Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Wishing-well

Fiction ~ short story
Published in Hutchinson's Magazine, February 1929
5,620 words
(First read 12/12/2012) 

Interestingly-named Cornish pub
A tale of superstition and magic, with no real spooks to speak of, The Wishing-Well starts like others of EFB's stories set in Cornwall with a lengthy description of the setting: the remoteness of the spot and the superstitiousness of the locals.  Yes, despite being set in the present, the Cornwall of Benson's imagining is still grubbing about in the Middle Ages¹.  I forgive him, but half a million Cornishmen in 1929 might not have.
Anyway, the long and the short is that an inhabitant of the village of St Gervase, a 40-year old gentlewoman² spinster by the name of Judith Eusters³, falls in love with a strapping young local lad, and makes a bit of an ass of herself.  When she finds out he only has eyes for a buxom wench his own age she [yawn] puts a curse on him using the tried-and-tested wishing-well method ... the curse backfires ... or she ends up counter-cursed ... or something ... I forget the rest.
Despite my dismissive tone I really quite liked The Wishing-Well ~ yes, it's as daft as it sounds, but it's fun.
You can read it online here.

¹ See The Inheritor (1930), amongst others.
² Well, as much of a gentlewoman as it's possible to be in the backwoods of Cornwall.  Her father, the vicar, appears to be the only other person 'of breeding' around.  Oh that reminds me: Benson pulls what I can only call a dazzlingly brazen cheap literary trick by having her father a devotee of folklorey stuff, with a particular interest in wishing-wells, enabling him (EFB) to explain the 'theory' behind the story by getting the Rev. Eusters to dictate a big chunk of it to Judith for the book he's writing on the subject ...
³ A name apparently unique to EFB ~ where he got it from I've no idea.

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