Hot blood doesn’t necessarily keep a young man from getting cold feet, especially when his life is threatened over a forbidden love. Caisho Burroughes cut and ran from such an affair. . .
and the lady followed him, from beyond the grave.
Caisho Burroughes was a thug, despite his high birth. The son of an English diplomat who served Charles I as envoy to Germany, he was fond of drinking and fighting and chasing women, not always in that order.
Sir John Burroughes took his wayward eldest son with him when he went to assume his post, leaving the boy in Florence to continue his education and to study the Italian language. Caisho turned to his preferred pursuits as soon as his father was out of sight.
He was stopped in his happy tracks by the most beautiful woman he had ever met.
Her name is not recorded, but she was the young mistress of the contemporary Grand Duke of Tuscany. The fire between her and Caisho Burroughes took them both by surprise, and their surprise made them dangerously indiscreet. They were constantly to be seen in each other’s company, and the lady even offered, if Caisho would simply say the word, to leave the Grand Duke behind and devote herself to Caisho for life.
The Duke, naturally, was told about their affair. A cold but jealous and possessive man by nature, he decided the best way to deal with Caisho Burroughes was to arrange an accident in which the lad would, tragically, die.
Caisho was warned by friends of the plot against him. He laughed the warning off at first, but that very night he was involved in a brawl–a put-up job in which he would have been stabbed had the two friends with him not frightened off his would-be killer.
Not many years before, a playwright had sagely observed that the better part of valor is discretion. Caisho, on the whole, agreed with him. He left Florence in such haste that he never thought to tell the mistress he shared with the Grand Duke that he was returning to England to save his own hide.
That task was left to an angry and vengeful duke, who lost no time in castigating his mistress for her poor choice of men with whom to deceive him. Faithless and treacherous were the kindest terms with which he reproached her. Worse yet, he laughed at her protestations of love for the absent Caisho; how she could feel love for such an arrant coward was beyond him.
Pining for Caisho, and knowing the Duke could and would make the remainder of her life a living hell, she killed herself.
In London, Caisho Burroughes was sharing a room with a longtime friend, Colonel Remes, a somewhat older military man who was also a member of Parliament. Remes was unmarried, and the two settled in to a life of wine, women, and song.
One night, they were already in bed when a lady suddenly appeared at the foot of Caisho’s bed: the shade of his deserted Florentine lover. Remes watched and listened in horror as the filmy figure spoke to Caisho, reproaching him for leaving her to the Duke’s savage reprisals against her. She told Caisho that she was dead, and that he would be before long; he would be killed in a duel. And, she added, he would pray for that day, for she would haunt him as long as he lived.
Then she vanished. Although Caisho and Remes, once they had calmed down, joked about inviting the beautiful ghost to join them for a three-way should she visit again, a second visit frightened Remes so badly that he moved out.
An equally terrified Caisho persuaded his younger brother to come share his room; the brother, too, deserted him after seeing the lovely ghost, with her warning of doom.
Thereafter, Caisho would not return to his lodgings; he spent his nights in the lowest of taverns, drinking and cavorting with far less fine ladies. During one such night, he got into a fight with a stranger–a fight that escalated into a challenge to meet on the field of honor.
Caisho accepted, and returned to his room, one last time, to try to get some rest. He got none; his ghostly sweetheart returned and gloatingly informed him that he would die this day.
A hungover and exhausted Caisho didn’t stand a chance against the determined and angry stranger, falling with the man’s blade through his heart.
Opponent and seconds reported that, as Caisho lay dying, an odd mist gathered around him, taking a recognizably human form–of the lover he had so callously betrayed.
Vida Derry tells the story of Caisho Burroughes and his vengeful sweetheart in John Canning’s 50 Great Ghost Stories (1971).