he'd moistened and swilled the stone he brooded awhile shaking his head.
'Well,' I said. 'Come on. Is it Piers or isn't it' Instead of replying
he climbed out and said, 'No name. Well it would have been extraordinary
if there'd been one, I suppose. Just 'miserrimus' - 'I of all men
most wretched', I suppose you might put it. Good God, they really
had it in for the poor devil. Why, why, why? Ah well. I suppose we'll
never know now.
Then he fetched a camera and photographed it from all sides. 'For publication!'
he explained. 'Against the day when I need a job at a university. They
don't want to know if you're any good : just what you've published ...
'Now,' he went on,'Let's have a peep inside before you round up the
Colonel and make him sign a chit for his ancestor. It's only a matter
of shifting the lid a few inches. The two of us can do it.'
So we slid into the pit, and I pushed while he pulled, until the great
stone pivoted. Then we looked inside. There is nothing frightening nor
even sad about the long dead, just dessicated brown bones and a little
dust. What else should we expect after five hundred years! All the same,
it's exciting to be the first to see again what has been long hidden,
and Moon, pushing his face closer to the gap, blew gently into the trough.
A puff of dust stirred.'The shroud!' he murmured.
Then he said,'Oh, come on; in for a penny, in for a pound. Let's push,
both of us, and then tipple it against the pit side.' So we did and
the lid budged inch after inch until we could see the full length of
the collapsed skeleton. We crouched and peered at it.
condition! Really first-class,' Moon muttered.'It must have been absolutely
air-tight. But look - see it - third rib down.' He bent lower and blew.'There!'
A metal thing swung from the rib-cage; he poked in a pencil and delicately
fished it out.'Well, well, the crescent! So that was why they wouldn't
let him into the church. He was a Muslim. Caught in some expedition
and then became a convert to save his skin! Heavens! Can you imagine
the ructions when he turned up in Oxgodby again! Now what's the Colonel
going to say?'
He looked quizzically at me. 'Too bad!' he said.'But what say that we
let sleeping dogs lie, particularly heretic dogs?' and he eased out
the chain, snapped a link and dropped it into a handkerchief. Then he
climbed out, handed down a steel tape and had me call out measurements
like a tailor's boy.
'Now,' he said, 'you round up Keach and I'11 alert the Colonel and we'll
show off our Exhibit A. Then we'll put the chain back and leave him
with his reputation no worse than it was before. But first we'll climb
your ladder and have a look at his face before it fell off.'
Do you know, until that moment, it hadn't occurred to me that this bundle
of bones was my falling man.