Two thieves attempt to steal a Confederate treasure rumored to be inside the abandoned Larro family mansion. To counteract the hoodoo that is said to haunt the house, they bring a hand of glory, a candle made from a hanged man's hand that can reveal hidden things. Once inside, the thieves are welcomed by an ancient man of the Larro family, who has returned to the mansion to die. He confirms that the treasure exists, guarded in secret by his uncles and hidden behind a magically sealed door. Larro asks the thieves to leave, but one lights the hand of glory instead.
The cellar door creaks open...
"Larroes Catch Meddlers" combines the haunted house with a tale of doomed thieves. As such, it's pretty standard, a workman-like short story of the type, and not one to stand out from the rest. While the dread ramps nicely once the thieves hit the cellar, it lacks the vivid evocations of "The Undead Soldier" and Wellman's later John the Balladeer tales. This is curious, as "Larroes Catch Meddlers" was written between those stories. Still, an average Wellman tale is better than much of today's fare.
The Pulp Elements:
Action: Implied. At the end, the thieves react to unseen events happening in the shadows.
Impact: Each choice made by the thieves leads into the next. From bringing the hoodoo hand to sneaking into the mansion, and entering the cellar after lighting the hand of glory, the thieves travel down a slippery slope to their destruction, created by their own hands.
Moral Peril: Where many pulp tales require that the protagonists resist temptation, the thieves instead run headlong into damnation. Sometimes, a story exists to be a warning to others. Here, the thieves had a chance to escape, by leaving when Larro asked. But lighting the glory hand sealed their death.
Romance: This isn't that type of story.
Mystery: What is hidden in the Larroes mansion? Where is it hidden? Are the well-groomed cadavers in the cellar actually dead?
Structure: Traditional five act.
The inciting action was the theives sneaking onto the Larroes grounds. The turning point was when the thieves lit the hand of glory. The climax was when Larro closed the cellar door behind them.
Unlike many pulps, there is no twist. All the revelations are foreshadowed. This haunted morality tale rightly concerns itself with the actions of the thieves. The five act structure, driven as it is by the choices of the protagonist, best fits its aims.