Cain’s Jawbone: Deceptions   Leave a comment

I am unfortunately still not able to declare victory in any kind of holistic organizing, but there are two mysteries worked out, one minor worked out by myself, one major worked out by Voltgloss in the last comment section.

The original printing’s introduction, from James Ryan’s feed. Note that it is quite clear the six months happen in a “recent year”, which isn’t the same wording as in my recent paperback; I briefly had a theory about the years being spread out which is squashed by this comment.

The minor mystery involved my staring at page 28, which has a paradox in the text that was puzzling me. I’ll quote it in its entirety:

I found myself by that one of the windows which overlooked the stone broach spire—a rarity in Kent—of Pluckley church, and the light would strike my book from over my right shoulder. I drew a volume from my pocket; blind-tooled on the green in a double circle was a single star above what was perhaps a sea. I have had very little experience of it myself up to the present. I have only been married once. That was in consequence of a misunderstanding between myself and a young person, and I wondered if such a reason for marriage would ever have occurred to me. I had never married, and scarcely felt like beginning now. It was the tenth edition, of 1917. No, Sir; it is not a very interesting subject. I never think of it myself. Not a woman had entered as yet. I was in for a ticklish business, and I knew it. Forging ahead, I supposed they would call it, since the woman was not yet dead. You might not hear of her again.

The person was married yet never married? I thought, briefly, that perhaps this was a conversation between two people with the quote marks removed, but notice the first section refers to getting out a book. “I drew a volume from my pocket; blind-tooled on the green in a double circle was a single star above what was perhaps a sea.” To remove any suspense, here’s the book:

This is from a 1910 printing, but the play has a 1917 10th edition which I think we can safely assume is the same, because immediately after the book reference, the play gets quoted. Let me put boldface around the quotes:

I found myself by that one of the windows which overlooked the stone broach spire—a rarity in Kent—of Pluckley church, and the light would strike my book from over my right shoulder. I drew a volume from my pocket; blind-tooled on the green in a double circle was a single star above what was perhaps a sea. I have had very little experience of it myself up to the present. I have only been married once. That was in consequence of a misunderstanding between myself and a young person, and I wondered if such a reason for marriage would ever have occurred to me. I had never married, and scarcely felt like beginning now. It was the tenth edition, of 1917. No, Sir; it is not a very interesting subject. I never think of it myself. Not a woman had entered as yet. I was in for a ticklish business, and I knew it. Forging ahead, I supposed they would call it, since the woman was not yet dead. You might not hear of her again.

Now the parsing makes sense: he’s quote a character in the book talking about being married, before switching to musing about never being married. This isn’t even the only page with the same play; Peter de Wachter noted that on page 9 (which I quoted in a previous page) it included the quote directly in the middle. My guess is, as far as the author’s logical framing goes, the earlier reference was intended as a secondary hint to keep an eye out for the play’s occurrence later, and by knowing it shows up, it becomes possible to make sense of the actual narrative. In other words, just like a cryptic clue in a crossword, there seems to be double reference to make it more possible to understand what’s going on!

This double reference also shows up in the discovery Voltgloss made, regarding page 82:

Bartholomew pawed my ankles even, but I am not superstitious, to ladder danger, desiring sweet biscuits. They were so bad for him. He was the third dog I had had in London. I was afraid, I realised, that I did not notice him enough. It was the first dog I noticed, and at the very beginning. You might have thought it strange for me to say these things, but you never knew Henry.

I was assuming all the occurrences of Henry was of a person, but this clip makes it clear on second glance that at at least one of the “Henry”s is a dog. (Probably not all of them.) This suddenly makes the earlier scene with Henry’s casual treatment of corpses make sense:

They said that it made the heart grow fonder. What had I actually seen? I had seen Henry—surely I had heard him called so—bending innocently over an innocent corpse of his own making.

Speaking of secondary references, there’s another reference elsewhere to Thomas Hardy’s poem Ah, Are You Digging on my Grave? which is narrated by a dog:

O it is I, my mistress dear,
Your little dog, who still lives near,
And much I hope my movements here
Have not disturbed your rest?

Thomas Hardy is explicitly mentioned as an author elsewhere in the text, I’m assuming again because it would be otherwise difficult in the 1930s to realize the poem connects to the author. Page 12:

What, I wondered, would he have said about an abstracted will? He might answer to the same name as the man who sang: “Ah, are you digging on my grave?” But a softer fellow I had rarely seen. On velvet, yes, on velvet I would have trusted him ; but not on cinders, by no means on cinders. Yet the keen eyes bent like small topaz searchlights over the writing. I would get, I felt, what I wanted from this man.

This incidentally is also a name clue, as it is hinting … Thomas? … for whoever “he” is right here. I still need to finish managing all the “name clues” which I’ll get to next time. (I promised at least four posts, and the next post will be #4. I’m guessing now at least five?)

Posted May 27, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Gamebook, Interactive Fiction, Poetry, Puzzles

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