“I’ve been considerably interested in your conversation,” said he, “and as you’ve been frank, I’ll be frank too. I knew Mrs Deverill’s mother, Lady Carstairs, very well years ago, and of course Mrs Deverill when she was a child. Deverill I came across once in Egypt – he had been sent on a diplomatic mission to Teheran. As for our being invited on such a slight acquaintance, little Mrs Deverill has the reputation of being the only really successful celebrity hunter in England. She inherited that faculty from her mother, who entertained the whole world. We’re sure to find archbishops, and eminent actors, and illustriuos divorcées asked to meet us. That’s one thing. But why I, who loathe country house parties and children and Christmas as much as Biggleswade, am going down there to-day, I can no more explain than you can. It’s a devilish odd coincidence.”
The three men looked at one another. Suddenly McCurdie shivered and drew his fur coat around him.
“I’ll thank you,” said he, “to shut that window.”
“It is shut,” said Doyne.
“It’s just uncanny,” said McCurdie, looking from one to the other.
“What?” asked Doyne.
“Nothing, if you didn’t feel it.”
“There did seem to be a sudden draught,” said professor Biggleswade. “But as both window and door are shut, it could only be imaginary.”
“It wasn’t imaginary,” muttered McCurdie.
Then he laughed harshly. “My father and mother came from Cromarty,” he said with apparent irrelevance.
“That’s the Highlands,” said the professor.
“Ay,” said McCurdie.
Lord Doyne said nothing, but tugged at his moustaches and looked out of the window as the frozen meadows and bits of river and willows raced past. A dead silence fell on them. McCurdie broke it with another laugh and took a whiskey flask from his hand-bag.
“Have a nip?”
This story by William John Locke, written in 1910 finally turns out to be an inspirational, very deeply Christian story but thought I normally don’t care for preachy stories, I did enjoy this one. It has a great atmosphere (the snippet above happens in a train in the heart of winter), that kind of ethereal and still very palpable atmosphere that Victorian ghost stories created so well. I also liked the fact that it was built like a mystery.
A nice, little Christmas story.
In post is part of the Thursday Quotables meme. If you want to discover more about this meme and maybe take part in it, head over to Bookshelf Fantasies