A Visit from Spring-heeled Jack

by

Jill Hand

It was me what answered the door the night the devil came. I’m Violet Twombey, ‘tween maid, sixteen years old come Saint Swithin’s Day. The butler, Mister Burdle, was usually the one who answers the front door, but he was visiting his brother in hospital, him what got knocked down in the street by an omnibus.

With Mister Burdle away, the hall boy, Jerry, should have went and seen who was a-banging away on the big brass door knocker like a smith at a forge but Jerry was asleep in the coal cellar, wrapped up in a bit of old carpet he keeps down there. Jerry is fond of beer and Mister Burdle not being there to stop him, he made liberal use of the keg. At first he grew merry and sang a number of songs, including one about a woman from the Sandwich Islands who wore nothing but a grass skirt that Cook said was not fit for Christian ears. Then he got quiet and said he was going to go down to the cellar and fill the coal scuttles.

When the knock came at the door, the housemaids, Alice and Susan, was playing beggar-my-neighbour in the servants’ hall. Susan pinched my arm and told me to go see who it was.

As I was rubbing my arm Alice gave me a sweet smile and said, “Won’t you please go, Violet?” Alice is not only nicer than Susan, she is prettier. She will have a husband and a home of her own one day while Susan will not, the mean old thing.

So it was me what went, me what worked in the house eight months, giving no trouble to a mortal soul, fetching and carrying and scrubbing and sweeping, polishing everything that needed polishing, including the brass door knocker that somebody was a-banging away on like to raise the dead. I opened the door and there stood the Devil.

He had a red face and horns like a goat’s and a pointed beard like a Spaniard’s. He wore tall black boots and a black cape. He leered at me most alarmingly with eyes as red as fire and did a capering dance.

“O help! It is the Devil!” I screamed.

Cook came running with Susan and Alice at her heels. The Devil breathed a jet of blue flame and stepped inside, causing them to run back downstairs to the kitchen, screeching like scalded cats.

The mistress came out onto the landing to see what the commotion was about. That’s when the Devil started flinging coloured balls of fire, causing the mistress to shriek and faint dead away.

And wouldn’t you know it, the Devil being so fiendishly cunning, that there was no men in the house to protect us? The master was at his club, as he is most every night. It being a Friday, Mister Ellis, the footman, was in Seven Dials, reading to the people in gin palaces from uplifting books and telling them not to be idle but instead to find honest employment.

At least that’s the story he told Mister Burdle when he asked to be given Friday evenings off. I suspect Mister Ellis was frequenting gin palaces for another reason, that reason being gin.

The Devil gave one last ear-splitting shriek before disappearing in a cloud of smoke. Then when the mistress woke up from her swoon she discovered her jools was missing! Diamond bracelets, emerald ear-bobs, the ruby brooch what the master brought back from India, all vanished. Cook said either the Devil must of took them, or else he had one of his imps do it.

“It must have been an imp, wouldn’t you say, Bert?” That was Alf, my young man. Him and me was strolling in the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens the next night, along with Alf’s brother Bert and Bert’s sweetheart Nancy.

“Either an imp or a monkey that escaped from a zoo,” Bert replied, reaching into his pocket for coins to buy ice-creams. Bert’s pockets were heavy with coins for a change, as were Alf’s.

Alf and Bert work in a shop what sells theatrical costumes and magic tricks. Bert is small like an imp, and nimble-fingered like a monkey. He’s bold like a monkey, too, He’s just the fellow to scamper up the back stairs, nip into a lady’s boudoir and nick her jewels when she’s a-lying on the landing in a faint. I pointed to a spot below Alf’s ear, where he’d missed a bit of red greasepaint. “Ta, love,” he said, and wiped it away.

 

Jill Hand is a member of the Horror Writers Association and International Thriller Writers. Her work has appeared in many anthologies, including, Mrs. Rochester’s Attic, Caravans Awry, and Postcards from the Void, among others.
Her Southern Gothic Thriller, White Oaks, was released May 30, 2019 by Black Rose Writing.

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