Friday, September 13, 2013

short story || Rhoda Penmarq

the interrupted narrative

the story was a strange one, sufficient to hold our interest around the fire, tired as we were after the long day.

it was a cold windy night in december, and the serpents were howling outside.

morweather, our host, was known as a man of most  brooding sensibility.

all of us, except perhaps peterson, were in the habit of retiring early.

morweather, despite his own well attested accomplishments, was perhaps better known for the terrible fates which had befallen his ancestors.

on the night of which i speak, he had just received a most unfortunate correspondence from his landlord.

i could not help noticing that lady alice, with her usual lack of tact, was yawning ostentatiously.

carstairs,  as usual, stared straight ahead into the fire.

given the state of the weather outside, we little anticipated any interruption to morweather's tale.

suddenly lady alice gave a start, and turned toward the window.

"i thought i heard a noise," she announced in her peculiar high-pitched voice, " a damned queer noise such as i have not heard since prince albert was hanged at tyburn."

withers, the landlord of morweather's whom i mentioned earlier in the narrative, and who had stayed on after dinner because of the raging storm, laughed scornfully.

"perhaps it is the ghost of my late wife," he announced.  he laughed heartily at this weak jest, but was not joined in doing so by any of the company, not even monsieur dustairs, who laughed at everything.  the attempted witticism was in especially poor taste, considering that  his late wife had been murdered under most suspicious circumstances, with the heaviest suspicion falling most decidedly upon himself.

"the time has come," announced lady alice's companion, miss nethers. "to hear the trumpet of doom."

none of the company seemed the least bit put out by this pronouncement, except morweather himself, who blanched visibly.

"well, go on with your tale, old fellow,"  sir jasper rasped.  "you had us all enthralled just a moment ago."

suddenly a bolt of lightning hit the house, knocking a hideous old painting - apparently, but by no means absolutely, meant to depict  a naval battle - off the wall with a loud crash.

carstairs laughed.  for the first time within the memory of those assembled.

"it's those damned serpents," the marchioness of l-------- declared.  "they will interrupt everything."

"not quite everything," sir jasper replied.  "they were quiet enough, weren't they, when poor gladstone went to the guillotine."

mockton,  morweather's personal servant ,accompanied by a most sinister looking handyman, had arrived to take away the painting, after a sign from withers that they should not bother hanging it back up.

"i propose," said morweather, mopping his brow with an enormous handkerchief, "that we all take a brief pause for some brandy and biscuits.  i will then resume my narrative, as it appears that none of us are going anywhere tonight."

"hear, hear," sir jasper cried.  "i second that most opportune suggestion."

none of us, not even lady alice, was of a mind to contradict sir jasper.

a curious silence, broken only by the continued howlings of the wind and the serpents, descended on the company as the servants were summoned, and the excellent brandy and rather less appetizing biscuits were passed around.

for my part, i continued to wonder if the bridge would, in fact, be passable in the morning.  but i refrained from sharing my fears.

there seemed little possibility of any of us getting off the island alive. 

jane eyre, by charlotte bronte
wuthering heights, by emily bronte
alice's adventures in wonderland, by lewis carroll
the turn of the screw, by henry james
the three impostors, by arthur machen
swann's way, by marcel proust
the counterfeiters, by andre gide
chivalry, by rafael sabatini
1984, by george orwell
vengeance is mine, by mickey spillane
one lonely night, by mickey spillane
on the road, by jack kerouac
the bell jar, by sylvia plath

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