Tell A Tale — Gothic Fiction

The White Fairy By David Herridge

Life was grey for those working, and living around the docks at Shadwell Basin; despite the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations earlier in the year 1897. Winter made life even harder, but ships always had cargoes needing to be handled

Henry Watkinson, a widower in his early fifties was a middle class professional person of authority at the Docks. Perhaps his appearance unsettled people. He wore black clothing, and a black hat; and at six feet tall gave a grim appearance. Thus, most people who crossed his path did so with a brief acknowledgement, and hurried past. Those he engaged in conversation found to their discomfort his eyes would be firmly fixed into theirs. Despite his ominous façade he was a Christian, and endeavoured to live his life according to his faith; worshipping at St. Paul’s Shadwell.

Incidents at the docks were not uncommon; such was the occurrence one Friday in December when Henry felt, and heard an almighty crash. He rushed down the staircase calling out “Telephone the hospital urgently.” The staff responded promptly, whilst Henry sped outside.

There lay three men; one dead, the other two screaming in agony under numerous tea chests. “You men give aid here, and make them comfortable until the doctor arrives.” Henry remained at the spot overseeing the clearance of the debris; whilst awaiting the arrival of the hospital conveyance.

A number of workers looked on in dismay; probably because it was a fate which could easily befall them. Soon only a few Chinese remained.

Just as he re-entered the Dock Office he noticed a small packet behind a bollard, he picked it up, and put it in his pocket, and immediately realised why the Chinese were lingering.

Opium Dens were in abundance in Shadwell; an experience Henry had avoided. It was the anniversary of his wife’s death, and he was in a melancholy mood. At home he bade farewell to his housekeeper “Good night Mrs O’Brien, thank you for the Christmas Tree.” The tree was always left bare.

He felt in his pocket, and temptation then overcame him, and he retired to his study.

His head, and senses reeled; his whole being was transported. The vision was his dining room, the chairs were dancing to the music of an Irish jig. A form madness gripped him; when would it stop, when would sanity return? A figure dressed all in white came gradually into focus. It was his late wife Henrietta, carrying a wand. Silent, then simply waved the wand, and all was as it should be; with the chairs back into their place. Her voice now came from he knew not where, and said “Don’t Henry, don’t betray yourself; I’ll be watching you.” His head still uneasy, although he’d forsaken the opium; he returned to the living room. On top of the Christmas Tree was now a White Fairy. It’s eyes were larger than the figure required, and he was certain those same eyes now followed him wherever he went.

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