The Eyeball Collector by F.E. Higgins isn’t as scary as it sounds. There isn’t a person going around and killing people so he can collect their eyeballs. Oh dear, I’M sounding gruesome now. Not good. Sorry. Anyway, the villain of the story (who goes by many names, let’s use the false name of his that is Gulliver Truepin) collects false eyeballs. He gets seven in the end, one for each day of the week, with the seventh being the most extravagant. The main character is named Hector Fitzbauldy (pronounced fitz-boe-dly). His father was a butterfly collector (I forget the fancy word used for butterfly collecting), and taught Hector how to kill and pin butterflies to cards. So one day Mr. Truepin comes calling and uses blackmail to get Mr. Fitzbauldy to agree to give him money. He eventually gives treble the amount, and even then Truepin sells the story to the newspapers and ruins the Fitzbauldy’s. Hector’s father is buried in a pauper’s grave, and he is left penniless.
Luckily, there’s a lady who takes him in and gives him a place to stay, she takes care of other homeless boys and gives employment to a girl called Polly. There are extracts from letters the author found throughout the story, all addressed to Polly, though they were obviously never sent. The story is fascinating to say the least, Hector is very good at riddles, so he answers any riddle a person throws at him. One day a stranger gives him the riddle known as “The Landlord’s Pickle”. Then the stranger leaves him to answer it when next they meet, and seems sure that they will. The stranger reappears two more times in the story, once to save Hector from a wild boar (I forget the specific type, but it was rare, and very delicious), and another time because Lord Mandible thought he was poaching.
Hector eventually gets hired by Truepin (who is posing as a baron) to hatch butterflies on the night of the Withypitts Midwinter Feast. So he comes and meets Lady Mandible. She’s FREAKY. her nails are trimmed so that they’re more like talons, and she’s got sick tastes. Hector finds out that her butler has leeches on himi every night sucking at his blood, and then he squeezes it out so she can use it to PAINT. Sick. And then later, Truepin, to get in her good books again, hires a cat eater to entertain her. The man eats one of Lord Mandible’s beloved cats. I felt so sorry for him. Anyway, things don’t turn out the way Hector thinks, but there is a relatively happy ending. 🙂 It’s a pretty good book, and I think I shall be having to examine F.E. Higgins’s other books.