Tonight I got home from work and had a brief hour’s window of spare time before I had to go out again. In this hour I managed to get a fair bit accomplished; cooked and ate dinner, cleaned my kitchen, spoke to my best friend, who had the audacity to move to Cape Town for a year in January, on Skype, and read an Edith Wharton ghost story.
I’ve been wanting to get started on the Virago edition of Edith Wharton’s ghost stories for a while. I bought it during Simon’s Sensation Season back in 2009 (doesn’t that seem so long ago already?!) but as I don’t like to read short stories all in one go, and I didn’t want to make it a book I read on my commute, the only chance I would ever get to read the stories is just before bed, as I am never really at home in the evenings. I am not ashamed to say that the Point Horror books used to give me nightmares, and I slept with the light on after watching the lame BBC version of The Turn of The Screw at Christmas, so reading ghost stories before bed is not advisable for someone of my temperament. I have a highly overactive imagination, am a sensitive soul, and I sleep alone, so ghost stories are strictly for daytime reading only unless I want to have sleepless nights.
So, this evening, I grabbed the chance to read one of these stories as it was the first time in ages I had time to sit and read something in the early evening rather than just before bed – plenty of distance between reading time and bedtime, so no reason to have nightmares. I read the first story in the book – The Lady’s Maid’s Bell – a classic tale of a lady’s maid going into a strange house, whispers amongst the staff of all not being quite right, mysteriously locked rooms, suspicious footsteps, a menacing male presence. I won’t go into the plot, because it’s such a short story, and a ghost story to boot, that any attempt at explanation would ruin it. It was an excellent story, and very involving, but as I neared the end, I didn’t realise the last page was the last page, and I turned it over to find no more information, and ended up thoroughly confused. This isn’t the sort of story where everything is neatly explained, and despite rereading it, I have no idea how to interpret the events. It’s driving me absolutely mad!
It’s a fairly short story – it will only take about ten minutes to read. You can find it here. If anyone can spare the time to read it, and then come back and tell me what you think the story was about, I’d be most grateful! I have a vague suspicion…and would be interested to see if anyone thinks the same as me!