BOOK REVIEW H. G. WELLS A PERFECT GENTLEMAN ON WHEELS In THE MAN WITH A NOSE & OTHER UNCOLLECTED SHORT STORIES. 1984 The Athlone Press.
Mr Crampton, a young man has a strong passionate desire to be married to a lady called Madge. He decides to show off to her by taking a long bicycle ride from London to Brighton (where she lives and where his mother has travelled to meet her by train).
He is clearly over dressed for his cycling venture and many people laugh and make fun of him as he passes. He struggles on steep hills, which dominate his route, but makes reasonable progress.
Eventually he meets a fellow cyclist, a man he refers to simply as The Bounder, who has a faster bicycle, and who seems to be very intrusive and impertinent towards him. He declines the suggestion of a race, and lets The Bounder cycle on ahead, but passes his bike later where it propped up at the side of an inn the Bounder is visiting.
Moving on, the hero sees a young lady in some distress. Her own bicycle has had a puncture and she has fallen off. The man offers to help, and though not knowing what he is doing, he takes the wheel off, and takes the bike apart in doing so. A whole bunch of people offer advice and assistance, as the girl becomes aware that he is actually quite incompetent and merely trying to flirt with her. Worse, the Bounder arrives and proves able to actually fix the bike.
Humiliated, Crampton shouts at the girl, and The Bounder threatens to punch him for being mean to the lady. The cyclist flees, and seeing that he will be late, he puts his bike on the train, arriving in Brighton pretending to have cycled all the way.
He is in for a final shock when the girl he loves introduces her best friend the lady who had the puncture. Soon afterwards, we are told, the engagement is cancelled and the man is still struggling to find true love.
Its a lovely situation comedy about a pompous fool with high airs and graces and contempt for the lower classes meeting his comeuppance.
© Copyright. Arthur Chappell
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