A Christian Burial can be found in






JUNE, 1960

KEYHOLE MYSTERY
Magazine

Till-Till was a most unusual dog. His doting owners swore he had an almost human intelligence. And they may have been right...

A CHRISTIAN
BURIAL

By MARY THAYER MULLER

THE Ogilvies were the sort of couple of whom people said: "They should have had children."

The Ogilvies knew better. Observing the behavior of their friends' children, and grandchildren, they secretly congratulated themselves on having eschewed the satisfactions of procreation. They lavished all their tenderness on their little Dachshund, Till Eulenspiegel.

Till was so named because he was full of merry pranks: running away with overshoes and objects left on chairs and low tables, chewing the ends off dangling garments, then sitting up, laughing at the owner when the damage was discovered. The darling! They were not the Ogilvies' garments and overshoes, which were kept prudently out of reach.

Mrs. Ogilvie was a large woman whose bosom and stomach left very little lap for anything to sit on, but Till would walk up the steep incline to her large, pink face and lick it while Mrs. Ogilvie shut her eyes and cooed. Till rather liked the flavor of her powder and foundation cream. Besides he knew which side his hamburger was broiled on.

Mr. Ogilvie hated having animals jump up on him. He taught Till his manners, and many little tricks: sitting up with folded paws in an attitude called 'saying his prayers', rolling over, shaking hands, 'playing dead', and so forth. And he boasted dotingly of Till's intelligence.

"Understands every word you say. Be careful!"

At such times Till would half shut his bright, slanting eyes and loll his tongue and Mrs. Ogilvie would say:

"Look! Isn't he adorable? He's laughing at us!"

When the Ogilvies planned brief, infrequent weekend trips away, they had to be careful to conceal their preparations. Till hated the kennel. Compared to the Ogilvies' over-heated house it was cold. There were no treats of buttered tea biscuit and sweet chocolate and he lost weight and was always hungry. The sight of a suitcase sent him under beds and couches to hide and the merry pranks were suspended.

Another thing he hated was Mrs. Ogilvie's nephew, Charles Honeyman, who came to visit two or three times a year. Charles was a long-legged, slightly-bald bachelor of thirty-three who washed his hands after touching anything: door-knobs, other people's belongings, other people's hands. His expression of disgust when Till licked Mrs. Ogilvie's face was lost on no one, not even Till. But he said nothing. He was Mrs. Ogilvie's heir.


Mrs. Ogilvie's fortune came to her from her father, a successful and cannv industrialist who regarded the U.S. Government, the Bureau of Internal Revenue and all do-gooding organizations as members of a gang founded for the purpose of shaking down people like himself. The anxieties of out-smarting them had brought on a stroke which killed him and left the out-smarting to his son-in-law, who took it more easily. What was the use of piling up money for that pallid nincompoop, Charles Honeyman?

It couldn't exactly be said that Mr. Ogilvie had married for money. But given a choice of several attractive young ladies and all other things being equal, it was natural for him to have found the one with money the most attractive. It was a comfortable marriage. The Ogilvies saw eye-to-eye on most things.

One evening in November they were sitting before the television in the library, Mr. Ogilvie occupied in turning off commercials, when Charles Honeyman's eye fell on Till, who was scratching himself in front of the fire.

"He's been doing that a lot lately. Must have picked up some fleas," Charles Honeyman said.

"Goodness, where would he pick up fleas?" Mrs. Ogilvie replied. "He hasn't any contact—"

"Then it's eczema. He'd better see a vet."

Till stopped scratching and lay down quietly. Charles Honeyman continued to regard him.

"Of course as dogs get on in years," he said, "they're apt to get skin troubles. Sores. That kind of thing."

"On in years?" said Mrs. Ogilvie, her blue eyes wide. "Why, he's only seven. Dachshunds live to be sixteen sometimes. Longer."

"He's nine," said Charles Honeyman. "You got him the year I graduated from college. Don't you remember?"

"You're right. So we did. Nine years old. Imagine! Here, Till-Till, come to Mommie. Was it nine years old, a precious petkins!"

Till sat up in front of Mrs. Ogilvie and said his prayers, his sharp, black nose laid on his folded paws, his eye on Charles Honeyman, who was still looking at him speculatively.

"Yes, they're a long-lived breed. But I'd always rather see a dog put away before he gets decrepit," Charles Honeyman said.

"Oh, yes," said Mrs. Ogilvie. "Here, Till-Till. UP! We don't want a darling little pooh-pooh to get sorezes and pains in his back and his footsies, do we, Till-Till?"

"I was thinking," said Charles Honeyman, "that what you and Uncle need is a good vacation... sort of a second honeymoon. Have you ever thought of taking a cruise trip around the world?"

"Why, no," said Mrs. Ogilvie.

"Well, I have," said Mr. Ogilvie. "What makes you ask, Charles?"

"A friend of mine just opened a travel agency," Charles said. "He could plan a beautiful trip for you and Auntie. Shall I ask him to send you some literature on the subject?"

"Yes," said Mr. Ogilvie. "I'm interested."

"How long do those round-the-world trips take, Charles?" asked Mrs. Ogilvie.

"Oh, anything upwards from three months," Charles said. "Three months! Goodness, what would we do with Till-Till?"

"Put him in a kennel, of course," said Mr. Ogilvie.

"Oh, poor Till-Till! His Mommie would miss him so!" Mrs. Ogilvie's lashes quivered. "But suppose Till-Till got sick in the kennel? Suppose he got sick—and died?"

Till was now curled around Mrs. Ogilvie's neck like a fur piece.

"Don't worry, Auntie," said Charles. 'Til look in on the little beast while you two are away. If anything does happen to him, I'll make all the usual arrangements."

"If poor Till-Till does ever die," said Mrs. Ogilvie, stroking him, "I want him to have a real Christian burial. I mean he's such a person. I'm sure he'll go to heaven when he dies. I want him cremated and his ashes put in a little urn in the family vault. With his name on it. Don't you agree, Harry?"

Mrs. Ogilvie was sentimental about these things. Her own ashes and those of Mr. Ogilvie were to be put in a single urn with the inscription: "One in Life and Death" engraved upon it.

"Certainly, my dear," said Mr. Ogilvie, who always agreed, and was glad to have the matter settled. "Since you feel that way about him. But he'll be fine in the kennel."

"If the least little thing happens to Till-Till," Mrs. Ogilvie said, "you will let us know at once, wherever we are, won't you, Charles?"

"It will be a pleasure." Charles Honeyman looked at Till-Till lying quietly in Mrs. Ogilvie's lap. "I never noticed before," he said; "his eyes are really red."

Soon after that Mr. and Mrs. Ogilvie went to bed and Charles Honeyman put on his coat and took Till out for his final walk. What happened on the three steps leading up to the street level no one will ever know. Attracted by Till's excited barking Mr. Ogilvie hurried down the steep hall stairs and opened the front door to find Charles Honeyman sprawled on the sidewalk, blood running from a gash in his forehead, one of his ankles entangled in Till's lead. Mr. Ogilvie rang the door bell frantically and with the help of Otto the butler and Helga the cook lifted Charles Honeyman into the hall.

Mrs. Ogilvie, hearing the commotion, came to the top of the stairs. At the sight of the terrible scene below, her heart lurched once and she fainted dead away.

Mr. Ogilvie telephoned the doctor, then hurried to the lavatory and washed his hands.

When he came back Till was sitting on the bottom stair in the hall, lolling his tongue. His eyes, half shut and glinting, met those of Mr. Ogilvie. The tip of his tail wagged very slightly.

"I'll be damned," said Mr. Ogilvie, turning a little pale.


During the weeks that followed Charles Honeyman's death, the Ogilvies and Till went back to the same quiet routine. At tea time Till sat up prettily and Mrs. Ogilvie fed him with bits of buttered tea biscuit and chocolate cake. The Ogilvies forgot any ideas they had held about going on a cruise. Till was quite comfortable. Quite content. He scratched as much as he pleased.

One afternoon as the Ogilvies sat at tea Otto appeared at the door of the library with a package which had just been delivered by messenger. There was a receipt to be signed. As Mr. Ogilvie looked it over he shuddered a little and said, "Ugh!"

When Otto had left the room Mr. Ogilvie got a paper cutter and opened the package. It contained a small, white porcelain urn of classic shape with an inscription in gold lettering around the base. Mr. Ogilvie set it on the table quickly and hurried to the bathroom and washed his hands.

Till climbed on a chair and stood on his hind legs and sniffed the urn. Then he shoved it with his nose. It moved toward the edge of the table. He shoved again. At the third shove it reached the edge and toppled off and fell with a crash on the hearth. Its contents, a double-handful of some white, flaky substance rather like bone meal, spilled out on the floor.

Till sat up and said his prayers, his small, black nose laid neatly on his paws, his eyes very bright. Then he got down and licked up the bone meal. It tasted rather nasty.