Nathaniel Makepeace

Nathanial Makepeace graveyard

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ll within were making merry, as one might expect, for it was Christmas Eve. All except two unsavoury characters huddled in the corner of the Cheapside tavern. Flagons and pockets empty, they sat with morose expressions upon their visages, seemingly oblivious of the sounds of laughter all around. An unexpected visitor came to the table, sitting down without waiting for an invitation. In less than a minute their faces brightened. For a full five minutes the trio were deep in conversation. Then the visitor slipped away, lost to the darkness of the night. His leaving was not unnoticed. More than a handful of revellers observed the out-of-place apparel; that of a gentleman — velvet greatcoat, top hat, polished ebony cane surmounted by a large silver ball. But it was the season to be jolly, and there was no time to dwell on such things. The stranger was as quickly forgotten, as his arrival and his departure.

The two ordered drinks, for now they had money. It was only when the tavern closed that they ventured into the cold dark night, and scurried along now deserted narrow streets, stopping briefly to retrieve a spade and pick, which had been thoughtfully left by a gang of road menders, before hurrying towards the church and the objective of their journey: the graveyard.

The two rag-a-muffins cursed as they labored. Neither pick nor spade made any impression on the mound of frozen soil, which marked the site of a fresh grave. Pausing to warm their chilled bones, by downing half a hip flask of brandy each, they rested on the improvised seat of a tombstone. The stranger, who had paid them to liberate the recently deceased from his final place of rest, would not be pleased. What were they to do? Then, like a guiding light, the full moon struck the marble mausoleum not twenty paces away. Not two weeks past the wife of Nathaniel Makepeace, former editor of the London Chronicle, had been interned within, joining once more her late husband who had died four years earlier. Would the stranger mind if female, not male? Surely not? In the business, one cadaver was as good as another. So cold the weather, everything would be preserved; better than an icebox.
The lock on the heavy metal door soon gave way to their attention, for the duo were as apt at picking locks to steal property, as robbing graves. Both gates pushed open wide, the interior illuminated to a shaft of moonlight. Two coffins were plainly seen within.

Entering, it was easy to distinguish new from old, for one was bright mahogany; the other covered in a thin layer of white dust, like haw-frost on the ground outside. One grave robber proceeded to lever off the lid the newer casket, but was stopped by the other, who with the cuff of his sleeve had idly polished the nameplate on the other coffin. In the ghostly light, together they stooped to read:

Nathaniel Makepeace

RIP

A Merry Christmas To All Our Readers

Posted in Short Stories.