The Collected Supernatural and Weird Fiction of Grant Allen: Volume 1—One Novel ‘Kalee’s Shrine’, and Nine Short Stories of the Strange and Unusual Including ‘Our Scientific Observations on a Ghost’, ‘Pallinghurst Barrow’ and others
Volume one of the supernatural fiction of Grant Allen
Canadian born, Grant Allen (1848-99) was educated in England and became a notable author of both scientific books and fiction. He is particularly regarded for his promotional activities concerning the theory of evolution. In common with many of the outstanding authors of the Victorian age, Allen was a prolific writer in many areas including detective fiction. His science fiction novel ‘The British Barbarians’ was published at around the time of H. G. Wells’, ‘The Time Machine’ and also featured time travel in its narrative. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle became a neighbour and friend and assisted Allen in the completion of his last work, ‘Hilda Wade’. Grant Allen also produced enough strange and otherworldly tales to fill the two volumes in this Leonaur edition of his excellent and entertaining ghostly stories.
Volume one features the novel Kalee’s Shrine and nine short stories of the strange and unusual including ‘Our Scientific Observations on a Ghost’, ‘Pallinghurst Barrow’ and ‘My New Year’s Eve Among the Mummies’.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
Rudolph groped his way on. His goal was the barrow. As he went, speechless voices seemed to whisper unknown tongues encouragingly in his ear; horrible shapes of elder creeds appeared to crowd round him and tempt him with beckoning fingers to follow them. Alone, erect, across the darkling waste, stumbling now and again over roots of gorse and heather, but steadied, as it seemed, by invisible hands, he staggered slowly forward, till at last, with aching head and trembling feet, he stood beside the immemorial grave of the savage chieftain. Away over in the east the white moon was just rising.
After a moment’s pause, he began to walk round the tumulus. But something clogged and impeded him. His feet wouldn’t obey his will; they seemed to move of themselves in the opposite direction. Then all at once he remembered he had been trying to go the way of the sun, instead of widershins. Steadying himself, and opening his eyes, he walked in the converse sense. All at once his feet moved easily, and the invisible attendants chuckled to themselves so loud that he could almost hear them. After the third round his lips parted, and he murmured the mystic words: “Open door! open door! Let me come in.” Then his head throbbed worse than over with exertion and giddiness, and for two or three minutes more he was unconscious of anything.
When he opened his eyes again a very different sight displayed itself before him. Instantly he was aware that the age had gone back upon its steps ten thousand years, as the sun went back upon the dial of Ahaz; he stood face to face with a remote antiquity. Planes of existence faded; new sights floated over him; new worlds were penetrated; new ideas, yet very old, undulated centrically towards him from the universal flat of time and space and matter and motion. He was projected into another sphere and saw by fresh senses. Everything was changed, and he himself changed with it.
The blue light over the barrow now shone clear as day, though infinitely more mysterious. A passage lay open through the grassy slope into a rude stone corridor. Though his curiosity by this time was thoroughly aroused, Rudolph shrank with a terrible shrinking from his own impulse to enter this grim black hole, which led at once, by an oblique descent, into the bowels of the earth. But he couldn’t help himself. For, O God! looking round him, he saw, to his infinite terror, alarm, and awe, a ghostly throng of naked and hideous savages.
They were spirits, yet savages. Eagerly they jostled and hustled him, and crowded round him in wild groups, exactly as they had done to the spiritual sense a little earlier in the evening, when he couldn’t see them. But now he saw them clearly with the outer eye; saw them as grinning and hateful barbarian shadows, neither black nor white, but tawny-skinned and low-browed; their tangled hair falling unkempt in matted lucks about their receding foreheads; their jaws large and fierce; their eyebrows shaggy and protruding like a gorilla’s; their loins just girt with a few scraps of torn skin; their whole mien inexpressibly repulsive and bloodthirsty.
They were savages, yet they were ghosts. The two most terrible and dreaded foes of civilized experience seemed combined at once in them. Rudolph Reeve crouched powerless in their intangible hands; for they seized him roughly with incorporeal fingers, and pushed him bodily into the presence of their sleeping chieftain. As they did so they raised loud peals of discordant laughter. It was hollow, but it was piercing. In that hateful sound the triumphant whoop of the Red Indian and the weird mockery of the ghost were strangely mingled into some appalling harmony.
Rudolph allowed them to push him in; they were too many to resist; and the Soma had sucked all strength out of his muscles. The women were the worst: ghastly hags of old, witches with pendent breasts and bloodshot eyes, they whirled round him in triumph, and shouted aloud in a tongue he had never before heard, though he understood it instinctively, “A victim! A victim! We hold him! We have him!”
Even in the agonised horror of that awful moment Rudolph knew why he understood those words, unheard till then. They were the first language of our race—the natural and instinctive mother-tongue of humanity.
They haled him forward by main force to the central chamber, with hands and arms and ghostly shreds of buffalo-hide. Their wrists compelled him as the magnet compels the iron bar. He entered the palace. A dim phosphorescent light, like the light of a churchyard or of decaying paganism, seemed to illumine it faintly. Things loomed dark before him; but his eyes almost instantly adapted themselves to the gloom, as the eyes of the dead on the first night in the grave adapt themselves by inner force to the strangeness of their surroundings.
The royal hall was built up of cyclopean stones, each as big as the head of some colossal Sesostris. They were of ice-worn granite and a dusky-grey sandstone, rudely piled on one another, and carved in relief with representations of serpents, concentric lines, interlacing zigzags, and the mystic swastika. But all these things Rudolph only saw vaguely, if he saw them at all; his attention was too much concentrated on devouring fear and the horror of his situation.