The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The stories in Xélucha and Others represent a selection of some of the author’s best work from the previous collections Shapes in the Fire (1896), The Pale Ape (1911), and Here Comes the Lady (1928). M. P. Shiel supplied an original introduction and revised the title story, “Xélucha,” for this collection, although its publication was delayed until nearly thirty years after the author’s death.

In “Xélucha,” the narrator, Mérimée, meets a mysterious woman during one of his nocturnal rambles. She invites him to her home. In a dark, decrepit building, the interior of which is equally in shambles, Mérimée finds a luxuriously furnished room and an elegant table spread with a variety of sumptuous foods. There, the pair dine and talk through the night. As Mérimée becomes drunk on his hostess’s wine, her conversation turns to death and the tomb. Mérimée finally realizes that his hostess is the ghost of Xélucha, an exotic courtesan with whom he was once involved. Horrified, he loses consciousness. When he revives, he finds himself in a filthy room that apparently has been uninhabited for years.

“The Bride” and “The Tale of Henry and Rowena” are also ghost stories, both dealing with supernatural vengeance against unfaithful lovers. “The Primate of the Rose” deals with another kind of vengeance, as Crichton Smyth, the leader of a mysterious secret society, punishes E. P. Crooks, a writer whose romantic dalliance with Smyth’s daughter has led to her social ruin and eventual death. Tortured with curiosity over Smyth’s society, Crooks begs to see a secret...

(The entire section is 672 words.)