Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Terrible Tale

Truman Capote, Portraits and Observations. The Essays of Truman Capote. NY: Random House, 2007, pp. 277-8.


[In this essay about a yacht cruise Truman Capote and some friends took through the Greek Islands, there is a section titled "A Terrible Tale," which is the captain's account of how in his youth he had been on the crew of a yacht chartered by an English widow and her 17-year-old son. The boy, who had undertaken the cruise to see the islands he had learned about in his studies, asked to be set ashore on a small island north of Demos, where there was a well-preserved temple. The woman and the boy, who had a withered leg and walked with the help of canes, were left on the island for the night. At dawn, the captain recalled, he rowed back to the island and discovered that the boy had been "stripped to a skeleton" and his mother, wading in the water, left fearfully mutilated and half-mad. Only after spending months in an Athens hospital was she able to relate what had happened: under a full moon they prepared a picnic on the temple steps, when a ravenous horde of rats poured from the temple and attacked them. She dragged her son into the surf, but the rats swam after them and pulled him back onto the beach and devoured him. According to the captain, "This woman is still alive. She lives in Nice. I've seen her -- sitting in a chaise on the promenade. She wears a full veil. I'm told she never speaks to anyone."]