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by H. Beam Piper
Description: Colonel Ashley Hampton didn't want to go to the Asylum, but his nephew and his nephew's wife were determined. After all, the old man claimed to be in contact with a ghost... Originally published in WEIRD TALES magazine in the March 1951 issue, here is one of Piper's rare fantasy stories!
eBook Publisher: Wildside Press, 1951 Weird Tales
eBookwise Release Date: September 2006
16 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [33 KB]
Reading time: 18-25 min.
Colonel Ashley Hampton chewed his cigar and forced himself to relax, his glance slowly traversing the room, lingering on the mosaic of book-spines in the tall cases, the sunlight splashed on the faded pastel colors of the carpet, the soft-tinted autumn landscape outside the French windows, the trophies of Indian and Filipino and German weapons on the walls. He could easily feign relaxation here in the library of "Greyrock," as long as he looked only at these familiar inanimate things and avoided the five people gathered in the room with him, for all of them were enemies.
There was his nephew, Stephen Hampton, greying at the temples but youthfully dressed in sports-clothes, leaning with obvious if slightly premature proprietorship against the fireplace, a whiskey-and-soda in his hand. There was Myra, Stephen's smart, sophisticated-looking blonde wife, reclining in a chair beside the desk. For these two, he felt an implacable hatred. The others were no less enemies, perhaps more dangerous enemies, but they were only the tools of Stephen and Myra. For instance, T. Barnwell Powell, prim and self-satisfied, sitting on the edge of his chair and clutching the briefcase on his lap as though it were a restless pet which might attempt to escape. He was an honest man, as lawyers went; painfully ethical. No doubt he had convinced himself that his clients were acting from the noblest and most disinterested motives. And Doctor Alexis Vehrner, with his Vandyke beard and his Viennese accent as phony as a Soviet-controlled election, who had preempted the chair at Colonel Hampton's desk. That rankled the old soldier, but Doctor Vehrner would want to assume the position which would give him appearance of commanding the situation, and he probably felt that Colonel Hampton was no longer the master of "Greyrock." The fifth, a Neanderthal type in a white jacket, was Doctor Vehrner's attendant and bodyguard; he could be ignored, like an enlisted man unthinkingly obeying the orders of a superior.
"But you are not cooperating, Colonel Hampton," the psychiatrist complained. "How can I help you if you do not cooperate?"
Colonel Hampton took the cigar from his mouth. His white mustache, tinged a faint yellow by habitual smoking, twitched angrily.
"Oh; you call it helping me, do you?" he asked acidly.
"But why else am I here?" the doctor parried.
"You're here because my loving nephew and his charming wife can't wait to see me buried in the family cemetery; they want to bury me alive in that private Bedlam of yours," Colonel Hampton replied.