CREWE by Walter de la Mare

“He told me himself that he had remembered me in his will – ‘if still in his service’. You know how these lawyers put it. As a matter of fact he had given me to understand that if in the meantime for any reason any of us went elsewhere, the one left was to have the lot.”

The Crewe railway waiting-room too, ominous enough to have been built by a bad man for waiting in… This story is arguably, I feel, about what you call a Tontine (please see quote about this would-be Tontine above), and one needs to wait a long time normally for the results of this legal technicality to pan out, if the lawyers allow it to pan out at all, perhaps out of spite or simply jaundiced Jarndyce? So it seems appropriate that this is a story told in a waiting-room by the man who had been waiting for this form of Tontine to resolve. A story told in Crewe station about a non-stationary scarecrow!
And a solid or a substance become a mite, and a mite then become a mighty revenge by a ghost of a man who survived cremation after his suicide, if I recall correctly. A suicide caused by his losing the Tontine by being sacked for drinking too much. The story told by Mr Blake, and the Listener repeats verbatim for us what Blake said, a garrulous man who needs to speak to a stranger like us and in order to speak freely, and he also needs to speak simply to waive his waiting loneliness in such a solid place for waiting, but his description of the Reverend in a large house as solidly ominous as the waiting-room, whose drunken gardener of much harvestable fruits and crops was one participating in the Tontine till sacked, and Blake another servant to the Tontine, as is also young George, and they were the ones who got the gardener into trouble with the Reverend over his drinking and thus the curse starts and the curse makes the speech full of queerly oblique hints of terrifyingly disarming strangeness as Aickman might have later put into Blake’s garbled mouth, hints rather than solidity. And we sense the scarecrow is part of Blake’s waiting process, Zeno-slow, that comes perhaps half nearer, then half of that half, ever nearer forever. And still is, and Blake has come here to wait, within the disarming solidity of wooden benches. Creepily ungraspable.
But what of the Hesper, a ship about which those train passengers who had earlier been in the Crewe waiting-room were talking (there were many such ships called Tontine, too, I find.) And was this Hesper aka the Hesperus, i.e. the one that had a solid iron hull? And what of each ship’s crew now?
I somehow sense the scarecrow crew….

“And the night-jars croaking too.”


PS: I’ve just read CREWE by Walter de la Mare and I feel it is blended with a sense of a future Robert Aickman and the type of Mrs Maple voice of a past M.R. James.



And of M.R. JAMES:


One thought on “CREWE by Walter de la Mare

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s