A short story collection, ironically titled Forty Minutes Late, was recently returned to a San Francisco library. The book, published in 1909, had been checked out by Phoebe Webb in 1917.
Webb died one week before the book was due. Webb Johnson, the borrower’s great-grandson, discovered the overdue book in 1996 but hung onto it. Johnson knew the book was not legitimately part of his relative’s estate and, eventually, his conscience persuaded him to return the book.
At the 2017 rate of 10 cents a day, the overdue fine would have come to $3,650 (US), but under the library’s current amnesty program for overdue books, there was no fine at all.
The book was written by F. Hopkinson Smith who is best remembered as the engineer who built the foundation for the Statue of Liberty. The first story in the collection is about a cranky man who nearly misses a speaking engagement because of a late train. The author, in the story, suggests there are worst sins than being late, such as being cranky.