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Weird Tales

May, 1948

A DEATH CROWN FOR MR. HAPWORTHY

By Mary Elizabeth Couselman

JONATHAN HAPWORTHY was not long for this world, four competent doctors has assured him. (A coronary condition.) But, as he was in his seventies, this did not disturb Mr. Hapworthy a great deal. He expected to die sometime; everyone did, and the terrors of hellfire did not frighten him. Mr. Hapworthy was an atheist—when he thought of religion at all as anything more than an interesting study in contrasts between, say, what the Buddhists and the Zoroastrians believe. He was a student of all theologies, but privately he did not for a moment believe in the hereafter.

When the body broke down, was his opinion, it simply stopped like a good watch that has ticked its last tick. Sometimes, >rather wistfully, he wished that he did believe in a life after death; for it seemed to him that far too many people died before they were half finished living. But he had uncovered no facts in any of his studies with which he could convince himself—and Mr. Hapworthy believed only in the known and proven; though, for amusement, he liked to dabble in the supernatural.

However, disbelief in a system of rewards and punishments after death did not give one the right, he felt, to act like a stinker while one was among the living—if only because it was a damned stupid way to live. He believed in everyone's doing whatever he liked, so long as it did not interfere too irreparably with the rights of others. And by that creed he lived: a tall dignified old gentleman, at the age of seventy-four, with neat mild features, carefully parted white hair, and a pedantic way of speaking that reminded one of an oldschool professor. He had never married, was an orphan, had few intimate friends, and seldom fraternized with anyone other than the sad-eyed Labrador retriever that trotted at his heels always. He had but one hobby—collecting amulets and charms; and he had but one ambition—to bequeath said collection to the Smithsonian Institute, and thereby perpetuate the name of Hapworthy in the same way that Mr. Carnegie had left his name for posterity to read above library doors all over the country.

Now, in his neat modest apartment in Washington,, he sat gloating delicately over the showcases that lined every wall. It was his habit just before lunch to work up an appetite by looking over his treasures and reminding himself that no other single individual in the world had in his possession so many authentic curios pertaining to ancient, medieval, and modern magic. It did not occur to Mr. Hapworthy to connect the fact that he had already lived three years longer than the doctors said he could, with * the fact that he had in his collection every known health-amulet in existence since the history of man. Nor did it strike him as significant that, the very day he had acquired a certain odd-looking gray rock, purported to be the immemorial "Philosopher's Stone'' which could turn all base metals into gold, he had come into a sizable fortune from an uncle he never knew he had. By no means did it occur to him that, ever since his purchase of a peculiar bright gem, said to h...

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