John Gale's contribution to this anthology of haunted house tales is remarkable for its technical assurance, and its intense imagery. The plot is relatively simple. Philip Peregrine (a name that would not be out of place in any English ghost story penned in the 1890s) goes to an isolated country house, Tarn Ghyll. He writes letters to a friend and keeps a journal. He is enchanted by the beauty of weather and landscape - the story is replete with lapidary words to describe the delights of the British climate, a tour de force in itself. The pages almost glow with richly textured descriptions of a world that seems both real and Romantic in the original sense of wondrous and dangerous.
It becomes clear that Peregrine is not truly alone. A strange entity that seems to be part of the watery environs of Tarn Ghyll is interested in him. He is fascinated by her, concluding that she is a Naiad. But what traditionally occurs when a mortal becomes involved with a water sprite? Suffice to say this story rings the changes on folklore and mythology while respecting the reader's intelligence. It is very entertaining and reminds us - or me, at least - that prose does not have to spare to be effective. Sometimes more is more.
This story is slightly reminiscent of Hugh Walpole's ghostly fiction, though mostly thanks to the setting and subject matter (see Walpole's 'The Tarn'). It is, however, a much headier mixture of ideas and imagery than the usual inter-war tale of the supernatural. It might be termed neo-Decadent, but I suspect John Gale would disagree.
Join me again, very soon, to see what I make of the next story in this landmark anthology from Egaeus Press (see link above).