THE DEVIL’S MISTRESS
There are cases in which the disciple surpasses the master, and this book by J. W. Brodie-Innes is dedicated ‘To the memory of my dear friend the author of Dracula to whose help and encouragement I owe more than I am at present at liberty to state.’
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is, as we all know, recognised as the leading world classic in occult fiction. The horrific scenes in graveyards and Dracula’s castle in Transylvania justify the book’s celebrity but, as I remarked in my introduction to it (Vol. 1 of this series), there are many passages in it that are tediously long-winded, and the English characters are Victorian dummies that have little personality; whereas neither applies to The Devil’s Mistress and I consider it to be much better reading.
The background is Scotland in Cromwell’s time, when Britain was cursed by the rule of bigoted, fanatical Puritans, each one a minor tyrant who, in his own district, forbade dancing round the maypole, cards, betting, play-acting, games on Sunday, and every form of merrymaking which had previously been the only relief from drudgery in the lives of ordinary working people. To enjoy oneself they declared to be a sin, and upon anyone found doing so they inflicted the most barbarous punishments.
It was little more than a hundred years since Henry VIII had repudiated the Roman Church and his daughter, Mary, had temporarily restored Catholicism, so the Reformed Religion was by no means yet accepted everywhere. In the remoter districts particularly there were still many families that continued to be Roman Catholics and attended Masses held in secret; whilst others paid only lip service to the hated Kirk and gave their real allegiance to Satan at witches’ Sabbaths.
Into this dangerous world of uncertainty and suspicion Isabel Goudie was born, and baptised a Catholic. Her father was a lawyer so she was brought up as a young lady, well-educated and with pretty clothes, could play the spinet and dance a minuet. Moreover she had exceptional beauty of face and body crowned by a mass of flaming red hair.
Unfortunately for her by the time she was grown up, to maintain his prosperity, her father found it necessary to abandon the Roman Church for the Kirk. Unwilling though she was, Isabel had to submit to being re-baptised as a Protestant, and given in marriage to an Elder of the Kirk, one John Gilbert, a dour, dirty, uncouth farmer, whose lands were in a very isolated part of the country.
Poor Isabel was miserable and lonely. Having no more use for her fine clothes she put them away in a chest and wore instead a coarse homespun garment, into the breast of which she had sewn a small gold crucifix.
One day in the forest she meets a most attractive man. She instantly falls in love with him, and he with her. He is Satan, yet not represented in accordance with Christian teaching – a hideous monster – but as Lucifer, the Lord of this World and Son of the Morning. Isabel readily gives herself to him, joins his coven and becomes its queen.
We now make the acquaintance of Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstown and his family. He is a merry man and the greatest wizard in those parts. Isabel goes to live at Gordonstown and Sir Robert’s daughter, Jean, becomes her dearest friend. But they are in dire trouble because Jean’s fiancé, Cosmo Hamilton, is being hunted to death by the Puritans.
The great circular walled house of Gordonstown is now a school. Its first headmaster was my friend the famous professor, Kurt Hann, with whom I once stayed in Germany. While at the school he was Prince Philip’s tutor.
But when my wife was young Gordonstown was still inhabited by a descendant of Sir Robert, King Edward VII’s friend Sir William Gordon-Cumming. His daughter, the late Mrs Cecily Muir, was my wife’s closest friend and when my wife stayed at Gordonstown she was told all the legends about Sir Robert and how, by seizing a straw and then crying ‘Horse and hattock’, he turned it into a powerful black stallion on which he attempted to escape from the Devil when he was due to pay up for the pact he had made with him.
The crisis of the tale hinges on the question – shall the lovely Isabel remain faithful to her Satanic lover or, for the sake of her friends, forgo his passionate embraces, together with the occult powers he has bestowed upon her, and return to the Catholic faith? It is a magnificent story.