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It was all over the papers, though no one really knew how the events unfolded. On the surface, it looked like the perfect Thanksgiving. The turkey was cooked to golden perfection. Steam still rose from the freshly baked dinner rolls and the house was filled with the scent of cinnamon and melted butter from the pumpkin pie and candied yams. Each family member sat around the table dressed in their Sunday best, ready to enjoy the feast before them. Yet, this picturesque scene, which could have easily been the cover of Home and Garden Magazine, was revealed to be under the surface, a gruesome tableau of a family fallen. Foul play was afoot this Thanksgiving. Five corpses sat around this untouched meal.
Claude and Mildred Blackstone earned their money on the backs of the hard-working, indentured servants who ran their plantation. Claude ruled the farm with an iron hand during the day and Mildred kept a household that was as strict as it was spotless. The two ice-cold children, which consisted of bratty Cynthia and Toby (who earned a reputation for frequenting the servant’s quarters at odd hours of the night), had just reached young adulthood. The children occupied themselves with their own preoccupations, as did the rest of the Blackstone household. Uncle Percival (Claude’s youngest brother) was generally considered to be a good man as the priest of the local parish of Farenville, but was not without his secrets.
Claude had recently taken ill with tuberculosis, and it was clear he was not long for this world. This had left Toby and Cynthia with a conundrum. They were the next of kin and the fortune that they would stand to inherit was substantial. By the laws of the township, it was known that the entire fortune would go to Toby, being the first born male son. This, of course, did not sit well with Cynthia and she soon began plotting to remove Toby from the picture. However, despite Toby’s apparent thickness, he was wise to his sister’s plans and developed his own. Cynthia’s vanity would be her downfall. A simple tampering with her cosmetics would be the end for her, but not before Cynthia’s knowledge of her brother’s sweet tooth would have him find an added ingredient in his beloved saltwater taffy. Both Blackstone children died silently in their sleep.
Percival had always been jealous of Claude’s success and affluence, but most of all, his wife. He had been in love with Mildred since they were children, but it was Claude who had won her heart and they married young. Yet, the passion had faded from their marriage years ago, and now Percival found himself making more and more house calls to the Blackstone home. He and Mildred met in the woods to confront their secret love for each other, but religion and family obligation kept them from fully reconciling their passion, even despite Mildred’s discovery of Claude’s liaisons with the servants. Percival would listen patiently as Mildred confessed her hate for her husband daily. Though he knew that Mildred was a woman scorned, she would never abandon her family.
On the night before Thanksgiving, Percival came and met Claude in the kitchen just as he was leaving to rendezvous with the head housekeeper. Claude’s breath was stinking of whiskey, and Percival’s patience was at an end. The hatred these two had for one another in this moment climaxed from a low simmer to a rolling boil, and neither could suppress it any longer. Claude swung at his brother and missed. Percival, reaching for the only thing he find handy, drove his crucifix directly through his brother’s heart. In horror of what he had done, Percival left the kitchen that Thanksgiving Eve, and ran to his parish to pray.
When Mildred came down for her nightly cup of tea and saw her husband dead on the floor, she quickly called for her children. When they didn’t answer, she ran up to their room only to discover each child dead in their beds. Mildred screamed and wailed, crumbling to the floor in despair. However, moments later, as though nothing had happened, she rose, wiped her tears, and calmly dragged the bodies of her children one by one, downstairs to the dining room. She then gathered her husband’s body from the kitchen. All night long she prepared them, dressing them in their finest clothes, cleaning their wounds, and arranging them around the table.
Percival spent the night praying in the church and that next morning came to the house ready to confront his sins and beg Mildred’s forgiveness. As he reached the house, he called out for Mildred. He heard her familiar, elegant voice echo from the dining hall, “In here.” Percival entered. The table was set for all of them, the lifeless bodies sat around the Thanksgiving feast. A bottle rested between two glasses of wine. Percival’s shock and confusion left him speechless. All thoughts of his own confession to Mildred had left his mind. As he stammered to ask Mildred for an explanation, she smiled sweetly and handed him a glass of wine. “Drink,” she said, “and we can all be a family again.” Percival drank the wine as he was told. The poison worked quickly.
Mildred, finally, with her entire family around her, took her own glass in her hand. Still with that sweet smile that had so charmed the late Percival, she drank. She never screamed as the poison ate its way through her intestines.
Credit To – Starr Hardgrove