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´╗┐Title: Solander's Radio Tomb
Author: Butler, Ellis Parker, 1869-1937
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Solander's Radio Tomb" ***

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 SOLANDER'S
 RADIO TOMB

 By ELLIS PARKER BUTLER

    _"Pigs Is Pigs" Butler quite surpasses himself in this story. The
    intricacies in radio are so great, and the changes occur so quickly
    that no one can afford to make a will wherein a radio provision
    figures. Once we thought of having a radio loud speaker installed in
    our coffin to keep us company and make it less lonesome. After
    reading this story we quickly changed our mind. The possibilities
    are too various._


I first met Mr. Remington Solander shortly after I installed my first
radio set. I was going in to New York on the 8:15 A.M. train and was
sitting with my friend Murchison and, as a matter of course, we were
talking radio. I had just told Murchison that he was a lunkheaded noodle
and that for two cents I would poke him in the jaw, and that even a
pin-headed idiot ought to know that a tube set was better than a crystal
set. To this Murchison had replied that that settled it. He said he had
always known I was a moron, and now he was sure of it.

"If you had enough brains to fill a hazelnut shell," he said, "you
wouldn't talk that way. Anybody but a half-baked lunatic would know that
what a man wants in radio is clear, sharp reception and that's what a
crystal gives you. You're one of these half-wits that think they're
classy if they can hear some two-cent station five hundred miles away
utter a few faint squeaks. Shut up! I don't want to talk to you. I don't
want to listen to you. Go and sit somewhere else."

Of course, this was what was to be expected of Murchison. And if I did
let out a few laps of anger, I feel I was entirely justified. Radio fans
are always disputing over the relative merits of crystal and tube sets,
but I knew I was right. I was just trying to decide whether to choke
Murchison with my bare hand and throw his lifeless body out of the car
window, or tell him a few things I had been wanting to say ever since he
began knocking my tube set, when this Remington Solander, who was
sitting behind us, leaned forward and tapped me on the shoulder. I
turned quickly and saw his long sheeplike face close to mine. He was
chewing cardamon seed and breathing the odor into my face.

[Illustration: Outraged citizens were removing their dead.]

"My friend," he said, "come back and sit with me; I want to ask you a
few questions about radio."

Well, I couldn't resist that, could I? No radio fan could. I did not
care much for the looks of this Remington Solander man, but for a few
weeks my friends had seemed to be steering away from me when I drew
near, although I am sure I never said anything to bore them. All I ever
talked about was my radio set and some new hook-ups I was trying, but I
had noticed that men who formerly had seemed to be fond of my company
now gave startled looks when I neared them. Some even climbed over the
nearest fence and ran madly across vacant lots, looking over their
shoulders with frightened glances as they ran. For a week I had not been
able to get any man of my acquaintance to listen to one word from me,
except Murchison, and he is an utter idiot, as I think I have made
clear. So I left Murchison and sat with Remington Solander.

       *       *       *       *       *

In one way I was proud to be invited to sit with Remington Solander,
because he was far and away the richest man in our town. When he died,
his estate proved to amount to three million dollars. I had seen him
often, and I knew who he was, but he was a stand-offish old fellow and
did not mix, so I had never met him. He was a tall man and thin,
somewhat flabby and he was pale in an unhealthy sort of way. But, after
all, he was a millionaire and a member of one of the "old families" of
Westcote, so I took the seat alongside of him with considerable
satisfaction.

"I gather," he said as soon as I was seated, "that you are interested in
radio."

I told him I was.

"And I'm just building a new set, using a new hook-up that I heard of a
week ago," I said. "I think it is going to be a wonder. Now, here is the
idea: instead of using a grid----"

"Yes, yes!" the old aristocrat said hastily. "But never mind that now. I
know very little of such things. I have an electrician employed by the
year to care for my radio set and I leave all such things to him. You
are a lawyer, are you not?"

I told him I was.

"And you are chairman of the trustees of the Westcote Cemetery, are you
not?" he asked.

I told him I was that also. And I may say that the Westcote Cemetery
Association is one of the rightest and tightest little corporations in
existence. It has been in existence since 1808 and has been exceedingly
profitable to those fortunate enough to hold its stock. I inherited the
small block I own from my grandfather. Recently we trustees had bought
sixty additional acres adjoining the old cemetery and had added them to
it, and we were about ready to put the new lots on the market. At $300
apiece there promised to be a tremendous profit in the thing, for our
cemetery was a fashionable place to be buried in and the demand for the
lots in the new addition promised to be enormous.

       *       *       *       *       *

"You have not known it," said Remington Solander in his slow drawl,
which had the effect of letting his words slide out of his mouth and
drip down his long chin like cold molasses, "but I have been making
inquiries about you, and I have been meaning to speak to you. I am
drawing up a new last will and testament, and I want you to draw up one
of the clauses for me without delay."

"Why, certainly, Mr. Solander," I said with increased pride. "I'll be
glad to be of service to you."

"I am choosing you for the work," Remington Solander said, "because you
know and love radio as I do, and because you are a trustee of the
cemetery association. Are you a religious man?"

"Well," I said, a little uneasily, "some. Some, but not much."

"No matter," said Mr. Solander, placing a hand on my arm. "I am. I have
always been. From my earliest youth my mind has been on serious things.
As a matter of fact, sir, I have compiled a manuscript collection of
religious quotations, hymns, sermons and uplifting thoughts which now
fill fourteen volumes, all in my own handwriting. Fortunately, I
inherited money, and this collection is my gift to the world."

"And a noble one, I'm sure," I said.

"Most noble," said Mr. Solander. "But, sir, I have not confined my
activities to the study chair. I have kept my eye on the progress of the
world. And it seems to me that radio, this new and wonderful invention,
is the greatest discovery of all ages and imperishable. But, sir, it is
being twisted to cheap uses. Jazz! Cheap songs! Worldly words and music!
That I mean to remedy."

"Well," I said, "it might be done. Of course, people like what they
like."

"Some nobler souls like better things," said Remington Solander
solemnly. "Some more worthy men and women will welcome nobler radio
broadcasting. In my will I am putting aside one million dollars to
establish and maintain a broadcasting station that will broadcast only
my fourteen volumes of hymns and uplifting material. Every day this
matter will go forth--sermons, lectures on prohibition, noble thoughts
and religious poems."

       *       *       *       *       *

I assured him that some people might be glad to get that--that a lot of
people might, in fact, and that I could write that into his will without
any trouble at all.

"Ah!" said Remington Solander. "But that is already in my will. What I
want you to write for my will, is another clause. I mean to build, in
your cemetery, a high-class and imperishable granite tomb for myself. I
mean to place it on that knoll--that high knoll--the highest spot in
your cemetery. What I want you to write into my will is a clause
providing for the perpetual care and maintenance of my tomb. I want to
set aside five hundred thousand dollars for that purpose."

"Well," I said to the sheep-faced millionaire, "I can do that, too."

"Yes," he agreed. "And I want to give my family and relations the
remaining million and a half dollars, provided," he said, accenting the
'provided,' "they carry out faithfully the provisions of the clause
providing for the perpetual care and maintenance of my tomb. If they
don't care and maintain," he said, giving me a hard look, "that million
and a half is to go to the Home for Flea-Bitten Dogs."

"They'll care and maintain, all right!" I laughed.

"I think so," said Remington Solander gravely. "I do think so, indeed!
And now, sir, we come to the important part. You, as I know, are a
trustee of the cemetery."

"Yes," I said, "I am."

"For drawing this clause of my will, if you can draw it," said Remington
Solander, looking me full in the eye with both his own, which were like
the eyes of a salt mackerel, "I shall pay you five thousand dollars."

Well, I almost gasped. It was a big lot of money for drawing one clause
of a will, and I began to smell a rat right there. But, I may say, the
proposition Remington Solander made to me was one I was able, after
quite a little talk with my fellow trustees of the cemetery, to carry
out. What Remington Solander wanted was to be permitted to put a radio
loud-speaking outfit in his granite tomb--a radio loud-speaking outfit
permanently set at 327 meters wave-length, which was to be the
wave-length of his endowed broadcasting station. I don't know how
Remington Solander first got his remarkable idea, but just about that
time an undertaker in New York had rigged up a hearse with a phonograph
so that the hearse would loud-speak suitable hymns on the way to the
cemetery, and that may have suggested the loud-speaking tomb to
Remington Solander, but it is not important where he got the idea. He
had it, and he was set on having it carried out.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Think," he said, "of the uplifting effect of it! On the highest spot in
the cemetery will stand my noble tomb, loud-speaking in all directions
the solemn and holy words and music I have collected in my fourteen
volumes. All who enter the cemetery will hear; all will be ennobled and
uplifted."

That was so, too. I saw that at once. I said so. So Remington Solander
went on to explain that the income from the five hundred thousand
dollars would be set aside to keep "A" batteries and "B" batteries
supplied, to keep the outfit in repair, and so on. So I tackled the job
rather enthusiastically. I don't say that the five-thousand-dollar fee
did not interest me, but I did think Remington Solander had a grand
idea. It would make our cemetery stand out. People would come from
everywhere to see and listen. The lots in the new addition would sell
like hot cakes.

But I did have a little trouble with the other trustees. They balked
when I explained that Remington Solander wanted the sole radio
loud-speaking rights of our cemetery, but some one finally suggested
that if Remington Solander put up a new and artistic iron fence around
the whole cemetery it might be all right. They made him submit his
fourteen volumes so they could see what sort of matter he meant to
broadcast from his high-class station, and they agreed it was solemn
enough; it was all solemn and sad and gloomy, just the stuff for a
cemetery. So when Remington Solander agreed to build the new iron fence
they made a formal contract with him, and I drew up the clause for the
will, and he bought six lots on top of the high knoll and began erecting
his marble mausoleum.

       *       *       *       *       *

For eight months or so Remington Solander was busier than he had ever
been in his life. He superintended the building of the tomb and he had
on hand the job of getting his endowed radio station going--it was given
the letters WZZZ--and hiring artists to sing and play and speechify his
fourteen volumes of gloom and uplift at 327 meters, and it was too much
for the old codger. The very night the test of the WZZZ outfit was made
he passed away and was no more on earth.

His funeral was one of the biggest we ever had in Westcote. I should
judge that five thousand people attended his remains to the cemetery,
for it had become widely known that the first WZZZ program would be
received and loud-spoken from Remington Solander's tomb that afternoon,
the first selection on the program--his favorite hymn--beginning as the
funeral cortege left the church and the program continuing until dark.

I'll say it was one of the most affecting occasions I have ever
witnessed. As the body was being carried into the tomb the loud speaker
gave us a sermon by Rev. Peter L. Ruggus, full of sob stuff, and every
one of the five thousand present wept. And when the funeral was really
finished, over two thousand remained to hear the rest of the program,
which consisted of hymns, missionary reports, static and recitations of
religious poems. We increased the price of the lots in the new addition
one hundred dollars per lot immediately, and we sold four lots that
afternoon and two the next morning. The big metropolitan newspapers all
gave the Westcote Cemetery full page illustrated articles the next
Sunday, and we received during the next week over three hundred letters,
mostly from ministers, praising what we had done.

       *       *       *       *       *

But that was not the best of it. Requests for lots began to come in by
mail. Not only people in Westcote wrote for prices, but people away over
in New Jersey and up in Westchester Country, and even from as far away
as Poughkeepsie and Delaware. We had twice as many requests for lots as
there were lots to sell, and we decided we would have an auction and let
them go to the highest bidders. You see Remington Solander's Talking
Tomb was becoming nationally famous. We began to negotiate with the
owners of six farms adjacent to our cemetery; we figured on buying them
and making more new additions to the cemetery. And then we found we
could not use three of the farms.

The reason was that the loud speaker in Remington Solander's tomb would
not carry that far; it was not strong enough. So we went to the
executors of his estate and ran up against another snag--nothing in the
radio outfit in the tomb could be altered in any way whatever. That was
in the will. The same loud speaker had to be maintained, the same
wave-length had to be kept, the same makes of batteries had to be used,
the same style of tubes had to be used. Remington Solander had thought
of all that. So we decided to let well enough alone--it was all we could
do anyway. We bought the farms that were reached by the loud speaker and
had them surveyed and laid out in lots--and then the thing happened!

       *       *       *       *       *

Yes, sir, I'll sell my cemetery stock for two cents on the dollar, if
anybody will bid that much for it. For what do you think happened? Along
came the Government of the United States, regulating this radio thing,
and assigned new wave-lengths to all the broadcasting stations. It gave
Remington Solander's endowed broadcasting station WZZZ an 855-meter
wave-length, and it gave that station at Dodwood--station PKX--the
327-meter wave-length, and the next day poor old Remington Solander's
tomb poured fourth "Yes, We Ain't Got No Bananas" and the "Hot Dog"
jazz and "If You Don't See Mama Every Night, You Can't See Mama At All,"
and Hink Tubbs in his funny stories, like "Well, one day an Irishman and
a Swede were walking down Broadway and they see a flapper coming towards
them. And she had on one of them short skirts they was wearing, see? So
Mike he says 'Gee be jabbers, Ole, I see a peach.' So the Swede he says
lookin' at the silk stockings, 'Mebby you ban see a peach, Mike, but I
ban see one mighty nice pair.' Well, the other day I went to see my
mother-in-law--"

You know the sort of program. I don't say that the people who like them
are not entitled to them, but I do say they are not the sort of programs
to loud-speak from a tomb in a cemetery. I expect old Remington Solander
turned clear over in his tomb when those programs began to come through.
I know our board of trustees went right up in the air, but there was not
a thing we could do about it. The newspapers gave us double pages the
next Sunday--"Remington Solander's Jazz Tomb" and "Westcote's Two-Step
Cemetery." And within a week the inmates of our cemetery began to move
out. Friends of people who had been buried over a hundred years came and
moved them to other cemeteries and took the headstones and monuments
with them, and in a month our cemetery looked like one of those Great
War battlefields--like a lot of shell-holes. Not a man, woman or child
was left in the place--except Remington Solander in his granite tomb on
top of the high knoll. What we've got on our hands is a deserted
cemetery.

They all blame me, but I can't do anything about it. All I can do is
groan--every morning I grab the paper and look for the PKX program and
then I groan. Remington Solander is the lucky man--he's dead.


THE END



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Amazing Stories_ April 1956 and was
    first published in _Amazing Stories_ June 1927. Extensive research
    did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this
    publication was renewed. Minor spelling and typographical errors
    have been corrected without note.





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