Sunday, February 9, 2014

"Gavon's Eve"

"Gavon's Eve"
by E.F. Benson

A pool in a wild, remote spot provides excellent fishing in unique surroundings (a natural wall of stone on one side and the ruins of an ancient castle on the other)-- but this place has a darker history than the fishermen suspect...

My Reaction:
This is more what I was expecting from these stories.  It's pretty obvious what's happening (or what has happened), and I (for one) appreciate that.  (I know, how boring.  What can I say?  I guess I'm basically prosaic.  I like to know what's what.)  A nice, spooky atmosphere-- but a sad story.  Not many ghostly/horror stories are happy, though, so no fair complaining about that.

Random Specifics (with SPOILERS):
--  "...The ruins of a Pict castle, built out of rough and scarcely hewn masonry..."   I have only vague memories of being taught anything at all about the Picts, I'm afraid. (They're just not high on the list of historical priorities, around here.)

--  Inside the castle: "...In the centre of all a very deep hole, probably a well."  I was convinced that the ghostly form or, more likely, physical remains of the girl would come crawling out of the well-- and that the two men hidden inside the castle ruins would hear her, not knowing what the little sounds were until she was right behind them.  I honestly think that would have made a much creepier story.  Otherwise, why even mention the well?  (Maybe to suggest just that suspicion...) 

--  "...Above this backwater, a great wall of black and basaltic rock, heaved up no doubt by some fault in strata, rises sheer from the river to the height of some sixty feet."  Basaltic rock is super neat.  ...And this whole setting is ca-reepy. 

--  More creepy setting:  Gavon is described as "so small and huddled a group of huts, set on a bare, bleak headland between moor and sea..."  I probably wouldn't want to live there, but so dramatic!  (Like the salt marshes in The Woman in Black.)

--  Brora is a real place in Sutherland (in Scotland).  I thought the name sounded Scandinavian, and sure enough, it does derive from Old Norse.

--  "gillie"-- a funny-looking word for a person who assists a hunter or fisherman.  I guess it's someone who knows the area (and the sport) and can act as a guide, but also acts as a servant and does all the heavy lifting.  Personally, I think my pleasure in an outing would be greatly diminished by having a stranger there the whole time.  Even if it meant I had to carry my own stuff. ;o)

--  "'...Trouble led to drink, and trouble, I am afraid, is leading him to worse than drink.'  'The only thing worse than drink is the devil,' I remarked."

--  "...The curiously hard edges of the western cloud were star-embroidered..."

--  "What I heard I cannot bring myself to record..."  An inevitably appealing literary device, that.

--  "But whether [Catrine] slipped accidentally in her passage, and so was drawn down by the hungry water, or whether unable to face the future, she had thrown herself into the pool, we can only guess."   Though it's unpleasant, I suspect we are meant to infer that it was the latter.  Earlier in the story, we've been told that "on this night, too, all witches had the power by certain dreadful incantations and indescribable profanities, to raise from the dead those who had committed suicide"-- and clearly she was being "risen" until Sandy interfered by calling on God.

--  Very "convenient" (I guess you could say) that Catrine just happened to have died and "come to rest" in sight of the ancient Satanic altar, huh?  I mean, she could have died anywhere-- out on the moors or something-- though what she would have been doing out in the middle of nowhere is less obvious.

--  Why mention that Catrine was wearing a cloak-- despite the hot afternoon-- on her walk toward Gavon?   If the cloak had appeared again, at some point, it would've been understandable (identification, proof she was there), but I don't think it was.  A person falling (or jumping) into deep water while wearing a cloak would be more likely to be pulled down and drowned than someone unencumbered by all that heavy fabric... but it still seems a random thing to make a point of mentioning, with no follow-up.  Curious...