For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

“Nights at the Alexandra”

William Trevor


I am a fifty-eight-year-old provincial. I have no children, I have never married.

“Harry, I have the happiest marriage in the world! Please, when you think of me, remember that.”

That is what I hear most often and with the greatest pleasure: Frau Messinger's voice as precisely recalled as memory allows, each quizzical intonation reflected in a glance or gesture. I must have replied something, Heaven knows what: it never mattered because she rarely listened. The war had upset the Messingers' lives, she being an Englishwoman and he German. It brought them to Ireland and to Cloverhill — a sanctuary they most certainly would not otherwise have known. She explained to me that she would not have found life comfortable in Hitler's Germany; and her own country could hardly be a haven for her husband. They had thought of Switzerland, but Herr Messinger believed that Switzerland would be invaded; and the United States did not tempt them. No one but I, at that time an unprepossessing youth of fifteen, ever used their German titles: in the town where I'd been born they were Mr and Mrs Messinger, yet it seemed to me — affectation, I daresay — that in this way we should honour the strangers that they were.

We read it in Nights at the Alexandra.