This book created by an English writer and journalist was published in 1905. There are four short stories about people from five towns. The stories are filled with irony, satire and easiness. The cycle opens with the ‘News of the Engagement’. This story is about one son who tries to tell his mother about his engagement. He does not know how to do it better as she is a widow and he is her only child. In the story, ‘The Burglary’ the judge arranges a burglary in his own house to get rid of a strange portrait of himself. ‘Beginning the New Year’ is about a man who returned home after 23 years. ‘The Silent Brothers’ is about two brothers who have not spoken to each other for ten years. They make a marriage proposal to the same girl in order to get money by will.
My mother never came to meet me at Bursley station when I arrived in the Five Towns from London, She always had other things to do; she was getting ready for me. So I always walked alone up Trafalgar Road, between the factories and past the football field. And so tonight, I had time to think. I had some very important news for my mother, and I didn’t know how to tell her. I wrote to my mother every week, to tell her what I was doing. She knew the names of all my friends. I often wrote about Agues and her family. But it’s difficult to write in a letter: ‘I think Agnes likes me,’ ‘I’m in love with her,’ ‘I’m sure she likes me,’ ‘I think she loves me,’ ‘I’m going to ask her to marry me.’ You can’t do that. Well, I couldn’t do it. And on the 20th December I asked Agnes to marry me, and Agnes said yes. But my mother didn’t know anything about it. And now, on the 22nd December, I was coming to spend Christmas with my mother.
My mother was a widow. I was her only son – and now I was engaged and she didn’t know. I was afraid she was going to be a little unhappy, and I was ready for a difficult evening.
I walked up to the front door, but before I put my hand up to ring, the door opened and there was my mother. She put her arms around me.
‘Well, Philip! How are you?’
And I said, ‘Oh! I’m all right, mother. How are you?’
She smiled at me. She looked excited and younger than her forty-five years. There was something strange in her smile. I thought: ‘She knows I’m going to get married. How does she know?’
But I said nothing. You have to be careful with mothers.
‘I’ll tell her at supper,’ I decided.
I went upstairs to my bedroom. When I came down, my mother was busy in the kitchen. I went into the dining-room, and here I had a surprise. There were three chairs around the table, and three plates and three glasses.
So Agnes was coming! I didn’t know how my mother knew, but she did know. She and my wonderful Agnes were planning a surprise for me. Agnes was coining to Bursley for Christmas!
There was a ring at the door. ‘It’s Agnes!’ I thought, and running to the door, I opened it.
It was Mr Nixon….