H. D. Everett – The Crimson Blind & Other Stories (Wordsworth, 2006)
John Atkinson Grimshaw, Autumn Glory, The Old Mill (1869)
The Death Mask
The Wind of Dunowe
Nevill Nugent’s Legacy
The Crimson Blind *
Fingers of a Hand
The Next Heir
Anne’s Little Ghost
Over the Wires
The Lonely Road
A Girl in White
A Perplexing Case
The Pipers Of Mallory *
Beyond the Pale *
The Whispering Wall
Stories marked * did not appear in The Death Mask And Other Ghosts, (Philip Allan, 1920)
Back cover blurb:
Mrs H.D. Everett was the last in a long line of gifted Victorian novelists who knew how to grip the reader through the invasion of everyday life by the abnormal and dramatic, leaving the facts to produce their special thrills without piling on the agony. ‘I always know’, says one of her characters, ‘how to distinguish a true ghost story from a faked one. The true ghost story never has any point and the faked one dare not leave it out.’ From the chilling horror of The Death Mask to the shocking violence of The Crimson Blind, from the creeping menace of Parson Clench to the mounting suspense of The Pipers of Mallory, these thrilling stories were enthusiastically received by readers and critics when they first appeared, and are sure to delight and terrify the modern reader in equal measure. With their haunting influences, their permeating scents, their midnight apparitions and unexplained sounds, they plunge us, along with the hero or heroine, into a state of increasing nevous excitement.
“Routine material. Indistinguished stories of literal horror … “The Crimson Blind’, which is often anthologised, is much the best story in the book.” – E. F. Bleiler on The Death Mask & Other Ghost Stories.
The excellent Wordsworth Editions published this collection by early (and posthumous) Creeps contributor, Mrs. Everett in a very handsome paperback edition. Let’s hope she’s the first of many! Richard Dalby introduced a collection containing the same sixteen tales for The Ghost Story Society in 1995, but i never thought we’d see a budget edition in my lifetime, so well done Derek and the team! To be fair, Bleiler is not altogether wide of the mark with that “routine” jibe, as some of the stories are …. on the aenemic side.
The Crimson Blind: In his youth, Ronald McEwen had spent a fortnight at Swanmere Rectory as a guest of his uncle, Rev. Sylvanus Applegarth. The reverend’s sons are wont to tease Ronald about his belief in ghosts and one night persuaded him to visit a derelict house which – they tell him – has a reputation of being haunted. Ronald is well aware that the boys are planning a prank, but they seem as surprised as he when an upstairs blind is raised and a deranged figure comes crashing through the glass at them. Twenty years later, when the property is incorporated into his friend’s luxurious manor house, McEwen learns the truth. It transpires that the place was once a lunatic asylum, and an inmate had tried to burn his room to the ground, killing himself when he jumped out through the window.
The Death Mask: Gloriana Enderby is fanatically opposed to second marriages. On her deathbed she requests that her husband, Tom, covers her face with a particular handkerchief she values among her possessions.
After the funeral Tom sets his cap at the new neighbours’ daughter, Lucy Ashcroft. When they become engaged Gloriana haunts them, the image of her face forming upon hankies and sheets. When it glowers at them from the tablecloth as they’re attempting to dine, Lucy throws in the towel.
The Lonely Road: With his transport home retired lame, Tom Pultenay is forced to walk the eight miles home from Ballymacor via a road which has attained a bad reputation on account of recent muggings. Sure enough, two rum fellows are soon on his trail, but the weaponless Tom is saved from grief by Boris, the late master’s loyal dog, who takes him the length of the road before fading into nothingness. A sub-plot involves Tom’s tricky courtship of the widow Margaret, but this one definitely warrants Bleiler’s indifference.
Fingers Of A Hand: Much more fun. Two unmarried Aunts, Sara and our narrator Grace, take little Dick and Nancy on holiday in Cove while their father is away in India. The first two weeks are uneventful – thank God Mrs. Everett doesn’t describe them in detail – but when the traditional seaside weather kicks in and torrential rain stops play, Grace finds a message scrawled on the fresh sheet of paper: “GET OUT AT ONCE”. “Surely they could have been traced by no mortal hand!” Sadly, Everett again opts for a benevolent ghost whose interference prevents what would have been a terrible tragedy, but there are some neat moments involving the hand which may even have influenced W. F. Harvey’s malefic The Beast With Five Fingers.