The Stories of Walter de la Mare (6)

Continued from HERE

My previous reviews of WDLM are linked from HERE


When I read these stories, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

(My previous reviews of older or classic fiction:


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29 responses to “The Stories of Walter de la Mare (6)

  1. The Village of Old Age

    “A beldame of ninety was the old man’s niece of sixteen.”

    This is the Ligottian Anti-Natalism essence, perhaps. This Village of Old Age, where even the young are physically or temperamentally old, where the narrator is initially optimistic when looking for his hearty, spirit-lifting friend Basil Gray whom he hasn’t seen for a number of years only now to find him in his coffin, yes, this Village of Old Age is not only resonant with someone old and presumably near-death like me, but with all of you today in our nadir times, I guess. Or am I wrong?

    “Most of us be old folks e’en at fifteen, but in the yard not a one under ninety.”

    “Sure we play wi’ our toys, and a lean wisdom clucks i’ the throat and calls ’em bubbles. Mebbe God’s i’ the bubble. Who knows? He drives us all into the pen.”

“Far away in the soft blue haze were the ruinous tower of the church and the beckoning gravestones.”

    “The smile of the maid was the smile of autumn in a garden of flowers. ‘Oh!’ cried I, ‘jewels glitter brightest at dawn.”

    “…a very old shrunken man, busily grinding his scythe. But his fingers were so weak that the steel scarcely grated upon the stone, and made only a low humming sound, soft as the hum of bees in a distant hive.”

    “Oh, sir, the sun climbs up sick and sulky, and crawls lik’ a fat snail i’ the blue, and goes down by the Black Mill, and the darkness eats him up. I do feel that my heart is o’ glass and be nigh to breaken’ when the chill night sneaks in at the keyhole.”

    A perfect uplifting gem of pessimism!


    All my reviews of WDLM stories can be found here by those who are generally uplifted by WDLM! —

  2. THE QUINCUNX (1906)

    This story is easily told, easily read, cosily creepy, and tells of a narrator invited by a friend called Walter to a house which had been inherited from an aunt recently, the death of whom perhaps created her ghost trying to prevent him from locating the riches that she owned. Turning her own portrait from facing the wall, as Walter left it before he went to bed, to facing the room again during the night! The narrator invited to sit up and thwart the ghost. It is in fact Walter as a trans version of the aunt doing it, while Walter is arguably sleepwalking, the narrator observed. Till the narrator tracks down the eponymous design on paper inside the portrait as a ‘map’ to the ‘treasure’ or, as the narrator sensed, to a secret (a word as a mutant of ‘quim’ plus a near even ruder word that may be part of the aunt’s sexual ‘secret’ with Walter’s father), yes, a secret, not a ‘treasure’, that, in the end, by usage of the fire in the candleflame that the sleepwalker or ‘ghost’ carried, the narrator chivalrously protected! This story in part at least changed ownership, as another potential secret, or at best a mutual synergy, that I now ungentlemanlily reveal — a change of ownership with L.P. Hartley in 1929: my review:

  3. The Moon’s Miracle

    “All is wrong: that I am old and full of wear, that Life, the sorceress, is wearying of me; soon she will play the jilt. And here I sit, cudgelling my jaded brains for to evade the one event. But even the Count is mortal, and his palace of youth evanished in a golden mist of memories. Now the worms’ banqueting hour is at hand, now wails the Banshee.”

    Every count comes to an end, I guess, but not before the last blast of memory, as this Count recalls the heroic younger battles he fought, as told by a narrator who tonight sees what the Count sees. The most breath-taking moments in any literature, even if sometimes WDLM’s drawbacks seem to be a mock antiquity of style. Here they are wondrous sights as visionary truths of the city that gradually appears in the night sky as lit by the moon, amid cockcrow at midnight. And, around it, the war games, all too real, but all too idealised, between nightsmen and moonsmen, above the trees and our otherwise unwatching houses. Tumult and meteor ricochet as collateral effects. A synergy over Wimbledon of William Blake and Lord Dunsany, I guess. With, say, a rear attack under cover of earth’s shadow and the ‘night khaki’ of tents encamped within moon’s sight.

    “…the Count, in his own conceit, was Commander-in-Chief of the celestial aliens. […] …it seemed that all the combatants were clean without knowledge of the earth. Theirs only was the universe. If I may again quote the Count: ‘Why, sir, even the camp followers are Napoleons’” —

    “…it is, nevertheless, remarkable that these extramundane noctivagators should have so convinced us that (as the Count said) this fat, palpable, complacent world suddenly grew spectre-thin and stalked out of reality into a mist of dreams.”

    “Maybe the combatants fought on, and the world left them behind; maybe they are superior inhabitants of far places and will appear to us no more;…”

    Yet, I glumly see, the ultimate PLOT SPOILER… “Optimism is not unfrequently the harbinger of pessimism. At the first stir of the housekeeper’s rising the Count made morosely for bed.”


    “Yes, Dr McLechlan. That’s it. Dr Mucklechkchlan.”

    Whatever the intrinsic autonomous force of a passionate, temporary, real-time reading moment perhaps altering my objective critical abilities, this substantive work is surely, surely, the greatest apotheosis of a WDLM ghostly revenant story (here in a man’s, Aubrey’s, supremely evoked autumn of a garden with its water butt and weeping ash) and the greatest apotheosis, too, of an unbearably wild marital attrition between a man and a woman, between Aubrey and arguably hypochondriac and ‘cuckooing’ Emily, the latter with her hot water bottle somehow ironically to match his water butt, dredging up the jealousies and recrimination of a whole marriage in the most tortured fashion. There is no way I can do justice to this story’s power without reading it for oneself. laying oneself open to its guilt and horror. You see, the aforementioned revenant that Aubrey thinks he sees in his autumn garden at dusk is a man called the Reverend Fiske. Aubrey had believed him to be dead. Aubrey believes he was once faithless Emily’s beloved in preference to himself. That is a potted summary or a self-styled potterer called Aubrey, also with telling references to his midget star-gazing and ‘tapioca’ and ‘pot. brom.’!
    Here below is some flavour of this work (eclectic quotations from it among many many others left unquoted): for those unable ever to read it, either from their fearful choice or lack of opportunity…

    “Indeed, who would deny that it is chiefly the presence of one’s fellow-creatures that evokes one’s worst – though these may possibly be one’s rarest – characteristics! Alone, even by no means virtuous people may mean wholly well. Not so Aubrey. He despised what he called cant; and first and foremost he meant business. It was, too, in the solitude of his garden, particularly as dusk thickened, that he could best explore his little plans.”

    “How many moments – minutes – had he been caught up in this idiotic trance?”

    “A glimpse of himself, feeble and sweating on a sick-bed, swam into his view. How much he loathed repeated, parrot-like inquiries and that evening-tray laden with its tail-swallowed whiting, or insipid minced chicken, and miniature ‘light pudding’. Or tapioca!”

    “He [Fiske] might have some day become an archdeacon; gaiters and laced-up chapeau. In spite of the buns and oranges, it needs strong, silent men. Another anniversary, Emily! You had a very soft spot for him…”

    “‘It is not for a mere layman to butt in – though that’s what they lie in wait for.’
    ‘Tell me what’s the matter with you, then I’LL tell you!’” [My italics]

    “And Fiskes will be Fiskes. ‘Fiskes’! – doesn’t that sound just awful? What kind of an animal, do you think, would a Fiske resemble?”

    “No poor wretch, I suppose, forgets his torturers because they restored him to consciousness: only in order to begin again.”

    “The sound of her voice was as toneless and drear as some black stagnant pool fringed with muttering rushes in the flats of a marsh where a lost bird is lamenting what never can be uttered or understood.”

    “Her misery was a kind of dog-like joy to him. And why not?”

    “‘Take what back?’ shouted Aubrey, as if the contempt and fury now writhing on his dead-alive face were also almost past endurance. ’Take what back? With your rubber water bottles and your furry slippers and your grizzlings and your grousings? Haven’t I a right to speak? Haven’t I a word to say? Take what back?’ He had this time – as if under the very blackness of the dry frozen forests – wolfishly yelled the question; and suddenly at sound of it had been seized with a sort of mental rigor. Good God! came the whisper – had his bodiless enemy actually planned and timed his visit for this?” [Not my italics]

    “Aubrey wheeled about as abruptly as an animal that has detected in its nocturnal ravagings the snapping of a withered twig.”

    “The very bridge of his nose seemed to sharpen as presently he stooped over the bed – at a ridiculous corporeal right angle – and his face assumed a stone-like pallor. Slowly, and with the utmost gingerliness, refusing even to touch her pillow, he pushed down his lips close to the ear of his human companion and called softly – “


    “If Satan was to come in our garden, would he be like a man, or is he little like a hunchback?”

    This is the brief and hauntingly effective tale of a boy called Peter with an older sister called Emma (“…yet generally they played apart, she alone with her doll, and he with the people of his own imagining”) and they live in Romford, Essex (the ford over the Bourne, anciently called the Rom, this being the Roman highway between London and Colchester, the latter town, now city, where I was born.) He visualises a giant amidst the poplars at the end of the garden, and he wonders if others can see it, but he concerned with size vis à vis good and evil, and this can be factored into or from ‘Memoirs of a Midget’ (currently being reviewed here) and the nature of God and the Devil that he discusses with a Mr Ash, and there is an Angel that Peter also sees in his bedroom as evoked by a night light candle placed upright in water (so it gets doused after Peter falls asleep.)

    “In the evening of that day Peter and his aunt went out to water the mignonette….”


    “Dead fish are less unseemly.”

    This is a darkly atmospheric ghost story that features the London Underground, and a narrator who finds himself fascinated by an evil-looking septuagenarian man as co-traveller whom he fears but finds himself hypnotised into stalking the old man to his hovel…

    “The small snow clinging to the bricks and to the worn and weathered cement of the wall only added to its gaunt lifelessness.”

    No footprints in the snow left by the old man?

    “…as if a finger had but just now scrawled it there, a clumsy arrow showed, its ‘V’ pointing inward.”

    That elbow-pointer towards the old man’s corpse, as if the narrator had been destined to destroy the old man’s written and duly witnessed Will that left his money to Scotland Yard and not to the old man’s two women relatives whom the narrator felt deserved it more! That inscrutable destiny seems at least questionable to me, so why has nobody who has read this story not questioned it before?
    Had Scotland Yard been constantly dogging the perhaps now to-be-seen-as-an-evil narrator who earlier in the story had seemed so innocent and vulnerable to us till now? Or did the narrator simply believe that ‘blood is thicker than water’? Or that ‘the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb’ as is the correct but opposite version of that quotation?


    “Man dreams probably all the time he is asleep; because thinking is to be, and we can’t become nothing, or we should remain so.”

    ThIs story contains the memoirs of Nicholas and miscellaneous letters to him from two Fs, Fanny and Florence.
    “Let his youth be his apology. The letters are here, just as they were found, in a bundle wrapped up in brown paper, tied with a piece of red tape; and simply marked on the cover with a big F.”
    Fanny the type of woman about whom he has his era’s chauvinist thoughts regarding general womankind…
    “I sometimes wonder if I should not have done something really great in the world, if I had had someone who passionately believed in me, a companion for my higher self. But after all, obscurity is more philosophical – and certainly less trouble some! Yet I do detest mere flippant tittle-tattle. Anything abstract depresses women. At least so I find it. I am sick to death of my miserable self.”
    Yet the other F that makes a ‘big F’, is a 19 year old girl in scarlet who still lives in the house where Nicholas once lived with his mother till he left it 13 years before. Florence and he remember each other when he somehow returns to this house in ‘Man dreams’ or in truth. An idyllic WDLM-archetypal house and garden, a house unchanged from how Nicholas remembers it from those days when he lived there, as I once lived at Olive Villa, but never now allowed to return inside, and now here are word rhapsodies about Florence’s moon, but also scenes today, upon Nicholas’ return, with her lamp-post father and dumb tea parties, and much else all achingly necessary for any WDLM lover. Essential reading.
    Yet, it ends in the truth with a scraped-off truth. Not a beginning but an ending, other than later WDLM uncollected stories, I guess.
    “A Cynic is one who scrapes the Paint off the face of Truth. If only I could get away!”


    “‘Hame, hame, hame, name!’ I took hold of the bars of the gate and stared in at the familiar place.”

    “– a lamp-post of a man, with a large high nose. He bowed absent-eyedly over my hand like a schoolmaster; until I felt I was being carpeted. And on bare boards too!” – “…a mutes’ tea-party for me.”
    And later Nicholas says…
    “Anyhow, I loathe tea-parties. Why can’t people speak out as God made them?”

    “O how I abominate this damnable world. What is it – sham Virtues, sham Friendship, sham Everything; why, even its vices are sham.”

    Florence….“To spend all and buy nothing. One vivid moment of wild viewless light – only once to fling away and forget poor narrow I and thou and they and all … Look, the white sun comes reeling out and everything is on tip-toe, singing in the rain.”

    But what was the picture that the F of the house gave him as they bid farewell? The one earlier described (in this tale of an unrequited love or an unrequited life) as….

    “…a little pencil drawing of a child framed in an oval of ebony. And underneath it was written in my old infantile scrawl, ‘This is me, Nicholas.’”

    Then back to Fanny?

  8. De Mortuis

    This is the apotheosis of WDLM’s graveyard epitaphs that play their part in some stories. This one is not a story at all, but the epitaphs shine forth with wit and candour. And the lonesome graveyard is a wondrous wild wayside genius-loci teetering on the edge of its own eventual evanescence. “Perhaps, but for its abundance and its solitary tower, it will presently be at one again with the wild and broomy moor.” The eventernal evanescence of this work and of all WDLM stories the tail end of which is soon to be swept up in my reviews before I also die.


    Just some examples in this work…

    Here lieth alone John Alfred Mole:
    He hath burrowed now so deep, poor soul.

    This quiet mound beneath Lies Corporal Pym,
    He had no fear of death, Nor death of him.

    Here lieth our infant Alice Rodd;
    She was so small,
    Scarce ought at all,
    But just a breath of sweetness sent from God.

    What seek ye in this old Churchyard?
    The dead are we,
    The forgotten dead who, dead long since,
    Close together in silence laid,
    Find death sweet we once thought sad,
    And peace the last felicity,
    The dead are we.


    “She could have repeated the letter word-perfect, and yet could no more resist reading it again than a dog can refrain from returning to its vomit.”

    This is a very powerful morsel excelling most WDLM”s stories in style but also in inscrutability, involving, I think, a servant girl with love letters in a tea-caddy, the last of which she has just placed in there, and her view of the romantic goings-on in the rest of the household, making me think she is implicated in one of the men who may or may not marry the daughter of the house, and so — accidentally or deliberately — smashes, by dropping it, a valuable ornament in front of the other participants, including the house’s matriarch. But what is the significance of the title? The matriarch, I guess, earlier “lowered her fair-fringed pale lids” — but who was it at the end whose “cold greenish eye had surveyed each conspirator in turn – ‘would you be so kind as to pass me that little tea-caddy?’”?

  10. The Rejection of the Rector

    “It was a parish where it seemed always afternoon, where the six week-days were but a torpid preparation for a demure Sabbath.”

    It seems appropriate in my current reading of this author’s ‘Memoirs of a Midget’ that this novel’s narrative heroine has recently taken up the reading of ‘Sense and Sensibility’, while I also take up this story of a widowed Rector and its Jane Austen ambiance. But ironically instead of its dealing with the marriage prospects of young ladies, it’s a young lady — betrothed to a butcher! — who match-makes for her spinster teacher to marry this equable Rector. It is also about the Rector himself, whatever this means! — “He was intended to be a duteous and cockerel husband: it was his vague intention to take a suitable lady to wife.”
    He seems to posses a new freedom once he gives up this intention, as both he and the spinster resist any such matchmaking.


    “Yes, but it was the tiny Lilliputians doubled up with sneezing in the gigantic gold snuff-box …”

    One of them Miss M in her Memoirs?
    A young interviewer sent to interview ‘a great man’ but ended up being interviewed himself about childhood’s books, and accosted with all manner of insults about the English. A sort of Anti-Natalism trying to be its own antidote, leading to a Christmas tableau with a dying robin still singing. Much impenetrable material, some of it classic unmissable WDLM fantasying, but most of it, yes, quite impenetrable! A ‘sham of shams’ interviewing himself? And now a reviewer misinterpreting his own gestalt?

    “Free me the ooze in a child’s mind and I will ensure its future.”

    “But to return to Christmas, a gluttonous festival intended to celebrate a distressing episode in an abject little eastern province which proved nothing but a pest even to the Romans, now nearly two thousand years ago!”


    “I had been ranging unfamiliar country; and rejoiced to find myself issuing out of the more than nocturnal gloom of the valley I had been traversing – a valley with darker hollows, occasional impenetrable thickets – impenetrable, I mean, by the eye; and particularly to be free from its more or less concealed and inscrutable, and yet, as I felt within me, its attentive and sinister denizens or inmates.”

    And from that disarming start to the narration, we reach a pure and penetrable classic WDLM story, one that I’m surprised is not more famous — the narrator’s vision of a windmill ablaze on a hilltop and the so-called ‘demented’ miller later telling the narrator a tale of fiends or devils that set the sails a-spinning in the depth of each night, but to grind what? This fire was the miller’s purging of such dream or reality.


    “In all Nature’s marvellous array of living creatures, wild swan to bird of paradise, giraffe to gazelle, there is nothing so secret, responsive and beautiful as the human eye. There is nothing that can so swiftly plead with and soothe a troubled spirit, even though it be the eye of a young stranger whom one has never in one’s whole life seen before.”

    The sequel to the previous Orgy, this the unpublished Idyll? It is absolutely wonderful in its flowing sumptuous outrageous prose style about London and the whole sentiment surrounding two young people, wonderful, too, in its nonsense of coincidence and gestalt-formation, as Philip Pim falls in love with the eye of the above stranger in a cafe, a young Brazilian lady, not from u-t-a-h, who later is obsessed with him to the rhythm of 4-4-4, after she writes a cheque to him for £30,000 that he can buy immediately the optimum house for her Brazilian aunt arriving imminently at Southampton. It is just the two griffins that seem to put a spoke in the wheel of the gestalt, except the aunt wants a husband, too, Philip’s uncle (currently in Thurso) perhaps being the key to what may or may not be Philip’s own unrequited love for the niece! And hers for him? Give or take his crucial brollie! (Not forgetting this work’s own singular elbow moment included below.)

    “And the self he had found was one that he had never yet realized he had lost.”

    “….with might and main to will this young stranger to forget her cares. It was no easy feat. To keep, that is, his whole inward being fixed on her very self and his eyes elsewhere, without squinting.”

    “Rapture had swept into the air, as if a myriad birds had been released over the metropolis and all London was in song. The empty cup at his elbow, the coloured tartlets on their dish, the gilded cupids dancing their garlands along the cornice of the low-pitched room, as if by the wand of an enchanter had suddenly consented to reveal a loveliness until then entirely hidden from view.”

    “….two griffins that on either side of the doorway were thrusting down their Queen Anne wrought iron torch-extinguishers clean over their heads. At this omen he began to mistrust his black cat, his spirits sank into his shoes, he turned his face away, and shuddered.”

    “But there may be monsters in one’s head, Mr Pim – where the lighthouses are. That’s what I mean.”

  14. Pingback: The Orgy: An Idyll by Walter de la Mare | The Gestalt Real-Time Reviews of Books

  15. LATE

    “Even the beauty of a thing was its imperishable sadness.”

    This is the utterly sad and dangerous letter (dangerous for any reading it, even today, and no wonder it was rejected as a story at the galley-proof stage), a letter written by man to his male friend about what had happened and was due to happen after his wife left him for another, a third, man, and the way how such lost love created revenge as this now late letter-writer — with mixed feelings, mixed motives and, importantly, unreliable narrations — works us towards a final meeting with his wife at a country style.

  16. The Match-Makers

A trivial conversation between the narrator and his Aunt, the latter demanding he should choose whom to marry so as to fulfil a duty every man has to marry! They both then discuss various female candidates’ suitability with a third person called Rose who fortuitous,y arrives, without coming to any decision. When the Aunt leaves the room, the narrator finally chooses! You don’t need many ‘brains’ to guess who!

    Plot spoiler

    “I don’t mean so much the individual items – each separate thing, you know: it’s the total – the whole thing together.”

    A husband endearingly questions his wife’s bill for hats, seven of them! It turns out not to be a bill but a wish list!

    “…but I must say, frankly and finally, Madame Lalingerie may fit like an angel, and be as French as Marie Antoinette, but she’s deucedly expensive –“

  18. The Pear-Tree (A Cornish Idyll)

    “The old man fumed in thought. ‘Look’ee here, Mr Tinker,’ he said, ‘it’s better to know all than part. Hoist yourself up into yonder pear-tree and cry what you see!’”

    This is a memorable ghost story, no question. About a tinker on his way to Treboath, stopping partway for company and seeng an old man trying to hone his rusty axe on a poorly plied grindstone, and offered his own better grindstone, but then wondered what the old man wanted to do with his axe. To cut down a large pear-tree where sat at night the ghost of the rich old man’s young wife’s once sweetheart, the latter looking in at her, and much we learn of the incriminating backstory and the outcome, as a new outcome transpires while we readers watch in real-time for why ‘it’s better to know all than part.’

    “…hidden above on high in the pear-blossom, tempting and cajoling, and pleading with the young wife as never serpent wooed Eve to the apple.”


    This is a discussion between Judy and her grandmother by a roaring fire, involving a poker, the latter who seems to be the narrator, a discussion, yes, about Judy wondering whether she could propose to a man, and the grandmother asking who the man is? I failed to grasp any of this, and why the grandmother threatens to blow the man’s brains out, whoever he is, and the word ’suicide” is mentioned by Judy, and is it possible that her ‘Hurry, Hurry’ was misheard by the narrator as ‘Harry, Harry.’ Could it be that the man’s name was Punch?

    “…only by sheer blindman’s intuition I had found and seized her hand.”


    “I walked slowly along the platform, past the silent, illuminated carriages, and got into No. 3399 – a ‘Second’. The number, of course, I noticed afterwards. It was cushioned in deep crimson, lit unusually clearly with oil; half a window-strap was gone, and the strings of the luggage bracket hung down in one corner – like a cockatrice’s tent.”

    This is probably WDLM’s greatest ghost story. Inscrutable and never-endingly tantalising. Its frame story is about the inner story narrator’s wife having been dangerously but triumphantly ill, and somehow we connect the told inner story to that event.

    “She leaned her elbows on her knees, did not look at me again, merely talked, talked on, as if to her reflection, in that dim crimson,…”
    An inner story comprising a WDLM-archetypal train and a corner seat traveller or ghost, and a found gun, and a heady fragrance, and a saved suicide? It is utterly utterly haunting of the reader, should it ever be read. Even the Noah’s Ark stations play their part in the two journeys on the 3399 carriage.

    “…I presently found that I hadn’t for quite some little while been following the sense of what I was reading. Back I went a page or two, and failed again.”

    I confirm that, until today, I had never read the above story…


    One Siding In Time – by D.F. Lewis
    (published in IRON magazine in 1990)

    When I first saw her sitting opposite me in the train carriage, I wondered if I’d travelled back in time, for she was too old to be as pretty as she was. Knowing this did not make much sense, even to myself, I decided to strike up a conversation: Anything was better than all that turning in on myself, following my recent bereavement. “Had many train journeys like this one?”
    I pointed to the fields held in view by the train’s delay.
    She shook her head, either to indicate a negative reply to my question or to give me no illusions about her reluctance to talk at all. Maybe it was because there were no corridors on the train, no other sign of life other than the fact that there must be at least a driver somewhere towards the front. I’d in fact been the second of the two of us to get into this particular carriage. I pulled down the window and leaned out, mainly because it told me not to do so. This brought the fields into sharper focus and I could just make out the blur of a figure walking slowly along the sky-line, to where the brightness of the late afternoon had been relegated. Night was too early, hustled from bed (I laughed) by the darkening of an unseasonable storm on the other side of the train.
    I turned back to my fellow passenger to see if she was now in a more talkative mood.
    As the train began to move and the rain spattered the window, I thought she must have silently slipped from the carriage, rather to negotiate the tracks than remain alone with the likes of me.
    Then I realised that she had indeed been alone all the time, as I smoothed down the tweed skirt, on resuming my corner seat.

  21. Two Days in Town

    Jimmy tells Katie’s Aunt what she can see in London when they take her up there from her tiny village, a whole formidable list of galleries and sights, not all of them abutting, and that they must do as much as possible in the time available, with strict schedules of taxi cabs. Even a trip to the theatre to see Archie’s Mermaid. Katie scolds him for teasing her Aunt, but when he comes to fetch them both to go to London at the appointed time, he is told by Katie that her Aunt had already left on her own at the crack of dawn (that abutment with night?) on an even earlier train than he had planned!

  22. Dr Iggatt

    “…the faint trickling of his water-tap was engaging in a duet with the gas-bracket,…”

    Dr I thinks his last patient has gone, his own hair gone through with his hand several times already, but then he finds one more patient in the waiting room, a Mr Laman who suffers from seven years of sleeplessness and wants a prescription in writing. Dr I watches him leave and approach the gate outside (“In the midst of a semi-circle of metal upon it hung a lamp, casting its light chiefly among the green leaves of a lime tree that grew beside the pavement of the road beyond.”)
    He looks at the prescription in such light and then throws it away.
    I wonder if it is significant that Laman had thick hair, too?

    “It is odd how, when some men vanish from sight, it is almost as if they had never been in the place which they vanish from.”

  23. From Dr Iggatt to…


    “Claw-set pearl in cravat, his elbows rested on its arms, and his double chin on the wide white wings of his starched collar, he had been to the Society what its acorn was to an oak, its keystone is to an arch, its mainspring to a clock, its tail feathers to a swallow.”

Sir Andrew, once young Andy and his ‘motherly’ friend Jimmie; they worked for the Universal Sorbeau Sausage Company but Andy had eye to eye, even soul transmigrating to soul, communion with a particular pig being led to slaughter if not this story’s ironic laughter! And he and Jimmie became vegetarian activists and today, as Sir Andrew faces his own God’s putting down, he officiates at the “Fortieth Annual General Meeting of the S.S.C.P.P.” (Society for the Suppression of the Consumption of Pig and its Products), and faced, in senile ‘reverie’, with the impossible question: how does their magic recipe SORBO differ from the sausage firm’s SORBEAU? This story has it own magical ingredients that turn me into another version of a senile reverie and eventually set to die in dire laughter, amidst much ‘pawky’ ‘squeeching’! Just look in the mirror and see a pig, or feel sad at the tiny gold piglet thrown into Jimmie’s grave, or simply drift away into the quoted examples below of this work’s magical ingredients as a comic masterpiece worthy of the author of THE ORGY: AN IDYLL. Georgie Porgie Pudding & Pie.

    “But as he mused, yet again, stealthy, seductive as the spice-laden breezes of Cythera, there wisped beneath his nostrils an odour – the odour of bacon-rashers frying in the pan. His cheek paled then purpled, he beckoned secretly but violently to a minor employee fortunately standing under the nearest window. And with an airy waft of his hand bade him shut the window above his head.”

    “Never before had he thought of these weekly victims of the Universal Sorbeau Sausage Company – such was the somewhat arrogant designation of the firm in which he was employed – as a collection of unique individuals.”

    “‘When their thoats are slit and the blood’s come, they are scalded and scraped … And then I suppose,’ he [Jimmie] added pensively, ‘they’re pork.’ A longer pause followed: ‘I wonder if they think.’ Andy allowed this bitter comment to sink in.”

“Would you say that what we eat has anything to do with – well, what we look like?”

    “Every Cause, every Institution, every Crusade, with very few exceptions, has had its idea, its origin – even though it were an origin as minute perhaps as a grain of mustard seed – in one single human head. This was its germ, its nucleus. Wheel, Plough, Ship, for example; and Guillotine. How far that of the Society for the Suppression of the Consumption of Pig and its Products had been the outcome of a niggardly Manager’s refusal to add half a crown to the weekly salary of a junior clerk; how far of a mute and casual, though afflicted, glance from the squinny little eyes of a small pig on its way to execution; how far to the fact that Andy’s physiognomy somewhat took after that common to all the members of its species; and, finally, how far to Jimmie’s tender sensitiveness and loyal affection for his friend –“

    “If it had, then Jimmie, he would instantly have admitted, had been its mistress-jewel. Mistress rather than ‘master’ because Jimmie had possessed that half-secret something which a boy may inherit straight from a passionate and impulsive mother. And Jimmie’s mother, as Andy knew, had died young.”

    “Secret ham and baconism orgies? Bedroom porkists?”

    “…a minute piglet in pure gold – which immediately concealed itself from view beneath the verger’s sprinkling of ‘dust and ashes’.”


    But the whole thing spoilt by the silly punchline at the end?


  24. From my earlier review of Jimmie in OUT OF THE DEEP…

    He no longer sleeps, as he did as a boy, in the attic, but he chooses a bigger room, with painted nymphs on the ceiling and an array of bell-pulls that evokes campanology in his mind. Suffering from insomnia, he tempts fate by impetuously, petulantly tugging the crimson tassel of a bell-pull and receives ‘bell-answerers’, i.e. the service of a valet he desires as a sort of boyish vision and later a girl with pigtails as her own bell-pulls. He taunts them with capricious requests, like the one for primroses. (“‘Look here,’ said Jimmie, dexterously raising himself to his elbow on the immense lace-fringed pillow, ‘it’s all very well; you have managed things quite admirably, considering your age and the season, and so on. But I didn’t ask for primroses, I asked for violets. That’s a very old trick – very old trick.’”) But later what he summons is a blurred whitish animal, not the white elephant he thought of before, but a pig-like creature in word-resonance with the pig-tails. With at least a hint of social satire filtered by this ‘whiteness’ theme: “And snapping out insults at former old cronies who couldn’t help their faces being as tiresome as a whitewashed pigsty had soon grown wearisome.”

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