By Andrew E. Svenson
April 24, 1936
All the folks around Lyons grieved when old Mary Selby died last Spring. Mary could tell stories and when I saw her the last time that big diamond on her wrinkled hand reminded me of the yarn, she told me when I was a kid.
It was dusk in early Summer. A light mist had settled in the back of Mary’s farm when I dropped in. That evening is far away, but I still can hear Mary trail off the ends of her words in a whisper like the marsh noises.
Vance Abercrombie helped Mary across the street that sunny morning of their wedding. They left the manse hand in hand, hurrying to the curb where the rig stood. Vance’s long arms fairly hurled Mary into the seat. She was trembly when she laid her tiny hand over his. The diamond on her finger scattered fire.
“Vance, darling, we’re married. Oh, I can’t believe it. But this!” She stretched a slender hand. “I never dreamed your mother planned it for me.”
Vance smiled down as the mare trotted off.
“It’s a lucky ring. Wife of the first son has had it for five generations. You knew that.”
They laughed and Mary edged closer.
Three weeks of heaven followed for Vance. Then he cursed the Abercrombie lucky ring.
The world swirled about him. His mind seemed leaden, flailing in a black flood for just a glimpse of light, just a vision of Mary’s smile. She was dead.
Dr. Elliott laid a hand on Vance’s shoulder. “It happens that way, lad,” he said. “No one seems to be able to explain it. Epilepsy acts queerly. That’s why she just fell over. There’s nothing we can do.”
Vance reeled inwardly. The only sensation was burning. His eyes were burning, everything.
“Undertaker?” The doctor’s words came faintly.
“No!” He leaped up. “No. No one shall touch her!”
The day was dripping when the team bore Mary’s casket slowly out Green Township Road. Nearly all of Lyons followed, some of the younger folk walking the four miles to Cemetery Hill.
When dirt thudded down on the coffin top the gray sky seemed to be closing in. They carried Vance away.
Someone had remarked about four strangers stranding on the fringe of the mourners, but nobody paid much attention. They weren’t even noticed lagging when the party started back toward Lyons.
Darkness rushed quickly up the slope of Cemetery Hill. In the stillness cut flowers on the fresh grave tried feebly to close. But not until a lamp cast a yellow beam from the window of Jonah Clemson’s farm a quarter of a mile away did anything disturb the hush over Mary Abercrombie.
Four figures trudged up the hill and stepped quickly over the barberry bordering the graveyard. Straight toward the fresh sod on Mary’s mound they went. Then they stopped suddenly, listened.
Four spades began pushing into the loose soil. Silently they worked, breathing laboredly by the time they reached the box. One of them chuckled when he scraped the dirt off the top. They lifted it out, then pried at the hinges.
It wasn’t until the satin-lined lid fell back onto the pile of earth that anyone spoke.
“Aye, quite a young lady. We’ll get a fancy price for this. Look, that ring!”
He was holding a match over Mary and the diamond cast out more flame than the curling chip.
“Can’t say we expected this,” the tall one said hoarsely. He reached for the hand. The fingers were cool as he tugged.
“Your knife,” the tall one said anxiously.
The one at his side moved quickly. A blade clicked open like a cocked trigger.
Screams startled Jonah Clemson and his wife. The farmer leaped from bed, calling his two sons. Soon, with shotguns swinging at their sides, they loped up the slope toward Cemetery Hill.
Jonah thought he knew what to expect. Green Township had been raided by ghouls the month before. But Jonah was puzzled by one thing. “I wonder why they made a noise,” he yelled to the boys.
Mary was stirring when the youths arrived. The clouds were scudding away, and a piece of the moon cast a dim glow on Mary. The boys gaped until their father caught up. The diamond flashed, then was obscured. Mary’s finger was bleeding.
Lyons was buzzing like a fly on a windowpane the next morning. Vance was nearly delirious. Mary as wan. She smiled in snatches. Nothing seemed to bother Dr. Elliott. As he dressed the finger he said, “Deep cut, but it will be as good as new in a week.”
That was the same Mary I saw for the last time not so long ago. The diamond was still on her finger. Mary never had a son, nor a daughter.
Lucky ring of the Abercrombies is in Cemetery Hill again, this time for good. That’s what Mary wanted.