UK First Edition
Monthly Archives: July 2012
THE SNAKE’S PASS by Bram Stoker
CHAPTER I. – A SUDDEN STORM.
Between two great mountains of grey and green, as the rock cropped out between the tufts of emerald verdure, the valley, almost as narrow as a gorge, ran due west towards the sea. There was just room for the roadway, half cut in the rock, beside the narrow strip of dark lake of seemingly unfathomable depth that lay far below between perpendicular walls of frowning rock. As the valley opened, the land dipped steeply, and the lake became a foam-fringed torrent, widening out into pools and miniature lakes as it reached the lower ground. In the wide terrace-like steps of the shelving mountain there were occasional glimpses of civilization emerging from the almost primal desolation which immediately surrounded us—clumps of trees, cottages, and the irregular outlines of stone-walled fields, with black stacks of turf for winter firing piled here and there. Far beyond was the sea—the great Atlantic—with a wildly irregular coast-line studded with a myriad of clustering rocky islands. A sea of deep dark blue, with the distant horizon tinged with a line of faint white light, and here and there, where its margin was visible through the breaks in the rocky coast, fringed with a line of foam as the waves broke on the rocks or swept in great rollers over the level expanse of sands.
The sky was a revelation to me, and seemed to almost obliterate memories of beautiful skies, although I had just come from the south and had felt the intoxication of the Italian night, where in the deep blue sky the nightingale’s note seems to hang as though its sound and the colour were but different expressions of one common feeling.
The whole west was a gorgeous mass of violet and sulphur and gold—great masses of storm-cloud piling up and up till the very heavens seemed weighted with a burden too great to bear. Clouds of violet, whose centres were almost black and whose outer edges were tinged with living gold; great streaks and piled up clouds of palest yellow deepening into saffron and flame-colour which seemed to catch the coming sunset and to throw its radiance back to the eastern sky.
The view was the most beautiful that I had ever seen, and, accustomed as I had been only to the quiet pastoral beauty of a grass country, with occasional visits to my Great Aunt’s well-wooded estate in the South of England, it was no wonder that it arrested my attention and absorbed my imagination. Even my brief half-a-year’s travel in Europe, now just concluded, had shown me nothing of the same kind.
Earth, sea and air all evidenced the triumph of nature, and told of her wild majesty and beauty. The air was still—ominously still. So still was all, that through the silence, that seemed to hedge us in with a sense of oppression, came the booming of the distant sea, as the great Atlantic swell broke in surf on the rocks or stormed the hollow caverns of the shore.
Even Andy, the driver, was for the nonce awed into comparative silence. Hitherto, for nearly forty miles of a drive, he had been giving me his experiences—propounding his views—airing his opinions; in fact he had been making me acquainted with his store of knowledge touching the whole district and its people—including their names, histories, romances, hopes and fears—all that goes to make up the life and interest of a country-side.
No barber—taking this tradesman to illustrate the popular idea of loquacity in excelsis—is more consistently talkative than an Irish car-driver to whom has been granted the gift of speech. There is absolutely no limit to his capability, for every change of surrounding affords a new theme and brings on the tapis a host of matters requiring to be set forth.
I was rather glad of Andy’s ‘brilliant flash of silence’ just at present, for not only did I wish to drink in and absorb the grand and novel beauty of the scene that opened out before me, but I wanted to understand as fully as I could some deep thought which it awoke within me. It may have been merely the grandeur and beauty of the scene—or perhaps it was the thunder which filled the air that July evening—but I felt exalted in a strange way, and impressed at the same time with a new sense of the reality of things. It almost seemed as if through that opening valley, with the mighty Atlantic beyond and the piling up of the storm-clouds overhead, I passed into a new and more real life.
To read the rest of this book visit:
The Snake’s Pass at bramstoker.org
THE SHOULDER OF SHASTA by Bram Stoker
WHEN Mrs. Elstree was told that a suitable summer home had been found for her, a certain weight was lifted from her mind. The Doctor whom she had consulted in San Francisco as to her daughter’s health was emphatic in his direction that Esse should spend the coming summer high up on some mountain side, and that she should have iron and other natural tonics suitable to her anaemic condition. Dr. De Young suggested that on some of the spurs of Shasta, a spot might be found where the air was sufficiently bracing, and where the waters which lower down made the valleys green and bright with their crystal purity had the requisite volcanic qualities. Mrs. Elstree had passed by Shasta Mountain once, on her way from British Columbia, and had fallen somewhat under its spell.
It is certainly a wonderful mountain, and has a personality which is rare amongst mountains. The Matterhorn has such a quality, and so have Ranier and Mount Hood; but mountains generally have as little individuality as the items of a dish of peas.
An energetic friend volunteered to make search on Shasta, and after a fortnight’s absence telegraphed:
“Have found very spot for you and agreed purchase subject your approval–made deposit; price all told two thousand dollars; strongly advise purchase.” She immediately wired:
“Purchase. Cheque sent payable to you.” The friend was a wise, astute and businesslike agent, and when he returned to San Francisco just after an even month’s absence he brought with him the deeds of the estate. As to its beauties he would say nothing except an energetic “Wait. I may be wrong!” When further pressed he added:
“I went there to purchase for you, not myself; but if you don’t care about the buy, wire me and I’ll take the whole outfit at ten premium!”
The journey from San Francisco seemed to gain new beauty from experience. As the train, after leaving Sacramento, wound its way by the brawling river, its windows brushed by the branches of hazel and mountain-ash, the whole wilderness seemed like the natural pleasaunce of an old-world garden. The road took its serpentine course up and above its own track, over and over again, and the bracing air made the spirits of all the party more eager for a sight of the new summer home. The only exception was Miss Gimp, a good-hearted lady who had been governess of Esse up to the previous year, when she had arrived at her sixteenth birthday, and was now her mother’s secretary and companion. Miss Gimp was not altogether satisfied with the whole affair. She had not been consulted about the purchase, she had not even been asked, as an accessory after the fact, if she approved; and worst of all, she had not been there to see that everything was in good order. Mr. Le Maistre, who was Mrs. Elstree’s male factotum, steward, butler, agent, handy-man, engineer and courier, had gone on a week before with the furniture and household effects of all kinds and supplies wherewith to stock the pantry and wine-cellar. He was to meet them at Edgewood, with horses and ponies, and a suitable guide to bring them to the new house. As he had taken the Saratoga trunks, the present party went flying light as to baggage, and had only to look after their travelling bags and wraps. The live stock was in the special care of Miss Gimp and consisted of a terrier, three Persian cats, and a parrot.
It was but a little after mid-day when the train, winding up through the clearings, drew near the station at Edgewood. The scene was not altogether a promising one. There were too many old meat and vegetable tins scattered about; too many rugged tree-stumps sticking out of the weedy ground, already bare in patches under the heats of the coming summer; insufficient attention to pleasant detail everywhere, and an absolute lack of picturesqueness in the inclined plane formed of rough timber beside the track, and used for purposes of firing and watering the engines. In fact, the whole of the little clearing was in that stage of development when beauty stands equally apart from nature and utility. But there was one sufficient compensation for all the immediate squalor. Beyond, in the distance, rose the mighty splendour of Shasta Mountain, its snow-covered head standing clear and stark into the sapphire sky, with its foothills a mass of billowy green, and its giant shoulders seemingly close at hand when looked at alone, but of infinite distance when compared with the foreground, or the snowy summit.
To read the rest of this book visit:
The Shoulder of Shasta at bramstoker.org
In addition to his novels Bram Stoker also wrote three collections of short stories plus a number of short stories that he published in newspapers and magazines during his lifetime. The three collections and the uncollected stories are as follows:
SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS:
You can download free copies of these stories by clicking on the above links or by going to: Short Stories at bramstoker.org