Thursday, 26 January 2012

Negotium Perambulans

Fiction ~ short story
First published in Hutchinson's Magazine, November 1922
Collected in Visible and Invisible (1923)*
6,160 words
(First read 26/01/2012) 

In a remote and isolated Cornish fishing-village some unspeakably horrid thing has lurked for centuries, feeding on the flesh and blood of sinners.
More horror than spook story, Negotium Perambulans ('walking pestilence') suffers from the same drawback as so many EFB yarns: about a quarter of the way through he tells you what the horror is, then a bit later he gives you an example of it at work, then another, and at the end yet another ... and each time it gets just a shade more humdrum.  The only difference with the last occurrence is that our Unidentified Narrator (a retired lawyer, for a change) actually witnesses it himself.
Still, the descriptions of the village, of the narrator's childhood there and nostalgia for the old place, are rather nice.  You can read it online here

* The term 'visible and invisible' features in this very story, when the narrator is talking about the natives of the village, Polearn:
 [...] it is as if they had all been initiated into some ancient rite, inspired and framed by forces visible and invisible.
For more of this kind of thing see Ravens' Brood (1934).  I've often wondered if EFB genuinely believed that Cornish village-folk had some kind of mystical knowledge denied to the rest of us, or if it was all just a literary conceit.

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