“Mystery of the Grave-yard


“Mystery of the Grave-yard
   ; or, ‘A Dead Man’s Revenge’: A Detective Story, The.”
   Juvenile story (1,310 words); written c. 1898–99. First published in SR;corrected text in Juvenilia: 1897–1905(1985) and MW
   Joseph Burns has died. Burns’s will instructs the rector, Mr. Dobson, to drop a ball in his tomb at a spot marked “A.” He does so and disappears. A man named Bell announces himself at the residence of Dobson’s daughter, saying that he will restore her father for the sum of ?10,000. The daughter, thinking fast, calls the police and cries, “Send King John!” King John, arriving in a flash, finds that Bell has jumped out the window. He chases Bell to the train station, but Bell gets on a train as it is pulling out of the station. There is no telegraph service between the town of Mainville, where the action is taking place, and the “large city” of Kent, where the train is headed. King John rushes to a hackney cab office and says to a black hackman that he will give him two dollars (even though pounds were mentioned before) if he can get him to Kent in fifteen minutes. Bell arrives in Kent, meets with his band of desperadoes (which includes a woman named Lindy), and is about to depart with them on a ship when King John dramatically arrives, declaring: “John Bell, I arrest you in the Queen’s name!” At the trial, it is revealed that Dobson had fallen down a trapdoor at the spot marked “A” and had been kept in a “brilliantly lighted, and palatial apartment” until he rescues himself by making a wax impression of the key to the door and makes a dramatic entrance at the trial. Bell is sent to prison for life; Miss Dobson has become Mrs. King John.
   The story is clearly influenced by the dime novel, a form of popular fiction widely read by unsophisticated readers from 1860 to the early twentieth century. HPL himself admitted reading several series of adventure stories in dime-novel format, including those focusing on such “heroes” as Nick Carter, Old King Brady, and Prince John. Possibly HPL’s King John is a fusion (at least in name) of Old King Brady and Prince John. (King John is presumably the hero of another lost HPL story written around this time, “John, the Detective.”) Many dime novels suggested the supernatural but explained it away at the end, as HPL’s story does, and many had frenetic, action-packed plots. HPL also attempts a rudimentary form of dialect in the speech of the hackman.

An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. .

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