Luella Miller (1903) By Mary E. Wilkins – Freeman
The short story describes a small village in New England which features a mysterious, abandoned “one – story” (Wilkins, 175) house that was feared by the residents. The desolate house was the home of the well-known villager Luella Miller who had a sinful reputation amongst the village inhabitants. Luella Miller passed away in the home many years ago, leaving a vivid and daunting memory to the villagers when she was carried out of the house dead. Only an elderly, lonely lady had lived in the eerie house since the passing of Luella Miller. However, after one week of the woman residing in the spooky house, the villagers were curiously concerned when “no smoke came out of the chimney” (Wilkins, 175). Unfortunately, when the neighbors barged into Luella Miller’s house they were mortified to discover the old, sincere women lying dead in her bed, in turn leading the village inhabitants to conjure up a variety of conclusions as to why she died. Merely a single woman was acquainted with Luella Miller in the village. It was an aging, single women, older than eighty years old, who was a devoted church-goer and who lived in the house opposite to Luella’s. The old woman was portrayed by the villagers as truthful and upfront which can be illustrated when the villagers describe Luella’s acquaintance as “never holding her tongue …. or sparring the truth” (Wilkins, 176). The old woman spoke extremely highly of Luella Miller, who she explained real name was Lydia Anderson. She described Luella as a beautiful, unique creature who had a delightful elegance and charming attitude. The old women explains that Luella used to frequently wear a green outfit which comprised of a lace veil, hat and many ribbons. The old women went on to clarify that this was the outfit Luella wore to wed Erastus Miller, a man whom adored Luella. She discussed how Luella used to work at a school, however would get Lottie Henderson to teach her classes whilst she embroidered certain items such as a hanker chief. Lottie Henderson would help out Luella in every way she could and go above and beyond for her. After a year of Luella working at the school Lottie Henderson strangely suddenly passed away. Once Lottie passed, Luella got a diligent scholar to help her with her work at the school, however he became insane following the year of Luella and Erastus’s marriage. Sequentially, the year after Erastus married Luella he passed of ingestion of blood. The old women described that before his death he became frail and fragile like an ageing man. He would wait upon Luella and complete all the chores around the house for Luella treating her like a queen. As soon as Erastus died, Lilly Miller, who was Erastus’s sister moved into the unnerving house with Luella. Lilly Miller was a hearty “rosy-cheeked” (Wilkins, 178), energetic lady. Nevertheless, once six months passed of Lilly living in the house, her sweet characteristics faded and she appeared to look gaunt. Like the other individuals that were close to Luella, Lilly would do anything for her sister in law and was committed to Luella. Likewise to Lilly’s brother, she too became delicate and enervated and eventually died like the the others. Luella’s aunt, Abby Mixter came to cheer up Luella after Lilly’ s death, but unfortunately “Abby began to droop like Lilly had” (Wilkins, 179). After continuous letters were sent between Abby and her daughter Sam Abbott when Abby also became weak and lethargic, her daughter finally paid a visit to Abby and Luella. Abby’s daughter was devastated at the transformation of her mother and so angry that she blamed Luella for the previous deaths that had occurred. The elderly women who lived opposite Luella came over when her aunts daughter went home. Both Luella and her aunt looked a state however Aunt Abby was more concerned about Luella than herself which is why she had called for the old lady to come over. The old woman became frustrated and annoyed with Luella’s insincere wicked laughs and cries and rushed to her house to fetch a glass of valerian which she forced her to drink, putting Luella straight to sleep. The morning after, the elderly lady hurried over to Johnny Bisbee as Aunt Abby evidently needed to be seen by a doctor. Luella, who was emotionless towards her sick aunt, got into a heated discussion with the elderly lady in which her neighbor stated that she would be left on her own and would have to fend for herself. After Aunt Abbey died and had been buried for a month, and she knew the doctor would be out of town, the old woman paid Luella a visit. When the old women went to Luella’s she understood how Luella had drained the others and made them weak, but she refused to let it happen to her. Maria Brown was Aunt Abbey’s replacement and completed Luella’s chores around the house, however similar to the others she died shortly after beginning work at the house. Luella and the elderly women argued and Luella began to look faint and stayed silent. Furthermore, one afternoon the old women noticed that the doctor had visited Luella’s house. Mrs Babbit who lived in the village told the ageing lady how unwell Luella looked but that she also found it peculiar that those who were affiliated with Luella ended up dying. After the doctors frequent visits to Luella’s house, there were rumors amid the town that the two were going to marry one another. The doctor too passed away after marrying Luella, leaving her with the little possessions that he had. After the numerous deaths that occurred to villagers in the town due to their connection with Luella, they now knew to stay away. One day when no smoke was coming out of the chimney, the elderly women went in to check up on Luella who was lying in bed dying. The elderly women who felt sorry for Luella ran home to grab the girl some medicine. However, when the old women got to her house she saw Luella and the victims that had died, such as her husband and Abby, all assisting Luella as they left the house. After a minute their figures disappeared and the elderly women went back to Luella’s house where she found the girl resting dead in her bed. A few nights later Luella’s house set alight, scorching the house down, leaving nothing but “a few cellar stones, a lilac bush and weeds” (Wilkins, 187). These worthless items are reflected by some as a symbol of Luella.
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