THE FACE by Walter de la Mare

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“This, too, was a willow, but it was a good many years older than most of its companions, and in part devoured and hollowed by rot. It leaned far out over the water from its few feet of grass-green sandy bank. And, as she looked at it, the complete experience of the night before flooded back into memory.”

This is the unmissable epiphanic story of Nora, engaged to marry stolid George, as, from her bedroom, she watches him today in the garden with his racing pigeons and tomatoes, after her having, on a previous night, wandered off at night to The Ponds to yield and then regather her soul, as it were, and had fallen into the dark depths of the pond at the willow’s feet and managed to resurface, then saw the singular face, her own face or the face of all women and men as a transgender prophecy? 

An epiphany she tries with difficulty to explain to George when alone with him after their having been baited at dinner by men in the family about separate islands of men and women when you die, and these men jokingly digressing about marriage as altar or halter: “And what, might I ask you, does anybody expect at an execution? Why, to lose his head! Aye, and to have it picked up out of the sawdust before the trickling lids are down over the eyes.”

Whether she eventually succeeds in being happy with George we are left to wonder. Faced, too with her mother, who ironically is a more social creature, especially when she says “Give me faces; give me company; give me talk. I’d mope me head off with nobody to see.”

And what of George himself? A singular WDLM elbow-moment —
“The only sound he uttered was a sort of breathless grunt as he stooped forward, his elbows on his knees, and hid his face in his hands, thrusting back his hard, round hat on his neatly oiled hair, as he did so.”

***

My reviews of WDLM: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/11/02/my-reviews-of-walter-de-la-mare-in-alphabetical-order/

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