Monday, 26 November 2012

The Dance

Rupert Grint (not relevant)
Fiction ~ short story
First published in the collection More Spook Stories, April 1934
5,290 words
(First read 26/11/2012) 

The Dance shows EFB at his most gleefully sadistic and (I have to add) morally censorious.  The 'hero' of the piece is Philip Hope; his description is worth quoting in full:
In person he was notably small and slight, narrow-chested, with spindle arms and legs.  He leaned on a stick as he walked, for one of his knees was permanently stiff, but he was quick and nimble in spite of his limping gait.  His clothes were fantastic; he wore a bright mustard-coloured suit, a green silk tie, a pink silk shirt, with a low collar, above which rose a rather long neck supporting his very small sharp-chinned face, quite hairless and looking as if no razor had ever plied across it.  His eyes were steel grey, and had no lashes on either lid: whether they looked up or down, they gave the impression of a mocking and amused vigilance.  They saw much and derived much entertainment.  He was hatless, and the thick crop of auburn hair that covered his head could deceive nobody, nor indeed did he intend that it should.
(The only elements missing from this rundown are his goatlike laugh and prominent ears.)  And he is, dear reader, a sadist ~ there's no other word for it.  At his clifftop house near Cromer (Norfolk) his wife [Benson Heroine Type A] who's less than half his age and who married him out of pity, and his secretary [Benson Hero Type A] have just fallen in love and for a week or so Philip delights in tormenting them at every available opportunity.  Then one day he and
Cromer lighthouse (has small part)
the sec, Julian, go for a walk along the cliff and, just after Phil's told him to sling his hook, the inevitable ~ okay, the predictable ~ happens and over he goes.  A year passes; Julian and the young widow are now married; they come to stay at the Norfolk house ...  You can pretty much guess the rest.

Now admittedly Philip is the great star of the show, and when he dies the story does sag a little ~ but his return is well worth the wait.  Of course The Dance is utterly daft, and EFB's habit of punishing all those who commit adultery or even think about it*, regardless of how loathsome the intended cuckold, rather sticks in the craw these days ~ but it's fun, it's not too long, and the bit just before the climax is actually rather good.  It's available online here.

* See also Christopher Comes Back (1929).


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