13 November, 2013

Quattuor!

Yes!! Alter idem is four today!

As usual, to celebrate, I'll share a short story. You know, normally, I share the first story that comes to my mind as I begin to write the 'anniversary-post'. This time, I decided to rack my brains to remember something unusual and less known.......

 After some serious thinking, one of my favourite writers, Oscar Wilde, came to my rescue!  I had read this story about 5 years ago in an anthology of short stories written in the 19th century. Since I have forgotten the names of the characters, I'll call them X, Y & Z ('Maths-style'!).

X, an idle aristocrat is snacking in one of Paris' street cafes when his friend Y joins him - with the complaint that he does not understand women. The sagely X tells Y that women are meant to be loved and not understood, and offers to solve Y's 'love - problem'....
 At this, Y shows X a picture of Z and asks for his opinion. The expert that he is, X concludes that there is something mysterious about the beautiful Z.......
And, Y tells the story.... 

One day, while walking down a fashionable street, Y sees an interesting face and is smitten by her.

Now, if you have read stories/ articles written about the Victorian era, you will be aware that the aristocrats of that era led an idle life revolving around fashion, parties, plays, socialising and romance. At one such party, Y meets Z and learns that she is a widow. Over the next couple of days, Y runs into Z at a few more parties. Even though Z does not seem averse to Y's attentions, she keeps him at a distance. This makes Y more and more curious and he ends up falling deeply in love with Z.

One evening, Y is scheduled to meet Z at her house. The same noon, after lunching with a friend in another part of the town, Y sees Z - moving about quite furtively. Since Z hasn't seen him, Y decides to snoop on her. Z enters a house and locks the door behind her... but, not before dropping her handkerchief.

In the evening, Z receives Y and tells him that she has been indoors all day. This lie upsets Mr.Lover-boy who has dropped in with the intention of proposing to Z. He exposes her lie, gives her a piece of his mind and storms out of the house and out of the town for a few days. On returning, Y learns that during his absence, Z had died of some illness.

Y is shattered and out of sheer curiosity, goes to the house that he saw Z go into. The house turns out to be a sort of boarding house. From the land-lady, Y learns that Z would often drop in and spend some lonely hours there - meeting no one and doing absolutely nothing........

After giving him this background, Y asks X to come up with an explanation for Z's strange ways.
X is quick -  maybe, he understood women!! He concludes that the lonely Z had some kind of a mental illness -  pretending to be a secretive person leading a mysterious life. He sums her up as a sphinx without a secret..... which, is also the title of the story...

 Unlike other stories by Oscar Wilde, this is a story that seems open-ended. It leaves you wondering if Z had a secret... Had she seen Y and dropped that hanky on purpose? Was she fond of Y as well? If she hadn't died??

 
 'Sphinx' is a term used to describe a secretive person.
In Greek mythology, sphinx is a monster with the body of a lion & the head and torso of a woman. This monster poses unanswerable questions to young men and eats them up when they fail to answer. Finally, when one young man answers, she kills herself....

Now, doesn't this story seem like an inspired version of that mythological tale??  


 You know, after writing this post, I thought of Oscar Wilde and decided to check if the net had a collection of his witticisms..... no disappointment there, of course!

To my surprise, I also discovered that this story can be read online - here.

  And, I thought I was sharing a story that was hard to come by!!!


  

Century on the Bronze Anniversary!

This is my100th post, and today is the eighth birthday of Alter Idem !! That's an average of a post per month......1.04 to be precise!!...