“a bird whistled, seeming hardly a bird” 


HER TABLE SPREAD by Elizabeth Bowen

“I’ve destroyed my beautiful red dress and they’ve eaten up your dinner.”

Bowen’s trope of a torn red dress again, a destroyer in more ways than one, and here, again, Bowen’s ‘Unromantic Princess’, within a classic Bowenesque pre-Aickman dislocation, as well as the sound of Mr Alban playing piano music as accompaniment. But, there again, the windows are opened by the family to ‘let the music downhill’, in a castle upon an island amid the “bad times” (Ireland?) and thus becomes, I feel one of those alignment games of my childhood called Battleships and Destroyers. The Submarine, here, though, is missing. Alignment striving critically towards meaning or madness in the resistant water-dragging times that we also live through today.
Mr Alban has come, dared to come, despite this family’s rumoured madness, to seek the hand of their heiress, a special needs child called Valeria Cuffe aged 25 who mistakes him, amid her lantern-waving at the lit portholes of the anchored destroyer, at night, mistakes him for the sailor she once met from an earlier destroyer. That time before when the destroyer came, the sailors walked without touching the daffodils…

“…the windows, of which there were too many. He received a strong impression someone outside was waiting to come in.”

“…that constant reflection up from the water that even now prolonged the too-long day.”

“‘But they’ve been afraid of the rain!’ chimed in Valeria Cuffe.
‘Hush,’ said her aunt, ‘that’s silly. Sailors would be accustomed to getting wet.’”

“Once, wound up in the rain, a bird whistled, seeming hardly a bird.”

And in Bowen’s mackintoshes, nobody knows the whys and wherefores about anything, I guess…

“In mackintoshes, Mr Rossiter and Alban meanwhile made their way to the boat-house, Alban did not know why.”

And “among the apples and amphoras”, there is also an elbow to tweak…

“‘Let’s go for a row now – let’s go for a row with a lantern,’ besought Valeria, jumping and pulling her aunt’s elbow.”

***

Full context of this review here: https://expenscusil.wordpress.com/elizabeth-bowen-stories-18/#comment-574

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