Page:Weird Tales volume 30 number 04.djvu/107

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491
HERE LIES

The lot in Dream Hill Cemetery measured eight feet long, five feet wide and ten feet deep, meaning that it had been excavated and ready for occupancy these past five years. The walls were common brick. On the floor was a stone bed to lie on. Whimsically Chauncey had also installed a small table furnished with a tobacco bag and pipe, matches, an alarm clock with an illuminated dial, and an ashtray. And a thick, plumber's candle. The old pagan!

Anchored in the foot-wall of this cell, ladder-like, were iron rungs which had enabled him on past occasions to descend and inspect his subterranean property; as, on this occasion, he made the trip to deposit Shep's unfinished wooden chain.

The stone slab sealing the cell had long been cut with the dangerous advertisement: HERE LIES CHAUNCEY D'AUTREVILLE WHOSE WORLDLY GOODS WERE ANY MAN'S FOR THE ASKING.

Naturally, a new inscription had to be chiseled.

"But there ain't any more room in that piece, Chauncey," the stone-cutter objected. "You want 'nother stone."

"Turn it upside down and cut it in the bottom," Old Chauncey directed. "With that topside staring him in the face, he'll have something to read in the hereafter."

The underside, becoming the face, carried the inscription: HERE LIES SHEPARD FRANKENFIELD WHO FEELS NO ANXIETY FOR THE FUTURE NOR REGRET FOR THE PAST.

On the day preceding Old Shep's interment, Old Chauncey paid a visit to the nearest justice of the peace with Celia Lilleoden and no one thought it was in the least peculiar. As Chauncey balanced accounts with himself, the state would otherwise inherit his property eventually, as was right, but he wished to insure Celia's staying on as his housekeeper, in which capacity she beggared superlatives.

While four huskies furnished by the undertaker replaced the granite sheet over the brick chamber, Old Chauncey recollected the particulars of a certain fit of Shep's, dating about five years before, shortly before Celia. That catalepsy, or whatever it was, had gripped Shep as though in death for nearly three days until Old Chauncey had thought of making a brassy rumpus next to his ear with the big dinner bell. The alarm clock in the subterranean mausoleum was set for eleven o'clock, terminating a like period of time, when Old Shep might be expected to wake up and yawn in the hereafter. Just a whim of Chauncey's, since the coroner had pronounced Old Shep indisputably defunct.

Late that night Celia surmised worriedly that her absent husband might be visiting the tomb of his lifelong crony, and there he was in the sickly forest of tombstones, hunkering down on Shep's horizontal tombstone like a boy watching a game of marbles.

But he was listening, not watching. He knocked again on the slab with his bony knuckles, cocked his head. Listening for the response while the lazy breeze lifted his silken gray hair in the starry cave of night, he asked, "Cele, do you hear him down there?"

Celia's gentle mind recoiled from the idea that the dead might rise in answer to a human summons. The stoically restrained grief for his departed friend must have touched her husband somewhat in the head.

On the fifth night Chauncey observed, "That Old Shep's ghost must be getting tuckered out."

Celia decided that there was a limit to indulgence.