Monday, May 29, 2017

"It's a Pity That Freak and Felony Both Begin with F"

"A Criminal Freak."
By Edgar Jepson (1863-1938).
First appearance: Macmillan's Magazine, December 1902.
Short story (9 pages).
Online at (HERE) and at Hathi Trust (HERE).
(Note: At the text is faded; use the "Zoom In" function.)
"Collecting bound this little society in a close bond . . ."
Collectors tend to be a fanatical—but normally harmless—lot as long as they can curb their enthusiasm:

  "Among men well on in years and comfortably retired there is hardly a stronger bond than collecting, and the society of Little Bystowe is a coterie of collectors."

Indeed, at Little Bystowe you can find Lord Howsden's collection of Hellenic coins, Sir Walter Keightley's drawings, Professor Helmsley's Renaissance medals, Major-General Bullock's Indian goldwork (rumored to be stolen), and Lord Justice Crewe's stamp collection that's the envy of the philatelic world (Lord Crewe, coincidentally, being our nameless narrator's uncle), but remarkably none of them owns a safe to protect their prized objects.

"Last autumn," nameless tells us, "another member was added to the circle. The long-empty Gables was let to Morton Paraday the traveller, one of the most striking victim's of Fortune's caprice," the possessor of several "small but good" collections of his own, who "after coming unscathed through a thousand perils [lost] both arms in an accident on a trumpery Brazilian railway." Of far more interest to our youthful narrator than armless Morton Paraday, however, is his niece Susannah: "I knew at the end of my first evening spent in her society that she was the one woman in the world for me . . ." It probably won't surprise you to learn that Paraday opposes any such union.

And so the stage is set for this comedy of errors to play out, with burglary on a blustery evening, an unsuccessful attempt at emotional blackmail, and very successful attempts at impersonation and theft. Throughout all of this hurly-burly only Susannah will show much in the way of detecting skills, enough to prompt our smitten narrator to congratulate her: "My dear girl, henceforth your name shall be Sherlock!"

An aside: In the story we read: "Tired of wandering and fighting, he had laid aside his Lee Metford for good and all . . ."; in case you were wondering, this should clear that up:
British colonial soldier with .303 Lee Metford rifle
- Edgar Jepson, who translated Maurice Leblanc's Arsène Lupin stories, was quite a well-known and versatile writer in his day, and there are plenty of data about him on the World Wide Wobbly: Wikipedia (HERE), the GAD Wiki (HERE), the ISFDb (HERE), and the SFE (HERE); one of his novels, The Loudwater Mystery (1920; online HERE, dismal review HERE) was filmed in 1921 (HERE). The Online Books page has more Jepson works listed (HERE).
- We encountered skulduggery among fanatical collectors not so long ago (HERE).

No comments:

Post a Comment