As part of the Haunted House theme, it is time to visit the place where that most famous of literary monsters was born … if you can’t remember the name of the house, the anagram at the end may nudge the old memory cells …
‘Oh but this is hopeless!’ fumed Mary, stabbing at the paper with her quill, ‘He is so nice, nice, nice!’
‘Having difficulties, dear?’
‘You don’t have to participate, you know,’
‘It’s not as though his lordship is bothering to do much after all.’
‘His lordship is an idle shirker who deserves a kick up the proverbial. Now go away!’ and she launched a heavy tome of Gibbon’s Fall of the Roman Empire at his head. He ducked in time, annoyingly,and the book ricocheted off the mirror, causing it to hang sideways, before coming to rest at the foot of the coffee table, causing it to lurch perilously.
‘Naughty,naughty,’ he mocked as he darted away.
‘Get out! Get out, get out, get out, before I relieve myself vomitously in your general direction!’
She glared at the book lying on the floor.
The doorbell clanged again.
‘Freddy? Would you mind? Only I’m up to my ears in correspondence from my followers, and I haven’t finished editing my lecture notes …’
Frederic tweaked his cravat, checked his hair in the mirror and skated over to the door.
‘Afternoon, madame,’ he said.
‘Who is it?’ came the call from the study.
‘It’s that mad female with the notebook again,’ yelled back Frederic.
‘Freddy, manners, please,’ remonstrated the giant, shuffling through in his slippers. He smiled benignly down at the mad female.
‘My dear, how perfectly charming to see you again – what can I do for you?’
‘It simply won’t do!’ she shrilled back at him. ‘Here I am, attempting to pen a gripping tale of man’s isolation and inborn woe – a mad scientist and his creation – and what do I find? His creation goes around being civil from the word go! I won’t be able to sell a copy! Nobody will believe me! Do something monstrous, for goodness sake!’
The gentle giant’s brow creased in thought. ‘Ah. Having difficulty with your editor again, are you, m’dear?’ he rumbled benevolently.
‘He’s driving me mad. And what is worse… there’s a competition.’
‘Oh dear. Now, I am not somebody in favour of competition, on the whole. I appreciate the motivating element behind it but it does seem to cause more friction than creativity … who else is taking part?’
‘Oh, the usual – that over-wheening bag of wind Byron, his valet, that idiot of a husband of mine …’
‘Ah, a domestic,’ drawled Frederic, clattering in with a tray of steaming coffee and sandwiches. He tripped over the carpet and sent half the sandwiches flying.
‘The boy’s a fool,’ lisped the gentle giant quietly as they picked up the sandwiches, and winked. ‘But we make allowances – awfully good with the electrics, you know.’
‘The … electrics …’ Mary stared at the giant.
‘Yes, that’s how we keep the lights on all the time without using gas. Clean energy. Bathsheba is very keen on clean energy – well, with her lungs, poor dear …’
‘My wife? Ah, but she was out when you last called, yes, I remember now – giving a talk to the local Women’s Guild on the properties of mercury. There she is – come in, my dear, come in and join us for tea.’
Bathsheba, another giant, only this time in a voluminous dress and with an ostrich in her turban trod weightily in, likewise slippered. ‘Oh bless you, Franky, just what I need.’
‘And how were the gals today?’
‘Oh, we’ll get there in the end. Can’t expect miracles in these early days of Enlightenment…’
There was a clatter from the hallway.
‘Er, Freddy – why not leave off polishing the brass until tomorrow ?’
‘It won’t polish itself, you know,’ came the petulant reply from the hall. Bathsheba rolled her eyes and then smiled at Mary. ‘Franky tells me you are a writer – how terribly interesting. One of the Romantics, he says. Journalism, is it?’
‘Well, originally – then a bit of poetry, now I’m trying to write my first gothic novel.’
‘Her editor is giving her a hard time – competitions and such like.’
‘Ah, yes. I know about editors.’ Bathsheba turned to her husband. ‘What do you think, dear? What about showing her Freddy’s latest? Might give her some ideas…’
Franky looked at Mary. ‘How you feel about going down to the cellar, m’dear?’
‘Well?’ Lord Byron leaned back in his chair. ‘Who’s next?’
‘I think you have a bit of a cheek, considering you haven’t finished anything,’ retorted Shelley. The storm was in full force outdoors, a bolt of lightning lit up the room briefly.
‘And have you?’
‘Of course not.’
‘Well, Polidori, my man, looks like you win, hands down. Unless Mrs Shelley ….?’
‘Came in soaked to the skin – I suggested a hot bath, don’t think she’ll be joining us yet…’
‘Mrs Shelley has finished her ablutions, thank you very much,’ commented Mary, marching through the door, grasping her bulging notebooks tightly. She sat down by the fire and looked sternly at the company. Byron shifted slightly uncomfortably.
‘Dear,dear, not in a pet, are we?’
Shelley drew in his breath sharply. ‘You’ll wish you hadn’t, mate, you’ll wish you hadn’t…’
‘Quiet, you reprobate rogue, who can’t even string a sentence together to save his own skin – and as for you, Shelley – where are my slippers ?’
‘Uh….’ Shelley was taken aback. ‘Why. By your bed, dear?’
‘Quite right. And what are they doing there when they should be on my feet? Fetch them, if you please. NOW!’
Another flash of lightning lent her an every more terrifying aspect – surely her hair had been singed ? ‘You are, er, exceptionally lively this evening, dear…’commented Shelley.
‘It’s the enlivening company I have been keeping. Quite superior to the intellectual desert I have been putting up with here. One more game of Pope Joan and I should have committed violence. Anyway, I have my story.’
‘You have?’Byron sat forward, eyes glinting. ‘Well? Are you going to read it to us?’
‘Hmmmm. Do you know ….’ Mary looked out of the window at the lake, the thunder and lightning, and smiled. ‘I might just do precisely that. Gather round, ye timorous pugs. I shall have given you the Terrors before this night is out ….’
The rest is literary history. But can anyone remember the name of the house where she wrote it?
Here’s the anagram: Did I avail lot
Happy Haunting !
Ungentle Sleep, a ghost tale
Haunted House Tour Full Schedule : http://authorsanonnews.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/314/
Genre: paranormal/historical fiction
Publisher: Captive Press
Number of pages: approx 69
Word Count: 13,146
Cover Artist: B.Lloyd
When Aubrey Marchant's engagement to Eleanor Maydew was announced to his friends, he received mixed blessings.
‘The Maydews are a bohemian lot – not many servants, even before the War.’
‘Keen on brown bread and vegetables – don't expect too much in the way of creature comforts.’
‘Brave chap, I am sure you'll find the country air bracing.’
‘And Eleanor comes of good stock, too. Never mind the burst water pipes.’
Aubrey managed to shrug off most of these under a jocular guise. One of his closest friends however, let slip something that would come back to him later.
‘I wouldn't mind the rest of it – only I believe it may be a House of Spirits. Hope you can sleep all right at nights.’
Aubrey laughed at the time. ”
A crowded house party – with more guests on the way. Despite instructions to the contrary, the older part of the house is opened up . . .and something is inadvertently let out, to wreak mild havoc and insanity on the Maydews and their guests. That nasty incident involving Eleanor, followed by unpleasantness over Penny’s dress, and what is it Aubrey can hear, on the outer edge of his dreams?
Hysteria, missed cocktails, and something nasty in the attic.
Snrrip, snrrip. Snip, snap.
Even the rats run away.
A ghost tale, almost not quite long enough to qualify as a novelette, created in celebration of M.R.James’s 150th anniversary.
About the Author:
A Bustle attached to a keyboard, occasionally to be seen floating on a canal …
After studying Early Music followed by a brief career in concert performance, the Bustle exchanged vocal parts for less vocal arts i.e. a Diploma from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia.
Her inky mess, both graphic and verbal, can be found in various regions of the Web, and appendaged to good people’s works (for no visible reason that she can understand).
Google + : http://goo.gl/pbb2E