THE SEARCHER OF THE END HOUSE
It was still evening, as I remember, and the four of us, Jessop, Arkright, Taylor and I, looked disappointedly at Carnacki, where he sat silent in his great chair.
We had come in response to the usual card of invitation, which—as you know—we have come to consider as a sure prelude to a good story; and now, after telling us the short incident of the Three Straw Platters, he had lapsed into a contented silence, and the night not half gone, as I have hinted.
However, as it chanced, some pitying fate jogged Carnacki’s elbow, or his memory, and he began again, in his queer level way:—
“The ‘Straw Platters’ business reminds me of the ‘Searcher’ Case, which I have sometimes thought might interest you. It was some time ago, in fact a deuce of a long time ago, that the thing happened; and my experience of what I might term ‘curious’ things was very small at that time.
“I was living with my mother when it occurred, in a small house just outside of Appledorn, on the South Coast. The house was the last of a row of detached cottage villas, each house standing in its own garden; and very dainty little places they were, very old, and most of them smothered in roses; and all with those quaint old leaded windows, and doors of genuine oak. You must try to picture them for the sake of their complete niceness.
“Now I must remind you at the beginning that my mother and I had lived in that little house for two years; and in the whole of that time there had not been a single peculiar happening to worry us.
“And then, something happened.
“It was about two o’clock one morning, as I was finishing some letters, that I heard the door of my mother’s bedroom open, and she came to the top of the stairs, and knocked on the banisters.
“‘All right, dear,’ I called; for I suppose she was merely reminding me that I should have been in bed long ago; then I heard her go back to her room, and I hurried my work, for fear she should lie awake, until she heard me safe up to my room.
“When I was finished, I lit my candle, put out the lamp, and went upstairs. As I came opposite the door of my mother’s room, I saw that it was open, called good night to her, very softly, and asked whether I should close the door. As there was no answer, I knew that she had dropped off to sleep again, and I closed the door very gently, and turned into my room, just across the passage. As I did so, I experienced a momentary, half-aware sense of a faint, peculiar, disagreeable odor in the passage; but it was not until the following night that I realized I had noticed a smell that offended me. You follow me? It is so often like that—one suddenly knows a thing that really recorded itself on one’s consciousness, perhaps a year before.