Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Outcast

Fiction ~ short story
First published in Hutchinson's Magazine, April 1922
Collected in Visible and Invisible (1923)
6,625 words
(First read 11/07/2012) 

Tony and Madge are a comfortable middle-aged couple living in the town of Tarleton¹.  Into the house next-door to them moves a youngish widow named Bertha Chase, who comes with a bit of 'history' to her: her late husband was a fortune-hunter who committed suicide.  The house next-door is reputedly haunted, but it turns out the ghosts are merely of red herrings.  Where was I?  Ah yes, so Madge does her neighbourly duty and finds Mrs Chase 'charming and witty and good-looking and friendly' but with a very large but attached:
But behind all her agreeableness and charm and good looks I suddenly felt there was something else which I detested and dreaded. [...] I felt a horror ~ nothing vivid, nothing close [...] but somewhere in the background.
Anyway, the long and the short of it: with the expert diagnosis of Lord Charles Alington (Madge's brother), Mrs C is revealed to be Benson Type 3, all charm and wonderfulness on the outside, but on the inside irredeemably and irremediably evil.  There ensues a lot of ridiculous hokum which I won't bother to describe, but it all turns out fine in the end.
A story which manages to be both very daft and very dull (it's massively overlong) at the same time.  It's available online here.

¹ It's extremely unlike EFB to set a story in an actual place, least of all one in Lancashire, so I'm assuming he didn't bother to check on this occasion.  Besides, EFB's 'Tarleton' is on the coast; the real one isn't.

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