IT’S all nonsense,” said Jack Barnes. “Of course people have died in the house; people die in every house. As for the noises–wind in the chimney and rats in the wainscot are very convincing to a nervous man. Give me another cup of tea, Meagle.”
“Lester and White are first,” said Meagle, who was presiding at the tea-table of the Three Feathers Inn. “You’ve had two.”
Lester and White finished their cups with irritating slowness, pausing between sips to sniff the aroma, and to discover the sex and dates of arrival of the “strangers” which floated in some numbers in the beverage. Mr. Meagle served them to the brim, and then, turning to the grimly expectant Mr. Barnes, blandly requested him to ring for hot water.
“We’ll try and keep your nerves in their present healthy condition,” he remarked. “For my part I have a sort of half-and-half belief in the supernatural.”
“All sensible people have,” said Lester. “An aunt of mine saw a ghost once.”
“I had an uncle that saw one,” he said.
“It always is somebody else that sees them,” said Barnes.
“Well, there is the house,” said Meagle, “a large house at an absurdly low rent, and nobody will take it. It has taken toll of at least one life of every family that has lived there–however short the time–and since it has stood empty caretaker after caretaker has died there. The last caretaker died fifteen years ago.”
“Exactly,” said Barnes. “Long enough ago for legends to accumulate.”
“I’ll bet you a sovereign you won’t spend the night there alone, for all your talk,” said White suddenly.
“And I,” said Lester.
“No,” said Barnes slowly. “I don’t believe in ghosts nor in any supernatural things whatever; all the same, I admit that I should not care to pass a night there alone.”
“But why not?” inquired White.
“Wind in the chimney,” said Meagle, with a grin.
“Rats in the wainscot,” chimed in Lester.
“As you like,” said Barnes, colouring.
“Suppose we all go?” said Meagle. “Start after supper, and get there about eleven? We have been walking for ten days now without an adventure–except Barnes’s discovery that ditch-water smells longest. It will be a novelty, at any rate, and, if we break the spell by all surviving, the grateful owner ought to come down handsome.”
“Let’s see what the landlord has to say about it first,” said Lester. “There is no fun in passing a night in an ordinary empty house. Let us make sure that it is haunted.” Continue reading