Short Story #199: An Adventure in Brownville by Ambrose Bierce

Title: An Adventure in Brownville

Author: Ambrose Bierce


Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose BierceThe story begins with the narrator explaining how he resides in Brownville, which is a vacation spot but one of the last resort.  He teaches at the school there but regularly encounters visitors.  While walking a path in the woods one day, he hears a man and woman talking and the woman saying that she believes the man will kill her.  Silence ensues and the narrator looks to locate the people he has been listening to but it is night now.  Finally, he sees their bodies in the dark and goes to the woman's rescue and they disappear.  The next day, he discovers there are a pair of sisters that staying at the hotel, the older one who sounds exactly like the woman he had heard.  They are chaperoned by a man who also sounds like the man the narrator heard.  Almost a month passes and the older sister is found dead in her room with her sister.  The report is heart trouble but the sister initially accuses the chaperon.  At this point, the narrator begins to keep an eye on the younger sister and the man and eventually, gets her alone after hearing her tell the chaperon that he is going to kill her just like he did to her sister.  The narrator tries to convince the young woman to say something to the police but she refuses and tells the narrator that she will lie if he tries to tell them.  She then becomes friendly with him and a bit flirtatious.  They meet the following day and they find themselves wandering until atop a cliff.  The chaperon appears at this point and begins talking with them.  The young woman gets an odd look in her eyes and flings herself off the cliffs.  When they get to the body, the chaperon tells the narrator to wait with the body while he gets help and that he was relieved there was a witness to the insane woman's death.


The story has an intriguing and curious drive to it but the end of the story doesn't quite give a clear sense of meaning.  However, I think the failure is mine in part as a major piece of the story has the chaperon regularly singing and whistling music from Rigolletto, an opera that upon reading a summary of, has some similar qualities to.

Short Story #199 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 7/19/2014
Source:  The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce, compiled by Ernest Jerome Hopkins.  Bison Books, 1984.  The full works of Ambrose Bierce, including this story can be found here on

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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