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The Collected Supernatural and Weird Fiction of Mrs. J. H. Riddell: Volume 2

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The Collected Supernatural and Weird Fiction of Mrs. J. H. Riddell: Volume 2
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): Mrs. J. H. Riddell
Date Published: 2013/01
Page Count: 496
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-997-9
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-996-2

A second collection of superb Victorian ghostly fiction

Aficionados of supernatural fiction are aware that its golden age was during the later Victorian and Edwardian eras. There was a huge public appetite for spine chilling tales and many magazines published their ideal form—the short story. This created opportunities for many writers to produce supernatural fiction. Among the huge number of stories published, some were exceptionally good and these came from the pens of those who became recognised masters of the form. Popular authors were often incredibly prolific and an individual writer’s canon of supernatural fiction could be substantial. Almost every commercially minded writer wrote some supernatural fiction and many of the finest exponents of the craft were women. While Mrs. J. H. Riddell had much in common with her peers, she was highly regarded by some of the genres severest critics including the ‘grand-master’ himself, M. R. James. Charlotte Cowan was born in Ireland in 1832, the daughter of the High Sheriff of Antrim. She moved to London in 1855 and shortly thereafter married the civil engineer Joseph Hadley Riddell. As was often the practice at the time she subsequently wrote under her formal married name. Besides her career as a writer she was also a publisher, being part owner of the highly regarded literary periodical ‘The St. Jame’s Magazine.’ This comprehensive Leonaur collection of Charlotte Riddell’s strange stories comprises three substantial volumes to captivate both enthusiasts and collectors.
Volume two of this Leonaur collection of Mrs. Riddell’s spooky tales includes the novel ‘The Nun’s Curse’ and two short stories ‘Sandy the Tinker’ and ‘A Strange Christmas Game.’
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

“No one shall have the chance—at all events while I am alive,” retorted the young man, flushing angrily as he spoke.<br>
“You’re maybe right, but I wouldn’t be in too big a hurry to say so,” persisted the housekeeper. “Sometimes a good offer doesn’t come a second time when people want it; and after you’ve had Calgarry a while you’ll find there is something about the place you’d rather there wasn’t.”<br>
“What do you mean?” asked the new heir. “What are you talking about?”<br>
“What I would rather not talk about, Mr. Terence: The Nun’s Curse.”<br>
That was the second time in one night young Conway had heard reference made to this old story; and precisely because the phrase impressed and disquieted him more than he would have cared to own, he said jeeringly to the housekeeper,<br>
“I never thought, Ann, to hear you, a good Protestant, reviving that ridiculous legend.”<br>
“I am a good Protestant, sir, I hope—at least, I try to be a good Presbyterian, which Mr. Malet says is much the same thing; but for all that I believe there is a curse over this place, and every one of your name as comes to own it. I can’t go against the evidence of my own senses, and I’ve seen enough here to know there is something upon Calgarry might well make a stout heart fear to keep it.”<br>
“If there be a curse on it I shall have to face it, as others of my race have done,” answered Terence, with a thrill of pride. Not to the lot of every one does it fall to succeed to a big estate and the doom of misfortune—an ancient estate that for nearly three centuries had lain under a curse. If there had only been money sufficient to back up both, what a happy man Terence Conway had been that night! As it was, he immediately remembered his debts, and wondered if the curse would invade Calgarry in the visible form of Jews clamouring for their money.<br>
“You won’t mind old Ann speaking plain to you, Mr. Terence, will you?” said the housekeeper tentatively.<br>
“Why, you always have done that; it is too late to object now,” replied the heir, with an uneasy laugh. “Go on: what is it you have in your mind to say?’<br>
“Just this, sir: there never was before, and there maybe never will be again, such a chance for lifting the Nun’s Curse off your name and Calgarry as you have now. If I’m told what is right it is not the place itself that was cursed, but—every Conway that should own it. And see now how things are. You want money, and there’s a stranger—no drop’s blood to you—wants the property. If you sell it to him you can go away and enjoy your riches, and he can stay and give no end of employment, and lift the hearts of the poor; and the nun, whoever she was, can lie at rest in her grave; and there will be peace and happiness where there has been nothing but strife and trouble.”<br>
The woman spoke with a subdued passion which seemed to have its effect on the Old Duke’s successor, for he made no answer; only employed himself in arranging some crumbs of bread in a methodical line on the tablecloth.<br>
Ann looked at him doubtfully for a moment, and then turned her eyes towards a japanned screen which shut off all draught from the hall.
Behind it she saw a lady standing, who had evidently heard some portion of the conversation, for she made eager signs to Ann that it met with her unqualified approval. In dumb-show those gestures said:<br>
“Strike home—strike hard! you are doing good work. God grant you may persuade him;” and then, with an imploring look, the eavesdropper, seeing she was only distracting a faithful adviser, stole away noiselessly as she had entered.<br>
The young heir had at last settled the crumbs to his satisfaction, and lifted his head as she went.<br>
“Ann,” he said, “between me and you, do you think Mr. Conway we buried today felt anything of this curse?’<br>
“Think, sir? I know! It was always with him, always and ever; and at the Last. If you had sat up with him as I did, you would not doubt the strength and power of the Nun’s Curse.”<br>
“Who was she, Ann? And what made her curse us all?’<br>
For a second Ann stood silent, looking with brooding mournful eyes at the young man.<br>
“Mr. Terence,” she answered, “don’t ask me, please. There wasn’t a servant who came into this house, not a tenant ever called Mr. Conway landlord, would have dared tell the story in his lifetime; and I wouldn’t like even for you to be the one to repeat it the night he was put in his grave.”<br>
“I won’t ask you,” said the new master; and he fell to thinking once more.<br>
“Sir,” said the housekeeper, “I would like to speak only one other word: I was here, you know, when Mr. Gilbert died, quite sudden. Though the eldest son, Mr. Conway that you buried today never liked him, but made much of Mr. Patrick.<br>
“Well, the minute Mr. Gilbert was underboard, his father took a hatred to Mr. Patrick, who could do no wrong till he stood next to Calgarry.
“For ever after there was strife and bickering; then he died, leaving two beautiful sons.<br>
“Your father got into favour all at once. He was asked here and your mother and you, and the grandsons, who lived at Calgarry, got plenty of sour looks. You know what happened: they went out one day in a curragh, and never set foot more on land alive. They were carried here dead, and as he crossed the doorstep with them, I knew your father had got The Nun’s Curse, for he looked glad. He was glad, too, may the Lord pardon him! And, Mr. Terence, sir, you know the rest, since—”<br>
“No, Ann, I do not know the rest, as you read it. Before God I never desired the old man’s death, and if you think the Nun’s Curse will rest upon me because I did, you are wrong!”<br>
“No, sir, I am not,” replied Ann. “You knew you must succeed. Your father had little chance of succeeding if either of those poor young men had lived and married, and—”<br>
“Do not go on,” entreated the new master.”<br>
“Sir, I must, because it was not he was glad, but the nun through him. She was proud and happy to see the poor young fellows stiff and stark. Mr. Terence, it is a cursed estate (God forgive me for calling any inch of His ground cursed!), and get rid of it, do. I am only a foolish old woman, I know; but take better advice nor mine, and see what it will be.”<br>
There ensued a dead silence, during which the wild fury of the gale became painfully audible.<br>
“Hark!” said the young man at last, “what an awful storm!”<br>
“The Lord have mercy on any that’s out at sea this night!” ejaculated the housekeeper; and they kept mute for a few minutes again.<br>
“I suppose everyone has gone to bed?” hazarded Mr. Terence Conway, in a pause of the tempest.<br>
No, sir, they are all in the drawing-room; but Sir Henry doesn’t know you are back, or Miss Dutton, either. They made sure you would stop at Dunfanaghy till morning.”<br>
Well, then, I think I will go quietly away to bed, Ann, and consider your counsel.”<br>
“May He who sends all wisdom guide you to a good decision!”<br>
“You look tired,” said Mr. Conway, which, Indeed, the poor soul might well do. “Have a glass of wine; it will do you good.”<br>
“No, thank you, sir: it would be better than any wine to me if I thought you would let Mr. Norbury have Calgarry.”<br>
“Or Captain Conway?”<br>
“No, Mr. Terence; I had far and away rather hear you had sold it to Mr. Norbury, instead of only shifting the Curse on to another of your name.”<br>
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