| The Bell in the Graveyard
By Carol S. Wolfe
It was his first night alone in the graveyard and the sun had begun its slow sinking journey down behind
the horizon. The church bells rang announcing the completion of vespers, sending the village home for the
The group exiting the church was small, consisting of young couples and old women spilling out of the
sanctuary into the chilly autumn air. Young lovers, more fanciful than the others, strolled slowly toward the
nearby town. The matrons, however, widowed and married alike, were more anxious to get home and
close the doors against the rapidly approaching darkness.
The boy, not a child, but not quite yet a man, stood in the last shadows of the day and with envy that he
didn’t yet understand as he watched the last couple walk by. The young wife had her arm looped through
her husband’s, giggling at whatever he was whispering in her ear. Their footsteps faded away with the
diminishing echo of the church bells. The boy settled in for the long night ahead.
The caretaker had reminded him when he arrived that his primary function was to watch for grave
robbers. He told the boy several graves of the more recent dearly departed had been disturbed and the
priest had seen someone in the graveyard not more than a fortnight ago. Mrs. Meriwether had been
interred that very afternoon. So the caretaker, upright and diligent in his duties, had hired the boy to stand
watch at night. He had done so a couple of nights but told anyone who would listen that he was far too old
to stay up in the churchyard all night. So, with the literal and figurative blessing of Father Heaney, he hired
The boy saw the surrounding houses grow dim as the lights were extinguished one by one. Soon, it was
quite dark and the boy thought a bit eerie. He pulled the collar of his coat up around his ears and buttoned
it against the cooling night air, lifted his lantern and started his rounds. The caretaker had walked him
through the churchyard, pointing out the most recent graves. He told the boy he should make a round once
an hour and keep an eye and ear toward the fresh graves. The boy nodded and shivered at the same time.
The caretaker pulled his hat low and ignored the boy’s reaction.
The boy had shown up just before the caretaker left for the day. He told the boy to leave his things inside
the small shed at the corner of the churchyard. A fire was dancing briskly in the small fireplace. A kettle
hung over it on a hook. The caretaker had left some tea and bread and jam behind for the boy. He had
also left a meager serving of meat and cheese. The boy thanked him and watched as the old man walked,
rather quickly, out the gate and toward town.
The boy made his rounds a second time and feeling a bit more at ease, he settled in to have his tea and
bread. That is when the bell rang…
At first he thought it might have been the last echoes of the church bell but he knew that was not right. He
waited for a moment but heard nothing. He had raised the cup to his lips when the bell sounded again. It
was a light and almost merry tinkling that echoed through the cooling night air. For a fleeting moment, he
thought it might be a dinner bell but knew it was too late for a meal. A servant’s bell perhaps, but the boy
knew that wasn’t quite right either. The boy listened again and it was quiet. He stood and the bell sounded
again almost as if it had felt his movement.
The boy picked up his lantern and walked to the farthest and most remote corner of the graveyard,
passing Mrs. Meriweather’s grave. At the corner of her headstone, he paused, looking into the darkness.
In the corner of the graveyard, near the fence under the sprawling branches, lay the most remote grave.
As the boy stood staring into the darkness, the bell sounded again. He squinted and saw some
movement in the shadows that coincided with the ringing of the bell.
The boy swallowed and squared his shoulders before walking slowly toward the grave. The bell sounded
again and the light, almost festive ringing created a sense of dread. He let out a long breath before
disappearing into the shadows. He approached the grave covered by brown tufts of grass dying off from
The boy stopped at the edge of the grave, still visibly outlined by the slight depression where the dirt had
settled. The bell has quieted and now, from the darkness, he heard a quiet voice.
“Hello. Is someone there?” The voice seemed very far away, and he had to strain to hear.
“Hello?” it repeated an edge of panic now obvious.
The boy stepped forward. He now saw the bell. It hung on a hook with a cord attached to the top. The
cord looped around and disappeared into a pipe in the middle of the depression.
“Hello?!” the voice was even more panicked. “Is someone there!!? Help me please!”
The boy opened his mouth to respond, but hesitated for a moment. He glanced at the headstone and saw
the name, Julia Parsons, and just below inscribed, “God Grant Thee Lay Still”.
The boy finally spoke. “Hello?” he responded and it remained silent for a moment.
“Oh, hello!! Oh thank the good Lord that you are there!! Can you help me please??”
The boy walked around the headstone and dropped down on one knee, his mouth close to the open
“What would you like me to do?”
“Oh kind sir, if you could get me out of here. I’ve been buried by mistake. Please, please help me so that I
can get back to my family!!” she exclaimed.
The boy reached out and dug his fingers, with some difficulty, into the settling soil. He lifted clots of dirt
and crumbled them watching the dirt fall back onto the grave. He found his voice again.
“Are you Julia Parsons?” he asked.
“Yes,” she called out. “Yes I am!!”
“Were you born on 18 March, 1843?” he asked.
“Yes. Please, please help me! Can you dig me out?”
“Were you buried on 23 June 1867?” he asked. It was a moment before she answered and when she did,
she spoke slowly and he could hear the smile creeping into her voice.
“I don’t know what you are,” he said “But you’re not alive. It is the 11th of November.”
The boy severed the cord attached to the bell letting it fall into the darkness of the pipe. He slipped the
cap over the opening pushing if firmly into place and walked back toward the small shed and the hot cup of
tea waiting for him.
|About Carole S Wolfe
Carol lives in Montana.
When she's not reading,
writing or passing
unwanted wisdom onto
her daughters, she's
hanging out with her six
|To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.