I am quickly loading my capacious Kindle DX with free books — some from the faith-and-love-in-humanity-restoring Guttenberg Project, and some from Amazon's Kindle store itself.
The opening paragraphs of my first ten books on the device, all of which I had located and downloaded well before receiving my new toy:
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in
its own way.
Everything was in confusion in the Oblonskys' house. The wife
had discovered that the husband was carrying on an intrigue with
a French girl, who had been a governess in their family, and she
had announced to her husband that she could not go on living in
the same house with him. This position of affairs had now lasted
three days, and not only the husband and wife themselves, but all
the members of their family and household, were painfully
conscious of it. Every person in the house felt that there was
no sense in their living together, and that the stray people
brought together by chance in any inn had more in common with one
another than they, the members of the family and household of the
Oblonskys. The wife did not leave her own room, the husband had
not been at home for three days. The children ran wild all over
the house; the English governess quarreled with the housekeeper,
and wrote to a friend asking her to look out for a new situation
for her; the man-cook had walked off the day before just at
dinner time; the kitchen-maid, and the coachman had given
To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen, but as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position. He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. They were admirable things for the observer—excellent for drawing the veil from men’s motives and actions. But for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his mental results. Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.
On the first Monday of the month of April, 1625, the market town of Meung, in which the author of ROMANCE OF THE ROSE was born, appeared to be in as perfect a state of revolution as if the Huguenots had just made a second La Rochelle of it. Many citizens, seeing the women flying toward the High Street, leaving their children crying at the open doors, hastened to don the cuirass, and supporting their somewhat uncertain courage with a musket or a partisan, directed their steps toward the hostelry of the Jolly Miller, before which was gathered, increasing every minute, a compact group, vociferous and full of curiosity.
ABASEMENT, n. A decent and customary mental attitude in the presence of wealth or power. Peculiarly appropriate in an employee when addressing an employer.
ABATIS, n. Rubbish in front of a fort, to prevent the rubbish outside from molesting the rubbish inside.
ABDICATION, n. An act whereby a sovereign attests his sense of the high temperature of the throne.
PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted;
persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons
attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.
"Jeeves," I said, "may I speak frankly?"
"What I have to say may wound you."
"Not at all, sir."
No–wait. Hold the line a minute. I've gone off the rails.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct
the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present
period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its
being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree
of comparison only.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession
of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
It is a curious thing that at my age–fifty-five last birthday–I
should find myself taking up a pen to try to write a history. I wonder
what sort of a history it will be when I have finished it, if ever I
come to the end of the trip! I have done a good many things in my life,
which seems a long one to me, owing to my having begun work so young,
perhaps. At an age when other boys are at school I was earning my
living as a trader in the old Colony. I have been trading, hunting,
fighting, or mining ever since. And yet it is only eight months ago
that I made my pile. It is a big pile now that I have got it–I don't
yet know how big–but I do not think I would go through the last
fifteen or sixteen months again for it; no, not if I knew that I should
come out safe at the end, pile and all. But then I am a timid man, and
dislike violence; moreover, I am almost sick of adventure. I wonder why
I am going to write this book: it is not in my line. I am not a
literary man, though very devoted to the Old Testament and also to the
"Ingoldsby Legends." Let me try to set down my reasons, just to see if
I have any.
Roebuck Ramsden is in his study, opening the morning letters. The study,
handsomely and solidly furnished, proclaims the man of means. Not
a speck of dust is visible: it is clear that there are at least two
housemaids and a parlormaid downstairs, and a housekeeper upstairs who
does not let them spare elbow-grease. Even the top of Roebuck's head is
polished: on a sunshiny day he could heliograph his orders to distant
camps by merely nodding. In no other respect, however, does he suggest
the military man. It is in active civil life that men get his broad air
of importance, his dignified expectation of deference, his determinate
mouth disarmed and refined since the hour of his success by the
withdrawal of opposition and the concession of comfort and precedence
and power. He is more than a highly respectable man: he is marked out
as a president of highly respectable men, a chairman among directors,
an alderman among councillors, a mayor among aldermen. Four tufts of
iron-grey hair, which will soon be as white as isinglass, and are in
other respects not at all unlike it, grow in two symmetrical pairs above
his ears and at the angles of his spreading jaws. He wears a black frock
coat, a white waistcoat (it is bright spring weather), and trousers,
neither black nor perceptibly blue, of one of those indefinitely mixed
hues which the modern clothier has produced to harmonize with the
religions of respectable men. He has not been out of doors yet to-day;
so he still wears his slippers, his boots being ready for him on the
hearthrug. Surmising that he has no valet, and seeing that he has no
secretary with a shorthand notebook and a typewriter, one meditates
on how little our great burgess domesticity has been disturbed by new
fashions and methods, or by the enterprise of the railway and hotel
companies which sell you a Saturday to Monday of life at Folkestone as a
real gentleman for two guineas, first class fares both ways included.
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