre Dame du Puy.

Enraged, the elder woman vowed to destroy her daughter’s marriage.  She convinced her (probably not-too-bright) daughter to come to the city, where the night life and excitement were.  Her daughter left the castle in the countryside and moved to her mother’s abode in town.  Intricately weaved tales mixed with a mother’s love led to the young woman turning against her husband entirely.  She would be followed, in body and sentiment, by servant after servant, encouraged by her mother’s bribes as well as the rumors she spread about their master’s evil ways.

Some servants, however, she paid to retain their employ within the castle, whilst simultaneously working for her.  The most important among these were the cooks.  As the days turned into weeks, the master of the castle began to complain of stomach ailments, digestive problems and constant discomfort.  Dismissing a servant for one reason or another, he was startled to hear the servant’s parting words:  “We will see you dead!”  Afraid for his life, the aristocrat arranged for another man to take over the running of the estate, and planned to flee – temporarily – until such time as he could figure out what was happening all around him.

On the eve of his departure, he arranged a dinner with his closest friends and his remaining servants.  After what must have been a long and delicious meal, and after all his guests had parted, he walked to the fireplace as he always did, lit his pipe as he always did, leaned down to pet his hunting dog, and turned to look out the window upon his estate.  At that very moment, a shot rang out:  he was dead.

The authorities tried in vain to get someone to speak up, but every last witness had been bribed by the mother – and probably daughter – and so 18 long months passed before anyone would say anything.  Eventually, however, someone did speak up, pointing the finger directly at a fellow servant – this one rumored to be engaging with both mother and daughter in sexual liaisons.  The accused was found guilty and executed; the truly guilty parties remained unpunished.

Those two sons?  Apparently they were in the way of their mother’s and grandmother’s fun…not long after all the fuss died down, they, too, began having tummy troubles…alas, they were not long for this world, but their sad and “inexplicable” deaths freed the two ladies up to traipse about Switzerland and Italy for the remainder of their lives…

Le Puy is, incidentally, famous for traditional lace-making – an artisanal practice that predates this story by many, many years.

More importantly, just why this tale of deceit and cruelty has never been made into a film is beyond me…

Tagged , , , , ,

0 thoughts on “A completely different sort of Arsenic and Old Lace…

  1. suncitymom says:

    WOW! And to think that you also have a ‘pilgrimage cathedral’ on top of all of this is amazing. Am sure the women got their ‘just desserts’ eventually but obviously not soon enough. Since the story has probably been printed in French, perhaps you should do a rewrite in English and send it as a short-true story to magazines in U.S.
    3 days before we leave on our jaunt.

  2. Shoshana says:

    Very interesting. Would make a great movie…..

  3. antonia says:

    The ‘old lace’ is a bit of a stretch. Wahwahwah…(dork)

Leave a Reply