‘Even in the stillness of that dead-cold weather, I had heard no sound of little battering hands upon the window-glass…’ A phantom child roams the Northumberland moors, while a host of fairytale characters gone to seed gather in the dark, dark woods in these two surprising tales of the uncanny from the great Victorian novelist.
I bought this as the Penguin Black Classics edition, but read “The Old Nurse’s Story” in the Virago Book of Ghost Stories, not realising it was the same story that I already owned.
The first story is an elderly servant’s account of moving to a terribly haunted house. The ghosts are malignant, and want to draw her five year old charge out into the winter nights, as revenge for the very nasty behaviour of her great Aunt. It was suitably creepy and worthy of being in the Virago book, as well as being a really great example of Gaskell’s writing.
I haven’t read much Gaskell before, though I have tried and failed to get into both Cranford and North and South, simply due to reading them at the wrong times, but I do adore the BBC mini-series of the latter.
I was surprised by the violence in this story, which threw me off guard toward the end. I read this on a dark, cold, windy night, so it was the perfect accompaniment for the moment- it was even about two o’clock at the morning!