Today is far too nice to spend inside, and while I would love to wile away the afternoon finishing a book, the leaves in my backyard call! So, today's short story (and hopefully post as well) is going to be on the ultra short side. A while back I mooched a few short story collections, and 75 Short Masterpieces: Stories from the World's Literature edited by Roger Goodman has come in handy. The book was published in the early 1960s, so many of the authors are unfamiliar to me. But the nice thing about this collection is that the stories are very short--most just three or four pages. This sort of book is the perfect solution for people who say they don't have enough time to read. Who can't spare just a few minutes to read a story that's just a few pages long?
Many of the really famous (well known by me anyway) authors included are authors that I have already read, so I opted for an author that I've meant to read for a while now. I have a copy of Lord Dunsany's The king of Elfland's Daughter, which is a Victorian fantasy novel that I always mean to read for Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge (but never seem to get to). Dunsany was an Anglo-Irish author who came from a very wealthy, aristocratic family. He was a prolific writer, writing not only short stories and novels, but plays, essays, poetry and autobiography as well. He sounds like he was a bit of an eccentric if the wikipedia is to be believed.
"Dunsany's writing habits were considered peculiar by some. Lady Beatrice said that "He always sat on a crumpled old hat while composing his tales." (The hat was eventually stolen by a visitor to Dunsany Castle.) Dunsany almost never rewrote anything; everything he ever published was a first draft. Much of his work was penned with quill pens, which he made himself; Lady Beatrice was usually the first to see the writings, and would help type them. It has been said that Lord Dunsany would sometimes conceive stories while hunting, and would return to the Castle and draw in his family and servants to re-enact his visions before he set them on paper."
Whatever his writing habits (and they do sound peculiar), since I found "The Ghosts" in not just one but two of my short story collections I keep by my bedside, I decided that was the story I needed to read today. I hadn't planned on choosing a ghost story, but they seem to be following me around lately.
I liked this story, because for once the protagonist gets the better of the ghosts! Dunsany does setting quite well. Oneleigh is a mouldering, ancient family home set in isolation amidst a "dark gathering of old whispering cedars." Two brothers are in attendance, one fully believing in ghosts ("he mistook things imagined for things having an actual existence") and the other somewhat skeptical. The skeptical brother decides to sit up and give any wayward ghost every opportunity to make a visit. As a matter of fact he wishes them to come, and come they do. I have to say, these were actually rather chilling ghosts. I won't give details away, because you can listen to the story here (must check the rest of Miette's site out, since she is a fellow short story lover)! In this story logic and reason trump fear. Still, faced with those ghosts I'm not so sure I wouldn't have been reduced to one big goosebump.