Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Girl Who Married a Trust Breaker

Mavis Gallant died today in Paris at age 91. Over the years she published one hundred fourteen short stories in The New Yorker. The magazine has put this tale, published in 1956, on public view.

Gallant's story of a fading old Brit and his young second wife, living precariously in Italy, evokes the end of empire. (1956, you'll remember, was the year Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal.)

"The joke of it is," the story begins, "there's nothing to leave. Nothing at all." Thus the young wife learns that the child she has borne the old Brit will have no inheritance.
It had not been Stella’s ambition to marry money. ••• [T]he trouble was that during their courtship Henry had seduced her with talk of money. He talked stocks, shares, and Rhodesian Electric. He talked South Africa, and how it was the only sound place left for investment in the world. He spoke of the family trust and of how he had broken it years before, and what a good life this had given him. Stella had turned to him her round kitten face, with the faintly stupid kitten eyes, and had listened entranced, picturing Henry with the trust in his hands, breaking it in two.

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