Horror: A True Tale by Anonymous (1861)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror March 25, 2014
What if … you are sleeping alone in your bedroom, snug under your deep coverlets, and you wake suddenly feeling a wicked chill. A bit more heat in the room would do and you attempt to rise up and fetch your robe, which you had flung at the bottom of the bed upon retiring. Eyes half open, the dull darkness surrounds you as you spread your hands across the coverlet for the robe. You run your hand over the bed, searching, wondering where the heck it is. Open your eyes—the robe is suddenly handed to you by an unseen arm.
This is the kind of fear we love to read in stories. And this is exactly the kind of fear evoked in Horror: A True Tale. We all have these fears of someone, or some ghastly thing, invading the safety of our beds.
Meet the lovely Rose, a young woman of nineteen, living in the countryside with her sisters Lucy and Minnie and their father, a wealthy landlord.
Their old Tudor mansion is full of turrets and gables and small chambers that the servants refuse to enter because of the dark deeds that history claims happened there.
Rose tells us of the festivities on a splendid Christmas Eve celebration at the mansion with guests regally dressed and chatting in the greatly decorated hall. The matriarch of the family attends, the rich Lady Speldhurst (think Downton Abbey).
“Lady Speldhurst … Her gray silk dress, her spotless lace, old-fashioned jewels, and prim neatness of array, were well suited to the intelligence of her face, with its thin lips, and eyes of a piercing black, undimmed by age. Those eyes made me uncomfortable … they followed my every movement with curious scrutiny.”
Lady Speldhurst is Rose’s godmother, and she plans on spending the night. Rose generously agrees to give up her most comfortable bedchamber for her godmother, and stay in a “disused chamber … which is called haunted … the green room … the sins it had witnessed, the blood spilled, the poison administered by unnatural hate within its walls.”
Naturally Rose resists these ideas, and indeed resists the warnings of her godmother and sisters about staying in this closed up bedchamber. Until when, in the green room, after the hearth fires die down, Rose feels something malignant is near.
Author John Berwick Harwood wrote many ghost stories (many under Anonymous) and this short story is said to be his work. He also wrote The Underground Ghost, and The Painted Room at Blackston Manor. Harwood’s elaborate descriptions invite you into the scenery and action with a deep suspense. There is a bit of melodrama but it suits the elements without being obnoxious. Harwood wrote some twenty novels and several Christmas horror stories but I can’t find much of his work out there. What a pity because I’d love to read more. Do leave a comment of what you think of this little horror story.
Read Horror: A True Tale at ReadBookOnline.net
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