By the author of “Three Men in a Boat,” “Three Men on the Bummel,” “Diary of a Pilgrimage,” “Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow,” “Stage-Land,” etc. ~~~ First published 1894.
Five short pieces from the imaginative pen of Jerome K. Jerome, three of them serious and two light and amusing.
In Remembrance of John Ingerfield, and of Anne, His Wife: A marriage of convenience metamorphoses into a union of true love
The Woman of the Sæter: An author living on a lonely Norwegian mountainside finds himself haunted by a vengeful woman — or is he simply going mad?
Variety Patter: A reminiscence of teenaged dabblings in decadence, including cigars, scotch whiskey, and (gasp!) music hall entertainment
Silhouettes: Dark and sometimes violent events seen through the uncomprehending eyes of a young boy
The Lease of the “Cross Keys”: A gin-tippling reporter gets a well-intentioned Bishop embroiled in a misunderstanding with his superior
An excerpt from “Variety Patter”
“Yes, sir,” said the chairman, pointing a finger towards him, where he sat in the front row of the gallery; “you, sir, in the flannel shirt. I can see you. Will you allow this lady to give her entertainment?”
“No,” answered he of the coalheaving profession, in stentorian tones.
“Then, sir,” said the little chairman, working himself up into a state suggestive of Jove about to launch a thunderbolt—”then, sir, all I can say is that you are no gentleman.”
This was a little too much, or rather a good deal too little, for the Signora Ballatino. She had hitherto been standing in a meek attitude of pathetic appeal, wearing a fixed smile of ineffable sweetness but she evidently felt that she could go a bit farther than that herself, even if she was a lady. Calling the chairman “an old messer,” and telling him for Gawd’s sake to shut up if that was all he could do for his living, she came down to the front, and took the case into her own hands.
She did not waste time on the rest of the audience. She went direct for that coalheaver, and thereupon ensued a slanging match the memory of which sends a trill of admiration through me even to this day. It was a battle worthy of the gods. He was a heaver of coals, quick and ready beyond his kind. During many years sojourn East and South, in the course of many wanderings from Billingsgate to Limehouse Hole, from Petticoat Lane to Whitechapel Road; out of eel-pie shop and penny gaff; out of tavern and street, and court and doss-house, he had gathered together slang words and terms and phrases, and they came back to him now, and he stood up against her manfully.
But as well might the lamb stand up against the eagle, when the shadow of its wings falls across the green pastures, and the wind flies before its dark oncoming. At the end of two minutes he lay gasping, dazed, and speechless.
Then she began.
She announced her intention of “wiping down the bloomin’ ’all” with him, and making it respectable; and, metaphorically speaking, that is what she did. Her tongue hit him between the eyes, and knocked him down and trampled on him. It curled round and round him like a whip, and then it uncurled and wound the other way. It seized him by the scruff of his neck, and tossed him up into the air, and caught him as he descended, and flung him to the ground, and rolled him on it. It played around him like forked lightning, and blinded him. It danced and shrieked about him like a host of whirling fiends, and he tried to remember a prayer, and could not. It touched him lightly on the sole of his foot and the crown of his head, and his hair stood up straight, and his limbs grew stiff. The people sitting near him drew away, not feeling it safe to be near, and left him alone, surrounded by space, and language.
It was the most artistic piece of work of its kind that I have ever heard. Every phrase she flung at him seemed to have been woven on purpose to entangle him and to embrace in its choking folds his people and his gods, to strangle with its threads his every hope, ambition, and belief. Each term she put upon him clung to him like a garment, and fitted him without a crease. The last name that she called him one felt to be, until one heard the next, the one name that he ought to have been christened by.
For five and three-quarter minutes by the clock she spoke, and never for one instant did she pause or falter; and in the whole of that onslaught there was only one weak spot.
That was when she offered to make a better man than he was out of a Guy Fawkes and a lump of coal. You felt that one lump of coal would not have been sufficient.
Nine full-page illustrations. Decorative fonts for chapter-heads, drop-caps, and tail decorations. (Plain-cap version uses large caps rather than drop-caps.)
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