Ghost Story review: "The Man of Science" by Jerome K. Jerome
In opening, the narrator tells of meeting a man in the Strand he knew well though he’d not seen for years. They walked together to Charing Cross, shook hands and parted. The next morning, he happened to tell a mutual friend of meeting the man. The mutual friend assured him that the man he met had been dead for some six months.
Naturally, everyone assumed that he’d simply confused him with someone else.
He’s telling this story to a group of friends. One of them, Jephson, asks whether he believes in “spiritualism to the fullest extent” that is, whether ghosts of the departed can choose to remain on earth and willfully chose to act here.
There are some comments from the other friends present, Brown, who appears to be a skeptic and MacShaughnassy, who appears to be a cynic. The question raised is whether a spirit with unfinished business of major sort would or could remain on earth.
Jephson then launches into his story, all known facts of which, he assures his audience, can be read in the Paris police record of some 65 years before. One man wronged another and fled, only to be pursued by the man he wronged. The wronged man caught up with him in a church. As he moved in for the kill, with the other man on his knees in prayer, he suddenly fell dead.
The man who had committed the original wrong fled again. As the years passed, he became a successful scholar and scientist. The skeleton he kept in his lab for study eventually disintegrated and had to be replaced. With the replacement came a whole lot more—
This is a nice, atmospheric ghost story in many respects, though the ending is not a surprise. The four friends who appeared at the beginning reappear briefly at the end to furnish a lighter touch to what had been a heavy, dark narrative. This will not be to everyone’s taste of course, but it comes with some nice touches. For example, a candle near the new skeleton gets blown out and the successful man of science is left in the dark. Spooky, but where are the lungs that drew that breath?
Author Jerome K. Jerome is best remembered for his book, originally published as a serial, Three Men in a Boat , though he also published short stories, edited magazines, and was, for a short time, an actor.
Title: “The Man of Science” alternate title “A Ghost Story” First published in The Idler , September 1892 as part of the serial Novel Notes
Author: Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927)
Yesterday's Review: "The Eye of Allah" by Charles W. Diffin
Last Ghost story: The Superstitious Man by Thomas Hardy
© 2015 Denise Longrie
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