Gentle Jane was good as gold,
She always did as she was told;
She never spoke when her mouth was full,
Or caught bluebottles their legs to pull,
Or spilt plum jam on her nice new frock,
Or put white mice in the eight-day clock,
Or vivisected her last new doll,
Or fostered a passion for alcohol.
And when she grew up she was given in marriage
To a first-class earl who keeps his carriage!
- W.S. Gilbert, Patience
In the Year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred ninety-eight, a seven-year-old girl named Courtney learned how to play the violin. It quickly became apparent that she had a great deal of natural talent, and her friends and family soon came to view her as something of a child prodigy. Unbiased observers were less effusive, but readily acknowledged that Courtney had the talent to go places as a violinist if she applied herself.
As Courtney's 11th birthday neared, her wealthy parents decided to encourage her musical studies with a grand gesture. Sparing no expense, they searched for and eventually located an antique violin of exceptional quality that its owner was willing to part with. Because Courtney was such a responsible little girl, and because there is no substitute for the right equipment, her parents scarcely blinked at the five-figure price tag. The overjoyed Courtney received this remarkable instrument—of a quality that most professional violinists would envy—on her birthday, and received a new bow as well.
The bow was simply a bow, albeit one of the very finest quality. The violin, however, was none other than the one inhabited by the restless spirit of the treacherous Ludwig Ernest Rittersohn—the fabled "Violin of Despair". Courtney's parents could not have known this, of course; and even if they had, they would surely have dismissed it as folklore.
Rittersohn's spirit contemplated, as well as a disembodied spirit can, the fate of its soul object's new custodian. The sort of sticky end that had befallen so many violinists who had the misfortune to cross paths with this embittered spirit seemed inappropriate—not because of any sense of mercy or pity on the spirit's part, but because a little girl seemed unworthy of the effort. No, Courtney would not die. Not physically, anyway; but a spiritual "death of a thousand cuts" was another matter.
The spirit was patient. It would wait for opportune moments to erode Courtney's spirit via public humiliation.