Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, October 30, 2022


 Alpheus Bings -- Thrill Hound:  The Death's-Head Mystery:


At the age when a youngster likes marbles and tops,

And indulges in bull's-eyes and pink lollipops,

A certain young person named Alpheus Bings,

Showed a positive bent for more serious things.

And nothing was able so strongly to rouse his

Attention and interest as old haunted houses,

And graveyards and specters with skeleton features

And goblins and such supernatural creatures.

Now when he attained man's estate, and the rank

Of a shiny-sleeved, pen-pushing clerk in a bank,

By day he filled ledgers with stunts in addition,

While at night, he'd fare forth on some thrill-hunting mission.

From outward appearance, you'd never have dreamed

That our hero was anything more than he seemed --

A spectacled clerk, with a rather weak chin,

A high bulging forehead, and feet that turned in,

A prominent nose and pale watery eyes,

And a definite passion for loud socks and ties.

Now, Alpheus Biggs had been told of a place,

Where a curious vision -- a death's-head face,

Would appear ev'ry night like an evil eye,

To scare timid persons meadering by.

The night that he heard the tale, Alpheus went

To the house which the specter was said to frequent --

A lonely old shack in a sparce-settled section,

It stood in the moonlight imviting inspection.

He had gone at an earlier hour of the day,

To examine the cottage and find out the lay

Of the land from a neighboring factory watchman --

A surly old son of a gun of a Scotchman,

Who said he'd been twenty-odd years on his post,

And had never observed any sign of a ghost.

When told about others who'd seen it, he laughed,

Then shifted his pipe and opined they were daft.

The hut was locked up all the time -- not a doubt of it;

Not even a ghost could get in or get out of it!

'Twas midnight when Alpheus Bings traveled back

To take up his vigil around the old shack.

Approaching on tiptoe, he strained ears and eyes

In the hope that he'd catch a stray spook by surprise;

But nothing rewarded his earnest endeavor.

The shack was as dark and deserted as ever.

And then he walked briskly, with firm swinging stride

Around to examine the opposite side.

He gasped in amaze.  The sight was too horrid!

A cold perspiration broke out on his forehead.

His knees knocked together; his wisdom teeth chattered.

His wits momentarily left him and scattered.

For, clearly revealed -- thought the moonlight was dim --

A grim, grisly death's-head was grinning at him!

Closer and closer young Alpheus came,

Till within just a foot of the shack window frame.

Then he halted abruptly, again seized with fear,

For a weird groaning sound was assaulting his ear.

'Twas not overloud, yet how plaintive and sad!

Like the moan of a soul who has gone to the bad.

His panic passed quickly; his heart again reckoned

Its usual quota of pulse beats a second.

The joy of the thrill hunt imbued him deliciously.

Discarding all fear, he advanced surreptitiously.

Another tense moment, then Alpheus lunged

And straight at the specter courageously plunged

As it squatted there grinning in horrible mockery.

A crash of glass followed; a clatter of crockery.

The weird groaning sound ceased abruptly, and then

He heard a voice shouting:  "Hoot, mon!  Do ye ken?

If ye want to come in, there's a dure o' the shack ajar.

Ye spook-hunting loon, ye have broken my 'bacca jar."

He followed the words with a haymaking swing

At Alpheus' head, which began then to sing,

And dizzily hum in a set of gyrations,

The while he saw dozens of bright constellations.

The watchman, it seemed, had a habit of shirking,

And snored in the shack when he should have been working.

His tobacco jar, fashioned to look like a skull,

He kept on the window, so that he could lull

His overwrought nerves with a pipeful on waking;

And this was the start of the ghost story's making.

One thing, though, is clear, you can say what you wish.

You can even call Alpheus Bings a poor fish.

You can censure his conduct throughout the whole history,

But you can't say he didn't unravel the whole mystery!

-- Rnald Oliphant, from The Thrill Book, April 15, 1919

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