The Lady’s Maid’s Bell by Edith Wharton (1902)
Tuesday’s Ghost Story, April 14, 2020
Colin Dickey, author of Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places said, “We tell stories of the dead as a way of making a sense of the living … Ghost stories reveal the contours of our anxieties, the nature of our collective fears and desires, the things we can’t talk about in any other way.” For me ghost stories are the dark whispers and inside those whispers are elements of truth. So, if you love a good ghost story, you’ve come to the right place.
Today’s ghost story, The Lady’s Maid’s Bell has undertones of personal prisons, infidelity, and jealously. Add a loveless marriage, a spinster maid, and kindred spirits. The Lady’s Maid’s Bell is told by Alice Hartley, a lady’s maid, endearing and charming, who takes a position in the country estate at Brympton Place. Upon arriving on her first day, Alice meets the ghost.
“… a thin woman with a white face, and a dark gown and apron; the woman does not speak.”
The mistress of Brympton Place, Mrs. Brympton, never rings the bell for her new maid Alice. Yet the bell does ring. This story is tense with dark thresholds and doors, and the color red for juicy symbolism. You will find that the impact of the narrative does not just come from the appearances of the ghost, but from the relationships of the characters. This is a puzzle for the reader, fraught with secrets and mysterious events.
This was Wharton’s first attempt at a writing a ghost story. Her artistry in this story creates a text that is like a warning flash for women of her day, failed marriages, and society’s complacency of the times. A wonderful spooky little yarn that you will not be able to stop reading until Alice Hartley brings you to the very end.
Edith Wharton became a published writer at age 16. She published her first novel at the age of 40 in 1902, a non-fiction work, The Decoration of Houses. Her breakthrough came in 1905 with The House of Mirth, then Ethan Frome in 1911 and The Age of Innocence in 1920, which won her the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
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