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Michael Bell
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McKinney, Te...

 
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Posted By Michael Bell

The morning after the funeral— the fourth funeral it was—poor Florry came down to breakfast pale as a ghost.
    “I saw it last night, Willie,” she said, drearily; “I saw it last night; only it was Hannah this time, and she kept beckoning to me with her long, bony finger—bony, just as it was in her coffin.”
    “Pshaw! pshaw, Florry!” I returned, laughingly. “It was mere ‘hypo’—you’re getting very nervous.”
    “‘Hypo’ or not, I saw it, just as Hannah saw poor Hatty; just as Hetty saw mother;” and, in one week from that day, Florry, now Mrs. Merrick—for I had insisted upon our immediate marriage, with a strange pertinacity—sank down upon the same bed, so tired.
    “So tired!” she gasped, wearily; and I knew that Dr. Bloupil’s rapid consumption had just two weeks more to gnaw at her vitals. Even the grouty old doctor shook his head more sadly than was his wont.
    “No use,” muttered he, monosyllabically. “Beyond human skill already.”
     It was a week after Dr. Bloupil’s last visit. I had scarcely slept for at least four days, and at last sank into a profound slumber. I dreamed strangely, weirdly, luridly. In my dream I was digging—digging for something in the old graveyard; and as I dug, my eye caught the inscription on a white tombstone, standing effectually in the moonlight. It was: “Hannah Calhoun—born, April 17, 1831; died, December 21, 1851; aged 20 years, 8 months and 4 days.” I woke up in a cold perspiration. Florry was sleeping heavily; but as, so wan and wasted she looked by candlelight! Her hand lay on the white counterpane, like the mere shadow of a hand. It was so thin and filmy, that it seemed as if I could see through it, into the white counterpane beneath. I got up softly, and in less than an hour was digging furiously, with bar and pickax and spade, in the old graveyard, exactly where I had found myself digging in my dream. I went there almost like one in a trance. It was my feet that went on their own instinct. I simply went with them. Hours—hours in that white moonlight I dug on, regardless of everything, save the one mad whim of “hypo” that possessed me. The spade struck something solid. I knew it must be Hannah’s coffin, and worked on nervously, furiously. I tugged at the coffin; my strength seemed almost superhuman. It yielded, and I dragged it to the surface of the ground, and pried it open with the sharp corner of the spade. She lay there in the white moonlight—the dead Hannah—and a horrible scent of rottenness in my nostrils nauseated me. The corpse crumbled—crumbled as I began to remove the white grave-clothes, reeking with horrible mildew. But I found it at last. It was—or so I fancied—a red, warm, human heart, lounging prone upon the bare, fleshless spinal column in the middle of the coffin; and I laughed a wild, nervous, goblin laugh, as I lifted it, still red and warm, and, I fancied, reeking, from the carrion which was its envelope. Hours—hours in that white moonlight I worked on; and the blood-red morning was in the east when, having replaced coffin and covering, I left the little graveyard at the back of the village, with a horrible something done up carefully in a white napkin. I stole into the village—nobody was yet up—and into the lurid, terrible crater of the old blast furnace I hurled, as if mad, the red, warm, beating burden of a human heart.

 
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