Sunday, January 16, 2011

Review: Canon Alberic's Scrap-Book by Montague Rhodes James

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary:
by Montague Rhodes James
Ayer Co Pub (1977), Hardcover, 270 pages

‘They were in the sitting-room of the house, a small, high chamber with a stone floor,
full of moving shadows cast by a wood-fire that flickered on a great heart.’ (p.13)

Canon Alberic’s Scrap-Book was first published in 1904, although it was written in 1894.
The story is set in southern France.
An English tourist is photographing the interior of the cathedral of Saint-Bernard-de-Comminges at the foot of Pyrenees, when the cathedral’s sacristan tries to sell him a strange book. The Englishman is impressed by a drawing in the book. After buying it, he returns to his room, and …
‘his attention was caught by an object lying on the red cloth just by his left elbow. …
A pen wiper? No, no such thing in the house.
A rat? No, too black.
A large spider? I trust to goodness not - no. …
God! a hand like the hand in that picture!’ (p. 23-4)

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