A Fair Penitent and Other Stories
By Wilkie Collins
Read How You Want (2008)
EasyRead Large Print, in 16 Point Font
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - February 15, 2010
Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) lived during the time of Charles Dickens and wrote short stories for his magazines. He is best known for his novel The Moonstone, which many scholars consider the first detective story, although others cite Edgar Allan Poe as the innovator of these tales. This volume contains three of Collins' short stories. All of them are interesting unusual situations with unusual endings.
The first, A Fair Penitent, is about an actress famed for her beauty and luxurious living. Many men seek her attention, but she ignores them. Then she falls in love with a man who spurns her. She reacts in a strong manner totally contrary to her nature and against her best interest. She decides to seclude herself in a nunnery. She sweeps floors and performs other drudgeries. She beats herself with a whip. Finally, she decides to become a nun. Did her past have any impact upon her new life of piety and, if so, how?
The second, The Traveler's Story of a Terribly Strange Bed, is a tale of a man who gambles at a casino that he never visited previously, wins hugely, breaks the bank, and drinks himself into drunkenness to celebrate his enormous success. A strange man offers to help him, suggests that he remain in a bed at the casino for the night to assure that he will not be robbed. The stranger takes him to the casino room and orders a drink to help sober him. The man takes a huge swallow and feels more drunk than before. He falls asleep in an unusual bed. What happens to him that night? Does he save his money? Who is the stranger who offers to help him?
The third is Mr. Lismore and the Widow. Lismore invested all of his money on the cargo of one of his ships that seems lost at sea. He is visited by a rich old lady who tells him that she is determined to show him her gratitude for saving her life about five years previously. She had been trying to find him and this is the first time that she sees him. She offers to save him from bankruptcy, but explains that her now deceased first husband left her a fortune on the condition that she marries. She asks Lismore if he is willing to save himself by marrying her even though she is a very old woman. What is going on here? Will Lismore accept? What are the strange conditions for the marriage?
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of fifteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Rabbi Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.gefenpublishing.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes daily samples of the Targum books on www.ouradio.org.