Thursday, February 27, 2014

"How Fear Departed from the Long Gallery"

"How Fear Departed from the Long Gallery"
by E.F. Benson

A particularly dreaded "family ghost" threatens when a young woman falls asleep in the wrong part of the ancestral home.  

My Reaction (with SPOILERS):
This one seems to get mixed reactions.  I liked it.  I appreciated the touches of humor.  The multiple family ghosts were reminiscent of L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Windy Poplars (a.k.a. Anne of Windy Willows), when Anne is invited to Tomgallon House and is regaled with tales of the many, many strange people and unusual deaths in its history-- "All part of the Curse, my dear."  (If you haven't read that chapter, it's a delight.  I doubt anyone would suggest that the book as a whole is Montgomery's strongest effort, but parts of it are wonderful.)  Actually, Tomgallon House is much more entertaining than this story... But still, overall, I liked it.

--  "'My dear, was not that the Blue Lady who has just gone into the shrubbery?  I hope she won't frighten Flo.  Whistle for Flo, dear.' (Flo, it may be remarked, is the youngest and most precious of many dachshunds.)"

--  "'Poor blue Aunt Barbara is such a bore!  Whenever I meet her she always looks as if she wanted to speak to me, but when I say, "What is it Aunt Barbara?" she never utters, but only points somewhere towards the house, which is so vague.  I believe there was something she wanted to confess about two hundred years ago, but she has forgotten what it is.'"

--  "In fact, it is supposed to be a compliment, when you go to stay at Church-Peveril, to be assigned to a bedroom which is frequented by defunct members of the family.  It means that you are worthy to look on the august and villainous dead, and you will find yourself shown into some vaulted or tapestried chamber, without benefit of electric light, and are told that great-great-grandmamma Bridget occasionally has vague business by the fireplace, but it is better not to talk to her, and that you will hear Master Anthony 'awfully well' if he attempts the front staircase any time before morning." 

--  "I forget the details of great-great-grandmamma Bridget, but she certainly cut the throat of some distant relation before she disembowelled herself with the axe that had been used at Agincourt.  Before that she had led a very sultry life, crammed with amazing incident."  ...Wow.  Sounds like a joy.

--  The ghost-twin-babies are creepy... (What is it about twins? They usually are kind of creepy-- in the abstract-- even while living. (g))  Anyway, this story deals with one of my pet peeves in ghost stories-- the idea that the ghost of a perfectly innocent victim would want to inflict harm on the equally innocent living.  It doesn't make sense-- always keeping in mind that we are dealing with ghost stories, here, and that "making sense" may have flown out the window long ago.  Maybe they'd want revenge on the person who harmed them, but other than that...

-- Almost forgot about the lichen-faced woman.  An odd little tidbit of physical horror... 

-- So now the ghost babies are happy.  Aw, how sweet.  Or something... But before that?  I don't think I'd have gone into that room on my own, no matter the time of day.   (Practicality and common sense-- the kryptonite of horror stories!)