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The Last of the Costellos
by [?]

After several years’ service on the staff of a great daily newspaper in San Francisco, Gerald Ffrench returned to his home in Ireland to enjoy a three months’ vacation. A brief visit, when the time consumed in traveling was deducted, and the young journalist, on this January afternoon, realized that it was nearly over, and that his further stay in the country of his birth was now to be reckoned by days.

He had been spending an hour with his old friend, Dr. Lynn, and the clergyman accompanied him to the foot of the rectory lawn, and thence, through a wicket gate that opened upon the churchyard, along the narrow path among the graves. It was an obscure little country burying-ground, and very ancient. The grass sprang luxuriant from the mouldering dust of three hundred years; for so long at least had these few acres been consecrated to their present purpose.

“Well, I won’t go any further,” says Dr. Lynn, halting at the boundary wall, spanned by a ladder-like flight of wooden steps which connected the churchyard with the little bye-road. “I’ll say good evening, Gerald, and assure you I appreciate your kindness in coming over to see a stupid old man.”

“I would not hear thine enemy say that,” quoted Gerald with a light laugh. “I hope to spend another day as pleasantly before I turn my back on old Ireland.” He ran up the steps as he spoke and stood on the top of the wall, looking back to wave a last greeting before he descended. Suddenly he stopped.

“What’s that?” he asked, pointing down among the graves.

The rector turned, but the tall grass and taller nettles concealed from his view the object, whatever it might be, which Gerald had seen from his temporary elevation.

“It looks like a coffin,” and coming rapidly down again the young man pushed his way through the rank growth. The clergyman followed.

In a little depression between the mounds of two graves lay a plain coffin of stained wood. It was closed, but an attempt to move it showed that it was not empty. A nearer inspection revealed that the lid was not screwed down in the usual manner, but hastily fastened with nails. Dr. Lynn and Gerald looked at each other. There was something mysterious in the presence of this coffin above ground.

“Has there been a funeral–interrupted–or anything of that kind?” asked Gerald.

“Nothing of the sort. I wish Bolan were here. He might have something to say about it.”

Bolan was the sexton. Gerald knew where he lived, within a stone’s throw of the spot, and volunteered to fetch him. Dr. Lynn looked all over the sinister black box, but no plate or mark of any kind rewarded his search. Meanwhile, young Ffrench sped along the lower road to Bolan’s house.

The sexton was in, just preparing for a smoke in company with the local blacksmith, when Gerald entered with the news of the uncanny discovery in the churchyard. Eleven young Bolans, grouped around the turf fire, drank in the intelligence and instantly scattered to spread the report in eleven different directions. A tale confided to the Bolan household was confided to rumor.

Blacksmith and sexton rose together and accompanied Gerald to the spot where he had left Dr. Lynn, but Dr. Lynn was no longer alone. The rector had heard steps in the road; it was a constabulary patrol on its round, and the old gentleman’s hail had brought two policemen to his side. There they stood, profoundly puzzled and completely in the dark, except for the light given by their bull’s- eye lanterns. But the glare of these lanterns had been seen from the road. Some people shunned them, as lights in a graveyard should always be shunned; but others, hearing voices, had suffered their curiosity to overcome their misgivings, and were gathered around, silent, open-mouthed, wondering. So stood the group when Gerald and his companions joined it.