‘One Summer Night’ by Ambrose Bierce

Bierce, Ambrose 1893

One Summer Night by Ambrose Bierce, 1893

The magic trick:

Combining the gruesome with the comic

There’s really nothing like a good, old-fashioned, 19th century graverobbing story, am I right? SSMT readers may recall Robert Louis Stevenson’s gem, “The Body Snatcher.”

Here, Bierce is able to take the grisly subject, work it for all its macabre madness and still find time to inject his trademark wry, cynical sense of humor. Trust me, this really is a very funny story; gruesomely funny. And that’s quite a trick on Bierce’s part.

The selection:

The fact that Henry Armstrong was buried did not seem to him to prove that he was dead: he had always been a hard man to convince. That he really was buried, the testimony of his senses compelled him to admit. His posture — flat upon his back, with his hands crossed upon his stomach and tied with something that he easily broke without profitably altering the situation — the strict confinement of his entire person, the black darkness and profound silence, made a body of evidence impossible to controvert and he accepted it without cavil.

But dead — no; he was only very, very ill.

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