The Pleasure Pilgrims by Ella D?Arcy
The Pleasure Pilgrims can be seen as a love story, a murder tale or a sort of Christmas Story (though it?s not set at Christmas). But most of it all it is a story that lays bare the differences between British and Americans. They speak the same language, but they mean different things and seem incapable of understanding what the other really means.
We?ve done another of Ella D?Arcy?s stories on The Classic Ghost Stories Podcast: The Villa Lucienne. That too deals with the wealthy elite who skipped around Europe staying in grand houses. There is a ghost in that story, there is one in this too?ultimately.
Observations as we go along are that the hosts, the Ritterhausens, and Germans in general don?t make much of an appearance in The Pleasure Pilgrims. They add a little local colour. The setting of a grand old German castle near Hamelin with its pied piper is delightful set-dressing.
Ella D?Arcy really brings this out with the snowy train journey, the old bridge choked with ice floes, the German servant in the horse-drawn carriage in his second-best livery.
The main character, Campbell is a successful novelist. However, he is a bit of an innocent. He has some funny ideas about the purity of love and we wonder whether he has ever kissed a girl. D?Arch makes two remarks on the British character, one at the beginning when Campbell is forced to share the carriage with the two American girls. They only ride with him out of kindness to the German servant to stop the man making two trips. Campbell is, like most British people, shy, D?Arcy says.
Then at the end, when the deed is done, she refers to the ?cold, complacent British unresponsiveness?. I don?t think this pairing at the beginning and the end is accidental. In fact, the whole story is a study of British versus American character, and the British don?t come out of it so well.
Campbell has his cynical second Maynes, who won?t believe a single good thing about Lulie and when Campbell himself starts to relent, Maynes is always there to convince him she?s putting it all on. Campbell comes over was a cold-hearted, vain, prig, and Maynes as simply a monster.
D?Arcy gives us a short passage where she explains that Maynes really did think Lulie was putting it on and that he wasn?t just an evil pig. At the end, she also explains that Lulie has led the loveless, homeless life of a poor little rich girl. Rich people are people too, you know in case you are ready to dismiss her suffering as not being as valuable as the suffering of a poor person.
Lulie also has her second, Nannie Dodge who appears to be complicit in Lulie?s shameless seduction. If we believe Maynes?s version of the story.
Throughout, Lulie?s ostentation and lack of reserve are emphasised, from her flamboyant and luxurious clothes to her persistent warmth and affection.
I was reminded of the case of the English nanny Louise Woodward. There is a great article here
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1997/11/24/here-and-there-3 (Here and There | The New Yorker)
Woodward was never seen to cry. In court she sat, hunched, deferential, submissive, lowered eyes and voice. This was seen apparently by American eyes as indicating her guilt. However, this deference and submission in an English court is exactly what would show her innocence. The writer makes the point that in America if you are telling the truth, you meet your questioners eyes, you throw your shoulders back, you have nothing to hide. The the British Woodward was appropriately modest and self-effacing as she should be in court being judged by a judge, who might well be a lord. In America, she was shifty and with her eyes down, must have something to hide.
Two nations divided by a common language. I remember going to the States for the first time and thinking how amazing it was we really did speak the same language. Small, homely words such...
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