The Smile of November


THE GIRL WITH THE STOOP by Elizabeth Bowen

“I don’t need to plan; I plot. I don’t believe in plans.”

November at the seaside (“the promenade gardens, with their few wet roses, wore the smile of November, pallidly gay”), just like the place where I live today. Tibbie, to be or not to be whatever the destiny-lines on her hand, a girl with a stoop, nay, the girl with the stoop, betrothed to Tom in India, but today co-opted by Geoff on behalf of his crippled cousin Francis, the latter knowing her even before he met her, having stalked her with his eyes from his Palace hotel room aloft. 

“But, of course, I believe in my destiny.” 

And, of course, the tea in his room. And Francis’s will power  upon wheels of life… With her:  “He must not come after me – on wheels, on wheels: wheels turn very fast” competing with the time  paradox of  of her: “She reached the corner; then she lagged slowly, slowly back to her aunt’s gate” after her:  “She broke into a run. She ran down the promenade, stooping, breathless, not looking back once, not daring to listen. The cold sea flashed alongside.”  Alongside the heat of India?

The ownership of life’s sentences.

They had held hands briefly, after all, each one’s ‘life-lines’ matching the other’s ‘destiny-lines’ (this story subtly showing there is such a difference in similar patterns, I guess), and I wonder? —  Her Tom in hot India, is he merely a Shadowy Third even if one with ineluctable, irresistible, immoveable plans? But I hope Tibbie stays with Francis, even though the pre-planned plot makes me think I am wrong to make such competing plans about their lives. But, then, I remember,  there was always that Bowen cassowary of an umbrella much earlier in this story, as a protective force for our destiny…. “she unfurled her umbrella, then turned her profile away to the dark sea. ‘I can’t sometimes believe I shall be in India,’ she said.”

***

My onward march of pre-planned reviews of Bowen stories started here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/10/05/the-collected-stories-of-elizabeth-bowen/

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