Saturday, January 4, 2014

Sonia Marcella, Later the Countess Gitano, Vamp Extraordinaire -1915

FULL TEXT: A few years ago there was no more beautiful, or, to all appearance, enviable woman in all Austria than the Countess Gitano. As she drove on the Vienna boulevards lolling luxuriously in her carriage behind her powdered coachman and footman in gorgeous liveries, all eyes were drawn to the radiant vision of loveliness, with the proud, daintily-poised head, the glorious dark hair, large eyes blue as violets, and the sweet red lips parted in a smile which revealed the gleam of pearly teeth.

If ever a face bore the impress of purity and innocence it was that of the Countess Gitano. And yet, as she pressed on her sumptuous equipage, there were those who looked at her with eyes of scorn, and who whispered curious words to each other for among the few in Vienna who knew her story, strange tales were told of the Countess whose angel’s face, it was said, masked an evil heart.

Never, it was whispered, had the great gift of beauty been so fatally exploited. Under its spell she had drawn lovers to her as a flame draws moths, and each in turn had paid a terrible price for the infatuation against which he was powerless. More than one victim of her witchery had been driven to suicide; others she had deserted after wrecking their lives and homes; and between two of them she had so inflamed mutual jealousy that one had slain the other in a duel.


And while she had thus left behind her a wake of ruin, she continued her smiling way to new conquests. The woman with the deep, soulful eyes and the angel face was, in fact, a heartless siren who used her dower of beauty and her rare gifts of fascination to lure men to destruction, revelling in her powers of conquest, and recking nothing of the fate of her victims.

A dozen years earlier, Sonia Marvella had already, as a girl of eighteen, become famous for her loveliness and her charms, which were a heritage from her Irish ancestry. Almost before she emerged from short frocks she had a legion of lovers at her feet; but to one and all she turned a cold, if dainty shoulder, until a Count of long lineage and vast estates joined the ranks of her slaves, and to him she at last gave her hand.

For a few years she lived fairly happily with her husband, until, wearied of him, she sought distraction and relief in a lover. Tiring of him in turn — for she could not long be constant to any man — she conceived the expedient of denouncing him to the Count in an anonymous letter, and had the satisfaction of seeing him killed by her husband in a duel.

One lover the less was a matter of indifference to the Countess, for she had many eager to take his place; and it was not long before the Count and more than one formidable rival in her affections. He was, however, in no mind to issue more challenges. It was abundantly clear that there was no possibility of happiness for him with a wife whose affections were so inconstant and volatile. It was better that they should part; and, appealing to the law, he had no difficulty in securing a divorce — which was precisely what his errant spouse desired above all.


Thus free from matrimonial fetters, the Countess was quick to ensnare another man in her toils — this time a lawyer of good repute, with a largo and lucrative practice and a loving; wife and family So powerless was the attorney to resist her allurements that, within a short time, he was as effectually ensnared as any of his predecessors, and was the most abject of slaves to her whims and caprices. Such, indeed, was his infatuation that his neglected practice had soon gone to pieces and his wife had secured a divorce.

Still more desperately in love than ever with his enslaver, the lawyer fled, taking with him several thousands of pounds left in his care by one of his clients — only to find himself, deserted by the Countess, for whom he had laid his life and home in ruins, and who now set out on a grand, amorous tour of Europe, seeking fresh victims with long purses to feed her extravagance. In her wake followed her disconsolate and abject lover, happy to get an occasional smile or kind word from her, and compelled to look helplessly cm while she coquetted with his successful rivals. So desperate did he at last become that he tried to take his life by poison, and was only saved from the death he longed for by the opportune arrival of a doctor with a stomach pump.


It was about the time of this narrowly-averted tragedy that the Countess spread her net to trap a young Prince, of some wealth, whom she quickly had at her mercy — following at the “wheels of her chariot” through Europe, grateful for any crumbs of favour she threw to him. In a few months he squandered thousands—ail his available ready money — on her, and his wife had secured a divorce.

Having thus served her purpose, the Countess now began to look out for a successor to her Prince of the empty purse; and she soon found him, in an old acquaintance, one of her early and unsuccessful wooers, Count Maxima, a man of considerable riches.

That the Count was happily married was an obstacle to smile at; no man had ever yet been able to resist her spell, and he should not prove an exception. Nor did he. Within a few months he was her hopeless slave; and his wife dying before the divorce proceedings she had started could be consummated, the Count and Countess became formally engaged.

Then followed a few months of paradise — a fool’s paradise, it is true — for the infatuated Count. He squandered his gold upon her. Together they went to Vienna and to Nice, where he entertained her regally at his villa, and where her gowns and her costly, jewels and equipages created a great sensation. But she had no intention whatever of becoming his wife; it was his wealth, not himself, she coveted and set to work to procure.


With the assistance of her discarded but still devoted lover, the attorney, she persuaded the Count to insure his life for an enormous sum, making sure that in case he was. killed there could be no question of disputing the payment. This step taken, the Countess had little difficulty in inducing her lover to execute a will, leaving the whole of his fortune to her. All that now remained was to ensure his early departure from the world, thus making a rich woman of her; and to ensure this desirable event, she enlisted the services of the attorney, who gladly gave them in return for her promise that she would marry him and share the spoil with him.

The lawyer’s plan of getting rid of the Count was simplicity itself. He would travel from Venice to Vienna by the same train as his victim, get into the same compartment by some pretext, offer him a drugged cigar, and shoot him after the cigar had rendered him unconscious. The scheme was simple, if risky; but when the time came to put it into execution the would-be murderer’s nerve failed him; and to the Countess’ s intense utmost and disappointment, the Count reached Vienna in perfect safety.

But although her scheme had thus ignominiously failed, she was not the woman to abandon an enterprise on which her heart was set; and before long she had found another tool in a youthful Prince, who was so madly in love with her that he was ready to take his own or anyone else’s life at her biding. Playing on his hot-blooded jealousy, and promising to marry him if he succeeded, she found an eager tool ready to her hand.

The Prince, it was arranged, was to journey to Venice and kill the Count, in his villa there. As he had already sent the Count a letter threatening to kill him if he married the Countess, the murder would seem a natural sequence to the threat. In order to remove all suspicion from herself and the attorney, who again was her accomplice, she arranged to send him, too, to Venice, ostensibly to ensure the Count’s safety, because she had heard the jealous Prince utter threats against his life.”

Such was the diabolically clever scheme by which the Countess designed to secure her own safety, while ensuring that one lover should clay another in order to make herself rich But the best-laid schemes of men are apt to fail, and this proved to be among them. The lawyer and the two detectives he took with him were actually in front of the Counts villa when the Prince entered on his murderous mission, of which, however, the detectives had not been warned. Their instructions were to seize any man who rushed from the villa; and the man they pounced upon was not the assassin, but the Count’s butler, who ran out to give the alarm after the foul deed was done.

Suspicion, however, had been roused against both the Countess and her accomplice, who were arrested in Vienna just after they had collected the insurance money on the Count’s life; and the Prince’s arrest followed quickly. In the trial that ensued, the cunningly devised plan of murder was revealed in all its hideous snakedness; and the Countess and her two a were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment, after one of the most sensational trials ever witnessed in any Court of Law.

[“A Beautiful Fiend. The Countess Who Lured Her Lovers To Destruction.” (From Tit Bits.), Wanganui Chronicle (New Zealand), Dec. 8, 1915, p. 3]


For more cases like this one, see: Vamps – Femmes Fatales – Predatory Women


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