I’ve had “Christmas Eve, Long Ago” on my Winter Tales list for several years, and have always skipped it, because it’s not a ghost story. This year, with this new crime series, I’ve finally got a chance to share it!
It’s Christmas Eve, Australia; Edward Woolston and his wife Soo have just sold their property, and plan to move back to England. Full of the spirit of the holiday, Woolston invites a man he just met to stop by for a drink and a cigar to celebrate the Woolston’s last Christmas in Australia. But “goodwill towards all” isn’t a sentiment that everyone follows, even during this special season.
This story first appeared in The Portland Guardian (Portland, Victoria, Australia, that is) on Christmas Day, 1879, under the byline “Waif Wander”. The author’s real name was Mary Fortune (1833-1911), an Irish-born Australian writer known primarily for her crime fiction; she was one of the earliest women detective writers in the world. Her series The Dectective’s Album, narrated by detective Mark Sinclair, ran for forty years in the Australian Journal, from 1868 to 1908. During her career, the name Waif Wander was so well known that both a racehorse and a greyhound were named in her honor!
Sadly, Ms. Fortune died ill and in obscurity in 1911. I think she has been somewhat rediscovered, at least in Australia, and I do plan to check out some of her other crime and detective fiction for the Classic Crime series. But in the meantime, enjoy this Christmas tale!
Part of the Classic Crime Series.
Featured Image: Christmas in Australia, Frederick Grosse, engraver (1865). Source: State Library Victoria.
Father Christmas in Australia, from Illustrated Australian News, Christmas 1882. Source: State Library Victoria.