Friday, December 14, 2018

The Taking of the Redoubt by Prosper Merimee

Prosper Merimee

I found this introduction online. While researching the horror tales in The Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1849 anthology. I think you will enjoy this rather bloody war story.

“The Taking of The Redoubt,” a war horror story written by Frenchman Prosper Merimée (1803-1870) in 1829, was first published in the September-October Revue Franchise of that year. It was his third short story.  Before its publication, in the same year, “Mateo Falcone” and “The Vision of Charles XI” had appeared; and these three were followed before the year’s end by “Tamango,” “Federigo,” “The Pearl of Toledo,” and “The Etruscan Vase,” the last being published in January 1830. From 1830 till 1846 hardly a year passed that Merimée did not write one or more of those short masterpieces. It should be noted, moreover, that Merimée is a master of the simple style of writing, as Gautier is of the ornate. In addition to the stories already mentioned, especially noteworthy are: “The Double Misunderstanding” (1833), “The Venus of Ille” (1837), “Arsene Guillot” (1844), and “Carmen” (1845); but these are comparatively long stories. After the publication of “The Abbe Aubain” in 1846, Merimee wrote no more fiction for nearly a quarter of a century. “Lokis,” his last story, appeared in 1869, and is fully up to the standard of his earlier work.
Merimée’s most salient external characteristic is his elimination of the non-essential; or, as Walter Pater expressed it, “Merimée’s superb self-effacement, his impersonality, is itself but an effective personal trait, and, transferred to art, becomes a markedly peculiar quality of literary beauty.” Of Merimée’s passion for elimination, for compression, “The Taking of the Redoubt” is one of the best examples. As Benjamin W. Wells has said, and other critics have not failed to remark: “It takes us in ten pages close up to the cannon's mouth with a restrained concision that makes it almost a perfect model of the Short Story.”
The below version of “The Taking of the Redoubt” is that by George Burnham Ives, in the Merimée volume of the Little French Masterpieces series.

A military friend of mine, who died of a fever in Greece a few years ago, told me one day about the first action in which he took part. His story made such an impression on me that I wrote it down from memory as soon as I had time. Here it is:
I joined the regiment on the fourth of September, in the evening. I found the colonel in camp. He received me rather roughly; but when he had read General B’s recommendation, his manner changed and he said a few courteous words to me.
I was presented by him to my captain, who had just returned from a reconnaissance. This captain, with whom I hardly had time to become acquainted, was a tall, dark man, with a harsh, repellent face. He had been a private, and had won his epaulets and his cross on the battle-field. His voice, which was hoarse and weak, contrasted strangely with his almost gigantic stature. I was told that he owed that peculiar voice to a bullet which had passed through his lungs at the battle of Jena.
When he learned that I was fresh from the school at Fontainebleau, he made a wry face and said: “My lieutenant died yesterday.”
I understood that he meant to imply: “You ought to take his place, and you are not capable of it.”
A sharp retort came to my lips, but I restrained myself. The moon rose behind the redoubt of Cheverino, about two gunshots from our bivouac. It was large and red, as it usually is when it rises. But on that evening it seemed to me of extraordinary size. For an instant the redoubt stood sharply out in black against the brilliant disk of the moon. It resembled the crater of a volcano at the instant of an eruption.
An old soldier beside whom I happened to be, remarked upon the color of the moon.
"It is very red," said he; "that's a sign that it will cost us dear to take that famous redoubt!"
I have always been superstitious, and that prophecy, at that moment especially, affected me. I lay down, but I could not sleep. I rose and walked about for some time, watching the tremendously long line of camp-fires that covered the heights above the village of Cheverino.
When I thought that the fresh, sharp night air had cooled my blood sufficiently, I returned to the fire; I wrapped myself carefully in my cloak and closed my eyes, hoping not to open them before dawn. But sleep refused to come. Insensibly my thoughts took a gloomy turn. I said to myself that I had not a friend among the hundred thousand men who covered that plain. If I were wounded, I should be taken to a hospital and treated roughly by ignorant surgeons. All that I had heard of surgical operations came to my mind. My heart beat violently, and I instinctively arranged my handkerchief, and the wallet that I had in my breast pocket, as a sort of cuirass. I was worn out with fatigue, I nodded every moment, and every moment some sinister thought returned with renewed force and roused me with a start.
But weariness carried the day, and when they beat the reveille, I was sound asleep. We were drawn up in battle array, the roll was called, then we stacked arms, and everything indicated that we were to have a quiet day.
About three o'clock an aide-de-camp appeared, bringing an order. We were ordered under arms again; our skirmishers spread out over the plain; we followed them slowly, and after about twenty minutes, we saw all the advanced posts of the Russians fall back and return inside the redoubt.
A battery of artillery came into position at our right, another at our left, but both well in advance of us. They began a very hot fire at the enemy, who replied vigorously, and the redoubt of Cheverino soon disappeared beneath dense clouds of smoke.
Our regiment was almost protected from the Russian fire by a rise in the ground. Their balls, which, indeed, were rarely aimed at us, for they preferred to fire at our gunners, passed over our heads, or, at the worst, spattered us with dirt and small stones.
As soon as we received the order to advance, my captain looked at me with a close scrutiny which compelled me to run my hand over my budding mustache twice or thrice, as unconcernedly as I could. Indeed, I was not frightened, and the only fear I had was that he should believe that I was frightened. Those harmless cannon-balls helped to maintain me in my heroically calm frame of mind. My self-esteem told me that I was really in danger, as I was at last under the fire of a battery. I was overjoyed to be so entirely at my ease, and I thought of the pleasure I should take in telling of the capture of the redoubt of Cheverino in Madame de B 's salon on Rue de Provence.
The colonel passed our company; he spoke to me: “Well, you are going to see some sharp work for your debut.”
I smiled with an altogether martial air as I brushed my coat-sleeve, on which a shot that struck the ground thirty yards away had spattered a little dust.
It seems that the Russians observed the ill success of their cannon-balls; for they replaced them with shells, which could more easily be made to reach us in the hollow where we were posted. A large piece of one took off my shako and killed a man near me.
“I congratulate you,” said my captain, as I picked up my shako; “you’re safe now for today.”
I was acquainted with the military superstition which believes that the axiom, Non bis in idem, has the same application on a field of battle as in a court of justice. I proudly replaced my shako on my head.
“That is making a fellow salute rather unceremoniously,” I said as gaily as I could. That wretched joke was considered first-rate, in view of the circumstances.
“I congratulate you,” continued the captain; “you will get nothing worse, and you will command a company this evening; for I feel that the oven is being heated for me. Every time that I have been wounded the officer nearest me has been hit by a spent ball; and,” he added in a low tone and almost as if he were ashamed, “their names always began with a P.”
I feigned incredulity; many men would have done the same; many men too would have been, as I was, profoundly impressed by those prophetic words. Conscript as I was, I realized that I could not confide my sensations to any one, and that I must always appear cool and fearless.
After about half an hour the Russian fire sensibly diminished; thereupon we left our sheltered position to march upon the redoubt.
Our regiment consisted of three battalions. The second was ordered to turn the redoubt on the side of the entrance; the other two were to make the assault. I was in the third battalion.
As we came out from behind the species of ridge which had protected us, we were received by several volleys of musketry, which did little damage in our ranks. The whistling of the bullets surprised me; I kept turning my head, and thus induced divers jests on the part of my comrades, who were more familiar with that sound.
“Take it all in all,” I said to myself, “a battle isn’t such a terrible thing.”
We advanced at the double-quick, preceded by skirmishers; suddenly the Russians gave three hurrahs, three distinct hurrahs, then remained silent and ceased firing.
“I don't like this silence,” said my captain; “it bodes us no good.”
I considered that our men were a little too noisy, and I could not forbear making a mental comparison between their tumultuous shouting and the enemy’s impressive silence.
We speedily reached the foot of the redoubt; the palisades had been shattered and the earth torn up by our balls. The soldiers rushed at these newly-made ruins with shouts of "Vive VEmpereur!" louder than one would have expected to hear from men who had already shouted so much.
I raised my eyes, and I shall never forget the spectacle that I saw. The greater part of the smoke had risen, and hung like a canopy about twenty feet above the redoubt. Through a bluish haze one could see the Russian grenadiers behind their half-destroyed parapet, with arms raised, motionless as statues. It seems to me that I can see now each soldier, with his left eye fastened upon us, the right hidden by the levelled musket. In an embrasure, a few yards away, a man stood beside a cannon, holding a fuse.
I shuddered, and I thought that my last hour had come. “The dance is going to begin,” cried my captain. “Bonsoir!
Those were the last words I heard him utter.
The drums rolled inside the redoubt. I saw all the muskets drop. I closed my eyes, and I heard a most appalling crash, followed by shrieks and groans. I opened my eyes, surprised to find myself still among the living. The redoubt was filled with smoke once more. I was surrounded by dead and wounded. My captain lay at my feet; his head had been shattered by a cannon-ball, and I was covered with his brains and his blood. Of all my company only six men and myself were left on our feet.
This carnage was succeeded by a moment of stupefaction. The colonel, placing his hat on the point of his sword, was the first to scale the parapet, shouting “Vive I'Empercur!" He was followed instantly by all the survivors. I have a very dim remembrance of what followed. We entered the redoubt; how, I have no idea. We fought hand to hand, amid smoke so dense that we could not see one another. I believe that I struck, for my sabre was all bloody. At last I heard shouts of "Victory!" and as the smoke grew less dense, I saw blood and corpses completely covering the surface of the redoubt. The guns especially were buried beneath piles of bodies. About two hundred men, in the French uniform, were standing about in groups, with no pretense of order, some loading their muskets, others wiping their bayonets. Eleven hundred Russian prisoners were with them.
The colonel, covered with blood, was lying on a shattered caisson near the ravine. A number of soldiers were bustling about him. I approached.
“Where is the senior captain?” he asked a sergeant. The sergeant shrugged his shoulders most expressively. “And the senior lieutenant?”
“Monsieur here, who arrived last night,” said the sergeant, in a perfectly matter-of-fact tone. The colonel smiled bitterly.
“Well, monsieur,” he said, “you command in chief; order the entrance to the redoubt to be strengthened with these wagons, for the enemy is in force; but General C will see that you are supported.”
“Colonel,” I said, “are you severely wounded?”
“Finished, my boy, but the redoubt is taken!”

#WarHorror #WarHorrorStories #TAKINGOFTHEREDOUBT #ProsperMerimée

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Amazon Book Coupon is Live

Take $5 off my books at Amazon when the purchase is $20 or more. Use coupon code NOVBOOK18 to get the deal through November 25th.

Two hundred years before "Game of Thrones" these fantasy stories started the genre. Read them tonight. Buy the paperback on Amazon for only $3.52 now!

A International Book Award finalist, these are the classic vampire tales that cannot be forgotten.

Andrew Barger's first short story collection is not to be missed.

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Sunday, November 18, 2018

A Newly Transcribed "Vampire of the Carpathian Mountains" by Alexander Dumas

Alexander Dumas

In 1848 Alexander Dumas (who has the best hair in vampire literature) published his scary short story "The Vampire of Carpathian Mountains" (also called "The Pale Lady") in his French short story collection One Thousand and One Ghosts. It is a fantastic book that contains some of the best supernatural tales Dumas ever penned. And if you have at least a reading knowledge of the French language, it is well worth the effort of flagging it down on or some other site.

Of course if your French needs a bit of a refresher from high school, it becomes a more difficult task. This is especially true of what I believe to be its signature horror tale: "The Vampire of Carpathian Mountains". When I published BlooDeath: The Best Vampire Stories 1800-1849 in 2011, I included an 1848 translation from the London New Monthly Magazine. It was the rag, after all, that printed John Polidori's "The Vampyre" in 1819, which is also contained in my collection and is considered the first vampire short story to originate in the English language. So I figured the New Monthly Magazine knew a thing or two about vampire stories and would give the English translation the attention it rightly deserved.

Only after I published the classic vampire anthology did I realize I was wrong. It was brought to my attention that the original French version by Dumas included a poem that was nowhere to be found in English translation by theNew Monthly Magazine. Not only that, but the ending seemed rushed. I turned paler than a person under the throes of vampirism. I had done what is a no-no for one of my collections--I had published an abridged version of a classic short story and fallen victim the horrible magazine practice of trying to save space on the printed page.

With the aid of a translator in Montreal and a little help from online translators, I went to work. A month later I had in front of me an English translation of the "Vampire of the Carpathian Mountains" in a form that is much closer to what Dumas originally intended. I immediately updated the ebook versions of the collections and they are live now with the non-abridged story. I hope you enjoy it and forgive my faux pas.

#vampirecarpathianmountains #bestclassicvampirestories #BestVampireStories

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Today's Mega Mansions are Tomorrow's Haunted Houses Quote by Andrew Barger

Today's Mega Mansions
Tomorrow's Haunted Houses.

#GhostTags #HauntedHouseQuotes #AndrewBarger #AuthorQuotes #HorrorQuotes

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Ulalume by Edgar Allan Poe

To -- -- --. Ulalume: A Ballad
December 1847

The skies they were ashen and sober;
      The leaves they were crispéd and sere—
      The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
      Of my most immemorial year;
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
      In the misty mid region of Weir—
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
      In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

Here once, through an alley Titanic,
      Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul—
      Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.
These were days when my heart was volcanic
      As the scoriac rivers that roll—
      As the lavas that restlessly roll
Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek
      In the ultimate climes of the pole—
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek
      In the realms of the boreal pole.

Our talk had been serious and sober,
      But our thoughts they were palsied and sere—
      Our memories were treacherous and sere—
For we knew not the month was October,
      And we marked not the night of the year—
      (Ah, night of all nights in the year!)
We noted not the dim lake of Auber—
      (Though once we had journeyed down here)—
We remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,
      Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

And now, as the night was senescent
      And star-dials pointed to morn—
      As the star-dials hinted of morn—
At the end of our path a liquescent
      And nebulous lustre was born,
Out of which a miraculous crescent
      Arose with a duplicate horn—
Astarte's bediamonded crescent
      Distinct with its duplicate horn.

And I said—"She is warmer than Dian:
      She rolls through an ether of sighs—
      She revels in a region of sighs:
She has seen that the tears are not dry on
      These cheeks, where the worm never dies,
And has come past the stars of the Lion
      To point us the path to the skies—
      To the Lethean peace of the skies—
Come up, in despite of the Lion,
      To shine on us with her bright eyes—
Come up through the lair of the Lion,
      With love in her luminous eyes."

But Psyche, uplifting her finger,
      Said—"Sadly this star I mistrust—
      Her pallor I strangely mistrust:—
Oh, hasten! oh, let us not linger!
      Oh, fly!—let us fly!—for we must."
In terror she spoke, letting sink her
      Wings till they trailed in the dust—
In agony sobbed, letting sink her
      Plumes till they trailed in the dust—
      Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust.

I replied—"This is nothing but dreaming:
      Let us on by this tremulous light!
      Let us bathe in this crystalline light!
Its Sybilic splendor is beaming
      With Hope and in Beauty to-night:—
      See!—it flickers up the sky through the night!
Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming,
      And be sure it will lead us aright—
We safely may trust to a gleaming
      That cannot but guide us aright,
      Since it flickers up to Heaven through the night."

Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her,
      And tempted her out of her gloom—
      And conquered her scruples and gloom:
And we passed to the end of the vista,
      But were stopped by the door of a tomb—
      By the door of a legended tomb;
And I said—"What is written, sweet sister,
      On the door of this legended tomb?"
      She replied—"Ulalume—Ulalume—
      'Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!"

Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
      As the leaves that were crispèd and sere—
      As the leaves that were withering and sere,
And I cried—"It was surely October
      On this very night of last year
      That I journeyed—I journeyed down here—
      That I brought a dread burden down here—
      On this night of all nights in the year,
      Oh, what demon has tempted me here?
Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber—
      This misty mid region of Weir—
Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber—
      In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir."

Said we, then—the two, then—"Ah, can it
      Have been that the woodlandish ghouls—
      The pitiful, the merciful ghouls—
To bar up our way and to ban it
      From the secret that lies in these wolds—
      From the thing that lies hidden in these wolds—
Had drawn up the spectre of a planet
      From the limbo of lunary souls—
This sinfully scintillant planet
      From the Hell of the planetary souls?"

#EdgarAllenPoe #EdgarAllanPoe #Ulalume