"Transparent darkness covered the lagoon save for one shadow that stained the horizon black. Podolo...."
In 1981, thanks to a Charles M. Collins anthology, Harvest of Fear, "Podolo" was my introduction to L. P. Hartley.
This introduction had no impact, at first. I read the story in late autumn, wondered if I had missed the point, shrugged, and then moved on. Yet for some reason, "Podolo" nagged at me.
Just after sunset a few days later, as I stepped around the frozen puddles beside a long-abandoned, blackened farm house, and stared at the Gatineau Hills that loomed above me like black thunderheads, I thought about "Podolo" once again, and suddenly, for the first time, I felt the chill of that story. I suddenly realized just how frightening it was.
Reading it again tonight, thanks to the Valancourt ebook of The Travelling Grave, I was fascinated by how much foreshadowing appears in the first four paragraphs. Hartley gives away more than most writers would dare to -- certainly more than I would -- but this only testifies to his confidence. He knows that he has a great story, here, one that will nag at readers for decades to come, and catch them off guard when they poke through their own forsaken landscapes.
[Cover art by Helmut Wenske, 1975.]