This short story materializes initially through an introduction describing an occurrence in a classic English pub of a young fellow who decided to drop his cigarette-end into a waste-paper basket, despite the affluence of available ashtrays around. However, it soon becomes apparent that this happening serves only as a prologue and a link to the real story that is to follow. One of the clients, Mr. Mulliner takes the opportunity to tell the other individuals present, some only known to the reader by their drinks, about an account of his nephew: the poet Mordred Mulliner. Mordred had been on a regular visit to his dentist, as he meticulously does every six months, when a lady called Annabelle Sprocket-Sprocket entered while he was reading in the waiting-room. She was exceptionally beautiful and as such Mordred was enthralled by her mere presence. He was in love. He offered to give up his place to her, so that she may be able to continue her short visit in London of window-shopping. She had informed him that she stayed in the country and she only had a couple of hours each six months to do so. In his disappointment he lit a cigarette and as she returned to the waiting-room, he mistakenly dropped his cigarette-end into the waste-paper basket. Annabelle cried in alarm and he picked the end up again, explaining that in his inattentiveness he previously had actually set two flats on fire through this idiotic act. Mordred was disappointed when he realised he would in all probability never see Annabelle again, however he could not help being overjoyed when he received a letter from Annabelle's mother inviting him over for the weekend on the account of his kindness to her daughter at the dentist. To Mordred and the reader, the only reasonable explanation is that Annabelle had asked for his address on her way out from the dentist. A muse, derived from the Greek mythology ("Mousa") is a thing or a person that lends inspiration to a person. A muse will be the guide to a genius in his attempt to create something, and is usually referred to in the feminine. In Mordred's case, his muse "gave quick service" and "delivered the goods," which is a unique and totally unconventional way of describing how a muse will bring inspiration. This time the muse is seen in the light of a servant, whereas traditionally a muse would be a Greek god and only respect, prayers or even offerings could bestow inspiration in the artist. It is a particular example of the dry English humour that is present throughout the story and it is, quite frankly, very funny to me.
This short story is laden with humour, mostly based on sarcasm. This is evident again when Mordred is writing the poem for Annabelle. He believes this is the only way of competing with the rest of the impressive and esteemed men trying to win her heart over, and as he is a poet, it should not prove to be too a difficult task. Yet the poems that he composes are nothing short of nursery rhymes. They're child-like and unsophisticated. Mordred is however, a "severe critic of his own work." Even though the first attempts of writing were in no way anything exceptional, he continued to rewrite and change the poem. The final product appears to be in a different league compared to his first, and even then he was contemplating changing the last line, only to be interrupted by the blazing curtains.
The reader is informed that Mordred has set the curtains on fire in a unique way. There is a connection between the lines in his poem, in that his attention was distracted by "something that shone like summer skies or stars above," which is a direct extract from his final poem. The reader is left with an image of Mordred looking up from enlightenment and deep inspiration to find, in shock, that his room's curtains are alight. The shock was probably not to the greatest extent, as we have learned early on in the story that he had set two of his flats alight in the past already. It does appear that he was quite...
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