Tuesday Terror! The Dancing Partner by Jerome K Jerome

The last waltz…


Best known for being the author of the funniest book ever written, Three Men in a Boat, you’d assume that any horror story Jerome K Jerome produced would be beautifully light and humorous, wouldn’t you? Well, you’d be right…and you’d also be wrong…

Take your partners please, as the band strikes up for this week’s…



The Dancing Partner by Jerome K Jerome


Jerome K Jerome
Jerome K Jerome


This story is taken from Jerome’s book, Novel Notes.

In a small town in the Black Forest, there lived a man called Nicholaus Geibel – an inventor of mechanical toys. In his shop, he had cats that washed their faces, dolls that spoke, rabbits that smoothed their whiskers. But as well as these small toys, he loved to make strange things that would never sell – he made them just for the sheer pleasure of it and many of them showed his rather wicked sense of humour…

…a skeleton that, supported by an upright iron bar, would dance a hornpipe; a life-size lady doll that could play the fiddle; and a gentleman with a hollow inside who could smoke a pipe and drink more lager beer than any three average German students out together, which is saying much.

One day, Geibel heard his daughter, Olga, and her friends bemoaning the quantity and quality of dancing partners at a recent ball, and describing the partner they wished they could find…

“Oh, I never mind how they talk,” said a fourth. “If a man dances well he may be a fool for all I care.”
“He generally is,” slipped in a thin girl, rather spitefully.
“I go to a ball to dance,” continued the previous speaker, not noticing the interruption. “All I ask of a partner is that he shall hold me firmly, take me round steadily, and not get tired before I do.”

Oh, really - whose picture were you expecting?
Oh, really! Whose picture were you expecting?

And so Geibel decided that he would surprise the town at the next ball. He spent some weeks tinkering in his workshop, every now and again chuckling to himself at what a sensation his new invention would be. And sure enough, when the guests were all gathered at the start of the next ball, Geibel and his new ‘friend’ entered to much applause and laughter…

Geibel placed his hand encouragingly on Fritz’s shoulder, and the lieutenant bowed low, accompanying the action with a harsh clicking noise in his throat, unpleasantly suggestive of a death rattle.

After some hesitation, Olga’s friend, Annette, agreed to be Fritz’s first partner, and at first everything went perfectly…

Keeping perfect time and step, and holding its little partner tightly clasped in an unyielding embrace, it revolved steadily, pouring forth at the same time a constant flow of squeaky conversation, broken by brief intervals of grinding silence.

(D’you know, I’m sure I’ve danced with him myself!)

Since everything was going so splendidly, Geibel went off with a friend to have a drink and a smoke, leaving the young people to it. The dance whirled on, and Annette turned the knob that controlled the automaton’s speed…

…and the figure flew round with her swifter and swifter. Couple after couple dropped out exhausted, but they only went the faster, till at length they were the only pair left dancing.

Becoming concerned, the older women urged Annette to stop, but she didn’t reply…and they saw that she had fainted. Some of the men intervened to try to stop the automaton…

Two of them made a bungling rush at the figure, which had the result of forcing it out of its orbit in the centre of the room, and sending it crashing against the walls and the furniture. A stream of blood showed itself down the girl’s white frock, and followed her along the floor…


the dancing partner

* * * * * * *

Well! From that point the story continues on its gory way to its gruesome end. If you want to read it, click here.

This is one of the strangest stories I’ve read in a while. Right up to the last couple of pages, it’s a lovely confection making light fun of both the young men and young women who frequent the town’s dances. But then it suddenly turns into something not far off the Texas Chainsaw Massacre! It’s quite well written and very readable, but I fear I kept waiting for a punchline that didn’t come. I don’t know what to make of it really. I suppose the moral of the story is you should never waltz with an automaton on the first date…

Fretful porpentine rating: 😯 😯 😯

Overall story rating:         🙂 🙂 🙂



65 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! The Dancing Partner by Jerome K Jerome

  1. Wow – I would not have expected that of Jerome K Jerome! Who knew he had such a dark side? Although the girl was a fool – everyone knows to avoid anything clockwork in a fairy tale.


  2. Now you tell me! 😉 Actually, this does sound like a strange sort of story – Texas Chainsaw Massacre fused with a touch of the comedy of manners. Hmmmm… I like the social satire bit though; it sounds quite funny.


  3. This sounds brilliant and I am certain that I know the tale, although I am just as certain I haven’t read the story. Maybe it was adapted for radio or something similar. My memory is terrible, anyway. I am going to read this tonight, I think Terry will like it 🙂


  4. Yuk! Although, like you, I am sure I have danced with the human on whom this automaton was based. After all, I did get three ribs fractured by a partner who let my hand go at a crucial point in the “Strip the Willow”. Perhaps the answer is not to dance – a policy I have pursued for some years!


  5. Oh I DID enjoy this, AND your post. I even enjoyed the gore! And I was so pleased you found an excuse to display the Professor’s nemesis again.

    My porp had a lovely shiver whilst you giggle time with this

    (PS I’m probably really tempting fate, but it does look as if your Shardlake WILL for certain make a 5 star book recommended by a friend for my Popsugar challenge. History JUST as I like it, learn whilst you feverishly turn pages caught up within high drama.)


    • Goodness! Poor, poor Annette if even LF enjoyed her gory demise! At least she didn’t die in vain…

      First Darcy pic of the year…but not the last!

      (Oh good! I must say you’d be in a pretty small minority if you didn’t like it – I’ve been stunned by the reviews – both how many there are, and how positive the majority are. When did he become so huge? When I started reading him, way back in the dawn of time, no-one had ever heard of him, and you couldn’t talk anybody into 600 pages of heavy historical fiction. It’s getter a better overall rating than Wolf Hall. I suspect I think it’s a better book too, fan though I am of La Mantel…)


      • Possibly – for the US release – the offer was for USA residents preferred, out of region requests will probably be declined- but I thought – what the hell, let’s try, and got IMMEDIATE acceptance. Weird. Possibly a blip which they didn’t spot


        • You’re probably right – though it’s even got 65 reviews in the US which is loads for a British crime novel only a couple of months after its release. Hope you continue to enjoy it…


  6. Given that it was a man who made this contraption, I think he was making a point that a woman might want a bit more out of man than what those girls specified. I don’t think he meant to kill any of them, just teach them a lesson, confirming the adage “Be careful what you wish for…”


  7. *laughing lots* This is a stellar review!

    *hides eyes from the hideous thing in the middle*

    Okay, so, I actually finished the story! *proud face* You know, FEF, this has made the professor even more scared of dancing. You do know that, right?

    And now that you say it, I do see a resemblance between the automaton and Darby.


    • *blushes* Awww, thanks, Prof!

      Of course, I’d much rather dance with you than Darby, but I didn’t have a picture of you with your kisscurl. You don’t need to be scared of dancing with me – I’m not an automaton. Promise! And I should think you’ll be able to match my fastest sped fairly easily…

      That’s odd – ‘cos I see a resemblance between Darby and…


      • *bows*

        You mean, you would have posted a picture of me??? I don’t know about that. I’ve got no practice, and you’re a regular dancer! Plus, I hurt my back.

        *laughs* Rats. You weren’t supposed to say that.


        • I might have – but I don’t know. I wouldn’t have wanted the other girlies swooning – you know how jealous I can get, and you’re such an outrageous flirt… *glowers a bit*

          *laughs a lot* I do wonder sometimes if you really think I dance… Aw! Poor C-W-W! What did you do?

          There is a degree of truth in it though… isn’t there?


          • Am not neither a flirt! I think…I’ll give you my meanest orc face. That’ll fetch them all. There’ll be lots of screaming, then.

            *shocked face* You told me you did! Never lift weights in the morning with your back. Ouch. Learned the hard way. *dies*

            Is not! Hey, you think the professor looks like everyone: the kid on the train and now Darby!


            • Oh, you are!! You and your Amelias and Lotties! Tchah! I bet even your orc face is c&a…

              Did I? Are you sure? I didn’t…maybe…just imply it…? *laughs lots but feels bad about it* I think I can truly promise to follow your advice on this subject! Don’t die! You’d be missed…

              *laughs lots again* Well, tell you what (chickit)! You can choose! Which one of them would you rather look like?


            • Is not! Orcs can’t be cute, remember. You should know this!

              Imply? You said you were a ballroom and disco (I think?) dancer! Maybe my mind is going. It’s not funny, dadblameit!! I can’t stand straight…who knew lifting weights could be so dangerous?

              How about myself?!!!!!!!!!


            • Professor Orcs can be though – they have kisscurls apparently…

              I suspect I may have said that I had danced in a ballroom and in a disco – both true! But I can’t say I’ve won medals for it or anything… *shuffles off, bathed in shame* Well… I did! *doesn’t chuckle* *oops! Does!*

              Oh where would be the fun in that?


            • Hmm…wonder if Professor Orcs attend college…

              Don’t be ashamed! I think it’s absolutely very, very cool. Believe me. It’s getting better. Soon, I’ll be back to my old self.

              I’ll have to find someone for you to look like…let me see…


            • Yes, they do courses in how to cook their fellow orcs. Is Ruber an orc?

              See, that’s why it would be so much fun to dance with me – you’d be bound to look good in comparison! I’m glad! You must take up some less dangerous pursuits – lion-taming, perhaps.

              Yes? Yes???


            • Ruber is not! Imagine if DS heard you say that.

              Me? Look good at dancing? Nah! I probably couldn’t stop laughing. I think I’d feel ridiculous. Lion-taming…hmm…I could see myself doing that.

              I’d say the one with the funny eyes, but you like her…how about…Jean Arthur?


            • Tchah! Do I look like I’m scared of sausages?

              And the ringmaster outfit would suit you so well… *swoons a bit*

              Oh, she looks rather lovely! But on the other hand she would be 115, so not sure how effective wrinkle cream would be… but I suppose being dead probably means that doesn’t matter too much! I do hope you’re not implying that you think I’m 115?!?! (Or dead.) And why on earth does the Professor know about her?


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