Short Story #38: Told for the Truth by Cyril Hume

Title:  Told for the Truth

Author:  Cyril Hume

Short Story #38 out of 365

Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)

Book cover:  Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories for Late at Night edited by Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Arthur
Date Read:  2/4/2014
Source:  Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories for Late at Night edited by Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Arthur.

Summary

The narrator meets a doctor from Philadelphia in Florence and the two become reasonable acquaintances.  However, the narrator informs the reader that the man is a liar.  He then relates the story that the man told him.  

The doctor discusses a childhood friend  by the name of Hunter who obsessed over animals.  He continued to study them for years from childhood onward and would collect a wide range of them, eventually including a lemur named Cheeki.  The two friends go off to college and eventually, the doctor finds out that Hunter is engaged.  He goes to reunite with Hunter and meet his wife.  Before meeting her, there are already rumors about her family (from Georgia) and the curious things that occur on her estate.  When he does meet her, he is strangely hypnotized by her presence both intrigued and confused by the nature of her.  Slowly, he becomes obsessed with her and continues to visit the two well after they are married.  His obsession is not witnessed by Hunter who is too possessed by his passion, animals.  However, the wife begins to drift away and this raises concern for Hunter who asks the doctor to keep an eye on her.  Upon visiting the couple one day, he comes to the house but no one responds to his ringing.  He enters the house and goes upstairs to find Hunter has drank acid.  He continues to look for the wife and finds her in the attic, hanging.  From this, he realizes that the wife killed Hunter for lack of attention and care and followed up with killing herself.  So obsessed with the wife is he, that the doctor cuts her down and bashes in her skull with a club and makes it look like Hunter killed her and then took his own life.  Just as it becomes clear that this is what he did, he abruptly leaves.  It's at this point the narrator declares him a liar.


Reflection

This was a dark story that had hints of Poe as well as Lovecraft--though the Lovecraft element never fully flourishes as it could have.  The framing device of the story was curious in that the narrator's insistence on the doctor's lying but never quite identifying what the narrator thought was the actual lies being offered up.  The doctor's obsession and how it leads to rather hideous acts (defiling a corpse) is a fascinating contrast to where we think the story is going in the beginning since the description of Hunter makes one think that Hunter will be the strange one.  In that way, the story keeps us guessing as to who is the crazy one with the wife and the doctor being the two winners.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.




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