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The Curious Dream
by [?]

“You begin to comprehend–you begin to see how it is. While our descendants are living sumptuously on our money, right around us in the city, we have to fight hard to keep skull and bones together. Bless you, there isn’t a grave in our cemetery that doesn’t leak not one. Every time it rains in the night we have to climb out and roost in the trees and sometimes we are wakened suddenly by the chilly water trickling down the back of our necks. Then I tell you there is a general heaving up of old graves and kicking over of old monuments, and scampering of old skeletons for the trees! Bless me, if you had gone along there some such nights after twelve you might have seen as many as fifteen of us roosting on one limb, with our joints rattling drearily and the wind wheezing through our ribs! Many a time we have perched there for three or four dreary hours, and then come down, stiff and chilled through and drowsy, and borrowed each other’s skulls to bail out our graves with–if you will glance up in my mouth now as I tilt my head back, you can see that my head-piece is half full of old dry sediment how top-heavy and stupid it makes me sometimes! Yes, sir, many a time if you had happened to come along just before the dawn you’d have caught us bailing out the graves and hanging our shrouds on the fence to dry. Why, I had an elegant shroud stolen from there one morning–think a party by the name of Smith took it, that resides in a plebeian graveyard over yonder–I think so because the first time I ever saw him he hadn’t anything on but a check shirt, and the last time I saw him, which was at a social gathering in the new cemetery, he was the best-dressed corpse in the company–and it is a significant fact that he left when he saw me; and presently an old woman from here missed her coffin–she generally took it with her when she went anywhere, because she was liable to take cold and bring on the spasmodic rheumatism that originally killed her if she exposed herself to the night air much. She was named Hotchkiss–Anna Matilda Hotchkiss–you might know her? She has two upper front teeth, is tall, but a good deal inclined to stoop, one rib on the left side gone, has one shred of rusty hair hanging from the left side of her head, and one little tuft just above and a little forward of her right ear, has her underjaw wired on one side where it had worked loose, small bone of left forearm gone–lost in a fight has a kind of swagger in her gait and a ‘gallus’ way of going with: her arms akimbo and her nostrils in the air has been pretty free and easy, and is all damaged and battered up till she looks like a queensware crate in ruins–maybe you have met her?”

“God forbid!” I involuntarily ejaculated, for somehow I was not looking for that form of question, and it caught me a little off my guard. But I hastened to make amends for my rudeness, and say, “I simply meant I had not had the honor–for I would not deliberately speak discourteously of a friend of yours. You were saying that you were robbed–and it was a shame, too–but it appears by what is left of the shroud you have on that it was a costly one in its day. How did–“

A most ghastly expression began to develop among the decayed features and shriveled integuments of my guest’s face, and I was beginning to grow uneasy and distressed, when he told me he was only working up a deep, sly smile, with a wink in it, to suggest that about the time he acquired his present garment a ghost in a neighboring cemetery missed one. This reassured me, but I begged him to confine himself to speech thenceforth, because his facial expression was uncertain. Even with the most elaborate care it was liable to miss fire. Smiling should especially be avoided. What he might honestly consider a shining success was likely to strike me in a very different light. I said I liked to see a skeleton cheerful, even decorously playful, but I did not think smiling was a skeleton’s best hold.