The (Belated) Saturday Night Special: “The Wedding Knell” by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1837)

Nathaniel_Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1840

There is a certain church in the city of New York which I have always regarded with peculiar interest, on account of a marriage there solemnized, under very singular circumstances, in my grandmother’s girlhood. That venerable lady chanced to be a spectator of the scene, and ever after made it her favorite narrative. Whether the edifice now standing on the same site be the identical one to which she referred, I am not antiquarian enough to know; nor would it be worth while to correct myself, perhaps, of an agreeable error, by reading the date of its erection on the tablet over the door. It is a stately church, surrounded by an inclosure of the loveliest green, within which appear urns, pillars, obelisks, and other forms of monumental marble, the tributes of private affection, or more splendid memorials of historic dust. With such a place, though the tumult of the city rolls beneath its tower, one would be willing to connect some legendary interest.

The marriage might be considered as the result of an early engagement, though there had been two intermediate weddings on the lady’s part, and forty years of celibacy on that of the gentleman. At sixty-five, Mr. Ellenwood was a shy, but not quite a secluded man; selfish, like all men who brood over their own hearts, yet manifesting on rare occasions a vein of generous sentiment; a scholar throughout life, though always an indolent one, because his studies had no definite object, either of public advantage or personal ambition; a gentleman, high bred and fastidiously delicate, yet sometimes requiring a considerable relaxation, in his behalf, of the common rules of society. In truth, there were so many anomalies in his character, and though shrinking with diseased sensibility from public notice, it had been his fatality so often to become the topic of the day, by some wild eccentricity of conduct, that people searched his lineage for an hereditary taint of insanity. But there was no need of this. His caprices had their origin in a mind that lacked the support of an engrossing purpose, and in feelings that preyed upon themselves for want of other food. If he were mad, it was the consequence, and not the cause, of an aimless and abortive life.
The widow was as complete a contrast to her third bridegroom, in everything but age, as can well be conceived. Compelled to relinquish her first engagement, she had been united to a man of twice her own years, to whom she became an exemplary wife, and by whose death she was left in possession of a splendid fortune. A southern gentleman, considerably younger than herself, succeeded to her hand, and carried her to Charleston, where, after many uncomfortable years, she found herself again a widow. It would have been singular, if any uncommon delicacy of feeling had survived through such a life as Mrs. Dabney’s; it could not but be crushed and killed by her early disappointment, the cold duty of her first marriage, the dislocation of the heart’s principles, consequent on a second union, and the unkindness of her southern husband, which had inevitably driven her to connect the idea of his death with that of her comfort. To be brief, she was that wisest, but unloveliest, variety of woman, a philosopher, bearing troubles of the heart with equanimity, dispensing with all that should have been her happiness, and making the best of what remained. Sage in most matters, the widow was perhaps the more amiable for the one frailty that made her ridiculous. Being childless, she could not remain beautiful by proxy, in the person of a daughter; she therefore refused to grow old and ugly, on any consideration; she struggled with Time, and held fast her roses in spite of him, till the venerable thief appeared to have relinquished the spoil, as not worth the trouble of acquiring it.
The approaching marriage of this woman of the world with such an unworldly man as Mr. Ellenwood was announced soon after Mrs. Dabney’s return to her native city. Superficial observers, and deeper ones, seemed to concur in supposing that the lady must have borne no inactive part in arranging the affair; there were considerations of expediency which she would be far more likely to appreciate than Mr. Ellenwood; and there was just the specious phantom of sentiment and romance in this late union of two early lovers which sometimes makes a fool of a woman who has lost her true feelings among the accidents of life. All the wonder was, how the gentleman, with his lack of worldly wisdom and agonizing consciousness of ridicule, could have been induced to take a measure at once so prudent and so laughable. But while people talked the wedding-day arrived. The ceremony was to be solemnized according to the Episcopalian forms, and in open church, with a degree of publicity that attracted many spectators, who occupied the front seats of the galleries, and the pews near the altar and along the broad aisle. It had been arranged, or possibly it was the custom of the day, that the parties should proceed separately to church. By some accident the bridegroom was a little less punctual than the widow and her bridal attendants; with whose arrival, after this tedious, but necessary preface, the action of our tale may be said to commence.
The clumsy wheels of several old-fashioned coaches were heard, and the gentlemen and ladies composing the bridal party came through the church door with the sudden and gladsome effect of a burst of sunshine. The whole group, except the principal figure, was made up of youth and gayety. As they streamed up the broad aisle, while the pews and pillars seemed to brighten on either side, their steps were as buoyant as if they mistook the church for a ball-room, and were ready to dance hand in hand to the altar. So brilliant was the spectacle that few took notice of a singular phenomenon that had marked its entrance. At the moment when the bride’s foot touched the threshold the bell swung heavily in the tower above her, and sent forth its deepest knell. The vibrations died away and returned with prolonged solemnity, as she entered the body of the church.
“Good heavens! what an omen,” whispered a young lady to her lover.
“On my honor,” replied the gentleman, “I believe the bell has the good taste to toll of its own accord. What has she to do with weddings? If you, dearest Julia, were approaching the altar the bell would ring out its merriest peal. It has only a funeral knell for her.”
The bride and most of her company had been too much occupied with the bustle of entrance to hear the first boding stroke of the bell, or at least to reflect on the singularity of such a welcome to the altar. They therefore continued to advance with undiminished gayety. The gorgeous dresses of the time, the crimson velvet coats, the gold-laced hats, the hoop petticoats, the silk, satin, brocade, and embroidery, the buckles, canes, and swords, all displayed to the best advantage on persons suited to such finery, made the group appear more like a bright-colored picture than anything real. But by what perversity of taste had the artist represented his principal figure as so wrinkled and decayed, while yet he had decked her out in the brightest splendor of attire, as if the loveliest maiden had suddenly withered into age, and become a moral to the beautiful around her! On they went, however, and had glittered along about a third of the aisle, when another stroke of the bell seemed to fill the church with a visible gloom, dimming and obscuring the bright pageant, till it shone forth again as from a mist.
This time the party wavered, stopped, and huddled closer together, while a slight scream was heard from some of the ladies, and a confused whispering among the gentlemen. Thus tossing to and fro, they might have been fancifully compared to a splendid bunch of flowers, suddenly shaken by a puff of wind, which threatened to scatter the leaves of an old, brown, withered rose, on the same stalk with two dewy buds,–such being the emblem of the widow between her fair young bridemaids. But her heroism was admirable. She had started with an irrepressible shudder, as if the stroke of the bell had fallen directly on her heart; then, recovering herself, while her attendants were yet in dismay, she took the lead, and paced calmly up the aisle. The bell continued to swing, strike, and vibrate, with the same doleful regularity as when a corpse is on its way to the tomb.
“My young friends here have their nerves a little shaken,” said the widow, with a smile, to the clergyman at the altar. “But so many weddings have been ushered in with the merriest peal of the bells, and yet turned out unhappily, that I shall hope for better fortune under such different auspices.”
“Madam,” answered the rector, in great perplexity, “this strange occurrence brings to my mind a marriage sermon of the famous Bishop Taylor, wherein he mingles so many thoughts of mortality and future woe, that, to speak somewhat after his own rich style, he seems to hang the bridal chamber in black, and cut the wedding garment out of a coffin pall. And it has been the custom of divers nations to infuse something of sadness into their marriage ceremonies, so to keep death in mind while contracting that engagement which is life’s chiefest business. Thus we may draw a sad but profitable moral from this funeral knell.”
But, though the clergyman might have given his moral even a keener point, he did not fail to dispatch an attendant to inquire into the mystery, and stop those sounds, so dismally appropriate to such a marriage. A brief space elapsed, during which the silence was broken only by whispers, and a few suppressed titterings, among the wedding party and the spectators, who, after the first shock, were disposed to draw an ill-natured merriment from the affair. The young have less charity for aged follies than the old for those of youth. The widow’s glance was observed to wander, for an instant, towards a window of the church, as if searching for the time-worn marble that she had dedicated to her first husband; then her eyelids dropped over their faded orbs, and her thoughts were drawn irresistibly to another grave. Two buried men, with a voice at her ear, and a cry afar off, were calling her to lie down beside them. Perhaps, with momentary truth of feeling, she thought how much happier had been her fate, if, after years of bliss, the bell were now tolling for her funeral, and she were followed to the grave by the old affection of her earliest lover, long her husband. But why had she returned to him, when their cold hearts shrank from each other’s embrace?
Still the death-bell tolled so mournfully, that the sunshine seemed to fade in the air. A whisper, communicated from those who stood nearest the windows, now spread through the church; a hearse, with a train of several coaches, was creeping along the street, conveying some dead man to the churchyard, while the bride awaited a living one at the altar. Immediately after, the footsteps of the bridegroom and his friends were heard at the door. The widow looked down the aisle, and clinched the arm of one of her bridemaids in her bony hand with such unconscious violence, that the fair girl trembled.
“You frighten me, my dear madam!” cried she. “For Heaven’s sake, what is the matter?”
“Nothing, my dear, nothing,” said the widow; then, whispering close to her ear, “There is a foolish fancy that I cannot get rid of. I am expecting my bridegroom to come into the church, with my first two husbands for groomsmen!”
“Look, look!” screamed the bridemaid. “What is here? The funeral!”
As she spoke, a dark procession paced into the church. First came an old man and women, like chief mourners at a funeral, attired from head to foot in the deepest black, all but their pale features and hoary hair; he leaning on a staff, and supporting her decrepit form with his nerveless arm. Behind appeared another, and another pair, as aged, as black, and mournful as the first. As they drew near, the widow recognized in every face some trait of former friends, long forgotten, but now returning, as if from their old graves, to warn her to prepare a shroud; or, with purpose almost as unwelcome, to exhibit their wrinkles and infirmity, and claim her as their companion by the tokens of her own decay. Many a merry night had she danced with them, in youth. And now, in joyless age, she felt that some withered partner should request her hand, and all unite, in a dance of death, to the music of the funeral bell.
While these aged mourners were passing up the aisle, it was observed that, from pew to pew, the spectators shuddered with irrepressible awe, as some object, hitherto concealed by the intervening figures, came full in sight. Many turned away their faces; others kept a fixed and rigid stare; and a young girl giggled hysterically, and fainted with the laughter on her lips. When the spectral procession approached the altar, each couple separated, and slowly diverged, till, in the centre, appeared a form, that had been worthily ushered in with all this gloomy pomp, the death knell, and the funeral. It was the bridegroom in his shroud!
No garb but that of the grave could have befitted such a deathlike aspect; the eyes, indeed, had the wild gleam of a sepulchral lamp; all else was fixed in the stern calmness which old men wear in the coffin. The corpse stood motionless, but addressed the widow in accents that seemed to melt into the clang of the bell, which fell heavily on the air while he spoke.
“Come, my bride!” said those pale lips, “the hearse is ready. The sexton stands waiting for us at the door of the tomb. Let us be married; and then to our coffins!”
How shall the widow’s horror be represented? It gave her the ghastliness of a dead man’s bride. Her youthful friends stood apart, shuddering at the mourners, the shrouded bridegroom, and herself; the whole scene expressed, by the strongest imagery, the vain struggle of the gilded vanities of this world, when opposed to age, infirmity, sorrow, and death. The awe-struck silence was first broken by the clergyman.
“Mr. Ellenwood,” said he, soothingly, yet with somewhat of authority, “you are not well. Your mind has been agitated by the unusual circumstances in which you are placed. The ceremony must be deferred. As an old friend, let me entreat you to return home.”
“Home! yes, but not without my bride,” answered he, in the same hollow accents. “You deem this mockery; perhaps madness. Had I bedizened my aged and broken frame with scarlet and embroidery–had I forced my withered lips to smile at my dead heart–that might have been mockery, or madness. But now, let young and old declare, which of us has come hither without a wedding garment, the bridegroom or the bride!”
He stepped forward at a ghostly pace, and stood beside the widow, contrasting the awful simplicity of his shroud with the glare and glitter in which she had arrayed herself for this unhappy scene. None, that beheld them, could deny the terrible strength of the moral which his disordered intellect had contrived to draw.
“Cruel! cruel!” groaned the heart-stricken bride.
“Cruel!” repeated he; then, losing his deathlike composure in a wild bitterness: “Heaven judge which of us has been cruel to the other! In youth you deprived me of my happiness, my hopes, my aims; you took away all the substance of my life, and made it a dream without reality enough even to grieve at–with only a pervading gloom, through which I walked wearily, and cared not whither. But after forty years, when I have built my tomb, and would not give up the thought of resting there–nor not for such a life as we once pictured–you call me to the altar. At your summons I am here. But other husbands have enjoyed your youth, your beauty, your warmth of heart, and all that could be termed your life. What is there for me but your decay and death? And therefore I have bidden these funeral friends, and bespoken the sexton’s deepest knell, and am come, in my shroud, to wed you, as with a burial service, that we may join our hands at the door of the sepulchre, and enter it together.”
It was not frenzy; it was not merely the drunkenness of strong emotion, in a heart unused to it, that now wrought upon the bride. The stern lesson of the day had done its work; her worldliness was gone. She seized the bridegroom’s hand.
“Yes!” cried she. “Let us wed, even at the door of the sepulchre! My life is gone in vanity and emptiness. But at its close there is one true feeling. It has made me what I was in youth; it makes me worthy of you. Time is no more for both of us. Let us wed for Eternity!”
With a long and deep regard, the bridegroom looked into her eyes, while a tear was gathering in his own. How strange that gush of human feeling from the frozen bosom of a corpse! He wiped away the tears even with his shroud.
“Beloved of my youth,” said he, “I have been wild. The despair of my whole lifetime had returned at once, and maddened me. Forgive; and be forgiven. Yes; it is evening with us now; and we have realized none of our morning dreams of happiness. But let us join our hands before the altar as lovers whom adverse circumstances have separated through life, yet who meet again as they are leaving it, and find their earthly affection changed into something holy as religion. And what is Time, to the married of Eternity?”
Amid the tears of many, and a swell of exalted sentiment, in those who felt aright, was solemnized the union of two immortal souls. The train of withered mourners, the hoary bridegroom in his shroud, the pale features of the aged bride, and the death-bell tolling through the whole, till its deep voice overpowered the marriage words, all marked the funeral of earthly hopes. But as the ceremony proceeded, the organ, as if stirred by the sympathies of this impressive scene, poured forth an anthem, first mingling with the dismal knell, then rising to a loftier strain, till the soul looked down upon its woe. And when the awful rite was finished, and with cold hand in cold hand, the Married of Eternity withdrew, the organ’s peal of solemn triumph drowned the Wedding Knell.

Update on Writers Meet & Greet

cropped-inside-og2-2-aThe Farmington Writers Circle is making more plans and beginning to spread the word about the upcoming Meet & Greet on June 9.  Please post the posters below wherever you can to advertise the event as well as the upcoming Writers Circle meeting on May 11 at 7:00 to be preceded at 6:30 by local author Anthony Bartley reading from his works.

As the posters note, at the Meet & Greet local authors will be signing books and reading from their works.  If you would like to be one of those authors, please contact me via the means on the posters.  Space for book signings is limited to the first twelve authors that sign up.  We hope to have a reading every half hour for the four hours of the art walk (5-9 pm), so the space for those is even shorter.  However, you might be able to squeeze in if someone scheduled is unable to make the event.

Refreshments will be served and there will be a salsa tasting of about six delicious salsas made by the kind folks at Artifacts Gallery/302 East Main Espresso, who are co-sponsoring this event.

Posters and details of the event will be updated as events develop. FWCMay17

 

M&G

Phil Slattery’s #Books are Free on #FictionFriday

As a promotional campaign, my e-books available on Kindle will be free on Fiction Friday.  On some days only one will be available, but on most two will be.   Here are the works and the dates as they stand as of March 13, 2017.  I will endeavor to keep this campaign rolling on past May 19 as far as possible.

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The Scent and Other Stories: The Dark Side of Love — March 17, April 7, April 28, May 5, and May 19.  In this collection of short stories, I explore the dark, sometimes violent, sometimes twisted, sometimes touching side of love, the side kept not only from public view, but sometimes from our mates. Set in the modern era, these stories range from regretting losing a lover to forbidden interracial love in the hills of 1970’s Kentucky to a mother’s deathbed confession in present-day New Mexico to debating pursuing a hateful man’s wife to the callous manipulation of a lover in Texas.  Available at https://www.amazon.com/Scent-Other-Stories-Dark-Side-ebook/dp/B01N7AA1E4.

A Tale of Hell and Other Works: Stories of Wizards, Werewolves, Serial Killers, Alien Worlds, and the Damned — March 24, March 31, April 14, May 12, and May 19.

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In this collection of published and previously unpublished stories of horror, Phil Slattery offers a look into the minds of people who perpetrate horrors, from acts of stupidity with unintended results to cold-hearted revenge to pure enjoyment to complete indifference. Settings range from 17th-century France in the heart of the werewolf trials to the Old West to the present and on to alien worlds in the distant future.  Available at https://www.amazon.com/Tale-Hell-Other-Works-Horror-ebook/dp/B01N1K0CHV.

Click: A Police Thriller of Murder and Conspiracy on a Small Texas Island — March 17, March 24, March 31, April 21, and May 12.  Frank Martinez, a policeman with the Corpus Christi Police Department, has unintentionally shot and killed an unarmed man when called to intercede in a domestic violence case. To recover from the guilt while the incident is under investigation by the CCPD, Frank’s fiancée arranges for him to stay on a secluded island owned by her father’s former law partner. While dozing one night on a lounge

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chair in the yard, he awakes to find two hitmen slipping onto the island and breaking into the cabin. Are they after him? Are they

after the cabin’s owner? Most importantly, how is he going to reach his pistol in his luggage in the bedroom?
Reader Charles Stacey gave “Click” five stars and commented: “Author has a wonderful ability to develop the characters using few words. Great foreshadowing to build suspense. And then a really outstanding twist at the end that left me smiling.”  Available at https://www.amazon.com/Click-police-thriller-murder-conspiracy-ebook/dp/B01N0F6Q2X.

 

 

 

The Saturday Night Special: “Lost Hearts” by M.R. James (1895)

MRJames1900
M.R. James 1900

It was, as far as I can ascertain, in September of the year 1811 that a post-chaise drew up before the door of Aswarby Hall, in the heart of Lincolnshire. The little boy who was the only passenger in the chaise, and who jumped out as soon as it had stopped, looked about him with the keenest curiosity during the short interval that elapsed between the ringing of the bell and the opening of the hall door. He saw a tall, square, red-brick house, built in the reign of Anne; a stone-pillared porch had been added in the purer classical style of 1790; the windows of the house were many, tall and narrow, with small panes and thick white woodwork. A pediment, pierced with a round window, crowned the front. There were wings to right and left, connected by curious glazed galleries, supported by colonnades, with the central block. These wings plainly contained the stables and offices of the house. Each was surmounted by an ornamental cupola with a gilded vane.

An evening light shone on the building, making the window-panes glow like so many fires. Away from the Hall in front stretched a flat park studded with oaks and fringed with firs, which stood out against the sky. The clock in the church-tower, buried in trees on the edge of the park, only its golden weather-cock catching the light, was striking six, and the sound came gently beating down the wind. It was altogether a pleasant impression, though tinged with the sort of melancholy appropriate to an evening in early autumn, that was conveyed to the mind of the boy who was standing in the porch waiting for the door to open to him.

The post-chaise had brought him from Warwickshire, where, some six months before, he had been left an orphan. Now, owing to the generous offer of his elderly cousin, Mr Abney, he had come to live at Aswarby. The offer was unexpected, because all who knew anything of Mr Abney looked upon him as a somewhat austere recluse, into whose steady-going household the advent of a small boy would import a new and, it seemed, incongruous element. The truth is that very little was known of Mr Abney’s pursuits or temper. The Professor of Greek at Cambridge had been heard to say that no one knew more of the religious beliefs of the later pagans than did the owner of Aswarby. Certainly his library contained all the then available books bearing on the Mysteries, the Orphic poems, the worship of Mithras, and the Neo–Platonists. In the marble-paved hall stood a fine group of Mithras slaying a bull, which had been imported from the Levant at great expense by the owner. He had contributed a description of it to the Gentleman’s Magazine, and he had written a remarkable series of articles in the Critical Museum on the superstitions of the Romans of the Lower Empire. He was looked upon, in fine, as a man wrapped up in his books, and it was a matter of great surprise among his neighbours that he should ever have heard of his orphan cousin, Stephen Elliott, much more that he should have volunteered to make him an inmate of Aswarby Hall.

Whatever may have been expected by his neighbours, it is certain that Mr Abney — the tall, the thin, the austere — seemed inclined to give his young cousin a kindly reception. The moment the front-door was opened he darted out of his study, rubbing his hands with delight.

‘How are you, my boy? — how are you? How old are you?’ said he —‘that is, you are not too much tired, I hope, by your journey to eat your supper?’

‘No, thank you, sir,’ said Master Elliott; ‘I am pretty well.’

‘That’s a good lad,’ said Mr Abney. ‘And how old are you, my boy?’

It seemed a little odd that he should have asked the question twice in the first two minutes of their acquaintance.

‘I’m twelve years old next birthday, sir,’ said Stephen.

‘And when is your birthday, my dear boy? Eleventh of September, eh? That’s well — that’s very well. Nearly a year hence, isn’t it? I like — ha, ha! — I like to get these things down in my book. Sure it’s twelve? Certain?’

‘Yes, quite sure, sir.’

‘Well, well! Take him to Mrs Bunch’s room, Parkes, and let him have his tea — supper — whatever it is.’

‘Yes, sir,’ answered the staid Mr Parkes; and conducted Stephen to the lower regions.

Mrs Bunch was the most comfortable and human person whom Stephen had as yet met at Aswarby. She made him completely at home; they were great friends in a quarter of an hour: and great friends they remained. Mrs Bunch had been born in the neighbourhood some fifty-five years before the date of Stephen’s arrival, and her residence at the Hall was of twenty years’ standing. Consequently, if anyone knew the ins and outs of the house and the district, Mrs Bunch knew them; and she was by no means disinclined to communicate her information.

Certainly there were plenty of things about the Hall and the Hall gardens which Stephen, who was of an adventurous and inquiring turn, was anxious to have explained to him. ‘Who built the temple at the end of the laurel walk? Who was the old man whose picture hung on the staircase, sitting at a table, with a skull under his hand?’ These and many similar points were cleared up by the resources of Mrs Bunch’s powerful intellect. There were others, however, of which the explanations furnished were less satisfactory.

One November evening Stephen was sitting by the fire in the housekeeper’s room reflecting on his surroundings.

‘Is Mr Abney a good man, and will he go to heaven?’ he suddenly asked, with the peculiar confidence which children possess in the ability of their elders to settle these questions, the decision of which is believed to be reserved for other tribunals.

‘Good? — bless the child!’ said Mrs Bunch. ‘Master’s as kind a soul as ever I see! Didn’t I never tell you of the little boy as he took in out of the street, as you may say, this seven years back? and the little girl, two years after I first come here?’

‘No. Do tell me all about them, Mrs Bunch — now, this minute!’

‘Well,’ said Mrs Bunch, ‘the little girl I don’t seem to recollect so much about. I know master brought her back with him from his walk one day, and give orders to Mrs Ellis, as was housekeeper then, as she should be took every care with. And the pore child hadn’t no one belonging to her — she telled me so her own self — and here she lived with us a matter of three weeks it might be; and then, whether she were somethink of a gipsy in her blood or what not, but one morning she out of her bed afore any of us had opened a eye, and neither track nor yet trace of her have I set eyes on since. Master was wonderful put about, and had all the ponds dragged; but it’s my belief she was had away by them gipsies, for there was singing round the house for as much as an hour the night she went, and Parkes, he declare as he heard them a-calling in the woods all that afternoon. Dear, dear! a hodd child she was, so silent in her ways and all, but I was wonderful taken up with her, so domesticated she was — surprising.’

‘And what about the little boy?’ said Stephen.

‘Ah, that pore boy!’ sighed Mrs Bunch. ‘He were a foreigner — Jevanny he called hisself — and he come a-tweaking his ‘urdy-gurdy round and about the drive one winter day, and master ‘ad him in that minute, and ast all about where he came from, and how old he was, and how he made his way, and where was his relatives, and all as kind as heart could wish. But it went the same way with him. They’re a hunruly lot, them foreign nations, I do suppose, and he was off one fine morning just the same as the girl. Why he went and what he done was our question for as much as a year after; for he never took his ‘urdy-gurdy, and there it lays on the shelf.’

The remainder of the evening was spent by Stephen in miscellaneous cross-examination of Mrs Bunch and in efforts to extract a tune from the hurdy-gurdy.

That night he had a curious dream. At the end of the passage at the top of the house, in which his bedroom was situated, there was an old disused bathroom. It was kept locked, but the upper half of the door was glazed, and, since the muslin curtains which used to hang there had long been gone, you could look in and see the lead-lined bath affixed to the wall on the right hand, with its head towards the window.

On the night of which I am speaking, Stephen Elliott found himself, as he thought, looking through the glazed door. The moon was shining through the window, and he was gazing at a figure which lay in the bath.

His description of what he saw reminds me of what I once beheld myself in the famous vaults of St Michan’s Church in Dublin, which possesses the horrid property of preserving corpses from decay for centuries. A figure inexpressibly thin and pathetic, of a dusty leaden colour, enveloped in a shroud-like garment, the thin lips crooked into a faint and dreadful smile, the hands pressed tightly over the region of the heart.

As he looked upon it, a distant, almost inaudible moan seemed to issue from its lips, and the arms began to stir. The terror of the sight forced Stephen backwards and he awoke to the fact that he was indeed standing on the cold boarded floor of the passage in the full light of the moon. With a courage which I do not think can be common among boys of his age, he went to the door of the bathroom to ascertain if the figure of his dreams were really there. It was not, and he went back to bed.

Mrs Bunch was much impressed next morning by his story, and went so far as to replace the muslin curtain over the glazed door of the bathroom. Mr Abney, moreover, to whom he confided his experiences at breakfast, was greatly interested and made notes of the matter in what he called ‘his book’.

The spring equinox was approaching, as Mr Abney frequently reminded his cousin, adding that this had been always considered by the ancients to be a critical time for the young: that Stephen would do well to take care of himself, and to shut his bedroom window at night; and that Censorinus had some valuable remarks on the subject. Two incidents that occurred about this time made an impression upon Stephen’s mind.

The first was after an unusually uneasy and oppressed night that he had passed — though he could not recall any particular dream that he had had.

The following evening Mrs Bunch was occupying herself in mending his nightgown.

‘Gracious me, Master Stephen!’ she broke forth rather irritably, ‘how do you manage to tear your nightdress all to flinders this way? Look here, sir, what trouble you do give to poor servants that have to darn and mend after you!’

There was indeed a most destructive and apparently wanton series of slits or scorings in the garment, which would undoubtedly require a skilful needle to make good. They were confined to the left side of the chest — long, parallel slits about six inches in length, some of them not quite piercing the texture of the linen. Stephen could only express his entire ignorance of their origin: he was sure they were not there the night before.

‘But,’ he said, ‘Mrs Bunch, they are just the same as the scratches on the outside of my bedroom door: and I’m sure I never had anything to do with making them.’

Mrs Bunch gazed at him open-mouthed, then snatched up a candle, departed hastily from the room, and was heard making her way upstairs. In a few minutes she came down.

‘Well,’ she said, ‘Master Stephen, it’s a funny thing to me how them marks and scratches can ‘a’ come there — too high up for any cat or dog to ‘ave made ’em, much less a rat: for all the world like a Chinaman’s finger-nails, as my uncle in the tea-trade used to tell us of when we was girls together. I wouldn’t say nothing to master, not if I was you, Master Stephen, my dear; and just turn the key of the door when you go to your bed.’

‘I always do, Mrs Bunch, as soon as I’ve said my prayers.’

‘Ah, that’s a good child: always say your prayers, and then no one can’t hurt you.’

Herewith Mrs Bunch addressed herself to mending the injured nightgown, with intervals of meditation, until bed-time. This was on a Friday night in March, 1812.

On the following evening the usual duet of Stephen and Mrs Bunch was augmented by the sudden arrival of Mr Parkes, the butler, who as a rule kept himself rather to himself in his own pantry. He did not see that Stephen was there: he was, moreover, flustered and less slow of speech than was his wont.

‘Master may get up his own wine, if he likes, of an evening,’ was his first remark. ‘Either I do it in the daytime or not at all, Mrs Bunch. I don’t know what it may be: very like it’s the rats, or the wind got into the cellars; but I’m not so young as I was, and I can’t go through with it as I have done.’

‘Well, Mr Parkes, you know it is a surprising place for the rats, is the Hall.’

‘I’m not denying that, Mrs Bunch; and, to be sure, many a time I’ve heard the tale from the men in the shipyards about the rat that could speak. I never laid no confidence in that before; but tonight, if I’d demeaned myself to lay my ear to the door of the further bin, I could pretty much have heard what they was saying.’

‘Oh, there, Mr Parkes, I’ve no patience with your fancies! Rats talking in the wine-cellar indeed!’

‘Well, Mrs Bunch, I’ve no wish to argue with you: all I say is, if you choose to go to the far bin, and lay your ear to the door, you may prove my words this minute.’

‘What nonsense you do talk, Mr Parkes — not fit for children to listen to! Why, you’ll be frightening Master Stephen there out of his wits.’

‘What! Master Stephen?’ said Parkes, awaking to the consciousness of the boy’s presence. ‘Master Stephen knows well enough when I’m a-playing a joke with you, Mrs Bunch.’

In fact, Master Stephen knew much too well to suppose that Mr Parkes had in the first instance intended a joke. He was interested, not altogether pleasantly, in the situation; but all his questions were unsuccessful in inducing the butler to give any more detailed account of his experiences in the wine-cellar.

* * * * *

We have now arrived at March 24, 1812. It was a day of curious experiences for Stephen: a windy, noisy day, which filled the house and the gardens with a restless impression. As Stephen stood by the fence of the grounds, and looked out into the park, he felt as if an endless procession of unseen people were sweeping past him on the wind, borne on resistlessly and aimlessly, vainly striving to stop themselves, to catch at something that might arrest their flight and bring them once again into contact with the living world of which they had formed a part. After luncheon that day Mr Abney said:

‘Stephen, my boy, do you think you could manage to come to me tonight as late as eleven o’clock in my study? I shall be busy until that time, and I wish to show you something connected with your future life which it is most important that you should know. You are not to mention this matter to Mrs Bunch nor to anyone else in the house; and you had better go to your room at the usual time.’

Here was a new excitement added to life: Stephen eagerly grasped at the opportunity of sitting up till eleven o’clock. He looked in at the library door on his way upstairs that evening, and saw a brazier, which he had often noticed in the corner of the room, moved out before the fire; an old silver-gilt cup stood on the table, filled with red wine, and some written sheets of paper lay near it. Mr Abney was sprinkling some incense on the brazier from a round silver box as Stephen passed, but did not seem to notice his step.

The wind had fallen, and there was a still night and a full moon. At about ten o’clock Stephen was standing at the open window of his bedroom, looking out over the country. Still as the night was, the mysterious population of the distant moon-lit woods was not yet lulled to rest. From time to time strange cries as of lost and despairing wanderers sounded from across the mere. They might be the notes of owls or water-birds, yet they did not quite resemble either sound. Were not they coming nearer? Now they sounded from the nearer side of the water, and in a few moments they seemed to be floating about among the shrubberies. Then they ceased; but just as Stephen was thinking of shutting the window and resuming his reading of Robinson Crusoe, he caught sight of two figures standing on the gravelled terrace that ran along the garden side of the Hall — the figures of a boy and girl, as it seemed; they stood side by side, looking up at the windows. Something in the form of the girl recalled irresistibly his dream of the figure in the bath. The boy inspired him with more acute fear.

Whilst the girl stood still, half smiling, with her hands clasped over her heart, the boy, a thin shape, with black hair and ragged clothing, raised his arms in the air with an appearance of menace and of unappeasable hunger and longing. The moon shone upon his almost transparent hands, and Stephen saw that the nails were fearfully long and that the light shone through them. As he stood with his arms thus raised, he disclosed a terrifying spectacle. On the left side of his chest there opened a black and gaping rent; and there fell upon Stephen’s brain, rather than upon his ear, the impression of one of those hungry and desolate cries that he had heard resounding over the woods of Aswarby all that evening. In another moment this dreadful pair had moved swiftly and noiselessly over the dry gravel, and he saw them no more.

Inexpressibly frightened as he was, he determined to take his candle and go down to Mr Abney’s study, for the hour appointed for their meeting was near at hand. The study or library opened out of the front-hall on one side, and Stephen, urged on by his terrors, did not take long in getting there. To effect an entrance was not so easy. It was not locked, he felt sure, for the key was on the outside of the door as usual. His repeated knocks produced no answer. Mr Abney was engaged: he was speaking. What! why did he try to cry out? and why was the cry choked in his throat? Had he, too, seen the mysterious children? But now everything was quiet, and the door yielded to Stephen’s terrified and frantic pushing.

* * * * *

On the table in Mr Abney’s study certain papers were found which explained the situation to Stephen Elliott when he was of an age to understand them. The most important sentences were as follows:

‘It was a belief very strongly and generally held by the ancients — of whose wisdom in these matters I have had such experience as induces me to place confidence in their assertions — that by enacting certain processes, which to us moderns have something of a barbaric complexion, a very remarkable enlightenment of the spiritual faculties in man may be attained: that, for example, by absorbing the personalities of a certain number of his fellow-creatures, an individual may gain a complete ascendancy over those orders of spiritual beings which control the elemental forces of our universe.

‘It is recorded of Simon Magus that he was able to fly in the air, to become invisible, or to assume any form he pleased, by the agency of the soul of a boy whom, to use the libellous phrase employed by the author of the Clementine Recognitions, he had “murdered”. I find it set down, moreover, with considerable detail in the writings of Hermes Trismegistus, that similar happy results may be produced by the absorption of the hearts of not less than three human beings below the age of twenty-one years. To the testing of the truth of this receipt I have devoted the greater part of the last twenty years, selecting as the corpora vilia of my experiment such persons as could conveniently be removed without occasioning a sensible gap in society. The first step I effected by the removal of one Phoebe Stanley, a girl of gipsy extraction, on March 24, 1792. The second, by the removal of a wandering Italian lad, named Giovanni Paoli, on the night of March 23, 1805. The final “victim”— to employ a word repugnant in the highest degree to my feelings — must be my cousin, Stephen Elliott. His day must be this March 24, 1812.

‘The best means of effecting the required absorption is to remove the heart from the living subject, to reduce it to ashes, and to mingle them with about a pint of some red wine, preferably port. The remains of the first two subjects, at least, it will be well to conceal: a disused bathroom or wine-cellar will be found convenient for such a purpose. Some annoyance may be experienced from the psychic portion of the subjects, which popular language dignifies with the name of ghosts. But the man of philosophic temperament — to whom alone the experiment is appropriate — will be little prone to attach importance to the feeble efforts of these beings to wreak their vengeance on him. I contemplate with the liveliest satisfaction the enlarged and emancipated existence which the experiment, if successful, will confer on me; not only placing me beyond the reach of human justice (so-called), but eliminating to a great extent the prospect of death itself.’

* * * * *

Mr Abney was found in his chair, his head thrown back, his face stamped with an expression of rage, fright, and mortal pain. In his left side was a terrible lacerated wound, exposing the heart. There was no blood on his hands, and a long knife that lay on the table was perfectly clean. A savage wild-cat might have inflicted the injuries. The window of the study was open, and it was the opinion of the coroner that Mr Abney had met his death by the agency of some wild creature. But Stephen Elliott’s study of the papers I have quoted led him to a very different conclusion.

Phil Slattery’s #Books are Free on #FictionFriday

As a promotional campaign, my e-books available on Kindle will be free on Fiction Friday.  On some days only one will be available, but on most two will be.   Here are the works and the dates as they stand as of March 13, 2017.  I will endeavor to keep this campaign rolling on past May 19 as far as possible.

Cover of the Kindle edition
(500 pixels wide)

The Scent and Other Stories: The Dark Side of Love — March 17, April 7, April 28, May 5, and May 19.  In this collection of short stories, I explore the dark, sometimes violent, sometimes twisted, sometimes touching side of love, the side kept not only from public view, but sometimes from our mates. Set in the modern era, these stories range from regretting losing a lover to forbidden interracial love in the hills of 1970’s Kentucky to a mother’s deathbed confession in present-day New Mexico to debating pursuing a hateful man’s wife to the callous manipulation of a lover in Texas.  Available at https://www.amazon.com/Scent-Other-Stories-Dark-Side-ebook/dp/B01N7AA1E4.

A Tale of Hell and Other Works: Stories of Wizards, Werewolves, Serial Killers, Alien Worlds, and the Damned — March 24, March 31, April 14, May 12, and May 19.

Cover of the Kindle edition
(500 pixels wide)

In this collection of published and previously unpublished stories of horror, Phil Slattery offers a look into the minds of people who perpetrate horrors, from acts of stupidity with unintended results to cold-hearted revenge to pure enjoyment to complete indifference. Settings range from 17th-century France in the heart of the werewolf trials to the Old West to the present and on to alien worlds in the distant future.  Available at https://www.amazon.com/Tale-Hell-Other-Works-Horror-ebook/dp/B01N1K0CHV.

Click: A Police Thriller of Murder and Conspiracy on a Small Texas Island — March 17, March 24, March 31, April 21, and May 12.  Frank Martinez, a policeman with the Corpus Christi Police Department, has unintentionally shot and killed an unarmed man when called to intercede in a domestic violence case. To recover from the guilt while the incident is under investigation by the CCPD, Frank’s fiancée arranges for him to stay on a secluded island owned by her father’s former law partner. While dozing one night on a lounge

Cover of the Kindle edition
(500 pixels wide)

chair in the yard, he awakes to find two hitmen slipping onto the island and breaking into the cabin. Are they after him? Are they

after the cabin’s owner? Most importantly, how is he going to reach his pistol in his luggage in the bedroom?
Reader Charles Stacey gave “Click” five stars and commented: “Author has a wonderful ability to develop the characters using few words. Great foreshadowing to build suspense. And then a really outstanding twist at the end that left me smiling.”  Available at https://www.amazon.com/Click-police-thriller-murder-conspiracy-ebook/dp/B01N0F6Q2X.

 

 

 

👽Alien Embrace: An Astronaut’s Struggle to Face a Horrifying Reality👽

“Alien Embrace” now available on Kindle! Logan Rickover, owner of a hardware store in a small town in Kentucky, has lucid dreams of life as an astronaut that intrude upon his life at any moment. Which of his lives is real? The quiet paradise of Danville or the terrifying jungle world of Stheno D? 👽https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B06XZX1T9C/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1492290993&sr=1-3&refinements=p_27%3APhil+Slattery&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65

Diabolical: Three Tales of Jack Thurston and Revenge

😈 “Diabolical” now available on Kindle! 😈

Jack Thurston is a retired professor of medieval literature and history. He is also a widower and father and a retired sorcerer who has returned to the black arts to exact revenge for the death of his wife, daughter, and brother. He has an intriguing position in the universe at a focal point of life, the afterlife, logic and reason, anger and hatred, the ancient and the modern worlds, grief and his attempts to escape grief through self-destruction. Though he wants to have the peace he once found with his wife, Agatha, he is pulled in many directions by circumstance and by his powerful negative emotions. Currently, Jack has a Twitter account (@jthurston666), where he has attracted a small following and where it has only recently been revealed that he is fictional. Jack has his own blog at jackthurstonblog.wordpress.com (a work in progress) and his own e-mail at jackthurston666@gmail.com. https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B06XZX4VC1/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492290993&sr=1-1&refinements=p_27%3APhil+Slattery&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&dpPl=1&dpID=51v6CPpAb-L&ref=plSrch#

The Farmington Writers Circle Meet and Greet Has a Venue!

cropped-inside-og2-2-aTonight, Roberta Summers, a founding member of the Farmington Writers Circle, arranged to have our writers networking event (which we currently refer to by the working title of “the Meet and Greet”) at the Artifacts Gallery, 302 East Main, Farmington, during the city’s Art Walk on June 9 between 5pm-9pm.

Details on the event are still being worked out, but we plan on inviting as many authors and novelists from the Four Corners area to be there to meet their readers, participate in readings and book-signings and to network with any local publishers, critics, reviewers, and anyone else involved in the local writing industry.

Anyone who reads anything or is involved in reading, writing, or literature is invited to attend.  If you are a reader or writer of any genre (published or unpublished), an arts or literature critic, a reviewer, a publisher, a literary agent, someone who interviews writers or authors on radio or TV, if you promote reading, writing, or literacy in any way, manner, shape, or form, you do not need an invitation, you are invited to attend.

The names of the authors and novelists expected to attend will be announced as they respond to our invitations, but, if you are an author/novelist, you don’t need an invitation to attend.  Just show up, meet new readers, and pass out your business cards and other contact info.

The entire purpose of this event is for writers of all types to make contacts and to network.

Refreshments will be available along with a salsa-tasting.   At least some of our local members will have books to sell.

Check back for more details as we approach June 9.   Submit any questions you have via this website.  Don’t forget that you can find a link on the right-hand menu to sign up to follow our blog.

Phil Slattery’s #Books are Free on #FictionFriday

As a promotional campaign, my e-books available on Kindle will be free on Fiction Friday.  On some days only one will be available, but on most two will be.   Here are the works and the dates as they stand as of March 13, 2017.  I will endeavor to keep this campaign rolling on past May 19 as far as possible.

Cover of the Kindle edition
(500 pixels wide)

The Scent and Other Stories: The Dark Side of Love — March 17, April 7, April 28, May 5, and May 19.  In this collection of short stories, I explore the dark, sometimes violent, sometimes twisted, sometimes touching side of love, the side kept not only from public view, but sometimes from our mates. Set in the modern era, these stories range from regretting losing a lover to forbidden interracial love in the hills of 1970’s Kentucky to a mother’s deathbed confession in present-day New Mexico to debating pursuing a hateful man’s wife to the callous manipulation of a lover in Texas.  Available at https://www.amazon.com/Scent-Other-Stories-Dark-Side-ebook/dp/B01N7AA1E4.

A Tale of Hell and Other Works: Stories of Wizards, Werewolves, Serial Killers, Alien Worlds, and the Damned — March 24, March 31, April 14, May 12, and May 19.

Cover of the Kindle edition
(500 pixels wide)

In this collection of published and previously unpublished stories of horror, Phil Slattery offers a look into the minds of people who perpetrate horrors, from acts of stupidity with unintended results to cold-hearted revenge to pure enjoyment to complete indifference. Settings range from 17th-century France in the heart of the werewolf trials to the Old West to the present and on to alien worlds in the distant future.  Available at https://www.amazon.com/Tale-Hell-Other-Works-Horror-ebook/dp/B01N1K0CHV.

Click: A Police Thriller of Murder and Conspiracy on a Small Texas Island — March 17, March 24, March 31, April 21, and May 12.  Frank Martinez, a policeman with the Corpus Christi Police Department, has unintentionally shot and killed an unarmed man when called to intercede in a domestic violence case. To recover from the guilt while the incident is under investigation by the CCPD, Frank’s fiancée arranges for him to stay on a secluded island owned by her father’s former law partner. While dozing one night on a lounge

Cover of the Kindle edition
(500 pixels wide)

chair in the yard, he awakes to find two hitmen slipping onto the island and breaking into the cabin. Are they after him? Are they

after the cabin’s owner? Most importantly, how is he going to reach his pistol in his luggage in the bedroom?
Reader Charles Stacey gave “Click” five stars and commented: “Author has a wonderful ability to develop the characters using few words. Great foreshadowing to build suspense. And then a really outstanding twist at the end that left me smiling.”  Available at https://www.amazon.com/Click-police-thriller-murder-conspiracy-ebook/dp/B01N0F6Q2X.

 

 

 

🌛🌕🌜#Diabolical, a collection of 3 Jack Thurston stories of revenge, is available in e-book & paperback at Amazon.com/author/philsla…. 🌛🌕🌜#IARTG https://twitter.com/jthurston666/status/851980414952521728

Superfluousmind’s Website is Beautiful

Source: Home

I love the minimalist look of this website.  Very direct and “to the point”.  Nothing wasted. The organization is streamlined and takes you to where you want to be.  Admittedly, I have not read the fiction yet, but I intend to do so soon.  It looks interesting.   And that’s a lovely painting on the front.  Very colorful.  Being set against a black background really makes the colors pop out and makes the website more eye-catching.  Truly, a terrific job in website design.

#Marketing Myself as a #Character

                    Circa 2005-2007

For the last few weeks I have been contemplating how to market my works.  Of course, I wander through the local bookstore studying how each book markets itself,  Also, I analyze everything else I see on line and in person for patterns.  I think back on the famous authors of the past and wonder how they achieved their renown: how were they marketed and how has their fame spread since.

It occurs to me that readers are as fascinated by the lives of their favorite authors as they are by the characters in their novels.   My favorite author is Hemingway.  Hemingway’s life fascinates me at least as much as that of any of characters.   His life probably fascinates me more than that of any of his characters, because there is more to learn about it.   Frederic Henry (For Whom the Bell Tolls)  is interesting, but his life has none of the detail that his author’s does.  Henry is shallow by comparison.  None of the characters of any of Poe’s works have the same depth and complexity of his own life.  When authors of biographies market their works, they have to show how fascinating their subjects are just as novelists have to convince their readers of how fascinating their characters are.

Therefore, I am beginning to believe that to sell my works, I need to sell myself, my story, just the same as I would that of any of my characters.  If my readers find my characters interesting, they will naturally want to find out more about me.  This is not blatant egotism; it’s simple fact.  Readers are as fascinated by the lives of their favorite authors just the same as they are fascinated by the lives of the characters of those authors.  Instead of writing the same standard bio notes for readers on my website and elsewhere, I will start writing those bio notes the same as I would the bio of a character: bringing out my own flaws, contradictions, ironies of my life, and so on to demonstrate how complex I really and hopefully attract readers who find my life so compelling that they have to investigate the characters I write.   Writing a autobiographical note, then, becomes another chance to show how well I can write and to give potential readers another sample of my work.