Irish Short Story Week Year Two
March 11 to July 1
Gothic and Ghost Stories
April 15 to April 21
Great Resources Page on Charlotte Riddell
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The opening of "The Old House in Vauxhill Walk" really grabbed my attention. We meet a young man, 21 and for all appearances a gentleman, walking the streets late at night in the bad part of town. He says he is homeless but he does not look like the desperate people the streets are crammed with. It turns out he has just had a bad fight with his wealthy father and he has left home, he thinks, never to return. The part of town he is walking through is made up of once grand homes now converted into rooming houses. Houses can have declines just like families we learn. Lucky for the young man, a man who used to work as a servant for his family now manages a boarding house and he sees him and invites him in for the night and a much needed meal.
While sleeping he has a vision of a very ugly old woman sitting in a chair counting cold coins over and over. From a dark corner of the room an army of the destitute begin to walk in front of the woman, the poor, the old, the starving, the orphans. Prominent among them is a young woman with an infant, turned out of her home. In the morning the man retells his vision and assumes it must have been a nightmare. I do not want to give away much of the plot of this wonderful story but Riddell does a great job making me believe that the ghosts are real. The young man learns a valuable lesson, of course.
I really respected Riddell for her depiction of the poor. You can read this story through the Charlotte Riddell Resources Page listed at the top of this post.