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A Man Though Naked May Be In Rags

Scary Books: The Best Ghost Stories

The coroner rose from his seat and stood beside the dead man. Lifting an

edge of the sheet he pulled it away, exposing the entire body,

altogether naked and showing in the candle-light a claylike yellow. It

had, however, broad maculations of bluish black, obviously caused by

extravasated blood from contusions. The chest and sides looked as if

they had been beaten with a bludgeon. There were dreadful lacerations;

the sk
n was torn in strips and shreds.

The coroner moved round to the end of the table and undid a silk

handkerchief which had been passed under the chin and knotted on the top

of the head. When the handkerchief was drawn away it exposed what had

been the throat. Some of the jurors who had risen to get a better view

repented their curiosity and turned away their faces. Witness Harker

went to the open window and leaned out across the sill, faint and sick.

Dropping the handkerchief upon the dead man's neck the coroner stepped

to an angle of the room and from a pile of clothing produced one garment

after another, each of which he held up a moment for inspection. All

were torn, and stiff with blood. The jurors did not make a closer

inspection. They seemed rather uninterested. They had, in truth, seen

all this before; the only thing that was new to them being Harker's


"Gentlemen," the coroner said, "we have no more evidence, I think. Your

duty has been already explained to you; if there is nothing you wish to

ask you may go outside and consider your verdict."

The foreman rose--a tall, bearded man of sixty, coarsely clad.

"I should like to ask one question, Mr. Coroner," he said. "What asylum

did this yer last witness escape from?"

"Mr. Harker," said the coroner, gravely and tranquilly, "from what

asylum did you last escape?"

Harker flushed crimson again, but said nothing, and the seven jurors

rose and solemnly filed out of the cabin.

"If you have done insulting me, sir," said Harker, as soon as he and the

officer were left alone with the dead man, "I suppose I am at liberty to



Harker started to leave, but paused, with his hand on the door latch.

The habit of his profession was strong in him--stronger than his sense

of personal dignity. He turned about and said:

"The book that you have there--I recognize it as Morgan's diary. You

seemed greatly interested in it; you read in it while I was testifying.

May I see it? The public would like----"

"The book will cut no figure in this matter," replied the official,

slipping it into his coat pocket; "all the entries in it were made

before the writer's death."

As Harker passed out of the house the jury reentered and stood about the

table, on which the now covered corpse showed under the sheet with sharp

definition. The foreman seated himself near the candle, produced from

his breast pocket a pencil and scrap of paper and wrote rather

laboriously the following verdict, which with various degrees of effort

all signed:

"We, the jury, do find that the remains come to their death at the hands

of a mountain lion, but some of us thinks, all the same, they had fits."