ought to be able to make it out," he thought; "but I suppose I am a
little rusty in my Latin. When I come to think of it, I don't believe I
even know the word for a whistle. The long one does seem simple enough.
It ought to mean, "Who is this who is coming?" Well, the best way to
find out is evidently to whistle for him."
blew tentatively and stopped suddenly, startled and yet pleased at the
note he had elicited. It had a quality of infinite distance in it, and,
soft as it was, he somehow felt it must be audible for miles round. It
was a sound, too, that seemed to have the power (which many scents
possess) of forming pictures in the brain. He saw quite clearly for a
moment a vision of a wide, dark expanse at night, with a fresh wind
blowing and in the midst a lonely figure --
how employed, he could not tell. Perhaps he would have seen more had
not the picture been broken by the sudden surge of a gust of wind
against his casement, so sudden that it made him look up, just in time
to see the white glint of a sea-bird's wing somewhere outside the dark
sound of the whistle had so fascinated him that he could not help
trying it once more, this time more boldly. The note was little, if at
all, louder than before, and repetition broke the illusion --
no picture followed, as he had half hoped it might. "But what is this?
Goodness! what force the wind can get up in a few minutes! What a
tremendous gust! There! I knew that window-fastening was no use! Ah! I
thought so - both candles out. It's enough to tear the room to pieces."
first thing was to get the window shut. While you might count twenty
Parkins was struggling with the small casement, and felt almost as if
he were pushing back a sturdy burglar, so strong was the pressure. It
slackened all at once, and the window banged to and latched itself. Now
to relight the candles and see what damage, if any, had been done. No,
nothing seemed amiss; no glass even was broken in the casement. But the
noise had evidently roused at least one member of the household: the
Colonel was to be heard slumping in his stockinged feet on the floor
above, and growling.
as it had risen, the wind did not fall at once. On it went, moaning and
rushing past the house, at times rising to a cry so desolate that, as
Parkins disinterestedly said, it might have made fanciful people feel
quite uncomfortable; even the unimaginative, he thought after a quarter
of an hour, might be happier without it.
it was the wind, or the excitement of golf, or of the researches in the
preceptory that kept Parkins awake, he was not sure. Awake he remained,
in any case, long enough to fancy (as I am afraid I often do myself
under such conditions) that he was the victim of all manner of fatal
disorders: he would lie counting the beats of his heart, convinced that
it was going to stop work every moment, and would entertain grave
suspicions of his lungs, brain, liver, etc. --
suspicions which he was sure would be dispelled by the return of
daylight, but which until then refused to be put aside. He found a
little vicarious comfort in the idea that someone else was in the same
boat. A near neighbour (in the darkness it was not easy to tell his
direction) was tossing and rustling in his bed, too.
next stage was that Parkins shut his eyes and determined to give sleep
every chance. Here again overexcitement asserted itself in another
that of making pictures. Experto crede, pictures do come to the closed
eyes of one trying to sleep, and are often so little to his taste that
he must open his eyes and disperse them.
experience on this occasion was a very distressing one. He found that
the picture which presented itself to him was continuous. When he
opened his eyes, of course, it went; but when he shut them once more it
framed itself afresh, and acted itself out again, neither quicker nor
slower than before. What he saw was this: A long stretch of
shingle edged by sand, and intersected at short intervals with black
groynes running down to the water --
a scene, in fact, so like that of his afternoon's walk that, in the
absence of any landmark, it could not be distinguished therefrom. The
light was obscure, conveying an impression of gathering storm, late
winter evening, and slight cold rain. On this bleak stage at first no
actor was visible. Then, in the distance, a bobbing black object
appeared; a moment more, and it was a man running, jumping, clambering
over the groynes, and every few seconds looking eagerly back. The
nearer he came the more obvious it was that he was not only anxious,
but even terribly frightened, though his face was not to be
distinguished. He was, moreover, almost at the end of his strength. On
he came; each successive obstacle seemed to cause him more difficulty
than the last. "Will he get over this next one?" thought Parkins; "it
seems a little higher than the others." Yes; half-climbing, half
throwing himself, he did get over, and fell all in a heap on the other
side (the side nearest to the spectator). There, as if really unable to
get up again, he remained crouching under the groyne, looking up in an
attitude of painful anxiety.
far no cause whatever for the fear of the runner had been shown; but
now there began to be seen, far up the shore, a little flicker of
something light-coloured moving to and fro with great swiftness and
irregularity. Rapidly growing larger, it, too, declared itself as a
figure in pale, fluttering draperies, ill-defined. There was something
about its motion which made Parkins very unwilling to see it at close
quarters. It would stop, raise arms, bow itself toward the sand, then
run stooping across the beach to the water-edge and back again; and
then, rising upright, once more continue its course forward at a speed
that was startling and terrifying. The moment came when the pursuer was
hovering about from left to right only a few yards beyond the groyne
where the runner lay in hiding. After two or three ineffectual castings
hither and thither it came to a stop, stood upright, with arms raised
high, and then darted straight forward towards the groyne.
was at this point that Parkins always failed in his resolution to keep
his eyes shut. With many misgivings as to incipient failure of
eyesight, over-worked brain, excessive smoking, and so on, he finally
resigned himself to light his candle, get out a book, and pass the
night waking, rather than be tormented by this persistent panorama,
which he saw clearly enough could only be a morbid reflection of his
walk and his thoughts on that very day.
scraping of match on box and the glare of light must have startled some
creatures of the night - rats or what not - which he heard scurry
across the floor from the side of his bed with much rustling. Dear,
dear! the match is out! Fool that it is! But the second one burnt
better, and a candle and book were duly procured, over which Parkins
pored till sleep of a wholesome kind came upon him, and that in no long
space. For about the first time in his orderly and prudent life he
forgot to blow out the candle, and when he was called next morning at
eight there was still a flicker in the socket and a sad mess of
guttered grease on the top of the little table.
breakfast he was in his room, putting the finishing touches to his
golfing costume --
fortune had again allotted the Colonel to him for a partner --
when one of the maids came in.
if you please," she said, "would you like any extra blankets on your
thank you," said Parkins. "Yes, I think I should like one. It seems
likely to turn rather colder."
a very short time the maid was back with the blanket.
bed should I put it on, sir?" she asked. "What? Why, that one --
the one I slept in last night," he said, pointing to it.
yes! I beg your pardon, sir, but you seemed to have tried both of em;
leastways, we had to make 'em both up this morning."
How very absurd!" said Parkins. "I certainly never touched the other,
except to lay some things on it. Did it actually seem to have been
yes, sir!" said the maid. "Why, all the things was crumpled and throwed
about all ways, if you'll excuse me, sir - quite as if anyone 'adn't
passed but a very poor night, sir."
me," said Parkins. "Well, I may have disordered it more than I thought
when I unpacked my things. I'm very sorry to have given you the extra
trouble. I'm sure. I expect a friend of mine soon, by the way --
a gentleman from Cambridge --
to come and occupy it for a night or two. That will be all right, I
suppose, won't it?"
yes, to be sure, sir. Thank you, sir. It's no trouble. I'm sure," said
the maid, and departed to giggle with her colleagues.
set forth, with a stern determination to improve his game.
am glad to be able to report that he succeeded so far in this
enterprise that the Colonel, who had been rather repining at the
prospect of a second day's play in his company, became quite chatty as
the morning advanced; and his voice boomed out over the flats, as
certain also of our own minor poets have said, "like some great bourdon
in a minster tower".
wind, that, we had last night," he said. "In my old home we should have
said someone had been whistling for it."
you, indeed!" said Parkins, "Is there a superstition of that kind still
current in your part of the country?"
don't know about superstition," said the Colonel. "They believe in it
all over Denmark and Norway, as well as on the Yorkshire coast; and my
experience is, mind you, that there's generally something at the bottom
of what these country-folk hold to, and have held to for generations.
But it's your drive" (or whatever it might have been: the golfing
reader will have to imagine appropriate digressions at the proper
conversation was resumed. Parkins said, with a slight hesitancy:
of what you were saying just now. Colonel, I think I ought to tell you
that my own views on such subjects are very strong. I am, in fact, a
convinced disbeliever in what is called the "supernatural"."
said the Colonel, "do you mean to tell me you don't believe in
second-sight, or ghosts, or anything of that kind?"
nothing whatever of that kind," returned Parkins firmly.
said the Colonel, "but it appears to me at that rate, sir, that you
must be little better than a Sadducee."
was on the point of answering that, in his opinion, the Sadducees were
the most sensible persons he had ever read of in the Old Testament;
but, feeling some doubt as to whether much mention of them was to be
found in that work, he preferred to laugh the accusation off.
I am," he said; "but --
Here, give me my cleek, boy! --
Excuse me one moment. Colonel." A short interval. "Now, as to whistling
for the wind, let me give you my theory about it. The laws which govern
winds are really not at all perfectly known --
to fisher-folk and such, of course, not known at all. A man or woman of
eccentric habits, perhaps, or a stranger, is seen repeatedly on the
beach at some unusual hour, and is heard whistling. Soon afterwards a
violent wind rises; a man who could read the sky perfectly or who
possessed a barometer could have foretold that it would. The simple
people of a fishing-village have no barometers, and only a few rough
rules for prophesying weather. What more natural than that the
eccentric personage I postulated should be regarded as having raised
the wind, or that he or she should clutch eagerly at the reputation of
being able to do so? Now, take last night's wind: as it happens, I
myself was whistling. I blew a whistle twice, and the wind seemed to
come absolutely in answer to my call. If anyone had seen me --
audience had been a little restive under this harangue, and Parkins
had, I fear, fallen somewhat into the tone of a lecturer; but at the
last sentence the Colonel stopped.
were you?" he said. 'and what sort of whistle did you use? Play this
stroke first." Interval.
that whistle you were asking. Colonel. It's rather a curious one. I
have it in my --
No; I see I've left in it my room. As a matter of fact, I found it
then Parkins narrated the manner of his discovery of the whistle, upon
hearing which the Colonel grunted, and opined that, in Parkins's place,
he should himself be careful about using a thing that had belonged to a
set of Papists, of whom, speaking generally, it might be affirmed that
you never knew what they might not have been up to. From this topic he
diverged to the enormities of the Vicar, who had given notice on the
previous Sunday that Friday would be the Feast of St Thomas the
Apostle, and that there would be service at eleven o'clock in the
church. This and other similar proceedings constituted in the Colonel's
view a strong presumption that the Vicar was a concealed Papist, if not
a Jesuit; and Parkins, who could not very readily follow the Colonel in
this region, did not disagree with him. In fact, they got on so well
together in the morning that there was no talk on either side of their
separating after lunch.
continued to play well during the afternoon, or, at least, well enough
to make them forget everything else until the light began to fail them.
Not until then did Parkins remember that he had meant to do some more
investigating at the preceptory; but it was of no great importance, he
reflected. One day was as good as another; he might as well go home
with the Colonel.
they turned the corner of the house, the Colonel was almost knocked
down by a boy who rushed into him at the very top of his speed, and
then, instead of running away, remained hanging on to him and panting.
The first words of the warrior were naturally those of reproof and
objurgation, but he very quickly discerned that the boy was almost
speechless with fright. Inquiries were useless at first. When the boy
got his breath he began to howl, and still clung to the Colonel's legs.
He was at last detached, but continued to howl.
in the world is the matter with you? What have you been up to? What
have you seen?" said the two men.
I seen it wive at me out of the winder," wailed the boy, "and I don't
window?" said the irritated Colonel. "Come, pull yourself together, my
boy." "The front winder it was, at the 'otel," said the boy. At this
point Parkins was in favour of sending the boy home, but the Colonel
refused; he wanted to get to the bottom of it, he said; it was most
dangerous to give a boy such a fright as this one had had, and if it
turned out that people had been playing jokes, they should suffer for
it in some way. And by a series of questions he made out this story.
The boy had been playing about on the grass in front of the Globe with
some others; then they had gone home to their teas, and he was just
going, when he happened to look up at the front winder and see it
a-wiving at him. It seemed to be a figure of some sort, in white as far
as he knew - couldn't see its face; but it wived at him, and it warn't
a right thing --
not to say not a right person. Was there a light in the room? No, he
didn't think to look if there was a light. Which was the window? Was it
the top one or the second one? The seckind one it was - the big winder
what got two little uns at the sides.
well, my boy," said the Colonel, after a few more questions. "You run
away home now. I expect it was some person trying to give you a start.
Another time, like a brave English boy, you just throw a stone - well,
no, not that exactly, but you go and speak to the waiter, or to Mr
Simpson, the landlord, and --
and say that I advised you to do so."
boy's face expressed some of the doubt he felt as to the likelihood of
Mr Simpson's lending a favourable ear to his complaint, but the Colonel
did not appear to perceive this, and went on:
here's a sixpence --
no, I see it's a shilling --
and you be off home, and don't think any more about it."
youth hurried off with agitated thanks, and the Colonel and Parkins
went round to the front of the Globe and reconnoitred. There was only
one window answering to the description they had been hearing.
that's curious," said Parkins; "it's evidently my window the lad was
talking about. Will you come up for a moment. Colonel Wilson? We ought
to be able to see if anyone has been taking liberties in my room."
were soon in the passage, and Parkins made as if to open the door. Then
he stopped and felt in his pockets.
is more serious than I thought," was his next remark. "I remember now
that before I started this morning I locked the door. It is locked now,
and, what is more, here is the key." And he held it up. "Now," he went
on, "if the servants are in the habit of going into one's room during
the day when one is away, I can only say that --
well, that I don't approve of it at all." Conscious of a somewhat weak
climax, he busied himself in opening the door (which was indeed locked)
and in lighting candles. "No," he said, "nothing seems disturbed."
'except your bed," put in the Colonel. 'excuse me, that isn't my bed,"
said Parkins. "I don't use that one. But it does look as if someone has
been playing tricks with it."
certainly did: the clothes were bundled up and twisted together in a
most tortuous confusion. Parkins pondered. "That must be it," he said
at last: "I disordered the clothes last night in unpacking, and they
haven't made it since. Perhaps they came in to make it, and that boy
saw them through the window; and then they were called away and locked
the door after them. Yes, I think that must be it."
ring and ask," said the Colonel, and this appealed to Parkins as
maid appeared, and, to make a long story short, deposed that she had
made the bed in the morning when the gentleman was in the room, and
hadn't been there since. No, she hadn't no other key. Mr Simpson he
kep' the keys; he'd be able to tell the gentleman if anyone had been
was a puzzle. Investigation showed that nothing of value had been
taken, and Parkins remembered the disposition of the small objects on
tables and so forth well enough to be pretty sure that no pranks had
been played with them. Mr and Mrs Simpson furthermore agreed that
neither of them had given the duplicate key of the room to any person
whatever during the day. Nor could Parkins, fair-minded man as he was,
detect anything in the demeanour of master, mistress, or maid that
indicated guilt. He was much more inclined to think that the boy had
been imposing on the Colonel.
latter was unwontedly silent and pensive at dinner and throughout the
evening. When he bade good night to Parkins, he murmured in a gruff
undertone: "You know where I am if you want me during the night."
yes, thank you. Colonel Wilson, I think I do; but there isn't much
prospect of my disturbing you, I hope. By the way," he added, "did I
show you that old whistle I spoke of? I think not. Well, here it is."
Colonel turned it over gingerly in the light of the candle.
you make anything of the inscription?" asked Parkins, as he took it
back. "No, not in this light. What do you mean to do with it?"
well, when I get back to Cambridge I shall submit it to some of the
archaeologists there, and see what they think of it; and very likely,
if they consider it worth having, I may present it to one of the
said the Colonel. "Well, you may be right. All I know is that, if it
were mine, I should chuck it straight into the sea. It's no use
talking. I'm well aware, but I expect that with you it's a case of live
and learn. I hope so. I'm sure, and I wish you a good night."
turned away, leaving Parkins in act to speak at the bottom of the
stair, and soon each was in his own bedroom.
some unfortunate accident, there were neither blinds nor curtains to
the windows of the Professor's room. The previous night he had thought
little of this, but tonight there seemed every prospect of a bright
moon rising to shine directly on his bed, and probably wake him later
on. When he noticed this he was a good deal annoyed, but, with an
ingenuity which I can only envy, he succeeded in rigging up, with the
help of a railway-rug, some safety-pins, and a stick and umbrella, a
screen which, if it only held together, would completely keep the
moonlight off his bed. And shortly afterwards he was comfortably in
that bed. When he had read a somewhat solid work long enough to produce
a decided wish for sleep, he cast a drowsy glance round the room, blew
out the candle, and fell back upon the pillow.
must have slept soundly for an hour or more, when a sudden clatter
shook him up in a most unwelcome manner. In a moment he realized what
had happened: his carefully-constructed screen had given way, and a
very bright frosty moon was shining directly on his face. This was
highly annoying. Could he possibly get up and reconstruct the screen?
or could he manage to sleep if he did not?
some minutes he lay and pondered over the possibilities; then he turned
over sharply, and with all his eyes open lay breathlessly listening.
There had been a movement, he was sure, in the empty bed on the
opposite side of the room. Tomorrow he would have it moved, for there
must be rats or something playing about in it. It was quiet now. No!
the commotion began again. There was a rustling and shaking: surely
more than any rat could cause.
can figure to myself something of the Professor's bewilderment and
horror, for I have in a dream thirty years back seen the same thing
happen; but the reader will hardly, perhaps, imagine how dreadful it
was to him to see a figure suddenly sit up in what he had known was an
empty bed. He was out of his own bed in one bound, and made a dash
towards the window, where lay his only weapon, the stick with which he
had propped his screen. This was, as it turned out, the worst thing he
could have done, because the personage in the empty bed, with a sudden
smooth motion, slipped from the bed and took up a position, with
outspread arms, between the two beds, and in front of the door. Parkins
watched it in a horrid perplexity. Somehow, the idea of getting past it
and escaping through the door was intolerable to him; he could not have
borne - he didn't know why - to touch it; and as for its touching him,
he would sooner dash himself through the window than have that happen.
It stood for the moment in a band of dark shadow, and he had not seen
what its face was like. Now it began to move, in a stooping posture,
and all at once the spectator realized, with some horror and some
relief, that it must be blind, for it seemed to feel about it with its
muffled arms in a groping and random fashion. Turning half away from
him, it became suddenly conscious of the bed he had just left, and
darted towards it, and bent over and felt the pillows in a way which
made Parkins shudder as he had never in his life thought it possible.
In a very few moments it seemed to know that the bed was empty, and
then, moving forward into the area of light and facing the window, it
showed for the first time what manner of thing it was.
who very much dislikes being questioned about it, did once describe
something of it in my hearing, and I gathered that what he chiefly
remembers about it is a horrible, an intensely horrible, face of
crumbled linen. What expression he read upon it he could not or would
not tell, but that the fear of it went nigh to maddening him is
he was not at leisure to watch it for long. With formidable quickness
it moved into the middle of the room, and, as it groped and waved, one
corner of its draperies swept across Parkins's face. He could
though he knew how perilous a sound was --
he could not keep back a cry of disgust, and this gave the searcher an
instant clue. It leapt towards him upon the instant, and the next
moment he was half-way through the window backwards, uttering cry upon
cry at the utmost pitch of his voice, and the linen face was thrust
close into his own. At this, almost the last possible second,
deliverance came, as you will have guessed: the Colonel burst the door
open, and was just in time to see the dreadful group at the window.
When he reached the figures only one was left. Parkins sank forward
into the room in a faint, and before him on the floor lay a tumbled
heap of bedclothes.
Wilson asked no questions, but busied himself in keeping everyone else
out of the room and in getting Parkins back to his bed; and himself,
wrapped in a rug, occupied the other bed for the rest of the night.
Early on the next day Rogers arrived, more welcome than he would have
been a day before, and the three of them held a very long consultation
in the Professor's room. At the end of it the Colonel left the hotel
door carrying a small object between his finger and thumb, which he
cast as far into the sea as a very brawny arm could send it. Later on
the smoke of a burning ascended from the back premises of the Globe.
what explanation was patched up for the staff and visitors at the hotel
I must confess I do not recollect. The Professor was somehow cleared of
the ready suspicion of delirium tremens, and the hotel of the
reputation of a troubled house.
is not much question as to what would have happened to Parkins if the
Colonel had not intervened when he did. He would either have fallen out
of the window or else lost his wits. But it is not so evident what more
the creature that came in answer to the whistle could have done than
frighten. There seemed to be absolutely nothing material about it save
the bedclothes of which it had made itself a body. The Colonel, who
remembered a not very dissimilar occurrence in India, was of opinion
that if Parkins had closed with it it could really have done very
little, and that its one power was that of frightening. The whole
thing, he said, served to confirm his opinion of the Church of Rome.
is really nothing more to tell, but, as you may imagine, the
Professor's views on certain points are less clear cut than they used
to be. His nerves, too, have suffered: he cannot even now see a
surplice hanging on a door quite unmoved, and the spectacle of a
scarecrow in a field late on a winter afternoon
cost him more than
one sleepless night.