A Corpse Claims Its Property

ghost stories of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 366
and similar frightening tales
translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2000-2014


Contents

  1. White Cap (Iceland).

  2. The Shroud (Russia).

  3. The Stolen Liver (Poland).

  4. Ahlemann (Germany).

  5. The Man from the Gallows (Germany).

  6. The Burial Dress (Germany).

  7. The Audacious Girl (Germany).

  8. The Golden Leg (Germany).

  9. Saddaedda (Italy).

  10. The Golden Arm (England).

  11. The Golden Cup (England).

  12. Teeny-Tiny (England).

  13. Give Me My Teeth (England).

  14. The Old Man at the White House (England).

  15. A Ghost Story (African-American, Joel Chandler Harris).

  16. How to Tell a Story: The Golden Arm (African-American, Mark Twain).

  17. Related links.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

White Cap

Iceland

A certain boy and girl, whose names this tale telleth not, once lived near a church. The boy being mischievously inclined, was in the habit of trying to frighten the girl in a variety of ways, till she became at last so accustomed to his tricks, that she ceased to care for anything whatever, putting down everything strange that she saw and heard to the boy's mischief.

One washing-day, the girl was sent by her mother to fetch home the linen, which had been spread to dry in the churchyard. When she had nearly filled her basket, she happened to look up, and saw sitting on a tomb near her a figure dressed in white from head to foot, but was not the least alarmed, believing it to be the boy playing her, as usual, a trick. So she ran up to it, and pulling its cap off said, "You shall not frighten me, this time."

Then when she had finished collecting the linen she went home. But, to her astonishment -- for he could not have reached home before her without her seeing him -- the boy was the first person who greeted her on her arrival at the cottage.

Among the linen, too, when it was sorted, was found a moldy white cap, which appeared to be nobody's property, and which was half full of earth.

The next morning the ghost (for it was a ghost that the girl had seen) was found sitting with no cap upon its head, upon the same tombstone as the evening before. And as nobody had the courage to address it, or knew in the least how to get rid of it, they sent into the neighboring village for advice.

An old man declared that the only way to avoid some general calamity, was for the little girl to replace on the ghost's head the cap she had seized from it, in the presence of many people, all of whom were to be perfectly silent. So a crowd collected in the churchyard, and the little girl, going forward, half afraid, with the cap, placed it upon the ghost's head, saying, "Are you satisfied now?"

But the ghost, raising its hand, gave her a fearful blow, and said, "Yes, but are you now satisfied?"

The little girl fell down dead, and at the same instant the ghost sank into the grave upon which it had been sitting, and was no more seen.




The Shroud

Russia

In a certain village there was a girl who was lazy and slothful, hated working, but would gossip and chatter away like anything! Well, she took it into her head to invite the other girls to a spinning party. For in the villages, as every one knows, it is the lazybones who gives the spinning feast, and the sweet-toothed are those who go to it.

Well, on the appointed night she got her spinners together. They span for her, and she fed them and feasted them. Among other things they chatted about was this -- which of them all was the boldest?

Says the lazybones, "I'm not afraid of anything!"

"Well then," say the spinners, "if you're not afraid, go past the graveyard to the church, take down the holy picture from the door, and bring it here."

"Good, I'll bring it; only each of you must spin me a distaff-full."

That was just her sort of notion: to do nothing herself, but to get others to do it for her. Well, she went, took down the picture, and brought it home with her. Her friends all saw that sure enough it was the picture from the church. But the picture had to be taken back again, and it was now the midnight hour. Who was to take it? At length the lazybones said, "You girls go on spinning. I'll take it back myself. I'm not afraid of anything!"

So she went and put the picture back in its place. As she was passing the graveyard on her return, she saw a corpse in a white shroud, seated on a tomb. It was a moonlight night; everything was visible. She went up to the corpse, and drew away its shroud from it. The corpse held its peace, not uttering a word; no doubt the time for it to speak had not come yet. Well, she took the shroud and went home.

"There!" says she, "I've taken back the picture and put it in its place; and, what's more, here's a shroud I took away from a corpse." Some of the girls were horrified; others didn't believe what she said, and laughed at her.

But after they had supped and lain down to sleep, all of a sudden the corpse tapped at the window and said, "Give me my shroud! Give me my shroud!"

The girls were so frightened they didn't know whether they were alive or dead. But the lazybones took the shroud, went to the window, opened it, and said, "There, take it."

"No," replied the corpse, "restore it to the place you took it from." Just then the cocks suddenly began to crow. The corpse disappeared.

Next night, when the spinners had all gone home to their own houses, at the very same hour as before, the corpse came, tapped at the window, and cried, "Give me my shroud!"

Well, the girl's father and mother opened the window and offered him his shroud. "No," says he, "let her take it back to the place she took it from."

"Really now, how could one go to a graveyard with a corpse? What a horrible idea!" she replied. Just then the cocks crew. The corpse disappeared.

Next day the girl's father and mother sent for the priest, told him the whole story, and entreated him to help them in their trouble. "Couldn't a service be performed?" they said.

The priest reflected awhile; then he replied, "Please tell her to come to church tomorrow."

Next day the lazybones went to church. The service began, numbers of people came to it. But just as they were going to sing the cherubim song, there suddenly arose, goodness knows whence, so terrible a whirlwind that all the congregation fell flat on their faces. And it caught up that girl, and then flung her down on the ground. The girl disappeared from sight; nothing was left of her but her back hair.




The Stolen Liver

Poland

In the village of Hammer near Czernikowo many years ago there lived a young married couple. The wife loved to eat liver and could not live if she didn't eat a liver every day. One day she sent her husband once again to town to fetch a liver. However, in Czernikowo the husband met a group of young merrymakers and went with them to a tavern, where he drank away all his money.

Sad, and without the liver, he made his way homeward. It was late. On his way he had to go through a great forest. Here he met a hunter, who asked him why he was so sad. The man told him everything, upon which the hunter said, "In the middle of the forest there is a clearing with a gallows, upon which a number of dead bodies are hanging. Take one of them down, cut out his liver, and give it to your wife. Tell her it is beef liver."

The man did just that.

When he arrived home his wife was at first angry because he had been away so long, but she calmed down as soon as she saw the liver, and began frying it. The man lay down and went to sleep.

Suddenly a white figure appeared at the window, and it cried into the room, "Everyone is asleep. The dogs are keeping watch in the yard. And you are standing there frying my liver."

The man was terrified, and in his fear he cried out to his wife that she should come to bed. But the wife wanted first to dip a little piece of bread into the gravy and taste it.

Meanwhile, the phantom, a white skeleton, had already entered the house, always calling out the same words again and again.

The woman was not afraid, but asked the ghost, "Now, my little fellow, what happened to your flesh?"

The ghost replied, "The ravens ate it, and the wind blew it away."

Then the woman asked, "Now, my little fellow, what happened to your eyes and ears?"

And the ghost answered, "The ravens ate them, and the wind blew them away."

The woman asked, "Now, my little fellow, what happened to your liver?"

Then the ghost cried out, "You have it!" And with that he seized the woman and strangled her to death.




Ahlemann

Germany

There was once a man named Ahlemann, and he had a wife and four children. One day he wanted to eat some liver, so he said, "Have it ready when I arrive home from work."

His wife went to town and bought a nice large liver. After it was fried, and the husband still hadn't come home, it smelled so good that wanted some ever so much. Finally she sat down and tasted it herself. First she ate just a very little piece, thinking, "He will never notice it." But then she cut off another little piece, and soon the entire liver was gone.

Then she became terribly frightened that her husband would scold her, so she ran to the gallows where someone was hanging whom they had hanged a short time ago. She cut out his liver and fried it.

When Ahlemann came home he sat down, and it tasted marvelous. Afterward he went for beer with his children.

Evening came, and it was already dark. The woman was lying in her bed when she heard something approaching her room. A voice called out, "Where is Ah-lemann? Where is Ah-lemann?"

She said, "Ahlemann has gone for beer with all four!"

But she heard it coming closer and closer, and she called out in fear, "Come Ah-lemann; come Ah-lemann. I am terribly afraid."

But it was to no avail. Suddenly it was standing before her bed, and it broke her neck.




The Man from the Gallows

Germany

Late one evening an old woman received guests. She had no more food and did not know what she could cook for them. She went to the gallows where a dead man was hanging and cut out his liver. This she fried for her guests, and they ate all of it.

At midnight someone knocked on the door of her hut. She woke up. There stood the dead man. His head was naked; he had no eyes; and there was a wound in his body.

"Where is your hair?"

"The wind blew it off."

"Where are your eyes?"

"The ravens picked them out."

"Where is your liver?"

"You ate it."




The Burial Dress

Germany

As was previously the custom, a woman made her own burial dress while she was still living. After she died, her daughter-in-law thought that a lesser dress would do just as well. Therefore she kept the burial dress for herself and dressed the dead woman in an old worn-out one. However, the old woman had scarcely been buried when in the evening a voice was heard in the parlor saying, "I want to have my dress." This happened every evening, and did not stop until the right dress was laid on the grave.




The Audacious Girl

Germany

1.

In Pinno some people lived directly next to the churchyard, and when their daughter went to the spinning room in the evening she always had to walk through the churchyard. The young fellows teased her about this and told her that something would happen to her if she continued to walk by herself through the churchyard. One evening when she was once again walking through the churchyard on her way to the spinning room, she saw a figure sitting on a grave. She thought it was one of the young fellows trying to frighten her, so she went up to the figure and ripped something off its body. She ran with it to the spinning room and said, "You tried to play a trick on me, but you failed! I took this away from the fellow who was trying to trick me!"

The other spinning girls said to her, "That is a burial shroud that you have in your hands."

She was frightened as she made her way home. The young fellows and girls went with her, and nothing happened to her.

In the night something knocked on her window, and a voice called out, "Give me my things. I'm freezing.!"

She was afraid to give the things back, and there came another knock. Then she opened the window a little and reached the things out with a stick. But outside no one took them.

Every night the knocking and the calling came again. Then the girl went with her mother to the pastor and told him about it. The pastor said that he and the teacher would go with her to take the things back to the same place where she had taken them. When all three were standing at the grave they heard the girl cry, "My Jesus! My Jesus!"

Suddenly the girl disappeared from their midst. They found only a few tattered pieces of her clothing lying there next to them. The Evil One had torn the girl apart and taken her with him.


2.

In a village there was once a very audacious girl who wanted to have something from the churchyard, for such things were considered to be of value. The girl went to the churchyard at twelve o'clock in the night. There she saw a white figure sitting on a grave. It had a white cloth wrapped around its head. The girl unwrapped the cloth and took it with her.

The next night the white figure came to the girl's bed and wanted the have the cloth back. This happened every night. Then the frightened girl ran to the pastor and told him about it. He said that she would have to take the cloth back to the place she had taken it from.

The following night the girl went to the churchyard. The white figure was sitting on the grave again, and she wrapped the cloth around its head. When the girl had done this she received a slap that knocked to the ground, and she was dead.




The Little Golden Leg

Germany

A distinguished lady once had a little girl. It cannot even be said how very, very much she loved her. Now the little girl went to school, and she walked on some ice, slipped and fell, and broke off one of her little legs. They picked her up and carried her back to her mother and told her that she had fallen on some ice and broken off one of her little legs. The mother cried many tears and then had the surgeon come and said to him, "If only you could bring the little girl so far that she could walk on her legs again."

The surgeon looked at the little leg from this side and that side and then said, "The girl must have a little golden leg."

So the mother had a little golden leg made and placed on the girl, but it did not help.

A little while later the door opened and Death entered. "Oh!" said the lady. "Are you going to take my dear, dear child away from me?"

"Yes," said Death, "her time and her hour have come. She must go with me."

"Oh!" said the mother to her child. "Are you going to leave me?"

"Mother, dear," said the child, "I must! I would like to stay here, but Death will not allow it."

Then Death took the little girl by the hand and went out the door with her.

When the child was buried the gravedigger broke open the casket and took the little golden leg off the little girl and went home with it. At the hour of midnight, the child came to the gravedigger's bed and said, "Give my little leg! Give me my little leg!"

But the gravedigger pretended that he did not hear her. So the child came the first night, and she came the second night, and she also came the third night, and said, "Give me my little leg! Give me my little leg!"

The third night the gravedigger said, "I do not have your little leg."

But the child did not allow herself to be made a fool of, and she said two times and three times, "Give me my little leg! Give me my little leg! There -- you -- have -- my -- little leg!"

This last sentence is to be suddenly shouted to the child who is anxiously listening. The child will jump with fear, then recover, and then laugh about being frightened. He will seldom ask about the conclusion, but if he does, the story ends thus:

From that hour on, the girl rested peacefully in her grave.




Saddaedda

Italy

Once upon a time there was a girl called Saddaedda, who was crazy. One day, when her mother had gone into the country and she was left alone in the house, she went into a church where the funeral service was being read over the body of a rich lady. The girl hid herself in the confessional. No one knew she was there. So, when the other people had gone, she was left alone with the corpse. It was dressed out in a rose-colored robe and everything else becoming, and it had earrings in its ears and rings on its fingers. These the girl took off, and then she began to undress the body. When she came to the stockings she drew off one easily, but at the other she had to pull so hard that at last the leg came off with it. Saddaedda took the leg, carried it to her lonely home, and locked it up in a box. At night came the dead lady and knocked at the door.

"Who's there?" said the girl.

"It is I," answered the corpse. "Give me back my leg and stocking!"

But Saddaedda paid no heed to the request. Next day she prepared a feast and invited some of her playfellows to spend the night with her. They came, feasted, and went to sleep. At midnight the dead woman began to knock at the door and to repeat last night's request. Saddaedda took no notice of the noise, but her companions, whom it awoke, were horrified, and as soon as they could, they ran away. On the third night just the same happened. On the fourth she could persuade only one girl to keep her company.

On the fifth she was left entirely alone. The corpse came, forced open the door, strode up to Saddaedda's bed, and strangled her. Then the dead woman opened the box, took out her leg and stocking, and carried them off with her to her grave.




The Golden Arm

England

There was once a man who traveled the land all over in search of a wife. He saw young and old, rich and poor, pretty and plain, and could not meet with one to his mind. At last he found a woman young, fair, and rich, who possessed the supreme, the crowning glory of having a right arm of solid gold. He married her at once, and thought no man so fortunate as he was. They lived happily together, but, though he wished people to think otherwise, he was fonder of the golden arm than of all his wife's gifts besides.

At last she died. The husband appeared inconsolable. He put on the blackest black, and pulled the longest face at the funeral. But for all that he got up in the middle of the night, dug up the body, and cut off the golden arm. He hurried home to secrete his recovered treasure, and thought no one would know.

The following night he put the golden arm under his pillow, and was just falling asleep, when the ghost of his dead wife glided into the room. Stalking up to the bedside it drew the curtain, and looked at him reproachfully. Pretending not to be afraid, he spoke to the ghost, and said, "What have you done with your cheeks so red."

"All withered and wasted away," replied the ghost, in a hollow tone.

"What have you done with your red rosy lips?"

"All withered and wasted away."

"What have you done with your golden hair?"

"All withered and wasted away."

"What have you done with your golden arm?"

"You have it!"




The Golden Cup

England

There was once a lady who had one little daughter, and this daughter had a beautiful golden cup. Now one day the lady was going out to visit her friends, and her little daughter asked if she might go too. Her mother said, "No, dear, I cannot take you now, but you can have your golden cup to play with until I come back."

When the mother had gone the little girl said to the maid, "Fetch me my golden cup out of the cupboard."

The maid said, "I can't fetch it now, I am too busy."

But the little girl, kept asking for the cup again and again, until at last the maid grew angry, and said, "If you ask for it again I'll cut your head off."

But the little girl asked for the cup once more, and thereupon the maid took her into the cellar, got the hatchet, and cut her head off. Then she got a pickaxe and a spade, and dug a hole, and buried the little girl under one of the stone flags in the cellar.

When the mother came back in the evening she said, "Where's baby?"

The maid said, "I have let her go out for a walk."

"Then go and seek her," said the mother.

The maid went out, and when she came back she said, "I have looked for her everywhere and cannot find her."

Then the mother was deeply grieved, and she sat up all that night, and all the next night. On the third night as she sat alone and wide awake she heard the voice of her daughter outside the door saying, "Can I have my golden cup?"

The mother opened the door, and when her daughter had repeated the question three times she saw her spirit, but the spirit vanished at once, and she never saw it more.




Teeny-Tiny

England

Once upon a time there was a teeny-tiny woman lived in a teeny-tiny house in a teeny-tiny village.

Now, one day this teeny-tiny woman put on her teeny-tiny bonnet, and went out of her teeny-tiny house to take a teeny-tiny walk. And when this teeny-tiny woman had gone a teeny-tiny way she came to a teeny-tiny gate. So the teeny-tiny woman opened the teeny-tiny gate, and went into a teeny-tiny churchyard. And when this teeny-tiny woman had got into the teeny-tiny churchyard, she saw a teeny-tiny bone on a teeny-tiny grave, and the teeny-tiny woman said to her teeny-tiny self, "This teeny-tiny bone will make me some teeny-tiny soup for my teeny-tiny supper."

So the teeny-tiny woman put the teeny-tiny bone into her teeny-tiny pocket, and went home to her teeny-tiny house.

Now when the teeny-tiny woman got home to her teeny-tiny house she was a teeny-tiny bit tired. So she went up her teeny-tiny stairs to her teeny-tiny bed, and put the teeny-tiny bone into a teeny-tiny cupboard. And when this teeny-tiny woman had been to sleep a teeny-tiny time, she was awakened by a teeny-tiny voice from the teeny-tiny cupboard, which said,

"Give me my bone!"

And this teeny-tiny woman was a teeny-tiny frightened, so she hid her teeny-tiny head under the teeny-tiny clothes and went to sleep again. And when she had been to sleep again a teeny-tiny time, the teeny-tiny voice again cried out from the teeny-tiny cupboard a teeny-tiny louder,

"Give me my bone!"

This made the teeny-tiny woman a teeny-tiny more frightened, so he hid her teeny-tiny head a teeny-tiny further under the teeny-tiny clothes. And when the teeny-tiny woman had been to sleep again a teeny-tiny time, the teeny-tiny voice from the teeny-tiny cupboard said again a teeny-tiny louder,

"Give me my bone!"

And this teeny-tiny woman was a teeny-tiny bit more frightened, but she put her teeny-tiny head out of the teeny-tiny clothes, and said in her loudest teeny-tiny voice, "TAKE IT!"




Give Me My Teeth

England

Mr. Halliwell gives us, in his Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales, the story of Teeny-Tiny. In this a little old woman takes a bone from the churchyard to make soup. She goes to bed, and puts the bone in the cupboard. During the night someone comes demanding the bone, and at length the terrified old woman gives it up.

A similar story is told in Cornwall.

An old lady had been to the church in the sands of Perranzabuloe. She found, amidst the numerous remains of mortality, some very good teeth. She pocketed these, and at night placed them on her dressing table before getting into bed. She slept, but was at length disturbed by someone calling out, "Give me my teeth. Give me my teeth."

At first, the lady took no notice of this, but the cry, "Give me my teeth," was so constantly repeated, that she, at last, in terror, jumped out of bed, took the teeth from the dressing table, and, opening the window, flung them out, exclaiming, "Drat the teeth, take 'em!"

They no sooner fell into the darkness on the road than hasty retreating footsteps were heard, and there were no more demands for the teeth.




The Old Man at the White House

England

There was once a man who lived in a white house in a certain village, and he knew everything about everybody that lived in the place.

In the same village there lived a woman who had a daughter called Sally, and one day she gave Sally a pair of yellow kid gloves and threatened to kill her if she lost them. Now Sally was very proud of her gloves, but she was careless enough to lose one of them. After she had lost it she went to a row of houses in the village and inquired at every door if they had seen her glove. But everybody said "No;" and she was told to go and ask the old man that lived in the white house.

So Sally went to the white house and asked the old man if he had seen her glove.

The old man said, "I have thy glove, and I will give it thee if thou wilt promise me to tell nobody where thou hast found it. And remember if thou tells anybody I shall fetch thee out of bed when the clock strikes twelve at night."

So he gave the glove back to Sally.

But Sally's mother got to know about her losing the glove, and said, "Where did thou find it?"

Sally said, "I daren't tell, for if I do an old man will fetch me out of bed at twelve o'clock at night."

Her mother said, "I will bar all the doors and fasten all the windows, and then he can't get in and fetch thee;" and then she made Sally tell her where she had found her glove.

So Sally's mother barred all the doors and fastened all the windows, and Sally went to bed at ten o'clock that night and began to cry. At eleven she began to cry louder, and at twelve o'clock she heard a voice saying in a whisper, but gradually getting louder and louder:

"Sally, I'm up one step."

"Sally, I'm up two steps."

"Sally, I'm up three steps."

"Sally, I'm up four steps."

"Sally, I'm up five steps."

"Sally, I'm up six steps."

"Sally, I'm up seven steps."

"Sally, I'm up eight steps."

"Sally, I'm up nine steps."

"Sally, I'm up ten steps."

"Sally, I'm up eleven steps."

"Sally, I'm up twelve steps!"

"Sally, I'm at thy bedroom door!!"

"Sally, I have hold of thee!!!"




A Ghost Story

Joel Chandler Harris

The next time the little boy visited Uncle Remus he persuaded Tildy to go with him. Daddy Jack was in his usual place, dozing and talking to himself, while Uncle Remus oiled the carriage harness. After a while Aunt Tempy came in.

The conversation turned on Daddy Jack's story about "haunts" and spirits [the previous story in the collection, "Spirits, Seen and Unseen"]. Finally Tildy said, "When it comes to tales about haunts, I hear tell of one that will just naturally make the kinks on your head uncurl themselves."

"What tale is that, child?" asked Aunt Tempy.

"Uncle Remus, must I tell it?"

"Let it come," said Uncle Remus.

"Well then," said Tildy, rolling her eyes back and displaying her white teeth:

One time there was a woman and a man. It seems like they lived close to one another, and the man, he set his eyes on the woman, and the woman, she just went along and tended to her business. The man, he kept his eyes set on her. By and by, the woman, she tended to her business so much that she took sick and died. The man, he up and told her folks she was dead, and the folks came and fixed her. They laid her out, and they lit some candles, and they sat up with her, just like folks do now, and they put two big round shiny silver dollars on her eyes to hold her eyelids down.

In describing the silver dollars Tildy joined the ends of her thumbs and forefingers together, and made a figure as large as a saucer. "They were lots bigger that dollars are these days." She continued:

And they looked mighty pretty. It seems like they were all the money the woman had, and the folks put them on her eyelids to hold them down. Then when the folks did that, they called on the man and told him he would have to dig a grave and bury the woman, and then they all went off about their business.

Well, then the man, he took and dug the grave and made ready to bury the woman. He looked at that money on her eyelids, and it shined mighty pretty. Then he took it off and felt it. It felt might good, but just about that time, the man looked at the woman, and he saw her eyelids open. It looked like she was looking at him, and he took and put the money where he got it from.

Well, then the man, he took and got a wagon and hauled the woman out to the burying ground, and when he got there he fixed everything, and then he grabbed the money and covered up the grave right quick. Then he went home and put the money in a tin box and rattled it around. It rattled loud and it rattled nice, but the man, he didn't feel so good. It seems like he knew the woman's eyelids were stretched wide open looking for him. Yet he rattled the money around, and it rattled loud and it rattled nice.

Well, then the man, he took and put the tin box with the money on the mantel shelf. The day went by, and night came, and when night came, the wind began to rise up and blow. It rose high and it blew strong. It blew on top of the house. It blew under the house. It blew around the house. The man, he felt queer. He sat by the fire and listened. The wind said "Buzz-zoo-o-o-o-o!" The man listened. The wind hollered and cried. It blew on top of the house. It blew under the house. It blew around the house. It blew into the house. The man got close to the chimney jamb. The wind found the cracks and blew in them. "Bizzy, bizzy, buzz-zoo-o-o-o-o!"

Well, then the man, he listened and listened, but by and by he got tired of this, and he allowed to himself that he was going to bed. He took and flung a freshly lighted knot into the fire, and then he jumped into bed, and curled himself up, and put his head under the covers.

The wind hunted for the cracks, "Bizzy-buzz, bizzy-buzz, buzz-zoo-o-o-o-o!" The man kept his head under the covers. The lighted knot flared up and flickered. The man didn't dare to move. The wind blew and whistled, "Phew-fee-e-e-e!" The lighted knot flickered and flared. The man, he kept his head covered.

Well, then the man lay there, and got scareder and scareder. He scarcely dared to wink his eyes, and it seemed like he was going to have swamp fever. While he was lying there shaking, and the wind was a-blowing, and the fire flickering, he heard some other kind of noise. It was a mighty curious kind of noise, "Clinkity, clinkalinkle!"

The man said, "Hey! Who is stealing my money?"

But he kept his head covered while he lay and listened. He heard the wind blow, and then he heard that other kind of noise, "Clinkity, clink, clinkity, clinkalinkle!"

Well, then he flung off the covers and sat right up in bed. He looked, but he didn't see anything. The fire flickered and flared, and the wind blew. The man went and put a chain and a bar across the door. Then he went back to bed, and he had no more than touched his head on the pillow when he heard this other noise, "Clink, clink, clinkity, clinkalinkle!" The man got up, but he didn't see anything at all. Mighty queer!

Just about the time was going to lie down again, here came the noise, "Clinkity, clinkalinkle." It sounded like it was on the mantle shelf. Not only that, it sounded like it was in the tin box on the mantle shelf. Not only that, it sounded like it was the money in the tin box on the mantle shelf.

The man said, "Hey! A rat done got in the box!"

The man looked. No rat was there. He shut up the box and set it down on the shelf. As he did that, here came the noise, "Clinkity, clinkity, clinkalinkle!"

The man opened the box and looked at the money. Those two silver dollars were lying there just like he put them. While the man was doing this, it seemed liked he could hear something saying, away off yonder, "Where's my money? Oh, give me my money! I want my money!"

Well, then the man got scared sure enough, and he got a flatiron and put it on the tin box, and then he took and piled all the chairs against the door, and ran and jumped into bed. He just knew there was a boogie coming. By the time he got into bed and covered his head, the money rattled louder, and something cried away off yonder, "I want my money! Oh, give me my money!"

The man, he shook and he shivered. The money, it clinked and rattled. And the boogie, it hollered and cried. The boogie came closer. The money clinked louder. The man shook worse and worse.

The money said, "Clinkity, clinkalinkle!"

The boogie cried, "Oh, give me my money!"

The man hollered, "Oh, Lordy, Lordy!"

Well, then it kept on this way until the man heard the door open. He peeped from under the covers, and in walked the woman that he had buried in the burying ground. The man shivered and shivered. The wind blew and blew. The money rattled and rattled. The woman cried and cried.

"Buzz-zoo-o-o-o-o!" said the wind.

"Clinkalink!" said the box.

"Oh, give me my money!" said the woman.

"Oh, Lordy!" said the man.

The woman heard the money, but it looked like she couldn't see it, and she groped around, and groped around, and groped around with her hands in the air like this.

Here Tildy stood up, pushed her chair back with her foot, raised her arms over her head, and leaned forward in the direction of Daddy Jack.

The wind was blowing. The fire was flickering. The money was rattling. The man was shaking and shivering. The woman was groping around and saying, "Give me my money! Oh, who's got my money?"

Tildy advanced a few steps.
The money looked like it was going to tear the tin box all to flinders. The woman groped and cried, until by and by she jumped on the man and hollered, "You've got my money!"

As she reached this climax, Tildy sprang at Daddy Jack and seized him, and for a few moments there was considerable confusion in the corner. The little boy was frightened, but the collapsed appearance of Daddy Jack convulsed him with laughter. The old African was very angry. His little eyes glistened with momentary malice, and he shook his cane threateningly at Tildy. The latter coolly adjusted her earrings, as she exclaimed, "There now! I knew I'd get even with the old villain. Come a-calling me pigeon-toed!"

"Better keep your eye on him, child," said Aunt Tempy. "He'll bewitch you for sure."

"Bewitch who? If he comes bewitching around me, I'll break his back, I'm telling you that right point-blank."




How to Tell a Story: The Golden Arm

Mark Twain

The pause is an exceedingly important feat ure in any kind of story, and a frequently re curring feature, too. It is a dainty thing, and delicate, and also uncertain and treacherous; for it must be exactly the right length -- no more and no less -- or it fails of its purpose and makes trouble. If the pause is too short the impressive point is passed, and the audience have had time to divine that a surprise is in tended -- and then you can't surprise them, of course.

On the platform I used to tell a negro ghost story that had a pause in front of the snapper on the end, and that pause was the most im portant thing in the whole story. If I got it the right length precisely, I could spring the finishing ejaculation with effect enough to make some impressible girl deliver a startled little yelp and jump out of her seat -- and that was what I was after. This story was called " The Golden Arm," and was told in this fash ion. You can practise with it yourself -- and mind you look out for the pause and get it right.

The Golden Arm

Once 'pon a time dey wuz a monsus mean man, en he live 'way out in de prairie all 'lone by hisself, 'cep'n he had a wife. En bimeby she died, en he tuck en toted her way out dah in de prairie en buried her. Well, she had a golden arm -- all solid gold, fum de shoulder down. He wuz pow'ful mean -- pow'ful; en dat night he couldn't sleep, caze he want dat golden arm so bad.

When it come midnight he couldn't stan' it no mo'; so he git up, he did, en tuck his lantern en shoved out thoo de storm en dug her up en got de golden arm; en he bent his head down 'gin de win', en plowed en plowed en plowed thoo de snow. Den all on a sudden he stop (make a considerable pause here, and look startled, and take a listening attitude) en say: "My lan', what's dat!"

En he listen -- en listen -- en de win' say (set your teeth together and imitate the wailing and wheezing singsong of the wind), "Bzzz-z-zzz" -- en den, way back yonder whah de grave is, he hear a voice! -- he hear a voice all mix' up in de win' -- can't hardly tell 'em 'part -- "Bzzz-zzz -- W-h-o -- g-o-t -- m-y -- g-o-l-d-e-n arm? -- zzz -- zzz -- W-h-o g-o-t m-y g-o-l-d-e-n arm? (You must begin to shiver violently now.)

En he begin to shiver en shake, en say, "Oh, my! Oh, my lan'!" en de win' blow de lantern out, en de snow en sleet blow in his face en mos' choke him, en he start a-plowin' knee-deep towards home mos' dead, he so sk'yerd -- en pooty soon he hear de voice agin, en (pause) it 'us comin' after him! "Bzzz -- zzz -- zzz -- W-h-o -- g-o-t -- m-y -- g-o-l-d-e-n -- arm?"

When he git to de pasture he hear it agin -- closter now, en a-comin! -- a-comin' back dah in de dark en de storm -- (repeat the wind and the voice). When he git to de house he rush up-stairs en jump in de bed en kiver up, head and years, en lay dah shiverin' en shakin' -- en den way out dah he hear it agin! -- en a- comin! En bimeby he hear (pause -- awed, listening attitude) -- pat -- pat -- pat -- hit's a- comin' up-stairs! Den he hear de latch, en he know it's in de room!

Den pooty soon he know it's a-stannin' by de bed! (Pause.) Den -- he know it's a-bendin down over him -- en he cain't skasely git his breath! Den -- den -- he seem to feel someth'n c-o-l-d, right down 'most agin his head ! (Pause.)

Den de voice say, right at his year -- " W-h-o -- g-o-t -- m-y -- g-o-l-d-e-n arm?" "(You must wail it out very plaintively and accusingly; then you stare steadily and impressively into the face of the farthest-gone auditor -- a girl, preferably -- and let that awe-inspiring pause begin to build itself in the deep hush. When it has reached exactly the right length, jump suddenly at that girl and yell, "You've got it!"

If you've got the pause right, she'll fetch a dear little yelp and spring right out of her shoes. But you must get the pause right; and you will find it the most troublesome and aggravating and uncertain thing you ever undertook.)




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Revised October 21, 2014.