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Ring Once for Death   By: (1909-1969)

Ring Once for Death by Robert Arthur

First Page:

Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Amazing Stories March 1954. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.



Illustrator: Ernie Barth

The power of the old gods was certainly nothing for Mark and Edith a modern, twentieth century couple to worry about. After all everybody dies!


Twenty years had left no trace inside Sam Kee's little shop on Mott Street. There were the same dusty jars of ginseng root and tigers' whiskers, the same little bronze Buddahs, the same gim cracks mixed with fine jade. Edith Williams gave a little murmur of pleasure as the door shut behind them.

"Mark," she said, "it hasn't changed! It doesn't look as if a thing had been sold since we were here on our honeymoon."

"It certainly doesn't," Dr. Mark Williams agreed, moving down the narrow aisle behind her. "If someone hadn't told us Sam Kee was dead, I'd believe we'd stepped back twenty years in time, like they do in those scientific stories young David reads."

"We must buy something," his wife said. "For a twentieth anniversary present for me. Perhaps a bell?"

From the shadowy depths of the shop a young man emerged, American in dress and manner despite the Oriental contours of his face and eyes.

"Good evening," he said. "May I show you something?"

"We think we want a bell," Dr. Williams chuckled. "But we aren't quite sure. You're Sam Kee's son?"

"Sam Kee, junior. My honored father passed to the halls of his ancestors five years ago. I could just say that he died " black eyes twinkled "but customers like the more flowery mode of speech. They think it's quaint."

"I think it's just nice, and not quaint at all," Edith Williams declared. "We're sorry your father is dead. We'd hoped to see him again. Twenty years ago when we were a very broke young couple on a honeymoon he sold us a wonderful rose crystal necklace for half price."

"I'm sure he still made a profit." The black eyes twinkled again. "But if you'd like a bell, here are small temple bells, camel bells, dinner bells...."

But even as he spoke, Edith Williams' hand darted to something at the back of the shelf.

"A bell carved out of crystal!" she exclaimed. "And rose crystal at that. What could be more perfect? A rose crystal wedding present and a rose crystal anniversary present!"

The young man half stretched out his hand.

"I don't think you want that," he said. "It's broken."

"Broken?" Edith Williams rubbed off the dust and held the lovely bell shape of crystal, the size of a pear, to the light. "It looks perfect to me."

"I mean it is not complete." Something of the American had vanished from the young man. "It has no clapper. It will not ring."

"Why, that's right." Mark Williams took the bell. "The clapper's missing."

"We can have another clapper made," his wife declared. "That is, if the original can't be found?"

The young Chinese shook his head.

"The bell and the clapper were deliberately separated by my father twenty years ago." He hesitated, then added: "My father was afraid of this bell."

"Afraid of it?" Mark Williams raised his eyebrows.

The other hesitated again.

"It will probably sound like a story for tourists," he said. "But my father believed it. This bell was supposedly stolen from the temple of a sect of Buddhists somewhere in the mountains of China's interior. Just as many Occidentals believe that the Christian Judgement Day will be heralded by a blast on St. Peter's trumpet, so this small sect is said to believe that when a bell like this one is rung, a bell carved from a single piece of rose crystal, and consecrated by ceremonies lasting ten years, any dead within sound of it will rise and live again... Continue reading book >>

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