Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"The Beggar Woman of Locarno." Heinrich Von Kleist.

One-minute review: A castle burned to the ground. Why?

An old, sickly beggar woman had sought refuge and been allowed to sleep on a pile of straw in the corner of a room. When the Marquis returned from hunting to store his gun in the room, he spied the old woman on the straw and ordered her to move behind the stove. She slipped on the slippery floor, fell, broke her back and died.

Years later, the Marquis wanted to sell the castle. A possible buyer stayed in the room in which the old beggar-woman had died. At midnight, he heard the rustle of straw and movements toward the stove. Terrified, he left. After several similar incidents, the Marquis decided to stay in the room. He, too, experienced the sounds of the straw and the steps toward the stove. He and his wife and a guard dog next stayed in the room. At midnight the sounds were heard again and the dog left the room in terror.

The Marquis, tired of life, set the paneling on fire with a candle and the castle burnt to the ground.

75 Short Masterpieces: Stories from the World’s Literature. Ed. Roger B. Goodman. New York: Bantam Books. 1961. These summaries do not do justice to the vividness of the stories. RayS.

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