(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The first part of the story takes the form of a letter in which Jonathan Dunwell explains how, in 1820, he first encountered a man and a child mounted on a “chair” (the chassis of a carriage without the protective shell it was built to carry) pulled by a black horse. The mysterious stranger, who seemed to be pursued by a relentless storm cloud, impatiently asked the way to Boston and was sorely distressed to find that he was heading he wrong way. Dunwell then relates how the driver of the coach on which he was traveling told him that the stranger had been wandering the roads for longer than he could remember, always in a desperate hurry, always asking the same question, and always confused by the answers he received.

Dunwell goes on to explain that on making further inquiries in Boston he was told that one Peter Rugg of Middle Street was on his way home from Concord one night in 1770, on a chair pulled by a bay horse, when he was overtaken by a violent storm. Although a friend living in Menotomy pleaded with him to stay the night, Rugg insisted on continuing his return journey, swearing a terrible (but unspecified) oath that he would reach home that night or never.

In the second part of the story, which was added three years later, Dunwell tells of another meeting with Peter Rugg in Richmond, Virginia, in 1825, when Rugg’s fearsome horse—which some observers take for an ox, and whose hoofprints are cloven-footed—outgalloped two noted...

(The entire section is 424 words.)