Two stories by Elizabeth Taylor this weekend and two left for this coming week and that will be it for her wonderful story collection, The Blush. I do have a number of new and interesting (and calling-out-to-me) collections that I am trying to decide between for my next choice, but I also feel very tempted to just grab another collection by Taylor (I think I have about three plus a hefty complete stories collection) and keep going with her work.
In "Good-Bye, Good-Bye" Taylor juxtaposes two 'love affairs'-one a new and burgeoning love and the other a melancholic look at an impossible love, an affair long past and assumed put to bed.
"On his last evening in England he broke two promises--one, that he would dine with his brother, and another, older promise he made to a woman whom he loved."
The more significant promise that Peter breaks is to call on Catherine, this woman he still loves and once had an affair with. They parted and Catherine made him promise that it was over and he would not contact her again. She is a married woman and with nearly grown children and is spending the summer holidays at the place where she and Peter had once saw their passion come alive. Peter sees her husband, busily working in the City, as someone only worried about making money and babies.
The seaside summer holiday is not just a holiday for her eldest daughter who had invited her first beau and now nurses a broken heart as his expected arrival has come and gone and the train brought only Peter. For Catherine Peter is not a welcome guest however much she might still have feelings for him. When Sarah's guest turns up after all Catherine reflects that his tardy arrival will only be worse for her daughter now--as it is worse for her, too. ". . . all that carefully-tended hatred has vanished in a few seconds."
As is only expected with Elizabeth Taylor she creates a story that is pitch perfect. Those emotions once so carefully contained and bottled up now well to the surface once again. Catherine just barely keeps her anguish from the children and holds Peter, figuratively anyway, at arm's length. It's so easy to imagine the love affair, perhaps the result of the war, the passion and then the parting. But no matter how much she might still feel love she can think only now of the well-being of her children and then watches her daughter already falling into that trap of loving a man and perhaps being at the mercy of his whims.
I can't find where I must have written about it, but I am sure I read Taylor's brilliant nod to Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw" some time in the past. "Poor Girl" is a wonderful ghost story. Is it a ghost? Perhaps. There is certainly something or a trace of someone in the schoolroom. Or maybe it is the precocious little boy Hilary that awakens something. Is he some strange conduit or past experiences coming to life once again in the here and now? Florence Chasty is a respectable and modest young woman. Miss Chasty, please, to Hilary who is only too quick to take the familiar with her.
The story begins innocuously enough at the start. It's an earlier time, but not so very long ago. She has come to act as governess to a little boy who seems the elder of the two.
"Miss Chasty's first pupil was a flirtatious little boy. At seven years, he was alarmingly precocious, and sometimes she thought he despised his childhood, regarding it as a waiting time which he used only as a rehearsal for adult life. He was already more sophisticated than his young governess and disturbed her with his air of dalliance, the mockery with which he set about his lessons, the preposterous conversations he led her into, guiding him skillfully away from work . . ."
Hilary might push the boundaries of propriety, but Miss Chasty is reasonably good at getting him to settle into his work even if he flirts and messes about--calling her Florence, or Poor Girl, asking her to wait to marry him. He is a seven year old dandy who when he is old enough to grow a moustache will surely look the spitting image of his papa.
Oh dear. His papa. Even Hilary's mother, while indulging her husband in his "little joke to make him feel youthful" by comparing son to father, inwardly thinks--please God let it be only in looks and not in action be like his father. There's a warning there. Because dear papa has a fondness for young maids and governesses. And then another warning that not all is right in the household . . . the red lipstick smudges on poor Miss Chasty's teacup or the sweet scents that seem to hover in the schoolroom. Surely Mrs. Wilson's first impressions of Florence were not wrong. But what is that rustling of skirts about Miss Chasty's person? Surely not silken undergarments?!
There is something not quite right in the schoolroom. It's hinted at and there is an aura about the place. What happened here so long ago? What is happening now? What is coming over poor dear Miss Chasty? If you have a chance, do give this collection a go. I've not yet read a story in it that I didn't like.
Next up "Hare Park" and "You'll Know It When You Get There".