By Gordon Rugg
This article is the penultimate instalment of a serial inspired by the concept of Dame Barbara Cartland writing with H.P. Lovecraft. In it, sentences from a Dame Barbara novel and from a Lovecraft short story have been stitched together into an unhealthy palimpsest recounted by an anonymous narrator. Previously, we have seen the inner torment of the hero, inimitably recounted by the two authors playing to their own unique strengths. How will they depict romance, when it enters the tale?
The story so far…
The Earl of Rockbrook is torn between the pure true love he craves and the barren, gnarled and terrrible fate which lurks before him, in the sensuous form of Lady Louise Welwyn. To distract himself from that eldritch horror he has gone riding, but has been knocked unconscious when his horse trips in a rabbit hole.
The Shunned Lioness and the Lily House
Episode 4: A room, but in which house?
He was in a room that he had never seen before. The small-paned windows were largely broken, and a nameless air of desolation hung round the precarious panelling, shaky interior shutters, peeling wall-paper, falling plaster, rickety staircases, and such fragments of battered furniture as still remained.
“I knows, Miss Purella, what’s wrong and what’s right.” Free from unwarranted superstition though I am, these things produced in me an odd sensation, which was intensified by a pair of widely separated newspaper cuttings relating to deaths in the shunned house–one from the _Providence Gazette and Country-Journal_ of April 12, 1815, and the other from the _Daily Transcript and Chronicle_ of October 27, 1845–each of which detailed an appallingly grisly circumstance whose duplication was remarkable.
There was someone standing at the window looking out, and the sunshine seemed to glint on a golden head and a slim body was silhouetted against the light. Above the anthropomorphic patch of mold by the fireplace it rose; a subtle, sickish, almost luminous vapor which as it hung trembling in the dampness seemed to develop vague and shocking suggestions of form, gradually trailing off into nebulous decay and passing up into the blackness of the great chimney with a fetor in its wake.
Vaguely the Earl thought that this must be Purilla. It was truly horrible, and the more so to me because of what I knew of the spot.
Perhaps Purilla could help him? His fancy had not gone so far as mine, but he felt that the place was rare in its imaginative potentialities, and worthy of note as an inspiration in the field of the grotesque and macabre.
Now he could see his future more clearly, and there was not the darkness he had envisaged or the slough of despond from which he had fancied there was no escape. In this kaleidoscopic vortex of phantasmal images were occasional snap-shots, if one might use the term, of singular clearness but unaccountable heterogeneity.
Then he said quietly: “We have not known each other very long Purilla, but I would be very honoured if you would be my wife, and I will do my best to make you happy.”
And all the while there was a personal sensation of choking, as if some pervasive presence had spread itself through his body and sought to possess itself of his vital processes.
In next week’s final episode: Purilla’s reply. Will it be marriage and happiness ever after, or eldritch horror beyond the capacity of the human mind to imagine?
The spelling “Purella” is in the original, and appears to be a misprint for “Purilla” which is used consistently elsewhere in The Lioness and the Lily.
In this series, I’ve alternated between sentences from Dame Barbara Cartland’s The Lioness and the Lily and H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shunned House. The sentences from The Lioness and the Lily are not consecutive, but they are in chronological order. The sentences from The Shunned House are not in chronological order. The plot, such as it is, is a mixture of both stories.
I’ve used the Project Gutenberg edition of The Shunned House.
I’m using both texts under fair-use terms, as limited quotations for humorous purposes.
The photo of The Lioness and the Lily is one that I took, of my own copy of the book. I’m using it under fair use policy (humour, and it’s an image of a time-worn cover).
The other photos come from the locations below. I’ve slightly cropped them to fit, and given a faint pink wash to the pictures of Lovecraft and Cthulhu to make them more in keeping with the Cartland ethos.