M. R. James is widely acknowledged as having been one of the finest exponents of the literary ghost story. Almost everyone who enjoys or has an interest in supernatural fiction will have read his outstanding stories, so those who are drawn to this anthology series will surely need no introduction to his work. Yet, James did not just write ghost fiction, he also wrote extensively about it. As one might expect, the combination of his academic background and his own mastery of the genre mean that his opinions and verdicts on the works of other writers of supernatural fiction are founded on considerable knowledge—if James declares a story to be good it is, in all probability, very, very good. James was not an easy reader to please and there are numerous tales that since his time have enjoyed wide public approbation that fared rather less well subjected to the incisive judgement of 'the master.' In the M. R. James’ Dark Choices anthology series, the Leonaur Editors have gathered together the ghostly novels, novellas, short stories and ballads that did earn M. R. James’—sometimes qualified—seal of approval. Together they form a satisfying and unique anthology of five substantial volumes. Although, predictably, James was in agreement as to the abiding quality of several tales which to this day remain universally recognised as classics, he also acknowledged other authors and stories—on occasion representing a writer’s only foray into the genre of supernatural fiction—which have rarely, if ever, been republished in the many anthologies of ghostly fiction which have appeared since the early years of the twentieth century. There can be no more M. R. James stories, but now we can read this remarkable author’s own 'dark choices’—that select group of tales he considered to be the finest ghost stories ever written. The Leonaur Editors have carefully researched James writings and have included an introduction in each volume which references his comments on the stories included. There have been many ghost story anthologies created under many pretexts, but rarely one with such impeccable credentials as M. R. James’ Dark Choices!
Included in volume three are two novels ‘The Uninhabited House’ and ‘The Haunted Baronet,’ one novelette ‘The Open Door,’ nine short stories, and one ballad.
This collectable anthology series is available not only in paperback but also in hardcover with dustjacket.
“That’s good. But I’m better now, Dick. A dream hasn’t anything real about it, has it? It doesn’t mean anything?”<br>
He was quite reassuring on this point, and soon she quieted down. Before he went to bed he looked in again on her, and she was asleep.<br>
Hester had a stern interview with herself when Dick had gone down to his office next morning. She told herself that what she was afraid of was nothing more than her own fear. How many times had that ill-omened face come to her in dreams, and what significance had it ever proved to possess? Absolutely none at all, except to make her afraid. She was afraid where no fear was: she was guarded, sheltered, prosperous, and what if a nightmare of childhood returned? It had no more meaning now than it had then, and all those visitations of her childhood had passed away without trace. . . . And then, despite herself, she began thinking over that vision again. It was grimly identical with all its previous occurrences, except . . . And then, with a sudden shrinking of the heart, she remembered that in earlier years those terrible lips had said: “I shall come for you when you are older,” and last night they had said: “I shall soon come for you now.”<br>
She remembered, too, that in the warning dream the sea had encroached, and it had now demolished the body of the church. There was an awful consistency about these two changes in the otherwise identical visions. The years had brought their change to them, for in the one the encroaching sea had brought down the body of the church, in the other the time was now near. . . . <br>
It was no use to scold or reprimand herself, for to bring her mind to the contemplation of the vision meant merely that the grip of terror closed on her again; it was far wiser to occupy herself, and starve her fear out by refusing to bring it the sustenance of thought. So she went about her household duties, she took the children out for their airing in the park, and then, determined to leave no moment unoccupied, set off with the card of invitation to see the pictures in the private view at the Walton Gallery.After that her day was full enough, she was lunching out, and going on to a matinee, and by the time she got home Dick would have returned, and they would drive down to his little house at Rye for the weekend. All Saturday and Sunday she would be playing golf, and she felt that fresh air and physical fatigue would exorcise the dread of these dreaming fantasies.<br>
The gallery was crowded when she got there; there were friends among the sightseers, and the inspection of the pictures was diversified by cheerful conversation. There were two or three fine Raeburns, a couple of Sir Joshuas, but the gems, so she gathered, were three Vandycks that hung in a small room by themselves. Presently she strolled in there, looking at her catalogue. The first of them, she saw, was a portrait of Sir Roger Wyburn. Still chatting to her friend she raised her eye and saw it. . . .<br>
Her heart hammered in her throat, and then seemed to stand still altogether. A qualm, as of some mental sickness of the soul overcame her, for there in front of her was he who would soon come for her. There was the reddish hair, the projecting ears, the greedy eyes set close together, and the mouth smiling on one side, and on the other gathered up into the sneering menace that she knew so well. It might have been her own nightmare rather than a living model which had sat to the painter for that face.<br>
“Ah, what a portrait, and what a brute!” said her companion. “Look, Hester, isn’t that marvellous?”<br>
She recovered herself with an effort. To give way to this ever-mastering dread would have been to allow nightmare to invade her waking life, and there, for sure, madness lay. She forced herself to look at it again, but there were the steady and eager eyes regarding her; she could almost fancy the mouth began to move. All round her the crowd bustled and chattered, but to her own sense she was alone there with Roger Wyburn.