by Ambrose Bierce | Grades 11-12
Peyton Farquhar, a civilian and plantation owner, is being prepared for execution by hanging from an Alabama railroad bridge during the AmericanCivil War. Six military men and a company of infantrymen are present, guarding the bridge and carrying out the sentence. Farquhar thinks of his wife and children and is then distracted by a noise that, to him, sounds like an unbearably loud clanging; it is actually the ticking of his watch. He considers the possibility of jumping off the bridge and swimming to safety if he can free his tied hands, but the soldiers drop him from the bridge before he can act on the idea. The story returns to the present, and the rope around Farquhar's neck breaks when he falls from the bridge into the creek. He frees his hands, pulls the noose away, and rises to the surface to begin his escape. It is revealed that Farquhar never escaped at all; he imagined the entire third part of the story during the time between falling through the bridge and the noose breaking his neck.