“The Sign-Painter and the Crystal Fishes”

This week’s bit of weird fiction being discussed over at LibraryThing.

Review: “The Sign-Painter and the Crystal Fishes”, Marjorie Bowen, 1909.

This is a strange story with lots of mystery. 

It opens beside a river with many rundown and dilapidated houses on its banks. It’s near sunset, and only one house has a light on. It’s the rundown, sparsely furnished house, complete with many cobwebs, of Lucius Cranfield. The shutters have broken hinges, and the windows have no glass. 

Cranfield, once handsome, is pallid with bloodshot eyes. 

Up the rotting stairway comes Lord James Fontaine. Given his dress, this is probably sometime in the mid-18th century. 

Fontaine asks if Cranfield paints signs. Cranfield asks why he climbed up to the second level of the house. His workshop is downstairs. He rang below and got no answer is Fontaine’s reply. Fontaine wants a sign like the nicely done, brightly hued one hanging downstairs. 

Does he want the same subject? Fontaine says the subjects are curious and asks where Cranfield got them. From his life, responds Cranfield. 

He must have had a strange life, says Fontaine, given the symbols on the sign:

a gallows, a man in a gay habit hanging on it, and his face has some semblance to your own; the reverse bears the image of a fish, white, yet shot with all the colors…it is so skilfully executed that it looks as if it moved through the water…   

Cranfield’s expression changes to interest. Has Fontaine ever seen a fish like that? Never, says Fontaine. Cranfield rises stiffly from his chair and says, as if speaking to himself, there are two fish like it in the world. Before “the end”,  he will find both, and his life will be mended and put straight. 

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Normally, before I write up posts labelled as reviews, I don’t look up any critical material or biographical material on the author. I just present my observations and opinions — however banal and lacking in insight. This time around, though, I read some material on Marjorie Bown before writing this review.

She was amazingly prolific and popular in her day with even film adaptations done of some of her novels. While many of her works are now regarded as slight, she still commands respect among connisseurs of weird fiction. Based on this story, my first exposure to her, I can see why.

This week’s subject of Deep Ones’ discussion over at LibraryThing.

Review: “Kecksies”, Marjorie Bowen, 1923.

Our main characters are two young esquires. 

The older is Sir Nick Bateup and his younger friend is Ned Crediton. 

As the story progresses, we have less and less sympathy though Nick is shown to have some decency in the climax. 

The story starts out innocently enough. 

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