Just because I’m doing a series on Brian Stableford’s Sexual Chemistry doesn’t mean we won’t have a weird story this week.
Review: “The Tenants of Broussac”, Seabury Quinn, 1925.
This is part of Quinn’s long running series centering on Jules de Grandin, an occult detective.
There’s nothing really unexpected in the story or truly weird, but it’s pleasant enough. The most interesting moment is the scene of erotic horror featured on the cover of the Weird Tales it first appeaed in.
The narrator, Dr. Trowbridge, happens to run into his friend de Grandin when he’s vacationing in France. De Grandin invites Trowbridge along to investigate the dreadful circumstances surrounding the chateau de Broussac. Maimed bodies of two of its recent tenants have been found, and one woman was found mad in the estate’s chapels.
The most recent renter is Mr. Bixby, an Oklahoman who became rich after oil was found on his land, his rather noveau riche and annoying wife, and Adrienne their daughter. The place is rented for a year – partly to keep Adrienne away from a local Oklahoma man whom she was engaged to marry but now deemed unworthy by Mrs. Bixby.
A giant snake is spotted by the gameskeeper. Adrienne, who used to write to her fiance regularly, sleeps a lot and has lassitude. After taking the sighting of the snake more seriously than Trowbridge and reading through the chateau’s extensive library, de Grandin asks Trowbridge to examine Adrienne more closely.
Trowbridge finds a curious pattern of spiraling bruises on Adrienne’s body, and she doesn’t know how she got them.
Trowbridge and de Grandin, at the latter’s insistence, go looking for an old grave marker of a Broussac of the 13th century with an odd epitaph that implies he isn’t exactly dead. De Grandin manufactures a metallic comb around a hole in the chapel.
Adrienne feels better. De Grandin, an atheist, goes to get a fabled sword, a saint’s sword. He instructs Adrienne’s to be locked in her room, but her mother inteferes.
They follow Adrienne, in a somnolent state, to the chapel where a snake creature wraps around her as she is in a state of sexual ecstasy. So as not to wake her and drive her mad like that other woman, de Grandin chops the giant snake up into 52 places.
De Grandin, returning to Paris with Trowbridge, takes Adrienne away the next morning to meet her fiance who has come over from America.
Then we get, in an adherence to the formats of the detective story, de Grandin’s explanation. De Broussac was a notorious murderer, rapist. and seducer of nuns. His crimes were eventually uncovered along with some of his lieutenants.
They confessed and repented. De Broussac didn’t (he was also an atheist) and was burned at the stake. Before being burned, he taunted a local abbess about her charges that he killed or raped. She cursed him with the prediction he would become a snake until some “good man and true” should cleave him into 52 pieces. From his ashes, a small snake of gold and green emerged. Year after year, such a snake was sighted, growing bigger each year, eventually big enough to threaten people and account for disappearances and mutilations.(The imprudence of that abbess seems to have created this whole problem, but that is uncommented on.)