Title: Aylmer Vance: Ghost-Seer.
Author: Alice & Claude Askew.
Genre: Fiction, literature, short stories, horror, mystery, ghost stories, vampire fiction, detective fiction, romance.
Publication Date: 1914.
Summary: These 8 short stories revolve around Aylmer Vance, who undertakes investigations on behalf of the 'Ghost Circle,' and regularly exposes false mediums and the like, and Dexter, who, after meeting Vance on vacation, uncovers his latent psychic powers and becomes the mystery man's apprentice. In the opening story, The Invader, Vance recounts his investigations of a case of possession in which an attempt to contact the dead leads to his dear friend's wife having her essence stolen by a long dead witch. In The Stranger, Vance recounts another story, that of his ward, Daphne Darrell, who is visited throughout her life by and consequently falls in love with a seemingly imaginary deity of times long past, with tragic consequences when the girl finally decides to put her fancies aside and marry. In Lady Green-Sleeves, Vance recounts succumbing to the charms of a young woman at a ball – who turns out to be long dead. In Fire Unquenchable, Vance gives Dexter a book of poetry to peruse, which burns with a real fire, and plunges him into a vision and a story of a poet who infused his poetry with a fire of his passion before ending his life. Vance attempts to re-gain possession of the poems through channeling, with tragic consequences. In The Vampire, Vance and Dexter are approached by Mr. Davenant, who married a girl who has a dark "curse" upon her family that has drawn the couple back to Blackwick castle - Mrs Davenant's ancestral seat from which the curse originated. In The Boy of Blackstock, Dexter and Vance are called to investigate a poltergeist - the "Boy" of Blackstock Priory that haunts the owners of the priory, that had once cheated his family out of it and murdered him and his lover, foretelling their imminent death; but the friends find a very human love triangle at the center of the affair. In The Indissoluble Bond, a daughter of Vance and Dexter's friend is enchanted by the organ-playing of a sinister and dying young man, who, through his music, gains possession of her soul. In The Fear, Vance and Dexter explore Camplin Castle, which is uninhabitable due to an inexplicable but undeniable "fear" that overpowers its inhabitants and makes them flee with terror.
My rating: 8/10.
♥ I don't know - I can't say," Vance answered. "But I am certain of one thing - that George Sinclair and his wife would be alive today if George had not persuaded Annie to go in for those ghastly sittings - if he had left that barrow undisturbed - for it does not do to meddle with the burial places of the primitive dead. It's an unwise proceeding to have anything to do with an earth-bound soul - a soul whose desires are all of the earth, earthly. And Annie knew this, mark you, and felt it. She was wiser in her generation than George, but just because she was sweet and gentle—"
He paused and did not finish his sentence. But he drew his hand hurriedly across his eyes, and I realised - the knowledge suddenly came to me - that in his own quiet, reserved way Aylmer Vance had loved his friend's wife, the woman who belonged heart and soul to her husband.
♥ "The great elemental forces, Dexter - why do we no longer believe in them - the old gods and goddesses - the lost faiths? Either we are much wiser than our forefathers, or our forefathers were much wiser than us. But that's a question for the gods to decide - they who know."
♥ "'I am very unhappy, guardy.' She bowed her head; two big tears rolled down her cheeks. 'I don't love Tony, I shall never love Tony, and I am going to marry him tomorrow; and he will take me away from all that I care for most - from my freedom, my solitude, my woods. I shall never be able to spend long days by myself in the future, alone with the wild things. I shall have to become domesticated; I shall be a wife - perhaps later on a mother.'
"She paused, then added, speaking very quickly and nervously:
"'I ought never to have become engaged, I see that now. I ought always to have belonged to myself. I oughtn't to have been afraid of my dreams, my fancies, and anxious to have them dispelled, or what can Tony give me in exchange - what can he give me?' She threw back her head - she gazed at me defiantly.
"'Tony can give you love,' I answered steadily. 'He can give you reality.'
"'I want neither.' She laughed, queer broken laughter."
♥ "Besides, have you forgotten, Dexter, that 'those whom the gods love die young'?"
I made no answer, but as I watched Aylmer Vance kneel down in front of the fire to warm his hands, I ventured to ask him a question.
"Do you believe that the old gods are dead, Vance? — do you really believe that?"
Vance smiled - a strange inscrutable smile.
"They are dead to some," he answered, "but they are alive to others."
♥ It was, as I had guessed, a face of exceptional beauty. The woman was quite young, little more than a girl, but she seemed to have lost, if I may express it so, the natural glamour and health of youth - it was the face of one who had passed through terrible stress of soul, if not of body - a violent spiritual stress, which had caused the delicately-rounded cheeks to lose their contour, the warm colour to fade, the exquisitely-moulded lips to become bloodless, and the eyes hollow and weary. And yet those eyes! I shall carry the impression of them till I go to my own grave, for if the rest of the face was like the face of a spirit from another world, those eyes shone with the very agony of life. I don't know why I have used the word "agony" in this connection, but it is the one that most accurately expresses my meaning - I can only repeat that the woman's eyes blazed with life - a life that was equivalent to exquisite pain.
♥ "The unfortunate poet, Ewan Trail, had destroyed all his manuscripts - there was no longer any possibility of giving to the world those burning and impassioned words of his. And who can say that the fire of inspiration dies with the death of the body? Who can say that, released from fleshly bonds, it does not continue to burn with a zest and ardour that we poor humans are totally unable to appreciate?"
♥ "Through her he has sent his message to the world, and unless I'm very much mistaken, when those poems see the light of publicity - as they will do, for I myself shall have them published - the fire that emanates from the restless spirit of Ewan Trail, the checked flame of inspiration, will be drawn to its natural channel, where it may burn for ever, a power for good, unquenched and unquenchable in the minds and hearts of men.
~~The Fire Unquenchable
♥ It was the strangest music that I have ever listened to, unlike that of any composer, living or dead, and I knew instinctively that the player must love the instrument he played upon so passionately as to give his very soul to it.
I felt that he himself, sitting alone in the narrow loft with the twilight creeping about him, with the great church holy in its emptiness, had become bereft of feeling, devoid of emotion, while the organ, to him, was a sentient being.
The man had developed his spirit at the expense of his body, and his spirit sang in harmony with the music of the organ - merged in it - was it.
I listened, overwhelmed with emotion such as I had never felt before. The organ breathed softly of dead hopes and strange desires - the unknown and unknowable.
To have understood would have meant the solution of the mystery of the soul of man - and I knew that it was best not to understand.
♥ "I do not want to die. I love, and love is life."
♥ The melody poured forth its appeal. Surely the organ spoke! Spirit voices called to spirit, telling of life that mocked the finality of earth. The world's passion, the world's pain, its petty hopes and fears, what were they to this? Come all ye that rejoice, come all ye that are weary, for there is your reward. O Death, where is thy sting; O Grave, where is thy victory?
~~The Indissoluble Bond.
♥ "And that's the worst of this hobby of ours," he added, with a suggestion of sadness in his voice; "for people come to us, as Mr Belliston did, begging for our assistance, and thinking that by some strange mysterious power we can lay the ghosts, or what they are pleased to call the ghosts. But that's just what we can't do; we can only prove what has been proved hundreds of times before, that there are more things in heaven and earth than the human philosophy of the present day can understand.
"And again and again I find the same advice recurring - the advice which Somers has given us - the advice of one who has not had the experience of years such as I have had, but which is quite as good as any that I can give - destroy. And that, too, is the advice that applies to Camplin Castle."