The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Clubs is my suit for “legendary Indiana authors.”
The Selection: “The Boarded Window” which I own via a paperback copy of “Terror by Night: Classic Ghost & Horror Stories”
The Author: Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914(?)) – his death and disappearance remain a mystery not wholly solved… Though born (in a log cabin) in Ohio, he grew up in Kosciusko County, Indiana. He served in the Union Army in the Civil War, as part of the 9th Indiana Infantry.
What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storyroster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.
The Boarded Window
“I penetrated to the place and ventured near enough to the ruined cabin to throw a stone against it, and ran away to avoid the ghost which every well-informed boy thereabout knew haunted the spot. But there is an earlier chapter – that supplied by my grandfather.”
Old Man Murlock was a widow who lived alone in remote cabin in an “immense and unbroken forest” near Cincinnati. He was a first generation pioneer but unlike many of his comrades of that ilk, did not get a second case of itchy foot and move further west. Bierce tells us this story kind of second hand, the narrator used to cavort near the ‘haunted’ cabin in his youth, but was not a contemporary of Murlock and leaves the telling of that man’s story to a repetition of what was once told to him by his grandfather.
It seems one day in the distant past, while he was out hunting, Murlock’s wife was stricken ill from a fever “from which she never recovered” and which claimed her life. Her death hit Murlock hard:
“He had no experience in grief, his capacity had not been enlarged by use. His heart could not contain it all, nor his imagination rightly conceive it. He did not know he was so hard struck; that knowledge would come later, and never go. Grief is an artist of powers as various as the instruments upon which he plays his dirges for the dead, evoking form some the sharpest shrillest notes, from others the low, grave chords that throb recurrent like the slow beating of a distant drum. Some natures it startles, some it stupefies. To one it comes like the stroke of an arrow, stinging all the sensibilities to a keener life, to another as the blow of a bludgeon, which in crushing benumbs. We may conceive Murlock to have been that (latter) way affected…”
Murlock’s bludgeoning by grief and his preparations for his wife’s burial lead to the climax of the story, in which a giant panther plays a role and the supernatural (perhaps, anyway) makes an appearance as well. The final page of the story gave me chills. It’s only five pages long and be read for free online at… http://www.classicshorts.com/stories/bordwind.html
Have you read Ambrose Bierce before? I find I really enjoy his writing style, and the passage I quoted above regarding grief really blew me away. I’ve also been looking for a good biography of him for awhile – do you know if any exist?