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ManSizeInMarble

Cover of a paperback edition of "Man-Size in Marble".

"Man-Size in Marble" is a short horror story by the British author Edith Nesbit. It was first published in the December 1887 issue of the Home Chimes magazine. The story was later collected in Nesbit's 1893 anthology Grim Tales.

In the story, the unnamed narrator and his wife move into a cottage built on the ruins of an old house. The narrator later learns that there is a local legend about the house and its former residents – evil knights whose life-sized effigies are said to come to life on All Saints' Eve. Dismissing a peasant woman's warning, the narrator decides to say nothing to his sensitive wife about the superstition.

"Man-Size in Marble" was adapted as an episode of the classic radio anthology show Hall of Fantasy in 1947. The story was also loosely adapted for the CBS Radio Mystery Theater. The episode, entitled "Man-Sized in Marble", first aired on April 12, 1977.

Plot

The narrator and his wife Laura are on their honeymoon in the country when they come across a pretty cottage. Standing by itself on a hill two miles from the seaside village, the cottage seems exactly the sort of place they have been looking for. Inquiry finds it quite affordable, and the couple decides to move in right away. The narrator, a painter, finds it a perfect place to sketch. They hire a local peasant woman named Mrs. Dorman to take care of housework so Laura, a writer, can work on stories for a magazine.

One October evening three happy months later, the narrator comes home to find his wife weeping. Laura tells him that Mrs. Dorman has suddenly given notice. The narrator promises to speak to Mrs. Dorman when she returns from the village. He then takes his wife out for an evening walk. They walk to an old church two meadows away from the cottage. They admire the solemn beauty of the church in the moonlight. Then they go inside and look at the two marble statues of knights near the altar. According to local legends, the knights were such wicked men that their large house – which stood on the hill where the cottage is – was struck by lightning and destroyed by divine intervention. After looking around the church, the couple goes back outside and rests on a bench enjoying the peaceful night. They return home feeling better.

Mrs. Dorman has returned while the couple was out. The narrator speaks to her and learns that she intends to leave in just a few days. Mrs. Dorman is reluctant to talk at first, but the narrator eventually manages to get her to tell him why she wants to leave. She says that at eleven o'clock on All Saints' Eve, the statues in the church (which she calls "two bodies, drawed out man-size in marble") walk out and come back to their old house. All Saints' Eve is this Friday, so Mrs. Dorman insists she must leave on Thursday. She then advises the narrator to lock the door and put signs of the cross over the door and the windows. The narrator decides not to mention the legend to his sensitive wife.

Mrs. Dorman leaves on Thursday, and on Friday the couple spends the morning doing housework. Afterwards they take a walk and come home in the late afternoon. The narrator is very happy and content, but Laura is uneasy. She says she has a premonition that something bad is about to happen. At half past ten, the narrator tells his wife, who is pale and does not look well, to go to bed. He then goes outside to smoke a pipe. It is a beautiful night, and the narrator loses track of time as he walks up and down thinking about his sweet wife. The church bell tolls eleven. Too enchanted by the night to go back inside, the narrator decides to walk to the church. As he walks along the wood, he thinks he hears footsteps. He reaches the church and finds the door open. It is not until he enters the building that the narrator remembers that, according to the legend, it is the hour the statues are said to walk. He goes up to the altar and sees in the moonlight that the statues are gone. Horrified, he runs out of the church and cuts across the fields towards the cottage.

In the fields, the narrator runs into his neighbor, a doctor who is on his way to see a patient. The narrator tries to shove the doctor aside in a rush to get home to his wife, but the doctor stops him. When the narrator tells him about the missing statues, the doctor laughs and suggests they look in at the church together. The two men enter the church and the doctor lights a match. They find the statues in their usual places. The narrator thanks the doctor and convinces himself that it had been a trick of light. Just then the doctor notices that one of the statues has a broken hand. The narrator is certain it was intact the last time he and his wife saw it.

They go back to the cottage together and find the front door open. Inside, the door to the parlor is also open. The men enter the brightly-lit parlor looking for Laura. They find her in the recess of the window - her body half on the window seat and half across the table. Laura is dead. Her eyes are wide open, and a horrible look of terror is frozen on her face. One of her hands is clenched tightly around something. The doctor opens the hand and finds a gray marble finger.

See also

External links

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