Wednesday 2 November 2011

Short Stories on Wednesdays – #2

Short Stories on Wednesdays is a weekly event hosted by Risa over at Breadcrumb Reads, where the aim is to read at least one short story a week.

A few weeks back I bought a book of 19th century short stories selected by David Stuart Davies (here). I read the first story in the anthology yesterday, which was The Black Veil by Mr Charles Dickens. This is the story of a young man who has recently qualified as a doctor, and is sitting in his practice one cold and damp night waiting for his first patient. Eventually a very unexpected visitor arrives; a mysterious lady dressed in mournful clothing which includes a heavy black veil. She startles the young doctor with her distressed manner and cryptic requests, being completely vague about the condition of a man very ill at home but not wanting the doctor to visit until precisely 9 o'clock in the morning. Baffled by this strange request, he gently questions her can learn nothing else of the patient's condition, so he eventually agrees to do as she has asked. Then, when he attends the next day, he discovers something so heart-wrenching that it stays with him for the remainder of his life.

I loved this story. I've read some of Dickens' work before and I always enjoy the very generous, empathetic and enlightening qualities to what he writes. The condition of this dying man is kept so beautifully and mysteriously vague until the last couple of pages and the climax of the story is quite unexpected and very endearing.
You can read The Black Veil online here.

What short stories have you read this week?