Tuesday Terror! The White Cat of Drumgunniol by J Sheridan Le Fanu

Who’s afraid of the big, bad cat?

 

Since it is Reading Ireland Month, it seems only appropriate that we should have a bit of Irish horror before the nights lighten and the porpentine goes into hibernation. And any story with “White Cat” in the title already chills me to the marrow – my Tommy may have the occasional black blobby bit, but I suspect that’s just to lull people into a false sense of security. But he’d never harm me… would he?

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Anyway. Let’s find out what his doppelganger is up to in this week’s…

 

Tuesday Terror

The White Cat of Drumgunniol
by J Sheridan Le Fanu

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J Sheridan Le Fanu (source: wikipedia)
J Sheridan Le Fanu

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The story is told to the narrator by Daniel Donovan, a teacher, a simple, honest man with a “dreamy mind”. Dan tells first of an experience he had as a boy, while sitting reading by the little lough on the property, a deep pool. He saw approach a woman wearing an out-dated long grey dress…

When she came near I could see that her feet were bare, and that she seemed to be looking steadfastly upon some remote object for guidance. Her route would have crossed me—had the tarn not interposed—about ten or twelve yards below the point at which I was sitting. But instead of arresting her course at the margin of the lough, as I had expected, she went on without seeming conscious of its existence, and I saw her, as plainly as I see you, sir, walk across the surface of the water, and pass, without seeming to see me…

Dan still finds the memory of that day terrifying as he connects it in his mind with a curse that has afflicted his family for over eighty years. He explains by telling of one day long ago, when his father, having attended the local market, returned late in the evening. His face drawn and pale, he sat by the fire, unable to face the meal his wife had prepared. She berated him for having eaten elsewhere, until eventually he told her what had happened on the way home…

‘There’s something happened that leaves me that I can’t ate a mouthful, and I’ll not be dark with you, Molly, for, maybe, it ain’t very long I have to be here, an’ I’ll tell you what it was. It’s what I’ve seen, the white cat…pushin’ out o’ the long grass at the side o’ the path, an’ it walked across it, in front of me, an’ then back again, before me, the same way, an’ sometimes at one side, an’ then at the other, lookin’ at me wid them shinin’ eyes; and I consayted I heard it growlin’ as it kep’ beside me—as close as ever you see—till I kem up to the doore, here, an’ knocked an’ called, as ye heerd me.’

Mother and son were both horrified, for they knew the meaning of the appearance of the white cat. And sure enough, within a month, the father had taken a fever and died.

lady in white

Dan then tells the story of why the family seems to live under this curse. It all dates back to the time when his grand-uncle, Connor Donovan, betrayed Ellen, a young woman to whom he had made promises, by marrying another woman for money. Poor Ellen died of a broken heart (pre-feminism, obviously). Connor continued on his selfish rather cruel way, until one evening…

As he approached the ‘gap’ he saw, or thought he saw, with a slow motion, gliding along the ground toward the same point, and now and then with a soft bound, a white object, which he described as being no bigger than his hat, but what it was he could not see, as it moved along the hedge and disappeared at the point to which he was himself tending…

‘Twas not long after this that Connor met his death. But as he lay in his coffin, it became clear the white cat had not finished with him yet…

* * * * *

This is a good little story, though not overly scary. Le Fanu builds up the atmosphere with some beautifully Gothic descriptive writing…

I have looked round on the peculiar landscape; the roofless, ivied tower, that two hundred years before had afforded a refuge from raid and rapparee, and which still occupies its old place in the angle of the haggard; the bush-grown ‘liss,’ that scarcely a hundred and fifty steps away records the labours of a bygone race; the dark and towering outline of old Keeper in the background; and the lonely range of furze and heath-clad hills that form a nearer barrier, with many a line of grey rock and clump of dwarf oak or birch. The pervading sense of loneliness made it a scene not unsuited for a wild and unearthly story.

And his use of dialect within the speech adds interest without making it difficult to follow, even if a few of the words are unfamiliar. It’s a straightforward tale, told as if true, and although the narrator (who I assume is Le Fanu himself) hints that the surroundings are such as may turn a man’s mind towards superstition and fancy, he describes Dan in such a way as to make him seem a level-headed and truthful man. So it’s very much left up to the reader to decide…

If you’d like to read it, here’s a link…

Now if you’ll excuse me, Tommy wants his tummy tickled, and I think I’d best obey…

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Fretful Porpentine rating: 😯 😯

Overall story rating:          😀 😀 😀 😀

begorrathon 2016

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This post is part of Reading Ireland Month 2016 – #begorrathon16 – being jointly hosted by Cathy at 746 Books and Niall at Raging Fluff.

51 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! The White Cat of Drumgunniol by J Sheridan Le Fanu

  1. Oh, I’d obey Tommy immediately if I were you, FictionFan! You’re much better off that way. About this story…it does sound deliciously full of atmosphere, even if it isn’t overly terrifying. And that can make for a very good reading experience.

    • Yes, he looks sweet but I suspect it’s just a facade! This was an enjoyable story eeven if the porpy didn’t have to do too much quivering – Le Fanu’s Gothic descriptions always make his tales worth reading.

  2. No, sorry, not buying the scary cat story. Scary jaguars and tigers, yes, but I haven’t been scared of a cat since Scarface Claw, the toughest Tom in town (from Hairy McClary).

    • Haha! You clearly haven’t met the cat who marauds through our cat flap in the middle of the night and steals all the food! Actually, maybe he is Scarface Claw!!

    • Haha! You obviously haven’t met my Tuppence or you’d know how scary a cat can be! But the story’s good even if it’s not very scary – the writing makes up for it. 🙂

      • Would love to meet Tuppence. 🙂 You should see the orange tabby roaming around my neighborhood. Somehow he manages to survive though coyotes also roam the area.

        • We don’t have coyotes but I always worry about the foxes. However, I have seen a tomcat (not one of mine) scare a fox off – they can be vicious little brutes when they need to be. And sometimes even when they don’t need to be!!

  3. Hello there, Tommy! What a super tummy for tickling, if I may say so. I am sure he could see off this so-called scary cat. Sounds a lovely little tale, if not quite so terrifying as one might hope.

  4. A white cat is frightening?? Hmm, here, it’s black cats that seem to hold a lot of magic. Oh, well, at least you enjoyed the tale — and weren’t too spooked by it! Now, I’d say Tommy deserves some attention (and perhaps a tidbit to munch on?!)

    • Ah, you should meet my Tuppence when she’s in one of her moods – you’d know how scary cats can be then! Tommy totally agrees with you – he thinks that’s the best idea he’s heard all week!

  5. I would have thought that Tuppence might become very scary indeed, exacting a fierce revenge on her slave, as Tommy appears to be getting a large amount of admiring attention and be preening in well more than 15 minutes of fame. What is a girl to do, in the face of such sibling rivalry, other than show her claws to the one who created a starring role for her brother

    • Tuppence is just tooooooo scary! I’d have to rezone the blog to X-rating. But it’s hardly my fault if she’s not as white as her brother – she should take the matter up with Le Fanu, not me! *quivers and dons protective cothing*

  6. Black cats are scarier, well at least to me, lol. OK, that said I’ve yet to try this author. Will have to check out his books.

    • I’d have said that too before I lived with a couple of mostly white ones – now I’m not so sure! 😉 I hope you enjoy him – I like the way he writes even though I don’t always find him terribly scary.

  7. I read Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” when I took a course on literature, Freud, and the uncanny. While it wasn’t, as you say of The White Cat, exceedingly scary, it definitely met the criteria for uncanny. Perhaps The White Cat does as well?

    WRT other cats, my son just played a prank on me by putting a Google extension on my mac that shows a variety of animated cats when I open a new tab. I had to have him remove it because I kept forgetting what I was opening a tab for…..those kitties can be quite distracting.

    • Carmilla is a far better story than this, to be honest – in fact, I think it’s my favourite of all the Le Fanu stories I’ve read. Perhaps that’s because I read a lit-crit of it, though, so got a lot more out of it. But yes, I think he probably is more uncanny than scary…

      Haha! I want that! Isn’t it appalling the way youth can do things on computers that are simply beyond adults? Or maybe that’s just me…

  8. Tommy is so…adorable! I’ve never noticed before what a cool tail he has. I think he’s sorta like a white tiger, you know. And those eyes are pretty rad, too.

    So, do you suppose this story makes the white cat more formable than the black cat?

    • He is!! Yes, his tail doesn’t really match the rest of him – I reckon they got it mixed up in the kitten factory. His eyes are actually beautiful – much more golden than they look in pics. I can never get a good picture of their eyes.

      Depends – the black cat’s probably scarier than Tommy, but Tuppence… *shudders*

    • I always give the tummy tickles – it’s in my job description, so they tell me. At least Tommy doesn’t scar me for life when I do it – unlike Tuppence! I’m sure it must be a sign of affection…

  9. I love Le Fanu, but if you want to be scared by a cat, come and visit my Teddy. He was chipped, snipped and clipped on Monday, so he is NOT pleased with me. And Tommy is too sweet to be scary. Tuppence, on the other hand……….

  10. My Mum used to say that if a bird hit your window, someone was going to die. If you could smell roses but none were near, someone was going to die. An uninvited guest at a wedding? Yep. Someone is dead meat. And don’t get me started on the banshee’s wail…Gotta love us Irish for our superstitions…

  11. You know, I read a story by Le Fanu myself for this month, though I then haven’t blogged about it. I’ve always liked Le Fanu, but it was a long time since I last read him, and the first time I read it in English. Very gothic, but in a very personal way, which is why I’ve always liked him.

    Thanks so much for sharing this.

    • I’ve only read his In a Glass Darkly collection and a couple of random short stories, but I enjoy his writing style – he can build up a great gothic atmosphere. Still time for you to get your blog post done for March!

      Thanks for popping in and commenting! 😀

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