'It is... no particular time or place.' So begins the first story in Michael Eisele's new collection (see post below). 'Mouse' is the story of a street boy with artistic talent who, through a series of lucky accidents, ends up staying with an artist. The boy is called Schalken, which I did find a mite confusing, as this is not a tribute to Le Fanu's classic tale, and is very different in tone and theme. But that's a minor quibble.
Schalken flourishes under the tutelage of the painter Derk, who is typically impoverished and has to labour at the docks to make ends meet. I wondered where the story was going after a dozen pages or so, as it seems to be a fairly realistic tale of struggling artists in Old Europe. Then something interesting occurs - Derk has been leaving out gifts of milk for 'Mouse', which turns out to be a kind of fairy. It emerges that many such creatures still live in the cities that long ago sprawled over their glades and meadows.
When his benefactor dies Schalken becomes more closely involved with the little people, and sets out to re-create their world on canvas. Eventually he achieves what he feels to be an true rendition of the world that once existed, As a variation on the theme of the artist's muse it's interesting, and the final twist is artistically right. So, a good start. Eisele, an American fabulist, follows the examples of Poe, Hawthorne, and many others by using aspects of European history for his own ends here. What, I wonder, will the next story bring?