Monday, March 30, 2009

A. V. Laider by Max Beerbohm

The enigmatic A. V. Laider and the narrator of this tale have both come to a hotel by the sea, presumably in England. First in 1913, then again in 1914, they coincidentally arrive there to recover from influenza. In 1913, they are the only two guests present. For days until the very last day before the narrator is to depart, they remain aloof, acknowledging each other''s presence, but not speaking. Then on the final day, they break the ice in British fashion. Before long, they became engrossed in conversation about palmistry. Mr. Laider takes center stage relating his very unfortunate experience as a chiromancer.
The narrator feels so sympathetic and compassionate that he writes a letter to Mr. Laider expressing the view that maybe the whole thing hadn''t happened at all. But alas, when he again visits a the hotel a year later, he finds his letter tacked to the bulletin board, unopened. He is interrupted in his stealthy attempt to retrieve the letter, but plans to do so later. By the time the narrator returns to the bulletin board, the letter has disappeared. Mr. Laider has arrived and has read the letter. He then makes a strange confession about the truth of the matter. The surprise ending has the narrator wondering what really happened.