Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Temple

Fiction ~ short story
Published in Hutchinson's Magazine, November 1924
Collected in Spook Stories (1928)
6,655 words
(First read 30/10/2012) 

A distinctly long, leisurely, rambling journey into the wilds of northern Cornwall, not far at all from Ravens' Brood and The Inheritor country.  Unnamed Narrator, who's a writer, and his chum Frank Ingleton, who's an archaeologist, tip up in the village of St Caradoc's for one of those work-cum-golf-cum-piquet holidays of which U.N. was such a fan, provided he could find the right chap to accompany him.  Anyway, they eventually stumble across a vacant cottage; they rent it so as to avoid the hotel crowds; they discover it stands in the centre of a prehistoric stone circle (the temple of the title), and that it and the house come with one of those barmy curses Benson specialized in.  Still, it all ends happily.
Though the idea at the heart of The Temple is singularly gruesome (the yarn is more 'horror' than 'spook'), the story itself sadly contains about as much tension as a pan of spaghetti you've accidentally left on the boil for an hour and three quarters.
It's available online here.

There is, I feel, a certain air of unseemly relish in U.N.'s description of the temple's sacrificial stone:
It was on that stone that young boys and maidens, torn from their mother's arms and bound hand and foot, were laid, while the priest, with one hand over the victim's eyes, plunged the flint knife into the smooth, white throat, sawing through the tissue till the blood spurted from the severed artery ... 
"Does it come with chips?"

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