The Pear-Tree (A Cornish Idyll)
“The old man fumed in thought. ‘Look’ee here, Mr Tinker,’ he said, ‘it’s better to know all than part. Hoist yourself up into yonder pear-tree and cry what you see!’”
This is a memorable ghost story, no question. About a tinker on his way to Treboath, stopping partway for company and seeng an old man trying to hone his rusty axe on a poorly plied grindstone, and offered his own better grindstone, but then wondered what the old man wanted to do with his axe. To cut down a large pear-tree where sat at night the ghost of the rich old man’s young wife’s once sweetheart, the latter looking in at her, and much we learn of the incriminating backstory and the outcome, as a new outcome transpires while we readers watch in real-time for why ‘it’s better to know all than part.’
“…hidden above on high in the pear-blossom, tempting and cajoling, and pleading with the young wife as never serpent wooed Eve to the apple.”
THE MILLER’S TALE
“I had been ranging unfamiliar country; and rejoiced to find myself issuing out of the more than nocturnal gloom of the valley I had been traversing – a valley with darker hollows, occasional impenetrable thickets – impenetrable, I mean, by the eye; and particularly to be free from its more or less concealed and inscrutable, and yet, as I felt within me, its attentive and sinister denizens or inmates.”
And from that disarming start to the narration, we reach a pure and penetrable classic WDLM story, one that I’m surprised is not more famous — the narrator’s vision of a windmill ablaze on a hilltop and the so-called ‘demented’ miller later telling the narrator a tale of fiends or devils that set the sails a-spinning in the depth of each night, but to grind what? This fire was the miller’s purging of such dream or reality.
“Even the beauty of a thing was its imperishable sadness.”
This is the utterly sad and dangerous letter (dangerous for any reading it, even today, and no wonder it was rejected as a story at the galley-proof stage), a letter written by man to his male friend about what had happened and was due to happen after his wife left him for another, a third, man, and the way how such lost love created revenge as this now late letter-writer — with mixed feelings, mixed motives and, importantly, unreliable narrations — works us towards a final meeting with his wife at a country style.
This is a discussion between Judy and her grandmother by a roaring fire, involving a poker, the latter who seems to be the narrator, a discussion, yes, about Judy wondering whether she could propose to a man, and the grandmother asking who the man is? I failed to grasp any of this, and why the grandmother threatens to blow the man’s brains out, whoever he is, and the word ’suicide” is mentioned by Judy, and is it possible that her ‘Hurry, Hurry’ was misheard by the narrator as ‘Harry, Harry.’ Could it be that the man’s name was Punch?
“…only by sheer blindman’s intuition I had found and seized her hand.”
“…the faint trickling of his water-tap was engaging in a duet with the gas-bracket,…”
Dr I thinks his last patient has gone, his own hair gone through with his hand several times already, but then he finds one more patient in the waiting room, a Mr Laman who suffers from seven years of sleeplessness and wants a prescription in writing. Dr I watches him leave and approach the gate outside (“In the midst of a semi-circle of metal upon it hung a lamp, casting its light chiefly among the green leaves of a lime tree that grew beside the pavement of the road beyond.”)
He looks at the prescription in such light and then throws it away.
I wonder if it is significant that Laman had thick hair, too?
“It is odd how, when some men vanish from sight, it is almost as if they had never been in the place which they vanish from.”
“Claw-set pearl in cravat, his elbows rested on its arms, and his double chin on the wide white wings of his starched collar, he had been to the Society what its acorn was to an oak, its keystone is to an arch, its mainspring to a clock, its tail feathers to a swallow.”
Sir Andrew, once young Andy and his ‘motherly’ friend Jimmie; they worked for the Universal Sorbeau Sausage Company but Andy had eye to eye, even soul transmigrating to soul, communion with a particular pig being led to slaughter if not this story’s ironic laughter! And he and Jimmie became vegetarian activists and today, as Sir Andrew faces his own God’s putting down, he officiates at the “Fortieth Annual General Meeting of the S.S.C.P.P.” (Society for the Suppression of the Consumption of Pig and its Products) ,and faced, in senile ‘reverie’, with the impossible question: how does their magic recipe SORBO differ from the sausage firm’s SORBEAU? This story has it own magical ingredients that turn me into another version of a senile reverie and eventually set to die in dire laughter, amidst much ‘pawky’ ‘squeeching’! Just look in the mirror and see a pig, or feel sad at the tiny gold piglet thrown into Jimmie’s grave, or simply drift away into the quoted examples below of this work’s magical ingredients as a comic masterpiece worthy of the author of THE ORGY: AN IDYLL. Georgie Porgie Pudding & Pie.
“But as he mused, yet again, stealthy, seductive as the spice-laden breezes of Cythera, there wisped beneath his nostrils an odour – the odour of bacon-rashers frying in the pan. His cheek paled then purpled, he beckoned secretly but violently to a minor employee fortunately standing under the nearest window. And with an airy waft of his hand bade him shut the window above his head.”
“Never before had he thought of these weekly victims of the Universal Sorbeau Sausage Company – such was the somewhat arrogant designation of the firm in which he was employed – as a collection of unique individuals.”
“‘When their thoats are slit and the blood’s come, they are scalded and scraped … And then I suppose,’ he [Jimmie] added pensively, ‘they’re pork.’ A longer pause followed: ‘I wonder if they think.’ Andy allowed this bitter comment to sink in.”
“Would you say that what we eat has anything to do with – well, what we look like?”
“Every Cause, every Institution, every Crusade, with very few exceptions, has had its idea, its origin – even though it were an origin as minute perhaps as a grain of mustard seed – in one single human head. This was its germ, its nucleus. Wheel, Plough, Ship, for example; and Guillotine. How far that of the Society for the Suppression of the Consumption of Pig and its Products had been the outcome of a niggardly Manager’s refusal to add half a crown to the weekly salary of a junior clerk; how far of a mute and casual, though afflicted, glance from the squinny little eyes of a small pig on its way to execution; how far to the fact that Andy’s physiognomy somewhat took after that common to all the members of its species; and, finally, how far to Jimmie’s tender sensitiveness and loyal affection for his friend –“
“If it had, then Jimmie, he would instantly have admitted, had been its mistress-jewel. Mistress rather than ‘master’ because Jimmie had possessed that half-secret something which a boy may inherit straight from a passionate and impulsive mother. And Jimmie’s mother, as Andy knew, had died young.”
“Secret ham and baconism orgies? Bedroom porkists?”
“…a minute piglet in pure gold – which immediately concealed itself from view beneath the verger’s sprinkling of ‘dust and ashes’.”
But the whole thing spoilt by the silly punchline at the end of PIG?
ALL MY WDLM REVIEWS: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/11/02/my-reviews-of-walter-de-la-mare-in-alphabetical-order/