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Suffragette Emily Davison





Suffragette Emily Davison, jockey Herbert Jones, and Anmer, a horse owned by the King of England, lie on the track at the Epsom racecourse in England on June 4, 1913.
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Emily Wilding Davison was a militant fighter for women’s rights. Her tactics included breaking windows, throwing stones, setting fire to postboxes and, on three occasions, hiding overnight in the Palace of Westminster and going on hunger strikes seven times and was force-fed on forty-nine occasions. She was also a staunch socialist passionate Christian.
In March 1909 she was arrested for the first time for leading a march of 21 women to see the prime minister. The march ended in a fracas with police, in which Davison was locked up for "assaulting the police in the execution of their duty" and sent to prison for a month.

In July of 1909, Davison was arrested again for interrupting a public meeting from which women were barred, held by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George; she was sentenced to two months for obstruction. She went on hunger strike and was released after five and a half days. Following the first episode of forced feeding while in prison, and to prevent a repeat of the experience, Davison barricaded herself in her cell using her bed and a stool and refused to allow the prison authorities to enter. They broke one of the window panes to the cell and turned a fire hose on her for 15 minutes while attempting to force the door open. By the time the door was opened, the cell was six inches deep in water. She was taken to the prison hospital where she was warmed by hot water bottles. She was force-fed shortly afterward and released after eight days. Davison sued the prison authorities for the using the hose and in January 1910, she was awarded 40 shillings in damages.

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She was arrested again in September the same year for throwing stones to break windows at a political meeting. Sent to Strangeways prison for two months, she again went on a hunger strike and was released after two and a half days.

Davison was arrested again in early October 1909, while preparing to throw a stone at the cabinet minister Sir Walter Runciman and was charged with attempted assault but released.
In April 1910 Davison decided to gain entry to the floor of the House of Commons to ask h about the vote for women. She entered the Palace of Westminster with other members of the public and hid in the heating system overnight. On a trip from her hiding place to find water, she was arrested by a policeman, but not prosecuted. Shortly afterward she broke several windows in the Crown Office in parliament. She was arrested and sentenced to a month in prison, went on hunger strike again and was force-fed for eight days before being released.
In December 1911 she was arrested for arson on the postbox outside parliament and admitted to setting fire to two others. Sentenced to six months in Holloway Prison.

 In June of 1912, she and other suffragette inmates barricaded themselves in their cells and went on hunger strike; the authorities broke down the cell doors and force-fed the strikers. Following the force-feeding, Davison decided to jump from one of the interior balconies of the prison. She cracked two vertebrae and badly injured her head.

In November 1912 Davison was arrested for a final time, for attacking a Baptist minister with a horsewhip; she had mistaken the man for Lloyd George. She was sentenced to ten days' imprisonment and released early following a four-day hunger strike

On the day in June 1913 that she was killed,  Davison had run out on the track, perhaps to attach a women’s suffrage flag or banner to the kings horse and was literally run over. After colliding with Anmer, Davison collapsed unconscious on the track. The horse went over, but then rose, completing the race without a jockey. Davison died of her injuries a few days later; (fracture of the base of the skull) The horse and jockey were fine, although Jones did suffer a concussion.

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The incident was captured on three newsreel cameras  and showed that the 40-year-old Davison, was not, as assumed at the time it happened, attempting to pull down Anmer, the royal racehorse, but was reaching up to attach a suffragette scarf to its bridle. Davison’s position before she stepped out on to the track would have given her a clear view of the oncoming race, contrary to the argument that she ran out recklessly to kill herself.
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At the inquest into Davison's death the coroner decided that, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, Davison had not committed suicide. The coroner also decided that, although she had waited until she could see the horses, "from the evidence it was clear that the woman did not make for His Majesty's horse in particular".
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A procession of 5,000 suffragettes and their supporters accompanied her coffin and 50,000 people lined the route through London as she was taken to be buried.

 Emily Davison laid to rest





When I grow up, I'm gonna be Steve McQueen....who do you wanna be?


Coleman Hawkins...listen to this guy..............



Solved: The murder of Karen Klaas.



On January 30, 1976, 32-year-old Karen Klaas, (born Karen O’Grady,) the first wife of Righteous Brothers singer Bill Medley, returned to her home on 24th Place in Hermosa Beach, California. She had started the morning by dropping her youngest son, Damien 5, at the McMartin Pre-School in Manhattan Beach. Her other child, Darrien Lee Medley, 10 was with her father for the weekend. She planned to join two girlfriends for breakfast. She was on crutches because she broke her leg taking a spin around the driveway on her son's skateboard.
Karen had grown up in Santa Ana, about an hour away and graduated from Santa Ana Senior High School in 1961. She started dating Bill Medley in 1963. “I first noticed her at church” Medley said “and then, when Bobby Hatfield (The other half of the Righteous Brothers) and I unveiled our first single, Little Latin Lupe Lu, at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Newport Beach, California in 1963, I saw her in the middle of a thousand beautiful young girls. When we got off stage, I got her phone number and we started dating.”
They married and their son Darrin was born in 1965 the same year that the Righteous Brothers had recorded and released You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’, a worldwide number one hit.

“ When you have the biggest record in the country everybody wants you, everybody needs you, and they need you now.” Medley said “I went to the hospital to have a minor ailment checked, and the doctor diagnosed mental and physical exhaustion. I was such a wreck Karen had to tell them my name – I couldn’t get it out. She took such good care of me. I’d get home from the studio at 2 or 3 in the morning and she would get up and make me tacos – what a great wife.



“I was on tour with The Beatles” Medley added “when she miscarried.
After the tour with the Beatles ended, the Righteous Brothers landed a contract at the Sands Casino with only served to weaken the marriage even more. “Vegas in those days” Medley wrote “was so exciting and we were just 25; we ate it up. Almost every lounge had a topless revue with the most gorgeous women you can imagine. I had sex with a girl in Frank Sinatra’s suite while he was on stage. Am I proud of that? No, I’m just proud I’m still alive. I’m not sure Frank would have appreciated it. I had another girlfriend who worked in the hotel’s ladies room. Bobby Hatfield and our bandleader Mike Patterson would run all over town looking for chicks after our last show of the night and all I had to do was call the women’s restroom. I’m not too proud of it now, but that was the life of a young performer in Vegas in the Sixties.


Within a few years, Bill Medley’s partnership with Bobby Hatfield was strained and the Righteous Brothers' partnership was drawing to a close. Not surprisingly, divorce also came within five years. “On our final tour” Medley said “I started an affair with the singer Darlene Love. I decided to get a divorce because I thought I was in love and it wasn’t fair to Karen.”
There was an attempt at reconciliation that didn’t work out and by then Karen had moved along and was seeing another man regularly, whom she eventually married, but she and Medley remained amicable.
In 1970 Medley married Suzi Robertson and then Janice Gorham, but both marriages were annulled soon after they began. Between those marriages, he had relationships with singers Mary Wilson and Connie Francis.
On the day Karen was killed in 1976, two neighborhood women watched her pull into her driveway. They wanted to tell her about a stranger, a man, who had been lurking around the neighborhood, but Karen rushed into the house through the backdoor that she always left unlocked, Hermosa beach is a safe place today but in 1976 it was even safer and still just slightly remote from LA.
A while afterward, the two neighbors walked over to her house and rang the doorbell. They could see Karen’s crutches on the floor through the glass. They could also hear whimpering, so they opened the front door and walked into the house but pushed aside by a man who said, ‘Hi girls,’ then walked out of the front door.
The women ran up to the ransacked bedroom, she had tried to fight him off, where they found Karen on the floor, the man had tried to strangle her with her bra and then tried to rape her. She was alive but barely. The strangulation had cut off the oxygen to her brain for 15 minutes. Doctors later told Bill Medley that if she lived, she would be severely brain-damaged. Four days after the attack, she died.
“I was sad and incredibly angry at the same time,” Medley said, “I wanted to find the son-of-a-bitch who) killed (His children’s) mom.”
The description the women gave to the cops was generic at best; they said the man was white, in his late 20s, about 5'7" to 5'9" with brown hair and a beard. The police, working for hours and hours with neighbors who saw the man leave the house created a plaster bust of the suspect, but the likeness brought in no clues. But the crime scene investigators did get several clear sets of fingerprints taken from the house, but a statewide computer system that could match the prints had yet been developed.
The man who raped and murdered Karen was Kenneth Troyer. He was born in Los Angeles in 1946. In 1964, when he was 18, he married another teen named Jeanne Dalton. They were divorced in Linn, Oregon in 1973. A year after he murdered Karen, in 1977, he returned to Oregon and married a woman named Valerie Hickey. He appears to have wandered back to California sometime in early 1980.
Police image of Karen's attacker


In January of 1982, Troyer, age 36, broke out of the minimum security California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, where he was serving a sentence for burglary. Police had been tipped that Troyer would be in the Santa Ana area to meet a Pamela Cuen, 24 at about 12:40 p.m. Sunday at 2208 N. Main St. in Santa Ana, and officers staked out the location. Several days before Troyer had pulled a gun on a police officer and later raped a Huntington Beach woman, then fled in her car.
Police watched Cuen get into the stolen car with Troyer and then swarmed in and demanded Troyer step out of the car, but he sped away. The cops followed and after a short but intense high-speed chase Troyer lost control of the wheel and hit a tree at 17th Street and Cabrillo Avenue in Santa Ana. Troyer and Pamela Cuen climbed out of the car with their hands up but then Troyer suddenly turned and reached back into the stolen car and Police from Santa Ana and Anaheim opened fire hitting Troyer nine times with at least one bullet going directly through his heart.


Karen’s murder would go unsolved for decades, in fact, it was the only unsolved murder in Hermosa Beach history. However, the police and a private detective hired by Medley stayed on the case, tracking down what leads they could. The Sheriff’s office suspected Troyer in Karen’s murder but couldn’t tie him into the murder directly. Investigators were able to get a DNA profile from the crime scene using more advanced technology in the 1990s but could not make a match. In 2009, detectives reopened the case.

Troyer

On January 27, 2017, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced that investigators used a controversial DNA testing method called “familiar DNA”, meaning they had DNA from one of Troyer’s family members and were able to prove that Kenneth Troyer had murdered Karen in 1976.
“We miss Karen” Bill Medley “and the most important thing is the boys didn’t get to grow up with their mother,” he said. “She would have been an incredible grandma [as well]. She was a wonderful, wonderful girl.”


Miss Muscle Beach 1954.




Barbara Thomason won the crown of Miss Muscle Beach 1954. That sprang her into movies and television by 1955, which led to her marriage to Mickey Rooney, who was almost 17 years her senior-and still married to actress Elaine Mahnken. Rooney got around that by taking Thomason to Mexico and married her there.  (She was his fifth wife) During the next six years, Thomason bore four children and Rooney mostly ran around Hollywood having affairs, many, many, many affairs.


Finally having had enough of Rooney’s affairs, Thomason began one of her own, with a high strung Yugoslavian actor named Milos Milosevic, who performed under the name Milos Milos. Rooney found out about it, was outraged (Believe it or not)  moved out of the house, and field for divorce.
Milosevic(Below) was bad news. A common street thug in his native Belgrade, he was hired a bodyguard to the French actor Alain Delon when he was filming there. Milosevic later moved to LA to break into show business and working as a criminal for the Eastern European mobsters in Los Angeles between gigs. 
Milosevic’s friend Stevan Marković was also hired as a bodyguard by Delon. Unlike Milosevic, Marković went to Paris to break into European films and was the near-constant companion of Delon in the French jet-set. It has also been speculated that he was a male prostitute. In 1968, Marković body was found on the outskirts of Paris. Delon was a suspect but was never formally accused. Marković had left a note to his reading "If I get killed, it's 100% fault of Alain Delon and his godfather Francois Marcantoni."
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Delon
On the morning of January 31, 1966, Thomason and Milosevic were found dead on the bathroom floor of her Brentwood house. Milosevic had shot Thomason under the chin and killed himself with a temple shot using a chrome-plated .38 Rooney had bought in 1964. Apparently Thomason had decided to dump Milosevic, so he killed her although in Europe a rumor spread that Rooney had hired a Mafia killer to take them both out (Which seems highly, highly unlikely)



Churchill had a drinking problem




Sarah Churchill was the flamboyant movie actress daughter of Winston Churchill, although she was better known for her three marriages, drinking bouts and wild parties.
Churchill made her first appearance on the stage at the Adelphi Theater in London at the age of 21 in the chorus line of ''Follow the Sun'' and fell in love with Vic Oliver, an Austrian comedian 17 years her senior. They married in 1936, much to her father's distress. They would divorce in 1945. ("He was to lose me” she wrote “when I found myself")
 Towards the end of her marriage to Vic Oliver, she began an affair with the American ambassador to Britain, John Winant; it is believed the failure of the relationship contributed to the depression that led to his suicide in 1947.


When World War II started, Lady Audley (Her titled name) left the stage and worked in photo intelligence for the Women's Air Force until 1945. She accompanied her father to the 1943 Teheran conference with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the 1945 Yalta conference, where Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin mapped postwar plans. (She recalled the bleak, boring six-hour drive to Yalta  as "Papa recited practically all 'Don Juan' " )


In 1949, she  made her first appearance on the American stage in Princeton, N.J., in 1949 as Tracy Lord in ''The Philadelphia Story,'' and later toured in the same part. That year she married Anthony Beauchamp, a photographer who died from an overdose of sleeping pills in 1958. The marriage to Beauchamp came as a shock to her parents since they had neither been introduced to Beauchamp nor informed of the forthcoming marriage.

Otherwise, Churchill was known in Europe for her role in the film Royal Wedding (1951). In the same year, she had her own television show. She also appeared in He Found a Star (1941), All Over the Town (1949), Fabian of the Yard (1954) and Serious Charge (1959).
In the 1950s, Churchill’s drinking became a problem. She would be arrested, imprisoned and institutionalized in both California and London for chronic drunken and disorderly conduct and for a while was jailed in Holloway Prison.  In 1958 she was part of a high profile arrest for starting a drunken brawl with the LA police who answered a disturbance call at her Malibu beach house.
After Beauchamp, Churchill married Lord Audley, Thomas Percy Henry Touchet-Jesson, 23rd Baron Audley who died in 1963 within a year of their marriage. In 1964 she was involved with African-American émigré jazz singer and painter Lobo Nocho.
She died from complications at age 67 in 1982.

Carole Landis was a little unstable



Carole Landis made her film debut as an extra in the 1937 film A Star Is Born and otherwise got by posing for hundreds of cheesecake photographs and taking almost any bit part she was offered. Then, in 1940, Hal Roach cast her as a cave girl in One Million B.C., a sexy film romp considering the times and landed her a contract with Twentieth Century-Fox. It also led to a sex-only relationship with Darryl F. Zanuck. When Landis ended her relationship with Zanuck, her career tanked, and she was doomed to small roles in B-flicks. But thanks to a 1942 USO tour she became a popular pin-up with servicemen during World War II and slightly better parts followed.

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Landis was married four times, her first was in 1934 when she was 15-years-old. She married 19-year-old Irving Wheeler. Her mother had the marriage annulled but Landis convinced her father to allow her to remarry Wheeler and the two were married again in 1934. The marriage lasted three weeks but neither one filed for a divorce. Wheeler, the husband, sued director and choreographer Busby Berkeley for $250,000 alienation of affections suit. (Which was dismissed)
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Irving Wheeler

In 1940, she married yacht broker Willis Hunt, Jr.(Below) in Las Vegas but that ended in less than two months. (He married his fifth wife, former actress Deannie Best, in 1965. During an argument in December of 1969, Willis was stabbed to death by Deannie. She claimed self-defense and was found innocent of all charges.)

In 1942 Landis married United States Army Air Forces Captain Thomas Wallace and divorced him in 1945.(Below)

At the end of that year, she married Broadway producer W. Horace Schmidlapp. (Below) That ended in 1948.  During her separation from Schmidlapp, Landis became involved with married actor Rex Harrison.

When Harrison refused to divorce his wife for Landis, she was crushed and decided to kill herself. She had tried suicide before but had been rescued by friends. This time she took forty Seconal tablets (one fifth the amount would have killed her) at her Pacific Palisades home.
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The next afternoon, Harrison and Landis' maid discovered her
Harrison had been calling her all morning, but her maid had told him she wasn't awake, and she refused to disturb her.  Harrison drove to her house at 1465 Capri Drive and found her on the bathroom floor but for some reason, Harrison waited several hours before he called a doctor or the police.
The maid later reported that Harrison rifled through her address book, hoping to call her private doctor and thus keep the disaster under wraps in the meantime, Landis was still alive but would die within the hour. Harrison probably destroyed one of two suicide notes the actress left (One to Harrison one to her mother) then drove home and called studio head Darryl Zanuck to ask for damage control. Harrison denied knowing any motive for her suicide.
It was the maid who finally called the police.




Charlie Chaplin's child bride




America loved Charlie Chaplin and hated his child bride Lita Grey.
Lita Grey with the dark almond-shaped eyes became pregnant with Charlie Chaplin’s child when she was just 15 years old. Grey had known Chaplin since she was 12 years old
Born into California’s old pioneer family, the prestigious and ancient Carrillo’s, she was raised in a protective cloistered environment. She had met Chaplin when she was only 6 years old by a chance visit to a neighborhood restaurant. Six years later she was reintroduced to Chaplin again by a mutual friend. At the time, this would be in early 1921,  Chaplin was casting “The Kid” and hired pre-pubescent Lita to be an angel dangling from wires in a scene set in celluloid heaven.
On set, and despite the fact that the child was only 12 years old, Chaplin openly romanced the girl. “Her mother” Chaplin said “deliberately and continuously put Lita in my path. She encouraged our relations.”
Sam Goldwyn recalled: “I remember very well I warned Charlie several times about Lita and her mother. The latter kept track of Chaplin’s evening movements. If he went to a restaurant, mama was there with Lita, pushing the child under Charlie’s nose: if he went to the theater, mama was there with Lita. If ever I saw a girl waiting to be seduced, it was Lita.”
By 1925, when she was 15, Lita was pregnant with Chaplin’s child. Chaplin, being Chaplin, suggested an abortion and, failing that, offered her money. That ended when Lita’s mother threatened to have Chaplin arrested for statutory rape. She was 16 when she married him and 18 when she divorced him.
The marriage was doomed from the start.  Love him or hate him, Chaplin was a genius, Lita, not so much. In fact she was widely known later in life for not being bright at all and was often considered “Dumb” by those who knew her. Years later, Grey wrote: “I wasn’t old enough or bright enough to know what the feelings I had for him added up to…[and]…what could a passably pretty kid of fifteen, who made fifteen-year-old conversation, possibly have that would interest him?”
In those three years she bore him two sons. Charles Chaplin Jr., who died of alcohol in 1968, and Sydney, who went on to a modestly successful acting career. Chaplin wasn’t present at their births and, essentially, had no use or concern for the boys.   
The divorce proceeding were ugly (Front and center in the divorce was the issue or oral sex. It was all that Chaplin wanted Lita said, but she refused to perform it, calling the act abnormal.) and dragged on for nine months. Chaplin called her  “lowly born and greedy.” Chaplin’s people were also able to portray the girl (And her mother) as a manipulative money-hungry hustler who treated him into marriage. Will Rogers quipped: “This girl don’t need to go to school. Any girl smart enough to marry Charlie Chaplin should be lecturing at Vassar College on ‘Taking advantage of your opportunities.’"

But the press reported every detail of his philandering and his inattention to family. The courts granted her a settlement of $825,000, the largest in American history at the time, worth about roughly $12,500,000 today. The divorce settlement was frequently referred to as “the second Gold Rush.”

 She wasn’t a money manager. She bought a nightclub that failed and launched a vaudeville career that failed, bought an immense Beverly Hills home she couldn’t afford and before long, she was broke. When the money was gone, she was forced to support herself and her children as a sales clerk at Robinson’s department store in Beverly Hills. She would marry three more times.
Lita died, penniless, at the Motion Picture Hospital in Woodland Hills. Her last days were spent in a small West Hollywood apartment filled with mementos of her tumultuous brief marriage to Chaplin and playbills from her post-divorce stage career. She was the only one of his wives that Chaplin did not mention in his autobiography.

“Savoia!” The last charge of the Italian Calvary



On August 23,1942, 600 Italian cavalrymen yelled their traditional battle cry  “Savoia!” and rode into a Russian Army defensive line of 2,000 infantrymen, machine gun pits and mortar stations. It was the last Calvary major charge in history.
The Italians were part of the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II— were attempting to close a gap that had opened up between the Italian and German armies along the Don River.
At 3:30 am, an Italian mounted patrol was sent to recon but accidentally rode into the Soviets, who, having lost the element of surprise opened fire on the entire Italian libe line.
With his camp under fire, Italian commander Colonel Bettoni Cazzago had no choice but to order, as a last resort, a cavalry charge with drawn sabers and hand grenades against entrenched infantry.
Charging in closely packed formation, the Italian cavalrymen smashed through the left flank and rear of the Soviet line, tossing hand grenades and slashing with their sabers. A Corporal Lolli, unable to draw, as his saber was frozen in its sheath, charged holding high a hand grenade; Trumpeter named Carenzi, having to handle both trumpet and pistol, unintentionally shot his own horse in the head. Some horses, even though riddled by bullets, would keep galloping for hundreds of meters, squirting blood at every beat, suddenly collapsing only a while after their actual death. Despite heavy losses…about half of the original charging troop,  the Italians passed back once again over the Soviet line.
 All action had ceased by 9:30 am, six hours after the engagement had commenced. 32 cavalrymen had died, including the commanders of the 3rd and 4th squadrons, 52 were wounded. Well over 100 horses were also lost. (One survivor of the Izbushensky charge was Albino, a horse which, though blinded in the battle, lived until 1960)
The Soviets had left behind 150 dead, 300 wounded, 600 prisoners, 4 cannons, 10 mortars and 50 machine guns.


Decimated by saltwater crocodiles during the Battle of Ramree Island of World War II.




In 1942, during World War II, The Japanese Imperial Army captured Ramree Island, which is off the coast of Burma.  The Allies determined that the island was strategically important and in 1945, launched an attack to retake the island and establish airbases to support the mainland campaign. In a short time, British troops drove nearly 1,000 Japanese troops off the island into the dense mangrove swamp that covered some 10 miles of Ramree.
Within days Japanese soldiers, with lack of drinkable water and no food supplies, succumbed to tropical diseases carried by swarms of mosquitoes, as well as the various poisonous spiders, snakes, and scorpions found in the marsh.


However, the primary killer was the largest reptilian predator in the world, the saltwater crocodile which can grow up to 20 feet long and weigh 2,000 pounds, but even a midsize saltwater crocodile could easily kill a full-grown adult human. The troops were attacked by the crocodiles around the clock.

The naturalist Bruce Stanley Wright described the scene unfolding “That night was the most horrible that any member of the M.L. [marine launch] crews ever experienced. The crocodiles, alerted by the din of warfare and the smell of blood, gathered among the mangroves, lying with their eyes above water, watchfully alert for their next meal. With the ebb of the tide, the crocodiles moved in on the dead, wounded, and uninjured men who had become mired in the mud.”
Only 520 out of 1000 Japanese soldiers managed to survive the Ramree swamps.





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The Gettysburg address


Lincoln was late to his speech at Gettysburg and hurriedly wrote what would become the Gettysburg address in his coach, on the back of an envelope he found in his pocket. When he finished, he stuffed the envelope in his stovepipe hat. After the speech, he apologized to the assembled dignitaries for what he saw as the poor of the speech he had just made.

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.
We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.
 The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth. ” –Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863
  


From "Tales of Soldiers and Civilians," by Ambrose Bierce.




The Man and the Snake

I

Stretched at ease upon a sofa, in gown and slippers, Harker Brayton smiled as he read the foregoing sentence in old Morryster's "Marvells of Science." "The only marvel in the matter," he said to himself, "is that the wise and learned in Morryster's day should have believed such nonsense as is rejected by most of even the ignorant in ours."
A train of reflections followed—for Brayton was a man of thought— and he unconsciously lowered his book without altering the direction of his eyes. As soon as the volume had gone below the line of sight, something in an obscure corner of the room recalled his attention to his surroundings. What he saw, in the shadow under his bed, were two small points of light, apparently about an inch apart. They might have been reflections of the gas jet above him, in metal nail heads; he gave them but little thought and resumed his reading. A moment later something—some impulse which it did not occur to him to analyze—impelled him to lower the book again and seek for what he saw before. The points of light were still there. They seemed to have become brighter than before, shining with a greenish luster which he had not at first observed. He thought, too, that they might have moved a trifle—were somewhat nearer. They were still too much in the shadow, however, to reveal their nature and origin to an indolent attention, and he resumed his reading. Suddenly something in the text suggested a thought which made him start and drop the book for the third time to the side of the sofa, whence, escaping from his hand, it fell sprawling to the floor, back upward. Brayton, half-risen, was staring intently into the obscurity beneath the bed, where the points of light shone with, it seemed to him, an added fire. His attention was now fully aroused, his gaze eager and imperative. It disclosed, almost directly beneath the foot rail of the bed, the coils of a large serpent—the points of light were its eyes! Its horrible head, thrust flatly forth from the innermost coil and resting upon the outermost, was directed straight toward him, the definition of the wide, brutal jaw and the idiotlike forehead serving to show the direction of its malevolent gaze. The eyes were no longer merely luminous points; they looked into his own with a meaning, a malign significance.
II
A snake in a bedroom of a modern city dwelling of the better sort is, happily, not so common a phenomenon as to make explanation altogether needless. Harker Brayton, a bachelor of thirty-five, a scholar, idler, and something of an athlete, rich, popular, and of sound health, had returned to San Francisco from all manner of remote and unfamiliar countries. His tastes, always a trifle luxurious, had taken on an added exuberance from long privation; and the resources of even the Castle Hotel being inadequate for their perfect gratification, he had gladly accepted the hospitality of his friend, Dr. Druring, the distinguished scientist. Dr. Druring's house, a large, old-fashioned one in what was now an obscure quarter of the city, had an outer and visible aspect of reserve. It plainly would not associate with the contiguous elements of its altered environment, and appeared to have developed some of the eccentricities which come of isolation. One of these was a "wing," conspicuously irrelevant in point of architecture, and no less rebellious in the matter of purpose; for it was a combination of laboratory, menagerie, and museum. It was here that the doctor indulged the scientific side of his nature in the study of such forms of animal life as engaged his interest and comforted his taste—which, it must be confessed, ran rather to the lower forms. For one of the higher types nimbly and sweetly to recommend itself unto his gentle senses, it had at least to retain certain rudimentary characteristics allying it to such "dragons of the prime" as toads and snakes. His scientific sympathies were distinctly reptilian; he loved nature's vulgarians and described himself as the Zola of zoology. His wife and daughters, not having the advantage to share his enlightened curiosity regarding the works and ways of our ill-starred fellow-creatures, were, with needless austerity, excluded from what he called the Snakery, and doomed to companionship with their own kind; though, to soften the rigors of their lot, he had permitted them, out of his great wealth, to outdo the reptiles in the gorgeousness of their surroundings and to shine with a superior splendor.
Architecturally, and in point of "furnishing," the Snakery had a severe simplicity befitting the humble circumstances of its occupants, many of whom, indeed, could not safely have been intrusted with the liberty which is necessary to the full enjoyment of luxury, for they had the troublesome peculiarity of being alive. In their own apartments, however, they were under as little personal restraint as was compatible with their protection from the baneful habit of swallowing one another; and, as Brayton had thoughtfully been apprised, it was more than a tradition that some of them had at divers times been found in parts of the premises where it would have embarrassed them to explain their presence. Despite the Snakery and its uncanny associations—to which, indeed, he gave little attention—Brayton found life at the Druring mansion very much to his mind.
III
Beyond a smart shock of surprise and a shudder of mere loathing, Mr. Brayton was not greatly affected. His first thought was to ring the call bell and bring a servant; but, although the bell cord dangled within easy reach, he made no movement toward it; it had occurred to his mind that the act might subject him to the suspicion of fear, which he certainly did not feel. He was more keenly conscious of the incongruous nature of the situation than affected by its perils; it was revolting, but absurd.
The reptile was of a species with which Brayton was unfamiliar. Its length he could only conjecture; the body at the largest visible part seemed about as thick as his forearm. In what way was it dangerous, if in any way? Was it venomous? Was it a constrictor? His knowledge of nature's danger signals did not enable him to say; he had never deciphered the code.
If not dangerous, the creature was at least offensive. It was de trop—"matter out of place"—an impertinence. The gem was unworthy of the setting. Even the barbarous taste of our time and country, which had loaded the walls of the room with pictures, the floor with furniture, and the furniture with bric-a-brac, had not quite fitted the place for this bit of the savage life of the jungle. Besides—insupportable thought!—the exhalations of its breath mingled with the atmosphere which he himself was breathing!
These thoughts shaped themselves with greater or less definition in Brayton's mind, and begot action. The process is what we call consideration and decision. It is thus that we are wise and unwise. It is thus that the withered leaf in an autumn breeze shows greater or less intelligence than its fellows, falling upon the land or upon the lake. The secret of human action is an open one—something contracts our muscles. Does it matter if we give to the preparatory molecular changes the name of will?
Brayton rose to his feet and prepared to back softly away from the snake, without disturbing it, if possible, and through the door. People retire so from the presence of the great, for greatness is power, and power is a menace. He knew that he could walk backward without obstruction, and find the door without error. Should the monster follow, the taste which had plastered the walls with paintings had consistently supplied a rack of murderous Oriental weapons from which he could snatch one to suit the occasion. In the meantime the snake's eyes burned with a more pitiless malevolence than ever.
Brayton lifted his right foot free of the floor to step backward.
That moment he felt a strong aversion to doing so.
"I am accounted brave," he murmured; "is bravery, then, no more than pride? Because there are none to witness the shame shall I retreat?"
He was steadying himself with his right hand upon the back of a chair, his foot suspended.
"Nonsense!" he said aloud; "I am not so great a coward as to fear to seem to myself afraid."
He lifted the foot a little higher by slightly bending the knee, and thrust it sharply to the floor—an inch in front of the other! He could not think how that occurred. A trial with the left foot had the same result; it was again in advance of the right. The hand upon the chair back was grasping it; the arm was straight, reaching somewhat backward. One might have seen that he was reluctant to lose his hold. The snake's malignant head was still thrust forth from the inner coil as before, the neck level. It had not moved, but its eyes were now electric sparks, radiating an infinity of luminous needles.
The man had an ashy pallor. Again he took a step forward, and another, partly dragging the chair, which, when finally released, fell upon the floor with a crash. The man groaned; the snake made neither sound nor motion, but its eyes were two dazzling suns. The reptile itself was wholly concealed by them. They gave off enlarging rings of rich and vivid colors, which at their greatest expansion successively vanished like soap bubbles; they seemed to approach his very face, and anon were an immeasurable distance away. He heard, somewhere, the continual throbbing of a great drum, with desultory bursts of far music, inconceivably sweet, like the tones of an aeolian harp. He knew it for the sunrise melody of Memnon's statue, and thought he stood in the Nileside reeds, hearing, with exalted sense, that immortal anthem through the silence of the centuries.
The music ceased; rather, it became by insensible degrees the distant roll of a retreating thunderstorm. A landscape, glittering with sun and rain, stretched before him, arched with a vivid rainbow, framing in its giant curve a hundred visible cities. In the middle distance a vast serpent, wearing a crown, reared its head out of its voluminous convolutions and looked at him with his dead mother's eyes. Suddenly this enchanting landscape seemed to rise swiftly upward, like the drop scene at a theater, and vanished in a blank. Something struck him a hard blow upon the face and breast. He had fallen to the floor; the blood ran from his broken nose and his bruised lips. For a moment he was dazed and stunned, and lay with closed eyes, his face against the door. In a few moments he had recovered, and then realized that his fall, by withdrawing his eyes, had broken the spell which held him. He felt that now, by keeping his gaze averted, he would be able to retreat. But the thought of the serpent within a few feet of his head, yet unseen—perhaps in the very act of springing upon him and throwing its coils about his throat—was too horrible. He lifted his head, stared again into those baleful eyes, and was again in bondage.
The snake had not moved, and appeared somewhat to have lost its power upon the imagination; the gorgeous illusions of a few moments before were not repeated. Beneath that flat and brainless brow its black, beady eyes simply glittered, as at first, with an expression unspeakably malignant. It was as if the creature, knowing its triumph assured, had determined to practice no more alluring wiles.
Now ensued a fearful scene. The man, prone upon the floor, within a yard of his enemy, raised the upper part of his body upon his elbows, his head thrown back, his legs extended to their full length. His face was white between its gouts of blood; his eyes were strained open to their uttermost expansion. There was froth upon his lips; it dropped off in flakes. Strong convulsions ran through his body, making almost serpentine undulations. He bent himself at the waist, shifting his legs from side to side. And every movement left him a little nearer to the snake. He thrust his hands forward to brace himself back, yet constantly advanced upon his elbows.
IV
Dr. Druring and his wife sat in the library. The scientist was in rare good humor.
"I have just obtained, by exchange with another collector," he said, "a splendid specimen of the Ophiophagus."
"And what may that be?" the lady inquired with a somewhat languid interest.
"Why, bless my soul, what profound ignorance! My dear, a man who ascertains after marriage that his wife does not know Greek, is entitled to a divorce. The Ophiophagus is a snake which eats other snakes."
"I hope it will eat all yours," she said, absently shifting the lamp. "But how does it get the other snakes? By charming them, I suppose."
"That is just like you, dear," said the doctor, with an affectation of petulance. "You know how irritating to me is any allusion to that vulgar superstition about the snake's power of fascination."
The conversation was interrupted by a mighty cry which rang through the silent house like the voice of a demon shouting in a tomb. Again and yet again it sounded, with terrible distinctness. They sprang to their feet, the man confused, the lady pale and speechless with fright. Almost before the echoes of the last cry had died away the doctor was out of the room, springing up the staircase two steps at a time. In the corridor, in front of Brayton's chamber, he met some servants who had come from the upper floor. Together they rushed at the door without knocking. It was unfastened, and gave way. Brayton lay upon his stomach on the floor, dead. His head and arms were partly concealed under the foot rail of the bed. They pulled the body away, turning it upon the back. The face was daubed with blood and froth, the eyes were wide open, staring—a dreadful sight!
"Died in a fit," said the scientist, bending his knee and placing his hand upon the heart. While in that position he happened to glance under the bed. "Good God!" he added; "how did this thing get in here?"
He reached under the bed, pulled out the snake, and flung it, still coiled, to the center of the room, whence, with a harsh, shuffling sound, it slid across the polished floor till stopped by the wall, where it lay without motion. It was a stuffed snake; its eyes were two shoe buttons.