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 1897)
Jerome K. Jerome’s characterizations of human foibles and oddities of character are unparalleled. This collection of sketches exemplifies Jerome’s tradition of capturing the eccentricities of his fellow humans with his typical irresistible charm and humor. (Barnes & Noble Overview)
These twenty short pieces cover a nicely assorted range of subjects. There are some serious stories about couples in love (and otherwise), character studies that burlesque personal traits and habits to the point of ridiculousness, a tale of a cat in a moral decline, a very brief playlet, and even a few touches of supernatural fantasy. Many of these were first published in various magazines; the illustrations are from those original publications.
A rather lengthy excerpt from “The Absent-Minded Man”
... I stumbled over a crouching figure, seeking to shelter itself a little from the storm under the lee of the Spa wall.
... “But what in thunder!” I said, “are you doing here? Why, you’re drenched to the skin.”
“Yes,” he answered. “I never thought it would rain. It was a lovely morning.”
I began to fear he had overworked himself into a brain fever.
“Why don’t you go home?” I asked.
“I can’t,” he replied. “I don’t know where I live. I’ve forgotten the address. For heaven’s sake,” he said, “take me somewhere, and give me something to eat. I’m literally starving.”
“Haven’t you any money?” I asked him, as we turned towards the hotel.
“Not a sou,” he answered. “We got in here from York, the wife and I, about eleven. We left our things at the station, and started to hunt for apartments. As soon as we were fixed, I changed my clothes and came out for a walk, telling Maud I should be back at one to lunch. Like a fool, I never took the address, and never noticed the way I was going.
“It’s an awful business,” he continued. “I don’t see how I’m ever going to find her. I hoped she might stroll down to the Spa in the evening, and I’ve been hanging about the gates ever since six. I hadn’t the threepence to go in.”
“But have you no notion of the sort of street or the kind of house it was?” I enquired.
“Not a ghost,” he replied. “I left it all to Maud, and didn’t trouble.”
“Have you tried any of the lodging-houses?” I asked.
“Tried!” he exclaimed bitterly. “I’ve been knocking at doors, and asking if Mrs. McQuae lives there steadily all the afternoon, and they slam the door in my face, mostly without answering. I told a policeman—I thought perhaps he might suggest something—but the idiot only burst out laughing, and that made me so mad that I gave him a black eye, and had to cut. I expect they’re on the lookout for me now.”
“I went into a restaurant,” he continued gloomily, “and tried to get them to trust me for a steak. But the proprietress said she’d heard that tale before, and ordered me out before all the other customers. I think I’d have drowned myself if you hadn’t turned up.”
After a change of clothes and some supper, he discussed the case more calmly, but it was really a serious affair. They had shut up their flat, and his wife’s relatives were travelling abroad. There was no one to whom he could send a letter to be forwarded; there was no one with whom she would be likely to communicate. Their chance of meeting again in this world appeared remote.
Nor did it seem to me—fond as he was of his wife, and anxious as he undoubtedly was to recover her—that he looked forward to the actual meeting, should it ever arrive, with any too pleasurable anticipation.
“She will think it strange,” he murmured reflectively, sitting on the edge of the bed, and thoughtfully pulling off his socks. “She is sure to think it strange.”
The following day, which was Wednesday, we went to a solicitor, and laid the case before him, and he instituted inquiries among all the lodging-house keepers in Scarborough, with the result that on Thursday afternoon McQuae was restored (after the manner of an Adelphi hero in the last act) to his home and wife.
I asked him next time I met him what she had said.
“Oh, much what I expected,” he replied.
But he never told me what he had expected.
Here is another Jerome book for your enjoyment. 39 illustrations, decorative font for chapter headings and drop-caps (the "plain-cap" version uses large caps rather than drop-caps).
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