The Convalescents’ Tea
(El té de las convalecientes)
by Emilia Pardo Bazán
They were still a bit frail, with a touch of haze in their dull eyes; but already they were eager to jump back in the ring and enjoy their youth. They had seen the terror of death up close, and it seemed miraculous to have escaped its clutches.
They were young ladies of the best society, with laughing and lively futures of unlimited promise, surprised in the middle of their lives of pleasant frivolities and hopes of love and happiness by the terrible epidemic, which chose its victims from those in the prime of life, as if it scorned the elderly, death’s sure and soon prey. Some had suffered bronchopneumonia, with its delirium and cruel suffocation; others had vomited blood by the mouthful; yet others began to show symptoms of meningitis….
And just as it seemed they were about to cross the black door and the mysterious river that sleeps between banks lined with asphodel and henbane, whose waters fall from the oar without any echo, the evil began to recede, normality was reappearing. The interesting little patients bloomed again, so to speak — not with all the vitality that one would want, but like those languid and drooping roses that slowly revive in a tall glass of water.
by Emilia Pardo Bazán
When his second son was born, puny and barely breathing, the father looked down at the child in fury, for he had dreamed of a lineage of sturdy sons. And when the boy’s mother exclaimed — optimistic, as all mothers are — “We must find him a godmother,” the father growled:
“Godmother! Godmother! Death will be his godmother… if he lives!”
Convinced the baby would not survive, the father allowed the baptism day to arrive without stopping his wife from bringing their son to the font. In such cases, it’s good luck to invite the first person who comes along to be the godparent. So that’s what they did, when at dusk of a December day they went to the parish church.
Thrasyllus and Charite
From The Golden Ass, Book VIII
Translated by A. S. Kline
At cockcrow, a young man, apparently a servant of Lady Charite, she who had shared my suffering among the robbers, arrived from the nearby town. Sitting beside the fire amongst a crowd of his fellow-servants, he had a strange and terrible tale to tell, of her death and the ruin of her whole house:
‘Grooms, shepherds and herdsmen too, our Charite is no more: my poor mistress, and not alone, has joined the shades, in a dreadful disaster. I want you to know all, so I’ll relate what happened, in order: events that deserve to be recorded by some historian, more gifted than I, whom Fortune has blessed with a more stylish pen.
In the town nearby lived a young man of noble birth, whose wealth was equal to his status. But he was a devotee of the taverns, spending his time each day whoring and drinking, consorting with gangs of thieves and even staining his hands with human blood. Thrasyllus was his name. Such were the facts as Rumour relates.
Excerpt from Cimon
Peripoltas the prophet, having brought the King Opheltas, and those under his command, from Thessaly into Boeotia, left there a family, which flourished a long time after; the greater part of them inhabiting Chaeronea, the first city out of which they expelled the barbarians. The descendants of this race, being men of bold attempts and warlike habits, exposed themselves to so many dangers in the invasions of the Mede, and in battles against the Gauls, that at last they were almost wholly consumed.
There was left one orphan of this house, called Damon, surnamed Peripoltas, in beauty and greatness of spirit surpassing all of his age, but rude and undisciplined in temper. A Roman captain of a company that wintered in Chaeronea became passionately fond of this youth, who was now pretty nearly grown a man. And finding all his approaches, his gifts, his entreaties, alike repulsed, he showed violent inclinations to assault Damon.
Two Dream Tales from Cicero
Excerpt from On Divination, Book I
And who, pray, can make light of the two following dreams which are so often recounted by Stoic writers? The first one is about Simonides, who once saw the dead body of some unknown man lying exposed and buried it. Later, when he had it in mind to go on board a ship he was warned in a vision by the person to whom he had given burial not to do so and that if he did he would perish in a shipwreck. Therefore he turned back and all the others who sailed were lost.
The second dream is very well known and is to this effect: Two friends from Arcadia who were taking a journey together came to Megara, and one traveller put up at an inn and the second went to the home of a friend. After they had eaten supper and retired, the second traveller, in the dead of the night, dreamed that his companion was imploring him to come to his aid, as the innkeeper was planning to kill him. Greatly frightened at first by the dream he arose, and later, regaining his composure, decided that there was nothing to worry about and went back to bed.
A Virtuoso’s Collection
by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1842)
The other day, having a leisure hour at my disposal, I stepped into a new museum, to which my notice was casually drawn by a small and unobtrusive sign: “To Be Seen Here, A Virtuoso’s Collection.” Such was the simple yet not altogether unpromising announcement that turned my steps aside for a little while from the sunny sidewalk of our principal thoroughfare. Mounting a sombre staircase, I pushed open a door at its summit, and found myself in the presence of a person, who mentioned the moderate sum that would entitle me to admittance.
“Three shillings, Massachusetts tenor,” said he. “No, I mean half a dollar, as you reckon in these days.”
While searching my pocket for the coin I glanced at the doorkeeper, the marked character and individuality of whose aspect encouraged me to expect something not quite in the ordinary way. He wore an old-fashioned great-coat, much faded, within which his meagre person was so completely enveloped that the rest of his attire was undistinguishable. But his visage was remarkably wind-flushed, sunburnt, and weather-worn, and had a most, unquiet, nervous, and apprehensive expression. It seemed as if this man had some all-important object in view, some point of deepest interest to be decided, some momentous question to ask, might he but hope for a reply. As it was evident, however, that I could have nothing to do with his private affairs, I passed through an open doorway, which admitted me into the extensive hall of the museum.
The Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Knights
by Aleksandr Pushkin (1833)
Translation by Peter Tempest (1973)
With his suite the Tsar departed.
The Tsaritsa tender-hearted
At the window sat alone,
Wishing he would hurry home.
All day every day she waited,
Gazing till her dedicated
Eyes grew weak from overstrain,
Gazing at the empty plain,
Not a sign of her beloved!
Nothing but the snowflakes hurried
Heaping drifts upon the lea.
Earth was white as white could be.
Nine long months she sat and waited,
Kept her vigil unabated.
Then from God on Christmas Eve
She a daughter did receive.
Next day early in the morning,
Love and loyalty rewarding,
Home again from travel far
Came at last the father-Tsar.
One fond glance at him she darted,
Gasped for joy with thin lips parted,
Then fell back upon her bed
And by prayer-time was dead.
Excerpt from Philopseudes (Lover of Lies)
[Eucrates said] ‘When I was a young man, I passed some time in Egypt, my father having sent me to that country for my education. I took it into my head to sail up the Nile to Coptus, and thence pay a visit to the statue of Memnon, and hear the curious sound that proceeds from it at sunrise. In this respect, I was more fortunate than most people, who hear nothing but an indistinct voice: Memnon actually opened his lips, and delivered me an oracle in seven hexameters; it is foreign to my present purpose, or I would quote you the very lines.
‘Well now, one of my fellow passengers on the way up was a scribe of Memphis, an extraordinarily able man, versed in all the lore of the Egyptians. He was said to have passed twenty-three years of his life underground in the tombs, studying occult sciences under the instruction of Isis herself.’
Excerpts from Pliny’s Letter to Sura
A Haunted House
There stood at Athens a spacious and roomy house, but it had an evil reputation of being fatal to those who lived in it. In the silence of the night the clank of iron and, if you listened with closer attention, the rattle of chains were heard, the sound coming first from a distance and afterwards quite close at hand. Then appeared the ghostly form of an old man, emaciated, filthy, decrepit, with a flowing beard and hair on end, with fetters round his legs and chains on his hands, which he kept shaking. The terrified inmates passed sleepless nights of fearful terror, and following upon their sleeplessness came disease and then death as their fears increased. For every now and again, though the ghost had vanished, memory conjured up the vision before their eyes, and their fright remained longer than the apparition which had caused it. Then the house was deserted and condemned to stand empty, and was wholly abandoned to the spectre, while the authorities forbade that it should be sold or let to anyone wishing to take it, not knowing under what a curse it lay.
The Story of Kritákrita
by Francis William Bain
Transcriber’s Note: Taken from Day 19 of F. W. Bain’s Arabian Nights-style story cycle, A Digit of the Moon (1898). I’ve removed the continuity passages and left just the standalone story. All footnotes are by Bain, except those marked [NZ], which are by me. I’ve also re-paragraphed the story, for legibility.
There was once a Brahman named Kritákrita, who neglected the study of the Wédas, and walked in the black path, abandoning all his duties, and associating with gamblers, harlots, and outcasts. And he frequented the cemeteries at night, and became familiar with ghosts and vampires and dead bodies, and impure and unholy rites and incantations.
And one night, amid the flaming of funeral pyres and the reek of burning corpses, a certain Vampire of his acquaintance said to him: I am hungry: bring me fresh meat to devour, or I will tear you in pieces.