Friday, 8 June 2012

The Bus-Conductor

Fiction ~ short story
First published in Pall Mall Magazine, December 1906
Collected in The Room in the Tower and Other Stories (1912)
3,470 words
(Last read 08/06/2012) 

Unlike rather a lot of other folk, in particular the makers of the film Dead of Night (1945), I'm afraid I don't rate The Bus-Conductor very highly.  In it our old pal Hugh Grainger recounts, to our old pal Unnamed Narrator, the story of the night, eighteen months previously, when he had a premonitory vision ~ or possibly  dream ~ while staying at U.N.'s house; and (obviously, as this is EFB) of the episode a month later when the dream ~ or vision ~ was fulfilled.

Approximately one third of the story's length is preliminary waffle and 'theory', also known as padding.  The apparition itself wouldn't frighten a shellshocked dormouse.  And the big reveal, despite involving yet another of Benson's obsessive omnibus crashes, is thoroughly humdrum.  Its saving grace is that it's pretty short.

Anyway, it's available online here.

Hugh to U.N. on their latest expedition:
"... why you go ghost-seeking I cannot imagine [...] because your teeth were chattering and your eyes starting out of your head all the time you were there, from sheer fright."
U.N. on Hugh ~ say no more:
Hugh is about six feet high, and as broad as he is long ...
U.N. to Hugh, who spins a good yarn:
Hugh is an ideal narrator.  I do not care for his theories, or for his similes, but when it comes to facts, to things that happened, I like him to be lengthy. [fnarr fnarr]
"Go on, please, and slowly," I said.  "Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it is the ruin of story-telling.  I want to hear when and where and how it all was, and what you had for lunch and where you had dined and [...]"
Some critics might say this was the precise downfall of too many EFB spook stories: an excess of irrelevant and frankly rather dull detail leading to far more length than the material demanded.


Other memorable stories [from The Room in the Tower and Other Stories] include […] The Bus-Conductor, which contains the memorable line “Just room for one inside, sir”. This was later turned into an episode of the classic British movie Dead of Night. In his preface Benson “fervently wishes his readers a few uncomfortable moments.”
~Richard Dalby in introduction to The Collected Ghost Stories of E. F. Benson, 1992

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