An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge HTML version

A Jug of Syrup
This narrative begins with the death of its hero. Silas Deemer died on the 16th day of
July, 1863; and two days later his remains were buried. As he had been personally known
to every man, woman and well-grown child in the village, the funeral, as the local
newspaper phrased it, 'was largely attended.' In accordance with a custom of the time and
place, the coffin was opened at the graveside and the entire assembly of friends and
neighbours filed past, taking a last look at the face of the dead. And then, before the eyes
of all, Silas Deemer was put into the ground. Some of the eyes were a trifle dim, but in a
general way it may be said that at that interment where was lack of neither observance
nor observation; Silas was indubitably dead, and none could have pointed out any ritual
delinquency that would have justified him in coming back from the grave. Yet if human
testimony is good for anything (and certainly it once put an end to witchcraft in and about
Salem) he came back.
I forgot to state that the death and burial of Silas Deemer occurred in the little village of
Hillbrook, where he had lived for thirty-one years. He had been what is known in some
parts of the Union (which is admittedly a free country) as a 'merchant'; that is to say, he
kept a retail shop for the sale of such things as are commonly sold in shops of that
character. His honesty had never been questioned, so far as is known, and he was held in
high esteem by all. The only thing that could be urged against him by the most censorious
was a too close attention to business. It was not urged against him, though many another,
who manifested it in no greater degree, was less leniently judged. The business to which
Silas was devoted was mostly his own -- that, possibly, may have made a difference.
At the time of Deemer's death nobody could recollect a single day, Sundays excepted,
that he had not passed in his 'store,' since he had opened it more than a quarter-century
before. His health having been perfect during all that time, he had been unable to discern
any validity in whatever may or might have been urged to lure him astray from his
counter; and it is related that once when he was summoned to the county seat as a witness
in an important law case and did not attend, the lawyer who had the hardihood to move
that he be 'admonished' was solemnly informed that the Court regarded the proposal with
'surprise.' Judicial surprise being an emotion that attorneys are not commonly ambitious
to arouse, the motion was hastily withdrawn and an agreement with the other side
effected as to what Mr. Deemer would have said if he had been there -- the other side
pushing its advantage to the extreme and making the supposititious testimony distinctly
damaging to the interests of its proponents. In brief, it was the general feeling in all that
region that Silas Deemer was the one immobile verity of Hillbrook, and that his
translation in space would precipitate some dismal public ill or strenuous calamity.
Mrs. Deemer and two grown daughters occupied the upper rooms of the building, but
Silas had never been known to sleep elsewhere than on a cot behind the counter of the
store. And there, quite by accident, he was found one night, dying, and passed away just
before the time for taking down the shutters. Though speechless, he appeared conscious,