*Title: A Terribly Strange Bed by Wilkie Collins
Date Read: 24 October 2009
Available Online?: YES
Briefly: While visiting Paris, two English gentlemen friends decide to visit a ‘blackguard’ gambling house. One of the gentleman is well up on his luck and gradually, as he gets more and more drunk, he takes more and more winnings. It reaches a point at the end of the night when his friend leaves and an old French soldier encourages the gentleman to spend the night sleeping in the gambling house, rather than risking a treacherous journey home through the murderous Parisian back streets.
Afterthoughts: I did enjoy this 1852 story very much, although the terror (what little of it there is) doesn’t come from the most obvious source. I was most titillated by brief mention of Xavier de Maistre’s Voyage autour de ma chambre (A Journey Around my Room). I’m not sure whether Collins was ‘showboating’ his literary knowledge, or paying homage to a highly respected writer in the same year of his death (the ‘romantic’ in me would like to think the latter). All in all a good story then, and well worth spending half-an-hour with on a dark October evening.
Notable Quote: If I had been in my senses, I should have considered him, personally, as being rather a suspicious specimen of an old soldier. He had goggling bloodshot eyes, mangy moustaches, and a broken nose. His voice betrayed a barrack-room intonation of the worst order, and he had the dirtiest pair of hands I ever saw–even in France. These little personal peculiarities exercised, however, no repelling influence on me. In the mad excitement, the reckless triumph of that moment, I was ready to ‘fraternize’ with anybody who encouraged me in my game. I accepted the old soldier’s offered pinch of snuff; clapped him on the back, and swore he was the honestest fellow in the world–the most glorious relic of the Grand Army that I had ever met with. ‘Go on!’ cried my military friend, snapping his fingers in ecstasy–’Go on, and win! Break the bank–Mille tonnerres! my gallant English comrade, break the bank!’
*Story read as part of my 31 Shots of Shock reading challenge.