by: Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
In the summer of 1896 Mr. William Holt, a wealthy manufacturer of Chicago, was living temporarily in a little town of central New York, the name of which the writer’s memory has not retained. Mr. Holt had had “trouble with his wife,” from whom he had parted a year before. Whether the trouble was anything more serious than “incompatibility of temper,” he is probably the only living person that knows: he is not addicted to the vice of confidences. Yet he has related the incident herein set down to at least one person without exacting a pledge of secrecy. He is now living in Europe.
One evening he had left the house of a brother whom he was visiting, for a stroll in the country. It may be assumed - whatever the value of the assumption in connection with what is said to have occurred - that his mind was occupied with reflections on his domestic infelicities and the distressing changes that they had wrought in his life.
Whatever may have been his thoughts, they so possessed him that he observed neither the lapse of time nor whither his feet were carrying him; he knew only that he had passed far beyond the town limits and was traversing a lonely region by a road that bore no resemblance to the one by which he had left the village. In brief, he was “lost.”
Realizing his mischance, he smiled; central New York is not a region of perils, nor does one long remain lost in it. He turned about and went back the way that he had come. Before he had gone far he observed that the landscape was growing more distinct - was brightening. Everything was suffused with a soft, red glow in which he saw his shadow projected in the road before him. “The moon is rising,” he said to himself. Then he remembered that it was about the time of the new moon, and if that tricksy orb was in one of its stages of visibility it had set long before. He stopped and faced about, seeking the source of the rapidly broadening light. As he did...