In my quest to read most of Gutenberg Project books I get to read a lot of interesting and quirky things and I am not even past the ‘AB’ yet.
I have read Eleanor H Abbott’s children short stories and her eight year old narrator was so authentic that I worried that she just genuinely wrote like an eight year old. Thankfully this is not the case.
I have to make sure I don’t ramble in this review as it is a very short novella/short story, so I wouldn’t want the review to be longer than the work reviewed – it would reek of academia.
‘Indiscreet Letter’ takes place on a train and I can’t think of a setting I like more, except maybe for a jungle. Does anyone know a book which takes place on a train which goes through a jungle?
Anyway, it’s 1915 or thereabouts and a few strangers meet on a train to Boston. Soon they start talking, as strangers on trains often do (especially in books and films, but also in real life – I highly recommend the night train from Warsaw to Budapest, the people I met on that train!). The discussion starts with the characters debating over the definition of an ‘indiscreet letter’, but, as expected, it then transforms into a general discussion about life, love and such.
There is this part, which I wish was never true for anyone anymore, but is just as true now, a hundred years later:
“She don't follow you so much, I reckon, because you are her love as because you've got her love. God knows it ain't just you, yourself, she's afraid of losing. It's what she's already invested in you that's worrying her! All her pinky-posy, cunning kid-dreams about loving and marrying, maybe; and the pretty-much grown-up winter she fought out the whisky question with you, perhaps; and the summer you had the typhoid, likelier than not; and the spring the youngster was born—oh, sure, the spring the youngster was born! Gee! If by swallowing just one more yarn you tell her, she can only keep on holding down all the old yarns you ever told her—if, by forgiving you just one more forgive-you, she can only hang on, as it were, to the original worth-whileness of the whole darned business—if by—[…]”
And then there is this, at first very confusing, but then sort of clever and only mildly offensive, metaphor comparing women to golden retrievers.
I really don’t want to reveal too much of the plot, as this story is so short and I’d like to leave the pleasure of discovering it to you, so rather than discuss the characters and their problems, I will leave you with this quote:
"Oh, my God!" she cried out with sudden passion. "I wish I could have lived just one day when the world was new. I wish—I wish I could have reaped just one single, solitary, big Emotion before the world had caught it and—appraised it—and taxed it—and licensed it—and staled it!"
"Oh-ho!" said the Traveling Salesman with a little sharp indrawing of his breath. "Oh-ho!—So that's what the—Young Electrician makes you think of, is it?"
For just an instant the Traveling Salesman thought that the Youngish Girl was going to strike him.
"I wasn't thinking of the Young Electrician at all!" she asserted angrily. "I was thinking of something altogether—different."
"Yes. That's just it," murmured the Traveling Salesman placidly. "Something—altogether—different. Every time I look at him it's the darnedest thing! Every time I look at him I—forget all about him. My head begins to wag and my foot begins to tap—and I find myself trying to—hum him—as though he was the words of a tune I used to know."
May we all find some Young Electricians – people that just inspire us to live a little bit more.