Saaaantaaaa! I know him!
Time to get excited about Christmas! And, in the old fashioned tradition, time to scare each other with Christmas ghost stories around the fire.
My short story The Sixpence in the Pudding (excerpt below) features in the new Christmas horror anthology, O Horrid Night, by Fundead Publications. It sits alongside 19 other spooky tales perfect for the season.
You can buy O Horrid Night in paperback or on Kindle here.
The Sixpence in the Pudding
Of course there were stories. All old families had stories. And whether you gave credence to them or not said a lot about your character, so thought Annie Jones, and as head house keeper for several renowned families in the past, including the Hadleys, the Smith-Westertons and the Ashburys, she had done her utmost to quash such idle gossip among her staff.
The Idleweathers were no different, and when she first heard the tale related in a conspirational whisper by a silly young scullery maid called Marcy she made her disapproval felt. However, she couldn’t resist a shudder whenever she passed the black-veiled portrait on the second floor, as if her body would not obey the stern ethics of her mind.
It was two months ago when Marcy told the story, during the second week of Annie’s appointment. And despite the tingle on her neck produced by the covered painting on the wall of the second floor corridor, she had put it almost completely out of her mind until the early afternoon of Christmas Eve. The snow was falling heavily outside, the garden already completely buried under thick sheets, blinding in the winter sun, and lying on the leaden crossbars of the windows.
“Do wrap up well Marcy, it’ll be bitter cold out there even with the sun, and the snow will be knee deep by the time you reach London.”
“I will do, thank you, ma’am. I’ve got this good woollen shawl of mine and the warmth of Christmas cheer in my heart.” Marcy was visiting her family for Christmas dinner and in the spirit of the season Annie had let her go a whole day early. The girl was quite giddy with excitement.
“Christmas cheer won’t banish pneumonia. Do be careful, girl.”
“I will, thank you, ma’am. You be careful too, ma’am.”
“Me? Why I shall be perfectly warm and dry here in Idleweather Hall, I assure you I don’t plan on doing any gardening today!”
“No, ma’am, I mean you being alone here this Christmas Eve.”
The small staff had already been dismissed for the holiday and all were travelling back to be with their families on Christmas Day. Marcy, her family living nearest to the Hall, had been the last to go. Annie had no family and would spend Christmas Day waiting on Mr and Mrs Idleweather and their two children, Jean and Maisy. She had already begun to prepare the lunch, soaking peeled potatoes and carrots in pots and wrestling the goose into a slightly-too-small baking tray. And with the Idleweathers out for Christmas Eve service she would indeed be alone in the Hall until they returned well after midnight.
“What do I have to fear from being alone except a rare chance of peace and quiet?”
A small flicker of a smile passed over Marcy’s face and disappeared. “It’s just they say that on Christmas Eve she is even more… agitated… than usual.”
“They? She? Whoever do you mean, girl?”
Marcy replied with silence and a look that said, “You know exactly who I mean.”