Sunday, 2 September 2012

Naboth's Vineyard

Fiction ~ short story
First published in Hutchinson's Magazine,  December 1923
Collected in Spook Stories, 1928
5,935 words
(First read 02/09/2012) 

Seven years after failing to acquit a client of embezzlement, solicitor Ralph Hatchard retires to Scarling*.  He hankers after a particular house there but the female occupant isn't interested in selling, or even talking to anyone.  Shortly afterwards her husband returns from 'India'; Hatchard goes to see if he'd be willing to sell up; discovers that the old chap is none other than his embittered embezzler newly released from prison; and extorts the house out of him; the old chap drops dead of a heart attack the same day and Hatchard promptly moves into his new home ...
If you can't guess what happens next, you've obviously never read a ghost story by E F Benson.  This is humdrum beyond your wildest imaginings, and the whole thing could've been told in 2,000 words max, and been the better for it.
It's available online here

*I've absolutely no idea where this place is based on ~ it could be pretty much any coastal town in the south of England.

P.S. The title relates to an Old Testament story which appears to have been something of a favourite with EFB as I've come across it several times in his writings.  I should warn you, though ~ as Bible stories go, it's pretty dull.

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