Afterward by Edith Wharton (1910)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror March 5, 2013
Are you drawn to haunted house stories? Would you consider living in one for just the experience of meeting a ghost? Edith Wharton’s Afterward is a haunted house story, but it’s got a different spin on the old cliche.
Come to the House at Lyng in the countryside of Dorsetshire, “known to be full of ghosts.” Mary and Edward (Ned) Boyne move to Lyng because it’s so remote and because it has a resident ghost—a predictably shy ghost. How delightful, right? But this story doesn’t start off as juicy as you’d expect: there are no ghoulish stories about this ghost at Lyng, no historical facts to feast upon, no frightening legends.
Darn! Wharton is such a tease. She is a writer that likes to turn the tables on what the reader expects in the traditional ghosts of evil doings and hot revenge.
Mary finds the House at Lyng quite enchanting with English gardens, grass terrace, fish pond, drawing room, and library. The couple have no financial worries due to Ned’s highly successful business dealings.
Wharton describes the house meticulously and with elegance … the pear trees drawing complicated patterns on the walls, pigeons on the silvery slated roof, tea at breakfast from a charming Edwardian teapot. Isn’t life lovely!
But where is this ghost and why isn’t it haunting?
When Mary and Ned see a “figure of a man in loose grayish clothes” walking slowly up the lime entrance, they are certain it is their resident ghost. With great anticipation, Ned dashes out to the lime drive. Later Mary finds him in the library where he explains it wasn’t a ghost at all, just Peters, one of the servants (hmmm, really?)
Soon after, Mary finds that Ned doesn’t join her for luncheon … or dinner.
This is a ghost story that hinges on old money, the old aristocratic values, and another driving desire—greed. You can be sure this ghost is a clever power. I began to wonder if the ghost was secretly watching, waiting for the just the right moment to strike. I was wrong, but far from disappointed.
You’ll find this psychological ghost story will keep you turning the pages as Afterward will haunt you with a last faint breath.
Read Afterward here:
P.S. Click on the tab above, Short Stories, to experience my latest supernatural tale just published at Fiction 365, Hildie at the Ghost Store.
Stop back next Tuesday for another Tale of Terror.
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