Casting the Runes by M. R. James

Casting the Runes by M. R. James

The storyline of the book takes place in the early twentieth century. The plot begins with a correspondence between two people. These are Mr. Karswell and Secretary Gayton. Mr. Karswell sends an article to the club. Mr. Karswell considers himself an alchemist. He is very rich – that’s all people know about him. Most believe that this person either tells a lie, or believes in something that does not exist. And now Mr. Karswell wants to meet with the club secretary and discuss all questions personally. One day, the secretary dines with his wife and friends. One of the friends says that he had recently seen Mr. Karswell. He lives in the province and communicates very little with his neighbors. People think he is a strange man. No one knows what this man does in his free time.

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Casting the Runes by M. R. James

15th April 1902 Dear Mr Karswell

I am returning your paper on ‘The Truth of Alchemy’, which you have kindly offered to read at our next club meeting. Unfortunately, we do not feel able to accept your offer.

W. Gayton, Secretary.

18th April 1902 Dear Mr Karswell

I am afraid that I am not able to arrange a meeting with you to discuss your offer to read a paper on alchemy. However, the club considered your offer most carefully, and we did not refuse it until we had asked for the opinion of an expert in these matters.

W. Gayton, Secretary

Casting the Runes by M. R. James

20th April 1902

The Secretary writes to inform Mr Karswell that it is impossible for him to give the name of any person or persons who were asked for an opinion on Mr Karswell’s paper on alchemy. The Secretary also wishes to say that he cannot reply to any further letters on this matter.

‘And who is Mr Karswell?’ asked the Secretary’s wife. She had called at his office and had just picked up and read the last of these letters.

‘Well, my dear,’ replied her husband, ‘just at present Mr Karswell is a very angry man. All I know about him is that he’s rich, lives at Lufford Abbey in Warwickshire, and considers himself to be an alchemist. And I don’t want to meet him for the next week or two. Now, shall we go?’

‘What have you been doing to make him angry?’ asked the Secretary’s wife.

‘The usual thing, my dear. He sent us a paper, which he wanted to read at our next meeting. We showed it to Edward Dunning – almost the only man in England who knows about these things – and he said it was no good, so we refused it. Now Karswell wants to see me about it and to find out whose opinion we asked for. Well, you’ve seen my reply to that. Of course, you mustn’t say anything about it to anyone.

‘You know very well that I would never do a thing like that. Indeed, I hope he doesn’t discover that it was poor Mr Dunning.’

‘Why do you say “poor” Mr Dunning?’ said the Secretary. ‘He’s a very happy man and quite rich, I believe. He has a comfortable home and plenty of time to spend on his hobbies.’…

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