“The Hand” was written in the 1880s by the French author Guy de Maupassant, who is considered by many to be the greatest French short story writer.
The story begins with a crowd of people gathered around the magistrate, Monsieur Bermutier, who is expressing his opinion about an inexplicable crime that has been the talk of Paris for the last month. There are several women in the group and one of the ladies voices her own opinion on the matter, “It’s terrifying! It seems like something supernatural. We shall never get to the bottom of it.”
On hearing this, Monsieur Bermutier agrees that they shall probably never get to the bottom of the matter, but he does not believe that there is anything supernatural about the case and states that it is just a very well thought out crime. He then tells the group about a case he was once involved in that really did seem to have something supernatural about it.
At the time Bermutier was living in a little town in Corsica. An Englishman was leasing a little villa there and was so much of a recluse that he had become an item of local interest. Was he a political exile? Or a criminal on the run perhaps? Some interesting stories were exchanged amongst the locals, but very little was known about the mysterious Sir John Rowell.
It is hard work to attain an invitation into the home of a recluse, but Bermutier managed to do so in the end, only to find an even bigger mystery when he noticed a severed human hand displayed on one of Sir John’s walls. The withered hand was unusually large and Sir John had taken the seemingly pointless precaution of securing it to the wall by a chain strong enough to hold an elephant.
A year later Bermutier was called in to investigate Sir John’s murder and when the doctor remarked, “You’d think he’d been strangled by a skeleton!” Bermutier noticed that the hand was missing, its chain broken.
“The Hand” is a spooky little tale, but it is perhaps a bit basic when compared to modern tales of terror and the story holds few surprises. I must admit though, that I really enjoyed the part of the story where Bermutier recalls nightmares about the hand running around the walls of his room, like a scorpion or a spider.
The Classic Tales Audiobook recording of the story has a runtime of eighteen and a half minutes, but this includes B.J. Harrison’s introduction to the story, where he explains a little about the life and works of Guy de Maupassant, describing him as a man that lived, wrote and died with great passion.