Jerome K. Jerome: The Dancing Partner

May 29, 2009

I must have read this long ago, but, unlike other stories, I realised the fact only after I was a little while through it.

A bunch of young girls talk about the scarcity of dancing partners and the affectedness and the utter stupidity of some of them that they have encountered.

They wish that they had had an ideal dancing partner who won’t complain.

This is overheard by the father of one of the girls. A maker of mechanical toys, he sets out to create Lt. Fritz, answering to the the girls’ desideratum.

And with what results – or consequences?

Find the story here:

Charlie Fish: Death by Scrabble

May 28, 2009

A short story that I read today for the first time and one that is available online.

A husband and wife play a Scrabble game at home.

The husband, who hates his wife, goes through a welter of emotions as he places tiles on the board.

As the game proceeds, it takes a weird turn.

Is there a mysterious power behind the game?

Read it and write your thoughts.



Charles-Louis Philippe: The Match

May 27, 2009

I reread this today is in a book of  short stories collected under the title Adventure. 

Hardly four pages in length, it’s about a traveller. Having arrived in Zurich, he checks into a hotel  and goes to bed in his room.

He lights a cigarette and throws the match on the floor. Seized with an anxiety that it may not have burnt out and may cause a fire, he bends down to look at it when –

When a hand hidden under the bed emerges, and puts out the match!

There is a man under the bed!

From then on it’s a breath-taking narration.

When I read this story decades ago I had not realised this was a French author. Today I learnt it from Google. The book didn’t mention it and didn’t give the translator’s name.


At first our brain appreciates only what our eyes have indicated to it.

Fitz-James O’Brien: What was it?

May 26, 2009

I read this story for the first time this morning.

I am yet to google the author’s name.

This a ghost story but with a difference. Quite readable.

The narrator comes to know of a house that is said to be haunted. The landlady of the boarding house, of which he is a member, decides to move to this very place so that she can be nearer the centre of the town. The intrepid among the lodgers agree to go with her. There, in the eerie house,  the narrator one night encounters – what was it?



“I do not, even at this hour, realize the situation in which I found myself. I cannot recall the astounding incident thoroughly. Imagination in vain tries to compass the awful paradox.”

PS: When reading it online, please click on the numbers at the bottom of any page to move from page to page – don’t click on the big arrows at either side of the page.

Mark Twain: The Stolen White Elephant

May 25, 2009

Today let’s have a humorous story. It’s an old one and so it is available online.

An elephant, while being transported from India to Britain, arrives in New Jersey for a stopover. But before the journey could be resumed, it is stolen. The owner requests the police to trace it out. A massive hunt follows and a horde of detectives are despatched in different directions to look for the lost pachyderm. The reports that they send to the Hq. are hilarious.

Was the elephant found? If so, where? And in what condition?

And why do you think the author chose a white elephant? 

As we read this story, we must remember that it is set in a previous era quite different from the one in which we live.

At times you might find it preposterous, but have fun!



“I am not given to boasting, it is not my habit; but – we shall find the elephant.”


Nicolas Bentley: The Case of the Sharp-eyed Jeweller

May 23, 2009

A shop assistant in a jewellery shop shows precious antique rings to a prospective customer, an American, when one of the jewels goes missing. The customer’s trouser turn-ups are checked and he ie even taken to an inner room for a more thorough search. But it is not found. Another customer – this time a woman – walks in and after some casual inquiry she turns to depart when the salseman asks her to stop. The missing property is found on her person.

In this detective story, the detective is not “an extraordinary person, extraordinarily favoured by fortune” but “just an ordinary man who uses his eyes and his common sense to the full”.

There are clues very cleverly laid in the course of the stroy so you too can be a detective if you so wish. So when the shop assistant explains to his grateful employer how he detected the crime, it does not totally surprise us. But did we anticipate him? Well, it depends on how carefully we followed the leads.

Nicolas Bentley is the brother of E. C. Bentley, creator of the clerihew and also the author of a single famous detective story “Trent’s Last Case.”  That’s a good one but long.

Erskine Caldwell: Molly Cottontail

May 21, 2009

This  beautiful story by an American author puts you in a happy mood.

I read it for the first time today in a voluminous book titled The Children’s Treasury of Literature, ed. by Bryna and Louis Untermeyer (Paul Hamlyn, London) after rummaging it from my library.

To nine-year-old Johnny’s home there comes a visitor, Aunt Nellie. He overhears her telling his mom whether he likes to hunt. When told that he did not, she declares: “I am disappointed in having a nephew who is not a real Southern gentleman.”

Johnny, touched to the quick,  goes into a room and taking his father’s shotgun and some shells, strolls out. Soon he comes across a grey-furred rabbit sitting on the bank of a creek. He takes aim and shoots…

Despite Aunt Nellie and her notions of Southern gentlemen,   there are fresh ways of looking at things.

William Saroyan: The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse

May 21, 2009

The narrator is a nine-year-old boy by name Aram. One day he is awakened by his cousin Mourad, who is only a little older than himself. When Aram looks out the window he sees his cousin sitting on a white horse.

He quitely slips out of home and the boys have a ride on the horse.

Where did Mourad get the animal? Did he steal it? How long did he keep it? How did he return the horse to its rightful owner? What was the latter’s reaction to the ‘lost and found’ incident?

An evocative story that reflects the gentle,  honest and trusting spirit of the Armenian community displaced in California from their homeland. The boys’ responsiveness to animals is touching.

I reread the story that is included in Great Tales of the Far West (Pyramid Books).

Jeffrey Archer: Something for Nothing

May 20, 2009

A modern story by a well-known author that may be classified under “Suspense” or “Thriller”. This week I read his latest book “Paths of Glory” – okay, readable, but true story or biography is not his métier and he has said that he won’t do it again.

Today’s selection is in “To Cut a Long Story Short”   (HarperCollinsPublishers,  2000).

I have ticked it in the Contents page  – that means I read it when I bought the book some nine years ago. But things tend to fade in memory. Halfway through the story, I thought I guessed how it would go, but these thriller writers can always give a twist to a twist!

While talking to his mother on the telephone, a man gets “crossed lines” and happens to overhear a rendezvous for passing of some ransom money. He makes a dash for the venue and manages to get hold of it. He also gets away! But getting ‘something for nothing’ is fraught with danger.

The story is well-written – the incidents are plausible because the clever author prepares the reader for any twist that he might give. (And the  kind of things he describes is not strange at all because the typical day’s paper has stories of similar happenings right here in Madras.)

But the twists? If only we have a chance to encounter such dramatic turns in our life, which usually runs on such predictable lines: well-oiled even keel.

The  type size  is so small in the book that I don’t think I will return to any other story in it.

Guy de Maupassant: Simon’s Father

May 19, 2009

Simon is a young boy born to a woman who had succumbed to a momentary temptation. The poor woman is abandoned by the man who seduced her.

The boy is constantly ragged by schoolmates for his not having a father.

He becomes dejected and is on the verge of drowning himself in the river (if you think how a young boy can get such suicidal tendencies, the author prepares us for it quite adequately) when good fortune comes.

This story, written in the 19th century, has relevance even today with so many men, after fathering a child, does not take up the responsibility of parenting. And the ragging of Simon by his schoolmates seems to be less vehement than certain incidents that happened recently in our country.

A companion story is “Hauto and Son” (which I first read years ago in a magazine put out by the French embassy in New Delhi and have since reread it twice) but I don’t think I will write about it here. It is available online and you may track it down.

Here is the link to today’s selection:

(Will do, though the translation that I read in the book in my library, The Moral Compass: Stories for a Life’s Journey ed. by William J. Bennett (Simon & Schuster, 1995) is better.


“I am about to drown myself because I have no father.”