The sixth volume of an eight book collection from 'the grandfather of the ghost story'
Whilst many highly regarded writers have created collections of strange and supernatural fiction and several other authors are now primarily known for their literary efforts within this genre, the author of this large collection surely stands alone. Not only is his body of supernatural and gothic fiction extremely substantial, he wrote ghost and horror fiction if not exclusively then certainly as the subject matter of the overwhelming majority of his considerable literary output. His authorship of novels and stories of the other worldly began from the first part of the nineteenth century making him one of the earliest specialist exponents of the genre in the 'modern' period. He is widely regarded as a master of his craft, and it is certain that once he had set out to create a thrill or chill in the minds of his reader one was sure to follow! J. Sheridan Le Fanu was without doubt the premier writer of ghostly fiction during the Victorian age and his influence on the genre can be seen in the work of his peers and those who followed after. An Irishman, in 1861 Le Fanu became the editor of the 'Dublin University Magazine' and this gave his fiction ready access to the public. 'The House by the Churchyard' and 'Wylder's Hand' were originally published in the magazine. This special Leonaur edition of Le Fanu's weird and supernatural fiction runs to 8 substantial volumes and is possibly the most comprehensive collection of his work yet assembled. It includes his highly regarded novels and a plethora of shorter works designed to provoke fear and horror among his dedicated aficionados.
The long novel Checkmate and the short stories The Fortunes of Sir Robert Ardagh; The Child That Went With the Fairies; What Was It?; Ultor De Lacy: a Legend of Cappercullen; Fireside Horrors For Christmas and The Questioning of Paddy Mullowney’s Ghost.
All volumes are available in softcover and hardcover with dust jacket for collectors.
The room was in total darkness. The atom of gas that still remained alight did not illuminate a distance of three inches round the burner. I desperately drew my arm across my eyes, as if to shut out even the darkness and tried to think of nothing. It was in vain. The confounded themes touched on by Hammond in the garden kept obtruding themselves on my brain. I battled against them. I erected ramparts of would-be blankness of intellect to keep them out. They still crowded upon me. While I was lying still as a corpse, hoping that by a perfect physical inaction I should hasten mental repose, an awful incident occurred. A Something dropped, as it seemed, from the ceiling, plumb upon my chest, and the next instant I felt two bony hands encircling my throat, endeavouring to choke me.<br>
I am no coward, and am possessed of considerable physical strength. The suddenness of the attack, instead of stunning me, strung every nerve to its highest tension. My body acted from instinct, before my brain had time to realize the terrors of my position. In an instant I wound two muscular arms around the creature, and squeezed it, with all the strength of despair, against my chest. In a few seconds the bony hands that had fastened on my throat loosened their hold, and I was free to breathe once more. Then commenced a struggle of awful intensity.<br>
Immersed in the most profound darkness, totally ignorant of the nature of the Thing by which I was so suddenly attacked, finding my grasp slipping every moment, by reason, it seemed to me, of the entire nakedness of my assailant, bitten with sharp teeth in the shoulder, neck, and chest, having every moment to protect my throat against a pair of sinewy, agile hands, which my utmost efforts could not confine—these were a combination of circumstances to combat which required all the strength, skill, and courage that I possessed.<br>
At last, after a silent, deadly, exhausting struggle, I got my assailant under by a series of incredible efforts of strength. Once pinned, with my knee on what I made out to be its chest, I knew that I was victor. I rested for a moment to breathe. I heard the creature beneath me panting in the darkness, and felt the violent throbbing of a heart. It was apparently as exhausted as I was; that was one comfort. At this moment I remembered that I usually placed under my pillow, before going to bed, a large yellow silk pocket-handkerchief. I felt for it instantly; it was there. In a few seconds more I had, after a fashion, pinioned the creature’s arms.<br>
I now felt tolerably secure. There was nothing more to be done but to turn on the gas, and, having first seen what my midnight assailant was like, arouse the household. I will confess to being actuated by a certain pride in not giving the alarm before; I wished to make the capture alone and unaided.<br>
Never losing my hold for an instant, I slipped from the bed to the floor, dragging my captive with me. I had but a few steps to make to reach the gas-burner; these I made with the greatest caution, holding the creature in a grip like a vice. At last I got within arm’s length of the tiny speck of blue light which told me where the gas-burner lay. Quick as lightning I released my grasp with one hand and let on the full flood of light. Then I turned to look at my captive.<br>
I cannot even attempt to give any definition of my sensations the instant after I turned on the gas. I suppose I must have shrieked with terror, for in less than a minute afterward my room was crowded with the inmates of the house. I shudder now as I think of that awful moment. I saw nothing! Yes; I had one arm firmly clasped round a breathing, panting, corporeal shape, my other hand gripped with all its strength a throat as warm, and apparently fleshly, as my own; and yet, with this living substance in my grasp, with its body pressed against my own, and all in the bright glare of a large jet of gas, I absolutely beheld nothing! Not even an outline—a vapour!