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Carnacki, The Ghost Finder by William Hope Hodgson

Part 2 out of 3

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"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

"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


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


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

"'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,

"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

"'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

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