Sunday, October 13, 2013

October 13: A Night in the Lonesome October-fest

After two quiet days, we get a chapter that introduces the last of the main characters.

Snuff is puttering around the house, doing his duties when he hears a scraping outside the window and notices a panicked Needle, who begs to be let inside. Snuff is initially reluctant ("I know better than to invite you guys inside," "That's the boss! I'm just a bat! I don't even like tomato juice! Please!"), but relents when it becomes clear that the local vicar is trying to kill Needle.

He gives Needle a few minutes to recover and allows him to have some fruit to replenish his resources. Needle tells him that Vicar Roberts has been convinced that there is something unnatural in the neighborhood, ("How strange. What might have led him to that belief?") and has taken to eliminating that strangeness with a crossbow.

Snuff gives us a vivid picture of the Vicar:

I'd seen Vicar Roberts many times on my rambles, a fat little man, dundrearied, and wearing old-fashioned, square-lensed, gold-framed spectacles. I'd been told that he often grew very red of complexion at the high points of sermons, splattering little droplets of spittle about, and that he was sometimes given to fits of twitchings followed by unconsciousness and strange transports.
("Dundrearied" means having long sideburns. The term comes from the character of Lord Dundreary from  Our American Cousin, which was the play Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated.)

I'm mostly indifferent to Gahan Wilson's illustrations in the book (with the exception of the drawing of Zelazny as the Great Detective), but I really like his depiction of the Vicar.

Needle hears the Vicar at the door and fears that he will pursue him into the house, but Snuff ensures him that's not going to happen.
"No need," I said. "The master would not let an obvious madman armed with a dangerous weapon come in and search the house. This is a place of peace and refinement."

The door was opened and I heard them speak quietly. Then the vicar's voice was raised. Jack, being a gentleman, responded in his usual soft, courteous tone. The vicar began to shout about Creatures of the Night and Unholy Practices and Living Blasphemies and Things Like That.
The Vicar tries to force his way in, but Jack bars his way. They return to the kitchen and Jack gets there first. He's feeding a grape to Needle when Snuff enters. ("Creature of the Night,'" he said. "'Living Blasphemy.' You're safe here. You can even have a peach if you'd like.")

I like that bit a lot, because it's a side of Jack we rarely see. Snuff loves him, but that's kind of the point. Zelazny said dogs love their masters even if that master is Jack the Ripper. It's nice to see Jack paying a small kindness to Needle.

Snuff and Needle talk further. Needle tells him that the Vicar took shots at a couple of the others and that the Vicar claims that he had experienced "a vision concerning a society of wretched individuals and their familiars preparing for some big psychic event which will place them at odds with each other and threaten the safety of humanity."

They resolve to inform the others and, after a time, Snuff lets Needle out of a window, the Vicar's flying stakes, his crossbow bolts, still stuck in the side of the building.


  1. You can even have a peach if you'd like is one of my favorite lines in the book, along with "Show me your teeth" in the introductions.