Published in Eve, 7th June 1922
Collected in Desirable Residences and Other Stories (1991)
Approx. 1,800 words
(First read 06/05/1992)
The Top Landing is one of EFB's 'classic' spook stories ~ but in miniature. Two gentlemen friends, the one an author, the other a composer, rent a Queen Anne house overlooking Romney Marsh (Kent)¹, which comes complete with housekeeper. Its one distinguishing feature is that the resident ghost makes itself very physically felt at the end ... oh and it ends extremely suddenly.
I usually moan about Benson's spook stories being too long; this one's actually too short. Ha! Still, it's quite effective in its quiet way.
¹ Favoured haunt of Charles Dickens. No, it's not the ghost of him, luckily. If it had been, the story would've had to be at least 30,000 words. [joke]
Y'know how, in 83% of ghost stories ever written, household pets, farm animals, etc. are meant to be specially 'attuned' to the presence of spooks? Well, EFB seems to have had a notion that household servants also had this 'gift' ~ it's the narrator's 'man' who first voices everyone's fears, with calamitous results for our gent's toilette:
Next morning a domestic bombshell exploded. My servant Manders, who had been with me for ten years, came to me after breakfast and asked if he and my housemaid might go back to London. It was reasonable to ask for an explanation.
"We can neither of us stand it any longer," he said. "I'm very sorry, sir, but I can't stop here, and it's the same with Edith." [...]
"And what's to happen to us if you and Edith go?" I asked.To which Manders didn't reply, "How about you dress yourself in the morning for once? and light your own fu_king fire?"
This isn't the only story in which Benson used this (erm ...) device, but obviously I can't remember where else he did.