I was looking around for some “Easter-type” short stories to read for this weekend and found one on line, H.H. Munro’s (a.k.a. Saki) “The Easter Egg” that I thought would fit the bill. I was actually looking more for stories in the “spirit” of Easter than this one turned out to be, but I’m glad I read it nonetheless…
Madame Barbara is ashamed of her son, Lester, who has proven time and time again that, unlike the “good fighting stock” of the family which he was born into, he has all the worst qualities of a coward. Saki describes Lester and his shortcomings wonderfully:
“As a child he had suffered from childish timidity, as a boy from unboyish funk, and as a youth he had exchanged unreasoning fears for others which were more formidable from the fact of having a carefully-thought-out basis. He was frankly afraid of animals, nervous with firearms, and never crossed the Channel without mentally comparing the numerical proportion of life belts to passengers. On horseback he seemed to require as many hands as a Hindu god, at least four for clutching the reins, and two more for patting the horse soothingly on the neck.”
If the hapless Lester were not offered some chance to redeem himself for his life of craven timidity, this wouldn’t be a short story worthy of Saki, though, would it? The opportunity presents itself when he and his mother travel to Knobaltheim “…one of those small princedoms that make inconspicuous freckles on the map of Central Europe.” It seems the Prince, a steadfast representative of the old guard of Europe and opposed to “progress” is coming to town for some grand affair. Among the gifts for this dignitary is the Easter Egg in the title of the story. But something seems not quite right about this and Lester is the first to notice…
I’ll leave the details for those industrious enough to read the story. I was particularly fond of the last lines of this story, which are quite good and almost goose-bump inducing. A very short story and worth a read.
The story may be read at http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/EasEgg.shtml
Or listen via YouTube at http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wc6EUa7Mra4
I own a copy of Saki’s collected stories, pictured above, but rather than dig it out, I read this one on line at the link provided above.
(below: Illustration from Oscar Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant”)
Two other short stories I like to read around Easter are Oscar Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant” and Leo Tolstoy’s “The Three Hermits” (which I also once blogged about here). Both are quite good and are appropriate for the season, I think.
Have you read any of these stories? What do you think of Saki’s works? Do you do any special reading around this holiday?
(Below: gratuitous picture of my Mom’s Easter Egg tree. Did anyone else grow up with an easter egg tree in the house each year?)