This room and the balcony outside should be his workshop, he decided, and he looked forward, with an eagerness to which he had been stranger for weeks past, to burying himself in his work and finding in it solace and new strength.
Graeme possessed a lively imagination, else surely he had never taken to writing. But a lively imagination, sole occupant of a ten-roomed house in a strange land whose inhabitants believed firmly in ghosts and spirits and things that walked by night, and that house but a stone’s-throw from the black churchyard where such discomforting things might naturally be supposed to congregate, was not nearly so enjoyable a possession at midnight as in the full light of day.
He lay awake for hours, hearing what seemed to him uncanny sounds about the house, inside and out. The night wind sighed through the heavy pale leaves of the eucalyptus trees, and set the roses and honeysuckle on the verandah posts whispering and tapping. In the stark silence, sounds came out of the other nine empty rooms as though they chose that quiet time for passing confidences. The stairs creaked as though invisible feet passed up and down. And once he could have sworn to stealthy footsteps along the verandah below his window.
He laughed at his own foolishness. Ghosts, he vowed, he did not believe in, and the Sark men were notably honest. All the same it was close on daylight before he slept.
When he pushed through the dewy hedge and went down to the cottage for breakfast, his hostess’s eyes twinkled as she asked, “You did not see any ghosts—Noh?”
“Not a ghost, but all the same it did feel a bit lonesome. What would you say to my taking Punch with me to-night, just for company?”
“Yess indeed, tek him. He iss quiet. The other iss too lively.”
“And when do your ladies arrive?”
“With the boat. When will you be pleased to have your dinner?”
“I’m off to Little Sark for the day. How would seven o’clock suit you and them?”
“I will mek it suit. They will haf dinner before or after. It will be quite all right.”
He spent the day with the dogs, scrambling among the rugged bastions at the south end of the island, investigated the old silver mines, bathed, all three, in the great basin of Venus in the hollow under the southern cliffs, and came home after sunset, tired and ravenous.
“Well, have your ladies come?” he asked, as he sat down to his dinner.
“Oh yess, they are come. They are gone for a walk. One of them is Miss Hen and the other iss Miss Chum.”
“Good Lord, what names! Two old maids, I presume,—curls and spectacles and that kind of thing!”
“They are not old, noh. And they are ferry nice to look at, especially Miss Chum.”
“Well, well, so she ought to be to make up for her name.”
“They were quite put out to think of having turned you out of your roomss—”