I really do enjoy Edith Wharton. She writes beautifully though somewhat harshly of the society she knew. I've never read her ghost stories, however. Much like her novels, the two stories I'm featuring here deal with the wealthy and their questionable morality.
In Afterward, a young American couple are anxious to find an old English mansion to live in, one with a real live ghost. They are told of just the house they are looking for, ghost and all. The only catch is that people don't realize they've seen a ghost until 'afterward.'
They move in and go about their business until the wife finds that her husband has become distracted by something. It must be the ghost! she thinks. What she doesn't know is that he has much more on his mind than hauntings. Afterward, the wife gets her wish but not in the way she expected.
In Wharton's usual style, Afterward is heavily descriptive. It's also a straight forward ghost story.
The Eyes is quite a bit different. Here an older gentleman is telling a story to his young friends about how he was twice haunted by a pair of glowing red eyes. As he tells the story, he tries to puzzle out why he was menaced in this way. One of his listeners has an unexpected reaction.
When I came to the end of The Eyes, I fully admit that I didn't know what the heck happened. I figured that the eyes were his conscience telling him not to lie to people to make them happy. Still, I couldn't understand why buddy would react the way he did. I knew I needed some help so to Google I went. I found one analysis of the story and it was much different than mine. It was more of a Dorian Gray-ish situation. This made sense but I'm still not 100% convinced.
Have you read The Eyes? What did you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Afterward and The Eyes can be found in Tales of Men and Ghosts, a collection of Edith Wharton's short fiction.
If you'd enjoy some literary scares, Afterward and The Eyes will do.