The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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October 2, 2015

'The Friends of the Friends'

I know perfectly of course that I had brought it upon myself; but that doesn't make it any better. I was the first to speak of her to him — he had never even heard her mentioned. Even if I had happened not to speak, someone else would have made up for it; I tried afterwards to find comfort in that reflection. But the comfort of reflection is thin; the only comfort in life is not to have been a fool. That's a beatitude I shall doubtless never enjoy.  'Why you ought to meet and her and talk it over' is what I immediately said. 'Birds of a feather flock together.' I told him who she was  and that they were birds of a feather because if he had had in youth a strange adventure she had had about the same time just such another. It was well known to her friends — an incident she was constantly called on to describe. She was charming, clever, pretty, unhappy; but it was none the less the thing to which she had originally owed her reputation.
I always like to participate in R.I.P (Readers Imbibing Peril) — it's R.I.P X this year — but haven't done so much in the last year or two.  For this year, now that's it's half over, I have one full-length book that I'm hoping to read (Peril the Third) but I also thought some short ghost stories would fit the bill (Peril of the Short Story), and I've downloaded or borrowed some of Henry's and some of Edith's.

I read this one, his (of course), from 1896, yesterday, and ... sigh. Henry, dear Henry, you started out so promisingly.  We don't find out until several pages in that the narrator is a woman, and the 'birds of a feather' are friends of hers, who move in different, but overlapping, circles. The woman friend is unconventional and interesting; the man, our narrator's fiance, is solid and decent. As each one's friends know well, they have both felt the unexpected, momentary, silent, comforting presence of a mother or father, only to find out later that the parent has just died. Their possible encounter, which never seems to come about, is a source of great amusement to both of them, and to all their friends. Finally, our narrator {none of the three has a name} contrives to bring them together, but then
arranges things so one leaves before the other arrives.
It wasn't jealousy — it was just the dread of jealousy. ... She had been hitherto the victim of interference, but it was quite possible she would henceforth be the source of it. The victim in that case would be my simple self.
When he finds out, her fiance is surprised and angered by her deception; the next morning, remorseful, she visits her friend to apologize. Of course, the woman has just died from a heart ailment that she has kept secret.  Our narrator tells her fiance of her regret that the two had never met, but he is does not understand; of course, he was charmed. the night before, when, unconventional as this was, the woman came to visit him, even though she never spoke...

A classic, suspenseful, romantic ghost story, and a very good one, or it could be, in someone else's not-so-wordy hands. :)

1 comment:

JoAnn said...

Oh, Henry! I had trouble reading those simple passages.... think I'll skip this story.

I seem to be failing miserably at RIP this year. Lord Peter was swept aside as I succumbed to Ferrante Fever. Now I must finish Did You Ever Have a Family (so, so good!), but cannot bear to leave The Small House at Allington. Since it's a reread for you, I can say how excited I am about the impending visit to Coursy Castle. What a wonderful series!!

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