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The Beetle

Richard Marsh

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The Beetle is an 1897 horror novel by British author Richard Marsh. Published in the same year as Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, The Beetle was far more popular, outselling it six times over. Narrated from the perspectives of multiple characters, it tells the story of an Egyptian entity, who seeks revenge on a British member of Parliament.

This book has 233 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1897.

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Excerpt from 'The Beetle'

“No room!⁠—Full up!”

He banged the door in my face.

That was the final blow.

To have tramped about all day looking for work; to have begged even for a job which would give me money enough to buy a little food; and to have tramped and to have begged in vain⁠—that was bad. But, sick at heart, depressed in mind and in body, exhausted by hunger and fatigue, to have been compelled to pocket any little pride I might have left, and solicit, as the penniless, homeless tramp which indeed I was, a night’s lodging in the casual ward⁠—and to solicit it in vain!⁠—that was worse. Much worse. About as bad as bad could be.

I stared, stupidly, at the door which had just been banged in my face. I could scarcely believe that the thing was possible. I had hardly expected to figure as a tramp; but, supposing it conceivable that I could become a tramp, that I should be refused admission to that abode of all ignominy, the tramp’s ward, was to have attained a depth of misery of which never even in nightmares I had dreamed.

As I stood wondering what I should do, a man slouched towards me out of the shadow of the wall.

“Won’t ’e let yer in?”

“He says it’s full.”

“Says it’s full, does ’e? That’s the lay at Fulham⁠—they always says it’s full. They wants to keep the number down.”

I looked at the man askance. His head hung forward; his hands were in his trouser pockets; his clothes were rags; his tone was husky.

“Do you mean that they say it’s full when it isn’t⁠—that they won’t let me in although there’s room?”

“That’s it⁠—bloke’s a-kiddin’ yer.”

“But, if there’s room, aren’t they bound to let me in?”

“Course they are⁠—and, blimey, if I was you I’d make ’em. Blimey I would!”

He broke into a volley of execrations.

“But what am I to do?”

“Why, give ’em another rouser⁠—let ’em know as you won’t be kidded!”

I hesitated; then, acting on his suggestion, for the second time I rang the bell. The door was flung wide open, and the grizzled pauper, who had previously responded to my summons, stood in the open doorway. Had he been the Chairman of the Board of Guardians himself he could not have addressed me with greater scorn.

“What, here again! What’s your little game? Think I’ve nothing better to do than to wait upon the likes of you?”

“I want to be admitted.”

“Then you won’t be admitted!”

“I want to see someone in authority.”

“Ain’t yer seein’ someone in authority?”

“I want to see someone besides you⁠—I want to see the master.”

“Then you won’t see the master!”

He moved the door swiftly to; but, prepared for such a manoeuvre, I thrust my foot sufficiently inside to prevent his shutting it. I continued to address him.

“Are you sure that the ward is full?”

“Full two hours ago!”

“But what am I to do?”

“I don’t know what you’re to do!”

“Which is the next nearest workhouse?”


Suddenly opening the door, as he answered me, putting out his arm he thrust me backwards. Before I could recover the door was closed. The man in rags had continued a grim spectator of the scene. Now he spoke.

“Nice bloke, ain’t he?”

“He’s only one of the paupers⁠—has he any right to act as one of the officials?”

“I tell yer some of them paupers is wuss than the orficers⁠—a long sight wuss! They thinks they owns the ’ouses, blimey they do. Oh it’s a fine world, this is!”

He paused. I hesitated. For some time there had been a suspicion of rain in the air. Now it was commencing to fall in a fine but soaking drizzle. It only needed that to fill my cup to overflowing. My companion was regarding me with a sort of sullen curiosity.

“Ain’t you got no money?”

“Not a farthing.”

“Done much of this sort of thing?”

“It’s the first time I’ve been to a casual ward⁠—and it doesn’t seem as if I’m going to get in now.”

“I thought you looked as if you was a bit fresh.⁠—What are yer goin’ to do?”

“How far is it to Kensington?”

“Work’us?⁠—about three mile;⁠—but, if I was you, I’d try St. George’s.”

“Where’s that?”

“In the Fulham Road. Kensington’s only a small place, they do you well there, and it’s always full as soon as the door’s opened;⁠—you’d ’ave more chawnce at St. George’s.”

He was silent. I turned his words over in my mind, feeling as little disposed to try the one place as the other. Presently he began again.

Production notes: This edition of The Beetle was published by Global Grey ebooks on the 11th January 2021. The artwork used for the cover is 'Stag beetle' by Hans Hoffmann.

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