Category Archives: Fiction

Excerpt from “Tarzan of the Apes” by Edgar Rice Burroughs ~~King~~

Frothing and shrieking in the insanity of his fury, Kerchak looked about for the object of his greatest hatred, and there, upon a near-by limb, he saw him sitting.
“Come down, Tarzan, great killer,” cried Kerchak. “Come down and feel the fangs of a greater! Do mighty fighters fly to the trees at the first approach of danger?” And then Kerchak emitted the volleying challenge of his kind.
Quietly Tarzan dropped to the ground. Breathlessly the tribe watched from their lofty perches as Kerchak, still roaring, charged the relatively puny figure.
Nearly seven feet stood Kerchak on his short legs. His enormous shoulders were bunched and rounded with huge muscles. The back of his short neck was as a single lump of iron sinew which bulged beyond the base of his skull, so that his head seemed like a small ball protruding from a huge mountain of flesh.
His back-drawn, snarling lips exposed his great fighting fangs, and his little, wicked, blood-shot eyes gleamed in horrid reflection of his madness.
Awaiting him stood Tarzan, himself a mighty muscled animal, but his six feet of height and his great rolling sinews seemed pitifully inadequate to the ordeal which awaited them.
His bow and arrows lay some distance away where he had dropped them while showing Sabor’s hide to his fellow apes, so that he confronted Kerchak now with only his hunting knife and his superior intellect to offset the ferocious strength of his enemy.
As his antagonist came roaring toward him, Lord Greystoke tore his long knife from its sheath, and with an answering challenge as horrid and bloodcurdling as that of the beast he faced, rushed swiftly to meet the attack. He was too shrewd to allow those long hairy arms to encircle him, and just as their bodies were about to crash together, Tarzan of the Apes grasped one of the huge wrists of his assailant, and, springing lightly to one side, drove his knife to the hilt into Kerchak’s body, below the heart.
Before he could wrench the blade free again, the bull’s quick lunge to seize him in those awful arms had torn the weapon from Tarzan’s grasp.
Kerchak aimed a terrific blow at the ape-man’s head with the flat of his hand, a blow which, had it landed, might easily have crushed in the side of Tarzan’s skull.
The man was too quick, and, ducking beneath it, himself delivered a mighty one, with clenched fist, in the pit of Kerchak’s stomach.
The ape was staggered, and what with the mortal wound in his side had almost collapsed, when, with one mighty effort he rallied for an instant—just long enough to enable him to wrest his arm free from Tarzan’s grasp and close in a terrific clinch with his wiry opponent.
Straining the ape-man close to him, his great jaws sought Tarzan’s throat, but the young lord’s sinewy fingers were at Kerchak’s own before the cruel fangs could close on the sleek brown skin.
Thus they struggled, the one to crush out his opponent’s life with those awful teeth, the other to close forever the windpipe beneath his strong grasp while he held the snarling mouth from him.
The greater strength of the ape was slowly prevailing, and the teeth of the straining beast were scarce an inch from Tarzan’s throat when, with a shuddering tremor, the great body stiffened for an instant and then sank limply to the ground.
Kerchak was dead.
Withdrawing the knife that had so often rendered him master of far mightier muscles than his own, Tarzan of the Apes placed his foot upon the neck of his vanquished enemy, and once again, loud through the forest rang the fierce, wild cry of the conqueror.
And thus came the young Lord Greystoke into the kingship of the Apes.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Literature

Excerpt from “Around the World in Eighty Days” by Jules Verne ~~Wager~~

“Oh, I don’t know that. The world is big enough.”
“It was once,” said Phileas Fogg, in a low tone. “Cut, sir,” he added, handing the cards to Thomas Flanagan.
The discussion fell during the rubber, after which Stuart took up its thread.
“What do you mean by ‘once’? Has the world grown smaller?”
“Certainly,” returned Ralph. “I agree with Mr. Fogg. The world has grown smaller, since a man can now go round it ten times more quickly than a hundred years ago. And that is why the search for this thief will be more likely to succeed.”
“And also why the thief can get away more easily.”
“Be so good as to play, Mr. Stuart,” said Phileas Fogg.
But the incredulous Stuart was not convinced, and when the hand was finished, said eagerly: “You have a strange way, Ralph, of proving that the world has grown smaller. So, because you can go round it in three months—”
“In eighty days,” interrupted Phileas Fogg.
“That is true, gentlemen,” added John Sullivan. “Only eighty days, now that the section between Rothal and Allahabad, on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, has been opened. Here is the estimate made by the Daily Telegraph:

From London to Suez via Mont Cenis and
Brindisi, by rail and steamboats ……………………………. 7 days
From Suez to Bombay, by steamer ……………………….. 13 ”
From Bombay to Calcutta, by rail ………………………….. 3 ”
From Calcutta to Hong Kong, by steamer ……………… 13 ”
From Hong Kong to Yokohama (Japan), by steamer .. 6 ”
From Yokohama to San Francisco, by steamer ……… 22 ”
From San Francisco to New York, by rail ……………….. 7 ”
From New York to London, by steamer and rail ……… 9 ”
Total ………………………………………………………………… 80 days.”

“Yes, in eighty days!” exclaimed Stuart, who in his excitement made a false deal. “But that doesn’t take into account bad weather, contrary winds, shipwrecks, railway accidents, and so on.”
“All included,” returned Phileas Fogg, continuing to play despite the discussion.
“But suppose the Hindoos or Indians pull up the rails,” replied Stuart; “suppose they stop the trains, pillage the luggage-vans, and scalp the passengers!”
“All included,” calmly retorted Fogg; adding, as he threw down the cards, “Two trumps.”
Stuart, whose turn it was to deal, gathered them up, and went on: “You are right, theoretically, Mr. Fogg, but practically—”
“Practically also, Mr. Stuart.”
“I’d like to see you do it in eighty days.”
“It depends on you. Shall we go?”
“Heaven preserve me! But I would wager four thousand pounds that such a journey, made under these conditions, is impossible.”
“Quite possible, on the contrary,” returned Mr. Fogg.
“Well, make it, then!”
“The journey round the world in eighty days?”
“Yes.”
“I should like nothing better.”
“When?”
“At once. Only I warn you that I shall do it at your expense.”
“It’s absurd!” cried Stuart, who was beginning to be annoyed at the persistency of his friend. “Come, let’s go on with the game.”
“Deal over again, then,” said Phileas Fogg. “There’s a false deal.”
Stuart took up the pack with a feverish hand; then suddenly put them down again.
“Well, Mr. Fogg,” said he, “it shall be so: I will wager the four thousand on it.”
“Calm yourself, my dear Stuart,” said Fallentin. “It’s only a joke.”
“When I say I’ll wager,” returned Stuart, “I mean it.”
“All right,” said Mr. Fogg; and, turning to the others, he continued: “I have a deposit of twenty thousand at Baring’s which I will willingly risk upon it.”
“Twenty thousand pounds!” cried Sullivan. “Twenty thousand pounds, which you would lose by a single accidental delay!”
“The unforeseen does not exist,” quietly replied Phileas Fogg.
“But, Mr. Fogg, eighty days are only the estimate of the least possible time in which the journey can be made.”
“A well-used minimum suffices for everything.”
“But, in order not to exceed it, you must jump mathematically from the trains upon the steamers, and from the steamers upon the trains again.”
“I will jump—mathematically.”
“You are joking.”
“A true Englishman doesn’t joke when he is talking about so serious a thing as a wager,” replied Phileas Fogg, solemnly. “I will bet twenty thousand pounds against anyone who wishes that I will make the tour of the world in eighty days or less; in nineteen hundred and twenty hours, or a hundred and fifteen thousand two hundred minutes. Do you accept?”
“We accept,” replied Messrs. Stuart, Fallentin, Sullivan, Flanagan, and Ralph, after consulting each other.
“Good,” said Mr. Fogg. “The train leaves for Dover at a quarter before nine. I will take it.”
“This very evening?” asked Stuart.
“This very evening,” returned Phileas Fogg. He took out and consulted a pocket almanac, and added, “As today is Wednesday, the 2nd of October, I shall be due in London in this very room of the Reform Club, on Saturday, the 21st of December, at a quarter before nine p.m.; or else the twenty thousand pounds, now deposited in my name at Baring’s, will belong to you, in fact and in right, gentlemen. Here is a cheque for the amount.”

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Literature

Excerpt from “The Cowboys” by William Dale Jennings

Anse inspected the trio as they padded toward the bar. They were sorry-looking specimens, greasy and filthy as buffalo skinners, and dressed in an almost clownish mixture of clothes to keep out the Montana winter. The tallest looked stupid and dirty, the young one with the oddly new-looking Stetson looked depraved and dirty, and the little long-haired one looked good and dirty. Leading them to the bar, he said, “You Wil Andersen?”
Wil didn’t look up. Anse asked, “What you want with Wil Andersen?”
“We hear tell he’s looking for hands, Mister Bar Dog.”
Anse’s nostrils quivered. There was nothing wrong with running a saloon. It was the way the little viper said it.
Without looking up, Wil said, “I got all the hands I need.”
Six eyes focused on him. The long-haired one said, “But the man down at the stable said you were in there not twenty minutes ago looking for cowhands, any size, any shape, any age.”
Wil neither answered nor looked at him. The cocky little man waited a moment, with eyes flashing. He shifted his weight to the other foot, put his hands on his hips, and began talking louder than a man should only a couple of feet away.
“Mister, you mean to say you found cowhands in Bozeman right in the middle of a gold strike?”
He smiled over his shoulder at his companions. His teeth were brilliant white.
“Must have got himself some drunk Injuns.”
Still smiling, Long Hair looked up at Wil and began tapping the big man’s arm for emphasis as he spoke.
“Tell you what, old friend, I’ll make you a real good deal. Me and my partners here’ll go on your drive with you, and we won’t ask a cent of pay.”
Wil looked thoughtfully down at the forefinger tapping his arm. The young man continued enthusiastically.
“Honest fact is, we’d take mighty kindly to a couple months of your Charlie Nightlinger’s chuck. Hear tell he’s real good with the pots and pans, and we ain’t had a real meal all winter long. Now, if that ain’t the best offer you had all year, I don’t know what is!”
With a toss of the head, he whipped a strand of hair back over his shoulder. Then his eyes settled fondly on the bottle in front of Wil.
“Now, old friend, we’d be mighty obliged to seal the bargain with a small libation.”
Anse whacked the cork into the bottle with the palm of his hand. It was a familiar gesture.
The short man’s smile vanished. Then suddenly he turned to Wil Andersen with a generous smile, as if nothing had happened. “Well, what do you say, old friend? When do we start?”
Wil spoke to his glass. “I got all the hands I need right now.”
Long Hair refused to let go the smile. “But we’re gonna work for free!”
Wil looked him up and down with his quiet eyes. “Son, I accept the value a man sets on himself. Nobody gets nothing worth having free!”
Long Hair’s smile vanished. It left eyes that glittered like broken glass.
Wil took in all three of them. “I do need hands. Only not that bad.”
Long Hair couldn’t seem to believe his ears. His eyes were blank with rage. He shouted up at the taller man: “What did you just say, old coot?
Wil looked at him quietly. His gray gaze was cool as a cougar’s. He spoke quietly. “I’d feel safer with the drunk Indians.”
Long Hair controlled his range for only a moment. He whipped out his gun. His friends drew, too. They all stood ready, with feet apart.
They looked might dangerous. But nothing happened. The cool gray gaze never wavered.
Wil heard Anse moving behind him. He stepped aside. The three young gunmen found themselves looking into the black eyes of a double-barreled shotgun lying across the bar. It would take in all three of them with one blast.
Long Hair was the last to put his gun away. He glared up at Wil a moment, then suddenly showed all his fine teeth in a glowing smile. “I feel like I just had a real close call, and I don’t mean that old shotgun, neither. I almost tied in with a man that’s too damn old to know when he’s lucky. He ain’t for me, no ,sir!”
Then came the surprise. Wil Andersen stepped back in front of the shotgun and poked his forefinger in Long Hair’s chest. The force of the jab made the smaller man step back to keep his balance. For an instant he looked surprised; then he looked at the floor and gave a little shrug, as if he were smiling at himself.
Wil said, “Get out of Bozeman. Right now.”

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Literature

Excerpt from “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë ~~Rochester~~

We were, as I have said, in the dining-room: the lustre, which had been lit for dinner, filled the room with a festal breadth of light; the large fire was all red and clear; the purple curtains hung rich and ample before the lofty window and loftier arch; everything was still, save the subdued chat of Adèle (she dared not speak loud), and, filling up each pause, the beating of winter rain against the panes.

Mr. Rochester, as he sat in his damask-covered chair, looked different to what I had seen him look before; not quite so stern—much less gloomy. There was a smile on his lips, and his eyes sparkled, whether with wine or not, I am not sure; but I think it very probable. He was, in short, in his after-dinner mood; more expanded and genial, and also more self-indulgent than the frigid and rigid temper of the morning; still he looked preciously grim, cushioning his massive head against the swelling back of his chair, and receiving the light of the fire on his granite-hewn features, and in his great, dark eyes; for he had great, dark eyes, and very fine eyes, too—not without a certain change in their depths sometimes, which, if it was not softness, reminded you, at least, of that feeling.

He had been looking two minutes at the fire, and I had been looking the same length of time at him, when, turning suddenly, he caught my gaze fastened on his physiognomy.

“You examine me, Miss Eyre,” said he: “do you think me handsome?”

I should, if I had deliberated, have replied to this question by something conventionally vague and polite; but the answer somehow slipped from my tongue before I was aware—“No, sir.”

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Literature

Excerpt from “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens ~~Past~~

A Retrospect
Sol Eytinge
victorianweb.org

He was not alone, but sat by the side of a fair young girl in a mourning dress: in whose eyes there were tears, which sparkled in the light that shone out of the Ghost of Christmas Past.
“It matters little,” she said softly. “To you, very little. Another idol has displaced me; and, if it can cheer and comfort you in time to come as I would have tried to do, I have no just cause to grieve.”
“What Idol has displaced you?” he rejoined.
“A golden one.”
“This is the even-handed dealing of the world!” he said. “There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!”
“You fear the world too much,” she answered gently. “All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being beyond the chance of its sordid reproach. I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master passion, Gain, engrosses you. Have I not?”
“What then?” he retorted. “Even if I have grown so much wiser, what then? I am not changed towards you.”
She shook her head.
“Am I?”
“Our contract is an old one. It was made when we were both poor, and content to be so, until, in good season, we could improve our worldly fortune by our patient industry. You are changed. When it was made you were another man.”
“I was a boy,” he said impatiently.
“Your own feeling tells you that you were not what you are,” she returned. “I am. That which promised happiness when we were one in heart is fraught with misery now that we are two. How often and how keenly I have thought of this I will not say. It is enough that I have thought of it, and can release you.”
“Have I ever sought release?”
“In words. No. Never.”
“In what, then?”
“In a changed nature; in an altered spirit; in another atmosphere of life; another Hope as its great end. In everything that made my love of any worth or value in your sight. If this had never been between us,” said the girl, looking mildly, but with steadiness, upon him, “tell me, would you seek me out and try to win me now? Ah, no!”
He seemed to yield to the justice of this supposition in spite of himself. But he said, with a struggle, “You think not.”
“I would gladly think otherwise if I could,” she answered. “Heaven knows! When I have learned a Truth like this, I know how strong and irresistible it must be. But if you were free to-day, to-morrow, yesterday, can even I believe that you would choose a dowerless girl—you who, in your very confidence with her, weigh everything by Gain: or, choosing her, if for a moment you were false enough to your one guiding principle to do so, do I not know that your repentance and regret would surely follow? I do; and I release you. With a full heart, for the love of him you once were.”
He was about to speak; but, with her head turned from him, she resumed.
“You may—the memory of what is past half makes me hope you will—have pain in this. A very, very brief time, and you will dismiss the recollection of it gladly, as an unprofitable dream, from which it happened well that you awoke. May you be happy in the life you have chosen!”
She left him, and they parted.
“Spirit!” said Scrooge, “show me no more! Conduct me home. Why do you delight to torture me?”

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Literature

Excerpt from “Papillon” by Henri Charrière ~~Escape~~

We took the two rafts out of the cave. And straight away all three of us were soaked to the skin. The wind was blowing with the particular howl of a strong gale coming right in from the offing. Sylvain and Chang helped me shove my raft to the top of the rock. At the last moment I decided to chain my left wrist to the rope binding the sacks. All at once I was afraid of losing my hold and being swept away without them. Sylvain got up on to the opposite rock, helped by Chang. The moon was high now and we could see very well.
I had rolled a towel round my head. There were six waves to be waited for. Only a few minutes left now. Chang had come back to my side. He hugged me round the neck and then kissed me. He was going to lie there wedged in an angle of the rock and grip my legs to help me withstand’ the shock of Lisette’s breaking.
‘Only one morel’ shouted Sylvain. ‘Then we’re away.’ He was standing in front of his raft so as to protect it from the mass of water that was about to sweep over it. I was in the same position and in addition I had Chang’s hands to hold me firm – in his excitement he had driven his nails into the flesh of my calf.
Lisette came for us, driving in as tall as a steeple. She broke on our two rocks with her usual enormous crash and rushed up the side of the cliff.
I flung myself in a fraction of a second before my friend: he was in immediately after, and it was with the two rafts tight against one another that Lisette swept us racing out to sea. In less than five minutes we were more than three hundred yards from the shore. Sylvain had not yet climbed up on to his raft. I’d got on to mine within two minutes. Chang had hurried up to Dreyfus’s seat, and he was waving a scrap of white cloth – his last farewell. Now it was a good five minutes that we had been beyond the dangerous zone where the waves formed to drive right in for Devil’s Island. Those that we were now riding were much longer, they had almost no foam, and they were so regular that we drifted along as though we were part of them; we were not tossed about and the rafts did not attempt to capsize. We rose and fell upon these great rollers, slowly moving out into the offing, for this was the ebb.
Once again, as I reached the top and turned my head right round, I caught a last glimpse of Chang’s white handkerchief. Sylvain was not far from me – perhaps fifty yards farther out to sea. Several times he held up his arm and waved it by way of showing triumph and delight.

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Literature, Non-Fiction

Excerpt from “The Bourne Identity” by Robert Ludlum ~~Bourne~~

Beneath the statement he could feel the outline of a separate envelope, far shorter than the page itself. He lifted up the paper, the envelope was rimmed with a black border, typewritten words on the front.

Identity: Owner Access
Legal Restrictions: Access-Registered Officer, Treadstone Seventy-One Corporation, Bearer Will Produce Written Instructions From Owner. Subject To Verifications.

“I’d like to check this,” said the client.
“It’s your property,” replied Apfel. “I can assure you it has remained intact.”
The patient removed the envelope and turned it over. A Gemeinschaft seal was pressed over the borders of the flap; none of the raised letters had been disturbed. He tore the flap open, took out the card, and read:

Owner: Jason Charles Bourne
Address: Unlisted
Citizenship: U.S.A.

Jason Charles Bourne.
Jason.

The J was for Jason! His name was Jason Bourne. The Bourne had meant nothing, the J. Bourne still meaningless, but in the combination Jason and Bourne, obscure tumblers locked into place. He could accept it; he did accept it. He was Jason Charles Bourne, American. Yet he could feel his chest pounding; the vibration in his ears was deafening, the pain in his stomach more acute. What was it?
Why did he have the feeling that he was plunging into the darkness again, into the black waters again?
“Is something wrong?” asked Walther Apfel.
Is something wrong, Herr Bourne?
“No. Everything’s fine. My name’s Bourne. Jason Bourne.”
Was he shouting? Whispering? He could not tell.
“My privilege to know you, Mr. Bourne. Your identity will remain confidential. You have the word of an officer of the Bank Gemeinschaft.”
“Thank you. Now, I’m afraid I’ve got to transfer a great deal of this money and I’ll need your help.”
“Again, my privilege. Whatever assistance or advice I can render, I shall be happy to do so.”
Bourne reached for the glass of Perrier.

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Literature