A Canadian Enigma -- Jerome

JEROME WAS THE MOST mysterious man in Canadian maritime history. Legends concerning him have been many and varied, but the truth, even when known, has usually been studiously avoided. Legends mayor may not have the truth interwoven with fantasy, and the legend I give below is typical. But, as I shall follow the legend with the truth which has never been told in such fullness before, the reader, by comparing the two, may draw his own conclusions. Incidentally, Jerome is often spelled Gerome, but I shall use the former spelling throughout.


During the period of the American Civil War Jerome was a member of a prominent Italian family which incurred the fury of the Mafia.* Jerome was forced to flee the country. Caught by the underground Mafia while in New Brunswick, Jerome was about: to be killed when his entreaties for mercy brought a partial reprieve from the leaders of the society, who agreed that they would not kill him, but would leave him hopelessly crippled instead by cutting off his legs. Telling him of their plan and, by means of threats, pledging him to eternal secrecy, they called upon a former surgeon in the gang to perform the amputation, which he did with great success, cutting off the limbs just below the hips. After skillfully sewing up the wounds, the surgeon pronounced the victim as free from shock and able to travel, whereupon the gang placed him aboard ship and sailed for Nova Scotia where they planned to abandon him on a lonely beach somewhere along the Bay of Fundy.

And so it was. according to the legend, that fishermen along Digby Neck saw a vessel, which resembled a gunboat, enter the bay and skirt the shore. Fog, which had been threatening for some time, then shut in, and nothing more of the gunboat was seen.

When morning came, the vessel had vanished. Toward noon a fisherman drew near to Sandy Cove, alert for signs of anything unusual, as he had watched the strange craft of the day before and was sure something nefarious was going on. But at first there was nothing to be seen which could in any way be called extraordinary, and he was about to sail away when suddenly something caught his eye.

The object apparently had moved slightly, but still was too far away to identify. The fisherman debated whether or not to go in and investigate. Finally his curiosity overcame his reluctance, and he set sail for the shore of Sandy Cove, Soon he realized that he was approaching a man, and he took down his sail and unstepped his mast, getting out his oars to row up on the beach.

But as he neared the shore, his constant glances over his shoulder made him realize that the man was huddled over in a strange, unnatural position.

Pulling in close to the beach, the fisherman was about to land when he saw something which frightened him badly and forced him to change his plans. For the shapeless body on the beach had no legs at all-merely hideous stumps. This discovery so terrified the fisherman that he turned his dory around, hoisted mast and sail and was soon far out in the bay.

Reaching his home an hour later, he told his weird, unbelievable story to all who would listen. One man, bolder than the others, agreed to go to the beach providing that the fisherman who had first seen the man would return with him. After considerable urging the first fisherman agreed, and so it was that just before sunset the dory was again approaching the Sandy Cove shore.

All was as the fisherman had left it, with the poor legless being still slumped on the shore just above the reach of the incoming tide. The two fishermen landed on the beach close by and walked up to the stranger. By the cut of his garments, it was apparent that the legless man had been an officer on a naval vessel, but the first fisherman had been correct concerning his legs -- they were cut off, evidently by a surgeon's knife, just below the hips! By the stranger's side there was a bottle of water and a package or sea biscuits.

In response to their questions, the poor unfortunate would do nothing but moan. Finally, abandoning all hope of finding out about him, they carried the castaway down to the dory. Of powerful build, the stranger easily held a firm grip on their shoulders as they approached the dory, and when placed in the stern, he grasped the gunwales with both hands, maintaining perfect balance.

It was after dark when the fishing village was reached, and by this time most of the little community were on the shore awaiting the strange being which the first fisherman had described before he left. But they were not prepared for the shock of reality, and as the two fishermen carried the stranger into the first man's home, a shudder passed through the group, for it was too horrible to believe. Apparently a legless man had been abandoned on a lonely part of the Nova Scotia coast -- abandoned to die!

Carrying the stranger into the house, the fishermen attempted to give him stimulants, hoping to heal' his story. But the victim only moaned and turned his head away from them. Evidently he had been badly frozen on the shore before being rescued. The fisherman decided to tell his priest about the affair and hurried to his home to relate what he knew of the stranger and his condition.

Although it was then late at night, the village priest quickly summoned the doctor, going back with him to the fishing hut. There it was discovered that the legless man had quieted down and was almost asleep.

The doctor examined the wounds and pronounced them as having been skillfully sewed up, giving his opinion that the amputations had been performed by an expert surgeon. Then the priest began to interview the stranger, who crossed himself. The priest, after a long period of questioning, announced that the stranger had stated that his name was Jerome, but beyond that the clergyman had discovered nothing. Jerome refused to tell on what craft he had come, how or why his legs had been removed, or what his nationality was. As the questioning continued, Jerome grew more and more irritable, finally turning his head away from the priest. Realizing that his task was now a hopeless one, the priest gave up for the night and soon left the dwelling.

Although it was feared at first that Jerome would die, he rallied and showed the others that he had no intention of passing away. Within a short time he had made satisfactory improvement, but still remained silent. After another week the legless man was transferred from Digby Neck to Meteghan and placed in the care of a family of that village.

The priest continued to visit the unfortunate creature, and when the good father was not at the bedside, other townsmen caned on Jerome in their attempt to solve his strange mystery, which was rapidly attracting the attention of almost every resident on the peninsula. But Jerome, refusing to talk with either priest or layman, maintained a stony, dignified silence most of the time. Nevertheless, on occasions he would fly into a rage, actually striking several of the villagers who were too impatient and persistent with their questioning. Jerome often mumbled a strange gibberish as though his mind was affected.

He resided with one family for a long time, and within a few months of his arrival the residents of the village had decided to leave him alone until he desired to speak of his own free will. This, however, he never did.

At one point, it was decided to send him to the poorhouse, but those who thought they understood him claimed it would break his proud spirit, and they appealed to the government instead. A pension of $2.00 a week was arranged, which in those days would go far toward paying his keep.

And so the years went by, according to the legend. Jerome never did a stroke of work, not even whittling. He remained speechless until his death, sitting stolidly through countless one-sided interviews which always had the same negative result.

At least, the above is the usually told account of this strangest of all Canadian characters. The versions vary, with one stating that two young girls, instead of the two fishermen, found him on the shore. Another legend states that he was a member of a royal European family, who for some act of shame received the punishment or having his legs cut off to seal his lips. Each new storyteller seemed anxious to outdo his predecessor. All the time the truth was easily available, but no one wished to learn it, as the legends had far greater journalistic attraction.


Before beginning what has been documented and proved as the true story of Jerome, I wish to make sure the reader understands that the legends, while based originally on facts, have wandered far from the truth as they have been told and retold through the years. As the truth is unfolded, the astute reader may detect how the legend came into being. The real story of Jerome follows below.

On August 22, I863. two small American pink-sterned schooners were seen approaching Sanely Cove, Digby County, Bay of Fundy. At work on a hill at Sandy Cove were two men, Robert Bishop and William Eldridge.** The leading pinkie stood in the cove, tacked ship, and then stood off, with her jib to the windward. A short time later a boat was lowered, several objects placed in it, and the boat could be seen rowing toward the sandy beach. Then the boat passed out of sight under the bank of the hill and the foliage of the near-by trees. The two men working on the hill thought that probably the crew of the pinkie was coming ashore to get water from the well at the foot of the bank, since the crews of many vessels often stopped for that purpose.

An hour later the two craft were seen standing away for the northwest, and soon both passed from sight. The men dismissed the incident from their minds.

The following morning the two men were back at work on the hill, when George Albright, "a rather simpleminded young man" of the village came running toward them, shouting that there was a man on the shore with no legs at all! Unwilling to believe this strange statement of the young boy, but nonetheless interested in seeing what he had found, the two men went with the boy over the cliff and down on the shore, where to their amazement they discovered that the boy had been telling the truth!

There on the sandy shore of the cove lay a man, whose legs had evidently been cut off just above the knees. Near the spring, where the sailors from the pinkie had placed him, was a pitcher of water, with a quantity of biscuits close by. The man himself, by using his stumps and the palms of his hands, had moved down toward the rising Bay of Fundy tide, and in a few minutes would have drowned himself in the ocean. Evidently the shouting of the lad and his curiosity had aroused the stranger from a stupor, and the legless visitor had decided to end his suffering in the sea.

Rescued from the rising tide, the legless man was taken into the village, where was questioned as to his background. As he could speak no English and appeared to talk a little Italian, he was thought to be a native of Italy. Apparently he was about twenty-five years of age.

The only fragment of his name which the others could understand was Jerome, and when Mr. Bishop asked him about his home, Jerome said the word "Colombo," although he may have been referring to the ship which carried him to America, as will be suggested later on in this chapter. When pen and ink were offered to him, Jerome indicated that either he would not or could not write.

Two days later he was put ashore, he was questioned by Mr. Angus M. Gidney of Mink Cove. who was a member of the Legislative Assembly of the province and lived four miles south of Sandy Cove. To Mr. Gidney, Jerome appeared of feeble intelligence, but evidently made an effort to answer the questions put to him. When the assemblyman asked Jerome how he lost his legs, the Italian answered, "Fretto, fretto," meaning that his legs had become frozen. As the conversation continued, Jerome would answer "Siorse" when meaning yes, and would make it equally clear when his reply was in the negative, although the exact answer has not been recorded.

Apparently the shock to his nervous system at the time of his amputation was so severe that he had lost the ability to think clearly.

Application was made by the Overseers of the Poor, and eventually he was given a pension of two dollars a week. Part of his earlier history was revealed at that time.

The investigators learned that Jerome had been a stowaway on an Italian ship which came to New Brunswick, and when the ship was loading lumber at some New Brunswick seaport south of Saint John, he escaped into the woods. Wandering in the vicinity, he obtained a position working for the father of Senator King, in the lumber camps about twenty-five miles from Chipman. At the time of his accident, a cold night in March, 1863, Jerome had been crossing a mill pond on some logs when he slipped and fell between the logs into the icy, freezing water. Pulling himself out, he found that he had been injured by the logs, and was barely able to crawl into the doubtful shelter of a near-by sawmill, where he spent the night. Before morning the temperature dropped far below zero, and by the time he was discovered the next day by two brothers named Conroy, he was almost frozen to death.

Jerome was rushed to the nearest surgeon, Dr. Peters of Gagetown, who quickly saw that to save Jerome's life he would have to amputate both legs just above the knees, Jerome passed the crisis and lived, but the only word he ever spoke in the following months of recuperation was "Gamby," and by that name he became known.

By the month of August his legs had healed moderately well, and as either the Overseers of the Poor or the municipality found his upkeep and support too expensive, it was decided to ship him elsewhere. In some unexplained way an agreement was made with a fisherman from either Cutler or Little River, Maine, to transport Jerome across the Bay of Fundy for the sum of $10.00. The fisherman was given to understand that the act was a merciful one, for he would be taking Jerome back to his own people in Nova Scotia, people who understood his language and would be able to take care of him. Undoubtedly, this inhuman act was planned by a small group of New Brunswick persons without the knowledge of the vast majority of well-intentioned citizens.

After he was discovered on the beach and brought up to the village, the people of Sandy Cove realized their responsibility for his care. The Overseers of the Poor applied to the Provincial Parliament for help, and $2.00 a week was secured for Jerome from a fund "for the relief of transient*** paupers," Jerome was placed in the house of an Acadian fisherman on the opposite side of St. Mary's Bay, for he was apparently an Italian and presumably a Roman Catholic. In the settlement was a rough, ignorant Corsican named John Nicholas who had an impediment in his speech and was not able to enunciate in either Italian, French, or English, although he understood all three languages. Nicholas in his rough way, would talk to Jerome by the hour, but all he ever learned from the cripple were the few facts which we have already mentioned.

Later Jerome was visited by a Mr. Mecchi, a well-educated and intelligent resident of the community, but by this time it is possible that Nicholas had worn Jerome out with his confused questionings. Poor Mecchi finally gave up his efforts, after discovering from Jerome's dialect that the unfortunate man was evidently from the Adriatic coast of the Italian peninsula.

As the years went by, the legend of Jerome grew. He was said to be an officer, from a phantom gunboat, whose legs had been cut off to prevent his talking, and was also described as a member of a royal Italian family whose adventures with the Mafia had been so diabolical that that organization had taken terrible revenge. Almost every reporter or correspondent took great pains to invent the weirdest and most improbable yarns about Jerome which they could find, and all the time the truth was there awaiting them. The newsmen obtained their information at second or third hand, never consulting those who knew the facts.

Judge A. W. Savary of Annapolis Royal visited Jerome for the first tin1e in 1865, and concluded that, from his appearance, Jerome was a sailor not more than thirty years old, who had become demented by the shock of his terrible experiences. "He seemed a victim of acute melancholia, and cast a pitiful, reproachful look at me and crawled out or the room when he noticed me talking about him to his hostess. I thought he had not as dark a complexion as is usual with Italians I had seen in this country."

About 1879 Mr. Samuel Gidney, brother of the Mink Cove legislator who had questioned Jerome, was sailing for Boston, and put in at Little River in the state of Maine for the night. In the evening two men visited the vessel, and questioned Mr. Gidney about where he hailed from. On being told the vessel was from Sandy Cove one of the men asked Gidney if, around 1863, a man whose legs had been amputated had been found on the shore there. When Gidney confirmed this, the American made a revelation.

"I am the man who landed him there. I was paid to take him away from New Brunswick across to Nova Scotia where he would be with his own race and those in New Brunswick wouldn't have to pay for the cost of his support!"

At the time Samuel Gidney did not believe the story was important and did not report it to the press upon his return to Nova Scotia. He mentioned it casually to his friends who seemed equally indifferent. At one time he remembered the Little River resident's name, but forgot it by the year 1908, when he wrote to Judge Savary.

In the year 1905 an unidentified American visited Jerome and found that the family of Joseph Comeau had taken the unfortunate to live with them. The visitor said that Jerome was then "over 74 years old," and lived at the farmhouse at Cheticamp, Digby County, some six miles along the shore road from the village.

The American spoke of the village priest, Father Cote, the pastor of the little flock of the church on the hill called Stay of the Sea, who had been "no more successful than others" in his attempts to learn Jerome's secret. Neither could a scholarly Italian barber who spoke seven languages, an Arabian shop keeper, nor an Irish settler who spoke ancient Gaelic. It was believed for a while that Jerome's last name was Mahoney, and that he was Irish, but when the American tried to question him about this, he lapsed into silence, a silence only broken by anger at being molested. In exasperation Jerome uttered furious inarticulate sounds.

Pierre, who drove a team for the local hotel and had often visited Jerome with other interested parties, told the American how Jerome "sits always on the floor by the stove, and when strange people come he scratches his head like this, but says nothing, only he screams at them if they don't go away."

The residence of the Comeaus was beyond the Port Royal Hotel, and the American decided to have Pierre drive him there. The Comeau family lived in a white house, neat and clean, well up on the hill, and Pierre and the American opened the gate and went into the yard.

A pleasant-faced elderly woman stood at the door and spoke to the visitors in French. After she learned that they wished to visit Jerome, she called her daughter, who was rocking a baby in a low, old-fashioned wooden cradle by occasionally touching it with her toe while she was making lace on a frame. She called another young woman, who led the visitors into the kitchen where there was a large, well-polished cook stove, atop of which a giant tea kettle stood boiling. At the right of the stove sat a man with white hair, sitting on the floor, his eyes on his hands folded in front of him. His legs were cut off at the knees. Although the day was a warm one, he seemed to be huddling there for warmth. His dress was a loose jacket and homespun trousers.

As the others entered the kitchen he gave a startled look at them, and then dropped his eyes, which he did not raise again during the visit.

Even on the floor, Jerome was an impressive figure, with his high intelligent-looking forehead, his attractive white hair brushed back, his white mustache, and his beard of white cut close to a point on his chin in the approved French fashion. Apparently there was something of delicacy and refinement about Jerome which made it impossible for a person to ignore him when in his presence.

The visitor had brought tobacco and candy, but when given the articles, Jerome apparently ignored them. Something strange soon happened, however. When the American insisted that Jerome take the gifts, he began to blush, the crimson tide rising from his neck to flood his face to the roots of his white hair.

The French boy in the family. apparently upset that Jerome did not show the proper spirit and thank the visitor for the gifts, approached and showed Jerome the gifts again, crowding them on his attention.

This act upset Jerome, and he cried out in a strange un-earthly scream, violently pushing and beating the hands extended to him. Nevertheless, there was no bitterness or sullenness, merely the sensitive resentment of a high-strung nature. To those in the room, it was absolutely certain that Jerome knew and understood every word spoken there that day, both in French and English.

Later, another son of the Comeau family, then studying for the priesthood, came in and explained much that had happened to Jerome in the more than a third of a century he had been living with them. Jerome was believed to be a Catholic and sometimes was seen to pray. He would make the sign or the cross but never accepted the rosary for his prayers. He also refused to read the prayer book, or any other book or paper, but this may have been because he had never learned to read. Around the year 1890 he developed a habit or going out on the porch when it was warm and sunny, but gave it up shortly afterward. Sitting all clay by the stove, he took a nap after dinner. During the night others often heard him talking quietly to himself, but his ears were so alert that whenever they would approach to listen, he stopped at once.

At one time a New Orleans family communicated with the Comeaus, for there was a brother in the family who ran away to sea while a lad of twelve or fourteen and never returned. After the exchange of several letters, the family became convinced that Jerome was not of the right age, and they never carried out their original plans of visiting him to see if he might be the long-lost brother.

The young lad of the Comeau family made a sketch of Jerome which he presented to the American hoping that someone somewhere might recognize the sketch and solve the mystery, But the lad also suggested that over forty years had gone by since the incident and these years of silence would obliterate almost all traces of identity. It was thought possible that Jerome might have been a spy or traitor in the American Civil War.

In any case, it was agreed that Jerome was silent because he wished to be silent, and his will was so strong that no one could break it.

A year later a man from New York, whose name is also unknown, made a thorough investigation of the entire affair. Traveling to the little French village of Saulnierville on Saint Mary's Bay, be visited the home to study the man of mystery and found him apparently very intelligent in appearance. He noted Jerome's characteristics and mentioned the small mustache and pointed beard. He called his head large, impressive and well formed. The New Yorker described the contour of his face as handsome, his nose in particular being strong and straight. Jerome's eyes were apparently large and dark, though as "he held them resolutely down during the first visit, they could not be seen very clearly." His fingers were long and slender, but extremely powerful. There were no noticeable racial tendencies, and he could easily have been an American. It was said, however, that his skin had formerly been much darker, but whether by tanning ham the sun or otherwise could not be decided.

His countenance was severe and could have denoted hopeless dejection or determined resolution. To the three visitors in the party he was so impressive that it was impossible to talk about him freely in his presence. As the visitors left one at them said quietly. "Good-by, Jerome," and paused an instant, hoping for a reaction of some sort, but there was no response or any change in Jerome's facial expression.

In 1863, forty-four years before the American became interested in the mystery, Jerome had been brought to the home of Nicholas, the Corsican, who has been mentioned above, because Nicholas spoke Italian and several other languages. Incidentally, Nicholas had escaped with twenty other men from a war prison camp, probably in the Crimean War, and had landed in Nova Scotia without funds. Earning his living as an organist he saved enough money to buy a small hotel at Meteghan where Jerome went to live with him. When his wife died he returned to Italy to visit his family, dying there shortly after his arrival.

By 1906, when the New Yorker wrote his article on Jerome, John Nicholas, the Corsican had been dead for many years and Jerome had moved to the Comeaus'. It was learned, however, that Nicholas's stepdaughter. a Mrs. Doucet, lived in Saulnierville near the stage driver's residence and the American decided to visit her. Thirteen years old when Jerome first arrived in 1863, she was now a woman of fifty-six and the mother of twelve children. Mrs. Doucet had remained with her family for five years until the household was broken up by the death of Mrs. Doucet's mother and her stepfather's departure for Europe.

Mrs. Doucet explained how at first her stepfather had tried to make the stranger talk, but Jerome would say nothing. His legs were still terribly sore, and it took six months for them to heal so that he could use them. Finally, leather protectors were fastened over his stumps, and he could get around quite comfortably.

Actually, Mrs. Doucet explained, Jerome came to understand everything which was said to him and could speak the Italian dialect which John Nicholas spoke. Jerome also understood French and English. Mrs. Doucet heard him pray in Latin.

Jerome had a good, clear voice, according to Mrs. Doucet. "Oh, he could talk, there is no doubt about that, but he didn't want to talk, why, I could never understand. Several times when he was absent-minded he spoke before he could catch himself. Once my father asked him suddenly where he came from, and he said 'Trieste.' Then he turned pale and showed great fear and would not speak any more for a long time. He seemed frightened afterward of those few times when he spoke, particularly on one occasion.

"That was one night when he seemed quiet and happy, and my father asked him what was the name of the ship he came in and he answered right away it was the Colombo. Then he turned ashy and trembled violently and showed much more fear than ever before… With us children he would not be so careful about keeping silent. When we were alone together he would tell us the names of things in foreign languages."

Quite often, after Jerome had been talking to the children, John Nicholas would come in from outdoors, and the children would explain that Jerome had been talking to them. Nicholas would go to Jerome at once and look at him.

"Now, Jerome, you talk to the children, why don't you talk to me?" Jerome would half turn to stare at the stove and mutter, "No!"

Jerome was very fond of children and would pat them when they were placed in his lap, but he never looked up while he was patting their heads.

When he first arrived he would stay up all night and sleep in the daytime. He would often go up to the roof in the evening and look out on the ocean, or up at the stars.

One night Nicholas tried to frighten him by rigging up a sheet on some sticks, placing the affair beside Jerome, who looked at it and went inside, returning a moment later. Nicholas went to stand beside Jerome and pointed to the sheet, saying, "Jerome, that is the Devil!"

"The Devil is not white," answered Jerome. But he never went out to look at the stars again.

Once he put his hands on a red hot stove, and another time tore his hair. It was suggested by Mrs. Doucet that perhaps it was in expiation for his sins. And then, again, he would have fits of rage. When a cat jumped on his bed, he grabbed the animal and tore it in two!

Very strong physically, he would go out to the woodpile and put his arm out for logs. No load seemed too heavy for him, and he would walk or hobble into the house with the tremendous burden still held out straight. After his leg's healed he could run as fast as a young girl.

Only once did he really laugh, and that was when a young Negro girl was to be married. She stopped at the house, looking very pretty, her happy face bordered with white flowers. Jerome smiled pleasantly. When she left the house the others asked Jerome why he was smiling, and his answer was, "The pretty white flowers on a dark face," On another occasion candy was being made, and he called out, "Give me some taffy!" Whenever he spoke he always appeared to regret it later as though he had forgotten himself.

His manners were very good when eating. Jerome was fond of soup and clear water, but never tea, coffee, or liquor. When a doctor tried to loosen his tongue with whisky, Jerome would not touch it.

Perhaps the reason that he was so fond of the heat of the sun and the warmth of the stove was his terrible experience when he froze his legs. He once stated that when his legs were cut off he had been chained on a table.

When the mother of Mrs. Doucet died during Jerome's residence at the house, he went to her bed and examined her feet and hands to prove to himself that she had passed on. When he was satisfied that she was dead, he took the cross in his hands and sat by her for a long time, the tears streaming down his face, for he had been very fond of her.

Mrs. Doucet agreed to visit Jerome at the Comeaus' with the American and others. As it was the last recorded interview, I give it in some detail. It was not a great success, for when Mrs. Doucet went out in the kitchen alone and said, "Bon jour, Jerome" she put out her hand to him. He raised his own as if to strike, changing from his usual position, which was staring half-turned at the great stove.

"Why, Jerome, don't you know me any more?" asked Mrs. Doucet, and Jerome then turned to look at her full in the face.

He stared at her for a moment and then noticed the others watching him, and quickly dropped his eyes to his hands.

"Why don't you talk to me, Jerome?" Mrs. Doucet continued, and this time Jerome turned to her and made a terrific mental effort. He mumbled several indistinct syllables, attempting to make himself understood.

"I do not understand you, Jerome, speak louder."

Again he tried and failed. Finally, with a superhuman effort, he muttered something, apparently trying to say, "Je ne peux pas!"

The long years of silence had at last taken their toll. Jerome was now physically unable to talk, and as far as is known, the above message indicating that he could not speak was the last he ever gave. His vocal cords had gradually lost their flexibility, and his brain by this time was affected.

About five and a half years after Mrs. Doucet made her final visit, Jerome, the mystery man of Meteghan, passed away. The date was April 19, 1912. His death went unnoticed in the daily press, which was overcrowded with news of the recent Titanic disaster. Although it had been freely predicted that on his deathbed Jerome would tell all about where he had come from and why he seldom spoke, he died without revealing a word of his past.

I realize that we have only partly solved the mystery of this strange unfortunate, but there are more facts about Jerome in this chapter than have ever been gathered together before about one of the great Canadian enigmas of either the present or the last century.

If I were asked to attempt to give Jerome's story, I would say that in a fit of rage, which he often exhibited in Nova Scotia, Jerome had committed a serious crime, possibly a murder, on the Adriatic coast, a crime for which he was hunted. He escaped aboard the Colombo, eventually reaching New Brunswick, where he entered a lumber camp to forget his past.

Then came the cold night when he fell through the logs and froze his legs, necessitating amputation. Later, he was abandoned on a lonely Nova Scotia beach, and was cared for by the residents of the near-by village, who never learned the reason for his unusual silence. But somewhere, as Judge A. W. Savary of Annapolis Royal so fittingly states, an anxious family waited long years for news of Jerome, who never came back to them. Indeed, his story is unique.

*Mafia -- a dangerous outlaw secret society of Italy.
** Eldridge later settled at Portsmouth. New Hampshire.
*** The term was ironic in Jerome's case, for his receiving relief from 1864 to 1912 can hardly permit him to be classified as a transient.

Source: Edward Rowe Snow, "A Canadian Enigma -- Jerome" in Amazing Sea Stories Never Told Before, (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1954), 222-242.

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