Three Fatal Drops: 1880s

The Dying Artist, Z. Andrychiewicz, 1880s





A remarkable manuscript of deep human interest —the disclosure of a dramatic incident. in the life of a famous novelist—came into the possession of the London Daily Express recently, said that journal in its issue of November 15

It is from the pen of Miss Dora Christie-Murray, daughter of the late Mr. David Christie-Murray, and it was accompanied by the statement that the. writer had been inspired to place the facts on record after reading the account of the trial of Richard Corbett on a charge of murdering his mother, whom he killed, he said, because she suffered from an incurable disease. Miss Christie-Murray’s story is as follows:

When my father was a young man, travelling in the Belgian Ardennes, he came across a cottage tucked away from civilisation, inhabited by an old couple and their son. The parents were of typical peasant class —heavy and loutish, their backs bowed with work, neither expecting nor hoping for anything beyond their lives of daily toil. But the 16-year-old son, a bright, flame-like spirit, was a changeling to their dull eyes.

Without any book-learning he was a genius. Untutored, he had the knowledge with which all artists are born, and above all he had the great, sorrowful gift of music. But all his beauty of soul was imprisoned in a sickly body that found work, of even the lightest kind, impossible. The parents, irritated by his helplessness and frightened by his alien ways, found him a burden, a useless clog on their own dull, stupid lives, and the boy in turn was bewildered by his parents’ lack of understanding and sympathy.

An Incurable Disease.

My father, naturally attracted by the boy, approached the parents with a view to adopting him, and was met with open-armed enthusiasm. To cut a long story short, he finally took the boy away, resolved that his artistry should find its own level. The boy—let us call him Henri—lived for a few months in heaven, but the sickness of his early life turned to an incurable disease, and, in spite of all the loving care my father gave him, he became feebler and feebler, and at last bed-ridden. All his days and nights, and finally all his minutes, were one protracted agony that not even the most powerful drugs could assuage.

The time came when it was only a question of days before the end—and such days! Such aeons of pain, such helpless, shrieking agony, that my father could hardly bear to stand by the bedside. Finally one day he turned to the doctor, almost frantic with his inability to do anything, and said:—”For God’s sake, man, do something! I cannot bear to see. this going on any longer.”

The doctor looked at him strangely for a moment, then picked up a small bottle which he handed to him. “When I am gone, monsieur,” he said, “and the pain becomes very acute, you may give Henri three drops of this medicine—just three drops, remember; more would be fatal.”

“Three Drops Only.”

My father said:—”You mean —?”

“Three drops only; more would be fatal,” repeated the doctor.

“Thank you,” said my father, and the doctor left the room.

As he turned to where the boy was lying, exhausted after his last paroxysm of pain, Henri opened his eyes and said faintly: “I can’t bear it, sir. Help me!”

My father, gentle as a woman, went down on his knees and lifted the boy’s head in his arms.

“My boy,” he said, “you have only a few more days to live, and they will be full of pain and agony. I have something here that might help to relieve the pain a little, and if I give it to you you will go to sleep and never wake up again. Will you take it?”

“I’ll take anything from your hands,” said the boy.

So, with hands that never faltered, my father poured out the overdose and held it to the boy’s lips, and the boy drank it trustfully, then settled down with a smile of unutterable peace, and just whispered, “God bless you, sir.”

And so fell asleep, and sleeping, died.

New Zealand Herald  24 December 1929: p. 14

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog The Victorian Book of the Dead.

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