"Between the Lights"
by E.F. Benson
A gathering of friends telling ghost stories by firelight are chilled by their host's tale of a brush with the supernatural.
Eh, not a favorite. There was a pleasantly spooky atmosphere, but Benson's narrator rather ruined it a few times by butting in where he shouldn't have. Also, the denouement was somewhat lacking for me.
Snippets (with SPOILERS):
-- The subject of skeletons comes up... "'...I don't even mind that. Why, there are seven, eight skeletons in this room now, covered with blood, and skin and other horrors.'" Yes! It's so strange to remember that all of us are walking skeletons...
-- "'...the nightmares of one's childhood were the really frightening things, because they were vague. There was the true atmosphere of horror about them because one didn't know what one feared.'"
-- "'But really the-- well, the nightmare perhaps, to which I was referring, is of the vaguest and most unsatisfactory kind. It has no apparatus about it at all.'" (Well, we can't say he didn't warn us...)
-- "Now the angler lands his fish, the stalker kills his stage, and the speaker holds his audience. And as the fish is gaffed, and as the stag is shot, so were we held. There was no getting away till he had finished with us." See, now that little interruption from our helpful narrator takes the reader right out of the story! He does the exact opposite of what the fictional storyteller has just done, breaking the spell instead of casting it.
-- "'It was no good my telling myself that I was disquieting myself in vain, for it was as if something had actually entered into my very soul, as if some seed of horror had been planted there.'"
-- "'And that is all?' I asked. 'Yes, it was nearly too much for me. I think the dressing bell has sounded.'" ...The End? ...Ok, then.