A Short Story For Saturday

This weekend’s short story, E.M. Forster’s “Arthur Snatchfold,” was written in 1928 but published only in 1972, two years after Forster’s death. The reason why? Like his novel Maurice, also published posthumously, the story deals with homosexuality – though this is a story that you don’t want to say too much about, for fear of spoiling its surprises. Here is how it begins:

Conway (Sir Richard Conway) woke early, and went to the window to have a look at the Trevor Donaldsons’ garden. Too green. A flight of mossy steps led up from the drive to a turfed amphitheatre. This contained a number of trees of the lead-pencil persuasion, and a number of flowerbeds, profuse with herbaceous promises which would certainly not be fulfilled that weekend. The summer was heavy-leaved and at a moment between flowerings, and the gardener, though evidently expensive, had been caught bending. Bounding the amphitheatre was a high yew hedge, an imposing background had there been any foreground, and behind the hedge a heavy wood shut the sky out. OF course what was wanted was colour. Delphinium, salvia, red-hot-poker, zinnias, tobacco-plant, anything. Leaning out of the baronial casement, Conway considered this, while he waited for his tea. He was not an artist, nor a philosopher, but he liked exercising his mind when he had nothing else to do, as on this Sunday morning, this country morning, with so much ahead to be eaten, and so little to be said.

The visit, like the view, threatened monotony. Dinner had been dull. His own spruce gray head, gleaming in the mirrors, really seemed the brightest object about. Trevor Donaldson’s head was mangy, Mrs Donaldson’s combed up into bastions of iron. He did not get unduly fussed at the prospect of boredom. He was a man of experience with plenty of resources and plenty of armour, and he was a decent human being too. The Donaldsons were his inferiors—they had not travelled or read or gone in for sport or love, they were merely his business allies, linked to him by a common interest in aluminium. Still, he must try to make things nice, since they had been so good as to invite him down.

Read the rest here. You can check out this story, among others, in Forster’s The Life to Come: And Other Stories. Previous SSFSs here.