He read it again and again for his strained eyes were blinking and the page seemed all hazy. He paused to rest his eyes, then read on. But he did not turn the page. For an hour his gaze was fixed upon it. Just on that one page....
Suddenly something, it seemed like a shadow, crossed the window outside. If Peter’s little room had been downstairs he might have thought that a spectre of the night was passing. He looked up, startled, dumbfounded. And while he gazed the tall dusky apparition passed back across the window again.
Half frightened and very curious he raised the little sash and looked out. The night was dark but the sky was filled with stars. Not a light of man’s making was there in all the country roundabout. He concentrated his gaze along the back road and tried to pick out the spot where Peace-justice Fee’s house was, thinking that perhaps some sign thereabout would furnish the key to this ghostly mystery. But there was not the faintest twinkle there, nor any sound of life. Only solemn, unanswering darkness. Somewhere in the woods a solitary screech owl was hooting its discordant song.
“Is—is—anybody here?” Peter asked, his voice shaking. There was no answer, nothing but silent, enveloping darkness.
Peter groped behind him for the old piece of broomstick which propped the window open, and with this in place, he leaned far out and gazed toward the little graveyard where his father and his grandfather and all the simple forbears of the lonely neighborhood had gone to their rest. Not a sound was there in that solemn little acre. He strained his eyes and tried to identify the place by Deacon Small’s tall, white tombstone, but he could not make it out.
Suddenly, just above that silent, hallowed little area, a tall gray thing appeared, then disappeared as suddenly.
Peter trembled, yet gazed in fascination. He was fearful of he knew not what. Yet he could not withdraw his eyes from that spot. Had someone—some thing from that little graveyard come to his window and gone back again to its musty rest? Was it—could it be—?
Hardly had he the chance to think and conjure up some harrowing fear, when the dusky column appeared again, then disappeared, then appeared again. Then darkness.
Whatever put it into Peter Piper’s head he never know, but quick like those very flashes occurred to him the very words that he had been saying over and over to himself but a few minutes before—saying over and committing to memory. “Three dots or flashes—S, three dots or flashes—three dots or flashes—”
Again it arose, that ghostly apparition, and filled the dark sky above the little graveyard. This time it remained, for one, two, three, four seconds.
Peter’s hand trembled now from a new kind of excitement, as he groped behind him for his one poor scout possession, the handbook. Then he reached for the lamp, but the night wind blew it out just as the tall thing came again, and stayed for several seconds.