John Charrington’s Wedding, a Victorian Ghost Story by Edith Nesbit

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Image: Pinterest.

 

John Charrington’s Wedding

Edith Nesbit, 1891

 

No one ever thought that May Forster would marry John Charrington; but he thought differently, and things which John Charrington intended had a queer way of coming to pass. He asked her to marry him before he went up to Oxford. She laughed and refused him. He asked her again next time he came home. Again she laughed, tossed her dainty blonde head and again refused. A third time he asked her; she said it was becoming a confirmed bad habit, and laughed at him more than ever.

John was not the only man who wanted to marry her: she was the belle of our village coterie, and we were all in love with her more or less; it was a sort of fashion, like masher collars or Inverness capes. Therefore we were as much annoyed as surprised when John Charrington walked into our little local Club — we held it in a loft over the saddler’s, I remember — and invited us all to his wedding.

‘Your wedding?’

‘You don’t mean it?’

‘Who’s the happy pair? When’s it to be?’

John Charrington filled his pipe and lighted it before he replied. Then he said:

‘I’m sorry to deprive you fellows of your only joke — but Miss Forster and I are to be married in September.’

‘You don’t mean it?’

‘He’s got the mitten again, and it’s turned his head.’

‘No,’ I said, rising, ‘I see it’s true. Lend me a pistol, someone — or a first-class fare to the other end of Nowhere. Charrington has bewitched the only pretty girl in our twenty-mile radius. Was it mesmerism, or a love-potion, Jack?’

‘Neither, sir, but a gift you’ll never have — perseverance — and the best luck a man ever had in this world.’

There was something in his voice that silenced me, and all chaff of the other fellows failed to draw him further.

The queer thing about it was that when we congratulated Miss Forster, she blushed and smiled and dimpled, for all the world as though she were in love with him, and had been in love with him all the time. Upon my word, I think she had. Women are strange creatures.

We were all asked to the wedding. In Brixham everyone who was anybody knew everybody else who was anyone. My sisters were, I truly believe, more interested in the trousseau than the bride herself, and I was to be best man. The coming marriage was much canvassed at afternoon tea-tables, and at our little Club over the saddler’s, and the question was always asked, ‘Does she care for him?’

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“I Want to Say”…a Poem by Natalie Goldberg

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Galaxy Petunias. Photographer unknown. (Pinterest)

Before I’m lost to time and the midwest
I want to say I was here
I loved the half light all winter
I want you to know before I leave
that I liked the towns living along the back of the Mississippi
I loved the large heron filling the sky
the slender white egret at the edge of the shore
I came to love my life here
fell in love with the color grey
the unending turn of seasons

Let me say
I loved Hill City
the bench in front of the tavern
the small hill to the lake
I loved the morning frost on the bell at New Albin
and the money I made as a poet
I was thankful for the white night
the sky of so many wet summers
Before I leave this world of my friends
I want to tell you I loved the rain on large store windows
had more croissants here in Minneapolis
than the French do in Lyons
I read the poets of the midwest
their hard crusts of bread dark goat cheese
and was nourished not hungry where they lived
I ate at the edges of state lines and boundaries
Know I loved the cold tap of bare branches against the windows
know there there will not be your peonies in spring
wherever I go
the electric petunias
and your orange zinnias

– Natalie Goldberg

(from Good Poems, American Places, Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor, as heard on The Writer’s Almanac; Penguin, 2012)

(Originally published in Top of My Lungs, Poems and Paintings by Natalie Goldberg, Overlook Press, 2002)

Nøkken

The Maudlin Cabinet

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“Nyk! Nyk! Nål i vann. Jomfru Maria kastet stål i vann! Du synker, jeg flyter ” … This is a Nøkken: a beautiful man who inhabits the streams and rivers of Scandinavia and enchants whoever listens to him playing the violin or the harp. If asked nicely, he can teach you to play so marvelously even water will stop to listen. And that is how many great Scandinavian musicians became so good. Or so they say.

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The Romance of Vampires, an Essay by Mike Ashley

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 From the Introduction to Vampires, Classic Tales, ed., Mike Ashley, Dover Press, 2010

(TOC provided following the essay)

This book contains a selection of vampire stories both old and new. Generally I’ve reprinted lesser-known stories with an intent to show both the origins of the vampire in fiction and some of the diversity that has emerged over the years.

Vampire fiction has been with us for at least two hundred years and our fascination with it remains undiminished. If anything, it is at the height of its popularity. It is not difficult to see why, with the vampire so often portrayed as a tragic hero or, in the case of women, a voluptuous temptress or femme fatale.

The success of the topic in books in recent years can be traced to Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire (1976) and its sequels, and the theme was further popularized with the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003) and Stephenie Meyers’s series that began with Twilight (2005). Between them, Rice and Meyers’s books have sold over 200 million copies, which probably makes vampires the most widely read of all genre fiction.

And it owes all its success to Lord Byron.

Well, not quite—but he has a lot to answer for.

It barely needs repeating, but one of the most influential literary gatherings happened at the Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva in June 1816. Present were Byron and his personal physician, Dr. John Polidori, the young Mary Godwin and her future husband, the poet Percy Shelley, and Mary’s half-sister Claire Clairmont. During a storm they read from a collection of Gothic horror stories, Tales from the Dead, and Byron challenged each of them to write a ghost story. The most famous work to emerge from this was Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein. Byron and Percy Shelley soon gave up their efforts, but Byron’s unfinished “fragment” was used by Polidori as the basis for his own story, “The Vampyre,” which was published in the New Monthly Magazine in April 1819. The publisher of the magazine, Henry Colburn, attributed the story to Byron, which vexed the poet, who refuted it in a letter published in The Times of London on June 5, 1819. “I am not the author and never heard of the work in question until now,” he wrote, adding, “I have, besides, a personal dislike to ‘vampires’ and the little acquaintance I have with them would by no means induce me to divulge their secrets.”

By then Polidori had already proclaimed his authorship but for years the suspicion remained that it was by Byron. This was compounded by the fact that the name Polidori chose for the vampire, Lord Ruthven, had already been used by Lady Caroline Lamb in her novel Glenarvon (1816) and Ruthven was clearly based on Byron. Polidori likewise modeled his Ruthven on Byron, and it is from this story that the romantic yet tragic image of the vampire has grown.

Polidori’s story is frequently reprinted in anthologies, so I have not included it here, but Byron’s original is less readily available, so I have included that in an appendix because of its historical significance. Although Byron did not get as far as resurrecting his vampire, he was nevertheless seeking to write what is now regarded as the first modern fusion of the vampire myth and gothic tale in English fiction. And by completing the story, Polidori gave rise to the whole iconic vampire imagery of doomed nobility.

*

The idea of vampires, or at least demonic figures who devour flesh and blood, has been around for thousands of years. They appear in the legends and fables of ancient Egypt, Babylon, Greece, and Rome, where they are invariably female and called lamia. The Greek writer Phlegon, who lived at the time of the Emperor Hadrian in the second century, collected together a miscellany of stories and accounts of strange and inexplicable events known as On Marvels, and among them was the story of “The Bride of Corinth” about a young Athenian man who discovers his wife-to-be has risen from the dead. This story was the basis of the poem, “The Bride of Corinth” by Johann von Goethe, which appeared in 1797 at the height of the boom in Gothic literature.

But truth to tell, the idea of vampires was already so well entrenched in everyday parlance that it was possible to lampoon the idea as early as 1785. On October 18 that year the Universal Register (the forerunner of the London Times) ran an anonymous short story called “Opulence,” wherein the first person narrator assists an alchemist in creating the philosopher’s stone. The alchemist is killed, but the narrator takes the stone and with it becomes wealthy. However, his fortune attracts the interest of others who descend upon his estate and rob him of everything. He calls these thieves “vampires,” because they bled him dry of everything, a metaphor still used today. A footnote to the story explains:

In Poland and some other countries, a notion is entertained that some persons after they are dead and buried, have the power of sucking others till they die and to them they give the name vampire.

The Oxford English Dictionary notes that the word “vampire” had first appeared in print in England in 1734, so it was firmly in circulation by the time Polidori’s story was published.

Soon after Polidori’s story was published, another appeared in English, “Wake Not the Dead,” in the anthology Popular Tales and Romances of the Northern Nations, published in 1823. It appeared anonymously but for years was attributed to Johann Ludwig Tieck, despite there not being any original German text amongst Tieck’s accredited work. In fact, it is now firmly established that the story was by Ernst Raupach and it appears here correctly attributed, and correctly titled as “Let the Dead Rest” for the first time. This was the first story to develop what has become the traditional vampire imagery of a beautiful, seductive creature that shuns daylight, weakens its victims, and can only be despatched with a dagger through the heart.

Also of historical importance is “The Mysterious Stranger.” Though first published in English in 1854, it had appeared in Germany at least ten years earlier and, as such, was the first vampire story to be set in the Carpathian mountains, the location of Dracula’s castle in Bram Stoker’s famous novel, which was published in May 1897. Although there is no evidence that Bram Stoker had read the story, there are sufficient similarities between it and Dracula for the antiquarian and ghost-story writer M. R. James to suggest that it must have served as the basis for the novel. For years the authorship of this story was treated as anonymous, but recent research has revealed that it was by the little-known German writer Karl von Wachsmann.

One other early story completes the fabric of the legend: “The Pale Lady” by Alexandre Dumas which, though written in 1848, was not translated into English until 1910, and has rarely been reprinted since. Like “The Mysterious Stranger,” it is also set in the Carpathian mountains.

These early examples suffice to show how the vampire legend established itself in fiction, mostly in Germany and France, but drawing upon beliefs from central and eastern Europe. I have avoided the more familiar stories of this period such as Théophile Gautier’s “Le Morte Amoreuse” (1839) and Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” (1871) in order to concentrate on stories that exemplify some major themes in vampire fiction. In “The Fate of Madame Cabanel” (1872), for instance, by Eliza Lynn Linton, we see how the belief in and fear of vampires has become so entrenched in remote communities that prejudices can soon erupt with tragic consequences. In “A Kiss of Judas” (1893), Julian Osgood Field considers a totally different origin of the vampire, linking the dead-alive to the children of Christ’s betrayer, Judas. Donovan’s little-known “The Woman With the ‘Oily Eyes’” (1899) explores the idea of the femme fatale while Gilchrist’s “The Crimson Weaver” (1895) weaves the vampire temptress into the imagery of the fantastic. Finally, “With the Vampires” (1903), which has never previously been reprinted, looks at the peril of those who enter the realm of the vampire bats.

There are three stories of more recent vintage. In “Blood Gothic,” Nancy Holder shows the corrupting influence of the romantic vampire image. In “Blood Chess,” Tanith Lee returns to the traditional vampire story but from a wholly new perspective. In “Emptiness,” Brian Stableford considers the idea of vampire babies.

You will see from the dates that, aside from the more recent stories, only two of the older stories appeared after Dracula, and so none of the earlier stories could have been influenced by it. It’s entirely likely that Donovan’s “The Woman With the ‘Oily Eyes’” had an earlier magazine publication, so it, too, could have been written prior to Dracula’s appearance in May 1897. And there is no doubt that “With the Vampires” bears no relationship to Dracula at all. As a consequence all these stories draw their inspiration from older traditions and prevailing legends, and therefore develop their own treatment.

Between them, these stories demonstrate the versatility of the vampire story as well as the continuing strength of the legend.

Mike Ashley

August 2010


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Vampires, Classic Tales

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction by Mike Ashley
  2. Blood Gothic by Nancy Holder
  3. Let the Dead Rest by Ernst Raupach
  4. The Mysterious Stranger Karl von Wachsmann
  5. The Pale Lady by Alexandre Dumas
  6. Blood Chess by Tanith Lee
  7. The Fate of Madame Cabanel by Eliza Lynn Linton
  8. A Kiss of Judas by Julian Osgood Field
  9. The Crimson Weaver by R. Murray Gilchrist
  10. The Woman With the “Oily Eyes” by Dick Donovan
  11. Emptiness by Brian Stableford
  12. With the Vampires Sidney by Bertram
  13. Appendix: A Fragment by Lord Byron

 

“Ex Tenebris” — an Eerie Gothic Tale by Russell Kirk

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 Ex Tenebris*

Russell Kirk, 1957**

[*The Latin phrase “Ex Tenebris” is most simply and commonly translated to mean “from (the) Darkness” in English. It can also be rendered in other ways, e.g., “out of darkness”, “of the dark”, and more abstract phrases, such as “from obscurity”. (See http://mymemory.translated.net/en/Latin/English/ex-tenebris-lux)%5D
Art by Anton Semenov.

“Then shall it be too late to knock when the door shall be shut; and too late to cry for mercy when it is the time of justice. O terrible voice of the most just judgment which shall be pronounced upon them, when shall it be said unto them, Go ye cursed into the fire everlasting, which is prepared for the devil and his angels.” (A Commination, or Denouncing of God’s Anger and judgments against Sinners)

Only one roof at Low Wentford is sound today. On either side of the lane, a row of stone cottages stands empty. Twenty years ago there were three times as many; but now the rest are rubble. A gutted shell of Victorian masonry is the ruin of the schoolhouse. Close by the brook, the church of All Saints stares drearily into its desolate graveyard; a good fifteenth century building, All Saints, but the glass smashed in its windows and the slates slipping one after another from the roof. It has been deconsecrated all this century. Beside it, the vicarage—after the soldiers quartered there had finished with it—was demolished for the sake of what its woodwork and fittings would bring.

In the last sound cottage lives Mrs. Oliver, an ancient little woman with a nose that very nearly meets her chin. She wears a countrywoman’s cloak of the old pattern, and weeds her garden, and sometimes walks as far as the high-arched bridge which, built long before the cottages, has survived them. Mrs. Oliver has no neighbors nearer than the Oghams of Wentford House, a mile down a bedraggled avenue of limes and beeches twisting through the neglected park to the stables of that Queen Anne mansion.

Nearly three years ago, Sir Gerald Ogham sold the cottage to Mrs. Oliver, who had come back from Madras to the village where she was born. In all the parish, no one remained who remembered Mrs. Oliver. She had gone out to India with her husband, the Major; no one knew how long ago that had been—not even Mrs. Oliver, perhaps—with any precision, for she had known Sir Gerald’s father, but had grown vague about decades and such trifles. Sir Gerald himself, though he was past sixty, could recollect of her only that her name had been an old one in the village.

Village? Like the money of the Oghams, it had faded quite away: the Ogham fortunes and Low Wentford now were close to extinction. The wealth of the Oghams was gone to the wars and the Exchequer; the last of the villagers had been drained away to the mills at Gorst, when tractors had supplanted horses upon the farms which Sir Gerald had sold to a potato syndicate. Behind the shutters of the sixty rooms of Wentford House, a solitary daily woman did what she could to supply the place of twenty servants. Lady Ogham and the gardener and the gardener’s boy grew flowers and vegetables in the walled garden, to be sold in Gorst; Sir Gerald, with a feckless bailiff and a half-dozen laborers, struggled to wrest a few hundred pounds’ income from the home farm and the few fields he had left besides. The family name still meaning something roundabout, Sir Gerald sat in the county council, where he sided with a forlorn minority overborne by the councillors from sprawling Gorst.

Sir Gerald had tried to sell the other habitable cottages in Low Wentford; but the planning officer, backed by the sanitary officer, had put obstacles in the way. And it was only because they had been unable at the time to provide a council-flat for old Mrs. Oliver that they had permitted her to repair the cottage near the church. The windows were too small, the sanitary officer and the planning officer had said; but Mrs. Oliver had murmured that in Madras she had seen enough of the sun to last her all her days. The ceilings were lower than regulations specified; but Mrs. Oliver had replied that the coal ration would go the further for that. It must be damp, the sanitary officer felt sure; but he was unable to prove it. There were no communal amenities, said the planning officer; but Mrs. Oliver, deaf as well as dim of sight, told him she disliked Communists. The authorities yielding, Mrs. Oliver had moved in with her Indian keepsakes and her few sticks of furniture, proceeding to train rosebushes against the old walls and to spade her own little garden; for, despite her great age, she was not feeble of body or of will.

Mr. S. G. W. Barner, Planning Officer, had a will of his own, nevertheless, and he had made up his mind that not one stone was to be left upon another at Low Wentford. With satisfaction he had seen the last of the farm-laborers of that hamlet transferred to the new council houses at Gorst, where there was no lack of communal facilities, including six cinemas. Thus were they integrated with the progressive aspirations of planned industrial society, he told the county council. Privately, he was convinced that the agricultural laborer ought to be liquidated altogether. And why not? Advanced planning, within a few years, surely would liberate progressive societies from dependence upon old-fashioned farming. He disliked the whole notion of agriculture, with its rude earthiness, its reactionary views of life and labor, its subservience to tradition. The agricultural classes would be absorbed into the centers of population, or otherwise disposed of, the land thus placed at public command would be converted into garden cities, or state holiday-camps, or proving grounds for industrial and military experiment.

With a positive passion of social indignation then, S. G. W. Barner—a thick-chested, hairy man, forever carrying a dispatch case, stooping and heavy of tread, rather like a large, earnest ape (as Sir Gerald had observed to Lady Ogham, after an unpleasant encounter at a county-council meeting)—objected against Mrs. Oliver’s tenancy of the little red-tiled cottage. His consolation had been that she had not long to live, being wrinkled and gnarled amazingly. To his chagrin, however, she seemed to thrive in the loneliness of Low Wentford, her cheeks growing rosier, her step more sure. She must be got out of that cottage by compulsory purchase, if nothing else would serve. On Mr. Barner’s maps of the Rural District of Low Wentford as it would be in the future, there remained no vexatious dots to represent cottages by the old bridge; nor was there any little cross to represent the derelict church. (No church had yet been erected in the newest housing scheme at Gorst: Cultural Amenities must yield pride of place to material requirements, Barner had declared.)

Yes, that wreck of a church must come down, with what remained of Low Wentford. Ruins are reminiscent of the past; and the Past is a dead hand impeding progressive planning. Besides, Low Wentford had been a hamlet immediately dependent upon Wentford House and its baronets, and therefore ought to be effaced as an obsolete fragment of a repudiated social order. It was disconcerting that even a doddering old creature like the obdurate Mrs. Oliver should prefer living in this unhealthy rurality; and now a council-flat could be made available to her. She would be served a compulsory purchase order before long, if the Planning Officer had his way—which he was accustomed to have—and would be moved to Gorst where she belonged. The surviving cottages might be condemned to demolition as a public nuisance, Sir Gerald’s obscurantism notwithstanding. What should be done with the cleared site of Low Wentford? Why, it might be utilized as a dump for earth excavated in the Gorst housing schemes. That obsolete bridge, incidentally, ought to be replaced by a level concrete one.

“Let a decent old woman keep her roses,” Sir Gerald had said to the Planning Officer when last they met in Gorst. “Why do you whirl her off to your jerry-built desolation of concrete roadways that you’ve designed, so far as I can see, to make it difficult for people to get about on foot? Why do you have to make her live under the glare of mercury vapor lamps and listen to other people’s wireless sets when she wants quiet? Sometimes I think a devil’s got inside you, Barner.”

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Smoke Glass Stained Bright Colors, A Journal Poem by Mick A. Quinn

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Smoke Glass Stained Bright Colors

Mick A. Quinn, 2017


I wanna touch the earth. I wanna take it in my hands. I wanna grow something wild and unruly. I wanna sleep on the hard ground, in the comfort of your arms, on a pillow of blue bonnets, under a blanket made of stars…It’s thundering. I’m a tad psychotic. The A/C is off. I hate this coffee. Nothing tastes good. My bird finger is blue. I think I lost five pounds. Having a hairy chest makes a cool day feel like Hell’s armpit. I started cataloging the books in my library. I have a lot of books. I miss my daughter. I miss my grandson. The house is haunted by a nasty ghost. I put licorice on my thumb. I need more friends closer to my age. I prayed for the world today. The haze from the wildfires has been slowly dissipating. When I think about Virginia Woolf I get depressed. I think too much about anodynes, and salves, and balms in Gilead. And Anne Sexton haunts me with her shock of black hair. I wanna sleep on the hard ground, in the comfort of your arms, on a pillow of blue bonnets, under a blanket made of stars, oh, it sounds good to me. Bipolar people can’t be alone. Yellow like fresh butter. It’s the only color I want, like the offstripe of a bumblebee, a little old lady’s tea room, or a Daisy button. The color of red wine is good, too. Burgundy or maroon, deeper than a bruise, but lighter than dead blood. I can’t relate to other humans. Bipolar people have to be alone. I got my love, and I took it down. Climbed a mountain and I turned around. And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills, then the landslide brought me down. Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love? Can the child within my heart rise above? Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life? Mmm, mmm, mmm. My new sheets are dove grey, like absolution; or city puddle water—they are a thousand thread count; they kept touching me at Dawn and wouldn’t let me get out of bed. The dawn sun was a fuzzy peach. Sail into tomorrow, living day to day, that’s all I can afford to do, and all I’ll ever pay…is a song to sing to thank you, for making me alive, and a prayer to bring you comfort, Lord, help us to survive. I feel closed in. What I don’t want I have. What I want I can’t find. I think I’ve been abducted by aliens. I miss my old wood-burning fireplace. I want to fuck that big hairy hunter in that Pam Houston story, right there astride his pleasure on that bear rug, burnt red in the firelight where we’d never run out of wood. I want a pair of Stevie Nicks’ velvet high-heeled boots. And her black, ribboned tambourine. Well, I’ve been afraid of changing, cause I built my life around you. But time makes you bolder, children get older. And I’m getting older too. I want electric. Like Walt Whitman electric. Wise and far-reaching, pale pink, eggshell, moody blues. I want a kiss from time. A long kiss, tongue included. Drink me and know me, I’ll say to time. And time will chuckle and float away like a gold cloud, blurred and dusty. I’ve looked at clouds from both sides, now, from up and down, and still, somehow, it’s cloud illusions I recall. I really don’t know clouds at all. I want love to take on flesh, like the Christ claims He did; put on flesh, and come and find me, deep in the evergreens; tethered to a mountain; nothing but stones to eat and river water to drink. Come and find me and let me eat of thy flesh, and drink of thy blood, love. Don’t be dark. Don’t be edgèd. Don’t be silent. Don’t swaddle me in expectation. But enter me, the same. When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know. No walls. Put me in a room with four sides of stacked books…they may not be as sturdy, but they are easier to stare down, blankly, and, if they come tumbling down and crush my five-foot-7-inch frame—well, at least I’ll die being smothered by something I love. Little boys are always trying to be grown men. I believe it was Cormac McCarthy who said that, three—no, four—times. Be good, little cowboy. God may not be listening anymore. All your teachers have blown away, like dust in the wind. The evening light still dies with the sun. But, Oz never did give nothing to the Tinman, that he didn’t, didn’t already have. And cause never was the reason for the evening. Or the tropic of Sir Galahad. So, please…It’s raining now, cold drops on my back and my bare butt, my pale feet; it’s wetting the hair on my arms and my chest—sweet, Rocky Mountain rain… Who needs salvation…when you can kiss the tip of every mountain? So, please…believe in me, when I…say I’m spinning round, round, round, round, smoke glass stained bright colors ooo image going down, down, down, down, soapsud green like bubbles oooo…

(C)2017 by Mick A. Quinn. All Rights Reserved.

[Acknowledgements: “Cowboy Take Me Away” by the Dixie Chicks; “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac; “Landslide” by Stevie Nicks; “Sail Into Tomorrow” by Olivia Newton-John; “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell, “Tinman” by America.]

 

Associates of Sherlock Holmes, ed., George Mann, TOC

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Table of Contents

  1. The River of Silence by Lyndsay Faye
  2. Pure Swank by James Lovegrove
  3. Heavy Game of the Pacific Northwest by Tim Pratt
  4. A Dormitory Haunting by Jaime Fenn
  5. The Case of the Previous Tenant by Ian Edginton
  6. Nor Hell a Fury by Cavan Scott
  7. The Case of the Haphazard Marksman by Andrew Lane
  8. The Presbury Papers by Jonathan Barnes
  9. A Flash in the Pan by William Meikle
  10. The Vanishing Snake by Jeffrey Thomas
  11. A Family Resemblance by Simon Bucher-Jones
  12. Page Turners by Kara Dennison
  13. Peeler by Nick Kyme