STALEY FLEMING'S HALLUCINATION
by Ambrose Bierce
Of two men who were talking one was a physician.
"I sent for you, Doctor," said the other, "but
I don't think you can do me any good. May be you
can recommend a specialist in psychopathy. I
fancy I'm a bit loony."
"You look all right," the physician said.
"You shall judge--I have hallucinations. I wake
every night and see in my room, intently watching
me, a big black Newfoundland dog with a white
"You say you wake; are you sure about that?
'Hallucinations' are sometimes only dreams."
"Oh, I wake, all right. Sometimes I lie still
a long time, looking at the dog as earnestly
as the dog looks at me--I always leave the light
going. When I can't endure it any longer I sit
up in bed--and nothing is there!"
"'M, 'm--what is the beast's expression?"
"It seems to me sinister. Of course I know that,
except in art, an animal's face in repose has
always the same expression. But this is not a
real animal. Newfoundland dogs are pretty mild
looking, you know; what's the matter with this
"Really, my diagnosis would have no value: I am
not going to treat the dog."
The physician laughed at his own pleasantry, but
narrowly watched his patient from the corner of
his eye. Presently he said: "Fleming, your
description of the beast fits the dog of the
late Atwell Barton."
Fleming half-rose from his chair, sat again and
made a visible attempt at indifference. "I remember
Barton," he said; "I believe he was--it was
reported that--wasn't there something suspicious
in his death?"
Looking squarely now into the eyes of his patient,
the physician said: "Three years ago the body of
your old enemy, Atwell Barton, was found in the
woods near his house and yours. He had been stabbed
to death. There have been no arrests; there was
no clew. Some of us had 'theories.' I had one.
"I? Why, bless your soul, what could I know about
it? You remember that I left for Europe almost
immediately afterward--a considerable time afterward.
In the few weeks since my return you could not
expect me to construct a 'theory.' In fact, I
have not given the matter a thought. What about
"It was first to find the body. It died of
starvation on his grave."
We do not know the inexorable law underlying
coincidences. Staley Fleming did not, or he
would perhaps not have sprung to his feet as
the night wind brought in through the open
window the long wailing howl of a distant dog.
He strode several times across the room in
the steadfast gaze of the physician; then,
abruptly confronting him, almost shouted:
"What has all this to do with my trouble, Dr.
Halderman? You forget why you were sent for."
Rising, the physician laid his hand upon his
patient's arm and said, gently: "Pardon me.
I cannot diagnose your disorder offhand--tomorrow,
perhaps. Please go to bed, leaving your door
unlocked; I will pass the night here with your
books. Can you call me without rising?"
"Yes, there is an electric bell."
"Good. If anything disturbs you push the button
without sitting up. Good night."
Comfortably installed in an armchair the man of
medicine stared into the glowing coals and thought
deeply and long, but apparently to little purpose,
for he frequently rose and opening a door leading
to the staircase, listened intently; then resumed
his seat. Presently, however, he fell asleep, and
when he woke it was past midnight. He stirred the
failing fire, lifted a book from the table at his
side and looked at the title. It was Denneker's
"Meditations." He opened it at random and began
"Forasmuch as it is ordained of God that all
flesh hath spirit and thereby taketh on spiritual
powers, so, also, the spirit hath powers of
the flesh, even when it is gone out of the flesh
and liveth as a thing apart, as many a violence
performed by wraith and lemure sheweth. And
there be who say that man is not single in this,
but the beasts have the like evil inducement,
The reading was interrupted by a shaking of the
house, as by the fall of a heavy object. The
reader flung down the book, rushed from the room
and mounted the stairs to Fleming's bed-chamber.
He tried the door, but contrary to his instructions
it was locked. He set his shoulder against it with
such force that it gave way. On the floor near the
disordered bed, in his night clothes, lay Fleming
gasping away his life.
The physician raised the dying man's head from
the floor and observed a wound in the throat. "I
should have thought of this," he said, believing
When the man was dead an examination disclosed
the unmistakable marks of an animal's fangs deeply
sunken into the jugular vein.
But there was no animal.
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~