Today’s winter tale isn’t quite a traditional ghost story, nor is it Christmas themed, but it’s a story I’ve always liked; one that feels made to be read out loud. So why not read it to your loved ones in front of the Yule Log?
Edward Plunkett, Lord Dunsany: Irish fantasist and weird fiction author, and just a beautiful writer. Despite the subject matter, I think this one is particularly beautiful: The Highwaymen (1908).
For Tom tonight had nought but the wind to ride; they had taken his true black horse on the day when they took from him the green fields and the sky, men’s voices and the laughter of women, and had left him alone with chains about his neck to swing in the wind for ever. And the wind blew and blew.
It’s a story of friendship, and (in its own way) of goodwill, and redemption, and peace. That’s Christmasy, no?
- “The Highwaymen” was published originally in The Sword of Welleran and Other Stories, 1908. The illustration above is by the great Sidney Sime, for the collection.
- You can find a scan of The Sword of Welleran (with all Sime’s illustrations) at the Internet Archive. If you want a readable ebook version, however, you should pick it up at Project Gutenberg. Unfortunately, the Gutenberg version doesn’t have the illustrations.
- The story reminds me — just a little — of Georg Heym’s “The Dissection”, which is also quite beautiful (and a bit more gruesome). I’ve blogged about it before, and you can read it here.