The Haunted Saucepan by Margery Lawrence

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“I drew a sigh of enjoyment as I stretched out my legs before the fire and sipped the excellent coffee at my elbow. Strutt had found me a woman of sorts to do the cooking – marvellous fellow Strutt! – and certainly she could cook, though the glimpse I had caught of her through the kitchen door as I went into the dining-room proved her a dour and in truth most ill-favoured looking old lady, with a chenille net, a thing I had thought as dead as the Dodo, holding up her back hair. I rang for some more coffee, and as usual, Strutt was at my elbow almost as my finger left the bell-push.”

…a double-elbowed sense of calm and contentment in a house at the start, if also a telegraphing of the off-putting glimpse of Mrs Barker! – prior to what it says above about this story on its tin – a haunted saucepan! “….one of the few cases of genuine ‘queerness’. Something really uncanny, I mean.”
The days of valets who rub down their masters, and static servants who embody a house, and if it were not for the trite denouement of the haunting over-explained in the last few pages and if one removes those last few pages, this is a genuinely scary work. Scary, despite the saucepan’s ludicrous rakish tip of its lid and and its recurrent bubbling, and poor Ben the collie dog used as potential spear-carrier to test out its poisons. What makes it scary is – “the grandfather clock seemed to hide a long lean thing that peered furtively at us with narrow horrible eyes … […] The exquisite caution of the sound made…” My italics. Pause on pause on pause as what I have often called the essential ‘gluey Zenoism’ of ghost stories. “…entered – paused – and walked towards the stove.” Ever halfway between the door and what the ghost intends to do, till the mighty fruition of frissons… each time the promise of a “new evil”…”Oh, it was beyond words vile and awful, that sound – and to know, as now we did know, that Something – Someone – did actually, sans human light, gas or anything of that sort, set a-boiling in that horrible little saucepan some devil’s brew of some sort,…” Who owns a slow pot today? Many of us, I guess.
But what does it all mean? And the deadpan culmination of something ever, pause upon pause, approaching the point of happening, without it truly happening, especially if you ignore the last few pages! … “– began with ‘p’ but she couldn’t say the word…”

***

Context of above review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2023/01/02/womens-weird-strange-stories-1890-1940/

PS: Saucepan, the ultimate pausecan?

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