The cat lay by the fire, its nose on its folded paws, content in the warmth and companionship. I watched it idly. Now and then the green wood hissed in the fire, but the cat never batted an eye. Through an unshuttered window the lightning flashed. Suddenly the cat looked up. It lifted its head and stared directly at the gallery above. Then it blinked, and stared again. I was amused. Not until it had got up on its feet, eyes still riveted on the balcony, tail waving at the tip, the hair on its back a bristling brush, did I glance casually over my head.
From among the shadows a face gazed down at me, a face that seemed a fitting tenant of the ghostly room below. I saw it as plainly as I might see my own face in a mirror. While I stared at it with horrified eyes, the apparition faded. The rail was there, the Bokhara rug still swung from it, but the gallery was empty.
The cat threw back its head and wailed.
HIS WIFE’S FATHER
I jumped up and seized the fire tongs. The cat’s wail had roused Hotchkiss, who was wide-awake at once. He took in my offensive attitude, the tongs, the direction of my gaze, and needed nothing more. As he picked up the candle and darted out into the hall, I followed him. He made directly for the staircase, and part way up he turned off to the right through a small door. We were on the gallery itself; below us the fire gleamed cheerfully, the cat was not in sight. There was no sign of my ghostly visitant, but as we stood there the Bokhara rug, without warning, slid over the railing and fell to the floor below.
“Man or woman?” Hotchkiss inquired in his most professional tone.
“Neither—that is, I don’t know. I didn’t notice anything but the eyes,” I muttered. “They were looking a hole in me. If you’d seen that cat you would realize my state of mind. That was a traditional graveyard yowl.”
“I don’t think you saw anything at all,” he lied cheerfully. “You dozed off, and the rest is the natural result of a meal on a buffet car.”
Nevertheless, he examined the Bokhara carefully when we went down, and when I finally went to sleep he was reading the only book in sight—Elwell on Bridge. The first rays of daylight were coming mistily into the room when he roused me. He had his finger on his lips, and he whispered sibilantly while I tried to draw on my distorted boots.
“I think we have him,” he said triumphantly. “I’ve been looking around some, and I can tell you this much. Just before we came in through the window last night, another man came. Only—he did not drop, as you did. He swung over to the stair railing, and then down. The rail is scratched. He was long enough ahead of us to go into the dining-room and get a decanter out of the sideboard. He poured out the liquor into a glass, left the decanter there, and took the whisky into the library across the hall. Then—he broke into a desk, using a paper knife for a jimmy.”