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The Collected Supernatural and Weird Fiction of F. Marion Crawford: Volume 5

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The Collected Supernatural and Weird Fiction of F. Marion Crawford: Volume 5
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): F. Marion Crawford
Date Published: 2011/06
Page Count: 468
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-556-8
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-555-1

Volume five of a collection of supernatural and weird tales by a forgotten master of the gothic and occult

Although an American author, writer F(rancis) Marion Crawford was born in Northern Tuscany, the son of sculptor Thomas Crawford, he spent much of his life in the United States, living and working in Boston. His inherent sensitivity to Italy influenced much of his historical fiction. Indeed, in his novel ‘Corleone,’ Crawford became the first author to prominently feature the now very familiar theme of the Mafia in fiction. He also produced notable works of history concerned with the various ages of Italy. Travels in the East and the study of Sanskrit in India gave him a grounding in the oriental and an interest in the other worldly. Although the themes of supernatural and weird fiction are often believed to be expressed to best effect in the short story most of Crawford’s literary output consisted of novels. Fortunately, several of these include distinctly fantastical themes. His comparatively small oeuvre of short ghost and horror tales is so finely crafted that they have become some of the most highly regarded examples of the form in the English language. M. R James considered some of them to be among the best supernatural stories written, with the chilling and claustrophobic ‘The Upper Berth’ being especially singled out for merit. Crawford’s talent for this genre is so widely acknowledged that it has been rightly noted that the greatest shame was that he did not write more—praise indeed! This five volume Leonaur collection of Crawford’s strange novels, novellas and short stories provides a superb and substantial collection by one of Americas finest nineteenth century authors.
The final volume of this special collection begins with the gothic masterpiece ‘Greifenstein’ and is followed by another of Crawford’s other worldly tales highly regarded by M. R. James, ‘The Screaming Skull,’ in which a doctor brutally murders his wife by pouring molten metal into her ear and then dies mysteriously himself; later a man inherits a skull which remains far from silent—as old bones should be! In ‘The King’s Messenger’ the holder of this dignified office actually has far more sinister duties. Finally, ‘Man Overboard!’ is a fabulous nautical ghost story of two seafaring brothers, one of whom is swept overboard. The survivor wins the bride, but a terrible fate awaits them.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

The sense of impending evil was in some measure accountable for the unusual emotion exhibited at the parting. He had never taken leave of his mother so affectionately before, nor had he before seen the tears start into her eyes as she kissed him and said goodbye. Never before had the grip of his father’s hand seemed to convey so much of sympathy, nor did he remember that his own voice had ever at other times trembled as though it were sticking in his throat.<br>
Even Frau von Sigmundskron was a little moved and pressed his hand warmly when he kissed her, though she said nothing. Hilda was very silent, and never took her eyes from him. He had bidden her farewell before taking leave of the rest, at their old haunt by the Hunger-Thurm. There had not been many words, and there had been no tears, but it had been nevertheless the saddest parting Greif ever remembered. The day was cloudy and a soft wind was making melancholy music among the grand old trees. Their own voices had sounded discordant and out of tune, and the words that might have expressed what they felt would not be found, and perhaps were not needed.<br>
But when the last minute was come the whole party went out together to the gate where the carriage was standing. Greif found himself with Hilda, separated for a moment from the rest. She laid her hand upon his arm and spoke in a low voice.<br>
‘Something evil is going to happen to you, Greif,’ she said. There was something in the accents that chilled him, but he tried to smile.<br>
‘I hope not, sweetheart,’ he answered.<br>
‘I am sure of it,’ said Hilda in a tone of conviction. ‘I cannot tell why—only, remember, whatever happens—it will be something terrible—I shall always love you—always, always.’<br>
The others came up, and her voice sank to a whisper as she repeated the last word. Greif looked anxiously into her face, and saw that she was pale, and that her flashing blue eyes were veiled and dim. He was startled, for he had never seen such a change in her before. But there was no time for words. He whispered a loving answer, but she seemed not to hear his words as she stood against the huge rough masonry of the gate, gazing down the drive in the direction of the Hunger-Thurm. As he was driven rapidly away, he looked back and waved his hat. The others had stepped forward upon the pavement on one side of the gate, but Hilda had not moved. Then as the turn of the road was about to hide the castle from view, he saw her cover her face with both her hands and turn back into the shadow of the deep gateway.<br>
Greif settled himself in his comfortable seat, wondering what it all meant. It was very strange that Hilda should have so suddenly and so forcibly expressed the same idea that had agitated his mother a few days earlier. It was impossible that they could have talked together, or that they could be thinking of the same thing. There was no sympathy between them, and besides, if Hilda had learned anything from Frau von Greifenstein which Greif did not know, she would certainly have told him of it, especially as this impending catastrophe threatened him as well as his mother. He was too firmly opposed to all sorts of superstition to believe that Hilda had received any supernatural warning of an event about to occur.<br>
But for the conversation that had taken place with his mother, he would unhesitatingly have told himself that Hilda was yielding to a foolish presentiment raised by the sorrow of parting. Persons in love are very apt to fancy each separation the last, and to imagine some dreadful disaster to be in store for the object of their affections. He flattered himself that his own common sense was too strong to be shaken by such absurdities, but he owned that the sensation was a natural one. Without giving way to presentiments he nevertheless always felt that something might happen to Hilda before his return, and it was not strange that she should feel the same anxiety in regard to him. The impulsive expression she had given to her fear was not in itself surprising, and if she had turned pale for the first time in her life, it was perhaps because her heart was really waking to something stronger than that even, emotionless affection she had hitherto bestowed upon him.<br>
There was a similarity, however, between his mother’s words and Hilda’s, which was not so easily explained, and the coincidence was oddly in harmony with the oppressive constraint that had reigned at Greifenstein during the vacation. Greif could not help thinking very seriously of it all, as he drove rapidly through the forest to the railway station; so seriously indeed, that he at last shook himself with a movement of impatience, said to himself that he was growing superstitious as a girl, and lit a cigar with the strong determination not to give way to such nonsense.
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