A Man Though Naked May Be In Rags
Categories: THE DAMNED THING
Scary Books: The Best Ghost Stories
: AMBROSE BIERCE
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;
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
"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."