The second volume of E. Nesbit’s tales of ghosts and horror-definitely NOT for children
One Novel ‘The House With No Address’ (a.k.a. ‘Salome and the Head’), and Fifteen Short Tales of the Strange and Unusual including ‘The Letter in Brown Ink’, ‘The Shadow’, ‘The New Samson’ and ‘The Pavilion’
For most readers the name E. Nesbit conjures up the titles of some of the well-known books written for children. ‘The Railway Children’, ‘Five Children & It’ and ‘The Phoenix and the Carpet’, among others, have become enduring favourites, are superlative examples of their genre and have influenced children’s fiction writers for decades. There can be no disputing that Edith Nesbit was a fine author with a talent for storytelling that employed a brilliant economy of phrase, but it is not true that she confined her literary talents to the entertainment of only juvenile readers. Many potential readers may be surprised to learn that Nesbit was responsible for a sizeable cannon of tales of the ghostly and horrific for an unambiguously adult readership.
This two volume set of E. Nesbit’s supernatural fiction includes, in the first volume, the novel, ‘Dormant’—which was also published under the title ‘Rose Royal’—and eleven short stories including ‘Man-size in Marble’, ‘The Detective’, ‘No. 17’, ‘John Charrington’s Wedding’, ‘The Blue Rose’ and ‘The Haunted House’. The second volume features the novel ‘The House With No Address’—which was also published under the title ‘Salome and the Head’—together with fifteen short stories including ‘The Haunted Inheritance’, ‘The House of Silence’, ‘The Letter in Brown Ink’, ‘The Shadow’, ‘The New Samson’ and ‘The Pavilion’.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
They reached the steps or the pavilion and stumbled up them. The door was closed, but not locked. And Amelia noticed that the trails of creeper had not been disturbed; they grew across the doorway as thick as a man’s finger, some of them.
“He must have got in by one of the windows,” Frederick said. “Your dagger comes in handy, Miss Davenant.”
He slashed at the wet, sticky green stuff and put his shoulder to the door. It yielded at a touch and they went in.
The one candle lighted the pavilion hardly at all, and the dusky light that oozed in through the door and windows helped very little. And the silence was thick and heavy’
“Thesiger!” said Frederick, clearing his throat. “Thesiger! Halloa! Where are you?”
Thesiger did not say where he was. And then they saw.
There were low stone seats to the windows, and between the windows low stone benches ran. On one of these something dark, something dark and in places white, confused the outline of the carved stone.
“Thesiger!” said Frederick again in the tone a man uses to a room that he is almost sure is empty. “Thesiger!”
But Amelia was bending over the bench. She was holding the candle crookedly, so that it flared and guttered.
“Is he there?” Frederick asked following her; “is that him? Is he asleep?”
“Take the candle,” said Amelia, and he took it obediently. Amelia was touching what lay on the bench. Suddenly she screamed. Just one scream, not very loud. But Frederick remembers just how it sounded. Sometimes he hears it in dreams and wakes moaning, though he is an old man now, and his old wife says, “What is it dear?” and he says, “Nothing, my Ernestine, nothing.”
Directly she had screamed she said, “He’s dead,” and fell on her knee, by the bench. Frederick saw that she held something in her arms.
“Perhaps he isn’t,” she said. “Fetch someone from the house—brandy—send for a doctor. Oh, go, go, go!”
“I can’t leave you here,” said Frederick. “Suppose he revives?”
“He will not revive,” said Amelia, dully; “go, go, go! Do as I tell you. Go! If you don’t go.” she added, suddenly and amazingly, “I believe I shall kill you. It’s all your doing.”
The astounding sharp injustice of this stung Frederick into action.
“I believe he’s only fainted or something,” he said. “When I’ve roused the house and everyone has witnessed your emotion you will regret—”
She sprang to her feet and caught the knife from him and raised it, awkwardly, clumsily, but with keen threatening, not to be mistaken or disregarded. Frederick went.
When Frederick came back with the groom and the gardener—he hadn’t thought it well to disturb the ladies—the pavilion was filled full of white revealing daylight. On the bench lay a dead man, and kneeling by him a living woman on whose warm breast his cold and heavy head lay pillowed. The dead man’s hands were full of green crushed leaves, and thick twining tendrils were about his wrists and throat. A wave of green seemed to have swept from the open window to the bench where he lay.
The groom and the gardener and the dead man’s friend looked and looked.
“Looks like as if he’d got himself entangled in the creeper and lost ’is ’ead,” said the groom, scratching his own.
“How’d the creeper get in, though? That’s what I says.” It was the gardener who said it.
“Through the window,” said Doricourt, moistening his lips with his tongue.
“The window was shut, though, when I come by at five last night,” said the gardener, stubbornly. “’Ow did it get all that way since five?”
They looked at each other voicing, silently, impossible things.
The woman never spoke. She sat there in the white ring of her crinolined dress like a broken white rose. But her arms were round Thesiger, and she would not move them.