“To keep away ghosts! What a muff he must be!” said Miss Hen. “Chum, what do you say to putting on white sheets and giving him a scare? If we did a skirly-whirly a la Loie Fuller, below his window, he’d probably have blue fits. Ghosts, indeed!”
“If that big brown Punch got out at you it’s you would have the blue fits,” said Miss Chum. “The Sark air is getting into your head, Hennie.”
“Of course it is. That’s what we came for, isn’t it? You’ll feel it yourself before you’re two days older, my child. You’re looking better than I’ve seen you for a month past.”
“It’s so delightful to feel free,” said Miss Chum.
Thoroughly tired out, and with a guardian angel on the mat at his bedside, in the shape of a long brown body which sought fresh ease in an occasional sprawl, and flopped a responsive tail each time he dropped a friendly pat on to its head in the dark—Graeme looked confidently for a sound night’s rest.
He fell asleep indeed at once, but woke with a start sometime in the night, with the impression of a sound in his ears. Had he really heard something? Or was it only the tail-end of a dream? Wood-lined houses talk in the night. Was it only the pitch pine whispering of the old free days in the scented woods? He could not be sure, so he lay still and listened.
And as he waited, it came again—a low, wailing cry, long-drawn and somewhat curdling to the blood.
Outside or inside? He could not be sure.
Cats? Cats can do wonders in the way of uncanny noises, but somehow this did not sound like cats. There was something human, or inhuman, in it, and his door suddenly shook as though something tried to get in.
He bethought him to feel for Punch. But his hand fell on space, and as he struck a match to see the time and what had become of his companion, the church bell tolled one dismal stroke, and he saw Punch standing like a bronze statue at the door, with his nose down at the crack, his tail on the droop, and every hair apparently on the bristle.
At the glow of the match the drooping tail gave one slow swing, but he did not look round.
Graeme struck another match, and lit his candle, and jumped into his shoes.
“What is it, old fellow?” And Punch scraped furiously at the door again, and so explained that part of the matter.
There came a sudden scuffling fall against the door. Punch rasped at it with his front feet in strenuous silence. If he had been able to give voice it would have been a relief to both of them. His mute anxiety added to the weirdness of the proceedings, and Graeme experienced a novel creeping about the nape of the neck.
Ghosts or no ghosts, however, it had to be looked into. He picked up a heavy boot, turned the key, and flung open the door. Punch went down the stairs in two long bounds, and a rush of cold air put out the candle. He laid it down and followed cautiously, ready to launch the boot at the first sign of uncanniness.