Infomotions, Inc.Carnacki, the Ghost Finder / Hodgson, William Hope, 1877-1918



Author: Hodgson, William Hope, 1877-1918
Title: Carnacki, the Ghost Finder
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): carnacki; pentacle; beaumont; electric pentacle; cellar; chapel; queer
Contributor(s): Kleiser, Grenville, 1868-1953 [Editor]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 56,815 words (short) Grade range: 9-12 (high school) Readability score: 64 (easy)
Identifier: etext10832
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Title: Carnacki, The Ghost Finder

Author: William Hope Hodgson

Release Date: January 25, 2004  [eBook #10832]

Language: English

Character set encoding: US-ASCII


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CARNACKI, THE GHOST FINDER

By William Hope Hodgson

1910, 1912







No. 1

THE GATEWAY OF THE MONSTER


In response to Carnacki's usual card of invitation to have dinner and
listen to a story, I arrived promptly at 427, Cheyne Walk, to find the
three others who were always invited to these happy little times, there
before me. Five minutes later, Carnacki, Arkright, Jessop, Taylor, and I
were all engaged in the "pleasant occupation" of dining.

"You've not been long away, this time," I remarked, as I finished my
soup; forgetting momentarily Carnacki's dislike of being asked even to
skirt the borders of his story until such time as he was ready. Then he
would not stint words.

"That's all," he replied, with brevity; and I changed the subject,
remarking that I had been buying a new gun, to which piece of news he
gave an intelligent nod, and a smile which I think showed a genuinely
good-humored appreciation of my intentional changing of the conversation.

Later, when dinner was finished, Carnacki snugged himself comfortably
down in his big chair, along with his pipe, and began his story, with
very little circumlocution:--

"As Dodgson was remarking just now, I've only been away a short time, and
for a very good reason too--I've only been away a short distance. The
exact locality I am afraid I must not tell you; but it is less than
twenty miles from here; though, except for changing a name, that won't
spoil the story. And it is a story too! One of the most extraordinary
things ever I have run against.

"I received a letter a fortnight ago from a man I must call Anderson,
asking for an appointment. I arranged a time, and when he came, I found
that he wished me to investigate and see whether I could not clear up a
long-standing and well--too well--authenticated case of what he termed
'haunting.' He gave me very full particulars, and, finally, as the case
seemed to present something unique, I decided to take it up.

"Two days later, I drove to the house late in the afternoon. I found it a
very old place, standing quite alone in its own grounds. Anderson had
left a letter with the butler, I found, pleading excuses for his absence,
and leaving the whole house at my disposal for my investigations. The
butler evidently knew the object of my visit, and I questioned him pretty
thoroughly during dinner, which I had in rather lonely state. He is an
old and privileged servant, and had the history of the Grey Room exact in
detail. From him I learned more particulars regarding two things that
Anderson had mentioned in but a casual manner. The first was that the
door of the Grey Room would be heard in the dead of night to open, and
slam heavily, and this even though the butler knew it was locked, and the
key on the bunch in his pantry. The second was that the bedclothes would
always be found torn off the bed, and hurled in a heap into a corner.

"But it was the door slamming that chiefly bothered the old butler. Many
and many a time, he told me, had he lain awake and just got shivering
with fright, listening; for sometimes the door would be slammed time
after time--thud! thud! thud!--so that sleep was impossible.

"From Anderson, I knew already that the room had a history extending back
over a hundred and fifty years. Three people had been strangled in it--an
ancestor of his and his wife and child. This is authentic, as I had taken
very great pains to discover; so that you can imagine it was with a
feeling I had a striking case to investigate that I went upstairs after
dinner to have a look at the Grey Room.

"Peter, the old butler, was in rather a state about my going, and assured
me with much solemnity that in all the twenty years of his service, no
one had ever entered that room after nightfall. He begged me, in quite a
fatherly way, to wait till the morning, when there would be no danger,
and then he could accompany me himself.

"Of course, I smiled a little at him, and told him not to bother. I
explained that I should do no more than look 'round a bit, and, perhaps,
affix a few seals. He need not fear; I was used to that sort of thing.
But he shook his head when I said that.

"'There isn't many ghosts like ours, sir,' he assured me, with mournful
pride. And, by Jove! he was right, as you will see.

"I took a couple of candles, and Peter followed with his bunch of keys.
He unlocked the door; but would not come inside with me. He was evidently
in a fright, and he renewed his request that I would put off my
examination until daylight. Of course, I laughed at him again, and told
him he could stand sentry at the door, and catch anything that came out.

"'It never comes outside, sir,' he said, in his funny, old, solemn
manner. Somehow, he managed to make me feel as if I were going to have
the 'creeps' right away. Anyway, it was one to him, you know.

"I left him there, and examined the room. It is a big apartment, and well
furnished in the grand style, with a huge four-poster, which stands with
its head to the end wall. There were two candles on the mantelpiece, and
two on each of the three tables that were in the room. I lit the lot, and
after that, the room felt a little less inhumanly dreary; though, mind
you, it was quite fresh, and well kept in every way.

"After I had taken a good look 'round, I sealed lengths of baby ribbon
across the windows, along the walls, over the pictures, and over the
fireplace and the wall closets. All the time, as I worked, the butler
stood just without the door, and I could not persuade him to enter;
though I jested him a little, as I stretched the ribbons, and went here
and there about my work. Every now and again, he would say:--'You'll
excuse me, I'm sure, sir; but I do wish you would come out, sir. I'm fair
in a quake for you.'

"I told him he need not wait; but he was loyal enough in his way to what
he considered his duty. He said he could not go away and leave me all
alone there. He apologized; but made it very clear that I did not realize
the danger of the room; and I could see, generally, that he was in a
pretty frightened state. All the same, I had to make the room so that I
should know if anything material entered it; so I asked him not to bother
me, unless he really heard or saw something. He was beginning to get on
my nerves, and the 'feel' of the room was bad enough, without making it
any nastier.

"For a time further, I worked, stretching ribbons across the floor, and
sealing them, so that the merest touch would have broken them, were
anyone to venture into the room in the dark with the intention of
playing the fool. All this had taken me far longer than I had
anticipated; and, suddenly, I heard a clock strike eleven. I had taken
off my coat soon after commencing work; now, however, as I had
practically made an end of all that I intended to do, I walked across to
the settee, and picked it up. I was in the act of getting into it, when
the old butler's voice (he had not said a word for the last hour) came
sharp and frightened:--'Come out, sir, quick! There's something going to
happen!' Jove! but I jumped, and then, in the same moment, one of the
candles on the table to the left went out. Now whether it was the wind,
or what, I do not know; but, just for a moment, I was enough startled to
make a run for the door; though I am glad to say that I pulled up, before
I reached it. I simply could not bunk out, with the butler standing
there, after having, as it were, read him a sort of lesson on 'bein'
brave, y'know.' So I just turned right 'round, picked up the two candles
off the mantelpiece, and walked across to the table near the bed. Well, I
saw nothing. I blew out the candle that was still alight; then I went to
those on the two tables, and blew them out. Then, outside of the door,
the old man called again:--'Oh! sir, do be told! Do be told!'

"'All right, Peter,' I said, and by Jove, my voice was not as steady as
I should have liked! I made for the door, and had a bit of work not to
start running. I took some thundering long strides, as you can imagine.
Near the door, I had a sudden feeling that there was a cold wind in the
room. It was almost as if the window had been suddenly opened a little.
I got to the door, and the old butler gave back a step, in a sort of
instinctive way. 'Collar the candles, Peter!' I said, pretty sharply,
and shoved them into his hands. I turned, and caught the handle, and
slammed the door shut, with a crash. Somehow, do you know, as I did so,
I thought I felt something pull back on it; but it must have been only
fancy. I turned the key in the lock, and then again, double-locking the
door. I felt easier then, and set-to and sealed the door. In addition, I
put my card over the keyhole, and sealed it there; after which I
pocketed the key, and went downstairs--with Peter; who was nervous and
silent, leading the way. Poor old beggar! It had not struck me until
that moment that he had been enduring a considerable strain during the
last two or three hours.

"About midnight, I went to bed. My room lay at the end of the corridor
upon which opens the door of the Grey Room. I counted the doors between
it and mine, and found that five rooms lay between. And I am sure you can
understand that I was not sorry. Then, just as I was beginning to
undress, an idea came to me, and I took my candle and sealing wax, and
sealed the doors of all five rooms. If any door slammed in the night, I
should know just which one.

"I returned to my room, locked the door, and went to bed. I was waked
suddenly from a deep sleep by a loud crash somewhere out in the passage.
I sat up in bed, and listened, but heard nothing. Then I lit my candle. I
was in the very act of lighting it when there came the bang of a door
being violently slammed, along the corridor. I jumped out of bed, and got
my revolver. I unlocked the door, and went out into the passage, holding
my candle high, and keeping the pistol ready. Then a queer thing
happened. I could not go a step toward the Grey Room. You all know I am
not really a cowardly chap. I've gone into too many cases connected with
ghostly things, to be accused of that; but I tell you I funked it; simply
funked it, just like any blessed kid. There was something precious unholy
in the air that night. I ran back into my bedroom, and shut and locked
the door. Then I sat on the bed all night, and listened to the dismal
thudding of a door up the corridor. The sound seemed to echo through all
the house.

"Daylight came at last, and I washed and dressed. The door had not
slammed for about an hour, and I was getting back my nerve again. I felt
ashamed of myself; though, in some ways it was silly; for when you're
meddling with that sort of thing, your nerve is bound to go, sometimes.
And you just have to sit quiet and call yourself a coward until daylight.
Sometimes it is more than just cowardice, I fancy. I believe at times it
is something warning you, and fighting _for_ you. But, all the same, I
always feel mean and miserable, after a time like that.

"When the day came properly, I opened my door, and, keeping my revolver
handy, went quietly along the passage. I had to pass the head of the
stairs, along the way, and who should I see coming up, but the old
butler, carrying a cup of coffee. He had merely tucked his nightshirt
into his trousers, and he had an old pair of carpet slippers on.

"'Hullo, Peter!' I said, feeling suddenly cheerful; for I was as glad as
any lost child to have a live human being close to me. 'Where are you off
to with the refreshments?'

"The old man gave a start, and slopped some of the coffee. He stared up
at me, and I could see that he looked white and done-up. He came on up
the stairs, and held out the little tray to me. 'I'm very thankful
indeed, sir, to see you safe and well,' he said. 'I feared, one time, you
might risk going into the Grey Room, sir. I've lain awake all night, with
the sound of the Door. And when it came light, I thought I'd make you a
cup of coffee. I knew you would want to look at the seals, and somehow it
seems safer if there's two, sir.'

"'Peter,' I said, 'you're a brick. This is very thoughtful of you.' And I
drank the coffee. 'Come along,' I told him, and handed him back the tray.
'I'm going to have a look at what the Brutes have been up to. I simply
hadn't the pluck to in the night.'

"'I'm very thankful, sir,' he replied. 'Flesh and blood can do nothing,
sir, against devils; and that's what's in the Grey Room after dark.'

"I examined the seals on all the doors, as I went along, and found them
right; but when I got to the Grey Room, the seal was broken; though the
card, over the keyhole, was untouched. I ripped it off, and unlocked the
door, and went in, rather cautiously, as you can imagine; but the whole
room was empty of anything to frighten one, and there was heaps of light.
I examined all my seals, and not a single one was disturbed. The old
butler had followed me in, and, suddenly, he called out:--'The
bedclothes, sir!'

"I ran up to the bed, and looked over; and, surely, they were lying in
the corner to the left of the bed. Jove! you can imagine how queer I
felt. Something _had_ been in the room. I stared for a while, from the
bed, to the clothes on the floor. I had a feeling that I did not want to
touch either. Old Peter, though, did not seem to be affected that way. He
went over to the bed coverings, and was going to pick them up, as,
doubtless, he had done every day these twenty years back; but I stopped
him. I wanted nothing touched, until I had finished my examination. This,
I must have spent a full hour over, and then I let Peter straighten up
the bed; after which we went out, and I locked the door; for the room was
getting on my nerves.

"I had a short walk, and then breakfast; after which I felt more my own
man, and so returned to the Grey Room, and, with Peter's help, and one of
the maids, I had everything taken out of the room, except the bed--even
the very pictures. I examined the walls, floor and ceiling then, with
probe, hammer and magnifying glass; but found nothing suspicious. And I
can assure you, I began to realize, in very truth, that some incredible
thing had been loose in the room during the past night. I sealed up
everything again, and went out, locking and sealing the door, as before.

"After dinner, Peter and I unpacked some of my stuff, and I fixed up my
camera and flashlight opposite to the door of the Grey Room, with a
string from the trigger of the flashlight to the door. Then, you see, if
the door were really opened, the flashlight would blare out, and there
would be, possibly, a very queer picture to examine in the morning. The
last thing I did, before leaving, was to uncap the lens; and after that I
went off to my bedroom, and to bed; for I intended to be up at midnight;
and to ensure this, I set my little alarm to call me; also I left my
candle burning.

"The clock woke me at twelve, and I got up and into my dressing gown and
slippers. I shoved my revolver into my right side-pocket, and opened my
door. Then, I lit my darkroom lamp, and withdrew the slide, so that it
would give a clear light. I carried it up the corridor, about thirty
feet, and put it down on the floor, with the open side away from me, so
that it would show me anything that might approach along the dark
passage. Then I went back, and sat in the doorway of my room, with my
revolver handy, staring up the passage toward the place where I knew my
camera stood outside the door of the Grey Room.

"I should think I had watched for about an hour and a half, when,
suddenly, I heard a faint noise, away up the corridor. I was immediately
conscious of a queer prickling sensation about the back of my head, and
my hands began to sweat a little. The following instant, the whole end of
the passage flicked into sight in the abrupt glare of the flashlight.
There came the succeeding darkness, and I peered nervously up the
corridor, listening tensely, and trying to find what lay beyond the faint
glow of my dark-lamp, which now seemed ridiculously dim by contrast with
the tremendous blaze of the flash-power.... And then, as I stooped
forward, staring and listening, there came the crashing thud of the door
of the Grey Room. The sound seemed to fill the whole of the large
corridor, and go echoing hollowly through the house. I tell you, I felt
horrible--as if my bones were water. Simply beastly. Jove! how I did
stare, and how I listened. And then it came again--thud, thud, thud, and
then a silence that was almost worse than the noise of the door; for I
kept fancying that some awful thing was stealing upon me along the
corridor. And then, suddenly, my lamp was put out, and I could not see a
yard before me. I realized all at once that I was doing a very silly
thing, sitting there, and I jumped up. Even as I did so, I _thought_ I
heard a sound in the passage, and quite _near_ me. I made one backward
spring into my room, and slammed and locked the door. I sat on my bed,
and stared at the door. I had my revolver in my hand; but it seemed an
abominably useless thing. I felt that there was something the other side
of that door. For some unknown reason I _knew_ it was pressed up against
the door, and it was soft. That was just what I thought. Most
extraordinary thing to think.

"Presently I got hold of myself a bit, and marked out a pentacle
hurriedly with chalk on the polished floor; and there I sat in it
almost until dawn. And all the time, away up the corridor, the door of
the Grey Room thudded at solemn and horrid intervals. It was a
miserable, brutal night.

"When the day began to break, the thudding of the door came gradually to
an end, and, at last, I got hold of my courage, and went along the
corridor in the half light to cap the lens of my camera. I can tell you,
it took some doing; but if I had not done so my photograph would have
been spoilt, and I was tremendously keen to save it. I got back to my
room, and then set-to and rubbed out the five-pointed star in which I had
been sitting.

"Half an hour later there was a tap at my door. It was Peter with my
coffee. When I had drunk it, we both went along to the Grey Room. As we
went, I had a look at the seals on the other doors; but they were
untouched. The seal on the door of the Grey Room was broken, as also was
the string from the trigger of the flashlight; but the card over the
keyhole was still there. I ripped it off, and opened the door. Nothing
unusual was to be seen until we came to the bed; then I saw that, as on
the previous day, the bedclothes had been torn off, and hurled into the
left-hand corner, exactly where I had seen them before. I felt very
queer; but I did not forget to look at all the seals, only to find that
not one had been broken.

"Then I turned and looked at old Peter, and he looked at me,
nodding his head.

"'Let's get out of here!' I said. 'It's no place for any living human to
enter, without proper protection.'

"We went out then, and I locked and sealed the door, again.

"After breakfast, I developed the negative; but it showed only the door
of the Grey Room, half opened. Then I left the house, as I wanted to get
certain matters and implements that might be necessary to life; perhaps
to the spirit; for I intended to spend the coming night in the Grey Room.

"I go back in a cab, about half-past five, with my apparatus, and this,
Peter and I carried up to the Grey Room, where I piled it carefully in
the center of the floor. When everything was in the room, including a cat
which I had brought, I locked and sealed the door, and went toward the
bedroom, telling Peter I should not be down for dinner. He said, 'Yes,
sir,' and went downstairs, thinking that I was going to turn in, which
was what I wanted him to believe, as I knew he would have worried both me
and himself, if he had known what I intended.

"But I merely got my camera and flashlight from my bedroom, and hurried
back to the Grey Room. I locked and sealed myself in, and set to work,
for I had a lot to do before it got dark.

"First, I cleared away all the ribbons across the floor; then I carried
the cat--still fastened in its basket--over toward the far wall, and left
it. I returned then to the center of the room, and measured out a space
twenty-one feet in diameter, which I swept with a 'broom of hyssop.'
About this, I drew a circle of chalk, taking care never to step over the
circle. Beyond this I smudged, with a bunch of garlic, a broad belt right
around the chalked circle, and when this was complete, I took from among
my stores in the center a small jar of a certain water. I broke away the
parchment, and withdrew the stopper. Then, dipping my left forefinger in
the little jar, I went 'round the circle again, making upon the floor,
just within the line of chalk, the Second Sign of the Saaamaaa Ritual,
and joining each Sign most carefully with the left-handed crescent. I can
tell you, I felt easier when this was done, and the 'water circle'
complete. Then, I unpacked some more of the stuff that I had brought, and
placed a lighted candle in the 'valley' of each Crescent. After that, I
drew a Pentacle, so that each of the five points of the defensive star
touched the chalk circle. In the five points of the star I placed five
portions of the bread, each wrapped in linen, and in the five 'vales,'
five opened jars of the water I had used to make the 'water circle.' And
now I had my first protective barrier complete.

"Now, anyone, except you who know something of my methods of
investigation, might consider all this a piece of useless and foolish
superstition; but you all remember the Black Veil case, in which I
believe my life was saved by a very similar form of protection, whilst
Aster, who sneered at it, and would not come inside, died. I got the idea
from the Sigsand MS., written, so far as I can make out, in the 14th
century. At first, naturally, I imagined it was just an expression of
the superstition of his time; and it was not until a year later that it
occurred to me to test his 'Defense,' which I did, as I've just said, in
that horrible Black Veil business. You know how _that_ turned out. Later,
I used it several times, and always I came through safe, until that
Moving Fur case. It was only a partial 'defense' therefore, and I nearly
died in the pentacle. After that I came across Professor Garder's
'Experiments with a Medium.' When they surrounded the Medium with a
current, in vacuum, he lost his power--almost as if it cut him off from
the Immaterial. That made me think a lot; and that is how I came to make
the Electric Pentacle, which is a most marvelous 'Defense' against
certain manifestations. I used the shape of the defensive star for this
protection, because I have, personally, no doubt at all but that there is
some extraordinary virtue in the old magic figure. Curious thing for a
Twentieth Century man to admit, is it not? But, then, as you all know, I
never did, and never will, allow myself to be blinded by the little cheap
laughter. I ask questions, and keep my eyes open.

"In this last case I had little doubt that I had run up against a
supernatural monster, and I meant to take every possible care; for the
danger is abominable.

"I turned-to now to fit the Electric Pentacle, setting it so that each of
its 'points' and 'vales' coincided exactly with the 'points' and 'vales'
of the drawn pentagram upon the floor. Then I connected up the battery,
and the next instant the pale blue glare from the intertwining vacuum
tubes shone out.

"I glanced about me then, with something of a sigh of relief, and
realized suddenly that the dusk was upon me, for the window was grey and
unfriendly. Then 'round at the big, empty room, over the double barrier
of electric and candle light. I had an abrupt, extraordinary sense of
weirdness thrust upon me--in the air, you know; as it were, a sense of
something inhuman impending. The room was full of the stench of bruised
garlic, a smell I hate.

"I turned now to the camera, and saw that it and the flashlight were in
order. Then I tested my revolver, carefully, though I had little thought
that it would be needed. Yet, to what extent materialization of an
ab-natural creature is possible, given favorable conditions, no one can
say; and I had no idea what horrible thing I was going to see, or feel
the presence of. I might, in the end, have to fight with a materialized
monster. I did not know, and could only be prepared. You see, I never
forgot that three other people had been strangled in the bed close to me,
and the fierce slamming of the door I had heard myself. I had no doubt
that I was investigating a dangerous and ugly case.

"By this time, the night had come; though the room was very light with
the burning candles; and I found myself glancing behind me, constantly,
and then all 'round the room. It was nervy work waiting for that thing to
come. Then, suddenly, I was aware of a little, cold wind sweeping over
me, coming from behind. I gave one great nerve-thrill, and a prickly
feeling went all over the back of my head. Then I hove myself 'round with
a sort of stiff jerk, and stared straight against that queer wind. It
seemed to come from the corner of the room to the left of the bed--the
place where both times I had found the heap of tossed bedclothes. Yet, I
could see nothing unusual; no opening--nothing!...

"Abruptly, I was aware that the candles were all a-flicker in that
unnatural wind.... I believe I just squatted there and stared in a
horribly frightened, wooden way for some minutes. I shall never be able
to let you know how disgustingly horrible it was sitting in that vile,
cold wind! And then, flick! flick! flick! all the candles 'round the
outer barrier went out; and there was I, locked and sealed in that room,
and with no light beyond the weakish blue glare of the Electric Pentacle.

"A time of abominable tenseness passed, and still that wind blew upon me;
and then, suddenly, I knew that something stirred in the corner to the
left of the bed. I was made conscious of it, rather by some inward,
unused sense than by either sight or sound; for the pale, short-radius
glare of the Pentacle gave but a very poor light for seeing by. Yet, as I
stared, something began slowly to grow upon my sight--a moving shadow, a
little darker than the surrounding shadows. I lost the thing amid the
vagueness, and for a moment or two I glanced swiftly from side to side,
with a fresh, new sense of impending danger. Then my attention was
directed to the bed. All the covering's were being drawn steadily off,
with a hateful, stealthy sort of motion. I heard the slow, dragging
slither of the clothes; but I could see nothing of the thing that pulled.
I was aware in a funny, subconscious, introspective fashion that the
'creep' had come upon me; yet that I was cooler mentally than I had been
for some minutes; sufficiently so to feel that my hands were sweating
coldly, and to shift my revolver, half-consciously, whilst I rubbed my
right hand dry upon my knee; though never, for an instant, taking my gaze
or my attention from those moving clothes.

"The faint noises from the bed ceased once, and there was a most intense
silence, with only the sound of the blood beating in my head. Yet,
immediately afterward, I heard again the slurring of the bedclothes being
dragged off the bed. In the midst of my nervous tension I remembered the
camera, and reached 'round for it; but without looking away from the bed.
And then, you know, all in a moment, the whole of the bed coverings were
torn off with extraordinary violence, and I heard the flump they made as
they were hurled into the corner.

"There was a time of absolute quietness then for perhaps a couple of
minutes; and you can imagine how horrible I felt. The bedclothes had been
thrown with such savageness! And, then again, the brutal unnaturalness of
the thing that had just been done before me!

"Abruptly, over by the door, I heard a faint noise--a sort of crickling
sound, and then a pitter or two upon the floor. A great nervous thrill
swept over me, seeming to run up my spine and over the back of my head;
for the seal that secured the door had just been broken. Something was
there. I could not see the door; at least, I mean to say that it was
impossible to say how much I actually saw, and how much my imagination
supplied. I made it out, only as a continuation of the grey walls.... And
then it seemed to me that something dark and indistinct moved and wavered
there among the shadows.

"Abruptly, I was aware that the door was opening, and with an effort I
reached again for my camera; but before I could aim it the door was
slammed with a terrific crash that filled the whole room with a sort of
hollow thunder. I jumped, like a frightened child. There seemed such a
power behind the noise; as though a vast, wanton Force were 'out.' Can
you understand?

"The door was not touched again; but, directly afterward, I heard the
basket, in which the cat lay, creak. I tell you, I fairly pringled all
along my back. I knew that I was going to learn definitely whether
whatever was abroad was dangerous to Life. From the cat there rose
suddenly a hideous caterwaul, that ceased abruptly; and then--too late--I
snapped off the flashlight. In the great glare, I saw that the basket had
been overturned, and the lid was wrenched open, with the cat lying half
in, and half out upon the floor. I saw nothing else, but I was full of
the knowledge that I was in the presence of some Being or Thing that had
power to destroy.

"During the next two or three minutes, there was an odd, noticeable
quietness in the room, and you much remember I was half-blinded, for the
time, because of the flashlight; so that the whole place seemed to be
pitchy dark just beyond the shine of the Pentacle. I tell you it was most
horrible. I just knelt there in the star, and whirled 'round, trying to
see whether anything was coming at me.

"My power of sight came gradually, and I got a little hold of myself; and
abruptly I saw the thing I was looking for, close to the 'water circle.'
It was big and indistinct, and wavered curiously, as though the shadow of
a vast spider hung suspended in the air, just beyond the barrier. It
passed swiftly 'round the circle, and seemed to probe ever toward me; but
only to draw back with extraordinary jerky movements, as might a living
person if they touched the hot bar of a grate.

"'Round and 'round it moved, and 'round and 'round I turned. Then, just
opposite to one of the Vales' in the pentacles, it seemed to pause, as
though preliminary to a tremendous effort. It retired almost beyond the
glow of the vacuum light, and then came straight toward me, appearing to
gather form and solidity as it came. There seemed a vast, malign
determination behind the movement, that must succeed. I was on my knees,
and I jerked back, falling on to my left hand, and hip, in a wild
endeavor to get back from the advancing thing. With my right hand I was
grabbing madly for my revolver, which I had let slip. The brutal thing
came with one great sweep straight over the garlic and the 'water
circle,' almost to the vale of the pentacle. I believe I yelled. Then,
just as suddenly as it had swept over, it seemed to be hurled back by
some mighty, invisible force.

"It must have been some moments before I realized that I was safe; and
then I got myself together in the middle of the pentacles, feeling
horribly gone and shaken, and glancing 'round and 'round the barrier; but
the thing had vanished. Yet, I had learnt something, for I knew now that
the Grey Room was haunted by a monstrous hand.

"Suddenly, as I crouched there, I saw what had so nearly given the
monster an opening through the barrier. In my movements within the
pentacle I must have touched one of the jars of water; for just where the
thing had made its attack the jar that guarded the 'deep' of the 'vale'
had been moved to one side, and this had left one of the 'five doorways'
unguarded. I put it back, quickly, and felt almost safe again, for I had
found the cause, and the 'defense' was still good. And I began to hope
again that I should see the morning come in. When I saw that thing so
nearly succeed, I had an awful, weak, overwhelming feeling that the
'barriers' could never bring me safe through the night against such a
Force. You can understand?

"For a long time I could not see the hand; but, presently, I thought I
saw, once or twice, an odd wavering, over among the shadows near the
door. A little later, as though in a sudden fit of malignant rage, the
dead body of the cat was picked up, and beaten with dull, sickening blows
against the solid floor. That made me feel rather queer.

"A minute afterward, the door was opened and slammed twice with
tremendous force. The next instant the thing made one swift, vicious dart
at me, from out of the shadows. Instinctively, I started sideways from
it, and so plucked my hand from upon the Electric Pentacle, where--for a
wickedly careless moment--I had placed it. The monster was hurled off
from the neighborhood of the pentacles; though--owing to my inconceivable
foolishness--it had been enabled for a second time to pass the outer
barriers. I can tell you, I shook for a time, with sheer funk. I moved
right to the center of the pentacles again, and knelt there, making
myself as small and compact as possible.

"As I knelt, there came to me presently, a vague wonder at the two
'accidents' which had so nearly allowed the brute to get at me. Was I
being _influenced_ to unconscious voluntary actions that endangered me?
The thought took hold of me, and I watched my every movement. Abruptly, I
stretched a tired leg, and knocked over one of the jars of water. Some
was spilled; but, because of my suspicious watchfulness, I had it upright
and back within the vale while yet some of the water remained. Even as I
did so, the vast, black, half-materialized hand beat up at me out of the
shadows, and seemed to leap almost into my face; so nearly did it
approach; but for the third time it was thrown back by some altogether
enormous, overmastering force. Yet, apart from the dazed fright in which
it left me, I had for a moment that feeling of spiritual sickness, as if
some delicate, beautiful, inward grace had suffered, which is felt only
upon the too near approach of the ab-human, and is more dreadful, in a
strange way, than any physical pain that can be suffered. I knew by this
more of the extent and closeness of the danger; and for a long time I was
simply cowed by the butt-headed brutality of that Force upon my spirit. I
can put it no other way.

"I knelt again in the center of the pentacles, watching myself with more
fear, almost, than the monster; for I knew now that, unless I guarded
myself from every sudden impulse that came to me, I might simply work my
own destruction. Do you see how horrible it all was?

"I spent the rest of the night in a haze of sick fright, and so tense
that I could not make a single movement naturally. I was in such fear
that any desire for action that came to me might be prompted by the
Influence that I knew was at work on me. And outside of the barrier that
ghastly thing went 'round and 'round, grabbing and grabbing in the air at
me. Twice more was the body of the dead cat molested. The second time, I
heard every bone in its body scrunch and crack. And all the time the
horrible wind was blowing upon me from the corner of the room to the left
of the bed.

"Then, just as the first touch of dawn came into the sky, that unnatural
wind ceased, in a single moment; and I could see no sign of the hand. The
dawn came slowly, and presently the wan light filled all the room, and
made the pale glare of the Electric Pentacle look more unearthly. Yet, it
was not until the day had fully come, that I made any attempt to leave
the barrier, for I did not know but that there was some method abroad, in
the sudden stopping of that wind, to entice me from the pentacles.

"At last, when the dawn was strong and bright, I took one last look
'round, and ran for the door. I got it unlocked, in a nervous and clumsy
fashion, then locked it hurriedly, and went to my bedroom, where I lay on
the bed, and tried to steady my nerves. Peter came, presently, with the
coffee, and when I had drunk it, I told him I meant to have a sleep, as I
had been up all night. He took the tray, and went out quietly, and after
I had locked my door I turned in properly, and at last got to sleep.

"I woke about midday, and after some lunch, went up to the Grey Room. I
switched off the current from the Pentacle, which I had left on in my
hurry; also, I removed the body of the cat. You can understand I did not
want anyone to see the poor brute. After that, I made a very careful
search of the corner where the bedclothes had been thrown. I made several
holes, and probed, and found nothing. Then it occurred to me to try with
my instrument under the skirting. I did so, and heard my wire ring on
metal. I turned the hook end that way, and fished for the thing. At the
second go, I got it. It was a small object, and I took it to the window.
I found it to be a curious ring, made of some greying material. The
curious thing about it was that it was made in the form of a pentagon;
that is, the same shape as the inside of the magic pentacle, but without
the 'mounts,' which form the points of the defensive star. It was free
from all chasing or engraving.

"You will understand that I was excited, when I tell you that I felt sure
I held in my hand the famous Luck Ring of the Anderson family; which,
indeed, was of all things the one most intimately connected with the
history of the haunting. This ring was handed on from father to son
through generations, and always--in obedience to some ancient family
tradition--each son had to promise never to wear the ring. The ring, I
may say, was brought home by one of the Crusaders, under very peculiar
circumstances; but the story is too long to go into here.

"It appears that young Sir Hulbert, an ancestor of Anderson's, made a
bet, in drink, you know, that he would wear the ring that night. He did
so, and in the morning his wife and child were found strangled in the
bed, in the very room in which I stood. Many people, it would seem,
thought young Sir Hulbert was guilty of having done the thing in drunken
anger; and he, in an attempt to prove his innocence, slept a second night
in the room. He also was strangled. Since then, as you may imagine, no
one has ever spent a night in the Grey Room, until I did so. The ring had
been lost so long, that it had become almost a myth; and it was most
extraordinary to stand there, with the actual thing in my hand, as you
can understand.

"It was whilst I stood there, looking at the ring, that I got an idea.
Supposing that it were, in a way, a doorway--You see what I mean? A sort
of gap in the world-hedge. It was a queer idea, I know, and probably was
not my own, but came to me from the Outside. You see, the wind had come
from that part of the room where the ring lay. I thought a lot about it.
Then the shape--the inside of a pentacle. It had no 'mounts,' and without
mounts, as the Sigsand MS. has it:--'Thee mownts wych are thee Five Hills
of safetie. To lack is to gyve pow'r to thee daemon; and surelie to
fayvor the Evill Thynge.' You see, the very shape of the ring was
significant; and I determined to test it.

"I unmade the pentacle, for it must be made afresh _and around_ the one
to be protected. Then I went out and locked the door; after which I left
the house, to get certain matters, for neither 'yarbs nor fyre nor waier'
must be used a second time. I returned about seven thirty, and as soon as
the things I had brought had been carried up to the Grey Room, I
dismissed Peter for the night, just as I had done the evening before.
When he had gone downstairs, I let myself into the room, and locked and
sealed the door. I went to the place in the center of the room where all
the stuff had been packed, and set to work with all my speed to construct
a barrier about me and the ring.

"I do not remember whether I explained it to you. But I had reasoned
that, if the ring were in any way a 'medium of admission,' and it were
enclosed with me in the Electric Pentacle, it would be, to express it
loosely, insulated. Do you see? The Force, which had visible expression
as a Hand, would have to stay beyond the Barrier which separates the Ab
from the Normal; for the 'gateway' would be removed from accessibility.

"As I was saying, I worked with all my speed to get the barrier completed
about me and the ring, for it was already later than I cared to be in
that room 'unprotected.' Also, I had a feeling that there would be a vast
effort made that night to regain the use of the ring. For I had the
strongest conviction that the ring was a necessity to materialization.
You will see whether I was right.

"I completed the barriers in about an hour, and you can imagine something
of the relief I felt when I felt the pale glare of the Electric Pentacle
once more all about me. From then, onward, for about two hours, I sat
quietly, facing the corner from which the wind came. About eleven o'clock
a queer knowledge came that something was near to me; yet nothing
happened for a whole hour after that. Then, suddenly, I felt the cold,
queer wind begin to blow upon me. To my astonishment, it seemed now to
come from behind me, and I whipped 'round, with a hideous quake of fear.
The wind met me in the face. It was blowing up from the floor close to
me. I stared down, in a sickening maze of new frights. What on earth had
I done now! The ring was there, close beside me, where I had put it.
Suddenly, as I stared, bewildered, I was aware that there was something
queer about the ring--funny shadowy movements and convolutions. I looked
at them, stupidly. And then, abruptly, I knew that the wind was blowing
up at me from the ring. A queer indistinct smoke became visible to me,
seeming to pour upward through the ring, and mix with the moving shadows.
Suddenly, I realized that I was in more than any mortal danger; for the
convoluting shadows about the ring were taking shape, and the death-hand
was forming _within_ the Pentacle. My Goodness! do you realize it! I had
brought the 'gateway' into the pentacles, and the brute was coming
through--pouring into the material world, as gas might pour out from the
mouth of a pipe.

"I should think that I knelt for a moment in a sort of stunned fright.
Then, with a mad, awkward movement, I snatched at the ring, intending to
hurl it out of the Pentacle. Yet it eluded me, as though some invisible,
living thing jerked it hither and thither. At last, I gripped it; yet,
in the same instant, it was torn from my grasp with incredible and brutal
force. A great, black shadow covered it, and rose into the air, and came
at me. I saw that it was the Hand, vast and nearly perfect in form. I
gave one crazy yell, and jumped over the Pentacle and the ring of burning
candles, and ran despairingly for the door. I fumbled idiotically and
ineffectually with the key, and all the time I stared, with a fear that
was like insanity, toward the Barriers. The hand was plunging toward me;
yet, even as it had been unable to pass into the Pentacle when the ring
was without, so, now that the ring was within, it had no power to pass
out. The monster was chained, as surely as any beast would be, were
chains riveted upon it.

"Even then, I got a flash of this knowledge; but I was too utterly shaken
with fright, to reason; and the instant I managed to get the key turned,
I sprang into the passage, and slammed the door with a crash. I locked
it, and got to my room somehow; for I was trembling so that I could
hardly stand, as you can imagine. I locked myself in, and managed to get
the candle lit; then I lay down on my bed, and kept quiet for an hour or
two, and so I got steadied.

"I got a little sleep, later; but woke when Peter brought my coffee.
When I had drunk it I felt altogether better, and took the old man along
with me whilst I had a look into the Grey Room. I opened the door, and
peeped in. The candles were still burning, wan against the daylight; and
behind them was the pale, glowing star of the Electric Pentacle. And
there, in the middle, was the ring ... the gateway of the monster, lying
demure and ordinary.

"Nothing in the room was touched, and I knew that the brute had never
managed to cross the Pentacles. Then I went out, and locked the door.

"After a sleep of some hours, I left the house. I returned in the
afternoon in a cab. I had with me an oxy-hydrogen jet, and two
cylinders, containing the gases. I carried the things into the Grey
Room, and there, in the center of the Electric Pentacle, I erected the
little furnace. Five minutes later the Luck Ring, once the 'luck,' but
now the 'bane,' of the Anderson family, was no more than a little solid
splash of hot metal."

Carnacki felt in his pocket, and pulled out something wrapped in tissue
paper. He passed it to me. I opened it, and found a small circle of
greyish metal, something like lead, only harder and rather brighter.

"Well?" I asked, at length, after examining it and handing it 'round to
the others. "Did that stop the haunting?"

Carnacki nodded. "Yes," he said. "I slept three nights in the Grey Room,
before I left. Old Peter nearly fainted when he knew that I meant to; but
by the third night he seemed to realize that the house was just safe and
ordinary. And, you know, I believe, in his heart, he hardly approved."

Carnacki stood up and began to shake hands. "Out you go!" he said,
genially. And presently we went, pondering, to our various homes.




No. 2

THE HOUSE AMONG THE LAURELS


"This is a curious yarn that I am going to tell you," said Carnacki, as
after a quiet little dinner we made ourselves comfortable in his cozy
dining room.

"I have just got back from the West of Ireland," he continued.
"Wentworth, a friend of mine, has lately had rather an unexpected legacy,
in the shape of a large estate and manor, about a mile and a half outside
of the village of Korunton. This place is named Gannington Manor, and has
been empty a great number of years; as you will find is almost always the
case with Houses reputed to be haunted, as it is usually termed.

"It seems that when Wentworth went over to take possession, he found the
place in very poor repair, and the estate totally uncared for, and, as I
know, looking very desolate and lonesome generally. He went through the
big house by himself, and he admitted to me that it had an uncomfortable
feeling about it; but, of course, that might be nothing more than the
natural dismalness of a big, empty house, which has been long
uninhabited, and through which you are wandering alone.

"When he had finished his look 'round, he went down to the village,
meaning to see the one-time Agent of the Estate, and arrange for someone
to go in as caretaker. The Agent, who proved by the way to be a
Scotchman, was very willing to take up the management of the Estate once
more; but he assured Wentworth that they would get no one to go in as
caretaker; and that his--the Agent's--advice was to have the house pulled
down, and a new one built.

"This, naturally, astonished my friend, and, as they went down to the
village, he managed to get a sort of explanation from the man. It seems
that there had been always curious stories told about the place, which in
the early days was called Landru Castle, and that within the last seven
years there had been two extraordinary deaths there. In each case they
had been tramps, who were ignorant of the reputation of the house, and
had probably thought the big empty place suitable for a night's free
lodging. There had been absolutely no signs of violence to indicate the
method by which death was caused, and on each occasion the body had been
found in the great entrance hall.

"By this time they had reached the inn where Wentworth had put up, and he
told the Agent that he would prove that it was all rubbish about the
haunting, by staying a night or two in the Manor himself. The death of
the tramps was certainly curious; but did not prove that any supernatural
agency had been at work. They were but isolated accidents, spread over a
large number of years by the memory of the villagers, which was natural
enough in a little place like Korunton. Tramps had to die some time, and
in some place, and it proved nothing that two, out of possibly hundreds
who had slept in the empty house, had happened to take the opportunity
to die under shelter.

"But the Agent took his remark very seriously, and both he and Dennis the
landlord of the inn, tried their best to persuade him not to go. For his
'sowl's sake,' Irish Dennis begged him to do no such thing; and because
of his 'life's sake,' the Scotchman was equally in earnest.

"It was late afternoon at the time, and as Wentworth told me, it was warm
and bright, and it seemed such utter rot to hear those two talking
seriously about the impossible. He felt full of pluck, and he made up his
mind he would smash the story of the haunting, at once by staying that
very night, in the Manor. He made this quite clear to them, and told them
that it would be more to the point and to their credit, if they offered
to come up along with him, and keep him company. But poor old Dennis was
quite shocked, I believe, at the suggestion; and though Tabbit, the
Agent, took it more quietly, he was very solemn about it.

"It seems that Wentworth did go; and though, as he said to me, when
the evening began to come on, it seemed a very different sort of thing
to tackle.

"A whole crowd of the villagers assembled to see him off; for by this
time they all knew of his intention. Wentworth had his gun with him, and
a big packet of candles; and he made it clear to them all that it would
not be wise for anyone to play any tricks; as he intended to shoot 'at
sight.' And then, you know, he got a hint of how serious they considered
the whole thing; for one of them came up to him, leading a great
bullmastiff, and offered it to him, to take to keep him company.
Wentworth patted his gun; but the old man who owned the dog shook his
head and explained that the brute might warn him in sufficient time for
him to get away from the castle. For it was obvious that he did not
consider the gun would prove of any use.

"Wentworth took the dog, and thanked the man. He told me that, already,
he was beginning to wish that he had not said definitely that he would
go; but, as it was, he was simply forced to. He went through the crowd of
men, and found suddenly that they had all turned in a body and were
keeping him company. They stayed with him all the way to the Manor, and
then went right over the whole place with him.

"It was still daylight when this was finished; though turning to dusk;
and, for a while, the men stood about, hesitating, as if they felt
ashamed to go away and leave Wentworth there all alone. He told me that,
by this time, he would gladly have given fifty pounds to be going back
with them. And then, abruptly, an idea came to him. He suggested that
they should stay with him, and keep him company through the night. For a
time they refused, and tried to persuade him to go back with them; but
finally he made a proposition that got home to them all. He planned that
they should all go back to the inn, and there get a couple of dozen
bottles of whisky, a donkey-load of turf and wood, and some more candles.
Then they would come back, and make a great fire in the big fire-place,
light all the candles, and put them 'round the place, open the whisky and
make a night of it. And, by Jove! he got them to agree.

"They set off back, and were soon at the inn, and here, whilst the donkey
was being loaded, and the candles and whisky distributed, Dennis was
doing his best to keep Wentworth from going back; but he was a sensible
man in his way, for when he found that it was no use, he stopped. You
see, he did not want to frighten the others from accompanying Wentworth.

"'I tell ye, sorr,' he told him, ''tis of no use at all, thryin' ter
reclaim ther castle. 'Tis curst with innocent blood, an' ye'll be betther
pullin' it down, an' buildin' a fine new wan. But if ye be intendin' to
shtay this night, kape the big dhoor open whide, an' watch for the
bhlood-dhrip. If so much as a single dhrip falls, don't shtay though all
the gold in the worrld was offered ye.'

"Wentworth asked him what he meant by the blood-drip.

"'Shure,' he said, ''tis the bhlood av thim as ould Black Mick 'way back
in the ould days kilt in their shlape. 'Twas a feud as he pretendid to
patch up, an' he invited thim--the O'Haras they was--siventy av thim. An'
he fed thim, an' shpoke soft to thim, an' thim thrustin' him, sthayed to
shlape with him. Thin, he an' thim with him, stharted in an' mhurdered
thim was an' all as they slep'. 'Tis from me father's grandfather ye have
the sthory. An' sence thin 'tis death to any, so they say, to pass the
night in the castle whin the bhlood-dhrip comes. 'Twill put out candle
an' fire, an' thin in the darkness the Virgin Herself would be powerless
to protect ye.'

"Wentworth told me he laughed at this; chiefly because, as he put
it:--'One always must laugh at that sort of yarn, however it makes you
feel inside.' He asked old Dennis whether he expected him to believe it.

"'Yes, sorr,' said Dennis, 'I do mane ye to b'lieve it; an' please God,
if ye'll b'lieve, ye may be back safe befor' mornin'.' The man's serious
simplicity took hold of Wentworth, and he held out his hand. But, for all
that, he went; and I must admire his pluck.

"There were now about forty men, and when they got back to the Manor--or
castle as the villagers always call it--they were not long in getting a
big fire going, and lighted candles all 'round the great hall. They had
all brought sticks; so that they would have been a pretty formidable lot
to tackle by anything simply physical; and, of course, Wentworth had his
gun. He kept the whisky in his own charge; for he intended to keep them
sober; but he gave them a good strong tot all 'round first, so as to
make things seem cheerful; and to get them yearning. If you once let a
crowd of men like that grow silent, they begin to think, and then to
fancy things.

"The big entrance door had been left wide open, by his orders; which
shows that he had taken some notice of Dennis. It was a quiet night, so
this did not matter, for the lights kept steady, and all went on in a
jolly sort of fashion for about three hours. He had opened a second lot
of bottles, and everyone was feeling cheerful; so much so that one of the
men called out aloud to the ghosts to come out and show themselves. And
then, you know a very extraordinary thing happened; for the ponderous
main door swung quietly and steadily to, as though pushed by an invisible
hand, and shut with a sharp click.

"Wentworth stared, feeling suddenly rather chilly. Then he remembered the
men, and looked 'round at them. Several had ceased their talk, and were
staring in a frightened way at the big door; but the great number had
never noticed, and were talking and yarning. He reached for his gun, and
the following instant the great bullmastiff set up a tremendous barking,
which drew the attention of the whole company.

"The hall I should tell you is oblong. The south wall is all windows; but
the north and east have rows of doors, leading into the house, whilst the
west wall is occupied by the great entrance. The rows of doors leading
into the house were all closed, and it was toward one of these in the
north wall that the big dog ran; yet he would not go very close; and
suddenly the door began to move slowly open, until the blackness of the
passage beyond was shown. The dog came back among the men, whimpering,
and for a minute there was an absolute silence.

"Then Wentworth went out from the men a little, and aimed his gun at
the doorway.

"'Whoever is there, come out, or I shall fire,' he shouted; but nothing
came, and he blazed forth both barrels into the dark. As though the
report had been a signal, all the doors along the north and east walls
moved slowly open, and Wentworth and his men were staring, frightened
into the black shapes of the empty doorways.

"Wentworth loaded his gun quickly, and called to the dog; but the brute
was burrowing away in among the men; and this fear on the dog's part
frightened Wentworth more, he told me, than anything. Then something else
happened. Three of the candles over in the corner of the hall went out;
and immediately about half a dozen in different parts of the place. More
candles were put out, and the hall had become quite dark in the corners.

"The men were all standing now, holding their clubs, and crowded
together. And no one said a word. Wentworth told me he felt positively
ill with fright. I know the feeling. Then, suddenly, something splashed
on to the back of his left hand. He lifted it, and looked. It was covered
with a great splash of red that dripped from his fingers. An old Irishman
near to him, saw it, and croaked out in a quavering voice:--'The
bhlood-dhrip!' When the old man called out, they all looked, and in the
same instant others felt it upon them. There were frightened cries
of:--'The bhlood-dhrip! The bhlood-dhrip!' And then, about a dozen
candles went out simultaneously, and the hall was suddenly dark. The dog
let out a great, mournful howl, and there was a horrible little silence,
with everyone standing rigid. Then the tension broke, and there was a mad
rush for the main door. They wrenched it open, and tumbled out into the
dark; but something slammed it with a crash after them, and shut the dog
in; for Wentworth heard it howling as they raced down the drive. Yet no
one had the pluck to go back to let it out, which does not surprise me.

"Wentworth sent for me the following day. He had heard of me in
connection with that Steeple Monster Case. I arrived by the night mail,
and put up with Wentworth at the inn. The next day we went up to the old
Manor, which certainly lies in rather a wilderness; though what struck
me most was the extraordinary number of laurel bushes about the house.
The place was smothered with them; so that the house seemed to be
growing up out of a sea of green laurel. These, and the grim, ancient
look of the old building, made the place look a bit dank and ghostly,
even by daylight.

"The hall was a big place, and well lit by daylight; for which I was not
sorry. You see, I had been rather wound-up by Wentworth's yarn. We found
one rather funny thing, and that was the great bullmastiff, lying stiff
with its neck broken. This made me feel very serious; for it showed that
whether the cause was supernatural or not, there was present in the house
some force exceedingly dangerous to life.

"Later, whilst Wentworth stood guard with his shotgun, I made an
examination of the hall. The bottles and mugs from which the men had
drunk their whisky were scattered about; and all over the place were the
candles, stuck upright in their own grease. But in the somewhat brief and
general search, I found nothing; and decided to begin my usual exact
examination of every square foot of the place--not only of the hall, in
this case, but of the whole interior of the castle.

"I spent three uncomfortable weeks, searching; but without result of any
kind. And, you know, the care I take at this period is extreme; for I
have solved hundreds of cases of so-called 'hauntings' at this early
stage, simply by the most minute investigation, and the keeping of a
perfectly open mind. But, as I have said, I found nothing. During the
whole of the examination, I got Wentworth to stand guard with his loaded
shotgun; and I was very particular that we were never caught there
after dusk.

"I decided now to make the experiment of staying a night in the great
hall, of course 'protected.' I spoke about it to Wentworth; but his own
attempt had made him so nervous that he begged me to do no such thing.
However, I thought it well worth the risk, and I managed in the end to
persuade him to be present.

"With this in view, I went to the neighboring town of Gaunt, and by an
arrangement with the Chief Constable I obtained the services of six
policemen with their rifles. The arrangement was unofficial, of course,
and the men were allowed to volunteer, with a promise of payment.

"When the constables arrived early that evening at the inn, I gave them a
good feed; and after that we all set out for the Manor. We had four
donkeys with us, loaded with fuel and other matters; also two great
boarhounds, which one of the police led. When we reached the house, I set
the men to unload the donkeys; whilst Wentworth and I set-to and sealed
all the doors, except the main entrance, with tape and wax; for if the
doors were really opened, I was going to be sure of the fact. I was going
to run no risk of being deceived by ghostly hallucination, or mesmeric
influence.

"By the time that this was done, the policemen had unloaded the donkeys,
and were waiting, looking about them, curiously. I set two of them to
lay a fire in the big grate, and the others I used as I required them. I
took one of the boarhounds to the end of the hall furthest from the
entrance, and there I drove a staple into the floor, to which I tied the
dog with a short tether. Then, 'round him, I drew upon the floor the
figure of a Pentacle, in chalk. Outside of the Pentacle, I made a circle
with garlic. I did exactly the same thing with the other hound; but over
more in the northeast corner of the big hall, where the two rows of
doors make the angle.

"When this was done, I cleared the whole center of the hall, and put one
of the policemen to sweep it; after which I had all my apparatus carried
into the cleared space. Then I went over to the main door and hooked it
open, so that the hook would have to be lifted out of the hasp, before
the door could be closed. After that, I placed lighted candles before
each of the sealed doors, and one in each corner of the big room; and
then I lit the fire. When I saw that it was properly alight, I got all
the men together, by the pile of things in the center of the room, and
took their pipes from them; for, as the Sigsand MS. has it:--'Theyre must
noe lyght come from wythin the barryier.' And I was going to make sure.

"I got my tape measure then, and measured out a circle thirty-three feet
in diameter, and immediately chalked it out. The police and Wentworth
were tremendously interested, and I took the opportunity to warn them
that this was no piece of silly mumming on my part; but done with a
definite intention of erecting a barrier between us and any ab-human
thing that the night might show to us. I warned them that, as they
valued their lives, and more than their lives it might be, no one must
on any account whatsoever pass beyond the limits of the barrier that I
was making.

"After I had drawn the circle, I took a bunch of the garlic, and smudged
it right 'round the chalk circle, a little outside of it. When this was
complete, I called for candles from my stock of material. I set the
police to lighting them, and as they were lit, I took them, and sealed
them down on the floor, just within the chalk circle, five inches apart.
As each candle measured approximately one inch in diameter, it took
sixty-six candles to complete the circle; and I need hardly say that
every number and measurement has a significance.

"Then, from candle to candle I took a 'gayrd' of human hair, entwining it
alternately to the left and to the right, until the circle was
completed, and the ends of the hair shod with silver, and pressed into
the wax of the sixty-sixth candle.

"It had now been dark some time, and I made haste to get the 'Defense'
complete. To this end, I got the men well together, and began to fit the
Electric Pentacle right around us, so that the five points of the
Defensive Star came just within the Hair Circle. This did not take me
long, and a minute later I had connected up the batteries, and the weak
blue glare of the intertwining vacuum tubes shone all around us. I felt
happier then; for this Pentacle is, as you all know, a wonderful
'Defense.' I have told you before, how the idea came to me, after reading
Professor Garder's 'Experiments with a Medium.' He found that a current,
of a certain number of vibrations, _in vacuo,_ 'insulated' the medium. It
is difficult to suggest an explanation non-technically, and if you are
really interested you should read Carder's lecture on 'Astral Vibrations
Compared with Matero-involuted Vibrations below the Six-Billion Limit.'

"As I stood up from my work, I could hear outside in the night a constant
drip from the laurels, which as I have said, come right up around the
house, very thick. By the sound, I knew that a 'soft' rain had set in;
and there was absolutely no wind, as I could tell by the steady flames of
the candles.

"I stood a moment or two, listening, and then one of the men touched my
arm, and asked me in a low voice, what they should do. By his tone, I
could tell that he was feeling something of the strangeness of it all;
and the other men, including Wentworth, were so quiet that I was afraid
they were beginning to get shaky.

"I set-to, then, and arranged them with their backs to one common center;
so that they were sitting flat upon the floor, with their feet radiating
outward. Then, by compass, I laid their legs to the eight chief points,
and afterward I drew a circle with chalk around them; and opposite to
their feet, I made the Eight Signs of the Saaamaaa Ritual. The eighth
place was, of course, empty; but ready for me to occupy at any moment;
for I had omitted to make the Sealing Sign to that point, until I had
finished all my preparations, and could enter the Inner Star.

"I took a last look 'round the great hall, and saw that the two big
hounds were lying quietly, with their noses between their paws. The fire
was big and cheerful, and the candles before the two rows of doors, burnt
steadily, as well as the solitary ones in the corners. Then I went 'round
the little star of men, and warned them not to be frightened whatever
happened; but to trust to the 'Defense'; and to let nothing tempt or
drive them to cross the Barriers. Also, I told them to watch their
movements, and to keep their feet strictly to their places. For the rest,
there was to be no shooting, unless I gave the word.

"And now at last, I went to my place, and, sitting down, made the Eighth
sign just beyond my feet. Then I arranged my camera and flashlight handy,
and examined my revolver.

"Wentworth sat behind the First Sign, and as the numbering went 'round
reversed, that put him next to me on my left. I asked him, in a low
voice, how he felt; and he told me, rather nervous; but that he felt
confidence in my knowledge and was resolved to go through with the
matter, whatever happened.

"We settled down to wait. There was no talking, except that, once or
twice, the police bent toward one another, and whispered odd remarks
concerning the hall, that appeared queerly audible in the intense
silence. But in a while there was not even a whisper from anyone, and
only the monotonous drip, drip of the quiet rain without the great
entrance, and the low, dull sound of the fire in the big fireplace.

"It was a queer group that we made sitting there, back to back, with our
legs starred outward; and all around us the strange blue glow of the
Pentacle, and beyond that the brilliant shining of the great ring of
lighted candles. Outside of the glare of the candles, the large empty
hall looked a little gloomy, by contrast, except where the lights shone
before the sealed doors, and the blaze of the big fire made a good honest
mass of flame. And the feeling of mystery! Can you picture it all?

"It might have been an hour later that it came to me suddenly that I was
aware of an extraordinary sense of dreeness, as it were, come into the
air of the place. Not the nervous feeling of mystery that had been with
us all the time; but a new feeling, as if there were something going to
happen any moment.

"Abruptly, there came a slight noise from the east end of the hall, and I
felt the star of men move suddenly. 'Steady! Keep steady!' I shouted, and
they quietened. I looked up the hall, and saw that the dogs were upon
their feet, and staring in an extraordinary fashion toward the great
entrance. I turned and stared, also, and felt the men move as they craned
their heads to look. Suddenly, the dogs set up a tremendous barking, and
I glanced across to them, and found they were still 'pointing' for the
big doorway. They ceased their noise just as quickly, and seemed to be
listening. In the same instant, I heard a faint chink of metal to my
left, that set me staring at the hook which held the great door wide. It
moved, even as I looked. Some invisible thing was meddling with it. A
queer, sickening thrill went through me, and I felt all the men about me,
stiffen and go rigid with intensity. I had a certainty of something
impending: as it might be the impression of an invisible, but
overwhelming, Presence. The hall was full of a queer silence, and not a
sound came from the dogs. _Then I saw the hook slowly raised from out of
its hasp, without any visible thing touching it._ Then a sudden power of
movement came to me. I raised my camera, with the flashlight fixed, and
snapped it at the door. There came the great blare of the flashlight, and
a simultaneous roar of barking from the two dogs.

"The intensity of the flash made all the place seem dark for some
moments, and in that time of darkness, I heard a jingle in the direction
of the door, and strained to look. The effect of the bright light passed,
and I could see clearly again. The great entrance door was being slowly
closed. It shut with a sharp snick, and there followed a long silence,
broken only by the whimpering of the dogs.

"I turned suddenly, and looked at Wentworth. He was looking at me.

"'Just as it did before,' he whispered.

"'Most extraordinary,' I said, and he nodded and looked 'round,
nervously.

"The policemen were pretty quiet, and I judged that they were feeling
rather worse than Wentworth; though, for that matter, you must not think
that I was altogether natural; yet I have seen so much that is
extraordinary, that I daresay I can keep my nerves steady longer than
most people.

"I looked over my shoulder at the men, and cautioned them, in a low
voice, not to move outside of the Barriers, _whatever happened_; not even
though the house should seem to be rocking and about to tumble on to
them; for well I knew what some of the great Forces are capable of doing.
Yet, unless it should prove to be one of the cases of the more terrible
Saiitii Manifestation, we were almost certain of safety, so long as we
kept to our order within the Pentacle.

"Perhaps an hour and a half passed, quietly, except when, once in a way,
the dogs would whine distressfully. Presently, however, they ceased even
from this, and I could see them lying on the floor with their paws over
their noses, in a most peculiar fashion, and shivering visibly. The
sight made me feel more serious, as you can understand.

"Suddenly, the candle in the corner furthest from the main door, went
out. An instant later, Wentworth jerked my arm, and I saw that the candle
before one of the sealed doors had been put out. I held my camera ready.
Then, one after another, every candle about the hall was put out, and
with such speed and irregularity, that I could never catch one in the
actual act of being extinguished. Yet, for all that, I took a flashlight
of the hall in general.

"There was a time in which I sat half-blinded by the great glare of the
flash, and I blamed myself for not having remembered to bring a pair of
smoked goggles, which I have sometimes used at these times. I had felt
the men jump, at the sudden light, and I called out loud to them to sit
quiet, and to keep their feet exactly to their proper places. My voice,
as you can imagine, sounded rather horrid and frightening in the great
room, and altogether it was a beastly moment.

"Then, I was able to see again, and I stared here and there about the
hall; but there was nothing showing unusual; only, of course, it was dark
now over in the corners.

"Suddenly, I saw that the great fire was blackening. It was going out
visibly, as I looked. If I said that some monstrous, invisible,
impossible creature sucked the life from it, I could best explain the
way the light and flame went out of it. It was most extraordinary to
watch. In the time that I watched it, every vestige of fire was gone
from it, and there was no light outside of the ring of candles around
the Pentacle.

"The deliberateness of the thing troubled me more than I can make clear
to you. It conveyed to me such a sense of a calm Deliberate Force present
in the hall: The steadfast intention to 'make a darkness' was horrible.
The _extent_ of the Power to affect the Material was the steadfast
intention to 'make a darkness' was horrible. The extent of the Power to
affect the Material was now the one constant, anxious questioning in my
brain. You can understand?

"Behind me, I heard the policemen moving again, and I knew that they were
getting thoroughly frightened. I turned half 'round, and told them,
quietly but plainly, that they were safe only so long as they stayed
within the Pentacle, in the position in which I had put them. If they
once broke, and went outside of the Barrier, no knowledge of mine could
state the full extent of the dreadfulness of the danger.

"I steadied them up, by this quiet, straight reminder; but if they had
known, as I knew, that there is no certainty in any 'Protection,' they
would have suffered a great deal more, and probably have broken the
'Defense,' and made a mad, foolish run for an impossible safety.

"Another hour passed, after this, in an absolute quietness. I had a sense
of awful strain and oppression, as though I were a little spirit in the
company of some invisible, brooding monster of the unseen world, who, as
yet, was scarcely conscious of us. I leant across to Wentworth, and asked
him in a whisper whether he had a feeling as if something were in the
room. He looked very pale, and his eyes kept always on the move. He
glanced just once at me, and nodded; then stared away 'round the hall
again. And when I came to think, I was doing the same thing.

"Abruptly, as though a hundred unseen hands had snuffed them, every
candle in the Barrier went dead out, and we were left in a darkness that
seemed, for a little, absolute; for the light from the Pentacle was too
weak and pale to penetrate far across the great hall.

"I tell you, for a moment, I just sat there as though I had been frozen
solid. I felt the 'creep' go all over me, and seem to stop in my brain. I
felt all at once to be given a power of hearing that was far beyond the
normal. I could hear my own heart thudding most given a power of hearing
that was far beyond the normal. I could hear my own heart thudding most
extraordinarily loud. I began, however, to feel better, after a while;
but I simply had not the pluck to move. You can understand?

"Presently, I began to get my courage back. I gripped at my camera and
flashlight, and waited. My hands were simply soaked with sweat. I glanced
once at Wentworth. I could see him only dimly. His shoulders were hunched
a little, his head forward; but though it was motionless, I knew that his
eyes were not. It is queer how one knows that sort of thing at times. The
police were just as silent. And thus a while passed.

"A sudden sound broke across the silence. From two sides of the room
there came faint noises. I recognized them at once, as the breaking of
the sealing-wax. _The sealed doors were opening._ I raised the camera and
flashlight, and it was a peculiar mixture of fear and courage that helped
me to press the button. As the great flare of light lit up the hall I
felt the men all about me jump. The darkness fell like a clap of thunder,
if you can understand, and seemed tenfold. Yet, in the moment of
brightness, I had seen that all the sealed doors were wide open.

"Suddenly, all around us, there sounded a drip, drip, drip, upon the
floor of the great hall. I thrilled with a queer, realizing emotion, and
a sense of a very real and present danger--_imminent._ The 'blood-drip'
had commenced. And the grim question was now whether the Barriers could
save us from whatever had come into the huge room.

"Through some awful minutes the 'blood-drip' continued to fall in an
increasing rain; and presently some began to fall within the Barriers. I
saw several great drops splash and star upon the pale glowing
intertwining tubes of the Electric Pentacle; but, strangely enough, I
could not trace that any fell among us. Beyond the strange horrible noise
of the 'drip,' there was no other sound. And then, abruptly, from the
boarhound over in the far corner, there came a terrible yelling howl of
agony, followed instantly by a sickening, breaking noise, and an
immediate silence. If you have ever, when out shooting, broken a rabbit's
neck, you will know the sound--in miniature! Like lightning, the thought
sprang into my brain:--_IT has crossed the Pentacle._ For you will
remember that I had made one about each of the dogs. I thought instantly,
with a sick apprehension, of our own Barriers. There was something in the
hall with us that had passed the Barrier of the Pentacle about one of the
dogs. In the awful succeeding silence, I positively quivered. And
suddenly, one of the men behind me, gave out a scream, like any woman,
and bolted for the door. He fumbled, and had it open in a moment. I
yelled to the others not to move; but they followed like sheep, and I
heard them kick the candles flying, in their panic. One of them stepped
on the Electric Pentacle, and smashed it, and there was an utter
darkness. In an instant, I realized that I was defenseless against the
powers of the Unknown World, and with one savage leap I was out of the
useless Barriers, and instantly through the great doorway, and into the
night. I believe I yelled with sheer funk.

"The men were a little ahead of me, and I never ceased running, and
neither did they. Sometimes, I glanced back over my shoulder; and I kept
glancing into the laurels which grew all along the drive. The beastly
things kept rustling, rustling in a hollow sort of way, as though
something were keeping parallel with me, among them. The rain had
stopped, and a dismal little wind kept moaning through the grounds. It
was disgusting.

"I caught Wentworth and the police at the lodge gate. We got outside, and
ran all the way to the village. We found old Dennis up, waiting for us,
and half the villagers to keep him company. He told us that he had known
in his 'sowl' that we should come back, that is, if we came back at all;
which is not a bad rendering of his remark.

"Fortunately, I had brought my camera away from the house--possibly
because the strap had happened to be over my head. Yet, I did not go
straight away to develop; but sat with the rest of the bar, where we
talked for some hours, trying to be coherent about the whole
horrible business.

"Later, however, I went up to my room, and proceeded with my photography.
I was steadier now, and it was just possible, so I hoped, that the
negatives might show something.

"On two of the plates, I found nothing unusual: but on the third, which
was the first one that I snapped, I saw something that made me quite
excited. I examined it very carefully with a magnifying glass; then I put
it to wash, and slipped a pair of rubber overshoes over my boots.

"The negative had showed me something very extraordinary, and I had made
up my mind to test the truth of what it seemed to indicate, without
losing another moment. It was no use telling anything to Wentworth and
the police, until I was certain; and, also, I believed that I stood a
greater chance to succeed by myself; though, for that matter, I do not
suppose anything would have taken them up to the Manor again that night.

"I took my revolver, and went quietly downstairs, and into the dark. The
rain had commenced again; but that did not bother me. I walked hard. When
I came to the lodge gates, a sudden, queer instinct stopped me from going
through, and I climbed the wall into the park. I kept away from the
drive, and approached the building through the dismal, dripping laurels.
You can imagine how beastly it was. Every time a leaf rustled, I jumped.

"I made my way 'round to the back of the big house, and got in through a
little window which I had taken note of during my search; for, of course,
I knew the whole place from roof to cellars. I went silently up the
kitchen stairs, fairly quivering with funk; and at the top, I went to the
left, and then into a long corridor that opened, through one of the
doorways we had sealed, into the big hall. I looked up it, and saw a
faint flicker of light away at the end; and I tiptoed silently toward it,
holding my revolver ready. As I came near to the open door, I heard men's
voices, and then a burst of laughing. I went on, until I could see into
the hall. There were several men there, all in a group. They were well
dressed, and one, at least, I saw was armed. They were examining my
'Barriers' against the Supernatural, with a good deal of unkind laughter.
I never felt such a fool in my life.

"It was plain to me that they were a gang of men who had made use of the
empty Manor, perhaps for years, for some purpose of their own; and now
that Wentworth was attempting to take possession, they were acting up the
traditions of the place, with the view of driving him away, and keeping
so useful a place still at their disposal. But what they were, I mean
whether coiners, thieves, inventors, or what, I could not imagine.

"Presently, they left the Pentacle, and gathered 'round the living
boarhound, which seemed curiously quiet, as though it were half-drugged.
There was some talk as to whether to let the poor brute live, or not; but
finally they decided it would be good policy to kill it. I saw two of
them force a twisted loop of rope into its mouth, and the two bights of
the loop were brought together at the back of the hound's neck. Then a
third man thrust a thick walking-stick through the two loops. The two men
with the rope, stooped to hold the dog, so that I could not see what was
done; but the poor beast gave a sudden awful howl, and immediately there
was a repetition of the uncomfortable breaking sound, I had heard earlier
in the night, as you will remember.

"The men stood up, and left the dog lying there, quiet enough now, as you
may suppose. For my part, I fully appreciated the calculated
remorselessness which had decided upon the animal's death, and the cold
determination with which it had been afterward executed so neatly. I
guessed that a man who might get into the 'light' of those particular
men, would be likely to come to quite as uncomfortable an ending.

"A minute later, one of the men called out to the rest that they should
'shift the wires.' One of the men came toward the doorway of the corridor
in which I stood, and I ran quickly back into the darkness of the upper
end. I saw the man reach up, and take something from the top of the door,
and I heard the slight, ringing jangle of steel wire.

"When he had gone, I ran back again, and saw the men passing, one after
another, through an opening in the stairs, formed by one of the marble
steps being raised. When the last man had vanished, the slab that made
the step was shut down, and there was not a sign of the secret door. It
was the seventh step from the bottom, as I took care to count: and a
splendid idea; for it was so solid that it did not ring hollow, even to a
fairly heavy hammer, as I found later.

"There is little more to tell. I got out of the house as quickly and
quietly as possible, and back to the inn. The police came without any
coaxing, when they knew the 'ghosts' were normal flesh and blood. We
entered the park and the Manor in the same way that I had done. Yet, when
we tried to open the step, we failed, and had finally to smash it. This
must have warned the haunters; for when we descended to a secret room
which we found at the end of a long and narrow passage in the thickness
of the walls, we found no one.

"The police were horribly disgusted, as you can imagine; but for my
part, I did not care either way. I had 'laid the ghost,' as you might
say, and that was what I set out to do. I was not particularly afraid of
being laughed at by the others; for they had all been thoroughly 'taken
in'; and in the end, I had scored, without their help.

"We searched right through the secret ways, and found that there was an
exit, at the end of a long tunnel, which opened in the side of a well,
out in the grounds. The ceiling of the hall was hollow, and reached by a
little secret stairway inside of the big staircase. The 'blood-drip' was
merely colored water, dropped through the minute crevices of the
ornamented ceiling. How the candles and the fire were put out, I do not
know; for the haunters certainly did not act quite up to tradition, which
held that the lights were put out by the 'blood-drip.' Perhaps it was too
difficult to direct the fluid, without positively squirting it, which
might have given the whole thing away. The candles and the fire may
possibly have been extinguished by the agency of carbonic acid gas; but
how suspended, I have no idea.

"The secret hiding paces were, of course, ancient. There was also, did I
tell you? a bell which they had rigged up to ring, when anyone entered
the gates at the end of the drive. If I had not climbed the wall, I
should have found nothing for my pains; for the bell would have warned
them had I gone in through the gateway."

"What was on the negative?" I asked, with much curiosity.

"A picture of the fine wire with which they were grappling for the hook
that held the entrance door open. They were doing it from one of the
crevices in the ceiling. They had evidently made no preparations for
lifting the hook. I suppose they never thought that anyone would make
use of it, and so they had to improvise a grapple. The wire was too fine
to be seen by the amount of light we had in the hall; but the flashlight
'picked it out.' Do you see?

"The opening of the inner doors was managed by wires, as you will have
guessed, which they unshipped after use, or else I should soon have found
them, when I made my search.

"I think I have now explained everything. The hound was killed, of
course, by the men direct. You see, they made the place as dark as
possible, first. Of course, if I had managed to take a flashlight just at
that instant, the whole secret of the haunting would have been exposed.
But Fate just ordered it the other way."

"And the tramps?" I asked.

"Oh, you mean the two tramps who were found dead in the Manor," said
Carnacki. "Well, of course it is impossible to be sure, one way or the
other. Perhaps they happened to find out something, and were given a
hypodermic. Or it is just as probable that they had come to the time of
their dying, and just died naturally. It is conceivable that a great many
tramps had slept in the old house, at one time or another."

Carnacki stood up, and knocked out his pipe. We rose also, and went for
our coats and hats.

"Out you go!" said Carnacki, genially, using the recognized formula. And
we went out on to the Embankment, and presently through the darkness to
our various homes.




No. 3

THE WHISTLING ROOM


Carnacki shook a friendly fist at me as I entered, late. Then he opened
the door into the dining room, and ushered the four of us--Jessop,
Arkright, Taylor and myself--in to dinner.

We dined well, as usual, and, equally as usual, Carnacki was pretty
silent during the meal. At the end, we took our wine and cigars to our
usual positions, and Carnacki--having got himself comfortable in his big
chair--began without any preliminary:--

"I have just got back from Ireland, again," he said. "And I thought you
chaps would be interested to hear my news. Besides, I fancy I shall see
the thing clearer, after I have told it all out straight. I must tell you
this, though, at the beginning--up to the present moment, I have been
utterly and completely 'stumped.' I have tumbled upon one of the most
peculiar cases of 'haunting'--or devilment of some sort--that I have come
against. Now listen.

"I have been spending the last few weeks at Iastrae Castle, about twenty
miles northeast of Galway. I got a letter about a month ago from a Mr.
Sid K. Tassoc, who it seemed had bought the place lately, and moved in,
only to find that he had bought a very peculiar piece of property.

"When I got there, he met me at the station, driving a jaunting car, and
drove me up to the castle, which, by the way, he called a 'house shanty.'
I found that he was 'pigging it' there with his boy brother and another
American, who seemed to be half-servant and half-companion. It seems that
all the servants had left the place, in a body, as you might say, and now
they were managing among themselves, assisted by some day-help.

"The three of them got together a scratch feed, and Tassoc told me all
about the trouble whilst we were at table. It is most extraordinary, and
different from anything that I have had to do with; though that Buzzing
Case was very queer, too.

"Tassoc began right in the middle of his story. 'We've got a room in this
shanty,' he said, 'which has got a most infernal whistling in it; sort of
haunting it. The thing starts any time; you never know when, and it goes
on until it frightens you. All the servants have gone, as you know. It's
not ordinary whistling, and it isn't the wind. Wait till you hear it.'

"'We're all carrying guns,' said the boy; and slapped his coat pocket.

"'As bad as that?' I said; and the older boy nodded. 'It may be soft,' he
replied; 'but wait till you've heard it. Sometimes I think it's some
infernal thing, and the next moment, I'm just as sure that someone's
playing a trick on me.'

"'Why?' I asked. 'What is to be gained?'

"'You mean,' he said, 'that people usually have some good reason for
playing tricks as elaborate as this. Well, I'll tell you. There's a lady
in this province, by the name of Miss Donnehue, who's going to be my
wife, this day two months. She's more beautiful than they make them, and
so far as I can see, I've just stuck my head into an Irish hornet's nest.
There's about a score of hot young Irishmen been courting her these two
years gone, and now that I'm come along and cut them out, they feel raw
against me. Do you begin to understand the possibilities?'

"'Yes,' I said. 'Perhaps I do in a vague sort of way; but I don't see how
all this affects the room?'

"'Like this,' he said. 'When I'd fixed it up with Miss Donnehue, I looked
out for a place, and bought this little house shanty. Afterward, I told
her--one evening during dinner, that I'd decided to tie up here. And then
she asked me whether I wasn't afraid of the whistling room. I told her it
must have been thrown in gratis, as I'd heard nothing about it. There
were some of her men friends present, and I saw a smile go 'round. I
found out, after a bit of questioning, that several people have bought
this place during the last twenty-odd years. And it was always on the
market again, after a trial.

"'Well, the chaps started to bait me a bit, and offered to take bets
after dinner that I'd not stay six months in the place. I looked once or
twice to Miss Donnehue, so as to be sure I was "getting the note" of the
talkee-talkee; but I could see that she didn't take it as a joke, at all.
Partly, I think, because there was a bit of a sneer in the way the men
were tackling me, and partly because she really believes there is
something in this yarn of the Whistling Room.

"'However, after dinner, I did what I could to even things up with the
others. I nailed all their bets, and screwed them down hard and safe. I
guess some of them are going to be hard hit, unless I lose; which I don't
mean to. Well, there you have practically the whole yarn.'

"'Not quite,' I told him. 'All that I know, is that you have bought a
castle with a room in it that is in some way "queer," and that you've
been doing some betting. Also, I know that your servants have got
frightened and run away. Tell me something about the whistling?'

"'Oh, that!' said Tassoc; 'that started the second night we were in. I'd
had a good look 'round the room, in the daytime, as you can understand;
for the talk up at Arlestrae--Miss Donnehue's place--had made me wonder a
bit. But it seems just as usual as some of the other rooms in the old
wing, only perhaps a bit more lonesome. But that may be only because of
the talk about it, you know.

"'The whistling started about ten o'clock, on the second night, as I
said. Tom and I were in the library, when we heard an awfully queer
whistling, coming along the East Corridor--The room is in the East
Wing, you know.

"'That's that blessed ghost!' I said to Tom, and we collared the lamps
off the table, and went up to have a look. I tell you, even as we dug
along the corridor, it took me a bit in the throat, it was so beastly
queer. It was a sort of tune, in a way; but more as if a devil or some
rotten thing were laughing at you, and going to get 'round at your back.
That's how it makes you feel.

"'When we got to the door, we didn't wait; but rushed it open; and
then I tell you the sound of the thing fairly hit me in the face. Tom
said he got it the same way--sort of felt stunned and bewildered. We
looked all 'round, and soon got so nervous, we just cleared out, and I
locked the door.

"'We came down here, and had a stiff peg each. Then we got fit again, and
began to think we'd been nicely had. So we took sticks, and went out into
the grounds, thinking after all it must be some of these confounded
Irishmen working the ghost-trick on us. But there was not a leg stirring.

"'We went back into the house, and walked over it, and then paid another
visit to the room. But we simply couldn't stand it. We fairly ran out,
and locked the door again. I don't know how to put it into words; but I
had a feeling of being up against something that was rottenly dangerous.
You know! We've carried our guns ever since.

"'Of course, we had a real turn out of the room next day, and the whole
house place; and we even hunted 'round the grounds; but there was nothing
queer. And now I don't know what to think; except that the sensible part
of me tells me that it's some plan of these Wild Irishmen to try to take
a rise out of me.'

"'Done anything since?' I asked him.

"'Yes,' he said--'watched outside of the door of the room at nights, and
chased 'round the grounds, and sounded the walls and floor of the room.
We've done everything we could think of; and it's beginning to get on our
nerves; so we sent for you.'

"By this, we had finished eating. As we rose from the table, Tassoc
suddenly called out:--'Ssh! Hark!'

"We were instantly silent, listening. Then I heard it, an extraordinary
hooning whistle, monstrous and inhuman, coming from far away through
corridors to my right.

"'By G--d!' said Tassoc; 'and it's scarcely dark yet! Collar those
candles, both of you, and come along.'

"In a few moments, we were all out of the door and racing up the stairs.
Tassoc turned into a long corridor, and we followed, shielding our
candles as we ran. The sound seemed to fill all the passage as we drew
near, until I had the feeling that the whole air throbbed under the power
of some wanton Immense Force--a sense of an actual taint, as you might
say, of monstrosity all about us.

"Tassoc unlocked the door; then, giving it a push with his foot, jumped
back, and drew his revolver. As the door flew open, the sound beat out at
us, with an effect impossible to explain to one who has not heard
it--with a certain, horrible personal note in it; as if in there in the
darkness you could picture the room rocking and creaking in a mad, vile
glee to its own filthy piping and whistling and hooning. To stand there
and listen, was to be stunned by Realization. It was as if someone showed
you the mouth of a vast pit suddenly, and said:--That's Hell. And you
knew that they had spoken the truth. Do you get it, even a little bit?

"I stepped back a pace into the room, and held the candle over my head,
and looked quickly 'round. Tassoc and his brother joined me, and the man
came up at the back, and we all held our candles high. I was deafened
with the shrill, piping hoon of the whistling; and then, clear in my
ear, something seemed to be saying to me:--'Get out of here--quick!
Quick! Quick!'

"As you chaps know, I never neglect that sort of thing. Sometimes it may
be nothing but nerves; but as you will remember, it was just such a
warning that saved me in the 'Grey Dog' Case, and in the 'Yellow Finger'
Experiments; as well as other times. Well, I turned sharp 'round to the
others: 'Out!' I said. 'For God's sake, _out_ quick.' And in an instant I
had them into the passage.

"There came an extraordinary yelling scream into the hideous whistling,
and then, like a clap of thunder, an utter silence. I slammed the door,
and locked it. Then, taking the key, I looked 'round at the others. They
were pretty white, and I imagine I must have looked that way too. And
there we stood a moment, silent.

"'Come down out of this, and have some whisky,' said Tassoc, at last, in
a voice he tried to make ordinary; and he led the way. I was the back
man, and I know we all kept looking over our shoulders. When we got
downstairs, Tassoc passed the bottle 'round. He took a drink, himself,
and slapped his glass down on to the table. Then sat down with a thud.

"'That's a lovely thing to have in the house with you, isn't it!' he
said. And directly afterward:--'What on earth made you hustle us all out
like that, Carnacki?'

"'Something seemed to be telling me to get out, quick,' I said. 'Sounds a
bit silly, superstitious, I know; but when you are meddling with this
sort of thing, you've got to take notice of queer fancies, and risk being
laughed at.'

"I told him then about the 'Grey Dog' business, and he nodded a lot to
that. 'Of course,' I said, 'this may be nothing more than those would-be
rivals of yours playing some funny game; but, personally, though I'm
going to keep an open mind, I feel that there is something beastly and
dangerous about this thing.'

"We talked for a while longer, and then Tassoc suggested billiards, which
we played in a pretty half-hearted fashion, and all the time cocking an
ear to the door, as you might say, for sounds; but none came, and later,
after coffee, he suggested early bed, and a thorough overhaul of the room
on the morrow.

"My bedroom was in the newer part of the castle, and the door opened into
the picture gallery. At the East end of the gallery was the entrance to
the corridor of the East Wing; this was shut off from the gallery by two
old and heavy oak doors, which looked rather odd and quaint beside the
more modern doors of the various rooms.

"When I reached my room, I did not go to bed; but began to unpack my
instrument trunk, of which I had retained the key. I intended to take one
or two preliminary steps at once, in my investigation of the
extraordinary whistling.

"Presently, when the castle had settled into quietness, I slipped out of
my room, and across to the entrance of the great corridor. I opened one
of the low, squat doors, and threw the beam of my pocket searchlight
down the passage. It was empty, and I went through the doorway, and
pushed-to the oak behind me. Then along the great passageway, throwing my
light before and behind, and keeping my revolver handy.

"I had hung a 'protection belt' of garlic 'round my neck, and the smell
of it seemed to fill the corridor and give me assurance; for, as you all
know, it is a wonderful 'protection' against the more usual Aeiirii forms
of semi-materialization, by which I supposed the whistling might be
produced; though, at that period of my investigation, I was quite
prepared to find it due to some perfectly natural cause; for it is
astonishing the enormous number of cases that prove to have nothing
abnormal in them.

"In addition to wearing the necklet, I had plugged my ears loosely with
garlic, and as I did not intend to stay more than a few minutes in the
room, I hoped to be safe.

"When I reached the door, and put my hand into my pocket for the key, I
had a sudden feeling of sickening funk. But I was not going to back out,
if I could help it. I unlocked the door and turned the handle. Then I
gave the door a sharp push with my foot, as Tassoc had done, and drew my
revolver, though I did not expect to have any use for it, really.

"I shone the searchlight all 'round the room, and then stepped inside,
with a disgustingly horrible feeling of walking slap into a waiting
Danger. I stood a few seconds, waiting, and nothing happened, and the
empty room showed bare from corner to corner. And then, you know, I
realized that the room was full of an abominable silence; can you
understand that? A sort of purposeful silence, just as sickening as any
of the filthy noises the Things have power to make. Do you remember what
I told you about that 'Silent Garden' business? Well, this room had just
that same _malevolent_ silence--the beastly quietness of a thing that is
looking at you and not seeable itself, and thinks that it has got you.
Oh, I recognized it instantly, and I whipped the top off my lantern, so
as to have light over the _whole_ room.

"Then I set-to, working like fury, and keeping my glance all about me. I
sealed the two windows with lengths of human hair, right across, and
sealed them at every frame. As I worked, a queer, scarcely perceptible
tenseness stole into the air of the place, and the silence seemed, if you
can understand me, to grow more solid. I knew then that I had no business
there without 'full protection'; for I was practically certain that this
was no mere Aeiirii development; but one of the worst forms, as the
Saiitii; like that 'Grunting Man' case--you know.

"I finished the window, and hurried over to the great fireplace. This is
a huge affair, and has a queer gallows-iron, I think they are called,
projecting from the back of the arch. I sealed the opening with seven
human hairs--the seventh crossing the six others.

"Then, just as I was making an end, a low, mocking whistle grew in the
room. A cold, nervous pricking went up my spine, and 'round my forehead
from the back. The hideous sound filled all the room with an
extraordinary, grotesque parody of human whistling, too gigantic to be
human--as if something gargantuan and monstrous made the sounds softly.
As I stood there a last moment, pressing down the final seal, I had no
doubt but that I had come across one of those rare and horrible cases of
the _Inanimate_ reproducing the functions of the _Animate_, I made a
grab for my lamp, and went quickly to the door, looking over my
shoulder, and listening for the thing that I expected. It came, just as
I got my hand upon the handle--a squeal of incredible, malevolent anger,
piercing through the low hooning of the whistling. I dashed out,
slamming the door and locking it. I leant a little against the opposite
wall of the corridor, feeling rather funny; for it had been a narrow
squeak.... 'Theyr be noe sayfetie to be gained bye gayrds of holieness
when the monyster hath pow'r to speak throe woode and stoene.' So runs
the passage in the Sigsand MS., and I proved it in that 'Nodding Door'
business. There is no protection against this particular form of
monster, except, possibly, for a fractional period of time; for it can
reproduce itself in, or take to its purpose, the very protective
material which you may use, and has the power to '_forme_ wythine the
pentycle'; though not immediately. There is, of course, the possibility
of the Unknown Last Line of the Saaamaaa Ritual being uttered; but it is
too uncertain to count upon, and the danger is too hideous; and even
then it has no power to protect for more than 'maybee fyve beats of the
harte,' as the Sigsand has it.

"Inside of the room, there was now a constant, meditative, hooning
whistling; but presently this ceased, and the silence seemed worse; for
there is such a sense of hidden mischief in a silence.

"After a little, I sealed the door with crossed hairs, and then cleared
off down the great passage, and so to bed.

"For a long time I lay awake; but managed eventually to get some sleep.
Yet, about two o'clock I was waked by the hooning whistling of the room
coming to me, even through the closed doors. The sound was tremendous,
and seemed to beat through the whole house with a presiding sense of
terror. As if (I remember thinking) some monstrous giant had been holding
mad carnival with itself at the end of that great passage.

"I got up and sat on the edge of the bed, wondering whether to go along
and have a look at the seal; and suddenly there came a thump on my door,
and Tassoc walked in, with his dressing gown over his pajamas.

"'I thought it would have waked you, so I came along to have a talk,' he
said. '_I_ can't sleep. Beautiful! Isn't it!'

"'Extraordinary!' I said, and tossed him my case.

"He lit a cigarette, and we sat and talked for about an hour; and all the
time that noise went on, down at the end of the big corridor.

"Suddenly, Tassoc stood up:--

"'Let's take our guns, and go and examine the brute,' he said, and turned
toward the door.

"'No!' I said. 'By Jove--_no!_ I can't say anything definite, yet; but I
believe that room is about as dangerous as it well can be.'

"'Haunted--_really_ haunted?' he asked, keenly and without any of his
frequent banter.

"I told him, of course, that I could not say a definite _yes_ or _no_ to
such a question; but that I hoped to be able to make a statement, soon.
Then I gave him a little lecture on the False Re-Materialization of the
Animate-Force through the Inanimate-Inert. He began then to see the
particular way in the room might be dangerous, if it were really the
subject of a manifestation.

"About an hour later, the whistling ceased quite suddenly, and Tassoc
went off again to bed. I went back to mine, also, and eventually got
another spell of sleep.

"In the morning, I went along to the room. I found the seals on the door
intact. Then I went in. The window seals and the hair were all right; but
the seventh hair across the great fireplace was broken. This set me
thinking. I knew that it might, very possibly, have snapped, through my
having tensioned it too highly; but then, again, it might have been
broken by something else. Yet, it was scarcely possible that a man, for
instance, could have passed between the six unbroken hairs; for no one
would ever have noticed them, entering the room that way, you see; but
just walked through them, ignorant of their very existence.

"I removed the other hairs, and the seals. Then I looked up the chimney.
It went up straight, and I could see blue sky at the top. It was a big,
open flue, and free from any suggestion of hiding places, or corners.
Yet, of course, I did not trust to any such casual examination, and after
breakfast, I put on my overalls, and climbed to the very top, sounding
all the way; but I found nothing.

"Then I came down, and went over the whole of the room--floor, ceiling,
and walls, mapping them out in six-inch squares, and sounding with both
hammer and probe. But there was nothing abnormal.

"Afterward, I made a three-weeks search of the whole castle, in the same
thorough way; but found nothing. I went even further, then; for at night,
when the whistling commenced, I made a microphone test. You see, if the
whistling were mechanically produced, this test would have made evident
to me the working of the machinery, if there were any such concealed
within the walls. It certainly was an up-to-date method of examination,
as you must allow.

"Of course, I did not think that any of Tassoc's rivals had fixed up any
mechanical contrivance; but I thought it just possible that there had
been some such thing for producing the whistling, made away back in the
years, perhaps with the intention of giving the room a reputation that
would ensure its being free of inquisitive folk. You see what I mean?
Well, of course, it was just possible, if this were the case, that
someone knew the secret of the machinery, and was utilizing the knowledge
to play this devil of a prank on Tassoc. The microphone test of the walls
would certainly have made this known to me, as I have said; but there was
nothing of the sort in the castle; so that I had practically no doubt at
all now, but that it was a genuine case of what is popularly termed
'haunting.'

"All this time, every night, and sometimes most of each night, the
hooning whistling of the Room was intolerable. It was as if an
intelligence there knew that steps were being taken against it, and piped
and hooned in a sort of mad, mocking contempt. I tell you, it was as
extraordinary as it was horrible. Time after time, I went
along--tiptoeing noiselessly on stockinged feet--to the sealed door (for
I always kept the Room sealed). I went at all hours of the night, and
often the whistling, inside, would seem to change to a brutally malignant
note, as though the half-animate monster saw me plainly through the shut
door. And all the time the shrieking, hooning whistling would fill the
whole corridor, so that I used to feel a precious lonely chap, messing
about there with one of Hell's mysteries.

"And every morning, I would enter the room, and examine the different
hairs and seals. You see, after the first week, I had stretched parallel
hairs all along the walls of the room, and along the ceiling; but over
the floor, which was of polished stone, I had set out little, colorless
wafers, tacky-side uppermost. Each wafer was numbered, and they were
arranged after a definite plan, so that I should be able to trace the
exact movements of any living thing that went across the floor.

"You will see that no material being or creature could possibly have
entered that room, without leaving many signs to tell me about it. But
nothing was ever disturbed, and I began to think that I should have to
risk an attempt to stay the night in the room, in the Electric Pentacle.
Yet, mind you, I knew that it would be a crazy thing to do; but I was
getting stumped, and ready to do anything.

"Once, about midnight, I did break the seal on the door, and have a quick
look in; but, I tell you, the whole Room gave one mad yell, and seemed to
come toward me in a great belly of shadows, as if the walls had bellied
in toward me. Of course, that must have been fancy. Anyway, the yell was
sufficient, and I slammed the door, and locked it, feeling a bit weak
down my spine. You know the feeling.

"And then, when I had got to that state of readiness for anything, I made
something of a discovery. It was about one in the morning, and I was
walking slowly 'round the castle, keeping in the soft grass. I had come
under the shadow of the East Front, and far above me, I could hear the
vile, hooning whistle of the Room, up in the darkness of the unlit wing.
Then, suddenly, a little in front of me, I heard a man's voice, speaking
low, but evidently in glee:--

"'By George! You Chaps; but I wouldn't care to bring a wife home in
that!' it said, in the tone of the cultured Irish.

"Someone started to reply; but there came a sharp exclamation, and then a
rush, and I heard footsteps running in all directions. Evidently, the men
had spotted me.

"For a few seconds, I stood there, feeling an awful ass. After all,
_they_ were at the bottom of the haunting! Do you see what a big fool it
made me seem? I had no doubt but that they were some of Tassoc's rivals;
and here I had been feeling in every bone that I had hit a real, bad,
genuine Case! And then, you know, there came the memory of hundreds of
details, that made me just as much in doubt again. Anyway, whether it was
natural, or ab-natural, there was a great deal yet to be cleared up.

"I told Tassoc, next morning, what I had discovered, and through the
whole of every night, for five nights, we kept a close watch 'round the
East Wing; but there was never a sign of anyone prowling about; and all
the time, almost from evening to dawn, that grotesque whistling would
hoon incredibly, far above us in the darkness.

"On the morning after the fifth night, I received a wire from here,
which brought me home by the next boat. I explained to Tassoc that I was
simply bound to come away for a few days; but told him to keep up the
watch 'round the castle. One thing I was very careful to do, and that
was to make him absolutely promise never to go into the Room, between
sunset and sunrise. I made it clear to him that we knew nothing definite
yet, one way or the other; and if the room were what I had first thought
it to be, it might be a lot better for him to die first, than enter it
after dark.

"When I got here, and had finished my business, I thought you chaps would
be interested; and also I wanted to get it all spread out clear in my
mind; so I rung you up. I am going over again to-morrow, and when I get
back, I ought to have something pretty extraordinary to tell you. By the
way, there is a curious thing I forgot to tell you. I tried to get a
phonographic record of the whistling; but it simply produced no
impression on the wax at all. That is one of the things that has made me
feel queer, I can tell you. Another extraordinary thing is that the
microphone will not magnify the sound--will not even transmit it; seems
to take no account of it, and acts as if it were nonexistent. I am
absolutely and utterly stumped, up to the present. I am a wee bit curious
to see whether any of your dear clever heads can make daylight of it. _I_
cannot--not yet."

He rose to his feet.

"Good night, all," he said, and began to usher us out abruptly, but
without offence, into the night.

A fortnight later, he dropped each of us a card, and you can imagine that
I was not late this time. When we arrived, Carnacki took us straight into
dinner, and when we had finished, and all made ourselves comfortable, he
began again, where he had left off:--

"Now just listen quietly; for I have got something pretty queer to tell
you. I got back late at night, and I had to walk up to the castle, as I
had not warned them that I was coming. It was bright moonlight; so that
the walk was rather a pleasure, than otherwise. When I got there, the
whole place was in darkness, and I thought I would take a walk 'round
outside, to see whether Tassoc or his brother was keeping watch. But I
could not find them anywhere, and concluded that they had got tired of
it, and gone off to bed.

"As I returned across the front of the East Wing, I caught the hooning
whistling of the Room, coming down strangely through the stillness of the
night. It had a queer note in it, I remember--low and constant, queerly
meditative. I looked up at the window, bright in the moonlight, and got a
sudden thought to bring a ladder from the stable yard, and try to get a
look into the Room, through the window.

"With this notion, I hunted 'round at the back of the castle, among the
straggle of offices, and presently found a long, fairly light ladder;
though it was heavy enough for one, goodness knows! And I thought at
first that I should never get it reared. I managed at last, and let the
ends rest very quietly against the wall, a little below the sill of the
larger window. Then, going silently, I went up the ladder. Presently, I
had my face above the sill and was looking in alone with the moonlight.

"Of course, the queer whistling sounded louder up there; but it still
conveyed that peculiar sense of something whistling quietly to
itself--can you understand? Though, for all the meditative lowness of the
note, the horrible, gargantuan quality was distinct--a mighty parody of
the human, as if I stood there and listened to the whistling from the
lips of a monster with a man's soul.

"And then, you know, I saw something. The floor in the middle of the
huge, empty room, was puckered upward in the center into a strange
soft-looking mound, parted at the top into an ever changing hole, that
pulsated to that great, gentle hooning. At times, as I watched, I saw the
heaving of the indented mound, gap across with a queer, inward suction,
as with the drawing of an enormous breath; then the thing would dilate
and pout once more to the incredible melody. And suddenly, as I stared,
dumb, it came to me that the thing was living. I was looking at two
enormous, blackened lips, blistered and brutal, there in the pale
moonlight....

"Abruptly, they bulged out to a vast, pouting mound of force and sound,
stiffened and swollen, and hugely massive and clean-cut in the
moon-beams. And a great sweat lay heavy on the vast upper-lip. In the
same moment of time, the whistling had burst into a mad screaming note,
that seemed to stun me, even where I stood, outside of the window. And
then, the following moment, I was staring blankly at the solid,
undisturbed floor of the room--smooth, polished stone flooring, from wall
to wall; and there was an absolute silence.

"You can picture me staring into the quiet Room, and knowing what I knew.
I felt like a sick, frightened kid, and wanted to slide _quietly_ down
the ladder, and run away. But in that very instant, I heard Tassoc's
voice calling to me from within the Room, for help, _help_. My God! but I
got such an awful dazed feeling; and I had a vague, bewildered notion
that, after all, it was the Irishmen who had got him in there, and were
taking it out of him. And then the call came again, and I burst the
window, and jumped in to help him. I had a confused idea that the call
had come from within the shadow of the great fireplace, and I raced
across to it; but there was no one there.

"'Tassoc!' I shouted, and my voice went empty-sounding 'round the great
apartment; and then, in a flash, _I knew that Tassoc had never called_. I
whirled 'round, sick with fear, toward the window, and as I did so, a
frightful, exultant whistling scream burst through the Room. On my left,
the end wall had bellied-in toward me, in a pair of gargantuan lips,
black and utterly monstrous, to within a yard of my face. I fumbled for a
mad instant at my revolver; not for _it_, but myself; for the danger was
a thousand times worse than death. And then, suddenly, the Unknown Last
Line of the Saaamaaa Ritual was whispered quite audibly in the room.
Instantly, the thing happened that I have known once before. There came a
sense as of dust falling continually and monotonously, and I knew that my
life hung uncertain and suspended for a flash, in a brief, reeling
vertigo of unseeable things. Then _that_ ended, and I knew that I might
live. My soul and body blended again, and life and power came to me. I
dashed furiously at the window, and hurled myself out head-foremost; for
I can tell you that I had stopped being afraid of death. I crashed down
on to the ladder, and slithered, grabbing and grabbing; and so came some
way or other alive to the bottom. And there I sat in the soft, wet grass,
with the moonlight all about me; and far above, through the broken window
of the Room, there was a low whistling.

"That is the chief of it. I was not hurt, and I went 'round to the front,
and knocked Tassoc up. When they let me in, we had a long yarn, over some
good whisky--for I was shaken to pieces--and I explained things as much
as I could, I told Tassoc that the room would have to come down, and
every fragment of it burned in a blast-furnace, erected within a
pentacle. He nodded. There was nothing to say. Then I went to bed.

"We turned a small army on to the work, and within ten days, that lovely
thing had gone up in smoke, and what was left was calcined, and clean.

"It was when the workmen were stripping the paneling, that I got hold of
a sound notion of the beginnings of that beastly development. Over the
great fireplace, after the great oak panels had been torn down, I found
that there was let into the masonry a scrollwork of stone, with on it an
old inscription, in ancient Celtic, that here in this room was burned
Dian Tiansay, Jester of King Alzof, who made the Song of Foolishness upon
King Ernore of the Seventh Castle.

"When I got the translation clear, I gave it to Tassoc. He was
tremendously excited; for he knew the old tale, and took me down to the
library to look at an old parchment that gave the story in detail.
Afterward, I found that the incident was well-known about the
countryside; but always regarded more as a legend than as history. And no
one seemed ever to have dreamt that the old East Wing of Iastrae Castle
was the remains of the ancient Seventh Castle.

"From the old parchment, I gathered that there had been a pretty dirty
job done, away back in the years. It seems that King Alzof and King
Ernore had been enemies by birthright, as you might say truly; but that
nothing more than a little raiding had occurred on either side for years,
until Dian Tiansay made the Song of Foolishness upon King Ernore, and
sang it before King Alzof; and so greatly was it appreciated that King
Alzof gave the jester one of his ladies, to wife.

"Presently, all the people of the land had come to know the song, and so
it came at last to King Ernore, who was so angered that he made war upon
his old enemy, and took and burned him and his castle; but Dian Tiansay,
the jester, he brought with him to his own place, and having torn his
tongue out because of the song which he had made and sung, he imprisoned
him in the Room in the East Wing (which was evidently used for unpleasant
purposes), and the jester's wife, he kept for himself, having a fancy for
her prettiness.

"But one night, Dian Tiansay's wife was not to be found, and in the
morning they discovered her lying dead in her husband's arms, and he
sitting, whistling the Song of Foolishness, for he had no longer the
power to sing it.

"Then they roasted Dian Tiansay, in the great fireplace--probably from
that selfsame 'galley-iron' which I have already mentioned. And until he
died, Dian Tiansay ceased not to whistle the Song of Foolishness, which
he could no longer sing. But afterward, 'in that room' there was often
heard at night the sound of something whistling; and there 'grew a power
in that room,' so that none dared to sleep in it. And presently, it would
seem, the King went to another castle; for the whistling troubled him.

"There you have it all. Of course, that is only a rough rendering of the
translation of the parchment. But it sounds extraordinarily quaint. Don't
you think so?"

"Yes," I said, answering for the lot. "But how did the thing grow to such
a tremendous manifestation?"

"One of those cases of continuity of thought producing a positive action
upon the immediate surrounding material," replied Carnacki. "The
development must have been going forward through centuries, to have
produced such a monstrosity. It was a true instance of Saiitii
manifestation, which I can best explain by likening it to a living
spiritual fungus, which involves the very structure of the aether-fiber
itself, and, of course, in so doing, acquires an essential control over
the 'material substance' involved in it. It is impossible to make it
plainer in a few words."

"What broke the seventh hair?" asked Taylor.

But Carnacki did not know. He thought it was probably nothing but being
too severely tensioned. He also explained that they found out that the
men who had run away, had not been up to mischief; but had come over
secretly, merely to hear the whistling, which, indeed, had suddenly
become the talk of the whole countryside.

"One other thing," said Arkright, "have you any idea what governs the
use of the Unknown Last Line of the Saaamaaa Ritual? I know, of course,
that it was used by the Ab-human Priests in the Incantation of Raaaee;
but what used it on your behalf, and what made it?"

"You had better read Harzan's Monograph, and my Addenda to it, on Astral
and Astral Co-ordination and Interference," said Carnacki. "It is an
extraordinary subject, and I can only say here that the human vibration
may not be insulated from the astral (as is always believed to be the
case, in interferences by the Ab-human), without immediate action being
taken by those Forces which govern the spinning of the outer circle. In
other words, it is being proved, time after time, that there is some
inscrutable Protective Force constantly intervening between the human
soul (not the body, mind you,) and the Outer Monstrosities. Am I clear?"

"Yes, I think so," I replied. "And you believe that the Room had become
the material expression of the ancient Jester--that his soul, rotten with
hatred, had bred into a monster--eh?" I asked.

"Yes," said Carnacki, nodding, "I think you've put my thought rather
neatly. It is a queer coincidence that Miss Donnehue is supposed to be
descended (so I have heard since) from the same King Ernore. It makes one
think some curious thoughts, doesn't it? The marriage coming on, and the
Room waking to fresh life. If she had gone into that room, ever ... eh?
_It_ had waited a long time. Sins of the fathers. Yes, I've thought of
that. They're to be married next week, and I am to be best man, which is
a thing I hate. And he won his bets, rather! Just think, _if_ ever she
had gone into that room. Pretty horrible, eh?"

He nodded his head, grimly, and we four nodded back. Then he rose and
took us collectively to the door, and presently thrust us forth in
friendly fashion on the Embankment and into the fresh night air.

"Good night," we all called back, and went to our various homes. If she
had, eh? If she had? That is what I kept thinking.




No. 4

THE HORSE OF THE INVISIBLE


I had that afternoon received an invitation from Carnacki. When I reached
his place I found him sitting alone. As I came into the room he rose with
a perceptibly stiff movement and extended his left hand. His face seemed
to be badly scarred and bruised and his right hand was bandaged. He shook
hands and offered me his paper, which I refused. Then he passed me a
handful of photographs and returned to his reading.

Now, that is just Carnacki. Not a word had come from him and not a
question from me. He would tell us all about it later. I spent about half
an hour looking at the photographs which were chiefly "snaps" (some by
flashlight) of an extraordinarily pretty girl; though in some of the
photographs it was wonderful that her prettiness was so evident for so
frightened and startled was her expression that it was difficult not to
believe that she had been photographed in the presence of some imminent
and overwhelming danger.

The bulk of the photographs were of interiors of different rooms and
passages and in every one the girl might be seen, either full length in
the distance or closer, with perhaps little more than a hand or arm or
portion of the head or dress included in the photograph. All of these had
evidently been taken with some definite aim that did not have for its
first purpose the picturing of the girl, but obviously of her
surroundings and they made me very curious, as you can imagine.

Near the bottom of the pile, however, I came upon something _definitely_
extraordinary. It was a photograph of the girl standing abrupt and clear
in the great blaze of a flashlight, as was plain to be seen. Her face was
turned a little upward as if she had been frightened suddenly by some
noise. Directly above her, as though half-formed and coming down out of
the shadows, was the shape of a single enormous hoof.

I examined this photograph for a long time without understanding it more
than that it had probably to do with some queer case in which Carnacki
was interested. When Jessop, Arkright and Taylor came in Carnacki quietly
held out his hand for the photographs which I returned in the same spirit
and afterward we all went in to dinner. When we had spent a quiet hour at
the table we pulled our chairs 'round and made ourselves snug and
Carnacki began:

"I've been North," he said, speaking slowly and painfully between puffs
at his pipe. "Up to Hisgins of East Lancashire. It has been a pretty
strange business all 'round, as I fancy you chaps will think, when I have
finished. I knew before I went, something about the 'horse story,' as I
have heard it called; but I never thought of it coming my way, somehow.
Also I know _now_ that I never considered it seriously--in spite of my
rule always to keep an open mind. Funny creatures, we humans!

"Well, I got a wire asking for an appointment, which of course told me
that there was some trouble. On the date I fixed old Captain Hisgins
himself came up to see me. He told me a great many new details about the
horse story; though naturally I had always known the main points and
understood that if the first child were a girl, that girl would be
haunted by the Horse during her courtship.

"It is, as you can see already, an extraordinary story and though I have
always known about it, I have never thought it to be anything more than
an old-time legend, as I have already hinted. You see, for seven
generations the Hisgins family have had men children for their first-born
and even the Hisginses themselves have long considered the tale to be
little more than a myth.

"To come to the present, the eldest child of the reigning family is
a girl and she has been often teased and warned in jest by her
friends and relations that she is the first girl to be the eldest
for seven generations and that she would have to keep her men
friends at arm's length or go into a nunnery if she hoped to escape
the haunting. And this, I think, shows us how thoroughly the tale
had grown to be considered as nothing worthy of the least serious
thought. Don't you think so?

"Two months ago Miss Hisgins became engaged to Beaumont, a young Naval
Officer, and on the evening of the very day of the engagement, before it
was even formally announced, a most extraordinary thing happened which
resulted in Captain Hisgins making the appointment and my ultimately
going down to their place to look into the thing.

"From the old family records and papers that were entrusted to me I
found that there could be no possible doubt that prior to something like
a hundred and fifty years ago there were some very extraordinary and
disagreeable coincidences, to put the thing in the least emotional way.
In the whole of the two centuries prior to that date there were five
first-born girls out of a total of seven generations of the family. Each
of these girls grew up to maidenhood and each became engaged, and each
one died during the period of engagement, two by suicide, one by falling
from a window, one from a 'broken heart' (presumably heart failure,
owing to sudden shock through fright). The fifth girl was killed one
evening in the park 'round the house; but just how, there seemed to be
no _exact_ knowledge; only that there was an impression that she had
been kicked by a horse. She was dead when found. Now, you see, all of
these deaths might be attributed in a way--even the suicides--to natural
causes, I mean as distinct from supernatural. You see? Yet, in every
case the maidens had undoubtedly suffered some extraordinary and
terrifying experiences during their various courtships for in all of the
records there was mention either of the neighing of an unseen horse or
of the sounds of an invisible horse galloping, as well as many other
peculiar and quite inexplicable manifestations. You begin to understand
now, I think, just how extraordinary a business it was that I was asked
to look into.

"I gathered from one account that the haunting of the girls was so
constant and horrible that two of the girls' lovers fairly ran away from
their ladyloves. And I think it was this, more than anything else, that
made me feel that there had been something more in it than a mere
succession of uncomfortable coincidences.

"I got hold of these facts before I had been many hours in the house and
after this I went pretty carefully into the details of the thing that
happened on the night of Miss Hisgins's engagement to Beaumont. It seems
that as the two of them were going through the big lower corridor, just
after dusk and before the lamps had been lighted, there had been a
sudden, horrible neighing in the corridor, close to them. Immediately
afterward Beaumont received a tremendous blow or kick which broke his
right forearm. Then the rest of the family and the servants came running
to know what was wrong. Lights were brought and the corridor and,
afterward, the whole house searched, but nothing unusual was found.

"You can imagine the excitement in the house and the half incredulous,
half believing talk about the old legend. Then, later, in the middle of
the night the old Captain was waked by the sound of a great horse
galloping 'round and 'round the house.

"Several times after this both Beaumont and the girl said that they had
heard the sounds of hoofs near to them after dusk, in several of the
rooms and corridors.

"Three nights later Beaumont was waked by a strange neighing in the
nighttime seeming to come from the direction of his sweetheart's bedroom.
He ran hurriedly for her father and the two of them raced to her room.
They found her awake and ill with sheer terror, having been awakened by
the neighing, seemingly close to her bed.

"The night before I arrived, there had been a fresh happening and they
were all in a frightfully nervy state, as you can imagine.

"I spent most of the first day, as I have hinted, in getting hold of
details; but after dinner I slacked off and played billiards all the
evening with Beaumont and Miss Hisgins. We stopped about ten o'clock and
had coffee and I got Beaumont to give me full particulars about the thing
that had happened the evening before.

"He and Miss Hisgins had been sitting quietly in her aunt's boudoir
whilst the old lady chaperoned them, behind a book. It was growing dusk
and the lamp was at her end of the table. The rest of the house was not
yet lit as the evening had come earlier than usual.

"Well, it seems that the door into the hall was open and suddenly the
girl said: 'H'sh! what's that?'

"They both listened and then Beaumont heard it--the sound of a horse
outside of the front door.

"'Your father?' he suggested, but she reminded him that her father was
not riding.

"Of course they were both ready to feel queer, as you can suppose, but
Beaumont made an effort to shake this off and went into the hall to see
whether anyone was at the entrance. It was pretty dark in the hall and he
could see the glass panels of the inner draft door, clear-cut in the
darkness of the hall. He walked over to the glass and looked through into
the drive beyond, but there nothing in sight.

"He felt nervous and puzzled and opened the inner door and went out on to
the carriage-circle. Almost directly afterward the great hall door swung
to with a crash behind him. He told me that he had a sudden awful feeling
of having been trapped in some way--that is how he put it. He whirled
'round and gripped the door handle, but something seemed to be holding it
with a vast grip on the other side. Then, before he could be fixed in his
mind that this was so, he was able to turn the handle and open the door.

"He paused a moment in the doorway and peered into the hall, for he had
hardly steadied his mind sufficiently to know whether he was really
frightened or not. Then he heard his sweetheart blow him a kiss out of
the greyness of the big, unlit hall and he knew that she had followed him
from the boudoir. He blew her a kiss back and stepped inside the doorway,
meaning to go to her. And then, suddenly, in a flash of sickening
knowledge he knew that it was not his sweetheart who had blown him that
kiss. He knew that something was trying to tempt him alone into the
darkness and that the girl had never left the boudoir. He jumped back and
in the same instant of time he heard the kiss again, nearer to him. He
called out at the top of his voice: 'Mary, stay in the boudoir. Don't
move out of the boudoir until I come to you.' He heard her call something
in reply from the boudoir and then he had struck a clump of a dozen or
so matches and was holding them above his head and looking 'round the
hall. There was no one in it, but even as the matches burned out there
came the sounds of a great horse galloping down the empty drive.

"Now you see, both he and the girl had heard the sounds of the horse
galloping; but when I questioned more closely I found that the aunt had
heard nothing, though it is true she is a bit deaf, and she was further
back in the room. Of course, both he and Miss Hisgins had been in an
extremely nervous state and ready to hear anything. The door might have
been slammed by a sudden puff of wind owing to some inner door being
opened; and as for the grip on the handle, that may have been nothing
more than the snick catching.

"With regard to the kisses and the sounds of the horse galloping, I
pointed out that these might have seemed ordinary enough sounds, if they
had been only cool enough to reason. As I told him, and as he knew, the
sounds of a horse galloping carry a long way on the wind so that what he
had heard might have been nothing more than a horse being ridden some
distance away. And as for the kiss, plenty of quiet noises--the rustle of
a paper or a leaf--have a somewhat similar sound, especially if one is in
an overstrung condition and imagining things.

"I finished preaching this little sermon on commonsense versus hysteria
as we put out the lights and left the billiard room. But neither
Beaumont nor Miss Hisgins would agree that there had been any fancy on
their parts.

"We had come out of the billiard room by this time and were going along
the passage and I was still doing my best to make both of them see the
ordinary, commonplace possibilities of the happening, when what killed my
pig, as the saying goes, was the sound of a hoof in the dark billiard
room we had just left.

"I felt the 'creep' come on me in a flash, up my spine and over the back
of my head. Miss Hisgins whooped like a child with the whooping cough and
ran up the passage, giving little gasping screams. Beaumont, however,
ripped 'round on his heels and jumped back a couple of yards. I gave back
too, a bit, as you can understand.

"'There it is,' he said in a low, breathless voice. 'Perhaps you'll
believe now.'

"'There's certainly something,' I whispered, never taking my gaze off the
closed door of the billiard room.

"'H'sh!' he muttered. 'There it is again.'

"There was a sound like a great horse pacing 'round and 'round the
billiard room with slow, deliberate steps. A horrible cold fright took me
so that it seemed impossible to take a full breath, you know the feeling,
and then I saw we must have been walking backward for we found ourselves
suddenly at the opening of the long passage.

"We stopped there and listened. The sounds went on steadily with a
horrible sort of deliberateness, as if the brute were taking a sort of
malicious gusto in walking about all over the room which we had just
occupied. Do you understand just what I mean?

"Then there was a pause and a long time of absolute quiet except for an
excited whispering from some of the people down in the big hall. The
sound came plainly up the wide stairway. I fancy they were gathered
'round Miss Hisgins, with some notion of protecting her.

"I should think Beaumont and I stood there, at the end of the passage for
about five minutes, listening for any noise in the billiard room. Then I
realized what a horrible funk I was in and I said to him: 'I'm going to
see what's there.'

"'So'm I,' he answered. He was pretty white, but he had heaps of pluck.
I told him to wait one instant and I made a dash into my bedroom and got
my camera and flashlight. I slipped my revolver into my right-hand pocket
and a knuckle-duster over my left fist, where it was ready and yet would
not stop me from being able to work my flashlight.

"Then I ran back to Beaumont. He held out his hand to show me that he had
his pistol and I nodded, but whispered to him not to be too quick to
shoot, as there might be some silly practical joking at work, after all.
He had got a lamp from a bracket in the upper hall which he was holding
in the crook of his damaged arm, so that we had a good light. Then we
went down the passage toward the billiard room and you can imagine that
we were a pretty nervous couple.

"All this time there had not been a sound, but abruptly when we were
within perhaps a couple of yards of the door we heard the sudden clumping
of a hoof on the solid _parquet_ floor of the billiard room. In the
instant afterward it seemed to me that the whole place shook beneath the
ponderous hoof falls of some huge thing, _coming toward the door_. Both
Beaumont and I gave back a pace or two, and then realized and hung on to
our courage, as you might say, and waited. The great tread came right up
to the door and then stopped and there was an instant of absolute
silence, except that so far as I was concerned, the pulsing in my throat
and temples almost deafened me.

"I dare say we waited quite half a minute and then came the further
restless clumping of a great hoof. Immediately afterward the sounds came
right on as if some invisible thing passed through the closed door and
the ponderous tread was upon us. We jumped, each of us, to our side of
the passage and I know that I spread myself stiff against the wall. The
clungk clunck, clungk clunck, of the great hoof falls passed right
between us and slowly and with deadly deliberateness, down the passage.
I heard them through a haze of blood beats in my ears and temples and my
body was extraordinarily rigid and pringling and I was horribly
breathless. I stood for a little time like this, my head turned so that I
could see up the passage. I was conscious only that there was a hideous
danger abroad. Do you understand?

"And then, suddenly, my pluck came back to me. I was aware that the noise
of the hoof beats sounded near the other end of the passage. I twisted
quickly and got my camera to bear and snapped off the flashlight.
Immediately afterward, Beaumont let fly a storm of shots down the passage
and began to run, shouting: 'It's after Mary. Run! Run!'

"He rushed down the passage and I after him. We came out on the main
landing and heard the sound of a hoof on the stairs and after that,
nothing. And from thence onward, nothing.

"Down below us in the big hall I could see a number of the household
'round Miss Hisgins, who seemed to have fainted and there were several of
the servants clumped together a little way off, staring up at the main
landing and no one saying a single word. And about some twenty steps up
the stairs was the old Captain Hisgins with a drawn sword in his hand
where he had halted, just below the last hoof sound. I think I never saw
anything finer than the old man standing there between his daughter and
that infernal thing.

"I daresay you can understand the queer feeling of horror I had at
passing that place on the stairs where the sounds had ceased. It was as
if the monster were still standing there, invisible. And the peculiar
thing was that we never heard another sound of the hoof, either up or
down the stairs.

"After they had taken Miss Hisgins to her room I sent word that I should
follow, so soon as they were ready for me. And presently, when a message
came to tell me that I could come any time, I asked her father to give
me a hand with my instrument box and between us we carried it into the
girl's bedroom. I had the bed pulled well out into the middle of the
room, after which I erected the electric pentacle 'round the bed.

"Then I directed that lamps should be placed 'round the room, but that on
no account must any light be made within the pentacle; neither must
anyone pass in or out. The girl's mother I had placed within the pentacle
and directed that her maid should sit without, ready to carry any message
so as to make sure that Mrs. Hisgins did not have to leave the pentacle.
I suggested also that the girl's father should stay the night in the room
and that he had better be armed.

"When I left the bedroom I found Beaumont waiting outside the door in a
miserable state of anxiety. I told him what I had done and explained to
him that Miss Hisgins was probably perfectly safe within the
'protection'; but that in addition to her father remaining the night in
the room, I intended to stand guard at the door. I told him that I should
like him to keep me company, for I knew that he could never sleep,
feeling as he did, and I should not be sorry to have a companion. Also, I
wanted to have him under my own observation, for there was no doubt but
that he was actually in greater danger in some ways than the girl. At
least, that was my opinion and is still, as I think you will agree later.

"I asked him whether he would object to my drawing a pentacle 'round him
for the night and got him to agree, but I saw that he did not know
whether to be superstitious about it or to regard it more as a piece of
foolish mumming; but he took it seriously enough when I gave him some
particulars about the Black Veil case, when young Aster died. You
remember, he said it was a piece of silly superstition and stayed
outside. Poor devil!

"The night passed quietly enough until a little while before dawn when
we both heard the sounds of a great horse galloping 'round and 'round the
house just as old Captain Hisgins had described it. You can imagine how
queer it made me feel and directly afterward, I heard someone stir within
the bedroom. I knocked at the door, for I was uneasy, and the Captain
came. I asked whether everything was right; to which he replied yes, and
immediately asked me whether I had heard the galloping, so that I knew he
had heard them also. I suggested that it might be well to leave the
bedroom door open a little until the dawn came in, as there was certainly
something abroad. This was done and he went back into the room, to be
near his wife and daughter.

"I had better say here that I was doubtful whether there was any value in
the 'Defense' about Miss Hisgins, for what I term the 'personal sounds'
of the manifestation were so extraordinarily material that I was inclined
to parallel the case with that one of Harford's where the hand of the
child kept materializing within the pentacle and patting the floor. As
you will remember, that was a hideous business.

"Yet, as it chanced, nothing further happened and so soon as daylight had
fully come we all went off to bed.

"Beaumont knocked me up about midday and I went down and made breakfast
into lunch. Miss Hisgins was there and seemed in very fair spirits,
considering. She told me that I had made her feel almost safe for the
first time for days. She told me also that her cousin, Harry Parsket, was
coming down from London and she knew that he would do anything to help
fight the ghost. And after that she and Beaumont went out into the
grounds to have a little time together.

"I had a walk in the grounds myself and went 'round the house, but saw no
traces of hoof marks and after that I spent the rest of the day making an
examination of the house, but found nothing.

"I made an end of my search before dark and went to my room to dress for
dinner. When I got down the cousin had just arrived and I found him one
of the nicest men I have met for a long time. A chap with a tremendous
amount of pluck, and the particular kind of man I like to have with me in
a bad case like the one I was on. I could see that what puzzled him most
was our belief in the genuineness of the haunting and I found myself
almost wanting something to happen, just to show him how true it was. As
it chanced, something did happen, with a vengeance.

"Beaumont and Miss Hisgins had gone out for a stroll just before the dusk
and Captain Hisgins asked me to come into his study for a short chat
whilst Parsket went upstairs with his traps, for he had no man with him.

"I had a long conversation with the old Captain in which I pointed out
that the 'haunting' had evidently no particular connection with the
house, but only with the girl herself and that the sooner she was
married, the better as it would give Beaumont a right to be with her at
all times and further than this, it might be that the manifestations
would cease if the marriage were actually performed.

"The old man nodded agreement to this, especially to the first part and
reminded me that three of the girls who were said to have been 'haunted'
had been sent away from home and met their deaths whilst away. And then
in the midst of our talk there came a pretty frightening interruption,
for all at once the old butler rushed into the room, most
extraordinarily pale:

"'Miss Mary, sir! Miss Mary, sir!' he gasped. 'She's screaming ... out in
the Park, sir! And they say they can hear the Horse--'

"The Captain made one dive for a rack of arms and snatched down his old
sword and ran out, drawing it as he ran. I dashed out and up the stairs,
snatched my camera-flashlight and a heavy revolver, gave one yell at
Parsket's door: 'The Horse!' and was down and into the grounds.

"Away in the darkness there was a confused shouting and I caught the
sounds of shooting, out among the scattered trees. And then, from a patch
of blackness to my left, there burst suddenly an infernal gobbling sort
of neighing. Instantly I whipped 'round and snapped off the flashlight.
The great light blazed out momentarily, showing me the leaves of a big
tree close at hand, quivering in the night breeze, but I saw nothing else
and then the ten-fold blackness came down upon me and I heard Parsket
shouting a little way back to know whether I had seen anything.

"The next instant he was beside me and I felt safer for his company,
for there was some incredible thing near to us and I was momentarily
blind because of the brightness of the flashlight. 'What was it? What
was it?' he kept repeating in an excited voice. And all the time I was
staring into the darkness and answering, mechanically, 'I don't know. I
don't know.'

"There was a burst of shouting somewhere ahead and then a shot. We ran
toward the sounds, yelling to the people not to shoot; for in the
darkness and panic there was this danger also. Then there came two of the
game-keepers racing hard up the drive with their lanterns and guns; and
immediately afterward a row of lights dancing toward us from the house,
carried by some of the men-servants.

"As the lights came up I saw we had come close to Beaumont. He was
standing over Miss Hisgins and he had his revolver in his hand. Then I
saw his face and there was a great wound across his forehead. By him was
the Captain, turning his naked sword this way and that, and peering into
the darkness; a little behind him stood the old butler, a battle-axe from
one of the arm stands in the hall in his hands. Yet there was nothing
strange to be seen anywhere.

"We got the girl into the house and left her with her mother and
Beaumont, whilst a groom rode for a doctor. And then the rest of us, with
four other keepers, all armed with guns and carrying lanterns, searched
'round the home park. But we found nothing.

"When we got back we found that the doctor had been. He had bound up
Beaumont's wound, which luckily was not deep, and ordered Miss Hisgins
straight to bed. I went upstairs with the Captain and found Beaumont on
guard outside of the girl's door. I asked him how he felt and then, so
soon as the girl and her mother were ready for us, Captain Hisgins and
I went into the bedroom and fixed the pentacle again 'round the bed.
They had already got lamps about the room and after I had set the same
order of watching as on the previous night, I joined Beaumont outside
of the door.

"Parsket had come up while I had been in the bedroom and between us we
got some idea from Beaumont as to what had happened out in the Park. It
seems that they were coming home after their stroll from the direction of
the West Lodge. It had got quite dark and suddenly Miss Hisgins said:
'Hush!' and came to a standstill. He stopped and listened, but heard
nothing for a little. Then he caught it--the sound of a horse, seemingly
a long way off, galloping toward them over the grass. He told the girl
that it was nothing and started to hurry her toward the house, but she
was not deceived, of course. In less than a minute they heard it quite
close to them in the darkness and they started running. Then Miss Hisgins
caught her foot and fell. She began to scream and that is what the butler
heard. As Beaumont lifted the girl he heard the hoofs come thudding right
at him. He stood over her and fired all five chambers of his revolver
right at the sounds. He told us that he was sure he saw something that
looked like an enormous horse's head, right upon him in the light of the
last flash of his pistol. Immediately afterward he was struck a
tremendous blow which knocked him down and then the Captain and the
butler came running up, shouting. The rest, of course, we knew.

"About ten o'clock the butler brought us up a tray, for which I was very
glad, as the night before I had got rather hungry. I warned Beaumont,
however, to be very particular not to drink any spirits and I also made
him give me his pipe and matches. At midnight I drew a pentacle 'round
him and Parsket and I sat one on each side of him, outside the pentacle,
for I had no fear that there would be any manifestation made against
anyone except Beaumont or Miss Hisgins.

"After that we kept pretty quiet. The passage was lit by a big lamp at
each end so that we had plenty of light and we were all armed, Beaumont
and I with revolvers and Parsket with a shotgun. In addition to my weapon
I had my camera and flashlight.

"Now and again we talked in whispers and twice the Captain came out of
the bedroom to have a word with us. About half-past one we had all grown
very silent and suddenly, about twenty minutes later, I held up my hand,
silently, for there seemed to be a sound of galloping out in the night. I
knocked on the bedroom door for the Captain to open it and when he came I
whispered to him that we thought we heard the Horse. For some time we
stayed listening, and both Parsket and the Captain thought they heard it;
but now I was not so sure, neither was Beaumont. Yet afterward, I thought
I heard it again.

"I told Captain Hisgins I thought he had better go into the bedroom and
leave the door a little open and this he did. But from that time onward
we heard nothing and presently the dawn came in and we all went very
thankfully to bed.

"When I was called at lunchtime I had a little surprise, for Captain
Hisgins told me that they had held a family council and had decided to
take my advice and have the marriage without a day's more delay than
possible. Beaumont was already on his way to London to get a special
License and they hoped to have the wedding next day.

"This pleased me, for it seemed the sanest thing to be done in the
extraordinary circumstances and meanwhile I should continue my
investigations; but until the marriage was accomplished, my chief thought
was to keep Miss Hisgins near to me.

"After lunch I thought I would take a few experimental photographs of
Miss Hisgins and her _surroundings_. Sometimes the camera sees things
that would seem very strange to normal human eyesight.

"With this intention and partly to make an excuse to keep her in my
company as much as possible, I asked Miss Hisgins to join me in my
experiments. She seemed glad to do this and I spent several hours with
her, wandering all over the house, from room to room and whenever the
impulse came I took a flashlight of her and the room or corridor in which
we chanced to be at the moment.

"After we had gone right through the house in this fashion, I asked her
whether she felt sufficiently brave to repeat the experiments in the
cellars. She said yes, and so I rooted out Captain Hisgins and Parsket,
for I was not going to take her even into what you might call artificial
darkness without help and companionship at hand.

"When we were ready we went down into the wine cellar, Captain Hisgins
carrying a shotgun and Parsket a specially prepared background and a
lantern. I got the girl to stand in the middle of the cellar whilst
Parsket and the Captain held out the background behind her. Then I fired
off the flashlight, and we went into the next cellar where we repeated
the experiment.

"Then in the third cellar, a tremendous, pitch-dark place, something
extraordinary and horrible manifested itself. I had stationed Miss
Hisgins in the center of the place, with her father and Parsket holding
the background as before. When all was ready and just as I pressed the
trigger of the 'flash,' there came in the cellar that dreadful, gobbling
neighing that I had heard out in the Park. It seemed to come from
somewhere above the girl and in the glare of the sudden light I saw that
she was staring tensely upward, but at no visible thing. And then in the
succeeding comparative darkness, I was shouting to the Captain and
Parsket to run Miss Hisgins out into the daylight.

"This was done instantly and I shut and locked the door afterward making
the First and Eighth signs of the Saaamaaa Ritual opposite to each post
and connecting them across the threshold with a triple line.

"In the meanwhile Parsket and Captain Hisgins carried the girl to her
mother and left her there, in a half fainting condition whilst I stayed
on guard outside of the cellar door, feeling pretty horrible for I knew
that there was some disgusting thing inside, and along with this feeling
there was a sense of half ashamedness, rather miserable, you know,
because I had exposed Miss Hisgins to the danger.

"I had got the Captain's shotgun and when he and Parsket came down again
they were each carrying guns and lanterns. I could not possibly tell you
the utter relief of spirit and body that came to me when I heard them
coming, but just try to imagine what it was like, standing outside of
that cellar. Can you?

"I remember noticing, just before I went to unlock the door, how white
and ghastly Parsket looked and the old Captain was grey-looking and I
wondered whether my face was like theirs. And this, you know, had its own
distinct effect upon my nerves, for it seemed to bring the beastliness
of the thing crash down on to me in a fresh way. I know it was only sheer
will power that carried me up to the door and made me turn the key.

"I paused one little moment and then with a nervy jerk sent the door wide
open and held my lantern over my head. Parsket and the Captain came one
on each side of me and held up their lanterns, but the place was
absolutely empty. Of course, I did not trust to a casual look of this
kind, but spent several hours with the help of the two others in sounding
every square foot of the floor, ceiling and walls.

"Yet, in the end I had to admit that the place itself was absolutely
normal and so we came away. But I sealed the door and outside, opposite
each doorpost I made the First and Last signs of the Saaamaaa Ritual,
joined them as before, with a triple line. Can you imagine what it was
like, searching that cellar?

"When we got upstairs I inquired very anxiously how Miss Hisgins was
and the girl came out herself to tell me that she was all right and
that I was not to trouble about her, or blame myself, as I told her I
had been doing.

"I felt happier then and went off to dress for dinner and after that was
done, Parsket and I took one of the bathrooms to develop the negatives
that I had been taking. Yet none of the plates had anything to tell us
until we came to the one that was taken in the cellar. Parsket was
developing and I had taken a batch of the fixed plates out into the
lamplight to examine them.

"I had just gone carefully through the lot when I heard a shout from
Parsket and when I ran to him he was looking at a partly-developed
negative which he was holding up to the red lamp. It showed the girl
plainly, looking upward as I had seen her, but the thing that astonished
me was the shadow of an enormous hoof, right above her, as if it were
coming down upon her out of the shadows. And you know, I had run her
bang into that danger. That was the thought that was chief in my mind.

"As soon as the developing was complete I fixed the plate and examined it
carefully in a good light. There was no doubt about it at all, the thing
above Miss Hisgins was an enormous, shadowy hoof. Yet I was no nearer to
coming to any definite knowledge and the only thing I could do was to
warn Parsket to say nothing about it to the girl for it would only
increase her fright, but I showed the thing to her father for I
considered it right that he should know.

"That night we took the same precaution for Miss Hisgins's safety as on
the two previous nights and Parsket kept me company; yet the dawn came in
without anything unusual having happened and I went off to bed.

"When I got down to lunch I learnt that Beaumont had wired to say that he
would be in soon after four; also that a message had been sent to the
Rector. And it was generally plain that the ladies of the house were in a
tremendous fluster.

"Beaumont's train was late and he did not get home until five, but even
then the Rector had not put in an appearance and the butler came in to
say that the coachman had returned without him as he had been called away
unexpectedly. Twice more during the evening the carriage was sent down,
but the clergyman had not returned and we had to delay the marriage until
the next day.

"That night I arranged the 'Defense' 'round the girl's bed and the
Captain and his wife sat up with her as before. Beaumont, as I expected,
insisted on keeping watch with me and he seemed in a curiously frightened
mood; not for himself, you know, but for Miss Hisgins. He had a horrible
feeling he told me, that there would be a final, dreadful attempt on his
sweetheart that night.

"This, of course, I told him was nothing but nerves; yet really, it made
me feel very anxious; for I have seen too much not to know that under
such circumstances a premonitory _conviction_ of impending danger is not
necessarily to be put down entirely to nerves. In fact, Beaumont was so
simply and earnestly convinced that the night would bring some
extraordinary manifestation that I got Parsket to rig up a long cord from
the wire of the butler's bell, to come along the passage handy.

"To the butler himself I gave directions not to undress and to give the
same order to two of the footmen. If I rang he was to come instantly,
with the footmen, carrying lanterns and the lanterns were to be kept
ready lit all night. If for any reason the bell did not ring and I blew
my whistle, he was to take that as a signal in the place of the bell.

"After I had arranged all these minor details I drew a pentacle about
Beaumont and warned him very particularly to stay within it, whatever
happened. And when this was done, there was nothing to do but wait and
pray that the night would go as quietly as the night before.

"We scarcely talked at all and by about one a.m. we were all very tense
and nervous so that at last Parsket got up and began to walk up and
down the corridor to steady himself a bit. Presently I slipped off my
pumps and joined him and we walked up and down, whispering occasionally
for something over an hour, until in turning I caught my foot in the
bell cord and went down on my face; but without hurting myself or
making a noise.

"When I got up Parsket nudged me.

"'Did you notice that the bell never rang?' he whispered.

"'Jove!' I said, 'you're right.'

"'Wait a minute,' he answered. 'I'll bet it's only a kink somewhere in
the cord.' He left his gun and slipped along the passage and taking the
top lamp, tiptoed away into the house, carrying Beaumont's revolver ready
in his right hand. He was a plucky chap, I remember thinking then, and
again, later.

"Just then Beaumont motioned to me for absolute quiet. Directly afterward
I heard the thing for which he listened--the sound of a horse galloping,
out in the night. I think that I may say I fairly shivered. The sound
died away and left a horrible, desolate, eerie feeling in the air, you
know. I put my hand out to the bell cord, hoping Parsket had got it
clear. Then I waited, glancing before and behind.

"Perhaps two minutes passed, full of what seemed like an almost unearthly
quiet. And then, suddenly, down the corridor at the lighted end there
sounded the clumping of a great hoof and instantly the lamp was thrown
with a tremendous crash and we were in the dark. I tugged hard on the
cord and blew the whistle; then I raised my snapshot and fired the
flashlight. The corridor blazed into brilliant light, but there was
nothing, and then the darkness fell like thunder. I heard the Captain at
the bedroom door and shouted to him to bring out a lamp, _quick_; but
instead something started to kick the door and I heard the Captain
shouting within the bedroom and then the screaming of the women. I had a
sudden horrible fear that the monster had got into the bedroom, but in
the same instant from up the corridor there came abruptly the vile,
gobbling neighing that we had heard in the park and the cellar. I blew
the whistle again and groped blindly for the bell cord, shouting to
Beaumont to stay in the Pentacle, whatever happened. I yelled again to
the Captain to bring out a lamp and there came a smashing sound against
the bedroom door. Then I had my matches in my hand, to get some light
before that incredible, unseen Monster was upon us.

"The match scraped on the box and flared up dully and in the same instant
I heard a faint sound behind me. I whipped 'round in a kind of mad terror
and saw something in the light of the match--a monstrous horse-head close
to Beaumont.

"'Look out, Beaumont!' I shouted in a sort of scream. 'It's behind you!'

"The match went out abruptly and instantly there came the huge bang of
Parsket's double-barrel (both barrels at once), fired evidently
single-handed by Beaumont close to my ear, as it seemed. I caught a
momentary glimpse of the great head in the flash and of an enormous hoof
amid the belch of fire and smoke seeming to be descending upon Beaumont.
In the same instant I fired three chambers of my revolver. There was the
sound of a dull blow and then that horrible, gobbling neigh broke out
close to me. I fired twice at the sound. Immediately afterward something
struck me and I was knocked backward. I got on to my knees and shouted
for help at the top of my voice. I heard the women screaming behind the
closed door of the bedroom and was dully aware that the door was being
smashed from the inside, and directly afterward I knew that Beaumont was
struggling with some hideous thing near to me. For an instant I held
back, stupidly, paralyzed with funk and then, blindly and in a sort of
rigid chill of goose flesh I went to help him, shouting his name. I can
tell you, I was nearly sick with the naked fear I had on me. There came a
little, choking scream out of the darkness, and at that I jumped forward
into the dark. I gripped a vast, furry ear. Then something struck me
another great blow knocking me sick. I hit back, weak and blind and
gripped with my other hand at the incredible thing. Abruptly I was dimly
aware of a tremendous crash behind me and a great burst of light. There
were other lights in the passage and a noise of feet and shouting. My
hand-grips were torn from the thing they held; I shut my eyes stupidly
and heard a loud yell above me and then a heavy blow, like a butcher
chopping meat and then something fell upon me.

"I was helped to my knees by the Captain and the butler. On the floor lay
an enormous horse-head out of which protruded a man's trunk and legs. On
the wrists were fixed great hoofs. It was the monster. The Captain cut
something with the sword that he held in his hand and stooped and lifted
off the mask, for that is what it was. I saw the face then of the man who
had worn it. It was Parsket. He had a bad wound across the forehead where
the Captain's sword had bit through the mask. I looked bewilderedly from
him to Beaumont, who was sitting up, leaning against the wall of the
corridor. Then I stared at Parsket again.

"'By Jove!' I said at last, and then I was quiet for I was so ashamed for
the man. You can understand, can't you? And he was opening his eyes. And
you know, I had grown so to like him.

"And then, you know, just as Parsket was getting back his wits and
looking from one to the other of us and beginning to remember, there
happened a strange and incredible thing. For from the end of the
corridor there sounded suddenly, the clumping of a great hoof. I looked
that way and then instantly at Parsket and saw a horrible fear in his
face and eyes. He wrenched himself 'round, weakly, and stared in mad
terror up the corridor to where the sound had been, and the rest of us
stared, in a frozen group. I remember vaguely half sobs and whispers
from Miss Hisgins's bedroom, all the while that I stared frightenedly up
the corridor.

"The silence lasted several seconds and then, abruptly there came again
the clumping of the great hoof, away at the end of the corridor. And
immediately afterward the clungk, clunk--clungk, clunk of mighty hoofs
coming down the passage toward us.

"Even then, you know, most of us thought it was some mechanism of
Parsket's still at work and we were in the queerest mixture of fright and
doubt. I think everyone looked at Parsket. And suddenly the Captain
shouted out:

"'Stop this damned fooling at once. Haven't you done enough?'

"For my part, I was now frightened for I had a _sense_ that there was
something horrible and wrong. And then Parsket managed to gasp out:

"'It's not me! My God! It's not me! My God! It's not me.'

"And then, you know, it seemed to come home to everyone in an instant
that there was really some dreadful thing coming down the passage. There
was a mad rush to get away and even old Captain Hisgins gave back with
the butler and the footmen. Beaumont fainted outright, as I found
afterward, for he had been badly mauled. I just flattened back against
the wall, kneeling as I was, too stupid and dazed even to run. And almost
in the same instant the ponderous hoof falls sounded close to me and
seeming to shake the solid floor as they passed. Abruptly the great
sounds ceased and I knew in a sort of sick fashion that the thing had
halted opposite to the door of the girl's bedroom. And then I was aware
that Parsket was standing rocking in the doorway with his arms spread
across, so as to fill the doorway with his body. Parsket was
extraordinarily pale and the blood was running down his face from the
wound in his forehead; and then I noticed that he seemed to be looking at
something in the passage with a peculiar, desperate, fixed, incredibly
masterful gaze. But there was really nothing to be seen. And suddenly the
clungk, clunk--clungk, clunk recommenced and passed onward down the
passage. In the same moment Parsket pitched forward out of the doorway
on to his face.

"There were shouts from the huddle of men down the passage and the two
footmen and the butler simply ran, carrying their lanterns, but the
Captain went against the side-wall with his back and put the lamp he was
carrying over his head. The dull tread of the Horse went past him, and
left him unharmed and I heard the monstrous hoof falls going away and
away through the quiet house and after that a dead silence.

"Then the Captain moved and came toward us, very slow and shaky and with
an extraordinarily grey face.

"I crept toward Parsket and the Captain came to help me. We turned him
over and, you know, I knew in a moment that he was dead; but you can
imagine what a feeling it sent through me.

"I looked at the Captain and suddenly he said:

"'That--That--That--' and I know that he was trying to tell me that
Parsket had stood between his daughter and whatever it was that had gone
down the passage. I stood up and steadied him, though I was not very
steady myself. And suddenly his face began to work and he went down on to
his knees by Parsket and cried like some shaken child. Then the women
came out of the doorway of the bedroom and I turned away and left him to
them, whilst I over to Beaumont.

"That is practically the whole story and the only thing that is left to
me is to try to explain some of the puzzling parts, here and there.

"Perhaps you have seen that Parsket was in love with Miss Hisgins and
this fact is the key to a good deal that was extraordinary. He was
doubtless responsible for some portions of the 'haunting'; in fact I
think for nearly everything, but, you know, I can prove nothing and what
I have to tell you is chiefly the result of deduction.

"In the first place, it is obvious that Parsket's intention was to
frighten Beaumont away and when he found that he could not do this, I
think he grew so desperate that he really intended to kill him. I hate to
say this, but the facts force me to think so.

"I am quite certain that it was Parsket who broke Beaumont's arm. He knew
all the details of the so-called 'Horse Legend,' and got the idea to work
upon the old story for his own end. He evidently had some method of
slipping in and out of the house, probably through one of the many French
windows, or possibly he had a key to one or two of the garden doors, and
when he was supposed to be away, he was really coming down on the quiet
and hiding somewhere in the neighborhood.

"The incident of the kiss in the dark hall I put down to sheer nervous
imaginings on the part of Beaumont and Miss Hisgins, yet I must say that
the sound of the horse outside of the front door is a little difficult to
explain away. But I am still inclined to keep to my first idea on this
point, that there was nothing really unnatural about it.

"The hoof sounds in the billiard room and down the passage were done by
Parsket from the floor below by bumping up against the paneled ceiling
with a block of wood tied to one of the window hooks. I proved this by an
examination which showed the dents in the woodwork.

"The sounds of the horse galloping 'round the house were possibly made
also by Parsket, who must have had a horse tied up in the plantation
nearby, unless, indeed, he made the sounds himself, but I do not see how
he could have gone fast enough to produce the illusion. In any case, I
don't feel perfect certainty on this point. I failed to find any hoof
marks, as you remember.

"The gobbling neighing in the park was a ventriloquial achievement on
the part of Parsket and the attack out there on Beaumont was also by
him, so that when I thought he was in his bedroom, he must have been
outside all the time and joined me after I ran out of the front door.
This is almost probable. I mean that Parsket was the cause, for if it
had been something more serious he would certainly have given up his
foolishness, knowing that there was no longer any need for it. I cannot
imagine how he escaped being shot, both then and in the last mad action
of which I have just told you. He was enormously without fear of any
kind for himself as you can see.

"The time when Parsket was with us, when we thought we heard the Horse
galloping 'round the house, we must have been deceived. No one was
very sure, except, of course, Parsket, who would naturally encourage
the belief.

"The neighing in the cellar is where I consider there came the first
suspicion into Parsket's mind that there was something more at work than
his sham haunting. The neighing was done by him in the same way that he
did it in the park; but when I remember how ghastly he looked I feel sure
that the sounds must have had some infernal quality added to them which
frightened the man himself. Yet, later, he would persuade himself that he
had been getting fanciful. Of course, I must not forget that the effect
upon Miss Hisgins must have made him feel pretty miserable.

"Then, about the clergyman being called away, we found afterward that it
was a bogus errand, or, rather, call and it is apparent that Parsket was
at the bottom of this, so as to get a few more hours in which to achieve
his end and what that was, a very little imagination will show you; for
he had found that Beaumont would not be frightened away. I hate to think
this, but I'm bound to. Anyway, it is obvious that the man was
temporarily a bit off his normal balance. Love's a queer disease!

"Then, there is no doubt at all but that Parsket left the cord to the
butler's bell hitched somewhere so as to give him an excuse to slip away
naturally to clear it. This also gave him the opportunity to remove one
of the passage lamps. Then he had only to smash the other and the passage
was in utter darkness for him to make the attempt on Beaumont.

"In the same way, it was he who locked the door of the bedroom and took
the key (it was in his pocket). This prevented the Captain from bringing
a light and coming to the rescue. But Captain Hisgins broke down the door
with the heavy fender curb and it was his smashing the door that sounded
so confusing and frightening in the darkness of the passage.

"The photograph of the monstrous hoof above Miss Hisgins in the cellar is
one of the things that I am less sure about. It might have been faked by
Parsket, whilst I was out of the room, and this would have been easy
enough, to anyone who knew how. But, you know, it does not look like a
fake. Yet, there is as much evidence of probability that it was faked, as
against; and the thing is too vague for an examination to help to a
definite decision so that I will express no opinion, one way or the
other. It is certainly a horrible photograph.

"And now I come to that last, dreadful thing. There has been no further
manifestation of anything abnormal so that there is an extraordinary
uncertainty in my conclusions. If we had not heard those last sounds and
if Parsket had not shown that enormous sense of fear the whole of this
case could be explained in the way in which I have shown. And, in fact,
as you have seen, I am of the opinion that almost all of it can be
cleared up, but I see no way of going past the thing we heard at the last
and the fear that Parsket showed.

"His death--no, that proves nothing. At the inquest it was described
somewhat untechnically as due to heart spasm. That is normal enough and
leaves us quite in the dark as to whether he died because he stood
between the girl and some incredible thing of monstrosity.

"The look on Parsket's face and the thing he called out when he heard the
great hoof sounds coming down the passage seem to show that he had the
sudden realization of what before then may have been nothing more than a
horrible suspicion. And his fear and appreciation of some tremendous
danger approaching was probably more keenly real even than mine. And then
he did the one fine, great thing!"

"And the cause?" I said. "What caused it?"

Carnacki shook his head.

"God knows," he answered, with a peculiar, sincere reverence. "If that
thing was what it seemed to be one might suggest an explanation which
would not offend one's reason, but which may be utterly wrong. Yet I have
thought, though it would take a long lecture on Thought Induction to get
you to appreciate my reasons, that Parsket had produced what I might term
a kind of 'induced haunting,' a kind of induced simulation of his mental
conceptions to his desperate thoughts and broodings. It is impossible to
make it clearer in a few words."

"But the old story!" I said. "Why may not there have been something
in _that_?"

"There may have been something in it," said Carnacki. "But I do not think
it had anything to do with this. I have not clearly thought out my
reasons, yet; but later I may be able to tell you why I think so."

"And the marriage? And the cellar--was there anything found there?"
asked Taylor.

"Yes, the marriage was performed that day in spite of the tragedy,"
Carnacki told us. "It was the wisest thing to do considering the things
that I cannot explain. Yes, I had the floor of that big cellar up, for I
had a feeling I might find something there to give me some light. But
there was nothing.

"You know, the whole thing is tremendous and extraordinary. I shall
never forget the look on Parsket's face. And afterward the disgusting
sounds of those great hoofs going away through the quiet house."

Carnacki stood up.

"Out you go!" he said in friendly fashion, using the recognized formula.

And we went presently out into the quiet of the Embankment, and so to
our homes.




No. 5

THE SEARCHER OF THE END HOUSE


It was still evening, as I remember, and the four of us, Jessop,
Arkright, Taylor and I, looked disappointedly at Carnacki, where he sat
silent in his great chair.

We had come in response to the usual card of invitation, which--as you
know--we have come to consider as a sure prelude to a good story; and
now, after telling us the short incident of the Three Straw Platters, he
had lapsed into a contented silence, and the night not half gone, as I
have hinted.

However, as it chanced, some pitying fate jogged Carnacki's elbow, or his
memory, and he began again, in his queer level way:--

"The 'Straw Platters' business reminds me of the 'Searcher' Case, which I
have sometimes thought might interest you. It was some time ago, in fact
a deuce of a long time ago, that the thing happened; and my experience of
what I might term 'curious' things was very small at that time.

"I was living with my mother when it occurred, in a small house just
outside of Appledorn, on the South Coast. The house was the last of a
row of detached cottage villas, each house standing in its own garden;
and very dainty little places they were, very old, and most of them
smothered in roses; and all with those quaint old leaded windows, and
doors of genuine oak. You must try to picture them for the sake of their
complete niceness.

"Now I must remind you at the beginning that my mother and I had lived in
that little house for two years; and in the whole of that time there had
not been a single peculiar happening to worry us.

"And then, something happened.

"It was about two o'clock one morning, as I was finishing some letters,
that I heard the door of my mother's bedroom open, and she came to the
top of the stairs, and knocked on the banisters.

"'All right, dear,' I called; for I suppose she was merely reminding me
that I should have been in bed long ago; then I heard her go back to her
room, and I hurried my work, for fear she should lie awake, until she
heard me safe up to my room.

"When I was finished, I lit my candle, put out the lamp, and went
upstairs. As I came opposite the door of my mother's room, I saw that it
was open, called good night to her, very softly, and asked whether I
should close the door. As there was no answer, I knew that she had
dropped off to sleep again, and I closed the door very gently, and turned
into my room, just across the passage. As I did so, I experienced a
momentary, half-aware sense of a faint, peculiar, disagreeable odor in
the passage; but it was not until the following night that I _realized_ I
had noticed a smell that offended me. You follow me? It is so often like
that--one suddenly knows a thing that really recorded itself on one's
consciousness, perhaps a year before.

"The next morning at breakfast, I mentioned casually to my mother that
she had 'dropped off,' and I had shut the door for her. To my surprise,
she assured me she had never been out of her room. I reminded her about
the two raps she had given upon the banister; but she still was certain I
must be mistaken; and in the end I teased her, saying she had grown so
accustomed to my bad habit of sitting up late, that she had come to call
me in her sleep. Of course, she denied this, and I let the matter drop;
but I was more than a little puzzled, and did not know whether to believe
my own explanation, or to take the mater's, which was to put the noises
down to the mice, and the open door to the fact that she couldn't have
properly latched it, when she went to bed. I suppose, away in the
subconscious part of me, I had a stirring of less reasonable thoughts;
but certainly, I had no real uneasiness at that time.

"The next night there came a further development. About two thirty a.m.,
I heard my mother's door open, just as on the previous night, and
immediately afterward she rapped sharply, on the banister, as it seemed
to me. I stopped my work and called up that I would not be long. As she
made no reply, and I did not hear her go back to bed, I had a quick sense
of wonder whether she might not be doing it in her sleep, after all, just
as I had said.

"With the thought, I stood up, and taking the lamp from the table, began
to go toward the door, which was open into the passage. It was then I got
a sudden nasty sort of thrill; for it came to me, all at once, that my
mother never knocked, when I sat up too late; she always called. You will
understand I was not really frightened in any way; only vaguely uneasy,
and pretty sure she must really be doing the thing in her sleep.

"I went quickly up the stairs, and when I came to the top, my mother was
not there; but her door was open. I had a bewildered sense though
believing she must have gone quietly back to bed, without my hearing
her. I entered her room and found her sleeping quietly and naturally; for
the vague sense of trouble in me was sufficiently strong to make me go
over to look at her.

"When I was sure that she was perfectly right in every way, I was still
a little bothered; but much more inclined to think my suspicion correct
and that she had gone quietly back to bed in her sleep, without knowing
what she had been doing. This was the most reasonable thing to think, as
you must see.

"And then it came to me, suddenly, that vague, queer, mildewy smell in
the room; and it was in that instant I became aware I had smelt the same
strange, uncertain smell the night before in the passage.

"I was definitely uneasy now, and began to search my mother's room;
though with no aim or clear thought of anything, except to assure myself
that there was nothing in the room. All the time, you know, I never
_expected really_ to find anything; only my uneasiness had to be assured.

"In the middle of my search my mother woke up, and of course I had to
explain. I told her about her door opening, and the knocks on the
banister, and that I had come up and found her asleep. I said nothing
about the smell, which was not very distinct; but told her that the thing
happening twice had made me a bit nervous, and possibly fanciful, and I
thought I would take a look 'round, just to feel satisfied.

"I have thought since that the reason I made no mention of the smell, was
not only that I did not want to frighten my mother, for I was scarcely
that myself; but because I had only a vague half-knowledge that I
associated the smell with fancies too indefinite and peculiar to bear
talking about. You will understand that I am able _now_ to analyze and
put the thing into words; but _then_ I did not even know my chief reason
for saying nothing; let alone appreciate its possible significance.

"It was my mother, after all, who put part of my vague sensations
into words:--

"'What a disagreeable smell!' she exclaimed, and was silent a moment,
looking at me. Then:--'You feel there's something wrong?' still looking
at me, very quietly but with a little, nervous note of questioning
expectancy.

"'I don't know,' I said. 'I can't understand it, unless you've really
been walking about in your sleep.'

"'The smell,' she said.

"'Yes,' I replied. 'That's what puzzles me too. I'll take a walk through
the house; but I don't suppose it's anything.'

"I lit her candle, and taking the lamp, I went through the other
bedrooms, and afterward all over the house, including the three
underground cellars, which was a little trying to the nerves, seeing that
I was more nervous than I would admit.

"Then I went back to my mother, and told her there was really nothing to
bother about; and, you know, in the end, we talked ourselves into
believing it was nothing. My mother would not agree that she might have
been sleepwalking; but she was ready to put the door opening down to the
fault of the latch, which certainly snicked very lightly. As for the
knocks, they might be the old warped woodwork of the house cracking a
bit, or a mouse rattling a piece of loose plaster. The smell was more
difficult to explain; but finally we agreed that it might easily be the
queer night smell of the moist earth, coming in through the open window
of my mother's room, from the back garden, or--for that matter--from the
little churchyard beyond the big wall at the bottom of the garden.

"And so we quietened down, and finally I went to bed, and to sleep.

"I think this is certainly a lesson on the way we humans can delude
ourselves; for there was not one of these explanations that my reason
could really accept. Try to imagine yourself in the same circumstances,
and you will see how absurd our attempts to explain the happenings
really were.

"In the morning, when I came down to breakfast, we talked it all over
again, and whilst we agreed that it was strange, we also agreed that we
had begun to imagine funny things in the backs of our minds, which now we
felt half ashamed to admit. This is very strange when you come to look
into it; but very human.

"And then that night again my mother's door was slammed once more just
after midnight. I caught up the lamp, and when I reached her door, I
found it shut. I opened it quickly, and went in, to find my mother lying
with her eyes open, and rather nervous; having been waked by the bang of
the door. But what upset me more than anything, was the fact that there
was a disgusting smell in the passage and in her room.

"Whilst I was asking her whether she was all right, a door slammed
twice downstairs; and you can imagine how it made me feel. My mother
and I looked at one another; and then I lit her candle, and taking the
poker from the fender, went downstairs with the lamp, beginning to feel
really nervous. The cumulative effect of so many queer happenings was
getting hold of me; and all the _apparently_ reasonable explanations
seemed futile.

"The horrible smell seemed to be very strong in the downstairs passage;
also in the front room and the cellars; but chiefly in the passage. I
made a very thorough search of the house, and when I had finished, I knew
that all the lower windows and doors were properly shut and fastened, and
that there was no living thing in the house, beyond our two selves. Then
I went up to my mother's room again, and we talked the thing over for an
hour or more, and in the end came to the conclusion that we might, after
all, be reading too much into a number of little things; but, you know,
inside of us, we did not believe this.

"Later, when we had talked ourselves into a more comfortable state of
mind, I said good night, and went off to bed; and presently managed to
get to sleep.

"In the early hours of the morning, whilst it was still dark, I was waked
by a loud noise. I sat up in bed, and listened. And from downstairs, I
heard:--bang, bang, bang, one door after another being slammed; at least,
that is the impression the sounds gave to me.

"I jumped out of bed, with the tingle and shiver of sudden fright on me;
and at the same moment, as I lit my candle, my door was pushed slowly
open; I had left it unlatched, so as not to feel that my mother was quite
shut off from me.

"'Who's there?' I shouted out, in a voice twice as deep as my natural
one, and with a queer breathlessness, that sudden fright so often gives
one. 'Who's there?'

"Then I heard my mother saying:--

"'It's me, Thomas. Whatever is happening downstairs?'

"She was in the room by this, and I saw she had her bedroom poker in one
hand, and her candle in the other. I could have smiled at her, had it not
been for the extraordinary sounds downstairs.

"I got into my slippers, and reached down an old sword bayonet from the
wall; then I picked up my candle, and begged my mother not to come; but I
knew it would be little use, if she had made up her mind; and she had,
with the result that she acted as a sort of rearguard for me, during our
search. I know, in some ways, I was very glad to have her with me, as you
will understand.

"By this time, the door slamming had ceased, and there seemed, probably
because of the contrast, to be an appalling silence in the house.
However, I led the way, holding my candle high, and keeping the sword
bayonet very handy. Downstairs we found all the doors wide open; although
the outer doors and the windows were closed all right. I began to wonder
whether the noises had been made by the doors after all. Of one thing
only were we sure, and that was, there was no living thing in the house,
beside ourselves, while everywhere throughout the house, there was the
taint of that disgusting odor.

"Of course it was absurd to try to make believe any longer. There was
something strange about the house; and as soon as it was daylight, I set
my mother to packing; and soon after breakfast, I saw her off by train.

"Then I set to work to try to clear up the mystery. I went first to the
landlord, and told him all the circumstances. From him, I found that
twelve or fifteen years back, the house had got rather a curious name
from three or four tenants; with the result that it had remained empty a
long while; in the end he had let it at a low rent to a Captain Tobias,
on the one condition that he should hold his tongue, if he saw anything
peculiar. The landlord's idea--as he told me frankly--was to free the
house from these tales of 'something queer,' by keeping a tenant in it,
and then to sell it for the best price he could get.

"However, when Captain Tobias left, after a ten years' tenancy, there was
no longer any talk about the house; so when I offered to take it on a
five years' lease, he had jumped at the offer. This was the whole story;
so he gave me to understand. When I pressed him for details of the
supposed peculiar happenings in the house, all those years back, he said
the tenants had talked about a woman who always moved about the house at
night. Some tenants never saw anything; but others would not stay out the
first month's tenancy.

"One thing the landlord was particular to point out, that no tenant had
ever complained about knockings, or door slamming. As for the smell, he
seemed positively indignant about it; but why, I don't suppose he knew
himself, except that he probably had some vague feeling that it was an
indirect accusation on my part that the drains were not right.

"In the end, I suggested that he should come down and spend the night
with me. He agreed at once, especially as I told him I intended to keep
the whole business quiet, and try to get to the bottom of the curious
affair; for he was anxious to keep the rumor of the haunting from
getting about.

"About three o'clock that afternoon, he came down, and we made a
thorough search of the house, which, however, revealed nothing unusual.
Afterward, the landlord made one or two tests, which showed him the
drainage was in perfect order; after that we made our preparations for
sitting up all night.

"First, we borrowed two policemen's dark lanterns from the station
nearby, and where the superintendent and I were friendly, and as soon as
it was really dusk, the landlord went up to his house for his gun. I had
the sword bayonet I have told you about; and when the landlord got back,
we sat talking in my study until nearly midnight.

"Then we lit the lanterns and went upstairs. We placed the lanterns, gun
and bayonet handy on the table; then I shut and sealed the bedroom doors;
afterward we took our seats, and turned off the lights.

"From then until two o'clock, nothing happened; but a little after two,
as I found by holding my watch near the faint glow of the closed
lanterns, I had a time of extraordinary nervousness; and I bent toward
the landlord, and whispered to him that I had a queer feeling something
was about to happen, and to be ready with his lantern; at the same time I
reached out toward mine. In the very instant I made this movement, the
darkness which filled the passage seemed to become suddenly of a dull
violet color; not, as if a light had been shone; but as if the natural
blackness of the night had changed color. And then, coming through this
violet night, through this violet-colored gloom, came a little naked
Child, running. In an extraordinary way, the Child seemed not to be
distinct from the surrounding gloom; but almost as if it were a
concentration of that extraordinary atmosphere; as if that gloomy color
which had changed the night, came from the Child. It seems impossible to
make clear to you; but try to understand it.

"The Child went past me, running, with the natural movement of the legs
of a chubby human child, but in an absolute and inconceivable silence. It
was a very small Child, and must have passed under the table; but I saw
the Child through the table, as if it had been only a slightly darker
shadow than the colored gloom. In the same instant, I saw that a
fluctuating glimmer of violet light outlined the metal of the gun-barrels
and the blade of the sword bayonet, making them seem like faint shapes of
glimmering light, floating unsupported where the tabletop should have
shown solid.

"Now, curiously, as I saw these things, I was subconsciously aware that I
heard the anxious breathing of the landlord, quite clear and labored,
close to my elbow, where he waited nervously with his hands on the
lantern. I realized in that moment that he saw nothing; but waited in the
darkness, for my warning to come true.

"Even as I took heed of these minor things, I saw the Child jump to one
side, and hide behind some half-seen object that was certainly nothing
belonging to the passage. I stared, intently, with a most extraordinary
thrill of expectant wonder, with fright making goose flesh of my back.
And even as I stared, I solved for myself the less important problem of
what the two black clouds were that hung over a part of the table. I
think it very curious and interesting, the double working of the mind,
often so much more apparent during times of stress. The two clouds came
from two faintly shining shapes, which I knew must be the metal of the
lanterns; and the things that looked black to the sight with which I was
then seeing, could be nothing else but what to normal human sight is
known as light. This phenomenon I have always remembered. I have twice
seen a somewhat similar thing; in the Dark Light Case and in that trouble
of Maetheson's, which you know about.

"Even as I understood this matter of the lights, I was looking to my
left, to understand why the Child was hiding. And suddenly, I heard the
landlord shout out:--'The Woman!' But I saw nothing. I had a
disagreeable sense that something repugnant was near to me, and I was
aware in the same moment that the landlord was gripping my arm in a hard,
frightened grip. Then I was looking back to where the Child had hidden. I
saw the Child peeping out from behind its hiding place, seeming to be
looking up the passage; but whether in fear I could not tell. Then it
came out, and ran headlong away, through the place where should have been
the wall of my mother's bedroom; but the Sense with which I was seeing
these things, showed me the wall only as a vague, upright shadow,
unsubstantial. And immediately the child was lost to me, in the dull
violet gloom. At the same time, I felt the landlord press back against
me, as if something had passed close to him; and he called out again, a
hoarse sort of cry:--'The Woman! The Woman!' and turned the shade
clumsily from off his lantern. But I had seen no Woman; and the passage
showed empty, as he shone the beam of his light jerkily to and fro; but
chiefly in the direction of the doorway of my mother's room.

"He was still clutching my arm, and had risen to his feet; and now,
mechanically and almost slowly, I picked up my lantern and turned on
the light. I shone it, a little dazedly, at the seals upon the doors;
but none were broken; then I sent the light to and fro, up and down the
passage; but there was nothing; and I turned to the landlord, who was
saying something in a rather incoherent fashion. As my light passed
over his face, I noted, in a dull sort of way, that he was drenched
with sweat.

"Then my wits became more handleable, and I began to catch the drift of
his words:--'Did you see her? Did you see her?' he was saying, over and
over again; and then I found myself telling him, in quite a level
voice, that I had not seen any Woman. He became more coherent then, and
I found that he had seen a Woman come from the end of the passage, and
go past us; but he could not describe her, except that she kept
stopping and looking about her, and had even peered at the wall, close
beside him, as if looking for something. But what seemed to trouble him
most, was that she had not seemed to see him at all. He repeated this
so often, that in the end I told him, in an absurd sort of way, that he
ought to be very glad she had not. What did it all mean? was the
question; somehow I was not so frightened, as utterly bewildered. I had
seen less then, than since; but what I had seen, had made me feel
adrift from my anchorage of Reason.

"What did it mean? He had seen a Woman, searching for something. _I_ had
not seen this Woman. _I_ had seen a Child, running away, and hiding from
Something or Someone. _He_ had not seen the Child, or the other
things--only the Woman. And _I_ had not seen her. What did it all mean?

"I had said nothing to the landlord about the Child. I had been too
bewildered, and I realized that it would be futile to attempt an
explanation. He was already stupid with the thing he had seen; and not
the kind of man to understand. All this went through my mind as we stood
there, shining the lanterns to and fro. All the time, intermingled with a
streak of practical reasoning, I was questioning myself, what did it all
mean? What was the Woman searching for; what was the Child running from?

"Suddenly, as I stood there, bewildered and nervous, making random
answers to the landlord, a door below was violently slammed, and directly
I caught the horrible reek of which I have told you.

"'There!' I said to the landlord, and caught his arm, in my turn. 'The
Smell! Do _you_ smell it?'

"He looked at me so stupidly that in a sort of nervous anger, I
shook him.

"'Yes,' he said, in a queer voice, trying to shine the light from his
shaking lantern at the stair head.

"'Come on!' I said, and picked up my bayonet; and he came, carrying his
gun awkwardly. I think he came, more because he was afraid to be left
alone, than because he had any pluck left, poor beggar. I never sneer at
that kind of funk, at least very seldom; for when it takes hold of you,
it makes rags of your courage.

"I led the way downstairs, shining my light into the lower passage, and
afterward at the doors to see whether they were shut; for I had closed
and latched them, placing a corner of a mat against each door, so I
should know which had been opened.

"I saw at once that none of the doors had been opened; then I threw the
beam of my light down alongside the stairway, in order to see the mat I
had placed against the door at the top of the cellar stairs. I got a
horrid thrill; for the mat was flat! I paused a couple of seconds,
shining my light to and fro in the passage, and holding fast to my
courage, I went down the stairs.

"As I came to the bottom step, I saw patches of wet all up and down the
passage. I shone my lantern on them. It was the imprint of a wet foot
on the oilcloth of the passage; not an ordinary footprint, but a queer,
soft, flabby, spreading imprint, that gave me a feeling of
extraordinary horror.

"Backward and forward I flashed the light over the impossible marks and
saw them everywhere. Suddenly I noticed that they led to each of the
closed doors. I felt something touch my back, and glanced 'round
swiftly, to find the landlord had come close to me, almost pressing
against me, in his fear.

"'It's all right,' I said, but in a rather breathless whisper, meaning to
put a little courage into him; for I could feel that he was shaking
through all his body. Even then as I tried to get him steadied enough to
be of some use, his gun went off with a tremendous bang. He jumped, and
yelled with sheer terror; and I swore because of the shock.

"'Give it to me, for God's sake!' I said, and slipped the gun from his
hand; and in the same instant there was a sound of running steps up the
garden path, and immediately the flash of a bull's-eye lantern upon the
fan light over the front door. Then the door was tried, and directly
afterward there came a thunderous knocking, which told me a policeman had
heard the shot.

"I went to the door, and opened it. Fortunately the constable knew me,
and when I had beckoned him in, I was able to explain matters in a
very short time. While doing this, Inspector Johnstone came up the
path, having missed the officer, and seeing lights and the open door.
I told him as briefly as possible what had occurred, and did not
mention the Child or the Woman; for it would have seem too fantastic
for him to notice. I showed him the queer, wet footprints and how they
went toward the closed doors. I explained quickly about the mats, and
how that the one against the cellar door was flat, which showed the
door had been opened.

"The inspector nodded, and told the constable to guard the door at the
top of the cellar stairs. He then asked the hall lamp to be lit, after
which he took the policeman's lantern, and led the way into the front
room. He paused with the door wide open, and threw the light all 'round;
then he jumped into the room, and looked behind the door; there was no
one there; but all over the polished oak floor, between the scattered
rugs, went the marks of those horrible spreading footprints; and the room
permeated with the horrible odor.

"The inspector searched the room carefully, and then went into the middle
room, using the same precautions. There was nothing in the middle room,
or in the kitchen or pantry; but everywhere went the wet footmarks
through all the rooms, showing plainly wherever there were woodwork or
oilcloth; and always there was the smell.

"The inspector ceased from his search of the rooms, and spent a minute in
trying whether the mats would really fall flat when the doors were open,
or merely ruckle up in a way as to appear they had been untouched; but in
each case, the mats fell flat, and remained so.

"'Extraordinary!' I heard Johnstone mutter to himself. And then he went
toward the cellar door. He had inquired at first whether there were
windows to the cellar, and when he learned there was no way out, except
by the door, he had left this part of the search to the last.

"As Johnstone came up to the door, the policeman made a motion of salute,
and said something in a low voice; and something in the tone made me
flick my light across him. I saw then that the man was very white, and he
looked strange and bewildered.

"'What?' said Johnstone impatiently. 'Speak up!'

"'A woman come along 'ere, sir, and went through this 'ere door,' said
the constable, clearly, but with a curious monotonous intonation that is
sometimes heard from an unintelligent man.

"'Speak up!' shouted the inspector.

"'A woman come along and went through this 'ere door,' repeated the man,
monotonously.

"The inspector caught the man by the shoulder, and deliberately sniffed
his breath.

"'No!' he said. And then sarcastically:--'I hope you held the door open
politely for the lady.'

"'The door weren't opened, sir,' said the man, simply.

"'Are you mad--' began Johnstone.

"'No,' broke in the landlord's voice from the back. Speaking steadily
enough. 'I saw the Woman upstairs.' It was evident that he had got back
his control again.

"'I'm afraid, Inspector Johnstone,' I said, 'that there's more in this
than you think. I certainly saw some very extraordinary things upstairs.'

"The inspector seemed about to say something; but instead, he turned
again to the door, and flashed his light down and 'round about the mat. I
saw then that the strange, horrible footmarks came straight up to the
cellar door; and the last print showed _under_ the door; yet the
policeman said the door had not been opened.

"And suddenly, without any intention, or realization of what I was
saying, I asked the landlord:--

"'What were the feet like?'

"I received no answer; for the inspector was ordering the constable to
open the cellar door, and the man was not obeying. Johnstone repeated the
order, and at last, in a queer automatic way, the man obeyed, and pushed
the door open. The loathsome smell beat up at us, in a great wave of
horror, and the inspector came backward a step.

"'My God!' he said, and went forward again, and shone his light down the
steps; but there was nothing visible, only that on each step showed the
unnatural footprints.

"The inspector brought the beam of the light vividly on the top step; and
there, clear in the light, there was something small, moving. The
inspector bent to look, and the policeman and I with him. I don't want to
disgust you; but the thing we looked at was a maggot. The policeman
backed suddenly out of the doorway:

"'The churchyard,' he said, '... at the back of the 'ouse.'

"'Silence!' said Johnstone, with a queer break in the word, and I knew
that at last he was frightened. He put his lantern into the doorway, and
shone it from step to step, following the footprints down into the
darkness; then he stepped back from the open doorway, and we all gave
back with him. He looked 'round, and I had a feeling that he was looking
for a weapon of some kind.

"'Your gun,' I said to the landlord, and he brought it from the front
hall, and passed it over to the inspector, who took it and ejected the
empty shell from the right barrel. He held out his hand for a live
cartridge, which the landlord brought from his pocket. He loaded the gun
and snapped the breech. He turned to the constable:--

"'Come on,' he said, and moved toward the cellar doorway.

"'I ain't comin', sir,' said the policeman, very white in the face.

"With a sudden blaze of passion, the inspector took the man by the scruff
and hove him bodily down into the darkness, and he went downward,
screaming. The inspector followed him instantly, with his lantern and the
gun; and I after the inspector, with the bayonet ready. Behind me, I
heard the landlord.

"At the bottom of the stairs, the inspector was helping the policeman to
his feet, where he stood swaying a moment, in a bewildered fashion; then
the inspector went into the front cellar, and his man followed him in
stupid fashion; but evidently no longer with any thought of running away
from the horror.

"We all crowded into the front cellar, flashing our lights to and fro.
Inspector Johnstone was examining the floor, and I saw that the footmarks
went all 'round the cellar, into all the corners, and across the floor. I
thought suddenly of the Child that was running away from Something. Do
you see the thing that I was seeing vaguely?

"We went out of the cellar in a body, for there was nothing to be
found. In the next cellar, the footprints went everywhere in that queer
erratic fashion, as of someone searching for something, or following
some blind scent.

"In the third cellar the prints ended at the shallow well that had been
the old water supply of the house. The well was full to the brim, and the
water so clear that the pebbly bottom was plainly to be seen, as we shone
the lights into the water. The search came to an abrupt end, and we stood
about the well, looking at one another, in an absolute, horrible silence.

"Johnstone made another examination of the footprints; then he shone his
light again into the clear shallow water, searching each inch of the
plainly seen bottom; but there was nothing there. The cellar was full of
the dreadful smell; and everyone stood silent, except for the constant
turning of the lamps to and fro around the cellar.

"The inspector looked up from his search of the well, and nodded quietly
across at me, with his sudden acknowledgment that our belief was now his
belief, the smell in the cellar seemed to grow more dreadful, and to be,
as it were, a menace--the material expression that some monstrous thing
was there with us, invisible.

"'I think--' began the inspector, and shone his light toward the
stairway; and at this the constable's restraint went utterly, and he ran
for the stairs, making a queer sound in his throat.

"The landlord followed, at a quick walk, and then the inspector and I. He
waited a single instant for me, and we went up together, treading on the
same steps, and with our lights held backward. At the top, I slammed and
locked the stair door, and wiped my forehead, and my hands were shaking.

"The inspector asked me to give his man a glass of whisky, and then he
sent him on his beat. He stayed a short while with the landlord and me,
and it was arranged that he would join us again the following night and
watch the Well with us from midnight until daylight. Then he left us,
just as the dawn was coming in. The landlord and I locked up the house,
and went over to his place for a sleep.

"In the afternoon, the landlord and I returned to the house, to make
arrangements for the night. He was very quiet, and I felt he was to be
relied on, now that he had been 'salted,' as it were, with his fright of
the previous night.

"We opened all the doors and windows, and blew the house through very
thoroughly; and in the meanwhile, we lit the lamps in the house, and took
them into the cellars, where we set them all about, so as to have light
everywhere. Then we carried down three chairs and a table, and set them
in the cellar where the well was sunk. After that, we stretched thin
piano wire across the cellar, about nine inches from the floor, at such a
height that it should catch anything moving about in the dark.

"When this was done, I went through the house with the landlord, and
sealed every window and door in the place, excepting only the front door
and the door at the top of the cellar stairs.

"Meanwhile, a local wire-smith was making something to my order; and
when the landlord and I had finished tea at his house, we went down to
see how the smith was getting on. We found the thing complete. It looked
rather like a huge parrot's cage, without any bottom, of very heavy gage
wire, and stood about seven feet high and was four feet in diameter.
Fortunately, I remembered to have it made longitudinally in two halves,
or else we should never have got it through the doorways and down the
cellar stairs.

"I told the wire-smith to bring the cage up to the house so he could fit
the two halves rigidly together. As we returned, I called in at an
ironmonger's, where I bought some thin hemp rope and an iron rack pulley,
like those used in Lancashire for hauling up the ceiling clothes racks,
which you will find in every cottage. I bought also a couple of
pitchforks.

"'We shan't want to touch it," I said to the landlord; and he nodded,
rather white all at once.

"As soon as the cage arrived and had been fitted together in the cellar,
I sent away the smith; and the landlord and I suspended it over the well,
into which it fitted easily. After a lot of trouble, we managed to hang
it so perfectly central from the rope over the iron pulley, that when
hoisted to the ceiling and dropped, it went every time plunk into the
well, like a candle-extinguisher. When we had it finally arranged, I
hoisted it up once more, to the ready position, and made the rope fast to
a heavy wooden pillar, which stood in the middle of the cellar.

"By ten o'clock, I had everything arranged, with the two pitchforks and
the two police lanterns; also some whisky and sandwiches. Underneath the
table I had several buckets full of disinfectant.

"A little after eleven o'clock, there was a knock at the front door, and
when I went, I found Inspector Johnstone had arrived, and brought with
him one of his plainclothes men. You will understand how pleased I was
to see there would be this addition to our watch; for he looked a tough,
nerveless man, brainy and collected; and one I should have picked to
help us with the horrible job I felt pretty sure we should have to do
that night.

"When the inspector and the detective had entered, I shut and locked the
front door; then, while the inspector held the light, I sealed the door
carefully, with tape and wax. At the head of the cellar stairs, I shut
and locked that door also, and sealed it in the same way.

"As we entered the cellar, I warned Johnstone and his man to be careful
not to fall over the wires; and then, as I saw his surprise at my
arrangements, I began to explain my ideas and intentions, to all of which
he listened with strong approval. I was pleased to see also that the
detective was nodding his head, as I talked, in a way that showed he
appreciated all my precautions.

"As he put his lantern down, the inspector picked up one of the
pitchforks, and balanced it in his hand; he looked at me, and nodded.

"'The best thing,' he said. 'I only wish you'd got two more.'

"Then we all took our seats, the detective getting a washing stool from
the corner of the cellar. From then, until a quarter to twelve, we talked
quietly, whilst we made a light supper of whisky and sandwiches; after
which, we cleared everything off the table, excepting the lanterns and
the pitchforks. One of the latter, I handed to the inspector; the other I
took myself, and then, having set my chair so as to be handy to the rope
which lowered the cage into the well, I went 'round the cellar and put
out every lamp.

"I groped my way to my chair, and arranged the pitchfork and the dark
lantern ready to my hand; after which I suggested that everyone should
keep an absolute silence throughout the watch. I asked, also, that no
lantern should be turned on, until I gave the word.

"I put my watch on the table, where a faint glow from my lantern made me
able to see the time. For an hour nothing happened, and everyone kept an
absolute silence, except for an occasional uneasy movement.

"About half-past one, however, I was conscious again of the same
extraordinary and peculiar nervousness, which I had felt on the previous
night. I put my hand out quickly, and eased the hitched rope from around
the pillar. The inspector seemed aware of the movement; for I saw the
faint light from his lantern, move a little, as if he had suddenly taken
hold of it, in readiness.

"A minute later, I noticed there was a change in the color of the night
in the cellar, and it grew slowly violet tinted upon my eyes. I glanced
to and fro, quickly, in the new darkness, and even as I looked, I was
conscious that the violet color deepened. In the direction of the well,
but seeming to be at a great distance, there was, as it were, a nucleus
to the change; and the nucleus came swiftly toward us, appearing to come
from a great space, almost in a single moment. It came near, and I saw
again that it was a little naked Child, running, and seeming to be of the
violet night in which it ran.

"The Child came with a natural running movement, exactly as I described
it before; but in a silence so peculiarly intense, that it was as if it
brought the silence with it. About half-way between the well and the
table, the Child turned swiftly, and looked back at something invisible
to me; and suddenly it went down into a crouching attitude, and seemed
to be hiding behind something that showed vaguely; but there was
nothing there, except the bare floor of the cellar; nothing, I mean, of
our world.

"I could hear the breathing of the three other men, with a wonderful
distinctness; and also the tick of my watch upon the table seemed to
sound as loud and as slow as the tick of an old grandfather's clock.
Someway I knew that none of the others saw what I was seeing.

"Abruptly, the landlord, who was next to me, let out his breath with a
little hissing sound; I knew then that something was visible to him.
There came a creak from the table, and I had a feeling that the inspector
was leaning forward, looking at something that I could not see. The
landlord reached out his hand through the darkness, and fumbled a moment
to catch my arm:--

"'The Woman!' he whispered, close to my ear. 'Over by the well.'

"I stared hard in that direction; but saw nothing, except that the violet
color of the cellar seemed a little duller just there.

"I looked back quickly to the vague place where the Child was hiding. I
saw it was peering back from its hiding place. Suddenly it rose and ran
straight for the middle of the table, which showed only as vague shadow
half-way between my eyes and the unseen floor. As the Child ran under the
table, the steel prongs of my pitchfork glimmered with a violet,
fluctuating light. A little way off, there showed high up in the gloom,
the vaguely shining outline of the other fork, so I knew the inspector
had it raised in his hand, ready. There was no doubt but that he saw
something. On the table, the metal of the five lanterns shone with the
same strange glow; and about each lantern there was a little cloud of
absolute blackness, where the phenomenon that is light to our natural
eyes, came through the fittings; and in this complete darkness, the metal
of each lantern showed plain, as might a cat's-eye in a nest of black
cotton wool.

"Just beyond the table, the Child paused again, and stood, seeming to
oscillate a little upon its feet, which gave the impression that it was
lighter and vaguer than a thistle-down; and yet, in the same moment,
another part of me seemed to know that it was to me, as something that
might be beyond thick, invisible glass, and subject to conditions and
forces that I was unable to comprehend.

"The Child was looking back again, and my gaze went the same way. I
stared across the cellar, and saw the cage hanging clear in the violet
light, every wire and tie outlined with its glimmering; above it there
was a little space of gloom, and then the dull shining of the iron pulley
which I had screwed into the ceiling.

"I stared in a bewildered way 'round the cellar; there were thin lines of
vague fire crossing the floor in all directions; and suddenly I
remembered the piano wire that the landlord and I had stretched. But
there was nothing else to be seen, except that near the table there were
indistinct glimmerings of light, and at the far end the outline of a dull
glowing revolver, evidently in the detective's pocket. I remember a sort
of subconscious satisfaction, as I settled the point in a queer automatic
fashion. On the table, near to me, there was a little shapeless
collection of the light; and this I knew, after an instant's
consideration, to be the steel portions of my watch.

"I had looked several times at the Child, and 'round at the cellar,
whilst I was decided these trifles; and had found it still in that
attitude of hiding from something. But now, suddenly, it ran clear away
into the distance, and was nothing more than a slightly deeper colored
nucleus far away in the strange colored atmosphere.

"The landlord gave out a queer little cry, and twisted over against me,
as if to avoid something. From the inspector there came a sharp breathing
sound, as if he had been suddenly drenched with cold water. Then suddenly
the violet color went out of the night, and I was conscious of the
nearness of something monstrous and repugnant.

"There was a tense silence, and the blackness of the cellar seemed
absolute, with only the faint glow about each of the lanterns on the
table. Then, in the darkness and the silence, there came a faint tinkle
of water from the well, as if something were rising noiselessly out of
it, and the water running back with a gentle tinkling. In the same
instant, there came to me a sudden waft of the awful smell.

"I gave a sharp cry of warning to the inspector, and loosed the rope.
There came instantly the sharp splash of the cage entering the water;
and then, with a stiff, frightened movement, I opened the shutter of
my lantern, and shone the light at the cage, shouting to the others to
do the same.

"As my light struck the cage, I saw that about two feet of it projected
from the top of the well, and there was something protruding up out of
the water, into the cage. I stared, with a feeling that I recognized the
thing; and then, as the other lanterns were opened, I saw that it was a
leg of mutton. The thing was held by a brawny fist and arm, that rose out
of the water. I stood utterly bewildered, watching to see what was
coming. In a moment there rose into view a great bearded face, that I
felt for one quick instant was the face of a drowned man, long dead. Then
the face opened at the mouth part, and spluttered and coughed. Another
big hand came into view, and wiped the water from the eyes, which blinked
rapidly, and then fixed themselves into a stare at the lights.

"From the detective there came a sudden shout:--

"'Captain Tobias!' he shouted, and the inspector echoed him; and
instantly burst into loud roars of laughter.

"The inspector and the detective ran across the cellar to the cage; and I
followed, still bewildered. The man in the cage was holding the leg of
mutton as far away from him, as possible, and holding his nose.

"'Lift thig dam trap, quig!' he shouted in a stifled voice; but the
inspector and the detective simply doubled before him, and tried to hold
their noses, whilst they laughed, and the light from their lanterns went
dancing all over the place.

"'Quig! quig!' said the man in the cage, still holding his nose, and
trying to speak plainly.

"Then Johnstone and the detective stopped laughing, and lifted the cage.
The man in the well threw the leg across the cellar, and turned swiftly
to go down into the well; but the officers were too quick for him, and
had him out in a twinkling. Whilst they held him, dripping upon the
floor, the inspector jerked his thumb in the direction of the offending
leg, and the landlord, having harpooned it with one of the pitchforks,
ran with it upstairs and so into the open air.

"Meanwhile, I had given the man from the well a stiff tot of whisky; for
which he thanked me with a cheerful nod, and having emptied the glass at
a draft, held his hand for the bottle, which he finished, as if it had
been so much water.

"As you will remember, it was a Captain Tobias who had been the previous
tenant; and this was the very man, who had appeared from the well. In
the course of the talk that followed, I learned the reason for Captain
Tobias leaving the house; he had been wanted by the police for
smuggling. He had undergone imprisonment; and had been released only a
couple of weeks earlier.

"He had returned to find new tenants in his old home. He had entered the
house through the well, the walls of which were not continued to the
bottom (this I will deal with later); and gone up by a little stairway in
the cellar wall, which opened at the top through a panel beside my
mother's bedroom. This panel was opened, by revolving the left doorpost
of the bedroom door, with the result that the bedroom door always became
unlatched, in the process of opening the panel.

"The captain complained, without any bitterness, that the panel had
warped, and that each time he opened it, it made a cracking noise. This
had been evidently what I mistook for raps. He would not give his reason
for entering the house; but it was pretty obvious that he had hidden
something, which he wanted to get. However, as he found it impossible to
get into the house without the risk of being caught, he decided to try to
drive us out, relying on the bad reputation of the house, and his own
artistic efforts as a ghost. I must say he succeeded. He intended then to
rent the house again, as before; and would then, of course have plenty of
time to get whatever he had hidden. The house suited him admirably; for
there was a passage--as he showed me afterward--connecting the dummy well
with the crypt of the church beyond the garden wall; and these, in turn,
were connected with certain caves in the cliffs, which went down to the
beach beyond the church.

"In the course of his talk, Captain Tobias offered to take the house off
my hands; and as this suited me perfectly, for I was about stalled with
it, and the plan also suited the landlord, it was decided that no steps
should be taken against him; and that the whole business should be
hushed up.

"I asked the captain whether there was really anything queer about the
house; whether he had ever seen anything. He said yes, that he had twice
seen a Woman going about the house. We all looked at one another, when
the captain said that. He told us she never bothered him, and that he had
only seen her twice, and on each occasion it had followed a narrow escape
from the Revenue people.

"Captain Tobias was an observant man; he had seen how I had placed the
mats against the doors; and after entering the rooms, and walking all
about them, so as to leave the foot-marks of an old pair of wet
woollen slippers everywhere, he had deliberately put the mats back as
he found them.

"The maggot which had dropped from his disgusting leg of mutton had been
an accident, and beyond even his horrible planning. He was hugely
delighted to learn how it had affected us.

"The moldy smell I had noticed was from the little closed stairway, when
the captain opened the panel. The door slamming was also another of his
contributions.

"I come now to the end of the captain's ghost play; and to the difficulty
of trying to explain the other peculiar things. In the first place, it
was obvious there was something genuinely strange in the house; which
made itself manifest as a Woman. Many different people had seen this
Woman, under differing circumstances, so it is impossible to put the
thing down to fancy; at the same time it must seem extraordinary that I
should have lived two years in the house, and seen nothing; whilst the
policeman saw the Woman, before he had been there twenty minutes; the
landlord, the detective, and the inspector all saw her.

"I can only surmise that _fear_ was in every case the key, as I might
say, which opened the senses to the presence of the Woman. The policeman
was a highly-strung man, and when he became frightened, was able to see
the Woman. The same reasoning applies all 'round. _I_ saw nothing, until
I became really frightened; then I saw, not the Woman; but a Child,
running away from Something or Someone. However, I will touch on that
later. In short, until a very strong degree of fear was present, no one
was affected by the Force which made Itself evident, as a Woman. My
theory explains why some tenants were never aware of anything strange in
the house, whilst others left immediately. The more sensitive they were,
the less would be the degree of fear necessary to make them aware of the
Force present in the house.

"The peculiar shining of all the metal objects in the cellar, had been
visible only to me. The cause, naturally I do not know; neither do I know
why I, alone, was able to see the shining."

"The Child," I asked. "Can you explain that part at all? Why _you_ didn't
see the Woman, and why _they_ didn't see the Child. Was it merely the
same Force, appearing differently to different people?"

"No," said Carnacki, "I can't explain that. But I am quite sure that the
Woman and the Child were not only two complete and different entities;
but even they were each not in quite the same planes of existence.

"To give you a root idea, however, it is held in the Sigsand MS. that a
child '_still_born' is 'Snatyched back bye thee Haggs.' This is crude;
but may yet contain an elemental truth. Yet, before I make this clearer,
let me tell you a thought that has often been made. It may be that
physical birth is but a secondary process; and that prior to the
possibility, the Mother Spirit searches for, until it finds, the small
Element--the primal Ego or child's soul. It may be that a certain
waywardness would cause such to strive to evade capture by the Mother
Spirit. It may have been such a thing as this, that I saw. I have always
tried to think so; but it is impossible to ignore the sense of repulsion
that I felt when the unseen Woman went past me. This repulsion carries
forward the idea suggested in the Sigsand MS., that a stillborn child is
thus, because its ego or spirit has been snatched back by the 'Hags.' In
other words, by certain of the Monstrosities of the Outer Circle. The
thought is inconceivably terrible, and probably the more so because it is
so fragmentary. It leaves us with the conception of a child's soul adrift
half-way between two lives, and running through Eternity from Something
incredible and inconceivable (because not understood) to our senses.

"The thing is beyond further discussion; for it is futile to attempt to
discuss a thing, to any purpose, of which one has a knowledge so
fragmentary as this. There is one thought, which is often mine. Perhaps
there is a Mother Spirit--"

"And the well?" said Arkwright. "How did the captain get in from the
other side?"

"As I said before," answered Carnacki. "The side walls of the well did
not reach to the bottom; so that you had only to dip down into the water,
and come up again on the other side of the wall, under the cellar floor,
and so climb into the passage. Of course, the water was the same height
on both sides of the walls. Don't ask me who made the well entrance or
the little stairway; for I don't know. The house was very old, as I have
told you; and that sort of thing was useful in the old days."

"And the Child," I said, coming back to the thing which chiefly
interested me. "You would say that the birth must have occurred in that
house; and in this way, one might suppose that the house to have become
_en rapport_, if I can use the word in that way, with the Forces that
produced the tragedy?"

"Yes," replied Carnacki. "This is, supposing we take the suggestion of
the Sigsand MS., to account for the phenomenon."

"There may be other houses--" I began.

"There are," said Carnacki; and stood up.

"Out you go," he said, genially, using the recognized formula. And in
five minutes we were on the Embankment, going thoughtfully to our
various homes.




No. 6

THE THING INVISIBLE


Carnacki had just returned to Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. I was aware of this
interesting fact by reason of the curt and quaintly worded postcard
which I was rereading, and by which I was requested to present myself
at his house not later than seven o'clock on that evening. Mr. Carnacki
had, as I and the others of his strictly limited circle of friends
knew, been away in Kent for the past three weeks; but beyond that, we
had no knowledge. Carnacki was genially secretive and curt, and spoke
only when he was ready to speak. When this stage arrived, I and his
three other friends--Jessop, Arkright, and Taylor--would receive a card
or a wire, asking us to call. Not one of us ever willingly missed, for
after a thoroughly sensible little dinner Carnacki would snuggle down
into his big armchair, light his pipe, and wait whilst we arranged
ourselves comfortably in our accustomed seats and nooks. Then he would
begin to talk.

Upon this particular night I was the first to arrive and found
Carnacki sitting, quietly smoking over a paper. He stood up, shook me
firmly by the hand, pointed to a chair, and sat down again, never
having uttered a word.

For my part, I said nothing either. I knew the man too well to bother him
with questions or the weather, and so took a seat and a cigarette.
Presently the three others turned up and after that we spent a
comfortable and busy hour at dinner.

Dinner over, Carnacki snugged himself down into his great chair, as I
have said was his habit, filled his pipe and puffed for awhile, his gaze
directed thoughtfully at the fire. The rest of us, if I may so express
it, made ourselves cozy, each after his own particular manner. A minute
or so later Carnacki began to speak, ignoring any preliminary remarks,
and going straight to the subject of the story we knew he had to tell:

"I have just come back from Sir Alfred Jarnock's place at Burtontree, in
South Kent," he began, without removing his gaze from the fire. "Most
extraordinary things have been happening down there lately and Mr. George
Jarnock, the eldest son, wired to ask me to run over and see whether I
could help to clear matters up a bit. I went.

"When I got there, I found that they have an old Chapel attached to the
castle which has had quite a distinguished reputation for being what is
popularly termed 'haunted.' They have been rather proud of this, as I
managed to discover, until quite lately when something very disagreeable
occurred, which served to remind them that family ghosts are not always
content, as I might say, to remain purely ornamental.

"It sounds almost laughable, I know, to hear of a long-respected
supernatural phenomenon growing unexpectedly dangerous; and in this case,
the tale of the haunting was considered as little more than an old myth,
except after nightfall, when possibly it became more plausible seeming.

"But however this may be, there is no doubt at all but that what I might
term the Haunting Essence which lived in the place, had become suddenly
dangerous--deadly dangerous too, the old butler being nearly stabbed to
death one night in the Chapel, with a peculiar old dagger.

"It is, in fact, this dagger which is popularly supposed to 'haunt' the
Chapel. At least, there has been always a story handed down in the family
that this dagger would attack any enemy who should dare to venture into
the Chapel, after nightfall. But, of course, this had been taken with
just about the same amount of seriousness that people take most ghost
tales, and that is not usually of a worryingly _real_ nature. I mean that
most people never quite know how much or how little they believe of
matters ab-human or ab-normal, and generally they never have an
opportunity to learn. And, indeed, as you are all aware, I am as big a
skeptic concerning the truth of ghost tales as any man you are likely to
meet; only I am what I might term an unprejudiced skeptic. I am not given
to either believing or disbelieving things 'on principle,' as I have
found many idiots prone to be, and what is more, some of them not ashamed
to boast of the insane fact. I view all reported 'hauntings' as unproven
until I have examined into them, and I am bound to admit that ninety-nine
cases in a hundred turn out to be sheer bosh and fancy. But the
hundredth! Well, if it were not for the hundredth, I should have few
stories to tell you--eh?

"Of course, after the attack on the butler, it became evident that there
was at least 'something' in the old story concerning the dagger, and I
found everyone in a half belief that the queer old weapon did really
strike the butler, either by the aid of some inherent force, which I
found them peculiarly unable to explain, or else in the hand of some
invisible thing or monster of the Outer World!

"From considerable experience, I knew that it was much more likely that
the butler had been 'knifed' by some vicious and quite material human!

"Naturally, the first thing to do, was to test this probability of human
agency, and I set to work to make a pretty drastic examination of the
people who knew most about the tragedy.

"The result of this examination, both pleased and surprised me, for
it left me with very good reasons for belief that I had come upon one
of those extraordinary rare 'true manifestations' of the extrusion of
a Force from the Outside. In more popular phraseology--a genuine case
of haunting.

"These are the facts: On the previous Sunday evening but one, Sir Alfred
Jarnock's household had attended family service, as usual, in the Chapel.
You see, the Rector goes over to officiate twice each Sunday, after
concluding his duties at the public Church about three miles away.

"At the end of the service in the Chapel, Sir Alfred Jarnock, his
son Mr. George Jarnock, and the Rector had stood for a couple of
minutes, talking, whilst old Bellett the butler went 'round, putting
out the candles.

"Suddenly, the Rector remembered that he had left his small prayer book
on the Communion table in the morning; he turned, and asked the butler to
get it for him before he blew out the chancel candles.

"Now I have particularly called your attention to this because it is
important in that it provides witnesses in a most fortunate manner at an
extraordinary moment. You see, the Rector's turning to speak to Bellett
had naturally caused both Sir Alfred Jarnock and his son to glance in the
direction of the butler, and it was at this identical instant and whilst
all three were looking at him, that the old butler was stabbed--there,
full in the candlelight, before their eyes.

"I took the opportunity to call early upon the Rector, after I had
questioned Mr. George Jarnock, who replied to my queries in place of Sir
Alfred Jarnock, for the older man was in a nervous and shaken condition
as a result of the happening, and his son wished him to avoid dwelling
upon the scene as much as possible.

"The Rector's version was clear and vivid, and he had evidently received
the astonishment of his life. He pictured to me the whole
affair--Bellett, up at the chancel gate, going for the prayer book, and
absolutely alone; and then the _blow_, out of the Void, he described it;
and the _force_ prodigious--the old man being driven headlong into the
body of the Chapel. Like the kick of a great horse, the Rector said, his
benevolent old eyes bright and intense with the effort he had actually
witnessed, in defiance of all that he had hitherto believed.

"When I left him, he went back to the writing which he had put aside when
I appeared. I feel sure that he was developing the first unorthodox
sermon that he had ever evolved. He was a dear old chap, and I should
certainly like to have heard it.

"The last man I visited was the butler. He was, of course, in a
frightfully weak and shaken condition, but he could tell me nothing that
did not point to there being a Power abroad in the Chapel. He told the
same tale, in every minute particle, that I had learned from the others.
He had been just going up to put out the altar candles and fetch the
Rector's book, when something struck him an enormous blow high up on the
left breast and he was driven headlong into the aisle.

"Examination had shown that he had been stabbed by the dagger--of which I
will tell you more in a moment--that hung always above the altar. The
weapon had entered, fortunately some inches above the heart, just under
the collarbone, which had been broken by the stupendous force of the
blow, the dagger itself being driven clean through the body, and out
through the scapula behind.

"The poor old fellow could not talk much, and I soon left him; but what
he had told me was sufficient to make it unmistakable that no living
person had been within yards of him when he was attacked; and, as I knew,
this fact was verified by three capable and responsible witnesses,
independent of Bellett himself.

"The thing now was to search the Chapel, which is small and extremely
old. It is very massively built, and entered through only one door, which
leads out of the castle itself, and the key of which is kept by Sir
Alfred Jarnock, the butler having no duplicate.

"The shape of the Chapel is oblong, and the altar is railed off after the
usual fashion. There are two tombs in the body of the place; but none in
the chancel, which is bare, except for the tall candlesticks, and the
chancel rail, beyond which is the undraped altar of solid marble, upon
which stand four small candlesticks, two at each end.

"Above the altar hangs the 'waeful dagger,' as I had learned it was
named. I fancy the term has been taken from an old vellum, which
describes the dagger and its supposed abnormal properties. I took the
dagger down, and examined it minutely and with method. The blade is ten
inches long, two inches broad at the base, and tapering to a rounded but
sharp point, rather peculiar. It is double-edged.

"The metal sheath is curious for having a crosspiece, which, taken with
the fact that the sheath itself is continued three parts up the hilt of
the dagger (in a most inconvenient fashion), gives it the appearance of a
cross. That this is not unintentional is shown by an engraving of the
Christ crucified upon one side, whilst upon the other, in Latin, is the
inscription: 'Vengeance is Mine, I will Repay.' A quaint and rather
terrible conjunction of ideas. Upon the blade of the dagger is graven in
old English capitals: I WATCH. I STRIKE. On the butt of the hilt there is
carved deeply a Pentacle.

"This is a pretty accurate description of the peculiar old weapon that
has had the curious and uncomfortable reputation of being able (either of
its own accord or in the hand of something invisible) to strike
murderously any enemy of the Jarnock family who may chance to enter the
Chapel after nightfall. I may tell you here and now, that before I left,
I had very good reason to put certain doubts behind me; for I tested the
deadliness of the thing myself.

"As you know, however, at this point of my investigation, I was still at
that stage where I considered the existence of a supernatural Force
unproven. In the meanwhile, I treated the Chapel drastically, sounding
and scrutinizing the walls and floor, dealing with them almost foot by
foot, and particularly examining the two tombs.

"At the end of this search, I had in a ladder, and made a close survey of
the groined roof. I passed three days in this fashion, and by the evening
of the third day I had proved to my entire satisfaction that there is no
place in the whole of that Chapel where any living being could have
hidden, and also that the only way of ingress and egress to and from the
Chapel is through the doorway which leads into the castle, the door of
which was always kept locked, and the key kept by Sir Alfred Jarnock
himself, as I have told you. I mean, of course, that this doorway is the
only entrance practicable to material people.

"Yes, as you will see, even had I discovered some other opening, secret
or otherwise, it would not have helped at all to explain the mystery of
the incredible attack, in a normal fashion. For the butler, as you know,
was struck in full sight of the Rector, Sir Jarnock and his son. And old
Bellett himself knew that no living person had touched him.... _'Out of
the Void,'_ the Rector had described the inhumanly brutal attack. 'Out of
the Void!' A strange feeling it gives one--eh?

"And this is the thing that I had been called in to bottom!

"After considerable thought, I decided on a plan of action. I proposed to
Sir Alfred Jarnock that I should spend a night in the Chapel, and keep a
constant watch upon the dagger. But to this, the old knight--a little,
wizened, nervous man--would not listen for a moment. He, at least, I felt
assured had no doubt of the reality of some dangerous supernatural Force
a roam at night in the Chapel. He informed me that it had been his habit
every evening to lock the Chapel door, so that no one might foolishly or
heedlessly run the risk of any peril that it might hold at night, and
that he could not allow me to attempt such a thing after what had
happened to the butler.

"I could see that Sir Alfred Jarnock was very much in earnest, and would
evidently have held himself to blame had he allowed me to make the
experiment and any harm come to me; so I said nothing in argument; and
presently, pleading the fatigue of his years and health, he said
goodnight, and left me; having given me the impression of being a polite
but rather superstitious, old gentleman.

"That night, however, whilst I was undressing, I saw how I might achieve
the thing I wished, and be able to enter the Chapel after dark, without
making Sir Alfred Jarnock nervous. On the morrow, when I borrowed the
key, I would take an impression, and have a duplicate made. Then, with my
private key, I could do just what I liked.

"In the morning I carried out my idea. I borrowed the key, as I wanted to
take a photograph of the chancel by daylight. When I had done this I
locked up the Chapel and handed the key to Sir Alfred Jarnock, having
first taken an impression in soap. I had brought out the exposed
plate--in its slide--with me; but the camera I had left exactly as it
was, as I wanted to take a second photograph of the chancel that night,
from the same position.

"I took the dark slide into Burtontree, also the cake of soap with the
impress. The soap I left with the local ironmonger, who was something of
a locksmith and promised to let me have my duplicate, finished, if I
would call in two hours. This I did, having in the meanwhile found out a
photographer where I developed the plate, and left it to dry, telling him
I would call next day. At the end of the two hours I went for my key and
found it ready, much to my satisfaction. Then I returned to the castle.

"After dinner that evening, I played billiards with young Jarnock for
a couple of hours. Then I had a cup of coffee and went off to my
room, telling him I was feeling awfully tired. He nodded and told me
he felt the same way. I was glad, for I wanted the house to settle as
soon as possible.

"I locked the door of my room, then from under the bed--where I had
hidden them earlier in the evening--I drew out several fine pieces of
plate armor, which I had removed from the armory. There was also a shirt
of chain mail, with a sort of quilted hood of mail to go over the head.

"I buckled on the plate armor, and found it extraordinarily
uncomfortable, and over all I drew on the chain mail. I know nothing
about armor, but from what I have learned since, I must have put on parts
of two suits. Anyway, I felt beastly, clamped and clumsy and unable to
move my arms and legs naturally. But I knew that the thing I was thinking
of doing called for some sort of protection for my body. Over the armor I
pulled on my dressing gown and shoved my revolver into one of the side
pockets--and my repeating flash-light into the other. My dark lantern I
carried in my hand.

"As soon as I was ready I went out into the passage and listened. I had
been some considerable time making my preparations and I found that now
the big hall and staircase were in darkness and all the house seemed
quiet. I stepped back and closed and locked my door. Then, very slowly
and silently I went downstairs to the hall and turned into the passage
that led to the Chapel.

"I reached the door and tried my key. It fitted perfectly and a moment
later I was in the Chapel, with the door locked behind me, and all about
me the utter dree silence of the place, with just the faint showings of
the outlines of the stained, leaded windows, making the darkness and
lonesomeness almost the more apparent.

"Now it would be silly to say I did not feel queer. I felt very queer
indeed. You just try, any of you, to imagine yourself standing there in
the dark silence and remembering not only the legend that was attached to
the place, but what had really happened to the old butler only a little
while gone, I can tell you, as I stood there, I could believe that
something invisible was coming toward me in the air of the Chapel. Yet, I
had got to go through with the business, and I just took hold of my
little bit of courage and set to work.

"First of all I switched on my light, then I began a careful tour of the
place; examining every corner and nook. I found nothing unusual. At the
chancel gate I held up my lamp and flashed the light at the dagger. It
hung there, right enough, above the altar, but I remember thinking of the
word 'demure,' as I looked at it. However, I pushed the thought away, for
what I was doing needed no addition of uncomfortable thoughts.

"I completed the tour of the place, with a constantly growing awareness
of its utter chill and unkind desolation--an atmosphere of cold
dismalness seemed to be everywhere, and the quiet was abominable.

"At the conclusion of my search I walked across to where I had left my
camera focused upon the chancel. From the satchel that I had put beneath
the tripod I took out a dark slide and inserted it in the camera, drawing
the shutter. After that I uncapped the lens, pulled out my flashlight
apparatus, and pressed the trigger. There was an intense, brilliant
flash, that made the whole of the interior of the Chapel jump into sight,
and disappear as quickly. Then, in the light from my lantern, I inserted
the shutter into the slide, and reversed the slide, so as to have a fresh
plate ready to expose at any time.

"After I had done this I shut off my lantern and sat down in one of the
pews near to my camera. I cannot say what I expected to happen, but I had
an extraordinary feeling, almost a conviction, that something peculiar or
horrible would soon occur. It was, you know, as if I knew.

"An hour passed, of absolute silence. The time I knew by the far-off,
faint chime of a dock that had been erected over the stables. I was
beastly cold, for the whole place is without any kind of heating pipes or
furnace, as I had noticed during my search, so that the temperature was
sufficiently uncomfortable to suit my frame of mind. I felt like a kind
of human periwinkle encased in boilerplate and frozen with cold and funk.
And, you know, somehow the dark about me seemed to press coldly against
my face. I cannot say whether any of you have ever had the feeling, but
if you have, you will know just how disgustingly unnerving it is. And
then, all at once, I had a horrible sense that something was moving in
the place. It was not that I could hear anything but I had a kind of
intuitive knowledge that something had stirred in the darkness. Can you
imagine how I felt?

"Suddenly my courage went. I put up my mailed arms over my face. I
wanted to protect it. I had got a sudden sickening feeling that something
was hovering over me in the dark. Talk about fright! I could have shouted
if I had not been afraid of the noise.... And then, abruptly, I heard
something. Away up the aisle, there sounded a dull clang of metal, as it
might be the tread of a mailed heel upon the stone of the aisle. I sat
immovable. I was fighting with all my strength to get back my courage. I
could not take my arms down from over my face, but I knew that I was
getting hold of the gritty part of me again. And suddenly I made a mighty
effort and lowered my arms. I held my face up in the darkness. And, I
tell you, I respect myself for the act, because I thought truly at that
moment that I was going to die. But I think, just then, by the slow
revulsion of feeling which had assisted my effort, I was less sick, in
that instant, at the thought of having to die, than at the knowledge of
the utter weak cowardice that had so unexpectedly shaken me all to bits,
for a time.

"Do I make myself clear? You understand, I feel sure, that the sense of
respect, which I spoke of, is not really unhealthy egotism; because, you
see, I am not blind to the state of mind which helped me. I mean that if
I had uncovered my face by a sheer effort of will, unhelped by any
revulsion of feeling, I should have done a thing much more worthy of
mention. But, even as it was, there were elements in the act, worthy of
respect. You follow me, don't you?

"And, you know, nothing touched me, after all! So that, in a little
while, I had got back a bit to my normal, and felt steady enough to go
through with the business without any more funking.

"I daresay a couple of minutes passed, and then, away up near the
chancel, there came again that clang, as though an armored foot stepped
cautiously. By Jove! but it made me stiffen. And suddenly the thought
came that the sound I heard might be the rattle of the dagger above the
altar. It was not a particularly sensible notion, for the sound was far
too heavy and resonant for such a cause. Yet, as can be easily
understood, my reason was bound to submit somewhat to my fancy at such a
time. I remember now, that the idea of that insensate thing becoming
animate, and attacking me, did not occur to me with any sense of
possibility or reality. I thought rather, in a vague way, of some
invisible monster of outer space fumbling at the dagger. I remembered
the old Rector's description of the attack on the butler.... _of the
void_. And he had described the stupendous force of the blow as being
'like the kick of a great horse.' You can see how uncomfortably my
thoughts were running.

"I felt 'round swiftly and cautiously for my lantern. I found it close to
me, on the pew seat, and with a sudden, jerky movement, I switched on the
light. I flashed it up the aisle, to and fro across the chancel, but I
could see nothing to frighten me. I turned quickly, and sent the jet of
light darting across and across the rear end of the Chapel; then on each
side of me, before and behind, up at the roof and down at the marble
floor, but nowhere was there any visible thing to put me in fear, not a
thing that need have set my flesh thrilling; just the quiet Chapel, cold,
and eternally silent. You know the feeling.

"I had been standing, whilst I sent the light about the Chapel, but now I
pulled out my revolver, and then, with a tremendous effort of will,
switched off the light, and sat down again in the darkness, to continue
my constant watch.

"It seemed to me that quite half an hour, or even more, must have passed,
after this, during which no sound had broken the intense stillness. I had
grown less nervously tense, for the flashing of the light 'round the
place had made me feel less out of all bounds of the normal--it had
given me something of that unreasoned sense of safety that a nervous
child obtains at night, by covering its head up with the bedclothes. This
just about illustrates the completely human illogicalness of the workings
of my feelings; for, as you know, whatever Creature, Thing, or Being it
was that had made that extraordinary and horrible attack on the old
butler, it had certainly not been visible.

"And so you must picture me sitting there in the dark; clumsy with armor,
and with my revolver in one hand, and nursing my lantern, ready, with the
other. And then it was, after this little time of partial relief from
intense nervousness, that there came a fresh strain on me; for somewhere
in the utter quiet of the Chapel, I thought I heard something. I
listened, tense and rigid, my heart booming just a little in my ears for
a moment; then I thought I heard it again. I felt sure that something had
moved at the top of the aisle. I strained in the darkness, to hark; and
my eyes showed me blackness within blackness, wherever I glanced, so that
I took no heed of what they told me; for even if I looked at the dim loom
of the stained window at the top of the chancel, my sight gave me the
shapes of vague shadows passing noiseless and ghostly across, constantly.
There was a time of almost peculiar silence, horrible to me, as I felt
just then. And suddenly I seemed to hear a sound again, nearer to me, and
repeated, infinitely stealthy. It was as if a vast, soft tread were
coming slowly down the aisle.

"Can you imagine how I felt? I do not think you can. I did not move, any
more than the stone effigies on the two tombs; but sat there,
_stiffened_. I fancied now, that I heard the tread all about the Chapel.
And then, you know, I was just as sure in a moment that I could not hear
it--that I had never heard it.

"Some particularly long minutes passed, about this time; but I think my
nerves must have quieted a bit; for I remember being sufficiently aware
of my feelings, to realize that the muscles of my shoulders _ached_, with
the way that they must have been contracted, as I sat there, hunching
myself, rigid. Mind you, I was still in a disgusting funk; but what I
might call the 'imminent sense of danger' seemed to have eased from
around me; at any rate, I felt, in some curious fashion, that there was a
respite--a temporary cessation of malignity from about me. It is
impossible to word my feelings more clearly to you, for I cannot see them
more clearly than this, myself.

"Yet, you must not picture me as sitting there, free from strain; for the
nerve tension was so great that my heart action was a little out of
normal control, the blood beat making a dull booming at times in my ears,
with the result that I had the sensation that I could not hear acutely.
This is a simply beastly feeling, especially under such circumstances.

"I was sitting like this, listening, as I might say with body and soul,
when suddenly I got that hideous conviction again that something was
moving in the air of the place. The feeling seemed to stiffen me, as I
sat, and my head appeared to tighten, as if all the scalp had grown
_tense_. This was so real, that I suffered an actual pain, most peculiar
and at the same time intense; the whole head pained. I had a fierce
desire to cover my face again with my mailed arms, but I fought it off.
If I had given way then to that, I should simply have bunked straight out
of the place. I sat and sweated coldly (that's the bald truth), with the
'creep' busy at my spine....

"And then, abruptly, once more I thought I heard the sound of that huge,
soft tread on the aisle, and this time closer to me. There was an awful
little silence, during which I had the feeling that something enormous
was bending over toward me, from the aisle.... And then, through the
booming of the blood in my ears, there came a slight sound from the
place where my camera stood--a disagreeable sort of slithering sound, and
then a sharp tap. I had the lantern ready in my left hand, and now I
snapped it on, desperately, and shone it straight above me, for I had a
conviction that there was something there. But I saw nothing. Immediately
I flashed the light at the camera, and along the aisle, but again there
was nothing visible. I wheeled 'round, shooting the beam of light in a
great circle about the place; to and fro I shone it, jerking it here and
there, but it showed me nothing.

"I had stood up the instant that I had seen that there was nothing in
sight over me, and now I determined to visit the chancel, and see whether
the dagger had been touched. I stepped out of the pew into the aisle, and
here I came to an abrupt pause, for an almost invincible, sick repugnance
was fighting me back from the upper part of the Chapel. A constant, queer
prickling went up and down my spine, and a dull ache took me in the small
of the back, as I fought with myself to conquer this sudden new feeling
of terror and horror. I tell you, that no one who has not been through
these kinds of experiences, has any idea of the sheer, actual physical
pain attendant upon, and resulting from, the intense nerve strain that
ghostly fright sets up in the human system. I stood there feeling
positively ill. But I got myself in hand, as it were, in about half a
minute, and then I went, walking, I expect, as jerky as a mechanical tin
man, and switching the light from side to side, before and behind, and
over my head continually. And the hand that held my revolver sweated so
much, that the thing fairly slipped in my fist. Does not sound very
heroic, does it?

"I passed through the short chancel, and reached the step that led up to
the small gate in the chancel rail. I threw the beam from my lantern
upon the dagger. Yes, I thought, it's all right. Abruptly, it seemed to
me that there was something wanting, and I leaned forward over the
chancel gate to peer, holding the light high. My suspicion was hideously
correct. _The dagger had gone._ Only the cross-shaped sheath hung there
above the altar.

"In a sudden, frightened flash of imagination, I pictured the thing
adrift in the Chapel, moving here and there, as though of its own
volition; for whatever Force wielded it, was certainly beyond
visibility. I turned my head stiffly over to the left, glancing
frightenedly behind me, and flashing the light to help my eyes. In the
same instant I was struck a tremendous blow over the left breast, and
hurled backward from the chancel rail, into the aisle, my armor clanging
loudly in the horrible silence. I landed on my back, and slithered along
on the polished marble. My shoulder struck the corner of a pew front,
and brought me up, half stunned. I scrambled to my feet, horribly sick
and shaken; but the fear that was on me, making little of that at the
moment. I was minus both revolver and lantern, and utterly bewildered as
to just where I was standing. I bowed my head, and made a scrambling run
in the complete darkness and dashed into a pew. I jumped back,
staggering, got my bearings a little, and raced down the center of the
aisle, putting my mailed arms over my face. I plunged into my camera,
hurling it among the pews. I crashed into the font, and reeled back.
Then I was at the exit. I fumbled madly in my dressing gown pocket for
the key. I found it and scraped at the door, feverishly, for the
keyhole. I found the keyhole, turned the key, burst the door open, and
was into the passage. I slammed the door and leant hard against it,
gasping, whilst I felt crazily again for the keyhole, this time to lock
the door upon what was in the Chapel. I succeeded, and began to feel my
way stupidly along the wall of the corridor. Presently I had come to the
big hall, and so in a little to my room.

"In my room, I sat for a while, until I had steadied down something
to the normal. After a time I commenced to strip off the armor. I saw
then that both the chain mail and the plate armor had been pierced
over the breast. And, suddenly, it came home to me that the Thing had
struck for my heart.

"Stripping rapidly, I found that the skin of the breast over the heart
had just been cut sufficiently to allow a little blood to stain my shirt,
nothing more. Only, the whole breast was badly bruised and intensely
painful. You can imagine what would have happened if I had not worn the
armor. In any case, it is a marvel that I was not knocked senseless.

"I did not go to bed at all that night, but sat upon the edge, thinking,
and waiting for the dawn; for I had to remove my litter before Sir Alfred
Jarnock should enter, if I were to hide from him the fact that I had
managed a duplicate key.

"So soon as the pale light of the morning had strengthened sufficiently
to show me the various details of my room, I made my way quietly down to
the Chapel. Very silently, and with tense nerves, I opened the door. The
chill light of the dawn made distinct the whole place--everything seeming
instinct with a ghostly, unearthly quiet. Can you get the feeling? I
waited several minutes at the door, allowing the morning to grow, and
likewise my courage, I suppose. Presently the rising sun threw an odd
beam right in through the big, East window, making colored sunshine all
the length of the Chapel. And then, with a tremendous effort, I forced
myself to enter.

"I went up the aisle to where I had overthrown my camera in the darkness.
The legs of the tripod were sticking up from the interior of a pew, and I
expected to find the machine smashed to pieces; yet, beyond that the
ground glass was broken, there was no real damage done.

"I replaced the camera in the position from which I had taken the
previous photography; but the slide containing the plate I had exposed by
flashlight I removed and put into one of my side pockets, regretting that
I had not taken a second flash picture at the instant when I heard those
strange sounds up in the chancel.

"Having tidied my photographic apparatus, I went to the chancel to
recover my lantern and revolver, which had both--as you know--been
knocked from my hands when I was stabbed. I found the lantern lying,
hopelessly bent, with smashed lens, just under the pulpit. My revolver I
must have held until my shoulder struck the pew, for it was lying there
in the aisle, just about where I believe I cannoned into the pew corner.
It was quite undamaged.

"Having secured these two articles, I walked up to the chancel rail to
see whether the dagger had returned, or been returned, to its sheath
above the altar. Before, however, I reached the chancel rail, I had a
slight shock; for there on the floor of the chancel, about a yard away
from where I had been struck, lay the dagger, quiet and demure upon the
polished marble pavement. I wonder whether you will, any of you,
understand the nervousness that took me at the sight of the thing. With a
sudden, unreasoned action, I jumped forward and put my foot on it, to
hold it there. Can you understand? Do you? And, you know, I could not
stoop down and pick it up with my hands for quite a minute, I should
think. Afterward, when I had done so, however, and handled it a little,
this feeling passed away and my Reason (and also, I expect, the daylight)
made me feel that I had been a little bit of an ass. Quite natural,
though, I assure you! Yet it was a new kind of fear to me. I'm taking no
notice of the cheap joke about the ass! I am talking about the
curiousness of learning in that moment a new shade or quality of fear
that had hitherto been outside of my knowledge or imagination. Does it
interest you?

"I examined the dagger, minutely, turning it over and over in my hands
and never--as I suddenly discovered--holding it loosely. It was as if I
were subconsciously surprised that it lay quiet in my hands. Yet even
this feeling passed, largely, after a short while. The curious weapon
showed no signs of the blow, except that the dull color--of the blade was
slightly brighter on the rounded point that had cut through the armor.

"Presently, when I had made an end of staring at the dagger, I went up
the chancel step and in through the little gate. Then, kneeling upon the
altar, I replaced the dagger in its sheath, and came outside of the rail
again, closing the gate after me and feeling awarely uncomfortable
because the horrible old weapon was back again in its accustomed place. I
suppose, without analyzing my feelings very deeply, I had an unreasoned
and only half-conscious belief that there was a greater probability of
danger when the dagger hung in its five century resting place than when
it was out of it! Yet, somehow I don't think this is a very good
explanation, when I remember the _demure_ look the thing seemed to have
when I saw it lying on the floor of the chancel. Only I know this, that
when I had replaced the dagger I had quite a touch of nerves and I
stopped only to pick up my lantern from where I had placed it whilst I
examined the weapon, after which I went down the quiet aisle at a pretty
quick walk, and so got out of the place.

"That the nerve tension had been considerable, I realized, when I had
locked the door behind me. I felt no inclination now to think of old Sir
Alfred as a hypochondriac because he had taken such hyperseeming
precautions regarding the Chapel. I had a sudden wonder as to whether he
might not have some knowledge of a long prior tragedy in which the
dagger had been concerned.

"I returned to my room, washed, shaved and dressed, after which I read
awhile. Then I went downstairs and got the acting butler to give me some
sandwiches and a cup of coffee.

"Half an hour later I was heading for Burtontree, as hard as I could
walk; for a sudden idea had come to me, which I was anxious to test. I
reached the town a little before eight thirty, and found the local
photographer with his shutters still up. I did not wait, but knocked
until he appeared with his coat off, evidently in the act of dealing with
his breakfast. In a few words I made clear that I wanted the use of his
dark room immediately, and this he at once placed at my disposal.

"I had brought with me the slide which contained the plate that I had
used with the flashlight, and as soon as I was ready I set to work to
develop. Yet, it was not the plate which I had exposed, that I first put
into the solution, but the second plate, which had been ready in the
camera during all the time of my waiting in the darkness. You see, the
lens had been uncapped all that while, so that the whole chancel had
been, as it were, under observation.

"You all know something of my experiments in 'Lightless Photography,'
that is, appreciating light. It was X-ray work that started me in that
direction. Yet, you must understand, though I was attempting to develop
this 'unexposed' plate, I had no definite idea of results--nothing more
than a vague hope that it might show me something.

"Yet, because of the possibilities, it was with the most intense and
absorbing interest that I watched the plate under the action of the
developer. Presently I saw a faint smudge of black appear in the upper
part, and after that others, indistinct and wavering of outline. I held
the negative up to the light. The marks were rather small, and were
almost entirely confined to one end of the plate, but as I have said,
lacked definiteness. Yet, such as they were, they were sufficient to make
me very excited and I shoved the thing quickly back into the solution.

"For some minutes further I watched it, lifting it out once or twice to
make a more exact scrutiny, but could not imagine what the markings might
represent, until suddenly it occurred to me that in one of two places
they certainly had shapes suggestive of a cross hilted dagger. Yet, the
shapes were sufficiently indefinite to make me careful not to let myself
be overimpressed by the uncomfortable resemblance, though I must confess,
the very thought was sufficient to set some odd thrills adrift in me.

"I carried development a little further, then put the negative into the
hypo, and commenced work upon the other plate. This came up nicely, and
very soon I had a really decent negative that appeared similar in every
respect (except for the difference of lighting) to the negative I had
taken during the previous day. I fixed the plate, then having washed both
it and the 'unexposed' one for a few minutes under the tap, I put them
into methylated spirits for fifteen minutes, after which I carried them
into the photographer's kitchen and dried them in the oven.

"Whilst the two plates were drying the photographer and I made an
enlargement from the negative I had taken by daylight. Then we did the
same with the two that I had just developed, washing them as quickly as
possible, for I was not troubling about the permanency of the prints, and
drying them with spirits.

"When this was done I took them to the window and made a thorough
examination, commencing with the one that appeared to show shadowy
daggers in several places. Yet, though it was now enlarged, I was still
unable to feel convinced that the marks truly represented anything
abnormal; and because of this, I put it on one side, determined not to
let my imagination play too large a part in constructing weapons out of
the indefinite outlines.

"I took up the two other enlargements, both of the chancel, as you will
remember, and commenced to compare them. For some minutes I examined them
without being able to distinguish any difference in the scene they
portrayed, and then abruptly, I saw something in which they varied. In
the second enlargement--the one made from the flashlight negative--the
dagger was not in its sheath. Yet, I had felt sure it was there but a few
minutes before I took the photograph.

"After this discovery I began to compare the two enlargements in a very
different manner from my previous scrutiny. I borrowed a pair of calipers
from the photographer and with these I carried out a most methodical and
exact comparison of the details shown in the two photographs.

"Suddenly I came upon something that set me all tingling with excitement.
I threw the calipers down, paid the photographer, and walked out through
the shop into the street. The three enlargements I took with me, making
them into a roll as I went. At the corner of the street I had the luck to
get a cab and was soon back at the castle.

"I hurried up to my room and put the photographs way; then I went down to
see whether I could find Sir Alfred Jarnock; but Mr. George Jarnock, who
met me, told me that his father was too unwell to rise and would prefer
that no one entered the Chapel unless he were about.

"Young Jarnock made a half apologetic excuse for his father; remarking
that Sir Alfred Jarnock was perhaps inclined to be a little over careful;
but that, considering what had happened, we must agree that the need for
his carefulness had been justified. He added, also, that even before the
horrible attack on the butler his father had been just as particular,
always keeping the key and never allowing the door to be unlocked except
when the place was in use for Divine Service, and for an hour each
forenoon when the cleaners were in.

"To all this I nodded understandingly; but when, presently, the young
man left me I took my duplicate key and made for the door of the Chapel.
I went in and locked it behind me, after which I carried out some
intensely interesting and rather weird experiments. These proved
successful to such an extent that I came out of the place in a perfect
fever of excitement. I inquired for Mr. George Jarnock and was told that
he was in the morning room.

"'Come along,' I said, when I had found him. 'Please give me a lift. I've
something exceedingly strange to show you.'

"He was palpably very much puzzled, but came quickly. As we strode along
he asked me a score of questions, to all of which I just shook my head,
asking him to wait a little.

"I led the way to the Armory. Here I suggested that he should take one
side of a dummy, dressed in half plate armor, whilst I took the other.
He nodded, though obviously vastly bewildered, and together we carried
the thing to the Chapel door. When he saw me take out my key and open
the way for us he appeared even more astonished, but held himself in,
evidently waiting for me to explain. We entered the Chapel and I locked
the door behind us, after which we carted the armored dummy up the aisle
to the gate of the chancel rail where we put it down upon its round,
wooden stand.

"'Stand back!' I shouted suddenly as young Jarnock made a movement to
open the gate. 'My God, man! you mustn't do that!'

"Do what?" he asked, half-startled and half-irritated by my words
and manner.

"One minute," I said. "Just stand to the side a moment, and watch."

He stepped to the left whilst I took the dummy in my arms and turned it
to face the altar, so that it stood close to the gate. Then, standing
well away on the right side, I pressed the back of the thing so that it
leant forward a little upon the gate, which flew open. In the same
instant, the dummy was struck a tremendous blow that hurled it into the
aisle, the armor rattling and clanging upon the polished marble floor.

"Good God!" shouted young Jarnock, and ran back from the chancel rail,
his face very white.

"Come and look at the thing," I said, and led the way to where the dummy
lay, its armored upper limbs all splayed adrift in queer contortions. I
stooped over it and pointed. There, driven right through the thick steel
breastplate, was the 'waeful dagger.'

"Good God!" said young Jarnock again. "Good God! It's the dagger! The
thing's been stabbed, same as Bellett!"

"Yes," I replied, and saw him glance swiftly toward the entrance of
the Chapel. But I will do him the justice to say that he never
budged an inch.

"Come and see how it was done," I said, and led the way back to the
chancel rail. From the wall to the left of the altar I took down a long,
curiously ornamented, iron instrument, not unlike a short spear. The
sharp end of this I inserted in a hole in the left-hand gatepost of the
chancel gateway. I lifted hard, and a section of the post, from the floor
upward, bent inward toward the altar, as though hinged at the bottom.
Down it went, leaving the remaining part of the post standing. As I bent
the movable portion lower there came a quick click and a section of the
floor slid to one side, showing a long, shallow cavity, sufficient to
enclose the post. I put my weight to the lever and hove the post down
into the niche. Immediately there was a sharp clang, as some catch
snicked in, and held it against the powerful operating spring.

I went over now to the dummy, and after a few minute's work managed to
wrench the dagger loose out of the armor. I brought the old weapon and
placed its hilt in a hole near the top of the post where it fitted
loosely, the point upward. After that I went again to the lever and gave
another strong heave, and the post descended about a foot, to the bottom
of the cavity, catching there with another clang. I withdrew the lever
and the narrow strip of floor slid back, covering post and dagger, and
looking no different from the surrounding surface.

Then I shut the chancel gate, and we both stood well to one side. I
took the spear-like lever, and gave the gate a little push, so that it
opened. Instantly there was a loud thud, and something sang through the
air, striking the bottom wall of the Chapel. It was the dagger. I
showed Jarnock then that the other half of the post had sprung back
into place, making the whole post as thick as the one upon the
right-hand side of the gate.

"There!" I said, turning to the young man and tapping the divided post.
"There's the 'invisible' thing that used the dagger, but who the deuce is
the person who sets the trap?" I looked at him keenly as I spoke.

"My father is the only one who has a key," he said. "So it's practically
impossible for anyone to get in and meddle."

I looked at him again, but it was obvious that he had not yet reached out
to any conclusion.

"See here, Mr. Jarnock," I said, perhaps rather curter than I should have
done, considering what I had to say. "Are you quite sure that Sir Alfred
is quite balanced--mentally?"

"He looked at me, half frightenedly and flushing a little. I realized
then how badly I put it.

"'I--I don't know,' he replied, after a slight pause and was then silent,
except for one or two incoherent half remarks.

"'Tell the truth,' I said. 'Haven't you suspected something, now and
again? You needn't be afraid to tell me.'

"'Well,' he answered slowly, 'I'll admit I've thought Father a little--a
little strange, perhaps, at times. But I've always tried to think I was
mistaken. I've always hoped no one else would see it. You see, I'm very
fond of the old guvnor.'

"I nodded.

"'Quite right, too,' I said. 'There's not the least need to make any kind
of scandal about this. We must do something, though, but in a quiet way.
No fuss, you know. I should go and have a chat with your father, and tell
him we've found out about this thing.' I touched the divided post.

"Young Jarnock seemed very grateful for my advice and after shaking my
hand pretty hard, took my key, and let himself out of the Chapel. He came
back in about an hour, looking rather upset. He told me that my
conclusions were perfectly correct. It was Sir Alfred Jarnock who had set
the trap, both on the night that the butler was nearly killed, and on the
past night. Indeed, it seemed that the old gentleman had set it every
night for many years. He had learnt of its existence from an old
manuscript book in the Castle library. It had been planned and used in an
earlier age as a protection for the gold vessels of the ritual, which
were, it seemed, kept in a hidden recess at the back of the altar.

"This recess Sir Alfred Jarnock had utilized, secretly, to store his
wife's jewelry. She had died some twelve years back, and the young man
told me that his father had never seemed quite himself since.

"I mentioned to young Jarnock how puzzled I was that the trap had been
set _before_ the service, on the night that the butler was struck; for,
if I understood him aright, his father had been in the habit of setting
the trap late every night and unsetting it each morning before anyone
entered the Chapel. He replied that his father, in a fit of temporary
forgetfulness (natural enough in his neurotic condition), must have set
it too early and hence what had so nearly proved a tragedy.

"That is about all there is to tell. The old man is not (so far as I
could learn), really insane in the popularly accepted sense of the word.
He is extremely neurotic and has developed into a hypochondriac, the
whole condition probably brought about by the shock and sorrow resultant
on the death of his wife, leading to years of sad broodings and to
overmuch of his own company and thoughts. Indeed, young Jarnock told me
that his father would sometimes pray for hours together, alone in the
Chapel." Carnacki made an end of speaking and leant forward for a spill.

"But you've never told us just _how_ you discovered the secret of the
divided post and all that," I said, speaking for the four of us.

"Oh, that!" replied Carnacki, puffing vigorously at his pipe. "I
found--on comparing the--photos, that the one--taken in the--daytime,
showed a thicker left-hand gatepost, than the one taken at night by the
flashlight. That put me on to the track. I saw at once that there might
be some mechanical dodge at the back of the whole queer business and
nothing at all of an abnormal nature. I examined the post and the rest
was simple enough, you know.

"By the way," he continued, rising and going to the mantelpiece, "you may
be interested to have a look at the so-called 'waeful dagger.' Young
Jarnock was kind enough to present it to me, as a little memento of my
adventure."

He handed it 'round to us and whilst we examined it, stood silent before
the fire, puffing meditatively at his pipe.

"Jarnock and I made the trap so that it won't work," he remarked after a
few moments. "I've got the dagger, as you see, and old Bellett's getting
about again, so that the whole business can be hushed up, decently. All
the same I fancy the Chapel will never lose its reputation as a dangerous
place. Should be pretty safe now to keep valuables in."

"There's two things you haven't explained yet," I said. "What do you
think caused the two clangey sounds when you were in the Chapel in the
dark? And do you believe the soft tready sounds were real, or only a
fancy, with your being so worked up and tense?"

"Don't know for certain about the clangs," replied Carnacki.

"I've puzzled quite a bit about them. I can only think that the spring
which worked the post must have 'given' a trifle, slipped you know, in
the catch. If it did, under such a tension, it would make a bit of a
ringing noise. And a little sound goes a long way in the middle of the
night when you're thinking of 'ghostesses.' You can understand that--eh?"

"Yes," I agreed. "And the other sounds?"

"Well, the same thing--I mean the extraordinary quietness--may help to
explain these a bit. They may have been some usual enough sound that
would never have been noticed under ordinary conditions, or they may have
been only fancy. It is just impossible to say. They were disgustingly
real to me. As for the slithery noise, I am pretty sure that one of the
tripod legs of my camera must have slipped a few inches: if it did so, it
may easily have jolted the lens cap off the baseboard, which would
account for that queer little tap which I heard directly after."

"How do you account for the dagger being in its place above the altar
when you first examined it that night?" I asked. "How could it be there,
when at that very moment it was set in the trap?"

"That was my mistake," replied Carnacki. "The dagger could not possibly
have been in its sheath at the time, though I thought it was. You see,
the curious cross-hilted sheath gave the appearance of the complete
weapon, as you can understand. The hilt of the dagger protrudes very
little above the continued portion of the sheath--a most inconvenient
arrangement for drawing quickly!" He nodded sagely at the lot of us and
yawned, then glanced at the clock.

"Out you go!" he said, in friendly fashion, using the recognized formula.
"I want a sleep."

We rose, shook him by the hand, and went out presently into the night and
the quiet of the Embankment, and so to our homes.



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