THE fact that Henry Armstrong
was buried did not seem to him to prove that he was dead: he
had al- ways been a hard man to convince. That he really was buried, the
testimony of his senses compelled him to admit. His posture--flat upon
his back, with his hands crossed upon his stomach and tied with something
that he easily broke without profitably altering the situation--the strict
confinement of his entire person, the black darkness and profound silence,
made a body of evidence impossible to controvert and he accepted it without
But dead--no; he was only very, very ill. He had, withal, the
invalid's apathy and did not greatly con- cern himself about the uncommon
fate that had been allotted to him. No philosopher was he--just a plain,
commonplace person gifted, for the time be- ing, with a pathological indifference:
the organ that he feared consequences with was torpid. So, with no particular
apprehension for his immediate fu- ture, he fell asleep and all was peace
with Henry Armstrong.
But something was going on overhead. It was a dark summer night,
shot through with infrequent shimmers of lightning silently firing a cloud
lying low in the west and portending a storm. These brief, stammering illuminations
brought out with ghastly distinctness the monuments and headstones of the
cemetery and seemed to set them dancing. It was not a night in which any
credible witness was likely to be straying about a cemetery, so the three
men who were there, digging into the grave of Henry Armstrong, felt reasonably
Two of them were young students from a medi- cal college a few
miles away; the third was a gigan- tic negro known as Jess. For many years
Jess had been employed about the cemetery as a man-of-all- work and it
was his favourite pleasantry that he knew 'every soul in the place.' From
the nature of what he was now doing it was inferable that the place was
not so populous as its register may have shown it to be.
Outside the wall, at the part of the grounds farthest from the
public road, were a horse and a light wagon, waiting.
The work of excavation was not difficult: the earth with which
the grave had been loosely filled a few hours before offered little resistance
and was soon thrown out. Removal of the casket from its box was less easy,
but it was taken out, for it was a perquisite of Jess, who carefully unscrewed
the cover and laid it aside, exposing the body in black trousers and white
shirt. At that instant the air sprang to flame, a cracking shock of thunder
shook the stunned world and Henry Armstrong tranquilly sat up. With inarticulate
cries the men fled in terror, each in a different direction. For nothing
on earth could two of them have been persuaded to return. But Jess was
of another breed.
In the grey of the morning the two students, pallid and haggard
from anxiety and with the terror of their adventure still beating tumultuously
in their blood, met at the medical college.
'You saw it?' cried one.
'God! yes--what are we to do?'
They went around to the rear of the building, where they saw
a horse, attached to a light wagon, hitched to a gatepost near the door
of the dissecting- room. Mechanically they entered the room. On a bench
in the obscurity sat the negro Jess. He rose, grinning, all eyes and teeth.
'I'm waiting for my pay,' he said.
Stretched naked on a long table lay the body of Henry Armstrong,
the head defiled with blood and clay from a blow with a spade.
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