The Best Short Stories - 9 - Sherwood Anderson - ebook
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AUTHORS Anton Chekhov H.H. Munro (SAKI) H. P. Lovecraft Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson Stephen Leacock Sherwood Anderson O. Henry Ambrose Bierce Matsuo Basho James Joyce Edited by Ahmet Ünal ÇAM Fat And Thin by Anton Chekhov Two friends -- one a fat man and the other a thin man -- met at the Nikolaevsky station. The fat man had just dined in the station and his greasy lips shone like ripe cherries. He smelt of sherry and fleur d'orange. The thin man had just slipped out of the train and was laden with portmanteaus, bundles, and bandboxes. He smelt of ham and coffee grounds. A thin woman with a long chin, his wife, and a tall schoolboy with one eye screwed up came into view behind his back. "Porfiry," cried the fat man on seeing the thin man. "Is it you? My dear fellow! How many summers, how many winters!" "Holy saints!" cried the thin man in amazement. "Misha! The friend of my childhood! Where have you dropped from?" The friends kissed each other three times, and gazed at each other with eyes full of tears. Both were agreeably astounded. "My dear boy!" began the thin man after the kissing. "This is unexpected! This is a surprise! Come have a good look at me! Just as handsome as I used to be! Just as great a darling and a dandy! Good gracious me! Well, and how are you? Made your fortune? Married? I am married as you see. . . . This is my wife Luise, her maiden name was Vantsenbach . . . of the Lutheran persuasion. . . . And this is my son Nafanail, a schoolboy in the third class. This is the friend of my childhood, Nafanya. We were boys at school together!" Nafanail thought a little and took off his cap. "We were boys at school together," the thin man went on. "Do you remember how they used to tease you? You were nicknamed Herostratus because you burned a hole in a schoolbook with a cigarette, and I was nicknamed Ephialtes because I was fond of telling tales. Ho--ho! . . . we were children! . . . Don't be shy, Nafanya. Go nearer to him. And this is my wife, her maiden name was Vantsenbach, of the Lutheran persuasion. . . ."

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AUTHORS

Anton Chekhov

H.H. Munro (SAKI)

H. P. Lovecraft

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

Stephen Leacock

Sherwood Anderson

O. Henry

Ambrose Bierce

Matsuo Basho

James Joyce

Edited by

Ahmet Ünal ÇAM

Fat And Thin

by Anton Chekhov

Two friends -- one a fat man and the other a thin man -- met at the Nikolaevsky station. The fat man had just dined in the station and his greasy lips shone like ripe cherries. He smelt of sherry and fleur d'orange. The thin man had just slipped out of the train and was laden with portmanteaus, bundles, and bandboxes. He smelt of ham and coffee grounds. A thin woman with a long chin, his wife, and a tall schoolboy with one eye screwed up came into view behind his back.

"Porfiry," cried the fat man on seeing the thin man. "Is it you? My dear fellow! How many summers, how many winters!"

"Holy saints!" cried the thin man in amazement. "Misha! The friend of my childhood! Where have you dropped from?"

The friends kissed each other three times, and gazed at each other with eyes full of tears. Both were agreeably astounded.

"My dear boy!" began the thin man after the kissing. "This is unexpected! This is a surprise! Come have a good look at me! Just as handsome as I used to be! Just as great a darling and a dandy! Good gracious me! Well, and how are you? Made your fortune? Married? I am married as you see. . . . This is my wife Luise, her maiden name was Vantsenbach . . . of the Lutheran persuasion. . . . And this is my son Nafanail, a schoolboy in the third class. This is the friend of my childhood, Nafanya. We were boys at school together!"

Nafanail thought a little and took off his cap.

"We were boys at school together," the thin man went on. "Do you remember how they used to tease you? You were nicknamed Herostratus because you burned a hole in a schoolbook with a cigarette, and I was nicknamed Ephialtes because I was fond of telling tales. Ho--ho! . . . we were children! . . . Don't be shy, Nafanya. Go nearer to him. And this is my wife, her maiden name was Vantsenbach, of the Lutheran persuasion. . . ."

Nafanail thought a little and took refuge behind his father's back.

"Well, how are you doing my friend?" the fat man asked, looking enthusiastically at his friend. "Are you in the service? What grade have you reached?"

"I am, dear boy! I have been a collegiate assessor for the last two years and I have the Stanislav. The salary is poor, but that's no great matter! The wife gives music lessons, and I go in for carving wooden cigarette cases in a private way. Capital cigarette cases! I sell them for a rouble each. If any one takes ten or more I make a reduction of course. We get along somehow. I served as a clerk, you know, and now I have been transferred here as a head clerk in the same department. I am going to serve here. And what about you? I bet you are a civil councillor by now? Eh?"

"No dear boy, go higher than that," said the fat man. "I have risen to privy councillor already . . . I have two stars."

The thin man turned pale and rigid all at once, but soon his face twisted in all directions in the broadest smile; it seemed as though sparks were flashing from his face and eyes. He squirmed, he doubled together, crumpled up. . . . His portmanteaus, bundles and cardboard boxes seemed to shrink and crumple up too. . . . His wife's long chin grew longer still; Nafanail drew himself up to attention and fastened all the buttons of his uniform.

"Your Excellency, I . . . delighted! The friend, one may say, of childhood and to have turned into such a great man! He--he!"

"Come, come!" the fat man frowned. "What's this tone for? You and I were friends as boys, and there is no need of this official obsequiousness!"

"Merciful heavens, your Excellency! What are you saying. . . ?" sniggered the thin man, wriggling more than ever. "Your Excellency's gracious attention is like refreshing manna. . . . This, your Excellency, is my son Nafanail, . . . my wife Luise, a Lutheran in a certain sense."

The fat man was about to make some protest, but the face of the thin man wore an expression of such reverence, sugariness, and mawkish respectfulness that the privy councillor was sickened. He turned away from the thin man, giving him his hand at parting.

The thin man pressed three fingers, bowed his whole body and sniggered like a Chinaman: "He--he--he!" His wife smiled. Nafanail scraped with his foot and dropped his cap. All three were agreeably overwhelmed.

About the author

Anton Chekhov

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (Jan 29, 1860 - Jul 15, 1904) was a Russian physician and supreme short story writer and playwright. He was the third of six children. His father was a grocer, painter and religious fanatic with a mercurial temperament who "thrashed" his children and was likely emotionally abusive to his wife. Chekhov, like Dickens, was no stranger to financial hardship and in 1875 his father took the family and fled to Moscow to escape creditors. Chekhov stayed behind for three more years to finish school. He paid for his tuition by catching and selling goldfinches and dispensing private tutoring lessons, and selling short sketches to the newspaper. He sent any money he could spare money to his family in Moscow. Chekhov is considered an exemplar author in the genre of Realism. A child-family separation theme plays out in several of Chekhov's stories including Vanka, The Steppe, and Sleepy.

In 1879 Chekhov was admitted to medical school and he joined his family in Moscow. He assumed financial responsibility for the family and while attending classes at Moscow State University, he wrote and sold a large number of humorous stories and vignettes of contemporary Russian life. He published more than four hundred short stories, sketches and vignettes by the age of twenty-six.

"Medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress; when I get tired of one, I spend the night with the other."

Some consider Chekhov to be the founder of the modern short story and his influence is observed in a diverse group of writers including Flannery O'Connor, Tennessee Williams, William Somerset Maugham, Raymond Carver and John Cheever. Most of the English-speaking world knows him as a playwright, particularly for The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard.

Some popular starting points for short story readers include: Ward No. 6, The Darling and Gusev, The Hunstman and The Lady with the Little Dog. A Dreary Story is also an excellent work. Due to it's length I have classified it here as a book. It's also well known under the alternative title A Boring Story which is the title listed in the short story section as a convenience to readers searching under that name. Anton Chekhov himself was personally fond of his short story, The Student.

In 1897 Chekhov was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He purchased land in Yalta in 1898 after his father's death and had a villa built. He moved into the villa in 1899 with his mother and sister. This was a very prolific period for the great writer and he produced some of his most famous work during this period. Amongst those works is a trilogy featuring Ivan Ivanovitch, a veterinary surgeon and his schoolmaster friend, Burkin. The two are on a small trekking and shooting holiday. Chekhov overlays three stories that are amongst his most famous short stories in a trilogy sometimes referred to as "The Little Trilogy". The three short stories, in order, are: The Man in a Case, Gooseberries, and About Love. It was also during this period in Yalta that he produced Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard.

Witty to the end, Chekhov's last words were, "I haven't had champagne for a long time." His words were a satirical reference to a specific etiquette practiced in German medicine at the time; when it was determined that there was no hope for a patient's recovery, it was customary for the doctor to offer the patient a glass of champagne.

The Unrest-Cure

by H.H. Munro (SAKI)

On the rack in the railway carriage immediately opposite Clovis was a solidly wrought travelling bag, with a carefully written label, on which was inscribed, "J. P. Huddle, The Warren, Tilfield, near Slowborough." Immediately below the rack sat the human embodiment of the label, a solid, sedate individual, sedately dressed, sedately conversational. Even without his conversation (which was addressed to a friend seated by his side, and touched chiefly on such topics as the backwardness of Roman hyacinths and the prevalence of measles at the Rectory), one could have gauged fairly accurately the temperament and mental outlook of the travelling bag's owner. But he seemed unwilling to leave anything to the imagination of a casual observer, and his talk grew presently personal and introspective.

"I don't know how it is," he told his friend, "I'm not much over forty, but I seem to have settled down into a deep groove of elderly middle-age. My sister shows the same tendency. We like everything to be exactly in its accustomed place; we like things to happen exactly at their appointed times; we like everything to be usual, orderly, punctual, methodical, to a hair's breadth, to a minute. It distresses and upsets us if it is not so. For instance, to take a very trifling matter, a thrush has built its nest year after year in the catkin- tree on the lawn; this year, for no obvious reason, it is building in the ivy on the garden wall. We have said very little about it, but I think we both feel that the change is unnecessary, and just a little irritating."

"Perhaps," said the friend, "it is a different thrush."

"We have suspected that," said J. P. Huddle, "and I think it gives us even more cause for annoyance. We don't feel that we want a change of thrush at our time of life; and yet, as I have said, we have scarcely reached an age when these things should make themselves seriously felt."

"What you want," said the friend, "is an Unrest-cure."

"An Unrest-cure? I've never heard of such a thing."

"You've heard of Rest-cures for people who've broken down under stress of too much worry and strenuous living; well, you're suffering from overmuch repose and placidity, and you need the opposite kind of treatment."

"But where would one go for such a thing?"

"Well, you might stand as an Orange candidate for Kilkenny, or do a course of district visiting in one of the Apache quarters of Paris, or give lectures in Berlin to prove that most of Wagner's music was written by Gambetta; and there's always the interior of Morocco to travel in. But, to be really effective, the Unrest-cure ought to be tried in the home. How you would do it I haven't the faintest idea."

It was at this point in the conversation that Clovis became galvanized into alert attention. After all, his two days' visit to an elderly relative at Slowborough did not promise much excitement. Before the train had stopped he had decorated his sinister shirt-cuff with the inscription, "J. P. Huddle, The Warren, Tilfield, near Slowborough."

Two mornings later Mr. Huddle broke in on his sister's privacy as she sat reading Country Life in the morning room. It was her day and hour and place for reading Country Life, and the intrusion was absolutely irregular; but he bore in his hand a telegram, and in that household telegrams were recognized as happening by the hand of God. This particular telegram partook of the nature of a thunderbolt. "Bishop examining confirmation class in neighbourhood unable stay rectory on account measles invokes your hospitality sending secretary arrange."

"I scarcely know the Bishop; I've only spoken to him once," exclaimed J. P. Huddle, with the exculpating air of one who realizes too late the indiscretion of speaking to strange Bishops. Miss Huddle was the first to rally; she disliked thunderbolts as fervently as her brother did, but the womanly instinct in her told her that thunderbolts must be fed.

"We can curry the cold duck," she said. It was not the appointed day for curry, but the little orange envelope involved a certain departure from rule and custom. Her brother said nothing, but his eyes thanked her for being brave.

"A young gentleman to see you," announced the parlour-maid.

"The secretary!" murmured the Huddles in unison; they instantly stiffened into a demeanour which proclaimed that, though they held all strangers to be guilty, they were willing to hear anything they might have to say in their defence. The young gentleman, who came into the room with a certain elegant haughtiness, was not at all Huddle's idea of a bishop's secretary; he had not supposed that the episcopal establishment could have afforded such an expensively upholstered article when there were so many other claims on its resources. The face was fleetingly familiar; if he had bestowed more attention on the fellow-traveller sitting opposite him in the railway carriage two days before he might have recognized Clovis in his present visitor.

"You are the Bishop's secretary?" asked Huddle, becoming consciously deferential.

"His confidential secretary," answered Clovis. "You may call me Stanislaus; my other name doesn't matter. The Bishop and Colonel Alberti may be here to lunch. I shall be here in any case."

It sounded rather like the programme of a Royal visit.

"The Bishop is examining a confirmation class in the neighbourhood, isn't he?" asked Miss Huddle.