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Short stories to read and discuss

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Indeed, Lord Canterville himself, who was a man of the most punctilious honour, had felt it his duty to mention the fact to Mr. Otis when they came to discuss terms. Otis, that the ghost has been seen by several living members of my family, as well as by the rector of the parish, the Rev. After the unfortunate accident to the Duchess, none of our younger servants would stay with us, and Lady Canterville often got very little sleep at night, in consequence of the mysterious noises that came from the corridor and the library.

It has been well known for three centuries, since in fact, and always makes its appearance before the death of any member of our family.

But there is no such thing, sir, as a ghost, and I guess the laws of Nature are not going to be suspended for the British aristocracy. Only you must remember I warned you. A few weeks after this, the purchase was concluded, and at the close of the season the Minister and his family went down to Canterville Chase. Otis, who, as Miss Lucretia R. Tappan, of West 53rd Street, had been a celebrated New York belle, was now a very handsome, middle-aged woman, with fine eyes, and a superb profile.

Many American ladies on leaving their native land adopt an appearance of chronic ill-health, under the impression that it is a form of European refinement, but Mrs. Otis had never fallen into this error. She had a magnificent constitution, and a really wonderful amount of animal spirits. Indeed, in many respects, she was quite English, and was an excellent example of the fact that we have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.

Their eldest son, christened Washington by his parents in a moment of patriotism, which he never ceased to regret, was a fair-haired, rather good-looking young man, who had qualified himself for American diplomacy by leading the German at the Newport Casino for three successive seasons, and even in London was well known as an excellent dancer.

Gardenias and the peerage were his only weaknesses. Otherwise he was extremely sensible. Otis was a little girl of fifteen, lithe and lovely as a fawn, and with a fine freedom in her large blue eyes. She was a wonderful amazon, and had once raced old Lord Bilton on her pony twice round the park, winning by a length and a half, just in front of the Achilles statue, to the huge delight of the young Duke of Cheshire, who proposed for her on the spot, and was sent back to Eton that very night by his guardians, in floods of tears.

They were delightful boys, and with the exception of the worthy Minister the only true republicans of the family. As Canterville Chase is seven miles from Ascot, the nearest railway station, Mr.

Otis had telegraphed for a waggonette to meet them, and they started on their drive in high spirits. It was a lovely July evening, and the air was delicate with the scent of the pinewoods. Now and then they heard a wood pigeon brooding over its own sweet voice, or saw, deep in the rustling fern, the burnished breast of the pheasant. Little squirrels peered at them from the beech-trees as they went by, and the rabbits scudded away through the brushwood and over the mossy knolls, with their white tails in the air.

As they entered the avenue of Canterville Chase, however, the sky became suddenly overcast with clouds, a curious stillness seemed to hold the atmosphere, a great flight of rooks passed silently over their heads, and, before they reached the house, some big drops of rain had fallen. Standing on the steps to receive them was an old woman, neatly dressed in black silk, with a white cap and apron.

Umney, the housekeeper, whom Mrs. Here they found tea laid out for them, and, after taking off their wraps, they sat down and began to look round, while Mrs. Umney waited on them. Otis caught sight of a dull red stain on the floor just by the fireplace and, quite unconscious of what it really signified, said to Mrs. Umney, I am afraid something has been spilt there. It must be removed at once. Sir Simon survived her nine years, and disappeared suddenly under very mysterious circumstances.

His body has never been discovered, but his guilty spirit still haunts the Chase. The blood-stain has been much admired by tourists and others, and cannot be removed.

In a few moments no trace of the blood-stain could be seen. I have always been of opinion that emigration is the only thing for England. Umney certainly came to. There was no doubt, however, that she was extremely upset, and she sternly warned Mr. Otis to beware of some trouble coming to the house.

Otis, however, and his wife warmly assured the honest soul that they were not afraid of ghosts, and, after invoking the blessings of Providence on her new master and mistress, and making arrangements for an increase of salary, the old housekeeper tottered off to her own room.

The day had been warm and sunny; and, in the cool of the evening, the whole family went out to drive. The conversation in no way turned upon ghosts, so there were not even those primary conditions of receptive expectation which so often precede the presentation of psychical phenomena. The subjects discussed, as I have since learned from Mr.

Otis, were merely such as form the ordinary conversation of cultured Americans of the better class, such as the immense superiority of Miss Fanny Davenport over Sara Bernhardt as an actress; the difficulty of obtaining green corn, buckwheat cakes, and hominy, even in the best English houses; the importance of Boston in the development of the world-soul; the advantages of the baggage check system in railway travelling; and the sweetness of the New York accent as compared to the London drawl.

No mention at all was made of the supernatural, nor was Sir Simon de Canterville alluded to in any way. Some time after, Mr. Otis was awakened by a curious noise in the corridor, outside his room. It sounded like the clank of metal, and seemed to be coming nearer every moment.

He got up at once, struck a match, and looked at the time. He was quite calm, and felt his pulse, which was not at all feverish. The strange noise still continued, and with it he heard distinctly the sound of footsteps. He put on his slippers, took a small oblong phial out of his dressing-case, and opened the door. Right in front of him he saw, in the wan moonlight, an old man of terrible aspect. His eyes were as red burning coals; long grey hair fell over his shoulders in matted coils; his garments, which were of antique cut, were soiled and ragged, and from his wrists and ankles hung heavy manacles and rusty gyves.

It is said to be completely efficacious upon one application, and there are several testimonials to that effect on the wrapper from some of our most eminent native divines.

I shall leave it here for you by the bedroom candles, and will be happy to supply you with more should you require it. For a moment the Canterville ghost stood quite motionless in natural indignation; then, dashing the bottle violently upon the polished floor, he fled down the corridor, uttering hollow groans, and emitting a ghastly green light. Just, however, as he reached the top of the great oak staircase, a door was flung open, two little white-robed figures appeared, and a large pillow whizzed past his head!

There was evidently no time to be lost, so, hastily adopting the Fourth Dimension of Space as a means of escape, he vanished through the wainscoting, and the house became quite quiet. On reaching a small secret chamber in the left wing, he leaned up against a moonbeam to recover his breath, and began to try and realise his position. Never, in a brilliant and uninterrupted career of three hundred years, had he been so grossly insulted. He thought of the Dowager Duchess, whom he had frightened into a fit as she stood before the glass in her lace and diamonds; of the four housemaids, who had gone off into hysterics when he merely grinned at them through the curtains of one of the spare bedrooms; of the rector of the parish, whose candle he had blown out as he was coming late one night from the library, and who had been under the care of Sir William Gull ever since, a perfect martyr to nervous disorders; and of old Madame de Tremouillac, who, having wakened up one morning early and seen a skeleton seated in an armchair by the fire reading her diary, had been confined to her bed for six weeks with an attack of brain fever, and, on her recovery, had become reconciled to the Church, and broken off her connection with that notorious sceptic Monsieur de Voltaire.

And after all this, some wretched modern Americans were to come and offer him the Rising Sun Lubricator, and throw pillows at his head! It was quite unbearable. Besides, no ghost in history had ever been treated in this manner. Accordingly, he determined to have vengeance, and remained till daylight in an attitude of deep thought. For the rest of the week, however, they were undisturbed, the only thing that excited any attention being the continual renewal of the blood-stain on the library floor.

This certainly was very strange, as the door was always locked at night by Mr. Otis, and the windows kept closely barred. The chameleon-like colour, also, of the stain excited a good deal of comment. Some mornings it was a dull almost Indian red, then it would be vermilion, then a rich purple, and once when they came down for family prayers, according to the simple rites of the Free American Reformed Episcopalian Church, they found it a bright emerald green.

These kaleidoscopic changes naturally amused the party very much, and bets on the subject were freely made every evening. The only person who did not enter into the joke was little Virginia, who, for some unexplained reason, was always a good deal distressed at the sight of the blood-stain, and very nearly cried the morning it was emerald-green.

The second appearance of the ghost was on Sunday night. Shortly after they had gone to bed they were suddenly alarmed by a fearful crash in the hall. Rushing downstairs, they found that a large suit of old armour had become detached from its stand, and had fallen on the stone floor, while, seated in a highbacked chair, was the Canterville ghost, rubbing his knees with an expression of acute agony on his face.

The twins, having brought their pea-shooters with them, at once discharged two pellets on him, with that accuracy of aim which can only be attained by long and careful practice on a writing-master, while the United States Minister covered him with his revolver, and called upon him, in accordance with Californian etiquette, to hold up his hands! On reaching the top of the staircase he recovered himself, and determined to give his celebrated peal of demoniac laughter. The Egotism; or Bosom Serpent.

Endicott and the Red Cross. The Great Stone Face. The Hollow of the Three Hills. Legends of the Province House: The Maypole of Merry Mount. My Kinsman, Major Molineux. The Procession of Life. Buds and Bird Voices.

A Book of Autographs. Chippings With A Chisel. Footprints on the Sea-Shore. The Hall of Fantasy. The Man of Adamant. The New Adam and Eve.

The Old Apple Dealer. A Rill From the Town Pump. Sights From A Steeple. The Vision of the Fountain. The White Old Maid. The Wives of The Dead. Chiefly About War Matters. What was the lonely old man like as a child? Where did he get that scar on his hand? Characters Make the Plot: Create a character who makes your plot more interesting and complicated.

For example, if your character is a teenage girl who really cares about her family, you might expect her to protect her brother from school bullies. Create a central conflict for the main character. Every good short story will have a central conflict, where the main character has to deal with an issue or problem. Present a conflict for your main character early in your short story. Or perhaps your main character is trapped in a bad or dangerous situation and must figure out how to stay alive.

Pick an interesting setting. Another key element of a short story is the setting, or where the events of the story are taking place. You may stick to one central setting for the short story and add details of the setting to scenes with your characters. Choose a setting that is interesting to you, and that you can make interesting for your reader.

Set your characters down there and picture what they might do in this place. Thinking about your plot: Based on your characters and the arc of your plot, where does your story need to take place? Using too many settings might confuse your reader or make it hard for them to get into the story.

Using settings is usually perfect for a short story. Think about a particular theme. Many short stories center on a theme and explore it from the point of view of a narrator or main character. Plan an emotional climax. Every good short story has a shattering moment where the main character reaches an emotional high point. The climax usually occurs in the last half of the story or close to the end of the story. At the climax of the story, the main character may feel overwhelmed, trapped, desperate, or even out of control.

Or you may have an emotional climax where the main character, a young teenage girl, stands up for her brother against school bullies. Think of an ending with a twist or surprise. Brainstorm an ending that will leave your reader surprised, shocked, or intrigued. Avoid obvious endings, where the reader can guess the ending before it happens. Give your reader a false sense of security, where they think they know how the story is going to end, and then redirect their attention to another character or an image that leaves them shocked.

Creating a Satisfying Ending: Try out a few different endings. Outline a few different endings you could use. Visualize each option and see which ones feel more natural, surprising, or fulfilling. How do you want your readers to feel when they finish? How will they feel if your characters succeed, fail, or land somewhere in the middle? Stay away from cliches. Make sure you avoid gimmick endings, where you rely on familiar plot twists to surprise your reader. If your ending feels familiar or even boring, challenge yourself to make it more difficult for your characters.

Read examples of short stories. Learn what makes a short story successful and engaging for your reader by looking at examples by skilled writers. Read short stories in several genres, from literary fiction to science fiction to fantasy.

Notice how the writer uses character, theme, setting, and plot to great effect in their short story. Make a plot outline. Organize your short story into a plot outline with five parts: Use the outline as a reference guide as you write the story to ensure it has a clear beginning, middle, and end. Create an engaging opening.

Introduce the main character and the setting to your reader in the first paragraph. Set your reader up for the key themes and ideas in the story. Instead, try an opening line like: Stick to one point of view.

The lack of stimulus. Some people have to have another person around to keep them straight. Larry dropped me off here in the ATV three hours ago. He should be over halfway back to McKinlay Station by now. He was the only one of the Grise Fjord Inuit who would drive me out here. Not one of the McKinlay scientists would do it. Always smiling with those splintered, yellow teeth of his.

Then he was gone, the rumble of his ATV quickly swallowed by the vast, mountainous landscape of Ellesmere Island. See you in a week, Larry. As research stations go, Regis is pretty basic. There is enough workbench space to carry out some simple research, but it was only ever meant to be a short-stay camp to visit the Regis-Bell locality.

A low, meandering river cuts down from the plateau behind me through extensive patches of purple saxifrage. Pascal gave me the drill on polar bears for the third time before I left.

Never startle a bear. Bears are incredibly rare this far inland and, according to Pascal and the others, are the least of my worries. Despite having the licences sorted and the time booked far in advance, I practically had to beg to be allowed out here on my own. Nothing scares me, though. No amount of campfire ghost-story tactics are going to come between me and completing my damn PHD thesis. The whole town had gathered around the church because Hollace Whitaker was holed up inside and we knew and he knew that he pretty much had to die.

It was, in fact, the definition of impersonal. Everyone knew that, maybe Hollace best of all. He knew no one would open fire and blast apart the new altar or the cross over the pulpit that that miserable old carcass Halston Smith had carved with his own two crippled hands.

He shot his wife and trotted directly to the only safe place in town. So we gathered around and kicked at the dust and shouted for him to come out, and when he shouted back that we could all go fuck our own selves, some folks looked genuinely hurt.

We all liked Hollace. John ran a ranch quite a piece outside of town. His horse was lathered and crazy-eyed from the long, fast ride. John rode up to where we were gathered and got off his horse and held out the reins for anyone to take hold.

He did not take off his boots or spurs. Hollace was still near the front of the church, shouting whatever craziness came into his head. When the last ship vanished into the sky, afterburners flickering briefly in the dense black cloud ceiling that shrouded our world, there were fires. There were more of us then, and we poured angry through the streets, a human pyroclastic flow, burning indiscriminately. There were Molotov-on-car fires, one or two apartment buildings set fire, dumpster fires.

The monk, if you believe the writers from back then, never made a sound while he burned. The kid brother screamed, long and loud. One day, one of us noticed an olive green sofa, the kind you buy because you know the color will conceal the mold when it eventually grows moldy.

This one had journeyed well past that phase of its existence; it stank of ancient urine and beer. We found it in a field facing the city. Some of us sat in it and watched as the generators gradually died and the lights in the buildings that comprised our meager skyline went out by sections. The reality show of us, live broadcast.

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