Page:Weird Tales volume 28 number 03.djvu/89
THE DOORS OF DEATH
time, sir," he answered haltingly, not knowing what else to say.
"But do we actually die?" insisted the sufferer.
"Well, I hope—not yet," ventured the old servant. "The doctor said——"
"Forget the doctor," interposed McMasters. "Biggs, you have been in our service since I was a lad, haven't you?"
Tears welled into the servant's eyes, and his voice faltered.
"Fifty-six years, come next November," he answered.
"Well, let me tell you something, that even in those fifty-six years you never learned, Biggs. My grandfather was buried alive!"
"Oh, sir! Impossible!" cried Biggs, in horror.
"Absolutely," asserted the banker.
"Why—are you—how do you know, sir?" in a hoarse whisper.
"My father built a family mausoleum in the far corner of this estate, didn't he?"
"Yes, sir—he hated burial in the earth, sir, after reading a poem of Edgar Allan Poe's, sir!"
"What poem was that, Biggs?"
"I don't recall the name of it, but I remember the line," faltered Biggs. "What was it?"
"Oh, sir," cried the old man, "let's talk about something cheerful."
"Not until we're through with this discussion, Hiram."
The sound of his given name restored Biggs somewhat, for the banker resorted to it only on occasions when he shared his deepest confidences with his old houseman.
"Well, the line goes, 'Soft may the worms about him creep,' sir."
A slight shudder seemed to run through McMasters' body. Then after a tomb-like silence, "Good reason for building the mausoleum."
"Yes, sir, I think so, sir."
"Well," with an apparent effort, "when they exhumed my grandfather's remains to place them in the new vault, the casket was opened, and——"
"Oh, sir," cried Biggs, throwing out a trembling, expostulating hand, but the banker went on, relentlessly.
"——the body was turned over, on its side, with the left knee drawn up partway."
"That's the way he always slept—in life." Biggs' voice was a hollow whisper.
"And that's the reason my father, after building himself a mausoleum, insisted that his body be cremated," said McMasters. "He took no chances."
Biggs' horrified eyes traveled dully to the massive urn over the great fireplace and rested there, fascinated.
"Hiram, where is heaven?"
Biggs' eyes flitted back to rest in surprize upon the questioner.
"Why, up there, sir," pointing toward the ceiling.
"Do you believe that the earth rotates on its axis?"
"That's what I was taught in school, sir."
"If that hypothesis is true, we are rolling through space at the rate of about sixteen miles a minute," figured the banker. "Now you say heaven is up there."
"Biggs, what time is it?"
The servant glanced at the great clock in the corner.
"Ah, it's twelve o'clock, sir, and time for your medicine," in a voice full of relief."Never mind the drugs," commanded McMasters, "until we finish our problem in higher mathematics. Now, if I ask you where heaven is at midnight,