Leslie Poles Hartley (1895 - 1972) was a British writer of novels and short stories who used the uncanny, the diabolical, and the supernatural in his works, just for the satisfaction of making his reader's flesh creep. He combined the psychological with the demonic in a way that was surpassed only by that greatest of all supernatural writers, M. R. James.
The stories in this collection:
"A Visitor from Down Under"--Mr. Rumbold, who made his fortune in an Australian mine, returns to England to enjoy his ill-gotten gains. But a figure in a long black cloak follows him into his London hotel room and this is the last time Mr. Rumbold is seen. "But a policeman patrolling Carric Street noticed a man in a long black cape who seemed, from the position of his arm, to be carrying something heavy. He called out to the man and ran after him; but though he did not seem to be moving very fast the policeman could not overtake him."
"Podolo"--The title of this story refers to an island near Venice where picnickers discover a starving cat. When the cat refuses to be captured, one of the picnickers decides to humanely destroy it.
"Three, or Four, for Dinner"--Another Venetian tale that might remind you of `The Stone Guest' scene in Mozart's `Don Giovanni.' Two Englishmen find a corpse in a canal on their way to dinner. They invite him to join them at the table.
"The Travelling Grave"--A rich collector of funerary devices invites his friends over for the weekend. A late-arriving guest doesn't realize a game of hide-and-seek is in progress and almost tumbles into his host's latest acquisition.
"Feet Foremost"--The ghost of an abused wife must wait until someone invites her back into the mansion where she was killed, before she can avenge herself.
"The Cotillon"-- The Cotillion is a type of patterned social dance that originated in France in the 1700s. This story is a variation on the `demon lover.' Nowadays, I think our sympathy would be with Marion, rather than her stalker.
"A Change of Ownership"-- The new owner of a house is afraid to go inside after dark. Of course he acquired the house by non-standard methods.
"The Thought"--A man's conscience is temporarily put to rest when he prays out loud in an old church. Ultimately his method of purging himself from sin backfires on him.
"Conrad and the Dragon"--Controlled irony is one of this author's favorite underlining techniques. However, he loses control in this rather trite fairy tale, and his story sinks like a rusted-out hull.
"The Island"--A French bedroom farce as told by an Englishman, who takes these things much more seriously (as does the lady's husband.) Very atmospheric. "The Island" was one of Dorothy Sayres' favorite Hartley stories.
"Night Fears--While on the job, a night-watchman meets a spectral figure who makes him doubt everything he loves.
"The Killing Bottle"--A neatly told mystery about a lepidopterist who is set up to perish like one of the butterflies in his own collection.