Beasts and Super-Beasts is a collection of short stories by the British author Hector Hugh Munro who wrote under the pseudonym of Saki. It was first published in 1914. The short stories first appeared in the Morning Post newspaper with the exception of the following; "The Open Window", "The Schartz-Metterklume Method", and "Clovis on Parental Responsibilities" originally appeared in the Westminster Gazette, and "The Elk" was published in the weekly Bystander magazine.
Beasts and Super-Beasts was the last anthology to be published in Saki's lifetime, and it is considered by many to be his best. Whereas his early collections included many light sketches, Beasts and Super-Beasts contains mostly stories with carefully-crafted plotlines, often with clever twists.
Several of the stories in the collection have been adapted to other media. Many stories can also be found in various short-story anthologies.
The collection contains 36 short stories.
- See main article "The She-Wolf"
- See main article "Laura"
Mrs. Stossen is determined to attend Mrs. Cuvering's fashionable garden party to which she was not invited. She and her daughter try to sneak into the party from the back way, going through the narrow grass paddock into the gooseberry garden which connects to the lawn through a door. Unfortunately, the door is locked and they are forced to turn back. Mrs. Cuvering's thirteen-year-old niece Matilda observes them and releases a huge, fierce-looking pet boar-pig into the paddock to block their return path. Mrs. Cuvering tries to coax Matilda into helping them, but she proves no match for the clever girl.
The Mullet family has been trying for years to sell their horse, the Brogue. The horse is so easily spooked and difficult to handle that only their son Toby is able to ride it. They finally manage to convince their new neighbor to buy it, only to find out too late that the rich bachelor is interested in one of their daughters. Now they must try to prevent the husband-in-prospect from getting killed by the dangerously uncontrollable horse.
Mrs. Sangrail has invited Dora Bittholtz to come for a visit. Her son Clovis tells her that the visit will be a disaster because their current house guest, Jane Martlet, has had a falling-out with Dora recently over a prize hen. Clovis volunteers to make Jane cut her visit short – generally considered an impossible feat – to ensure she is gone by the time Dora arrives. With a little creative trickery, he manages to lead Jane to believe that their trusted butler is trying to kill her.
"The Open Window"
- See main article "The Open Window"
The Duchess of Dulverton purchases a new invention, an apparatus for deep-sea exploration, to search for a sunken treasure ship. She sends her nephew Vasco Honiton, a young man with a small income living off his relatives, to her coastal property so he can practice using the apparatus in the bay. Vasco returns a few weeks later to report that he found a submerged motorboat at the bottom of the bay. Using the apparatus, he has recovered from the wreck a watertight box containing some interesting papers. It turns out to be quite a treasure for Vasco – but not for the Duchess.
- See main article "The Cobweb"
Mrs. Durmot has invited Latimer Springfield, a politician on a campaign tour, to stay overnight at her house after a local event. She tells her husband and her sixteen-year-old niece Vera that she intends to give the politician a restful lull from all things political. The afternoon and evening proceed well, but the hostess fears that Springfield will sit up late working on his speeches. Shortly after retiring to his bedroom, the politician is busy working on his notes when Vera bursts into the room carrying a small pig and a gamecock. By the time she leaves, politics will be the last thing on his mind.
"The Unkindest Blow"
After a busy strike season in which every trade and industry that could possibly go on strike went on strike, the nation and the newspapers are now happy to turn their attention to the upcoming divorce suit of the Duke of Falvertoon. It is a complicated and sensational affair involving many distinguished witnesses. A whole industry has sprung up to cover the trial, including reporters, artists, filmmakers, and others from all over Europe in addition to local businesses servicing the assembly. Then suddenly, just two days before the start of the trial, the Duke announces he and the Duchess are going on strike – they threaten to reconcile unless they get some consideration out of the industry.
Morton Crosby is sitting on a park bench when a shabbily-dressed man sits down next to him. Crosby judges him to be a professional beggar. The man begins to talk presently and, as expected, tries to bring his financial difficulties to Crosby's attention. Crosby skillfully steers the conversation away to discourage the man. He then begins to lead the beggar on with a story about his hometown where generosity towards strangers is customary.
"The Schartz-Metterklume Method"
- See main article "The Schartz-Metterklume Method"
"The Seventh Pullet"
Blenkinthrope, a poor conversationalist who lives an uneventful life, is encouraged by his friend Gorworth to invent stories to impress his acquaintances. Gorworth says that, for example, Blenkinthrope can tell them that a snake with mesmerizing eyes killed six out of his seven pullets before getting pecked to death by the seventh pullet which was immune because its eyes were covered by feathers. During the morning commute the following day, Blenkinthrope is tempted into trying the story on his fellow passengers. The story not only captures the attention of his companions but also spreads around and makes the newspaper. Blenkinthrope soon begins to tell more tall tales, and his companions quickly catch on. Then one day, something truly sensational actually happens to Blenkinthrope.
"The Blind Spot"
Egbert visits Sir Lulworth to discuss a serious matter concerning his recently-deceased great-aunt Adelaide. Sir Lulworth, a gourmet blessed with a great cook, absolutely refuses to discuss any business over the sumptuous lunch. After the meal, Egbert finally gets the chance to tell Sir Lulworth that he found among Adelaide's papers a letter from her late brother Peter. The letter suggests Peter was murdered by his hot-tempered cook Sebastien – whom Sir Lulworth has since taken into his service.
A young man sits down next to Norman Gortsby on a park bench. The man, who is obviously in a bad temper, tells Gortsby that he checked into an unfamiliar hotel earlier, stepped out to buy some soap, then became lost. He says he cannot remember the name or address of the hotel, and he has no money left on him. Gortsby refuses to lend him any money when the man fails to produce the soap. A short time later, Gortsby finds a package dropped near the bench and decides to search for the young man.
"A Touch of Realism"
Lady Blonze decides to have her guests play a game during the Christmas house party. Each guest is to pick a famous character and act that character throughout the visit. On the last day, there will be a vote and the best imitator will win a prize. Her husband is concerned that some of their guests, especially the younger wild ones, may take it too far. His concerns turn out to be well founded.
Having served abroad honorably for four years, Basset Harrowcluff returns home to find his underachieving half-brother Lucas unchanged. Lucas, a dreamer who is full of "great ideas" that never work out, has come up with a new idea for a music-hall revue; a spectacular musical number which involves "Cousin Teresa" pulling four wooden dogs on wheels across the stage to the refrain of "Cousin Teresa takes out Caesar, Fido, Jock, and the big borzoi." To everyone's surprise, "Cousin Teresa" becomes a sensation, and Basset's achievements are overshadowed by Lucas' newfound fame.
"The Yarkand Manner"
Editorial staffs of London newspapers suddenly begin moving their operations to various foreign cities. Even the most respected Daily Intelligencer transfers its offices to Eastern Turkestan, leaving only an intelligent office boy behind. After their return a few weeks later, the editor and his staff are found to have developed an aloofness, nicknamed "the Yarkand manner" after a town in Turkestan, and prove impossible to get in touch with. The paper also begins to express forcible opinions on foreign affairs, prompting the government to launch an investigation.
"The Byzantine Omelette"
Sophie Chattel-Monkheim is having her hair styled for her special dinner party when the maid informs her of a domestic strike. The maid says the servants' union has discovered that the emergency chef Sophia engaged for the dinner, the omelette specialist who knows how to prepare a Byzantine omelette for their honored guest the Duke of Syria, was a strikebreaker two years ago. Since no one is able to get ready for dinner without their maids and valets, Sophia is forced to dismiss the chef. Unfortunately for her, the kitchen staff learns about the dismissal and decides to go on a strike.
"The Feast of Nemesis"
Mrs. Thackenbury remarks to her nephew Clovis that there are too many remembrance days – Christmas, New Year, Easter – for exchanging gifts and thank-you letters with "people who must not be left out." Clovis suggests establishing a new holiday, a Nemesis Day, to recognize people you loathe. He then goes on to describe how one might take revenge on "people who must not be let off" on Nemesis Day. Mrs. Thackenbury objects at first but soon begins to see the possibilities.
Adela Chemping goes shopping during the sale week at an upscale department store accompanied by her adolescent nephew Cyprian. Cyprian obediently carries Adela's parcels from department to department for two hours before being rewarded with a luncheon. Afterwards, leaving the parcels with the cloakroom attendant, they resume their shopping. Adela goes off on her own and loses Cyprian in the crowded store. She finally manages to locate him, but what she witnesses next makes her faint in shock.
"The Quince Tree"
Old Betsy Mullen lives in a large cottage with a nice garden and a quince tree which she loves. Sixteen-year-old Vera has just learned that Betsy is months behind in paying her rent. Vera's aunt says it is best for Betsy to give up the cottage and move into smaller quarters. Vera disagrees and tells her aunt a secret: Betsy is helping to keep hidden certain items stored in the cottage which, if found, will cause a terrible scandal involving many respected people of the community.
"The Forbidden Buzzards"
At a house party, Hugo Peterby asks Clovis to keep his rival, a wealthy man named Lanner, occupied while he tries to catch Betty Coulterneb alone for a few hours to propose to her. Since Lanner does not like Clovis and will not spend any time with him, Clovis decides to approach the task in a roundabout manner. He tells the hostess that Lanner is an avid and ruthless egg collector intent on stealing the eggs from the rare buzzards nesting in the woods on her property.
Mrs. Attray has been trying desperately to keep her son Ronnie from gambling. She stopped his allowances some time ago, but he simply sold his watch and other personal belongings to raise money. She believes he is now out of things he can sell. Ronnie was out late again last night, but Mrs. Attray hopes he was not able to gamble. She soon discovers she underestimated Ronnie's determination.
"Clovis on Parental Responsibilities"
Mrs. Eggelby loves to talk about her children and their accomplishments. Clovis has no interest whatsoever in listening to her go on about the children whom he has never met, so he decides to be contrary. He intimates that he is unlikely to care for them then begins to offer bizarre opinions about their upbringing. By the time he is done, Mrs. Eggelby is determined to keep her children away from Clovis at all costs.
"A Holiday Task"
A pleasant-looking young woman strikes up a conversation with Kenelm Jerton in the hotel dining room. She says she has suffered a memory loss and cannot remember who she is except that she has a title, a Lady Something. She found herself on a train, got off at the station indicated by her ticket, and checked into the hotel under the name of Smith. Jerton agrees to help her, but the task leads to a rather embarrassing situation for him.
"The Stalled Ox"
- See main article "The Stalled Ox"
- See main article "The Story-Teller"
"A Defensive Diamond"
Treddleford is relaxing with a book in the club smoking room when Amblecope sits down next to him. Amblecope is a tedious man who will talk for hours about his own achievements. Amblecope begins to talk about the Grand Prix, and Treddleford cuts him off abruptly, claiming he has some painful memories associated with the Grand Prix. Amblecope does not take the hint, however, and begins to talk about something else. Treddleford decides to counter with some tales of his own, proving the old adage that the best defense is a good offense.
Teresa Thropplestance is very rich and also extremely intractable. Her grandson Bertie, the heir-designate, is an easygoing young man who is willing to take anyone for a wife who is favored by his grandmother. At the Christmas house party, Mrs. Yonelet keeps everyone else occupied so her daughter Dora will have a lot of time to spend with Bertie. When Bertie rescues Dora from an elk, Mrs. Yonelet eagerly says to Teresa that Fate has put the two young people together. Teresa, however, is not at all impressed by the incident.
Janetta and her husband Egbert have written dozens of thank-you letters yesterday and today. They still need to write more, but neither wants to do so. They decide to collaborate just to get it done, but they cannot agree on how to properly thank for a calendar they will never use. After much discussion, Egbert decides to write a letter to the editor instead proposing a return-ticket system for acknowledging holiday gifts.
John James Abbleway is traveling from Vienna to Fiume when his train gets stuck in a sudden snow storm. The engine eventually manages to push through the snow drift, but the coupling snaps and the rear carriage is left behind with Abbleway and a peasant woman inside. Abbleway fears that they will have to spend the night without food in the carriage surrounded by a forest full of wolves. The woman says she is not afraid because today is her name day and she is protected by the saint she is named after – she then beings to sell her provisions to Abbleway at exorbitant prices.
"The Lumber Room"
- See main article "The Lumber Room"
- See main article "Fur"
"The Philanthropist and the Happy Cat"
Jocantha Bessbury is "one of the most contented women in Chelsea." She has an excellent husband and a beautiful house filled with very nice things. Reflecting upon her own pleasant life, she begins to feel the urge to do something nice to bring a little interest into the life of someone of the unfortunate working class. She buys a theater ticket and goes to a cheap tea shop hoping to find a lonely-looking young girl. Her philanthropic adventure does not go as planned, and Jocantha returns home full of discontent.
Restaurant Nurembrg in Soho, London, is a gathering place for the Bohemian crowd. One of the artists, a former Pomeranian farmer named Gebhard Knopfschrank, is a mystery to other regulars of the establishment. His paintings, which appear to be the works of either a genius or a mad man, never sell, and it is obvious that the artist is running out of money. Then one day, he comes to the restaurant beaming with excitement and orders an expensive feast in an apparent celebration.