The Grim Smile of the Five Towns

Arnold Bennett
The Grim Smile of the Five

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Title: The Grim Smile of the Five Towns
Author: Arnold Bennett
Release Date: December, 2003 [Etext #4734] [Yes, we are more than
one year ahead of schedule] [This file was first posted on March 10,

Edition: 10
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

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To my old and constant friend JOSEPH DAWSON a student
profoundly versed in the human nature of the Five Towns

The Lion's Share Baby's Bath The Silent Brothers The Nineteenth Hat
Vera's First Christmas Adventure The Murder of the Mandarin Vera's
Second Christmas Adventure The Burglary News of the Engagement
Beginning the New Year From One Generation to Another The Death
of Simon Fuge In a New Bottle

In the Five Towns the following history is related by those who know it
as something side-splittingly funny--as one of the best jokes that ever
occurred in a district devoted to jokes. And I, too, have hitherto
regarded it as such. But upon my soul, now that I come to write it down,
it strikes me as being, after all, a pretty grim tragedy. However, you
shall judge, and laugh or cry as you please.
It began in the little house of Mrs Carpole, up at Bleakridge, on the hill
between Bursley and Hanbridge. Mrs Carpole was the second Mrs

Carpole, and her husband was dead. She had a stepson, Horace, and a
son of her own, Sidney. Horace is the hero, or the villain, of the history.
On the day when the unfortunate affair began he was nineteen years old,
and a model youth. Not only was he getting on in business, not only did
he give half his evenings to the study of the chemistry of pottery and
the other half to various secretaryships in connection with the
Wesleyan Methodist Chapel and Sunday-school, not only did he save
money, not only was he a comfort to his stepmother and a sort of uncle
to Sidney, not only was he an early riser, a total abstainer, a
non-smoker, and a good listener; but, in addition to the practice of these
manifold and rare virtues, he found time, even at that tender age, to pay
his tailor's bill promptly and to fold his trousers in the same crease
every night--so that he always looked neat and dignified. Strange to say,
he made no friends. Perhaps he was just a thought too perfect for a
district like the Five Towns; a sin or so might have endeared him to the
entire neighbourhood. Perhaps his loneliness was due to his imperfect
sense of humour, or perhaps to the dull, unsmiling heaviness of his
somewhat flat features.
Sidney was quite a different story. Sidney, to use his mother's phrase,
was a little jockey. His years were then eight. Fair- haired and
blue-eyed, as most little jockeys are, he had a smile and a scowl that
were equally effective in tyrannizing over both his mother and Horace,
and he was beloved by everybody. Women turned to look at him in the
street. Unhappily, his health was not good. He was afflicted by a slight
deafness, which, however, the doctor said he would grow out of; the
doctor predicted for him a lusty manhood. In the meantime, he caught
every disease that happened to be about, and nearly died of each one.
His latest acquisition had been scarlet fever. Now one afternoon, after
he had 'peeled' and his room had been disinfected, and he was
beginning to walk again, Horace came home and decided that Sidney
should be brought downstairs for tea
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