The Collected Supernatural and Weird Fiction of Florence Marryat: Volume 1—One Novel ‘The Risen Dead,’ One Novella ‘The Dead Man’s Message,’ One Novelette ‘Captain Norton’s Lover’ & One Short Story of the Strange and Unusual
Four substantial tales of the strange and other worldy
Florence Marryat was the daughter of the author Captain Frederick Marryat, who was famous during the Victorian age for his adventure stories for young readers, including ‘The Children of the New Forest’ and ‘Mr Midshipman Easy’ among others. Florence was no prim British Victorian lady. She married an officer of the Indian army, bore him eight children, and travelled extensively in India, before beginning an adulterous affair with another officer whom she subsequently married. She developed a taste for stage performance and became an actress, appearing in a variety of roles including comic opera with the D’Oyly Carte company. Marryat became renowned for her interest in spiritualism, which certainly provided inspiration and backgrounds for her supernatural fiction. In common with many popular writers of her day, Florence Marryat’s literary output was prodigious. She wrote over 70 books, as well as articles for magazines and newspapers, short stories and stage plays. She knew well that there was a ready readership for the sensational fiction in which she excelled. This quite naturally included stories of the weird and other worldly, a genre in which she was particularly prolific and, like several lady writers of her era, at which she was extremely capable, this Leonaur collection of her highly regarded weird and supernatural fiction therefore spans two substantial volumes.
Included in volume one is ‘The Dead Man’s Message’,’Amy’s Lover’,’Captain Norton’s Diary’ and ‘The Risen Dead’.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
How long the Professor remained unconscious to external things, he could not have said; but, when he awoke again, he found himself standing at the back of the chair in which he had fallen asleep, holding on to it with his two hands. He felt strangely giddy and weak, as if he had just emerged from a long illness; and, for a while, he could not collect his thoughts, nor realise where he was. But, as his swaying figure somewhat steadied itself, and his senses returned to him, he knew that he was grasping the back of his own armchair.
“This is really very strange,” he thought; “however did I get here? Surely, I fell asleep in this chair. I must have walked in my sleep.”
His hands wandered about the soft-cushioned velvet, as he spoke to himself, until they rested on the top of a man’s head the head of a man, who, apparently, still occupied the seat he had vacated. The Professor starred. Who could it be? Who had had the impudence to enter his private room and usurp his seat? Did it mean robbery, or bloodshed, or violence of some sort? He was a nervous man, and he was conscious he had more enemies than friends in the world.
The room was now sunk in profound darkness. The fire had completely died out, and the atmosphere was intensely cold. And yet, it did not strike the Professor as strange that he could see all the objects in it. The touch of the stranger’s head had made him shudder with apprehension; but he felt compelled to see who he was, and defend himself against him, it necessary. He seized a wooden ruler off his writing-table, and crept cautiously round to the front of the armchair. How very strange and uncertain his limbs felt as he did so!
For a moment, the question flashed through his mind if he had not exceeded a little, when drinking with his friends the night before. As a rule, he was a most abstemious man; but he had been rather put out on this occasion, and may have taken more champagne than was good for him. And then, the glass of brandy he had swallowed afterwards; surely, the liquor must have had an effect on him; he could account in no other way for the very unusual sensations he experienced. He had been moving slowly round the table, as he pondered after this fashion, grasping the ruler in his hand, determined to see who it was that had dared to invade his privacy. He had reached the front of the armchair by this time, and stood upon the hearth rug. He was in full view of the man who slept in his favourite seat, and he gazed at him aghast—it was himself!
“Good God!” exclaimed the Professor, as the truth burst on him. But there was no doubt of it. There he lay, stretched out most comfortably, in the dress suit in which he had spent the evening, with the empty glass, in which he had drank the brandy, on the table beside him, with his hands folded on his chest, and his eyes fast shut, he looked very calm and peaceful, as if he had suffered no pain; but he was unmistakably Professor Aldwyn, or, rather, what had been he. The Professor put out his finger timidly, and touched the dead body on the forehead. It was cold as ice. There was no question about it. The spirit had departed from it.
“But, good God!” again exclaimed the Professor; “who then am I?” Then the great truth flashed across his mind.
“Is it possible? Can it really be the case? Have I passed out of my body? Is my connection with earth broken forever?”
He glanced up as he thought thus, and again saw standing, on the opposite side of the table, the figure of his old father, who solemnly bowed an affirmative answer to his questioning.
“Father,” exclaimed the Professor, relieved to recognise someone who could explain the mystery to him, “tell me, am I right, and is this Death?”
His father bowed again.
“Come nearer,” cried the Professor; “take my hand. Let me feel, in this crisis of nature, that I have someone to support and strengthen me.”
But his father’s spirit faded away, without a response. Suddenly, the whole story of his own defalcation, when the old man had yearned to see his son on his deathbed, and he never went near him, flashed on the Professor’s memory; and a voice seemed to murmur in his ear, “It shall be meted unto you again.”
A sickening horror of the whole business took possession of him, as if the body lying in the armchair, were not his own, but that of someone else. He tried to move further away from it; to go to the other end of the library, where was placed a large, luxurious couch; but he found he was unable to do so. Some invisible, but powerful attraction, chained him to the vicinity of the corpse, and he was forced to remain where he was, gazing at it.
“But how can this be?” he thought. “What have I always heard and been taught, that people, as soon as they die, are taken away, either to heaven or hell! If I am dead (which I certainly do not feel like), why am I still here? Why have I not been carried away to another world? Why have I not wings, or—or the other thing? I don’t understand it. I must be dreaming. I am suffering from nightmare, and will wake presently and laugh at my imaginary distress. It is impossible it can be true, and I still remaining in the library at home. If would be too utterly absurd.”
He stood there, gazing at the quiet sleeper in the armchair for some time longer, wishing that the dream would end and he could wake up again.
“I was a fool to go to sleep in a chair,” he mused. “It always has some unpleasant effect. I should have gone straight up to bed at once.” But, at this juncture, his meditations were interrupted by the entrance of the housemaid, who bounced into the room noisily, and, going straight up to the windows, threw back the shutters, and let the March daylight into the apartment. The Professor, although fully clothed, as far as he was aware, felt a strange shyness before the maid servant, and said some words of explanation, with regard to her finding him there at such an unusual hour, which she did not seem to hear. But as she turned from the window to take up the hearth-rug, and perceived the silent figure in the armchair, she gave a fell shriek, and rushed out of the room again.