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An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
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The Man and the Snake
It is of veritabyll report, and attested of so many that there be nowe of wyse and learned
none to gaynsaye it, that ye serpente hys eye hath a magnetick propertie that whosoe
falleth into its svasion is drawn forwards in despyte of his wille, and perisheth miserabyll
by ye creature hys byte.
Stretched at ease upon a sofa, in gown and slippers, Harker Brayton smiled as he read the
foregoing sentence in old Morryster's "Marvells of Science." "The only marvel in the
matter," he said to himself, "is that the wise and learned in Morryster's day should have
believed such nonsense as is rejected by most of even the ignorant in ours."
A train of reflections followed--for Brayton was a man of thought-- and he unconsciously
lowered his book without altering the direction of his eyes. As soon as the volume had
gone below the line of sight, something in an obscure corner of the room recalled his
attention to his surroundings. What he saw, in the shadow under his bed, were two small
points of light, apparently about an inch apart. They might have been reflections of the
gas jet above him, in metal nail heads; he gave them but little thought and resumed his
reading. A moment later something--some impulse which it did not occur to him to
analyze--impelled him to lower the book again and seek for what he saw before. The
points of light were still there. They seemed to have become brighter than before, shining
with a greenish luster which he had not at first observed. He thought, too, that they might
have moved a trifle--were somewhat nearer. They were still too much in the shadow,
however, to reveal their nature and origin to an indolent attention, and he resumed his
reading. Suddenly something in the text suggested a thought which made him start and
drop the book for the third time to the side of the sofa, whence, escaping from his hand, it
fell sprawling to the floor, back upward. Brayton, half-risen, was staring intently into the
obscurity beneath the bed, where the points of light shone with, it seemed to him, an
added fire. His attention was now fully aroused, his gaze eager and imperative. It
disclosed, almost directly beneath the foot rail of the bed, the coils of a large serpent--the
points of light were its eyes! Its horrible head, thrust flatly forth from the innermost coil
and resting upon the outermost, was directed straight toward him, the definition of the
wide, brutal jaw and the idiotlike forehead serving to show the direction of its malevolent
gaze. The eyes were no longer merely luminous points; they looked into his own with a
meaning, a malign significance.
A snake in a bedroom of a modern city dwelling of the better sort is, happily, not so
common a phenomenon as to make explanation altogether needless. Harker Brayton, a
bachelor of thirty-five, a scholar, idler, and something of an athlete, rich, popular, and of
sound health, had returned to San Francisco from all manner of remote and unfamiliar
countries. His tastes, always a trifle luxurious, had taken on an added exuberance from
long privation; and the resources of even the Castle Hotel being inadequate for their
perfect gratification, he had gladly accepted the hospitality of his friend, Dr. Druring, the