“Gabriel-Ernest” — Saki

“Gabriel-Ernest”

by

Saki


 

“There is a wild beast in your woods,” said the artist Cunningham, as he was being driven to the station. It was the only remark he had made during the drive, but as Van Cheele had talked incessantly his companion’s silence had not been noticeable.

“A stray fox or two and some resident weasels. Nothing more formidable,” said Van Cheele. The artist said nothing.

“What did you mean about a wild beast?” said Van Cheele later, when they were on the platform.

“Nothing. My imagination. Here is the train,” said Cunningham.

That afternoon Van Cheele went for one of his frequent rambles through his woodland property. He had a stuffed bittern in his study, and knew the names of quite a number of wild flowers, so his aunt had possibly some justification in describing him as a great naturalist. At any rate, he was a great walker. It was his custom to take mental notes of everything he saw during his walks, not so much for the purpose of assisting contemporary science as to provide topics for conversation afterwards. When the bluebells began to show themselves in flower he made a point of informing every one of the fact; the season of the year might have warned his hearers of the likelihood of such an occurrence, but at least they felt that he was being absolutely frank with them.

What Van Cheele saw on this particular afternoon was, however, something far removed from his ordinary range of experience. On a shelf of smooth stone overhanging a deep pool in the hollow of an oak coppice a boy of about sixteen lay asprawl, drying his wet brown limbs luxuriously in the sun. His wet hair, parted by a recent dive, lay close to his head, and his light-brown eyes, so light that there was an almost tigerish gleam in them, were turned towards Van Cheele with a certain lazy watchfulness. It was an unexpected apparition, and Van Cheele found himself engaged in the novel process of thinking before he spoke. Where on earth could this wild-looking boy hail from? The miller’s wife had lost a child some two months ago, supposed to have been swept away by the mill-race, but that had been a mere baby, not a half-grown lad. Continue reading ““Gabriel-Ernest” — Saki”

“The Sisters” — James Joyce

“The Sisters”

by

James Joyce


 

THERE was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window: and night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly. If he was dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind for I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse. He had often said to me: “I am not long for this world,” and I had thought his words idle. Now I knew they were true. Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis. It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word gnomon in the Euclid and the word simony in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work.

Old Cotter was sitting at the fire, smoking, when I came downstairs to supper. While my aunt was ladling out my stirabout he said, as if returning to some former remark of his:

“No, I wouldn’t say he was exactly… but there was something queer… there was something uncanny about him. I’ll tell you my opinion….”

He began to puff at his pipe, no doubt arranging his opinion in his mind. Tiresome old fool! When we knew him first he used to be rather interesting, talking of faints and worms; but I soon grew tired of him and his endless stories about the distillery.

“I have my own theory about it,” he said. “I think it was one of those… peculiar cases…. But it’s hard to say….” Continue reading ““The Sisters” — James Joyce”

Read a 1967 Thomas Bernhard story, new in English translation

Douglas Robertson continues his project of translating Thomas Bernhard into English and sharing it at his blog, The Philosophical Worldview Artist, with his latest offering, a 1967 short story called “The Weatherproof Cape.” The tale was originally published in Midland in Stilfs in 1971; its composition and publication put it roughly contemporary with Bernhard’s second novel GargoylesNotice the typically Bernhardian opening (pre-elliptical) clause, with its parenthetical (and suspicious) “verbatim.” Here’s the first sentence of the story (I’m counting “sentence” as ending in a period).


 

“The Weatherproof Cape”

by

Thomas Bernhard

English translation by Douglas Robertson


From the Innsbruck lawyer Enderer, our guardian, we received  the following (verbatim) account…for twenty years, mainly in the Saggengasse and mainly at around midday, I have been crossing paths with this person without knowing who this person is; complementarily, for twenty years, mainly in the Saggengasse and mainly at around midday, this man has been crossing paths with me, without knowing who I am…moreover, the man hails from the Saggengasse, albeit from the upper Saggengasse, whereas I hail from the lower Saggengasse; both of us grew up in the Saggengasse and in point of fact, I think, I have always seen this person without knowing that he hails from the Saggengasse and without knowing who he is; complementarily this person has known nothing about me…now it occurs to me that there is something I should have noticed about this person, that I should have noticed his weatherproof cape…we cross paths with a person for years, decades, without knowing who this person is and if we ought to notice anything about the person, we notice nothing about the person, and we could cross paths with such a person over the course of an entire life without noticing anything about the person… suddenly we notice something about this person with whom we have been crossing paths for two decades, we notice something, be it his weatherproof cape, be it something else entirely; suddenly I noticed this person’s weatherproof cape and in connection with this I noticed that the man lived in the Saggengasse and was partial to taking walks along the Sill…a week ago this person accosted me in the Herrengasse and this man went up with me into my office; as we were climbing the stairs it became clear to me that “you have been seeing this person for two full decades, always the same person, always the same aging individual in the Saggengasse, at around midday in this weatherproof cape, in this quite ordinary but quite definitely worn-out weatherproof cape”; still, as we were climbing the stairs it was not yet clear to me why the weatherproof cape in particular was arousing my attention; suddenly, at close proximity, the weatherproof cape was arousing my undivided attention…but it really is quite an ordinary weatherproof cape, I thought; there are tens of thousands of such weatherproof capes in these mountains, there are tens of thousands of such weatherproof capes; tens of thousands of such weatherproof capes are worn by the Tyrolians…no matter who these people are, no matter what they do, when they come here they wear all these weatherproof capes, some of them gray, some of them green; because they wear all these weatherproof capes, the numerous loden factories in the valleys keep flourishing; these weatherproof capes are exported to every corner of the world, but there is something quite distinctive about the weatherproof cape of my new client: its buttonholes are trimmed in kidskin!  I have seen these kidskin-trimmed buttonholes only once before in my life, namely on the weatherproof cape of my uncle, who drowned eight years ago in the lower Sill…this man is wearing exactly the same weatherproof cape as my drowned uncle: that is what I am thinking as I walk up to my office with the man…suddenly I recall that when they pulled my Uncle Worringer out of the Sill, opinion had been divided whether his drowning had been an act of desperation or an accident, but I am certain that it was with so-called suicidal intent that Worringer threw himself into the Sill; for me there can be no doubt about it; Worringer killed himself; everything in his life and ultimately everything in his business life pointed to suicide…by the time they were looking for the drowned man upstream of the glass factory he had already been washed up on to the riverbank downstream of Pradl; the newspapers devoted entire pages to the incident; our entire family was hauled into public view by the press; the phrases a ruined business, ruined timber, a defunct saw-works, and finally economic and corporate ruin haunted the journalists’ sensation-mongering minds…the funeral in Wilten was one of the biggest there has ever been; I remember thousands of people in attendance, writes Enderer…it’s remarkable, I say to the man with whom I am climbing the stairs leading to my office, that I can’t get your weatherproof cape out of my head; several times the thought of your weatherproof cape has popped into my head…your weatherproof cape, believe it or not…I could not help thinking but did not say, there is the most intimate connection between your weatherproof cape and my uncle’s; who knows whether the man knows what I am talking about, I thought and I invite the man to step into the office, step inside! I say, because the man is hesitating, next I am inside the office and taking off my coat and the man is coming in…it looks as though the man was waiting for me in the front doorway of the building; today I am twenty minutes behind schedule, I think, and then: what does this man want?  I am irritated by his taciturnity and his weatherproof cape in alternation; as soon as we were both inside the office, I was more clearly able to see, better able to see, after I had turned the light on, that the buttonholes of the man’s weatherproof cape were trimmed with kidskin, with black kidskin, and I discerned that my new client’s weatherproof cape had been tailored exactly like the weatherproof cape of my Uncle Worringer, tailored in the simplest manner.

Read the rest of “The Weatherproof Cape.”

Read “Arrangement in Black and White,” a short story by Dorothy Parker

“Arrangement in Black and White”

by Dorothy Parker


The woman with the pink velvet poppies twined round the assisted gold of her hair traversed the crowded room at an interesting gait combining a skip with a sidle, and clutched the lean arm of her host.

“”Now I got you!” she said. “Now you can’t get away!”

“Why, hello,” said her host. “Well. How are you?”

“Oh, I’m finely,” she said. “Just simply finely. Listen. I want you to do me the most terrible favor. Will you? Will you please? Pretty please?”

“What is it?” said her host.

“Listen,” she said. “I want to meet Walter Williams. Honestly, I’m just simply crazy about that man. Oh, when he sings! When he sings those spirituals! Well, I said to Burton, ‘It’s a good thing for you Walter Williams is colored,’ I said, ‘or you’d have lots of reason to be jealous.’ I’d really love to meet him. I’d like to tell him I’ve heard him sing. Will you be an angel and introduce me to him?”

“Why, certainly,” said her host. “I thought you’d met him. The party’s for him. Where is he, anyway?”

“He’s over there by the bookcase,” she said. “Let’s wait till those people get through talking to him. Well, I think you’re simply marvelous, giving this perfectly marvelous party for him, and having him meet all these white people, and all. Isn’t he terribly grateful?”

“I hope not,” said her host. Continue reading “Read “Arrangement in Black and White,” a short story by Dorothy Parker”

“A Gold Slipper” by Willa Cather

“A Gold Slipper”

by

Willa Cather


 

Marshall McKann followed his wife and her friend Mrs. Post down the aisle and up the steps to the stage of the Carnegie Music Hall with an ill-concealed feeling of grievance. Heaven knew he never went to concerts, and to be mounted upon the stage in this fashion, as if he were a “highbrow” from Sewickley, or some unfortunate with a musical wife, was ludicrous. A man went to concerts when he was courting, while he was a junior partner. When he became a person of substance he stopped that sort of nonsense. His wife, too, was a sensible person, the daughter of an old Pittsburgh family as solid and well-rooted as the McKanns. She would never have bothered him about this concert had not the meddlesome Mrs. Post arrived to pay her a visit. Mrs. Post was an old school friend of Mrs. McKann, and because she lived in Cincinnati she was always keeping up with the world and talking about things in which no one else was interested, music among them. She was an aggressive lady, with weighty opinions, and a deep voice like a jovial bassoon. She had arrived only last night, and at dinner she brought it out that she could on no account miss Kitty Ayrshire’s recital; it was, she said, the sort of thing no one could afford to miss.

When McKann went into town in the morning he found that every seat in the music-hall was sold. He telephoned his wife to that effect, and, thinking he had settled the matter, made his reservation on the 11.25 train for New York. He was unable to get a drawing-room because this same Kitty Ayrshire had taken the last one. He had not intended going to New York until the following week, but he preferred to be absent during Mrs. Post’s incumbency.

In the middle of the morning, when he was deep in his correspondence, his wife called him up to say the enterprising Mrs. Post had telephoned some musical friends in Sewickley and had found that two hundred folding-chairs were to be placed on the stage of the concert-hall, behind the piano, and that they would be on sale at noon. Would he please get seats in the front row? McKann asked if they would not excuse him, since he was going over to New York on the late train, would be tired, and would not have time to dress, etc. No, not at all. It would be foolish for two women to trail up to the stage unattended. Mrs. Post’s husband always accompanied her to concerts, and she expected that much attention from her host. He needn’t dress, and he could take a taxi from the concert-hall to the East Liberty station. Continue reading ““A Gold Slipper” by Willa Cather”

“The Stolen Body,” a weird short story by H.G. Wells

“The Stolen Body”

by

H.G. Wells


Mr. Bessel was the senior partner in the firm of Bessel, Hart, and Brown, of St. Paul’s Churchyard, and for many years he was well known among those interested in psychical research as a liberal-minded and conscientious investigator. He was an unmarried man, and instead of living in the suburbs, after the fashion of his class, he occupied rooms in the Albany, near Piccadilly. He was particularly interested in the questions of thought transference and of apparitions of the living, and in November, 1896, he commenced a series of experiments in conjunction with Mr. Vincey, of Staple Inn, in order to test the alleged possibility of projecting an apparition of one’s self by force of will through space.

Their experiments were conducted in the following manner: At a prearranged hour Mr. Bessel shut himself in one of his rooms in the Albany and Mr. Vincey in his sitting-room in Staple Inn, and each then fixed his mind as resolutely as possible on the other. Mr. Bessel had acquired the art of self-hypnotism, and, so far as he could, he attempted first to hypnotise himself and then to project himself as a “phantom of the living” across the intervening space of nearly two miles into Mr. Vincey’s apartment. On several evenings this was tried without any satisfactory result, but on the fifth or sixth occasion Mr. Vincey did actually see or imagine he saw an apparition of Mr. Bessel standing in his room. He states that the appearance, although brief, was very vivid and real. He noticed that Mr. Bessel’s face was white and his expression anxious, and, moreover, that his hair was disordered. For a moment Mr. Vincey, in spite of his state of expectation, was too surprised to speak or move, and in that moment it seemed to him as though the figure glanced over its shoulder and incontinently vanished.

It had been arranged that an attempt should be made to photograph any phantasm seen, but Mr. Vincey had not the instant presence of mind to snap the camera that lay ready on the table beside him, and when he did so he was too late. Greatly elated, however, even by this partial success, he made a note of the exact time, and at once took a cab to the Albany to inform Mr. Bessel of this result. Continue reading ““The Stolen Body,” a weird short story by H.G. Wells”

“The Adventure of the Three Robbers” by Apuleius

“The Adventure of the Three Robbers” by Apuleius

An episode from The Golden Ass, reproduced here from The Lock and Key Library’s Classic Detective and Mystery Stories of All Nations series, edited by Julian Hawthorne. The translator is likely Frederick Taber Cooper.


As Telephron reached the point of his story, his fellow revelers, befuddled with their wine, renewed the boisterous uproar. And while the old topers were clamoring for the customary libation to laughter, Byrrhæna explained to me that the morrow was a day religiously observed by her city from its cradle up; a day on which they alone among mortals propitiated that most sacred god, Laughter, with hilarious and joyful rites. “The fact that you are here,” she added, “will make it all the merrier. And I do wish that you would contribute something amusing out of your own cleverness, in honor of the god, to help us duly worship such an important divinity.”

“Surely,” said I, “what you ask shall be done. And, by Jove! I hope I shall hit upon something good enough to make this mighty god of yours reveal his presence.”

Hereupon, my slave reminding me what hour of night it was, I speedily got upon my feet, although none too steadily after my potations, and, having duly taken leave of Byrrhæna, guided my zigzag steps upon the homeward way. But at the very first corner we turned, a sudden gust of wind blew out the solitary torch on which we depended, and left us, plunged in the unforeseen blackness of night, to stumble wearily and painfully to our abode, bruising our feet on every stone in the road. Continue reading ““The Adventure of the Three Robbers” by Apuleius”

Read Clarice Lispector’s short story “Report on the Thing”

In advance of New Directions’ forthcoming Clarice Lispector collection The Complete Stories, Vice has published “Report on the Thing” in a new English translation by Katrina Dodson (who translated the entire volume of 86 stories. First few paragraphs:

This thing is the most difficult for a person to understand. Keep trying. Don’t get discouraged. It will seem obvious. But it is extremely difficult to know about it. For it involves time.

We divide time when in reality it is not divisible. It is always immutable. But we need to divide it. And to that end a monstrous thing was created: the clock.

I am not going to speak of clocks. But of one particular clock. I’m showing my cards: I’ll say up front what I have to say and without literature. This report is the anti-literature of the thing.

The clock of which I speak is electronic and has an alarm. The brand is Sveglia, which means “awake.” Awake to what, my God? To time. To the hour. To the instant. This clock is not mine. But I took possession of its infernal tranquil soul.

It is not a wristwatch: Therefore it is freestanding. It is less than an inch tall and stands upon the surface of the table. I would like its actual name to be Sveglia. But the owner of the clock wants its name to be Horácio. No matter. Because the main thing is that it is time.

Read the rest of “Report on the Thing.”

“A Telephone Call” — Dorothy Parker

“A Telephone Call”

by

Dorothy Parker


Please, God, let him telephone me now. Dear God, let him call me now. I won’t ask anything else of You, truly I won’t. It isn’t very much to ask. It would be so little to You, God, such a little, little thing. Only let him telephone now. Please, God. Please, please, please.

If I didn’t think about it, maybe the telephone might ring. Sometimes it does that. If I could think of something else. If I could think of something else. Knobby if I counted five hundred by fives, it might ring by that time. I’ll count slowly. I won’t cheat. And if it rings when I get to three hundred, I won’t stop; I won’t answer it until I get to five hundred. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five, forty, forty-five, fifty…. Oh, please ring. Please.

This is the last time I’ll look at the clock. I will not look at it again. It’s ten minutes past seven. He said he would telephone at five o’clock. “I’ll call you at five, darling.” I think that’s where he said “darling.” I’m almost sure he said it there. I know he called me “darling” twice, and the other time was when he said good-by. “Good-by, darling.” He was busy, and he can’t say much in the office, but he called me “darling” twice. He couldn’t have minded my calling him up. I know you shouldn’t keep telephoning them–I know they don’t like that. When you do that they know you are thinking about them and wanting them, and that makes them hate you. But I hadn’t talked to him in three days-not in three days. And all I did was ask him how he was; it was just the way anybody might have called him up. He couldn’t have minded that. He couldn’t have thought I was bothering him. “No, of course you’re not,” he said. And he said he’d telephone me. He didn’t have to say that. I didn’t ask him to, truly I didn’t. I’m sure I didn’t. I don’t think he would say he’d telephone me, and then just never do it. Please don’t let him do that, God. Please don’t.
Continue reading ““A Telephone Call” — Dorothy Parker”

Read Herman Melville’s story “The Fiddler”

“The Fiddler”

by

Herman Melville


So my poem is damned, and immortal fame is not for me! I am nobody forever and ever. Intolerable fate!

Snatching my hat, I dashed down the criticism, and rushed out into Broadway, where enthusiastic throngs were crowding to a circus in a side-street near by, very recently started, and famous for a capital clown.

Presently my old friend Standard rather boisterously accosted me.

“Well met, Helmstone, my boy! Ah! what’s the matter? Haven’t been committing murder? Ain’t flying justice? You look wild!”

“You have seen it then?” said I, of course referring to the criticism.

“Oh yes; I was there at the morning performance. Great clown, I assure you. But here comes Hautboy. Hautboy—Helmstone.”

Without having time or inclination to resent so mortifying a mistake, I was instantly soothed as I gazed on the face of the new acquaintance so unceremoniously introduced. His person was short and full, with a juvenile, animated cast to it. His complexion rurally ruddy; his eye sincere, cheery, and gray. His hair alone betrayed that he was not an overgrown boy. From his hair I set him down as forty or more.

“Come, Standard,” he gleefully cried to my friend, “are you not going to the circus? The clown is inimitable, they say. Come; Mr. Helmstone, too—come both; and circus over, we’ll take a nice stew and punch at Taylor’s.”

The sterling content, good humor, and extraordinary ruddy, sincere expression of this most singular new acquaintance acted upon me like magic. It seemed mere loyalty to human nature to accept an invitation from so unmistakably kind and honest a heart.

During the circus performance I kept my eye more on Hautboy than on the celebrated clown. Hautboy was the sight for me. Such genuine enjoyment as his struck me to the soul with a sense of the reality of the thing called happiness. The jokes of the clown he seemed to roll under his tongue as ripe magnum bonums. Now the foot, now the hand, was employed to attest his grateful applause. At any hit more than ordinary, he turned upon Standard and me to see if his rare pleasure was shared. In a man of forty I saw a boy of twelve; and this too without the slightest abatement of my respect. Because all was so honest and natural, every expression and attitude so graceful with genuine good-nature, that the marvelous juvenility of Hautboy assumed a sort of divine and immortal air, like that of some forever youthful god of Greece. Continue reading “Read Herman Melville’s story “The Fiddler””

“A Mistaken Identity” — Lord Dunsany

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