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He Walked Around the Horses

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Author: H. Beam Piper
Published: 1948
Language: English
Wordcount: 9,168 / 23 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 60.5
LoC Category: PS
Series: Paratime
Downloads: 3,659
Added to site: 2006.07.12 14187
License: ©

The story of Benjamin Brathurst, a British diplomat, who suddenly finds himself in a world slightly different from his own. Produced from Astounding Science Fiction, April 1948. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the copyright on this publication was renewed.

Show Excerpt

ad asked him, "Who is the Lord Jehovah?" Then, after a moment, a look of comprehension came into his face.

"So, you Prussians concede him the title of Emperor, and refer to him as Napoleon," he said. "Well, I can assure you that His Britannic Majesty's government haven't done so, and never will; not so long as one Englishman has a finger left to pull a trigger. General Bonaparte is a usurper; His Britannic Majesty's government do not recognize any sovereignty in France except the House of Bourbon." This he said very sternly, as though rebuking me.


It took me a moment or so to digest that, and to appreciate all its implications. Why, this fellow evidently believed, as a matter of fact, that the French Monarchy had been overthrown by some military adventurer named Bonaparte, who was calling himself the Emperor Napoleon, and who had made war on Austria and forced a surrender. I made no attempt to argue with him--one wastes time arguing with madmen--but if this man could believ

Reader Reviews

Average Rating of 3.7 from 7 reviews: ****
JoJo Biggins

I'm sorry, but I just can't find any redeeming qualities in this story. The writing is archaic, like that of Wells, and there is no particular plot. The ending is no ending at all. I don't even see how this can be classified as science fiction.

Paulo Respighi

A clever story about a (real?) English diplomat in the time of Napoleon on a trip back to England who disappeared. In this account, he stepped into an alternate timeline and found himself out of a job. The story, told as letters between important people, concerns the problems of the people in his new universe dealing with the madman.

Very well done.


Nineteenth century British diplomat suddenly finds himself in an alternate world with many similarities to his own but different history. I have not read much alternate history fiction, but enjoyed this story.

Jim H.

At it's face value, this is an interesting small tale of an alternate reality (aka parallel worlds). What makes it especially striking was Piper claimed that this is what had actually happened to him up until he took his own life in '64.


A very clever alternate history tale. Highly recommended. H. Beam Piper is a very underrated sf writer

Both an Alternative history like Piper's Indo-European Volkswanderung Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen, and a subtle joke on the reader if he is not knowledgable of the Napoleonic Period. Look up Arthur Wellsely!


A short story in the form of letters. As in other stories by this writer, the science fiction angle is a tool to explore politics and human nature -- in this case, how politicians and average people deal with the out-of-the-ordinary, making attempts to understand and then covering up what they don't. It's definitely an anthology/magazine piece, not terribly rip-roaring, and if you're not familiar with the major historical figures referenced in here, you will miss out on the slow buildup of surprise. But if you like alternate histories, this is a nice small piece to add to your library.



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Morgan L. Busse
Morgan L. Busse is a writer by day and a mother by night. She is the author of the Follower of the Word series and the award-winning steampunk series, The Soul Chronicles. During her spare time she enjoys playing games, taking long walks, and dreaming about her next novel. As our Author of the Day, Morgan tells us all about her latest book, Tainted.
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