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Archive for the ‘Pretty good’ Category

This story features a man, in love with a pure, sweet, normal girl, who finds himself tempted by an aggressive, evil, seductively beautiful, witty, worldly woman.

Just like The Stone Dragon.

And The Crimson Weaver.

Yes, this Gilchrist seems to have had something of a fixation. Was he surrounded by femme fatales who kept flinging themselves at him? It wasn’t like he was an international spy or anything like that; his main passion in life was topography.

The story itself is quite nice; it’s very short and doesn’t waste any time. It takes place in the early 18th century, and the main characters are a betrothed couple. The girl asks her fiance to undergo an ordeal to prove his love for her. He agrees, and she then orders him to spend a night in a house that is rumored to be haunted.

As you might expect, it turns out to be more than just a rumor.

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Underneath the title of The Grey Chamber, it says “Anonymous” and “Translated from the French by Marjorie Bowen,” but I don’t doubt that Bowen was actually the author; this story does not read like any old French ghost story I’ve ever come across.

It’s a very nice little “haunted chamber” story. These stories are all basically the same; there is a guest room in an old mansion or castle that has a reputation for being haunted, and so it is never used. But one night, out of necessity or bravado, a guest passes the night there.

In The Grey Chamber, the lady of the house is away, and as there are no other rooms made up for guests,  the main character must be content with the Grey Chamber. This was, in long ago times, the bedroom of a beautiful young woman who had consecrated herself to God and was about to enter a convent. However, some villain, who had heard of her beauty, broke into her room and raped her. Since she was no longer a virgin, she was denied entrance to the convent, and in despair she killed herself. In the Grey Chamber, of course. And so, inevitably, the main character finds his sleep disturbed.

This story could have been pretty bland, since it plays so close to type, but in the end Bowen does some unconventional things to make the story quite memorable and actually somewhat disturbing. In some ways, the ending echoes a much superior story, the excellent Thurnley Abbey by Perceval Landon.

How? Spoilers after jump.

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I never expected to find a quasi-Lovecraftian twist in a Marjorie Bowen story, but there it was, all wriggling and slimy and nameless.

In Florence Flannery, the eponymous Florence (I hesitate to call her a heroine, because she’s pretty awful) marries a wastrel because she thinks he’s richer than he is. He takes her home to his family seat, and she is aghast to find it decaying and her husband bankrupt. The two immediately regret marrying, and spend most of the story in varying states of sobriety, thinking about how much they hate each other and how absolutely dreadful it all is. These two are a little more pathetic than the pair of vampiric sea snakes in The Housekeeper, so I didn’t get as irritated with the story, but on the whole it was still pretty unpleasant, and I would have been frustrated if not for the timely eldritch intervention.

Spoilers after jump

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