“The Caretaker’s Story” was first published in 1934. It is one of Edith Olivier’s most famous short stories. The story is written in the first person and is an enjoyably gruesome tale. The narrator of the story, a man named Maurice, owns a seaside cottage and, because he keeps it for occasional use only, he feels it prudent to employ a caretaker to look after the property in his absence.
Maurice advertises the position and is delighted when he receives a reply from a trusted friend, Jim West, who strongly recommends a man named Horter. West tells Maurice that he employed Horter for several years as the skipper of his cutter, was very happy with his work, and only got rid of him when he got rid of the boat.
West goes on to say, however, that since that time Horter has been on two long voyages. Both of them ended tragically and in one case Horter was the only survivor. West states that this has hit Horter hard and caused him to loose his nerve for the sea.
Maurice has a few doubts about offering the position to a man who has lost his nerve. The cottage is in a very remote location and it would mean that Horter would be on his own day and night. West has no such doubts and assures Maurice that Horter’s nerves are fine for everything apart from seagoing and goes on to explain that Horter lost a good friend in one of the shipwrecks, feels somehow responsible for his death, and has ‘got hold of some kind of superstition.’
Maurice gives Horter the Caretaker job and receives a letter from him every couple of weeks. The letters are not lengthy but they inform him that Horter has received his fortnightly pay cheque and that all is well at the cottage. Then in February the letters stop and, becoming concerned, Maurice decides to visit his cottage.
When he arrives at the cottage he finds it locked and cannot get in. Then he notices a small stream of dried blood near the kitchen door. This worries him a lot and he wanders around looking for a way to get into the cottage, while he is doing this, however, a seagull attacks him and goes straight for his eyes. Maurice fends the gull off with his walking stick and then has to break a window to gain entryto the cottage. What he finds inside shocks him to his core.
This is a great little story and Bill Mills does an excellent job of telling the tale for this audiobook dramatization. This is not just a bog standard reading though; the use of eerie background music, along with the sound of gulls crying and the sea upon the shore, adds a little atmosphere to the recording and helps bring the story to life.
“The Caretaker’s Story” is just under half an hour long, including Bill Mill’s four minute introduction where he speaks a little about the ongoing popularity of the horror genre and, of course, about the author Edith Olivier.