"The Station Road" by Ann Bridge was originally published in 1936. It begins:
There was a little pause when the last speaker finished. We sat round the fire, each occupied with his own thoughts; the mind of each seeking its own solution of the problems raised by the uncanny story to which we had just listened.
I was immediately reminded of Henry James' The Turn of The Screw, which also opens around a fire with the telling of a strange tale. The similarities may not extend much further, but an outstanding ghost story was already anticipated. Bridge did not disappoint. A mysterious evening visitor, a deserted road, a train station, a murder, and a warped time dimension combine to deliver a chilling story.
Next up was "Roaring Tower" written by Stella Gibbons (author of Cold Comfort Farm) in 1937. This story is about a young woman sent away by her parents to visit an aunt in Cornwall, in hope that she will forget an inappropriate attraction.
The passions which invade a heart at nineteen, like a beautiful menacing army, seem faded and small enough if one looks back on them after a lapse of fifty years, as I am doing now, but on the late summer morning I describe, as I waited with my parents under the dome of the railway station, no heart could have been fiercer, and yet colder, than mine. One voice, which I should never hear again, sounded in my ears, and one face, which I had promised to forget, filled my eyes.
The ruin of the Roaring Tower, surrounded by beautiful rose bushes, captures her imagination after hearing a strange sound emanating from deep within. This story involves village lore, a large bear-like monster, a fall into the tower, and a questionable state of consciousness. It proved to be another wonderfully atmospheric Halloween read.
Next week, the last Monday before Halloween, I'll be reading a more modern ghost story from the same collection. Visit The Book Mine Set to see more Short Story Monday posts.