Because Some Lifes Are Different


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The Blood Dragons Coffin

For the Blood is the Life by F.Marion Crawford

We had dined at sunset on the broad roof of the old tower, because it was cooler 
there during the great heat of summer. Besides, the little kitchen was built at one 
corner of the great square platform, which made it more convenient than if the 
dishes had to be carried down the steep stone steps broken in places and 
everywhere worn with age. The tower was one of those built all down the west 
coast of Calabria by the Emperor Charles V early in the sixteenth century, to 
keep off the Barbary pirates, when the unbelievers were allied with Francis I 
against the Emperor and the Church. They have gone to ruin, a few still stand 
intact, and mine is one of the largest. How it came into my possession ten years 
ago, and why I spend a part of each year in it, are matters which do not concern 
this tale. The tower stands in one of the loneliest spots in Southern Italy, at the 
extremity of a curving, rocky promontory, which forms a small but safe natural 
harbour at the southern extremity of the Gulf of Policastro, and just north of Cape 
Scalea, the birthplace of Judas Iscariot, according to the old local legend. The 
tower stands alone on this hooked spur of the rock, and there is not a house to be 
seen within three miles of it. When I go there I take a couple of sailors, one of 
whom is a fair cook, and when I am away it is in charge of a gnome-like little 
being who was once a miner and who attached himself to me long ago. 

My friend, who sometimes visits me in my summer solitude, is an artist by 
profession, a Scandinavian by birth, and a cosmopolitan by force of 
circumstances. 

We had dined at sunset; the sunset glow had reddened and faded again, and the 
evening purple steeped the vast chain of the mountains that embrace the deep 
gulf to eastward and rear themselves higher and higher towards the south. It was 
hot, and we sat at the landward corner of the platform, waiting for the night 
breeze to come down from the lower hills. The colour sank out of the air, there 
was a little interval of deep-grey twilight, and a lamp sent a yellow streak from 
the open door of the kitchen, where the men were getting their supper. 

Then the moon rose suddenly above the crest of the promontory, flooding the 
platform and lighting up every little spur of rock and knoll of grass below us, 
down to the edge of the motionless water. My friend lighted his pipe and sat 
looking at a spot on the hillside. I knew that he was looking at it, and for a long 
time past I had wondered whether he would ever see anything there that would 
fix his attention. I knew that spot well. It was clear that he was interested at last, 
though it was a long time before he spoke. Like most painters, he trusts to his 
own eyesight, as a lion trusts his strength and a stag his speed, and he is always 
disturbed when he cannot reconcile what he sees with what he believes that he 
ought to see. 

"It's strange," he said. "Do you see that little mound just on this side of the 
boulder?" 

"Yes," I said, and I guessed what was coming. 

"It looks like a grave," observed Holger. 

"Very true. It does look like a grave." 

"Yes," continued my friend, his eyes still fixed on the spot. "But the strange thing 
is that I see the body lying on the top of it. Of course," continued Holger, turning 
his head on one side as artists do, "it must be an effect of light. In the first place, 
it is not a grave at all. Secondly, if it were, the body would be inside and not 
outside. Therefor, it's an effect of the moonlight. Don't you see it?" 

"Perfectly; I always see it on moonlight nights." 

"It doesn't seem it interest you much," said Holger. 

"On the contrary, it does interest me, though I am used to it. You're not so far 
wrong, either. The mound is really a grave." 

"Nonsense!" cried Holger incredulously. "I suppose you'll tell me that what I see 
lying on it is really a corpse!" 

"No," I answered, "it's not. I know, because I have taken the trouble to go down 
and see." 

"Then what is it?" asked Holger. 

"It's nothing." 

"You mean that it's an effect of light, I suppose?" 

"Perhaps it is. But the inexplicable part of the matter is that it makes no 
difference whether the moon is rising or setting, or waxing or waning. If there's 
any moonlight at all, from east or west or overhead, so long as it shines on the 
grave you can see the outline of the body on top." 

Holger stirred up his pipe with the point of his knife, and then used his finger for 
a stopper. When the tobacco burned well, he rose from his chair. 

"If you don't mind," he said, "I'll go down and take a look at it." 

He left me, crossed the roof, and disappeared down the dark steps. I did not 
move, but sat looking down until he came out of the tower below. I heard him 
humming an old Danish song as he crossed the open space in the bright 
moonlight, going straight to the mysterious mound. When he was ten paces from 
it, Holger stopped short, made two steps forward, and then three or four 
backward, and then stopped again. I know what that meant. He had reached the 
spot where the Thing ceased to be visible -- where, as he would have said, the 
effect of light changed. 

Then he went on till he reached the mound and stood upon it. I could see the 
Thing still, but it was no longer lying down; it was on its knees now, winding its 
white arms round Holger's body and looking up into his face. A cool breeze 
stirred my hair at that moment, as the night wind began to come down from the 
hills, but it felt like a breath from another world. 

The Thing seemed to be trying to climb to its feet helping itself up by Holger's 
body while he stood upright, quite unconcious of it and apparently looking 
toward the tower, which is very picturesque when the moonlight falls upon it on 
that side. 

"Come along!" I shouted. "Don't stay there all night!" 

It seemed to me that he moved reluctantly as he stepped from the mound, or else 
with difficulty. That was it. The Thing's arms were still round his waist, but its 
feet could not leave the grave. As he came slowly forward it was drawn and 
lengthened like a wreath of mist, thin and white, till I saw distinctly that Holger 
shook himself, as a man does who feels a chill. At the same instant a little wail of 
pain came to me on the breeze -- it might have been the cry of the small owl that 
lives amongst the rocks -- and the misty presence floated swiftly back from 
Holger's advancing figure and lay once more at its length upon the mound. 

Again I felt the cool breeze in my hair, and this time an icy thrill of dread ran 
down my spine. I remembered very well that I had once gone down there alone in 
the moonlight; that presently, being near, I had seen nothing; that, like Holger, I 
had gone and had stood upon the mound; and I remembered how when I came 
back, sure that there was nothing there, I had felt the sudden conviction that there 
was something after all if I would only look back, a temptation I had resisted as 
unworthy of a man of sense, until, to get rid of it, I had shaken myself just as 
Holger did. 

And now I knew that those white, misty arms had been round me, too; I knew it 
in a flash, and I shuddered as I remembered that I had heard the night owl then, 
too. But it had not been the night owl. It was the cry of the Thing. 

I refilled my pipe and poured out a cup of strong southern wine; in less than a 
minute Holger was seated beside me again. 

"Of course there's nothing there," he said, "but it's creepy, all the same. Do you 
know, when I was coming back I was so sure that there was something behind 
me that I wanted to turn around and look? It was an effort not to." 

He laughed a little, knocked the ashes out of his pipe, and poured himself out 
some wine. For a while neither of us spoke, and the moon rose higher and we 
both looked at the Thing that lay on the mound. 

"You might make a story about that," said Holger after a long time. 

"There is one," I answered. "If you're not sleepy, I'll tell it to you." 

"Go ahead," said Holger, who likes stories. 

Old Aderio was dying up there in the village beyond the hill. You remember him, 
I have no doubt. They say that he made his money by selling sham jewelry in 
South America, and escaped with his gains when he was found out.. Like all 
those fellows, if they bring anything back with them, he at once set to work to 
enlarge his house, and as there are no masons here, he sent all the way to Paola 
for two workmen. They were a rough-looking pair of scoundrels--a Neapolitan 
who had lost one eye and a Sicilian with an old scar half an inch deep across his 
left cheek. I often saw them, for on Sundays they used to come down here and 
fish off the rocks. When Alario caught the fever that killed him the masons were 
still at work. As he had agreed that part of their pay should be their board and 
lodging, he made them sleep in the house. His wife was dead, and he had an only 
son called Angelo, who was a much better sort than himself. Angelo was to 
marry the daughter of the richest man in the village, and, strange to say, though 
the marriage was arranged by their parents, the young people were said to be in 
love with eachother. 

For that matter, the whole village was in love with Angelo, and among the rest a 
wild, good-looking creature called Cristina, who was more like a gipsy than any 
girl I ever saw about here. She had very red lips and very black eyes, she was 
built like a greyhound, and had the tongue of the devil. But Angelo did not care a 
straw for her. He was rather a simpleminded fellow, quite different from his old 
scoundrel of a father, and under what I should call normal circumstances I really 
believe that he would never have looked at any girl except the nice plump little 
creature, with a fat dowry, whom his father meant him to marry. But things 
turned up which were neither normal nor natural. 

On the other hand, a very handsome young shepherd from the hills above 
Maratea was in love with Cristina, who seems to have been quite indifferent to 
him. Cristina had no regular means of subsistence, but she was a good girl and 
willing to do any work or go on errands to any distance for the sake of a loaf of 
bread or a mess of beans, and permission to sleep under cover. She was 
especially glad when she could get something to do about the house of Angelo's 
father. There is no doctor in the village, and when the neighbours saw that old 
Alario was dying they sent Cristina to Scalea to fetch one. That was late in the 
afternoon, and if they had waited so long it was because the dying miser refused 
to allow any such extravagance while he was able to speak. But while Cristina 
was gone matters grew rapidly worse, the priest was brough tothe bedside, and 
when he had done what he could he gave it as his opinion to the bystanders that 
the old man was dead, and left the house. 

You know these people. They have a physical horror of death. Until the priest 
spoke, the room had been full of people. The words were hardly out of his mouth 
before it was empty. It was night now. They hurried down the dark steps and out 
into the street. 


Angelo, as I have said, was away, Cristina had not come back--the simple 
woman-servant who had nursed the sick man fled with the rest, and the body was 
left alone in the flickering light of the earthen oil lamp. 

Five minutes later two men looked in cautiously and crept forward toward the 
bed. They were the one-eyed Neapolitan mason and his Sicilian companion. 
They knew what they wanted. In a moment they had dragged from under the bed 
a small but heavy iron-bound box, and long before anyone thought of coming 
back to the dead man they had left the house and the village under cover of 
darkness. It was easy enough, for Alario's house is the last toward the gorge 
which leads down here, and the thieves merely went out by the back door, got 
over the stone wall, and had nothing to risk after that except that possibility of 
meeting some belated countryman, which was very small indeed, since few of the 
people use that path. They had a mattock and shovel, and they made their way 
without accident. 

I am telling you this story as it must have happened, for, of course, there were no 
witnesses to this part of it. The men brought the box down by the gorge, 
intending to bury it on the beach in the wet sand, where it would have been much 
safer. But the paper would ahve rotted if they had been obliged to leave it there 
long,so they dug their hole down there, close to that boulder. Yes, just where the 
mound is now. 

Cristina did not find the doctor in Scalea, for he had been sent for from a place up 
the valley, half-way to San Domenico. If she had found him we would have come 
on his mule by the upper road, which is smoother but much longer. But Cristina 
took the short cut by the rocks, which passes about fifty feet above the mound, 
and goes round that corner. The men were digging when she passed, and she 
heard them at work. It would not hav been like her to go by without finding out 
what the noise was, for she was never afraid of anything in her life, and, besides, 
the fishermen sometimes come ashore here at night to get a stone for an anchor 
or to gather sticks to make a little fire. The night was dark and Cristina probably 
came close to the two men before she could see what they were doing. She knew 
them, of course, and they knew her, and understood instantly that they were in 
her power. There was only one thing to be done for their safety, and they did it. 
They knocked her on the head, they dug the hole deep, and they buried her 
quickly with the iron-bound chest. They must have understood that their only 
chance of escaping suspicion lay in getting back to the village before their 
absence was noticed, for they returned immediately, and were found half and 
hour later gossiping quietly with the man who was making Alario's coffin. He 
was a crony of theirs, and had been working at the repairs in the old man's house. 
So far as I have been able to make out, the only persons who were supposed to 
know where Alario kept his treasure were Angelo and the one woman-servant I 
have mentioned. Angelo was away; it was the woman who discovered the theft. 

It was easy enough to understand why no one else knew where the money was. 
The old man kept his door locked and the key in his pocket when he was out, and 
did not let the woman enter to clean the place unless he was there himself. The 
whole village knew that he had money somewhere, however, and the masons had 
probably discovered the whereabouts of the chest by climbing in at the window 
in his absence. If the old man had not been delirious until he lost conciousness he 
would have been in frightful agony of mind for his riches. The faithful woman-
servant forgot their existence only for a few moments when she fled with the rest, 
overcome by the horror of death. Twenty minutes had not passed before she 
returned with the two hideous old hags who are always called in to prepare the 
dead for burial. Even then she had not at first the courage to go near the bed with 
them, but she made a pretence of dropping something, went down on her knees 
as if to find it, and looked under the bedstead. The walls of the room were newly 
whitewashed down to the floor and she saw at a glance that the chest was gone. It 
had been there in the afternoon, it had therefore been stolen in the short interval 
since she had left the room. 

There are no carabineers stationed in the village; there is not so much as a 
municipal watchman, for there is no municipality. There never was such a place, 
I believe. Scalea is supposed to look after it in some mysterious way, and it takes 
a couple of hours to get anybody from there. As the old woman had lived in the 
village all her life, it did not even occur to her to apply to any civil authority for 
help. She simply set up a howl and ran through the village in the dark, screaming 
out that her dead master's house had been robbed. Many of the people looked out, 
but at first no one seemed inclined to help her. Most of them, judging her by 
themselves, whispered to each other that she had probably stolen the money 
herself. The first man to move was the father of the girl whom Angelo was to 
marry; having collected his household, all of whom felt a personal interest in the 
wealth which was to have come into the family, he declared it to be his opinion 
that the chest had been stolen by the two journeymen masons who lodged in the 
house. He headed a search for them, which naturally began in Alario's house and 
ended in the carpenter's workshop, where the thieves were found discussing a 
measure of wine with the carpenter over the half-finished coffin, by the light of 
one earthen lamp filled with oil and tallow. The search-party at once accused the 
delinquents of the crime, and threatened to lock them up in the cellar till the 
carabineers could be fetched from Scalea. The two men looked at each other for 
one moment, and then without the slightest hesitation they put out the single 
light, seized the unfinished coffin between them, and using it as a sort of 
battering ram, dashed upon their assailants in the dark. In a few moments they 
were beyond pursuit. 

That is the end of the first part of the story. The tresure had disappeared, and as 
no trace of it could be found the people supposed that the thieves had succeeded 
in carrying it off. The old man was buried, and when Angelo came back at last he 
had to borrow money to pay for the miserable funeral, and had some difficulty in 
doing so. He hardly needed to be told that in losing his inheritance he had lost his 
bride. In this part of the world marriages are made on strictly business principles, 
and if the promised cash is not forthcoming on the appointed day, the bride or the 
bridegroom whose parents have failed to produce it may as well take themselves 
off, for there will be no wedding. Poor Angelo knew that well enough. His father 
had been possessed of hardly any land, and now that the hard cash which he had 
brought from South America was gone, there was nothing left but debts for the 
building materials that were to have been used for enlarging and improving the 
old house. Angelo was beggared, and the nice plump little creature who was to 
have been his, turned up her nose at him in the most approved fashion. As for 
Cristina, it was several days before she was missed, for no one remembered that 
she had been sent to Scalea for the doctor, who had never come. She often 
disappeared in the same way for days together, when she could find a little work 
here and there at the distant farms among the hills. But when she did not come 
back at all, people began to wonder, and at last made up their minds that she had 
connived with the masons and had escaped with them. 

I paused and emptied my glass. 

"That sort of thing could not happen anywhere else," observed Holger, filling his 
everlasting pipe again. "It is wonderful what a natural charm there is about 
murder and sudden death in a romantic country like this. Deeds that would be 
simply brutal and disgusting anywhere else become dramatic and mysterious 
because this is Italy, and we are living in a genuine tower of Charles V built 
against Barbary pirates." 

"There's something in that," I admitted. Holger is the most romantic man in the 
world inside of himself, but he always thinks it necessary to explain why he feels 
anything. 

"I suppose the found the poor girl's body with the box," he said presently. 

"As it seems to interest you," I answered, "I'll tell you the rest of the story." 

The mood had risen by this time; the outline of the Thing on the mound was 
clearer to our eyes than before. 

The village very soon settled down to its small dull life. No one missed old 
Alario, who had been away so much on his voyages to South America that he had 
never been a familiar figure in his native place. Angelo lived in the half-finished 
house, and because he had no money to pay the old woman-servant, she would 
not stay with him, but once in a long time she would come and wash a shirt for 
him for old acquaintance' sake. Besides the house, he had inherited a small patch 
of ground at some distance from the village; he tried to cultivate it, but he had no 
heart in the work, for he knew he could neer pay the taxes on it and on the house, 
which would certainly be confiscated by the Government, or seized for the debt 
of the building material, which the man who had supplied it refused to take back. 

Angelo was very unhappy. So long as his father had been alive and rich, every 
girl in the village had been in love with him; but that was all changed now. It had 
been pleasant to be admired and courted, and invited to drink wine by fathers 
who had girls to marry. It was hard to be stared at coldly, and sometimes laughed 
at because he had been robbed of his inheritance. He cooked his miserable meals 
for himself, and from being sad became melancholy and morose. 

At twilight, when the day's work was done, instead of hanging about in the open 
space before the church with young fellows of his own age, he took to wandering 
in lonely places on the outskirts of the village till it was quite dark. Then he slunk 
home and went to bed to save the expense of a light. But in those lonely twilight 
hours he began to have strange waking dreams. He was not always alone, for 
often when he sat on the stump of a tree, where the narrow path turns down the 
gorge, he was sure that a woman came up noiselessly over the rough stones, as if 
her feet were bare; and she stood under a clump of chestnut trees only half a 
dozen yards down the path, and beckoned to him without speaking. Though she 
was in the shadow he knew that her lips were red, and that when they parted a 
little and smiled at him she showed two small sharp teeth. He knew this at first 
rather than saw it, and he knew that it was Cristina, and that she was dead. Yet he 
was not afraid; he only wondered whether it was a dream, for he thought that if 
he had been awake he should have been frightened. 

Besides, the dead woman had red lips, and that could only happen in a dream. 
Whenever he went near the gorget after sunset she was already there waiting for 
him, or else she very soon appeared, and he began to be sure of her blood-red 
mouth, but now each feature grew distinct, and the pale face looked at him with 
deep and hungry eyes. 

It was the eyes that grew dim. Little by little he came to know that someday the 
dream would not end when he turned away to go home, but would lead him down 
the gorge out of which the vision rose. She was nearer now when she beckoned 
to him. Her cheeks were not livid like those of the dead, but pale with starvation, 
with the furious and unappeased physical hunger of her eyes that devoured him. 
They feasted on his soul and cast a spell over him, and at last they were close to 
his own and held him. He could not tell whether her breath was as hot as fire, or 
as cold as ice; he could not tell whether her red lips burned his or froze them, or 
whether her five fingers on his wrists seared scorching scars or bit his flesh like 
frost; he could not tell whether he was awake or asleep, whether she was alive or 
dead, but he knew that she loved him, she alone of all creatures, earthly or 
unearthly, and her spell had power over him. 

When the moon rose high that night the shadow of that Thing was not alone 
down there upon the mound. 

Angelo awoke in the cool dawn, drenched with dew and chilled through flesh, 
and blood, and bone. He opened his eyes to the faint grey light, and saw the stars 
were still shining overhead. He was very weak, and his heart was beating so 
slowly that he was almost like a man fainting. Slowly he turned his head on the 
mound, as on a pillow, but the other face was not there. Fear seized him 
suddenly, a fear unspeakable and unknown; he sprang to his feet and fled up the 
gorge, and he never looked behind him until he reached the door of the house on 
the outskirts of the village. Drearily he went to his work that day, and wearily the 
hours dragged themselves after the sun, till at last it touched the sea and sank, 
and the great sharp hills above Maratea turned purple against the dove-coloured 
eastern sky. 

Angelo shouldered his heavy hoe and left the field. He felt less tired now than in 
the morning when he had begun to work, but he promised himself that he would 
go home without lingering by the gorge, and eat the best supper he could get 
himself, and sleep all night in his bed like a Christian man. Not again would he 
be tempted down the narrow way by a shadow with red lips and icy breath; not 
again would he dream that dream of terror and delight. He was near the village 
now; it was half an hour since the sun had set, and the cracked church bell sent 
little discordant echoes across the rocks and ravines to tell all good people that 
the day was done. Angelo stood still a moment where the path forked, where it 
led toward the village on the left, and down to the gorge on the right, where a 
clump of chestnut trees overhung the narrow way. He stood still a minute, lifting 
his battered hat from his head and gazing at the fast-fading sea westward, and his 
lips moved as he silently repeated the familiar evening prayer. His lips moved, 
but the words that followed them in his brain lost their meaning and turned into 
others, and ended in a name that he spoke aloud -- Cristina! With the name, the 
tension of his will relaxed suddenly, reality went out and the dream took him 
again, and bore him on swiftly and surely like a man walking in his sleep, down, 
down, by the steep path in the gathering darkness. And as she glided beside him, 
Cristina whispered strange, sweet things in his ear, which somehow, if he had 
been awake, he knew that he could not quite have understood; but now they were 
the most wonderful words he had ever heard in his life. And she kissed him also, 
but not upon his mouth. He felt her sharp kisses upon his white throat, and he 
knew that her lips were red. So the wild dream sped on through twilight and 
darkness and moonrise, and all the glory of the summer's night. But in the chilly 
dawn he lay as one half dead upon the mound down there, recalling and not 
recalling, drained of his blood, yet strangely longing to give those red lips more. 
Then came the fear, the awful nameless panic, the mortal horror that guards the 
confines of the world we see not, neither know of as we know of other things, but 
which we feel when its icy chill freezes our bones and stirs our hair with the 
touch of a ghostly hand. Once more Angelo sprang from the mound and fled up 
the gorge in the breaking day, but his step was less sure this time, and he panted 
for breath as he ran; and when he came to the bright spring of water that rises 
half way up the hillside, he dropped upon his knees and hands and plunged his 
whole face in and drank as he had never drunk before -- for it was the thirst of the 
wounded man who has lain bleeding all night upon the battle-field. 

She had him fast now, and he could not escape her, but would come to her every 
evening at dusk until she had drained him of his last drop of blood. It was in vain 
that when the day was done he tried to take another turning and to go home by a 
path that did not lead near the gorge. It was in vain that he made promises to 
himself each morning at dawn when he climbed the lonely way up from the shore 
to the village. It was all in vain, for when the sun sank burning into the sea, and 
the coolness of the evening stole out as from a hiding-place to delight the weary 
world, his feet turned toward the old way, and she was waiting for him in the 
shadow under the chestnut trees; and then all happened as before, and she fell to 
kissing his white throat even as she flitted lightly down the way, winding one 
arm about him. And as his blood failed, she grew more hungry and more thirsty 
every day, and every day when he awoke in the early dawn it was harder to rouse 
himself to the effort of climbing the steep path to the village; and when he went 
to his work his feet dragged painfully, and there was hardly strength in his arms 
to wield the heavy hoe. He scarcely spoke to anyone now, but the people said he 
was "consuming himself" for love of the girl he was to have married when he lost 
his inheritance; and they laughed heartily at the thought, for this is not a very 
romantic country. At this time Antonio, the man who stays here to look after the 
tower, returned from a visit to his people, who live near Salerno. He had been 
away all the time since before Alario's death and knew nothing of what had 
happened. He has told me that he came back late in the afternoon and shut 
himself up in the tower to eat and sleep, for he was very tired. It was past 
midnight when he awoke, and when he looked out toward the mound, and he saw 
something, and he did not sleep again that night. When he went out again in the 
morning it was broad daylight, and there was nothing to be seen on the mound 
but loose stones and driven sand. Yet he did not go very near it; he went straight 
up the path to the village and directly to the house of the old priest. 

"I have seen an evil thing this night," he said; "I have seen how the dead drink the 
blood of the living. And the blood is the life." 

"Tell me what you have seen," said the priest in reply. 

Antonio told him everything he had seen. 

"You must bring your book and your holy water to-night," he added. "I will be 
here before sunset to go down with you, and if it pleases your reverence to sup 
with me while we wait, I will make ready." 

"I will come," the priest answered, "for I have read in old books of these strange 
beings which are neither quick nor dead, and which lie ever fresh in their graves, 
stealing out in the dusk to taste life and blood." 

Antonio cannot read, but he was glad to see that the priest understood the 
business; for, of course, the books must have been instructed him as to the best 
means of quieting the half-living Thing for ever. 

So Antonio went away to his work, which consists largely in sitting on the shady 
side of the tower, when he is not perched upon a rock with a fishing-line catching 
nothing. But on that day he went twice to look at the mound in the bright 
sunlight, and he searched round and round it for some hole through which the 
being might get in and out; but he found none. When the sun began to sink and 
the air was cooler in the shadows, he went up to fetch the old priest, carrying a 
little wicker basket with him; and in this they placed a bottle of holy water, and 
the basin, and sprinkler, and the stole which the priest would need; and they came 
down and waited in the door of the tower till it should be dark. But while the 
light still lingered very grey and faint, they saw something moving, just there, 
two figures, a man's that walked, and a woman's that flitted beside him, and while 
her head lay on his shoulder she kissed his throat. The priest has told me that, 
too, and that his teeth chattered and he grasped Antonio's arm. The vision passed 
and disappeared into the shadow. Then Antonio got the leathern flask of strong 
liquor, which he kept for great occasions, and poured such a draught as made the 
old man feel almost young again; and gave the priest his stole to put on and the 
holy water to carry, and they went out together toward the spot where the work 
was to be done. Antonio says that in spite of the rum his own knees shook 
together, and the priest stumbled over his Latin. For when they were yet a few 
yards from the mound the flickering light of the lantern fell upon Angelo's white 
face, unconscious as if in sleep, and on his upturned throat, over which a very 
thin red line of blood trickled down into his collar; and the flickering light of the 
lantern played upon another face that looked up from the feast, upon two deep, 
dead eyes that saw in spite of death -- upon parted lips, redder than life itself -- 
upon two gleaming teeth on which glistened a rosy drop. Then the priest, good 
old man, shut his eyes tight and showered holy water before him, and his cracked 
voice rose almost to a scream; and then Antonio, who is no coward after all, 
raised his pick n one hand and the lantern in the other, as he sprang forward, not 
knowing what the end should be; and then he swears that he heard a woman's 
cry, and the Thing was gone, and Angelo lay alone on the mound unconscious, 
with the red line on his throat and the beads of deathly sweat on his cold 
forehead. They lifted him, half-dead as he was, and laid him on the ground close 
by; then Antonio went to work, and the priest helped him, thought he was old and 
could not do much; and they dug deep, and at last Antonio, standing in the grave, 
stooped down with his lantern to see what he might see. 

His hair used to be dark brown, with grizzled streaks about the temples; in less 
than a month from that day he was as grey as a badger. He was a miner when he 
was young, and most of these fellows have seen ugly sights now and then, when 
accidents have happened, but he had never seen what he saw that night -- that 
Thing which is neither alive nor dead, that Thing that will abide neither above 
ground nor in the grave. Antonio had brought something with him which the 
priest had not noticed -- a sharp stake shaped from a piece of tough old 
driftwood. He had it with him now, and he had his heavy pick, and he had taken 
the lantern down into the grave. I don't think any power on earth could make him 
speak of what happened then, and the old priest was too frightened to look in. He 
says he heard Antonio breathing like a wild beast, and moving as if he were 
fighting with something almost as strong as himself; and he heard an evil sound 
also, with blows, as of something violently driven through flesh and bone; and 
then, the most awful sound of all -- a woman's shriek, the unearthly scream of a 
woman neither dead nor alive, but buried deep for many days. And he, the poor 
old priest, could only rock himself as he knelt there in the sand, crying aloud his 
prayers and exorcisms to drown these dreadful sounds. Then suddenly a small 
iron-bound chest was thrown up and rolled over against the old man's knee, and 
in a moment more Antonio was beside him, his face as white as tallow in the 
flickering light of the lantern, shoveling the sand and pebbles into the grave with 
furious haste, and looking over the edge till the pit was half full; and the priest 
said that there was much fresh blood on Antonio's hands and on his clothes. 

I had come to the end of my story. Holger finished his wine and leaned back in 
his chair. 

"So Angelo got his own again." he said. "Did he marry the prim and plump 
young person to whom he had been betrothed?" 

"No; he had been badly frightened. He went to South America, and has not been 
heard of since." 

"And that poor thing's body is there still, I suppose," said Holger. "Is it quite dead 
yet, I wonder?" 

I wonder, too. But whether it be dead or alive, I should hardly care to see it, even 
in broad daylight. Antonio is as grey as a badger, and he has never been quite the 
same man since that night.
(1911)





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