“The Boarded Window” Summary by Ambrose Bierce

“The Boarded Window” is a short horror story by Ambrose Bierce that appeared in his 1891 collection Tales of Soldiers and Civilians. It can be read in the preview of 100 Great American Short Stories(80% in) Here’s a summary of “The Boarded Window.”

“The Boarded Window” Summary

The narrator tells a story set in a great woods around 1830. It was sparsely settled by frontier people, most of whom eventually moved even deeper into the woods. One man who remained was Murlock, who lived alone in his log house. He supported himself by selling or bartering animal skins in the river town, for he grew nothing on the land.

The little log house had a single door and, directly opposite, a window that had always been boarded up. Few people ever knew the story around that window, but the narrator is one of them—he got the story as a boy from his grandfather.

Murlock is about fifty but looks quite a bit older. He’s tall with stooped shoulders, like he’s bearing a burden. One day Mulock was found dead in his cabin. He was buried nearby next to his long-deceased wife. Afterward, every boy in the area knows the cabin is haunted. That’s the end of the story most people know.

When Murlock built the cabin he was young and strong and had a young wife. She died so long ago that her name and qualities are lost but the narrator doesn’t doubt their affection. Why else would he have stayed rather than venturing deeper with the others, if not for her memory?

The Boarded Window Summary by Ambrose Bierce
“The Boarded Window” Summary

Returning from the hunt one day, Murlock finds his wife seriously ill. He tries to nurse her back to health himself, there being no doctor or neighbor nearby. She dies three days later.

Murlock clumsily prepares her body for burial. He doesn’t weep, which surprises him. He plans to make the coffin and dig the grave tomorrow, and believes he’ll feel the loss more strongly when she’s out of sight.

Her body is laid on the table. Murlock sits wearily in a chair with his head and arms resting on the table and drifts to sleep. A wailing sound comes in through the open window; it could be a wild beast or it could be a dream. The unearthly cry sounds again, nearer this time.

Hours later he’s awaked by a sound. He strains to see in the blackness. He listens but it’s quiet. The table shakes and he thinks he hears footsteps. Terrified, he’s unable to speak or move. Something heavy hits the table opposite, pushing it into him, nearly knocking him over. Something hits the floor with a violent thud. There’s a wild confusion of movement and sounds. Murlock flings his arms onto the table and finds it empty.

Seized with madness, Murlock grabs his loaded rifle off the wall and fires blindly. In the flash of the blast, he sees a huge panther dragging his wife’s body by the throat to the window. Murlock loses consciousness.

When Murlock wakes up it’s bright out and the birds sing. His wife’s body is near the window, abandoned there by the frightened panther. Her clothing and body are in disarray. There’s a pool of blood on the floor from her throat. The ribbon he had bound her wrists with is broken and her fists are clenched. There’s a fragment of the animal’s ear in her teeth.

The Boarded Window Summary Ambrose Bierce
End of “The Boarded Window” Summary

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