Mary Wilkins Freeman (1852-1930) was an American writer probably best known today for her supernatural short stories, which combine “domestic realism and supernaturalism” (as Wikipedia says), generally in a New England setting. Her stories have a feminist sensibility, and tend to feature self-reliant, often unmarried women as their protagonists. M. R. James spoke favorably of Freeman’s collection Wind in the Rosebush in a letter to Nico Davies, saying “I like it.”
I shared Freeman’s excellent vampire story “Luella Miller” in my previous post, and I thought I’d share another one today. The narrator of “The School-Teacher’s Story” is a retired schoolmarm, financially comfortable, strong-minded, and perhaps not terribly maternal or domestic (it seems Freeman wasn’t terribly domestic, herself). She’s exactly the type of person that ghost stories shouldn’t happen to (so many ghost story protagonists are). And yet, there was that one student….
The story uses a motif from a common and beloved urban legend (though it does not retell that legend), and since I do call this series “writers of folklore and the fantastic,” I thought I’d share this folklore-flavored tale today.
- You can read “The School-Teacher’s Story” here.
Freeman’s collection Wind in the Rosebush is online at Project Gutenberg. I also recommend Lost Ghosts: The Complete Weird Stories of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, edited by S.T. Joshi, from Hippocampus Press.