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Title: The Kirk Spook and more
Author: E. G. Swain
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eBook No.: 0606551.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2006

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The Kirk Spook and more
E. G. Swain


The Kirk Spook
Bone to His Bone


Before many years have passed it will be hard to find a person who has
ever seen a parish clerk.

The parish clerk is all but extinct. Our grandfathers knew him well--
an oldish, clean-shaven man, who looked as if he had never been young,
who dressed in rusty black, bestowed upon him, as often as not, by the
rector, and who usually wore a white tie on Sundays, out of respect
for the seriousness of his office. He it was who laid out the rector's
robes, and helped him to put them on; who found the places in the
large Bible and Prayer Book, and indicated them by means of decorous
silken book-markers; who lighted and snuffed the candles in the pulpit
and desk, and attended to the little stove in the squire's pew; who
ran busily about, in short, during the quarter-hour which preceded
Divine Service, doing a hundred little things, with all the activity,
and much of the appearance, of a beetle.

Just such a one was Caleb Dean, who was clerk of Stoneground in the
days of William IV.

Small in stature, he possessed a voice which Nature seemed to have
meant for a giant, and in the discharge of his duties he had a dignity
of manner disproportionate even to his voice. No one was afraid to
sing when he led the Psalm, so certain was it that no other voice
could be noticed, and the gracious condescension with which he
received his meagre fees would have been ample acknowledgement of
double their amount.

Man, however, cannot live by dignity alone, and Caleb was glad enough
to be sexton as well as clerk, and to undertake any other duties by
which he might add to his modest income. He kept the churchyard tidy,
trimmed the lamps, chimed the bells, taught the choir their simple
tunes, turned the barrel of the organ, and managed the stoves.

It was this last duty in particular, which took him into church 'last
thing', as he used to call it, on Saturday night. There were people in
those days, and may be some in these, whom nothing would induce to
enter a church at midnight; Caleb, however, was so much at home there
that all hours were alike to him. He was never an early man on
Saturdays. His wife, who insisted upon sitting up for him, would often
knit her way into Sunday before he appeared, and even then would find
it hard to get him to bed. Caleb, in fact, when off duty, was a genial
little fellow; he had many friends, and on Saturday evenings he knew
where to find them.

It was not, therefore, until the evening was spent that he went to
make up his fires; and his voice, which served for other singing than
that of Psalms, could usually be heard, within a little of midnight,
beguiling the way to church with snatches of convivial songs. Many a
belated traveller, homeward bound, would envy him his spirits, but no
one envied him his duties. Even such as walked with him to the
neighbourhood of the churchyard would bid him 'Good-night' whilst
still a long way from the gate. They would see him disappear into the
gloom amongst the graves, and shudder as they turned homewards.

Caleb, meanwhile, was perfectly content. He knew every stone in the
path; long practice enabled him, even on the darkest night, to thrust
his huge key into the lock at the first attempt, and on the night we
are about to describe--it had come to Mr Batchel from an old man who
heard it from Caleb's lips--he did it with a feeling of unusual
cheerfulness and contentment.

Caleb always locked himself in. A prank had once been played upon him,
which had greatly wounded his dignity; and though it had been no
midnight prank, he had taken care, ever since, to have the church to
himself. He locked the door, therefore, as usual, on the night we
speak of, and made his way to the stove. He used no candle. He opened
the little iron door of the stove, and obtained sufficient light to
show him the fuel he had laid in readiness; then, when he had made up
his fire, he closed this door again, and left the church in darkness.
He never could say what induced him upon this occasion to remain there
after his task was done. He knew that his wife was sitting up, as
usual, and that, as usual, he would have to hear what she had to say.
Yet, instead of making his way home, he sat down in the corner of the
nearest seat. He supposed that he must have felt tired, but had no
distinct recollection of it.

The church was not absolutely dark. Caleb remembered that he could
make out the outlines of the windows, and that through the window
nearest to him he saw a few stars. After his eyes had grown accustomed
to the gloom he could see the lines of the seats taking shape in the
darkness, and he had not long sat there before he could dimly see
everything there was. At last he began to distinguish where books lay
upon the shelf in front of him. And then he closed his eyes. He does
not admit having fallen asleep, even for a moment. But the seat was
restful, the neighbouring stove was growing warm, he had been through
a long and joyous evening, and it was natural that he should at least
close his eyes.

He insisted that it was only for a moment. Something, he could not say
what, caused him to open his eyes again immediately. The closing of
them seemed to have improved what may be called his dark sight. He saw
everything in the church quite distinctly, in a sort of grey light.
The pulpit stood out, large and bulky, in front. Beyond that, he
passed his eyes along the four windows on the north side of the
church. He looked again at the stars, still visible through the
nearest window on his left hand as he was sitting. From that, his eyes
fell to the further end of the seat in front of him, where he could
even see a faint gleam of polished wood. He traced this gleam to the
middle of the seat, until it disappeared in black shadow, and upon
that his eye passed on to the seat he was in, and there he saw a man
sitting beside him.

Caleb described the man very clearly. He was, he said, a pale, old-
fashioned looking man, with something very churchy about him.
Reasoning also with great clearness, he said that the stranger had not
come into the church either with him or after him, and that therefore
he must have been there before him. And in that case, seeing that the
church had been locked since two in the afternoon, the stranger must
have been there for a considerable time.

Caleb was puzzled; turning therefore, to the stranger, he asked 'How
long have you been here?'

The stranger answered at once 'Six hundred years.'

'Oh! come!' said Caleb.

'Come where?' said the stranger.

'Well, if you come to that, come out,' said Caleb.

'I wish I could,' said the stranger, and heaved a great sigh.

'What's to prevent you?' said Caleb. 'There's the door, and here's the

'That's it,' said the other.

'Of course it is,' said Caleb. 'Come along.'

With that he proceeded to take the stranger by the sleeve, and then it
was that he says you might have knocked him down with a feather. His
hand went right into the place where the sleeve seemed to be, and
Caleb distinctly saw two of the stranger's buttons on the top of his
own knuckles.

He hastily withdrew his hand, which began to feel icy cold, and sat
still, not knowing what to say next. He found that the stranger was
gently chuckling with laughter, and this annoyed him.

'What are you laughing at?' he enquired peevishly..'It's not funny
enough for two,' answered the other.

'Who are you, anyhow?' said Caleb.

'I am the kirk spook,' was the reply.

Now Caleb had not the least notion what a 'kirk spook' was. He was not
willing to admit his ignorance, but his curiosity was too much for his
pride, and he asked for information.

'Every church has a spook,' said the stranger, 'and I am the spook of
this one.'

'Oh,' said Caleb, 'I've been about this church a many years, but I've
never seen you before.'

'That,' said the spook, 'is because you've always been moving about.
I'm flimsy--very flimsy indeed--and I can only keep myself together
when everything is quite still.'

'Well,' said Caleb, 'you've got your chance now. What are you going to
do with it?'

'I want to go out,' said the spook, 'I'm tired of this church, and
I've been alone for six hundred years. It's a long time.'

'It does seem rather a long time,' said Caleb, 'but why don't you go
if you want to? There's three doors.'

'That's just it,' said the spook, 'They keep me in.'

'What?' said Caleb, 'when they're open.'

'Open or shut,' said the spook, 'it's all one.'

'Well, then,' said Caleb, 'what about the windows?'

'Every bit as bad,' said the spook, 'They're all pointed.' Caleb felt
out of his depth. Open doors and windows that kept a person in--if it
was a person--seemed to want a little understanding. And the flimsier
the person, too, the easier it ought to be for him to go where he
wanted. Also, what could it matter whether they were pointed to not?

The latter question was the one which Caleb asked first.

'Six hundred years ago,' said the Spook, 'all arches were made round,
and when these pointed things came in I cursed them. I hate new-
fangled things.'

'That wouldn't hurt them much,' said Caleb.

'I said I would never go under one of them,' said the spook.

'That would matter more to you than to them,' said Caleb.

'It does,' said the spook, with another great sigh.

'But you could easily change your mind,' said Caleb.

'I was tied to it,' said the spook, 'I was told that I never more
should go under one of them, whether I would or not.'

'Some people will tell you anything,' answered Caleb.

'It was a Bishop,' explained the spook.

'Ah!' said Caleb, 'that's different, of course.'

The spook told Caleb how often he had tried to go under the pointed
arches, sometimes of the doors, sometimes of the windows, and how a
stream of wind always struck him from the point of the arch, and
drifted him back into the church. He had long given up trying.

'You should have been outside,' said Caleb, 'before they built the
last door.'

'It was my church,' said the spook, 'and I was too proud to leave.'

Caleb began to sympathize with the spook. He had a pride in the church
himself, and disliked even to hear another person say Amen before him.
He also began to be a little jealous of this stranger who had been six
hundred years in possession of the church in which Caleb had believed
himself, under the vicar, to be master. And he began to plot.

'Why do you want to get out?' he asked..'I'm no use here,' was the
reply, 'I don't get enough to do to keep myself warm. And I know there
are scores of churches now without any kirk-spooks at all. I can hear
their cheap little bells dinging every Sunday.'

'There's very few bells hereabouts,' said Caleb.

'There's no hereabouts for spooks,' said the other. 'We can hear any
distance you like.'

'But what good are you at all?' said Caleb.

'Good!' said the spook. 'Don't we secure proper respect for churches,
especially after dark? A church would be like any other place if it
wasn't for us. You must know that.'

'Well, then,' said Caleb, 'you're no good here. This church is all
right. What will you give me to let you out?'

'Can you do it?' asked the spook.

'What will you give me?' said Caleb.

'I'll say a good word for you amongst the spooks,' said the other.

'What good will that do me?' said Caleb.

'A good word never did anybody any harm yet,' answered the spook.

'Very well then, come along,' said Caleb.

'Gently then,' said the spook; 'don't make a draught.'

'Not yet,' said Caleb, and he drew the spook very carefully (as one
takes a vessel quite full of water) from the seat.

'I can't go under pointed arches,' cried the spook, as Caleb moved

'Nobody wants you to,' said Caleb. 'Keep close to me.'

He led the spook down the aisle to the angle of the wall where a small
iron shutter covered an opening into the flue. It was used by the
chimney sweep alone, but Caleb had another use for it now. Calling to
the spook to keep close, he suddenly removed the shutter.

The fires were by this time burning briskly. There was a strong up-
draught as the shutter was removed. Caleb felt something rush across
his face, and heard a cheerful laugh away up in the chimney. Then he
knew that he was alone. He replaced the shutter, gave another look at
his stoves, took the keys, and made his way home.

He found his wife asleep in her chair, sat down and took off his
boots, and awakened her by throwing them across the kitchen.

'I've been wondering when you'd wake,' he said.

'What?' she said, 'Have you been in long?'

'Look at the clock,' said Caleb. 'Half after twelve.'

'My gracious,' said his wife. 'Let's be off to bed.'

'Did you tell her about the spook?' he was naturally asked.

'Not I,' said Caleb. 'You knew what she'd say. Same as she always does
of a Saturday night.'

This fable Mr Batchel related with reluctance. His attitude towards it
was wholly deprecatory.

Psychic phenomena, he said, lay outside the province of the mere
humourist, and the levity with which they had been treated was largely
responsible for the presumptuous materialism of the age.

He said more, as he warmed to the subject, than can here be repeated.
The reader of the foregoing tales, however, will be interested to know
that Mr Batchel's own attitude was one of humble curiosity. He refused
even to guess why the revenant was sometimes invisible, and at other
times partly or wholly visible; sometimes capable of using physical
force, and at other times powerless. He knew that they had their
periods, and that was all..There is room, he said, for the romancer in
these matters; but for the humourist, none.

Romance was the play of intelligence about the confines of truth. The
invisible world, like the visible, must have its romancers, its
explorers, and its interpreters; but the time of the last was not yet

Criticism, he observed in conclusion, was wholesome and necessary. But
of the idle and mischievous remarks which were wont to pose as
criticism, he held none in so much contempt as the cheap and
irrational POOH-POOH.


William Whitehead, Fellow of Emmanuel College, in the University of
Cambridge, became Vicar of Stoneground in the year 1731. The annals of
his incumbency were doubtless short and simple: they have not
survived. In his day were no newspapers to collect gossip, no Parish
Magazines to record the simple events of parochial life. One event,
however, of greater moment then than now, is recorded in two places.
Vicar Whitehead failed in health after 23 years of work, and journeyed
to Bath in what his monument calls 'the vain hope of being restored'.
The duration of his visit is unknown; it is reasonable to suppose that
he made his journey in the summer, it is certain that by the month of
November his physician told him to lay aside all hope of recovery.

Then it was that the thoughts of the patient turned to the comfortable
straggling vicarage he had left at Stoneground, in which he had hoped
to end his days. He prayed that his successor might be as happy there
as he had been himself. Setting his affairs in Qrder, as became one
who had but a short time to live, he executed a will, bequeathing to
the Vicars of Stoneground, for ever, the close of ground he had
recently purchased because it lay next the vicarage garden. And by a
codicil, he added to the bequest his library of books. Within a few
days, William Whitehead was gathered to his fathers.

A mural tablet in the north aisle of the church, records, in Latin,
his services and his bequests, his two marriages, and his fruitless
journey to Bath. The house he loved, but never again saw, was taken
down 40 years later, and re-built by Vicar James Devie. The garden,
with Vicar Whitehead's 'close of ground' and other adjacent lands, was
opened out and planted, somewhat before 1850, by Vicar Robert
Towerson. The aspect of everything has changed But in a convenient
chamber on the first floor of the present vicarage the library of
Vicar Whitehead stands very much as he used it and loved it, and as he
bequeathed it to his successors 'for ever'.

The hooks there are arranged as he arranged and ticketed them. Little
slips of paper, sometimes bearing interesting fragments of writing,
still mark his places. His marginal comments still give life to pages
from which all other interest has faded, and he would have but a dull
imagination who could sit in the chamber amidst these books without
ever being carried back 180 years into the past, to the time when the
newest of them left the printer's hands.

Of those into whose possession the books have come, some have
doubtless loved them more, and some less; some, perhaps, have left
them severely alone. But neither those who loved them, nor those who
loved them not, have lost them, and they passed, some century and a
half after William Whitehead's death, into the hands of Mr Batchel,
who loved them as a father loves his children. He lived alone, and had
few domestic cares to distract his mind. He was able, therefore, to
enjoy to the full what Vicar Whitehead had enjoyed so long before him.
During many a long summer evening would he sit poring over long-
forgotten books; and since the chamber, otherwise called the library,
faced the south, he could also spend sunny winter mornings there
without discomfort. Writing at a small table, or reading as he stood
at a tall desk, he would browse amongst the books like an ox in a
pleasant pasture.

There were other times also, at which Mr Batchel would use the books.
Not being a sound sleeper (for book-loving men seldom are), he elected
to use as a bedroom one of the two chambers which opened at either
side into the library. The arrangement enabled him to beguile.many a
sleepless hour amongst the books, and in view of these nocturnal
visits he kept a candle standing in a sconce above the desk, and
matches always ready to his hand.

There was one disadvantage in this close proximity of his bed to the
library. Owing, apparently, to some defect in the fittings of the
room, which, having no mechanical tastes, Mr Batchel had never
investigated, there could be heard, in the stillness of the night,
exactly such sounds as might arise from a person moving about amongst
the books. Visitors using the other adjacent room would often remark
at breakfast, that they had heard their host in the library at one or
two o'clock in the morning, when, in fact, he had not left his bed.
Invariably Mr Batchel allowed them to suppose that he had been where
they thought him. He disliked idle controversy, and was unwilling to
afford an opening for supernatural talk. Knowing well enough the
sounds by which his guests had been deceived, he wanted no other
explanation of them than his own, though it was of too vague a
character to count as an explanation. He conjectured that the window-
sashes, or the doors, or 'something', were defective, and was too
phlegmatic and too un-practical to make any investigation. The matter
gave him no concern.

Persons whose sleep is uncertain are apt to have their worst nights
when they would like their best. The consciousness of a special need
for rest seems to bring enough mental disturbance to forbid it. So on
Christmas Eye, in the year 1907, Mr Batchel, who would have liked to
sleep well, in view of the labours of Christmas Day, lay hopelessly
wide awake. He exhausted all the known devices for courting sleep,
and, at the end, found himself wider awake than ever. A brilliant moon
shone into his room, for he hated window-blinds. There was a light
wind blowing, and the sounds in the library were more than usually
suggestive of a person moving about. He almost determined to have the
sashes 'seen to', although he could seldom be induced to have anything
'seen to'. He disliked changes, even for the better, and would submit
to great inconvenience rather than have things altered with which he
had become familiar.

As he revolved these matters in his mind, he heard the clocks strike
the hour of midnight, and having now lost all hope of falling asleep,
he rose from his bed, got into a large dressing gown which hung in
readiness for such occasions, and passed into the library, with the
intention of reading himself sleepy, if he could.

The moon, by this time, had passed out of the south, and the library
seemed all the darker by contrast with the moonlit chamber he had
left. He could see nothing but two blue-grey rectangles formed by the
windows against the sky, the furniture of the room being altogether

Groping along to where the table stood, Mr Batchel felt over its
surface for the matches which usually lay there; he found, however,
that the table was cleared of everything. He raised his right hand,
therefore, in order to feel his way to a shelf where the matches were
sometimes mislaid, and at that moment, whilst his hand was in mid-air,
the matchbox was gently put into it!

Such an incident could hardly fail to disturb even a phlegmatic
person, and Mr Batchel cried 'Who's this?' somewhat nervously. There
was no answer. He struck a match, looked hastily round the room, and
found it empty, as usual. There was everything, that is to say, that
he was accustomed to see, but no other person than himself.

It is not quite accurate, however, to say that everything was in its
usual state. Upon the tall desk lay a quarto volume that he had
certainly not placed there. It was his quite invariable practice to
replace his books upon the shelves after using them, and what we may
call his library habits were precise and methodical. A book out of
place like this, was not only an offence against good order, but a
sign that his privacy had been intruded upon. With some surprise,
therefore, he lit the candle standing ready in the sconce, and
proceeded to examine the book, not sorry, in the disturbed condition
in which he was, to have an occupation found for him..The book proved
to be one with which he was unfamiliar, and this made it certain that
some other hand than his had removed it from its place. Its title was
'The Compleat Gard'ner' of M. de la Quintinye made English by John
Evelyn Esquire. It was not a work in which Mr Batchel felt any great
interest. It consisted of divers reflections on various parts of
husbandry, doubtless entertaining enough, but too deliberate and
discursive for practical purposes. He had certainly never used the
book, and growing restless now in mind, said to himself that some boy
having the freedom of the house, had taken it down from its place in
the hope of finding pictures.

But even whilst he made this explanation he felt its weakness. To
begin with, the desk was too high for a boy. The improbability that
any boy would place a book there was equalled by the improbability
that he would leave it there. To discover its uninviting character
would be the work only of a moment, and no boy would have brought it
so far from its shelf.

Mr Batchel had, however, come to read, and habit was too strong with
him to be wholly set aside. Leaving 'The Compleat Gard'ner' on the
desk, he turned round to the shelves to find some more congenial

Hardly had he done this when he was startled by a sharp rap upon the
desk behind him, followed by a rustling of paper. He turned quickly
about and saw the quarto lying open. In obedience to the instinct of
the moment, he at once sought a natural cause for what he saw. Only a
wind, and that of the strongest, could have opened the book, and laid
back its heavy cover; and though he accepted, for a brief moment, that
explanation, he was too candid to retain it longer.

The wind out of doors was very light. The window sash was closed and
latched, and, to decide the matter finally, the book had its back, and
not its edges, turned towards the only quarter from which a wind could

Mr Batchel approached the desk again and stood over the book. With
increasing perturbation of mind (for he still thought of the matchbox)
he looked upon the open page. Without much reason beyond that he felt
constrained to do something, he read the words of the half completed
sentence at the turn of the page--'at dead of night he left the house
and passed into the solitude of the garden.'

But he read no more, nor did he give himself the trouble of
discovering whose midnight wandering was being described, although the
habit was singularly like one of his own. He was in no condition for
reading, and turning his back upon the volume he slowly paced the
length of the chamber, 'wondering at that which had come to pass.'

He reached the opposite end of the chamber and was in the act of
turning, when again he heard the rustling of paper, and by the time he
had faced round, saw the leaves of the book again turning over. In a
moment the volume lay at rest, open in another place, and there was no
further movement as he approached it. To make sure that he had not
been deceived, he read again the words as they entered the page. The
author was following a not uncommon practice of the time, and throwing
common speech into forms suggested by Holy Writ: 'So dig,' it said,
'that ye may obtain.'

This passage, which to Mr Batchel seemed reprehensible in its levity,
excited at once his interest and his disapproval. He was prepared to
read more, but this time was not allowed. Before his eye could pass
beyond the passage already cited, the leaves of the book slowly turned
again, and presented but a termination of five words and a colophon.

The words were, 'to the North, an Ilex.' These three passages, in
which he saw no meaning and no connection, began to entangle
themselves together in Mr Batchel's mind. He found himself repeating
them in different orders, now beginning with one, and now with
another. Any further attempt at reading he felt to be impossible, and
he was in no mind for any more experiences of the unaccountable. Sleep
was, of course, further from him than ever, if that were conceivable.
What he did, therefore, was to blow out the candle, to return to his
moonlit bedroom, and put on more clothing, and then to pass downstairs
with the object of going out of doors.

It was not unusual with Mr Batchel to walk about his garden at
nighttime. This form of exercise had often, after a wakeful hour, sent
him back to his bed refreshed and ready for sleep.

The convenient access to the garden at such times lay through his
study, whose French windows opened on to a short flight of steps, and
upon these he now paused for a moment to admire the snow-like
appearance of the lawns, bathed as they were in the moonlight. As he
paused, he heard the city clocks strike the half-hour after midnight,
and he could not forbear repeating aloud 'At dead of night he left the
house, and passed into the solitude of the garden.'

It was solitary enough. At intervals the screech of an owl, and now
and then the noise of a train, seemed to emphasise the solitude by
drawing attention to it and then leaving it in possession of the
night. Mr Batchel found himself wondering and conjecturing what Vicar
Whitehead, who had acquired the close of land to secure quiet and
privacy for a garden, would have thought of the railways to the west
and north. He turned his face northwards, whence a whistle had just
sounded, and saw a tree beautifully outlined against the sky. His
breath caught at the sight. Not because the tree was unfamiliar. Mr
Batchel knew all his trees. But what he had seen was 'to the north, an

Mr Batchel knew not what to make of it all. He had walked into the
garden hundreds of times and as often seen the Ilex, but the words out
of 'The Compleat Gard'ner' seemed to be pursuing him in a way that
made him almost afraid. His temperament, however, as has been said
already, was phlegmatic. It was commonly said, and Mr Batchel approved
the verdict, whilst he condemned its inexactness, that 'his nerves
were made of fiddle-string', so he braced himself afresh and set upon
his walk round the silent garden, which he was accustomed to begin in
a northerly direction, and was now too proud to change. He usually
passed the Ilex at the beginning of his perambulation, and so would
pass it now.

He did not pass it. A small discovery, as he reached it, annoyed and
disturbed him. His gardener, as careful and punctilious as himself,
never failed to house all his tools at the end of a day's work. Yet
there, under the Ilex, standing upright in moonlight brilliant enough
to cast a shadow of it, was a spade.

Mr Batchel's second thought was one of relief. After his extraordinary
experiences in the library (he hardly knew now whether they had been
real or not) something quite commonplace would act sedatively, and he
determined to carry the spade to the tool-house.

The soil was quite dry, and the surface even a little frozen, so Mr
Batchel left the path, walked up to the spade, and would have drawn it
towards him. But it was as if he had made the attempt upon the trunk
of the Ilex itself. The spade would not be moved. Then, first with one
hand, and then with both, he tried to raise it, and still it stood
firm. Mr Batchel, of course, attributed this to the frost, slight as
it was. Wondering at the spade's being there, and annoyed at its being
frozen, he was about to leave it and continue his walk, when the
remaining works of 'The Compleat Gard'ner' seemed rather to utter
themselves, than to await his will--.'So dig, that ye may obtain.'

Mr Batchel's power of independent action now deserted him. He took the
spade, which no longer resisted, and began to dig. 'Five spadefuls and
no more,' he said aloud. 'This is all foolishness.'

Four spadefuls of earth he then raised and spread out before him in
the moonlight. There was nothing unusual to be seen. Nor did Mr
Batchel decide what he would look for, whether coins, jewels,
documents in canisters, or weapons. In point of fact, he dug against
what he deemed his better judgement, and expected nothing. He spread
before him the fifth and last spadeful of earth, not quite without
result, but with no result that was at all sensational. The earth
contained a bone.

Mr Batchel's knowledge of anatomy was sufficient to show him that it
was a human bone. He identified it, even by moonlight, as the radius,
a bone of the forearm, as he removed the earth from it, with his

Such a discovery might be thought worthy of more than the very
ordinary interest Mr Batchel showed. As a matter of fact, the presence
of a human bone was easily to be accounted for.

Recent excavations within the church had caused the upturning of
numberless bones, which had been collected and reverently buried. But
an earth-stained bone is also easily overlooked, and this radius had
obviously found its way into the garden with some of the earth brought
out of the church.

Mr Batchel was glad, rather than regretful at this termination to his
adventure. He was once more provided with something to do. The
reinterment of such bones as this had been his constant care, and he
decided at once to restore the bone to consecrated earth. The time
seemed opportune. The eyes of the curious were closed in sleep, he
himself was still alert and wakeful.

The spade remained by his side and the bone in his hand. So he betook
himself, there and then, to the churchyard. By the still generous
light of the moon, he found a place where the earth yielded to his
spade, and within a few minutes the bone was laid decently to earth,
some 18 inches deep.

The city clocks struck one as he finished. The whole world seemed
asleep, and Mr Batchel slowly returned to the garden with his spade.
As he hung it in its accustomed place he felt stealing over him the
welcome desire to sleep. He walked quietly on to the house and
ascended to his room. It was now dark: the moon had passed on and left
the room in shadow. He lit a candle, and before undressing passed into
the library. He had an irresistible curiosity to see the passages in
John Evelyn's book which had so strangely adapted themselves to the
events of the past hour.

In the library a last surprise awaited him. The desk upon which the
book had lain was empty.

'The Compleat Gardener' stood in its place on the shelf. And then Mr
Batchel knew that he had handled a bone of William Whitehead, and that
in response to his own entreaty.


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