|No idea what is happening here.|
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was born in Dublin in 1814. He studied law at Trinity College, but never practiced. Instead, he began writing for Dublin University Magazine and went on to own several newspapers. Most of his stories are in the horror genre. The Familiar is one of five short stories (including Carmilla) in the collection In a Glass Darkly (1872), which you can download from Project Gutenberg.
In The Familiar, a Dublin sea captain decides to marry, which for some reason triggers a terrifying series of events. At first the man is haunted by the sound of footsteps chasing him, followed by threatening letters. Next, he is confronted by a 'little man' in the street, who he recognizes as someone he did do wrong to years ago.
His friends think he's crazy, although many are witness to the little man. They think this small person is just some nutjob with a grudge. The bride-to-be's father thinks this is all an elaborate case of cold feet. Despite reassurances, the captain believes that this is a visitor from beyond and that he's a goner.
At the end of the story, the reader is left to decide if the supernatural was to blame for the events or if the captain's subconscious really didn't want him to get married. One of the quirks of Sheridan Le Fanu's work is how he doesn't always offer explanations for all the things that occur. If the little man is who the captain believes he is, why is he so much smaller now? And what's the deal with the owl?
The Familiar is a story of vengeance. The captain has secrets and, sorry, but he had it coming. It's also a story of what happens to non-believers. The captain scoffed at his ladyfriend's beliefs and, coincidentally, that very same night his terror begins. The skeptic always gets killed first in scary movies. If someone tells you aliens or Sharknados are coming, you better get on that bandwagon, son.