THE DEEP ONES: "The Bad Lands" by John Metcalfe
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Discussion begins on January 15, 2020.
First published in the April 15, 1920 issue of Land and Water.
First book publication in The Smoking Leg and Other Stories (1925).
SELECTED PRINT VERSIONS
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Fear and Trembling
The Omnibus of Crime
H. P. Lovecraft Selects: Classic Horror Stories
However . . .
I had a lot of problems with the ending.
So is Ormond going to jail? Is there some sort of folie à deux going on with Ormond and Stanton-Boyles reinforcing each other’s delusions though we get no indication the latter is neurotic? What did he see in the house beside a spinning wheel? Was Stanton-Boyles the other man sleeping in the barn? Is Ormond’s dream really a memory of his sleep walking?
And why are Hackney’s initials on the separator? It seems odd a mass produced product would have that unless Hackney is the patent holder? Has his invention subtly caused a pastoral landscape to be corrupted by the machine? (I'm assuming the "patent separator" is a milk separator and that the handle, like the ones I've personally seen, is metal which means the initials would probably be molded into. However, it could be a wooden handle with carving. Or the initials could be painted on metal. Or it could be some other kind of separator. Ok, yes, I obsessed on that detail.)
I'm with you on all of the above. The abrupt ending is supremely satisfying in its jarring aspects, making me startle and look back on the preceding pages. Did I miss something? Should I glean more significance from the initials, the name Hackney? ...
But that ending also is supremely frustrating, suggesting the online PDF was cut off, that we're missing the last few pages.
I really liked how for the first several paragraphs (pages?) I thought it was set in the American West, mid-19th century or earlier. Until Metcalfe mentions "Norfolk coast" and my bearings are all tilt-a-whirl. He does it again when initially I think the locus of the problem is the tower and the dunes inside the gate, but later ... it's the Fennington house. Which later is named the Hackney farm.
ETA The Internet Archive appears to have the same transcription from Black Mask as found in the link under ONLINE VERSIONS. So not really a confirmation the story isn't truncated, since it's a copy of the same source document.
I sort of assumed Stanton-Boyle was also neurotic or otherwise of less than perfect mental shape, simply from his also staying at the place. Still wouldn't explain their apparently independent perception of the place, of course.