The ghostly tales of a highly distinguished female American author
Elia Peattie was a prolific American author, journalist and critic of the later 19th and early twentieth centuries. The young Elia was an avid reader and writer and although she left school at the age of fourteen, she was exceptionally talented. By her early twenties she was writing short stories for newspapers and soon became a journalist for the ‘Chicago Tribune.’ During her career she held a number of senior journalistic posts and wrote for many of the most prestigious American periodicals of the day. She wrote novels, non-fiction guides and travel books, which were well regarded, as well as books for younger readers. ‘The Shape of Fear,’ her only volume of short stories of the strange and ghostly has been augmented here, by several previously uncollected tales, to create a collection that includes such evocative titles as ‘From the Loom of the Dead,’ ‘On the Northern Ice,’ ‘Story of an Obstinate Corpse,’ ‘Story of the Vanishing Patient,’ ‘The Angel With the Broom’ and ‘The Blood Apple.’ This special Leonaur edition is therefore the most complete collection of Elia Peattie’s supernatural fiction available and it will be a welcome addition to the libraries of all those fascinated by he genre.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
“The wife scolded all the time, and her brow was like a storm sweeping down from the Northwest. There was no peace to be had in the house. The children might not repeat to each other the sagas their mother had taught them, nor try their part singing, nor make little doll cradles of rushes. Always they had to work, always they were scolded, always their clothes grew thinner.<br>
“‘Stepmother,’ cried Loa one day,—she whom her mother had called the little bird,—‘we are a-cold because of our rags. Our mother would have woven blue cloth for us and made it into garments.’<br>
“‘Your mother is where she will weave no cloth!’ said the stepmother, and she laughed many times.<br>
“All in the cold and still of that night, the stepmother wakened, and she knew not why. She sat up in her bed, and knew not why. She knew not why, and she looked into the room, and there, by the light of a burning fish’s tail—’twas such a light the folk used in those days—was a woman, weaving. She had no loom, and shuttle she had none. All with her hands she wove a wondrous cloth. Stooping and bending, rising and swaying with motions beautiful as those the Northern Lights make in a midwinter sky, she wove a cloth. The warp was blue and mystical to see, the woof was white, and shone with its whiteness, so that of all the webs the stepmother had ever seen, she had seen none like to this.<br>
“Yet the sight delighted her not, for beyond the drifting web, and beyond the weaver she saw the room and furniture—aye, saw them through the body of the weaver and the drifting of the cloth. Then she knew—as the haunted are made to know—that ’twas the mother of the children come to show her she could still weave cloth. The heart of the stepmother was cold as ice, yet she could not move to waken her husband at her side, for her hands were as fixed as if they were crossed on her dead breast. The voice in her was silent, and her tongue stood to the roof of her mouth.<br>
“After a time the wraith of the dead mother moved toward her—the wraith of the weaver moved her way—and round and about her body was wound the shining cloth. Wherever it touched the body of the stepmother, it was as hateful to her as the touch of a monster out of sea-slime, so that her flesh crept away from it, and her senses swooned.
“In the early morning she awoke to the voices of the children, whispering in the inner room as they dressed with half-frozen fingers. Still about her was the hateful, beautiful web, filling her soul with loathing and with fear. She thought she saw the task set for her, and when the children crept in to light the fire—very purple and thin were their little bodies, and the rags hung from them—she arose and held out the shining cloth, and cried:<br>
“‘Here is the web your mother wove for you. I will make it into garments!’ But even as she spoke the cloth faded and fell into nothingness, and the children cried:<br>
“‘Stepmother, you have the fever!’