Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, January 8, 2023


Openers:  The little town of St. Bignold was in a ferment when, early in the forenoon of the 8th of October 1812, a report rang through it that a musder had been committed within its walls.  Such a thjing has not been heard of for years; not, at all events, since the Comte de l'Orme's marriage with the black-eyed daughter of Lopez, the moneylender -- the event from which all the late great occurrances at St. Bgnold were dated -- and strangely enough the victim of the atrocious deed was Madame de lOrme herself.

Every one at St. Bignold knew how ill that unequal marriage had turned out; indeed, could it be otherwise when it was only for her wealth that the handsome young comte had sold himself to the high-tempered, jealous heiress?  Yer at the time all had admired his self-sacrifice, for it was well known that it was made not for his own sake alone, but for that of his orphan sisters and brother, who without it had been left portionless and uneducated.  For them he sacrificed his liberty, for them he bound himself for life to one whose golden attractions far exceeded those of her person, and whose pride, self-will, and jealousy, rendered the first five years after their marriage one long-continued succession of disputes and discomforts.  At the end of that time old Lopez died; and soon afterwards it was announced that the Comte de l'Orme had volunteered for the Russian campaign.

No one was astonished, and all were rejoiced to learn that he had discoovered so glorious and explemplary a means of escaping from the thraldom in whihc he had hitherto been held; but they were amazed, indeed, when a week or two after his departure the comtesse broke up her establishment at the castle, and removed to the strange old house at St. Bignold, bequeathed to her by her father.

-- ?The Mystery of the Hotel de l'Orme" by M.M. B. (from London Society, 1862; reprinted in Death Locked In, edited by Douglas G. Greene and Robert C.S. Adey, 1987)

Because of its size, the house that the comtesse had moved back into was known by the villagers as the Hotel de l'Orme.  It was not in the best condition and it faced a disreputable part of the village.  In St. Bignold, the homes were not located on large plots of land so that the homes, if they were to enlarged, went up, not out, with the upper additions overhanging the lower ones, effectively blocking out much of the sunlight on the facing streets.The comtesse spent a great deal of money renovating the building, moving the entrance to another side of the house, facing a far more tonier beighborhood.

The lower floor of Madame de l'Orme's house was rented to a shoemaker.  The second floor held the apartments in which Madam de l'Orme conducted business.  The third floor held the woman's private quarters -- an area to which no one was ever allowed to enter except the comtesse herself and her young maid, Julie.  Julie, now twenty,  was a young orphan for whom the count took pity; he arranged for her to move into the castle and had provided her with training an an education.  When he married, she became Madame de l'Orne's personal maid.  Speculation had it that the comtesse kept a close watch on her maid so that her husband might not enjoy any familiarity with the beautiful young girl.  The speculation was misplaced, for the count never looked upon Julie except as a devoted brother might.  Julie's heart went to Louis, the footman whom the comte took with him to fight the Russians.

After a long campaign of death and hardship, news had finally come of a stunning victory in the war.  It was expected that the comte would soon return to St. Bignold victorious.  To celebrate, the village leaders decided to hold a grand ball, with a commoners' ball to follow the next evening.  The comtesse gave Julie permission to attend the commoner's ball -- something that thrilled the young girl as she prepared a special dress for the occassion, a dress that she soon hoped to wear at her wedding to Louis, once he returned.  While the comtesse was at the main ball, Julie worked on finishing her own dress.  She put it on and danced in the lonely apartment, dreaming of Louis.  Foolishly she also put on the comtesse's chachemire and many of her mistress's jewels and necklaces, imagining herself to be a great lady.  Out of the corner of her eye she thought she saw a face by the curtains.  Frightened. she investigated and found no one/  Nor should she have.  The apartment could only be entered by its one staircase, which was securely locked behind a solid door to which only the comtesse had the key; the only other openings to the apartment were through the locked windows, which were fifty feet above the street level.  Hurriedly, Julie removed the dress and all the trappings she had put on and began to finish the embroidery work the comtesse had asked her to do.  But she forgot to take off the comtesse's earrings, not realizing this until the next day.

The next morning she awoke in her bedroom, which adjoined the comtesse's   She was surprised to see the door between the two rooms closed, for the comtesse always opened the door when she awoke.  Knocking gently she received no answer.  Supposing that her mistress was overtired from the previous night's festivities, she did not get worried until over an hour passed without any noise for the comtesse's room.  The door between the two rooms was locked, with the comtesse having the only key.  Nervously, Julie attempted to reach the comtesse's room through the windows, where there was a very narrow ledge between them on the outside.  Carefully reaching the contesse's window she was startled to find it unlocked.  When she entered she found the comtesse dead, suffocated with a damp pillow.  The bedroom had been rifled and the old woman's jewels, money, and other belongings were missing.

Suspicion at once fell on Julie as no one could have entered the room except her.  A neighbor had reported seeing her edging alone the ledge between the two rooms.  Despite the fact that the stolen items were not found in her room or anywhere else, the comtesse's earrings that Julie inadvertantly wore condemned her.  At trial she was quickly convicted.  As she was led out of the ttial, her fiance Louis suddenly appeared, shocked to find what had happened.  Convinced of her innocence, Louis had only a matter of days to prove it.  Louis, who had "gained a military eye" while fighting in Russia, was not a man to be trifled with.

Nothing appears to be known  about the pseudonymous M.M. B., who -- according to -- had published at least two additional stories, one in 1853 and the other in 1882.  According to Greene and Adey, "Whoever M.M.B. may have been, he or she combined melodramatic Victorian writing with a locked room method worthy of the next century's classic puzzlers."

Locked room murders -- fictional ones, at least -- are always fun.


  • Frederick A. Bechdolt, Horse Thief Trail.  Western. "When red-headed yound Bob Lee awoke in the night to hear the pounding of hoofs and the popping of revolvers, he realized that rustlers had run off his band of horses which, with his little ranch under the Wasatch Range, constituted his stake in life and his hope for the future,  At dawn he borrowed a mount, threw his bedroll on a pack horse, and took the horse thief trail.  So begins a tale of hard, fast action that is all the more enticing because Red Bob galloped into a delightful romance."  Bechdolt (1874-195) was the author of over a hundred novels and stories, many based on historic occurances in the old west.  I'm not sure if this appeared in the pulps before its 1932 book appearance (fictionmags lists nothing under that title); the book was reprinted in paperback by Pennant in 1954.  Bechdolt was the brother of another well-known pulp writer of the time, Jack Bechdolt.
  • Ronald B. Cannon, ed., Emerald Coast Review 1989.  Literary annual showcasing  works of West Florida writers, all members of the West Florida Literary Federation.  Stories, articles, poems, artwork, photographs, miscellania, and a play from the 85 (!) contributors -- all crammed into 157 pages.  Nobody you have ever heard of, although there is a leter from James Branch cbell to author Leon Odell Griffith reprinted here (which is the main reason I picked up the book).
  • Christopher Conlon, ed. He Is Legend:  An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson.  A collection of fiften stories written as tributes to Matheson.  Authors are Joe Hill and Stephen King, F. Paul Wilson, Mick garris, John Shirley, Thomas F. Monteleone, Michael a. Arnzen, Gary A, Braunbeck, John maclay, William F. Nolan, Ed Gorman, Barry Hoffman, Richard Christian Matheson, Joe R. Lansdale Nancy A. Collins, and Whitley Streiber.  Among Matheson's stories that were used as a jumping off point are "Duel," I Am Legend, Somewhere in Time, The Shrinking Man, "Ptrey," and Hell House.
  • Anthony Horowitz, Trigger Mortis. An authorized James Bond adventure. including some original material by Ian Fleming.  "James /Bond had won his battle with crimnal mastermind Auric Goldfinger, but a whole new war is about to begin.  With glamourous Pussy Galore by his side -- and in his bed -- Bond arrives home from America to the news that SMERSH, the deadly Soviet counterintelligence agency, plans to sabotage an international Grand Prix.  He must play a high-speed game of cat and mouse on the track to stop them, but a chance encounter with a mysterious Korean millionaire, Jason Sin, warns him that the scheme is only the Soviet's opening move.  This dashng and seductive narrative of fast cars, beautiful wmoen, and ruthless villains has all the hallmarks of an Ian Fleming original, including familiar faces such as M and Miss Moneypenny.  Trigger Mortis pits Bond and American adventurer Jeopardy Lane aganst a cold-blooded tycoon determined to bring America to its knees -- with the help of SMERSH, who will pay any price to secure Soviet victory in the space race now at the heart of the Cold War.  The clock is ticking as the scheme unfolds, culminating in a heart-stopping New York City showdown that will determine the fate of the West."  Gee.  I wonder who will come out on top?
  • Stephen Laws, Darkfall.  Horror novel.  "A storm is raging.  A massive storm, filled with lightning, power...and terror.  But inside one high-rise office building, all is silent.  Moments before, the building was filled with Christmas parties and celebrating employees.  Now it is empty.  Everyone has vanished, disappeared into thin air.  The only thing left behind -- a severed human hand.  Detective Jack Cardiff and his squad are about to discover the living hell that is Darkfall, where the impossible and the insane become living nighmares.  As the investigation proceeds, the full extent of the horror emerges, a horror beyond imagining, more fearsome than the howling storm that spawned it."  Laws is an award-winning British horror writer.  He once plyed (uncredited) a barfly in an episode of Inspector George Gently.
  • Scott Von Doviak, Charlesgate Confidential.  Crime novel.  "1946:  A group of criminals pulls off the heist of a century, stealing a dozen priceless works of art from a Boston museum.  some of the thieves are captured.  Some are killed -- but the loot is never found...Forty years later, a college student finds himself on the trail of the missing art -- and the multi-million-dollar reward...But three decades after that, the art is still missing, and as his classmates return to Boston's notorioous Charlesgate Hotel for thir 25th reunion, dead bodies keep turnig up.  Will the stolen masterpieces be located at last?  A breathtakingly clever, twist-filled narrative that moves from 1946 to 1986 to 2014 and back again -- and is steeped in Boston lore, including three unforgettable seasons of Red Sox baseball -- Charlesgate Confidential establishes Scott Von Doviak as a storyteller of the first order and will have you guessing until the final page."  Another winner from Hard Case Crime.

Gordy Harmon, R.I.P:  Gordy Harmoin, founding member of the R&B group The Whispers, died this past Thursday.  He was 79.

Five Questions:

1)  What is special about the words job, polish, and herb?

2)  Why is this number unique:  8,549,176,320?

3)  What five-letter word becomes shorter when you add letters to it?

4)  You are in a maze and come to a point where there are three doors in front of you.  The door opn the lefy opens to a pit of lava; the one on the right to a room filled with deadly gas; the one in the middle brings you face-to-face with a man-eating lion which has not eatne in three months.  Which door do you choose?

5)  I am holding a bee.  What is in my eye?

Not a Medically Approved Cure for Disease:  674 years ago on this date, the Jewish population of Besel, believed to be the cause of the Black Plague, was rounded up and incinerated.  There had been previous pogroms against Jews, who were believed to have spread the plague by well poisoning.  The year before the plague hit Basel, townspeople destroyed the Jewish cemetery and many Jews fled the city.  Despite historical sources that claimed from 300 to 600 Jews were incinerated, the number of victimsis more likely to have been 50 to 70 --still 50 to 70 too many.  Jewish children were spared but were forcibly baptized or placed in monasteries; some adults avoided death by converting.  A similar pogrom took place inhj Friiburg three weeks later, and in Strausborg two weeks after that.  It should be noted that the Black Plague did not hit Basel until later that year from April to May.  Superstition and unreasoning bigotry still remain with us in the enlightened year of 2023.

Sing Along:  In 1788, Connecticut became the fifth state to join the Union.  Here is the Connecticut Stae Song/Anthem; you may recodnize it:

Up, Up, and Away:  While I'm in a musical mood, let's celebrate Jean-Pierre Blanchard, the first person to fly in a ballon in the United States, way back in 1783:

BTW:  Today happens to be Ballon Ascention Day.

Other Holidays and Observations:  Today is also International Choreographer's Day, National Apricot Day, National Cassoulet Day, National Static Electricity Day, National Take the Stairs Day, and National Word Nerd Day.  I hope you can get jiggy with at least one nof these.

Happy Birthday:  First to my brother, who turned 75 last Wednesday.. May his tribe increase.  (Actually that will happen later this year when his first grandchild will arrive!)

Celebrating today are Emperor Daizong of Tang (b. 727), Pope  Gregory XV (b. 1554), Willaim Dugard, who in 1652 published Racovian Catechism -- a "blasphemous and scandalous book" -- and who was an "intimate friend" of poet John Milton (b.1606), Dutch philologist Tiberius Hemsterhuis (b. 1685), Poet Laureate Thomas Warton (b. 1728), Portugese soprano Luisa Todi (b. 1753), English humorist Gilbert Abbot a Becket (1811), Friedrich von Esmarch, German surgeon who developed the Esmarch bandage (b. 1823), Jennie Jerome, American-born wife of Lord Randolph Churchill and mother of Sir Winston Churchull (b. 1854), League of Women Voters founder Carrie Chapman Catt (b. 1859), Golden Gate Bridge co-designer Joseph Strauss (b. 1870), founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (b. 1875), R. U. R. author Karel Capek (b. 1890), British actress Gracie Fields (b. 898), jurnalist, author (The Royal Road to Romance), and adventurer Richard Haliburton (b. 1900), opera impressario Sir Rudolf Bing (b. 1902), author Simone de Bovoir (b. 1908), 37th president of the United States Tricky Dick (b. 1913), jazz drummer Kenny Clarke (b. 1914), actress Anita Louise (b. 1915), tough-guy actor Lee Van Cleef (b. 1925), novelist Judith Krantz (b. 1928), science fiction writer and editor Algis Budrys (b. 1931), British-South African novelist Wilbur Smith (b. 1933), football legend Bart Starr (b. 1934, Maynard G. Krebs and Gilligan actor Bob Denver (b. 1935), actress asnd one of my early crushes Susanna York (b, 1939), folk singer Joan Baez (b. 1941), guitarist Jimmy Page (b. 1944), lead singer of the Cowsills Bill Cowsill (b. 1948), singer Crystal Gayle (b. 1951), actor and Farmers Insurance pitchman J. K. Simmons (b. 1956), basketball player (the shortest ever to play in the NBA) "Muggsy" Bogues (b. 1965), English actress Joely Richardson (b. 1965), singer and guitarist Dave Matthews (b. 1967), Catherine, Princess of Wales (b. 1982), and social media personaity and "influencer" Bretn Rivera (b. 1998).

Those who died on January 9 include first Earl of Kent William Neville (d.  1463), Anne of Brittany, queen of Kings Charles VIII and Louis XII of France (d. 1514), first woman to write a mathematics handbook Maria Gaetana Agnesi (d. 1799), English-German astronomer Caroline Herschel (d. 1848), 4th President of the Republic of Texas Anson Jones (d. 1858), Napoleon III of France (d. 1873), first director of the Perkins Institute Samuel Gridley Howe (d.1876), Victor Emmanuel II of Italy (d. 1878), 
author Katherine Mansfield (d. 1923), editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward Bok (d. 1930), actor John Gilbert (d. 1936), economist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Emily Greene Balch (d. 1961), male pioneer of American modern dance Ted Shawn (d. 1972), New York Yankees baseball player Spud Chandler (d. 1990), actor Steve Brodie (d. 1992), actor and comedian Peter Cook of Beyond the Fringe (d. 1995), A Canticle for Leibowitz author Walter M. Miller, Jr. (d. 1996), actor and lonely Maytag Repairman pitchman Jesse White (d. 1997), martial artist and devolper of Krav Maga Imi Lichtenfeld (d. 1998), "honorary mayor of Hollywood" and radio personality Johnny Grant (d. 2008), Singaporean gang leader, murderer, and blot on humanity Tan Chor Jin, and head of the Ang Soon Tong triad (d. 2009), and actor and comedian Bob Saget (d. 2022).

Words to Live By:  "My mother used to say the older you get the better you get, unless you're a banana."  -- "Rose Nyland" on The Golden Girls

Into the Swamp:  Now that we have a Speaker of the House (for the nonce, anyway), I can't help but wonder what Pogo and all his pals in the Okefenoke Swamp would have made of the 118th Congress.

Florida Man:
  •  Florida Man Malacai Love-Robinson was arrest and served a year and a half in prison for impersonating a doctor when he was only 18.  Identifing himself  as "Doctor Love," he had opened the offices of New Birth New Life Medical Center, where he stole $30,000 from an eighty-year-old patient, as well as $20,000 from a doctor; hewas arrested after he prescribed treatment to ann undercover police officer.  Now 25, LoveRobinson is accused of stealing $10,000 from his current employer, a Delray Beach-based shipping company, by having clients send funds directly to his own account and not the comapany's.  Love-Robinson's lawyer said that it was a misunderstanding and that his client was only trying to help people.  He did not want to go to jail, he added.
  • Florida Man Brian Scott Demelo is facing manslaughter charges after a sexual encounter went horribly wong.   Demelo and the victim met on an online chat groujp for sexual encounters and agreed to meet.  During the ensuing act, the vitim bit Demelo's genitals, causing Demelo to beat the victim.  Demelo then left the scene without trying to render aid or contact 911.  He was arrested in Seminole Copunty and is awaiting extration to Osceola County where the incident happened.  Osceala deputies reported that the victim was wearing bondage gear, while Seminole deputies reported that Demel was arrested while in the possession of methamphetamines.
  • Florida Woman Vicki Lynn Williams. 50, has been charged with the murder of a Mount Dora couple -- Darryl Getman, 83, and Sharon Getman, 80 -- at their Florida retirement home after a forced entry.  Williams was arrested in Savannah driving the Getman's car.  Willaims had raised concern among the residents of the retirement home, Lakeside of Waterman Village, before.  She had been spoted on the property at least three times before residents had called the police. She had been  reportedly escorted off the propery earlier on the day of the murders, but returned again and began knocking on resident's doors.
  • Florida Man and Governor Ron DeSantis is making a ply to take over Walt Disney World.  DeSantis has introduced a bill that would allow the governor to appoint a board to oversee the land the park occupies, the Reedy Creek Improvement District, allowing a board of supervisors to run it as a special district.  Currently, Disney self-governs the property.  The bill supposedly wouold allow the state to benefit from taxes and fees, as well as make Disney responsible for its debts.  According to one Democratic State Representative, "This is not about corporate responsibility.  This is about Disney World defending queer kids and the governor not liking that, and the governor pursuing an agenda to stop that from ever happening again."
  • For those who tihink that a Florida Man and a Florida Woman might not be the lowest of the low, consider the case of Florida Couple James Zeak, 35, and Andrea Shearin, 31, who had been reported havng an extramarityal affair.  When Zeak's wife discovered this, she was bale to obtain hundreds of text messages between the two which indicated they had abused a 2-year-old child.  The two have been arrested on one count of lewd or lascivious molestation, one count of lewd or lascivious exhibitiojn, and one count of child abuse.  Yuck!
  • A Florida Couple called 911 in Polk County after commiting a burglary to have a deputy come out to an abandoned house where they were staying to give them a ride to the airport, where they planned to fly to New York.  They didn't like it in Florifda any more.  Clearly anunlcear on the concept moment.
  • Finally, can this be a new Florida Man?

Good News:
  • In a move that could revolutionize healthcare, the interior of the human cell is mapped for the first time
  • The Army Corps of Engineers 2023 calendar (it's free!) has added giant cats
  • World's first tractor completely poswered by cow dung developed by British firm
  • Danual Rutledge, revoderinmg from a brain tumo, stroke, and a 5-month coma, was able to make it home for Christmas
  • He ran a marathon every day in 2022, then went to work at his job, while raising a million pounds for charity
  • To improve her depression, she tried something new every day for a year, and is vowing to keep it up
  • You have probaly all seen videos of happy goats or happy donkets choimping down od used Christmas trees, but here are some llamas and alpacas because I REALLY like llamas and alpacas

Today's Poem:
Nightmare of a Crossword Puzzle Fan

He dropped off to sleep with a sigh of content,
But speedily rose up and frowned;
And viewed with amaze the strange scenes he beheld
And all the odd creatures he found.

An esne was spreading long grass out to a ted;
An ani was warbling low;
An emmet was dodging an ai as he tried
To enter his hill by the Po.

Greek letters were dancing about on the lea;
Type measuresmarched straight to their fate
Where units of force were engaged in a war
To vanquish the units of weight.

The Sun god of Egypt passed slowly along
Enroute to his temple of stone,
Where Lambs other name and Guido's high note
Sang nymns with a truncated cone.

The bitter vetch spread over stell-billed cuckoos
And chemical symbols played ball;
The rivers of Germany languidly waltzed
With seaports of west Portugal.

And Japanese sashes rushed madly about
Pursuing the fugitive erns.
Where mineral springs rose up gushing in glee,
Surrounded by tropical ferns.

A fabulous monster arose in his path --
The sleeper awoke with a howl.
And forthwith determined strictly to eschew
Boiled loster, weish rarebit, et al.

-- Richard F. Searight
(with a nod to Winsor McCay)

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