'Outside the House' by Bessie Kyffin-Taylor
This story from Women's Weird 2 is an oddity in several ways. It is tightly focused on the Great War, it's protagonist is male, and it takes a very bleak view of, well, pretty much everything.
It begins as the narrative of an army major who gets his 'Blighty One' in the form of a leg wound. Recuperating at a country house turned into a hospital, he falls in love with Elsie, a pretty nurse.
So far, so familiar. But then the plot takes an odd turn. The officer proposes to Elsie and she accepts, then asks him to meet her family. Oddly, she sends him on ahead rather than accompanying him to her ancestral home. Odder still, she insists that he will have to learn to obey some rules at the house.
When he arrives the major finds the family friendly but odd. There is a sunken lawn where they are having afternoon tea, but there is a sudden rush to be indoors before sunset. Doors are locked, and windows are shuttered so that nobody can see out at night. Why? The answer is interesting, but discovering it proves too much for the honest but foolhardy officer.
The story's style is oddly jaunty for such a bleak tale. It is one of a collection by an author who seems to be rather a mystery figure, She wrote a 1920 collection entitled Seven Strange Stories and, on the strength of this one, I'd like to read the other six. 'Outside the House' does offer a rational explanation for what happens (in a way) but it's the nightmarish imagery that stayed with me. Again, we find a house that is not a secure home, domestic bliss that proves an illusion.
And on that happy note, I'll move on to the next story.