Definitely NOT for children-the supernatural fiction of Edith Nesbit One Novel ‘Dormant’ (a.k.a. ‘Rose Royal’), and Eleven Short Tales of the Strange and Unusual including ‘The Detective’, ‘No. 17’, ‘The Blue Rose’ and ‘The Haunted House’
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.
His eyes fixed on the dead face, wavered for the first time. Something fiery yet enervating, like chloroform and sunshine mingled, flushed through his veins. “No more,” he told himself; “I can do no more.”
And as he told it, a sound broke the throbbing silence, a little light sigh. And he had not sighed.
“Now,” he said again, concentrating all his soul and spirit in the command. “Now!”
And the dead woman’s eyelids fluttered, opened an instant and closed again.
The thing needed was at hand. He had seen to all that. A phial and a glass. He filled the glass, raised her head and held the glass to her lips. Her lips accepted the brim of the beaker. She drank. Her eyes closed again.
Rigid with an inconceivable joy and triumph, he turned away, left her there lying still, living, with eyes closed and quiet hands. There were certain ceremonial washings of his hands and face. Anthony performed them duly and came back to where she lay. Kneeling by her he set cold fingers on her brow and spoke, this time in no strange tongue.
“Awake,” he said, “it is time.”
And the body that had been dead, moved; the hands fluttered, the eyes opened, gazed a moment wildly, unseeing. Then she raised herself on her elbow and her eyes met his.
“Is it all over?” she asked, and her voice seemed to him to be like no voice his ears had ever heard, and yet to be a voice whose echoes had been always in his heart.
“Yes, it is all over,” he said.
She put one little hand on the floor and raised herself by it till she was sitting on the floor, her face looking up to his as he knelt beside her.
“I do feel different,” she said. “I feel more alive, a thousand times. I did not think it would be so. But you knew—you. And it is truly a fact accomplished?”
“Yes,” he said, trembling now in every nerve, but resolute to show nothing but strength, calmness, trustworthiness.
“And now,” she said, “I live for ever?”
“Yes,” he said soothingly, “yes.”
Then the unexpected, the not by any chance to have been foreseen, happened. She smiled full into his dazzled eyes—oh! she was a thousand times more beautiful than he had thought her, a thousand times more beautiful than he had thought any one could be—laughed a low laugh of perfect contentment and happiness, flung her soft arms round his neck, and, laying her soft cheek to his, breathed softly—
“Oh, my love!”
His heart checked and stumbled, but his arms went round her. What else could they do when hers round his neck seemed to know themselves in their natural home? He held her a moment thus, and the world seemed to spin among a sea of stars and roses. Quite as mixed as that were Anthony’s thoughts. Or had he any thoughts at all? Perhaps not. He knelt there, holding her to his heart that beat as it had never beaten in all his life. Her face lay against his; her shape, slender and delicately warm, nestled in the curve of his arm. She tightened the clasp of her arm round his neck, moved her face a little, and smooth warm soft lips sought his and found them. Stars and flowers and all the world whirling to a wild wonderful music unimaginably beautiful, just not heard, but imminent.
“Oh, my love!” she said again; “oh, my love!” She caught her breath, and he felt her tears hot on his cheek.
As one picks up with tongs a red-hot cinder that has fallen on the hearth, Anthony’s brain caught hold of Anthony’s heart, lifted it, sought to set it back where it should be. Not with Rose. He never thought of Rose, did not so much as remember that a human being named Rose existed in this same wonderful world with him. What his brain told him was that She—there was only one—must rest, must not agitate herself with emotion, must be calm. Yet how answer these words of hers with words of less worth? That was impossible, and he did not even try. Yet what he felt was surprise when he found himself saying—
“My love, you mustn’t. Be good. Be quiet. You’re not out of danger yet.” And then he said, just as Bats was, even then, saying to Rose, “Don’t! please don’t!” and “You mustn’t cry. It’s bad for you.”
“It’s only joy,” she said, and clung to him.
A sudden wild fear assailed him. What if, after all, having brought her back from the dead, he should be powerless to keep her? What if, weeping and clinging to him, the new life he had given her should wane, sink, fade out? Up to this point he had known what to do. Now he did not know any longer. Wilton; why had he driven Wilton away? Of course; Wilton was at the other end of the telephone. He came back to the old life, the old self, with a sickening, bewildering half-turn. Yes; he had done it: he had raised the dead. Her breast pressed to his, softly palpitating with life, witnessed to his triumph. He had brought her back. She had been dead. He knew it. He had known it from the beginning, though he had told these fellows that she was not dead, because it was the simplest way of getting them to understand what he wanted to get understood. She had been dead. And he had gone down into unknown deeps for her, like a second Orpheus, and brought back an Eurydice, not his. But she thought herself his. He trembled and clasped her closer.
“Don’t cry,” he said; “ah, don’t!”
In the bringing of her back he must somehow have impressed his personality, himself, on her mind, so that when she clasped life again, she, with life, clasped him. He had done what he knew how to do. He had brought her back. But now? He was adrift on a sea of wild possibilities, impossibilities; and her arms were round his neck. He put his hands up and loosed those clinging hands.
“Listen!” he said, in a new voice of authority; “listen. You must listen. And you must do what I say.”
“Have I not, always?” she asked. And her pale face met him appealing over their clasped hands as he knelt and looked at her.
“Collect yourself and listen,” he said; “it—it has taken longer than was expected. Things have changed.”
He saw by her eyes that she hardly heard his words. But hers showed that she had heard his tone.
“What is it?” she said. “Are you angry? What have I done? Did I not submit? Did I not do all that you say, though you know how I was afraid.”
“No, no; don’t, dear,” he said. The tender word could not help getting itself spoken; it was the only answer to her appealing eyes. “Of course, I am not angry. How could I be? How could I be anything but—? Ah! you know,” he said. But he was awakening to the world as he had known it, the old dull world that had not in it this wonder with the eyes that seemed to live in his, the arms that went round his neck as though that were their right.
“Listen,” he said again; “it has taken longer than was expected. Things have changed.”