Another ghost story by Scottish poet Violet Jacob, from her 1922 short story collection, Tales of my Own Country.
A young man reluctantly goes to spend a fortnight with his gruff and forbidding godfather. While indulging his love of heraldry amongst the ancient tombstones in an old kirkyard (churchyard) near his godfather’s property, he comes across something he doesn’t expect, and learns something about his godfather, too.
Plotwise, this is a fairly standard ghost story, but I found it quite charming. The protagonist, in particular, was really well delineated. I got a definite sense of his personality: easygoing, perhaps a bit feckless, but a genuinely enthusiastic amateur of history and heraldry, and just a nice, kind, guy. I even got a pretty clear idea of his relationship with his father — and his father’s personality — even though his father wasn’t even really in the story. The scene where he first encounters the ghost gave me a mild but pleasant shivery feeling up the back of the neck. It wasn’t a terribly scary story, but I don’t think that was the point.
Several of the secondary characters speak in the Scottish dialect, as is appropriate, since Ms. Jacob is best known as a poet of the vernacular. I had to read a few things twice over, but overall the Scottish wasn’t a stumbling block.
You can read or download “Annie Cargill” here.
This and “The Wade Monument” are the only two ghost stories by Violet Jacob that I know of (as yet), but I’ve put the rest of Tales of my Own Country on my “To Read” list. Perhaps there’s another one there.
Featured image: Protestant Cemetery, Walter Crane. Source: WikiArt
Churchyard Gate, Caspar David Friedrich (1826-1827). Source: WikiArt