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  Lilith George MacDonald

A Grotesque Tragedy

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I had not gone ten paces when I caught sight of a strange-looking object, and went nearer to know what it might be. I found it a mouldering carriage of ancient form, ruinous but still upright on its heavy wheels. On each side of the pole, still in its place, lay the skeleton of a horse; from their two grim white heads ascended the shrivelled reins to the hand of the skeleton-coachman seated on his tattered hammer-cloth; both doors had fallen away; within sat two skeletons, each leaning back in its corner.

Even as I looked, they started awake, and with a cracking rattle of bones, each leaped from the door next it. One fell and lay; the other stood a moment, its structure shaking perilously; then with difficulty, for its joints were stiff, crept, holding by the back of the carriage, to the opposite side, the thin leg-bones seeming hardly strong enough to carry its weight, where, kneeling by the other, it sought to raise it, almost falling itself again in the endeavour.

The prostrate one rose at length, as by a sudden effort, to the sitting posture. For a few moments it turned its yellowish skull to this side and that; then, heedless of its neighbour, got upon its feet by grasping the spokes of the hind wheel. Half erected thus, it stood with its back to the other, both hands holding one of its knee-joints. With little less difficulty and not a few contortions, the kneeling one rose next, and addressed its companion.

"Have you hurt yourself, my lord?" it said, in a voice that sounded far-off, and ill-articulated as if blown aside by some spectral wind.

"Yes, I have," answered the other, in like but rougher tone. "You would do nothing to help me, and this cursed knee is out!"

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"I did my best, my lord."

"No doubt, my lady, for it was bad! I thought I should never find my feet again!--But, bless my soul, madam! are you out in your bones?"

She cast a look at herself.

"I have nothing else to be out in," she returned; "--and YOU at least cannot complain! But what on earth does it mean? Am I dreaming?"

"YOU may be dreaming, madam--I cannot tell; but this knee of mine forbids me the grateful illusion.--Ha! I too, I perceive, have nothing to walk in but bones!--Not so unbecoming to a man, however! I trust to goodness they are not MY bones! every one aches worse than another, and this loose knee worst of all! The bed must have been damp--and I too drunk to know it!"

"Probably, my lord of Cokayne!"

"What! what!--You make me think I too am dreaming--aches and all! How do YOU know the title my roistering bullies give me? I don't remember you!--Anyhow, you have no right to take liberties! My name is--I am lord----tut, tut! What do you call me when I'm--I mean when you are sober? I cannot--at the moment,--Why, what IS my name?--I must have been VERY drunk when I went to bed! I often am!"

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