Firbolg Publishing’s Blood Beach: The Body-Snatcher by Robert Louis Stevenson

Posted on Jul 17, 2016

Firbolg Publishing’s Blood Beach: The Body-Snatcher by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Body-Snatcher by Robert Louis Stevenson Every night in the year, four of us sat in the small parlor of the George at Debenham–the undertaker, and the landlord, and Fettes, and myself. Sometimes there would be more; but blow high, blow low, come rain or snow or frost, we four would be each planted in his own particular armchair. Fettes was an old drunken Scotchman, a man of education obviously, and a man of some property, since he lived in idleness. He had come to Debenham years ago, while still young, and by a mere continuance of living had grown to be an adopted townsman. His blue camlet cloak was a local antiquity, like the church spire. His place in the parlor at the George, his absence from church, his old, crapulous, disreputable vices, were all things of course in Debenham. He had some vague Radical opinions and some fleeting infidelities, which he would now and again set forth and emphasize with tottering slaps upon the table. He drank rum–five glasses regularly every evening; and for the greater portion of his nightly visit to the George sat, with his glass in his right hand, in a state of melancholy alcoholic saturation. We called him the Doctor, for he was supposed to have some special knowledge of medicine, and had been known, upon a pinch, to set a fracture or reduce a dislocation; but beyond these slight particulars, we had no knowledge of his character and antecedents. One dark winter night–it had struck nine some time before the landlord joined us–there was a sick man in the George, a great neighboring proprietor suddenly struck down with apoplexy on his way to Parliament; and the great man’s still greater London doctor had been telegraphed to his bedside. It was the first time that such a thing had happened in Debenham, for the railway was but newly open, and we were all proportionately moved by the occurrence. “He’s come,” said the landlord, after he had filled and lighted his pipe. “He?” said I. “Who? Not the doctor?” “Himself,” replied our host. “What is his name?” “Doctor Macfarlane,” said the landlord. Fettes was far through his third tumbler, stupidly fuddled, now nodding over, now staring mazily around him; but at the last word he seemed to awaken, and repeated the name “Macfarlane” twice, quietly enough the first time, but with sudden emotion at the second. “Yes,” said the landlord, “that’s his name, Doctor Wolfe Macfarlane.” Fettes became instantly sober; his eyes awoke, his voice became clear, loud, and steady, his language forcible and earnest. We were all startled by the transformation, as if a man had risen from the dead. “I beg your pardon,” he said, “I am afraid I have not been paying much attention to your talk. Who is this Wolfe Macfarlane?” And then, when he had heard the landlord out,...

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Firbolg Publishing’s Blood Beach: The Blind Spot by Saki

Posted on Jul 13, 2016

Firbolg Publishing’s Blood Beach: The Blind Spot by Saki

The Blind Spot by Saki THE BLIND SPOT “You’ve just come back from Adelaide’s funeral, haven’t you?” said Sir Lulworth to his nephew; “I suppose it was very like most other funerals?” “I’ll tell you all about it at lunch,” said Egbert. “You’ll do nothing of the sort.  It wouldn’t be respectful either to your great aunt’s memory or to the lunch.  We begin with Spanish olives, then a borshch, then more olives and a bird of some kind, and a rather enticing Rhenish wine, not at all expensive as wines go in this country, but still quite laudable in its way.  Now there’s absolutely nothing in that menu that harmonizes in the least with the subject of your great aunt Adelaide or her funeral.  She was a charming woman, and quite as intelligent as she had any need to be, but somehow she always reminded me of an English cook’s idea of a Madras curry.” “She used to say you were frivolous,” said Egbert.  Something in his tone suggested that he rather endorsed the verdict. “I believe I once considerably scandalized her by declaring that clear soup was a more important factor in life than a clear conscience.  She had very little sense of proportion.  By the way, she made you her principal heir, didn’t she?” “Yes,” said Egbert, “and executor as well.  It’s in that connection that I particularly want to speak to you.” “Business is not my strong point at any time,” said Sir Lulworth, “and certainly not when we’re on the immediate threshold of lunch.” “It isn’t exactly business,” explained Egbert, as he followed his uncle into the dining room. “It’s something rather serious.  Very serious.” “Then we can’t possibly speak about it now,” said Sir Lulworth; “no one could talk seriously during a borshch.  A beautifully constructed borshch, such as you are going to experience presently, ought not only to banish conversation but almost to annihilate thought.  Later on, when we arrive at the second stage of olives, I shall be quite ready to discuss that new book on Borrow, or, if you prefer it, the present situation in the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg.  But I absolutely decline to talk anything approaching business till we have finished with the bird.” For the greater part of the meal Egbert sat in an abstracted silence, the silence of a man whose mind is focused on one topic.  When the coffee stage had been reached he launched himself suddenly athwart his uncle’s reminiscences of the Court of Luxemburg. “I think I told you that great aunt Adelaide had made me her executor.  There wasn’t very much to be done in the way of legal matters, but I had to go through her papers.” “That would be a fairly heavy task in itself.  I should imagine there were reams of family letters.” “Stacks of them, and most of...

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Firbolg Publishing’s Blood Beach: The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe

Posted on Jul 6, 2016

Firbolg Publishing’s Blood Beach: The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe

  The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe The chateau into which my valet had ventured to make forcible entrance, rather than permit me, in my desperately wounded condition, to pass a night in the open air, was one of those piles of commingled gloom and grandeur which have so long frowned among the Appennines, not less in fact than in the fancy of Mrs. Radcliffe. To all appearance it had been temporarily and very lately abandoned. We established ourselves in one of the smallest and least sumptuously furnished apartments. It lay in a remote turret of the building. Its decorations were rich, yet tattered and antique. Its walls were hung with tapestry and bedecked with manifold and multiform armorial trophies, together with an unusually great number of very spirited modern paintings in frames of rich golden arabesque. In these paintings, which depended from the walls not only in their main surfaces, but in very many nooks which the bizarre architecture of the chateau rendered necessary—in these paintings my incipient delirium, perhaps, had caused me to take deep interest; so that I bade Pedro to close the heavy shutters of the room—since it was already night—to light the tongues of a tall candelabrum which stood by the head of my bed—and to throw open far and wide the fringed curtains of black velvet which enveloped the bed itself. I wished all this done that I might resign myself, if not to sleep, at least alternately to the contemplation of these pictures, and the perusal of a small volume which had been found upon the pillow, and which purported to criticize and describe them. Long—long I read—and devoutly, devotedly I gazed. Rapidly and gloriously the hours flew by and the deep midnight came. The position of the candelabrum displeased me, and outreaching my hand with difficulty, rather than disturb my slumbering valet, I placed it so as to throw its rays more fully upon the book. But the action produced an effect altogether unanticipated. The rays of the numerous candles (for there were many) now fell within a niche of the room which had hitherto been thrown into deep shade by one of the bedposts. I thus saw in vivid light a picture all unnoticed before. It was the portrait of a young girl just ripening into womanhood. I glanced at the painting hurriedly, and then closed my eyes. Why I did this was not at first apparent even to my own perception. But while my lids remained thus shut, I ran over in my mind my reason for so shutting them. It was an impulsive movement to gain time for thought—to make sure that my vision had not deceived me—to calm and subdue my fancy for a more sober and more certain gaze. In a very few moments I again looked fixedly at the painting. That I now saw...

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Firbolg Publishing’s Blood Beach: An Unwritten Novel by Virginia Woolf

Posted on Jun 30, 2016

Firbolg Publishing’s Blood Beach: An Unwritten Novel by Virginia Woolf

An Unwritten Novel by Virginia Woolf Such an expression of unhappiness was enough by itself to make one’s eyes slide above the paper’s edge to the poor woman’s face—insignificant without that look, almost a symbol of human destiny with it. Life’s what you see in people’s eyes; life’s what they learn, and, having learnt it, never, though they seek to hide it, cease to be aware of—what? That life’s like that, it seems. Five faces opposite—five mature faces—and the knowledge in each face. Strange, though, how people want to conceal it! Marks of reticence are on all those faces: lips shut, eyes shaded, each one of the five doing something to hide or stultify his knowledge. One smokes; another reads; a third checks entries in a pocket book; a fourth stares at the map of the line framed opposite; and the fifth—the terrible thing about the fifth is that she does nothing at all. She looks at life. Ah, but my poor, unfortunate woman, do play the game—do, for all our sakes, conceal it! As if she heard me, she looked up, shifted slightly in her seat and sighed. She seemed to apologize and at the same time to say to me, “If only you knew!” Then she looked at life again. “But I do know,” I answered silently, glancing at the Times for manners’ sake. “I know the whole business. ‘Peace between Germany and the Allied Powers was yesterday officially ushered in at Paris—Signor Nitti, the Italian Prime Minister—a passenger train at Doncaster was in collision with a goods train…’ We all know—the Times knows—but we pretend we don’t.” My eyes had once more crept over the paper’s rim. She shuddered, twitched her arm queerly to the middle of her back and shook her head. Again I dipped into my great reservoir of life. “Take what you like,” I continued, “births, deaths, marriages, Court Circular, the habits of birds, Leonardo da Vinci, the Sandhills murder, high wages and the cost of living—oh, take what you like,” I repeated, “it’s all in the Times!” Again with infinite weariness she moved her head from side to side until, like a top exhausted with spinning, it settled on her neck. The Times was no protection against such sorrow as hers. But other human beings forbade intercourse. The best thing to do against life was to fold the paper so that it made a perfect square, crisp, thick, impervious even to life. This done, I glanced up quickly, armed with a shield of my own. She pierced through my shield; she gazed into my eyes as if searching any sediment of courage at the depths of them and damping it to clay. Her twitch alone denied all hope, discounted all illusion. So we rattled through Surrey and across the border into Sussex. But with my eyes upon life I did not see...

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Firbolg Publishing’s Blood Beach: Two Friends by Guy de Maupassant

Posted on Jun 24, 2016

Firbolg Publishing’s Blood Beach: Two Friends by Guy de Maupassant

Two Friends by Guy de Maupassant Besieged Paris was in the throes of famine. Even the sparrows on the roofs and the rats in the sewers were growing scarce. People were eating anything they could get. As Monsieur Morissot, watchmaker by profession and idler for the nonce, was strolling along the boulevard one bright January morning, his hands in his trousers pockets and stomach empty, he suddenly came face to face with an acquaintance—Monsieur Sauvage, a fishing chum. Before the war broke out Morissot had been in the habit, every Sunday morning, of setting forth with a bamboo rod in his hand and a tin box on his back. He took the Argenteuil train, got out at Colombes, and walked thence to the Ile Marante. The moment he arrived at this place of his dreams he began fishing, and fished ’til nightfall. Every Sunday he met in this very spot Monsieur Sauvage, a stout, jolly, little man, a draper in the Rue Notre Dame de Lorette, and also an ardent fisherman. They often spent half the day side by side, rod in hand and feet dangling over the water, and a warm friendship had sprung up between the two. Some days they did not speak; at other times they chatted; but they understood each other perfectly without the aid of words, having similar tastes and feelings. In the spring, about ten o’clock in the morning, when the early sun caused a light mist to float on the water and gently warmed the backs of the two enthusiastic anglers, Morissot would occasionally remark to his neighbor: “My, but it’s pleasant here.” To which the other would reply: “I can’t imagine anything better!” And these few words sufficed to make them understand and appreciate each other. In the autumn, toward the close of day, when the setting sun shed a blood-red glow over the western sky, and the reflection of the crimson clouds tinged the whole river with red, brought a glow to the faces of the two friends, and gilded the trees, whose leaves were already turning at the first chill touch of winter, Monsieur Sauvage would sometimes smile at Morissot, and say: “What a glorious spectacle!” And Morissot would answer, without taking his eyes from his float: “This is much better than the boulevard, isn’t it?” As soon as they recognized each other they shook hands cordially, affected at the thought of meeting under such changed circumstances. Monsieur Sauvage, with a sigh, murmured: “These are sad times!” Morissot shook his head mournfully. “And such weather! This is the first fine day of the year.” The sky was, in fact, of a bright, cloudless blue. They walked along, side by side, reflective and sad. “And to think of the fishing!” said Morissot. “What good times we used to have!” “When shall we be able to fish again?” asked Monsieur Sauvage....

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Firbolg Publishing’s Blood Beach: Midnight Express by Alfred Noyes

Posted on Jun 20, 2016

Firbolg Publishing’s Blood Beach: Midnight Express by Alfred Noyes

Midnight Express by Alfred Noyes It was a battered old book, bound in read buckram. He found it, when he was twelve years old, on an upper shelf in his father’s library; and, against all the rules, he took it to his bedroom to read by candlelight, when the rest of the rambling old Elizabethan house was flooded with darkness. That was how young Mortimer always thought of it. His own room was a little isolated cell, in which, with stolen candle ends, he could keep the surrounding darkness at bay, while everyone else had surrendered to sleep and allowed the outer night to come flooding in. By contrast with those unconscious ones, his elders, it made him feel intensely alive in every nerve and fiber of his young brain. The ticking of the grandfather clock in the hall below, the beating of his own heart; the long-drawn rhythmical ‘ah’ of the sea on the distant coast, all filled him with a sense of overwhelming mystery; and, as he read, the soft thud of a blinded moth, striking the wall above the candle, would make him start and listen like a creature of the woods at the sound of a cracking twig. The battered old book had the strangest fascination for him though he never quite grasped the thread of the story. It was called The Midnight Express, and there was one illustration, on the fiftieth page, at which he could never bear to look. It frightened him. Young Mortimer never understood the effect of that picture on him. He was an imaginative, but not a neurotic youngster; and he avoided the fiftieth page as he might have hurried past a dark corner on the stairs when he was six years old, or as the grown man on the lonely road, in The Ancient Mariner, who, having once looked round, walks on, and turns no more his head. There was nothing in the picture – apparently – to account for this haunting dread. Darkness, indeed, was almost its chief characteristic. It showed an empty railway platform – at night – lit by a single dreary lamp: an empty railway platform that suggested a deserted and lonely junction in some remote part of the country. There was only one figure on the platform: the dark figure of a man, standing almost directly under the lamp with his face turned away towards the black mouth of a tunnel which – for some strange reason – plunged the imagination of the child into a pit of horror. The man seemed to be listening. His attitude was tense, expectant, as though he were awaiting some fearful tragedy. There was nothing in the text, so far the child read, and could understand, to account for this waking nightmare. He could neither resist the fascination of the book, nor face that picture in the stillness...

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