A succession of incidents, that must
have perturbed the doctor and his companion in earnest,
had followed upon their departure from Chadlands,
and Mary soon discovered that she was faced with a
For one young woman had little chance
of winning her way against an old man and the religious
convictions that another had impressed upon him.
Sir Walter and the priest were now at one, nor did
the common sense of a fourth party to the argument
convince them. At dinner Septimus May declared
“We are happily free of any
antagonistic and material influence,” he said.
“Providence has willed that those opposed to
us should be taken elsewhere, and I am now able to
do my duty without more opposition.”
“Surely, father, you do not
wish this?” asked Mary. “I thought
But the elder was fretful.
“Let me eat my meal in peace,”
he answered. “I am not made of iron, and
reason cuts both ways. It was reasonable to deny
Mr. May before these events. It would be unreasonable
to pretend that the death of Peter Hardcastle has
not changed my opinions. To cleave to the possibility
of a physical explanation any longer is mere folly
and obstinacy. I believe him to be right.”
“This is fearful for me and
fearful for everybody here. Don’t you see
what it would mean if anything happened to you, Mr.
May? Even supposing there is a spirit hidden
in the Grey Room with power and permission to destroy
us why, that being so, are you any safer
than dear Tom was or this poor man?”
“Because I am armed, Mary, and
they were defenseless. Unhappily youth is seldom
clothed in the whole armor of righteousness. My
dear son was a good and honorable man, but he was
not a religious man. He had yet to learn the
incomparable and vital value of the practice of Christian
faith. Hardcastle invited his own doom. He
admitted he even appeared to pride himself
upon a crude and pagan rationalism. It is not
surprising that such a man should be called away to
learn the lessons of which he stood so gravely in
“I know that our dear Tom was
bidden to higher work to labor in a higher
cause than here, to purer knowledge of those things
that matter most to the human soul,” said Mary.
“But that is not to say God chose to take him
by a miracle. For what you believe amounts to
a miracle. You know that I am bearing my loss
in the same spirit as yourself, but, granted it had
to be at God’s will, that is no reason why we
should suppose the means employed were outside nature.”
“How can you pretend they are
inside nature, as we know it?” asked her father.
“We know nothing at all yet,
and I implore Mr. May to wait until we are at least
assured that science cannot find a reason.”
“Fear not for me, my child,”
answered Septimus May. “You forget certain
details that have assisted to decide me. Remember
that Hardcastle had openly denied and derided the
possibility of supernatural peril. He had challenged
this potent thing not an hour before he was brought
face to face with it. Tom went to his death innocently;
this man cannot be absolved so easily. In my
case, with my knowledge and faith, the conditions
are very different, and I oppose an impregnable barrier
between myself and the secret being. I am an old
priest, and I go knowing the nature of my task.
My weapons are such that a good spirit would applaud
them and an evil spirit be powerless against them.
Do you not see that the Almighty could never permit
one of His creatures for even the devils
also are His to defeat His own minister
or trample on the name of Christ? It would amount
to that. So armed one might walk in safety through
the lowermost hell, for hell can only believe and tremble
before the truth.”
Mary looked hopelessly at her father;
but he offered her small comfort. Sir Walter
still found himself conforming to the fierce piety
and dogmatic assurance of the man of God. In
this welter and upheaval his modest intellect found
only a foothold here, and his judgment now firmly
inclined to the confident assertions of religion.
He was himself a devout and conventional believer,
and he turned to the support of faith, and shared,
with increasing conviction, the opinion of Septimus
May, as uttered in a volume of confident words.
He became blind to the physical danger. He even
showed a measure of annoyance at Mary’s obstinate
entreaties. She strove to calm him, and told him
he was not himself an assertion that, by
his inner consciousness of its truth, seemed to incense
He begged her to be silent, and declared
that her remarks savored of irreverence. Startled
and bewildered by such a criticism, the woman was
indeed silent for some time, while her father-in-law
flowed on and uttered his conviction. Yet not
all his intensity and asseverations could justify
such extravagant assertion. At another time they
might even have amused Mary; but in sight of the fact
that her father was yielding, and that the end of
the argument would mean the clergyman in the Grey
Room, she could win nothing but frantic anxiety from
the situation. Sir Walter was broken; he had
lost his hold on reality, and she realized that.
His unsettled intelligence had gone over to the opposition,
and there was none, as it seemed, to argue on her side.
Septimus May had acted like a dangerous
drug on Sir Walter; he appeared to be intoxicated
in some degree. But only in mind, not in manner.
He argued for his new attitude, and he was not as
excited as the priest, but maintained his usual level
“I agreed with Mannering and
Henry yesterday, as you know, Mary,” he said,
“and at my desire Mr. May desisted from his wish.
We see how mistaken I was, how right he must have
been. I have thought it out this afternoon, calmly
and logically. These unfortunate young men have
died without a reason, for be sure no explanation
of Peter Hardcastle’s death will be forthcoming
though the whole College of Surgeons examines his
corpse. Then we must admit that life has been
snatched out of these bodies by some force of which
we have no conception. Were it natural, science
would have discovered a reason for death; but it could
not, because their lives flowed away as water out
of a bottle, leaving the bottle unchanged in every
particular. But life does not desert its physical
habitation on these terms. It cannot quit a healthy,
human body neither ruined nor rent. You must
be honest with yourself, my child, as well as with
your father-in-law and me. A physical cause being
absolutely ruled out, what remains? To-night I
emphatically support Mr. May, and my conscience, long
in terrible concern, is now at rest again. And
because it is at rest, I know that I have done well.
I believe that what dear Tom’s father desires
to do namely, to spend this night in the
Grey Room is now within his province and
entirely proper to his profession, and I share his
perfect faith and confidence.”
“It is you who lack faith, Mary,”
continued Septimus May. “You lack faith,
otherwise you would appreciate the unquestionable truth
of what your father tells you. Listen,”
he continued, “and understand something of what
this means from a larger outlook than our own selfish
and immediate interests. Much may come of my
action for the Faith at large. I may find an
answer to those grave questions concerning the life
beyond and the whole problem of spiritualism now convulsing
the Church and casting us into opposing sections.
It is untrodden and mysterious ground; but I am called
upon to tread it. For my part, I am never prepared
to flout inquirers if they approach these subjects
in a reverent spirit. We must not revile good
men because they think differently from ourselves.
We must examine the assertions of such inquirers as
Sir Oliver Lodge and Sir Conan Doyle in a mood of reverence
and sympathy. Some men drift away from the truth
in vital particulars; but not so far that they cannot
return if the road is made clear to them.
“We must remember that our conviction
of a double existence rests on the revelation of God
through His Son, not on a mere, vague desire toward
a future life common to all sorts and conditions of
men. They suspected and hoped; we know.
Science may explain that general desire if it pleases;
it cannot explain, or destroy, the triumphant certainty
born of faith. Spiritualism has succeeded to
the biblical record of ‘possession,’ and
I, for my part, of course prefer what my Bible teaches.
I do not myself find that the ‘mediums’
of modern spiritualism speak with tongues worthy of
much respect up to the present, and it is certain
that rogues abound; but the question is clamant.
It demands to be discussed by our spiritual guides
and the fathers of the Church. Already they recognize
this fact and are beginning to approach it some
priests in a right spirit, some as at the
Church Congress last month in a wrong spirit.”
“A wrong spirit, May?” asked Sir Walter.
“In my opinion, a wrong spirit,”
answered the other. “There is much, even
in a meeting of the Church Congress, that makes truly
religious men mourn. They laughed when they should
have learned. I refer to incidents and criticisms
of last October. There the Dean of Manchester,
who shows how those, who have apparently spoken to
us from Beyond through the mouths of living persons,
describe their different states and conditions.
Stainton Moses gave us a vision of heaven such as an
Oxford don and myself might be supposed to appreciate.
“Raymond describes a heaven
wherein the average second lieutenant could find all
that, for the moment, he needs. But why laugh
at these things? If we make our own hells, shall
we not make our own heavens? We must go into
the next world more or less cloyed and clogged with
the emotions and interests of this one. It is
inevitable. We cannot instantly throw off a lifetime
of interests, affections, and desires. We are
still human and pass onward as human beings, not as
angels of light.
“Therefore, we may reasonably
suppose that the Almighty will temper the wind to
the shorn lamb, nor impose too harsh and terrible a
transformation upon the souls of the righteous departed,
but lead one and all, by gradual stages and through
not unfamiliar conditions, to the heaven of ultimate
and absolute perfection that He has designed for His
“Well spoken,” said Sir Walter.
But Mr. May had not finished. He proceeded to
the immediate point.
“Shall it be denied that devils
have been cast out in the name of God?” he asked.
“And if from human tenements, then why not from
dwellings made with human hands also? May not
a house be similarly cleansed as well as a soul?
This unknown spirit angel or fiend, or other
sentient being is permitted to challenge
mankind and draw attention to its existence. A
mystery, I grant, but its Maker has now willed that
some measure of this mystery shall be revealed to
us. We are called to play our part in this spirit’s
“It would seem that it has endured
a sort of imprisonment in this particular room for
more years than we know, and it may actually be the
spirit of some departed human being condemned, for
causes that humanity has forgotten, to remain within
these walls. The nameless and unknown thing cries
passionately to be liberated, and is permitted by its
Maker to draw our terrified attention upon itself by
the exercise of destructive functions transcending
“God, then, has willed that,
through the agency of devout and living men, the unhappy
phantom shall now be translated and moved from this
environment for ever; and to me the appointed task
is allotted. So I believe, as firmly as I believe
in the death and resurrection of the Lord. Is
that clear to you, Sir Walter?”
“It is. You have made it convincingly clear.”
“So be it, then. I, too,
Mary, am not dead to the meaning of science in its
proper place. We may take an illustration of what
I have told you from astronomy. As comets enter
our system from realms of which we have no knowledge,
dazzle us a little, awaken our speculations and then
depart, so may certain immortal spirits also be supposed
to act. We entangle them possibly in our gross
air and detain them for centuries, or moments, until
their Creator’s purpose in sending them is accomplished.
Then He takes the means to liberate them and set them
on their eternal roads and to their eternal tasks
The listening woman, almost against
her reason, felt herself beginning to share these
assumptions. But that they were fantastic, unsupported
by any human knowledge, and would presently involve
an experiment full of awful peril to the life of the
man who uttered them, she also perceived. Yet
her reasonable caution and conventional distrust began
to give way a little under the priest’s magnetic
voice, his flaming eyes, his positive and triumphant
certainty of truth. He burned with his inspiration,
and she felt herself powerless to oppose any argument
founded on facts against the mystic enthusiasm of
such religious faith. His honesty and fervor
could not, however, abate Mary’s acute fear.
Her father had entirely gone over to the side of the
devotee and she knew it.
“It is well we have your opportunity
to-night,” he said, “for had the police
arrived, out of their ignorance they might deny it
Yet Mary fought on against them.
In despair she appealed to Masters. He had been
an officer’s orderly in his day, and when he
left the Army and came to Chadlands, he never departed
again. He was an intelligent man, who occupied
a good part of his leisure in reading. He set
Sir Walter and Mary first in his affections; and that
Mary should have won him so completely she always
held to be a triumph, since Abraham Masters had no
regard or admiration for women.
“Can’t you help me, Masters?”
she begged. “I’m sure you know as
well as I do that this ought not to happen.”
The butler eyed his master. He
was handing coffee, but none took it.
“By all means speak,”
said Sir Walter. “You know how I rate your
judgment, Masters. You have heard Mr. May upon
this terrible subject, and should be convinced, as
Masters was very guarded.
“It’s not for me to pass
an opinion, Sir Walter. But the reverend gentleman,
no doubt, understands such things. Only there’s
the Witch of Endor, if I may mention the creature,
she fetched up more than she bargained for. And
I remember a proverb as I heard in India, from a Hindoo.
I’ve forgot the lingo now, but I remember the
sense. They Hindoos say that if you knock long
enough at a closed door, the devil will open it excuse
my mentioning such a thing; but Hindoos are awful
“And what then, Masters?
I know not who may open the door of this mystery;
but this I know, that, in the Name of the Most High
God, I can face whatever opens it.”
“I ain’t particular frightened
neither, your reverence,” said Masters.
“But I wouldn’t chance it alone, being
about average sinful and not near good enough to tackle
that unknown horror hid up there single-handed.
I’d chance it, though, in high company like yours.
And that’s something.”
“It is, Masters, and much to
your credit,” declared Sir Walter. “For
that matter, I would do the like. Indeed, I am
willing to accompany Mr. May.”
While Septimus May shook his head
and Mary trembled, the butler spoke again.
“But there’s nobody else
in this house would. Not even Fred Caunter, who
doesn’t know the meaning of fear, as you can
testify, Sir Walter. But he’s fed up with
the Grey Room, if I may say so, and so’s the
housekeeper, Mrs. Forbes, and so’s Jane Bond.
Not that they would desert the ship; but there’s
others that be going to do so. I may mention that
four maids and Jackson intend to give notice to-morrow.
Ann Maine, the second housemaid, has gone to-night.
Her father fetched her. Excuse me mentioning
it, but Mrs. Forbes will give you the particulars to-morrow,
if you please.”
“Hysteria,” declared Sir
Walter. “I don’t blame them.
It is natural. Everybody is free to go, if they
desire to do so. But tell them what you have
heard to-night, Masters. Tell them that no good
Christian need fear to rest in peace. Explain
that Mr. May will presently enter the Grey Room in
the name of God; and bid them pray on their knees for
him before they go to sleep.”
“All the same, I very much wish
the reverend gentleman would give Scotland Yard a
chance. If they fall, then he can wipe their eye
after excuse my language, Sir Walter.
I’ve read a lot about the spirits, being terrible
interested in ’em, as all human men must be;
and I hear that running after ’em often brings
trouble. I don’t mean to your life, Sir
Walter, but to your wits. People get cracked on
’em and have to be locked up. I stopped
everybody frightening themselves into ’sterics
at dinner to-day; but you could see how it took ’em;
and, whether or no, I do beg Mr. May to be so kind
as to let me sit up along with him to-night.
“You never hear of two people
getting into trouble with these here customers, and
while he was going for this blackguard ghost in the
name of the Lord, I could keep my weather eye lifting
for trouble. ’Tis a matter for common sense
and keeping your nerve, in my opinion, and we don’t
want another death on our hands, I suppose. There’ll
be half the mountebanks and photograph men and newspaper
men in the land here to-morrow, and ’twill take
me all my time to keep ’em from over-running
the house. Because if they could come in their
scores for the late captain poor gentleman! what
won’t they try now this here famous detective
has been done in?”
“Henry deplored the same thing,”
said Mary. “And I answer again, as I answered
then,” replied Septimus May. “You
mean well, Sir Walter, and your butler means well;
but you propose an act in direct opposition to the
principle that inspires me.”
“What do you expect to happen?”
asked Mary. “Do you suppose you will see
something, and that something will tell you what it
is, and why it killed dear Tom?”
“That, at any rate, would be
a very great blessing to the living,” said her
“The least the creature could
do, in my humble opinion,” ventured Masters.
But Septimus May deprecated such curiosity.
“Hope for no such thing, and
do not dwell upon what is to happen until I am able
to tell you what does happen,” he answered.
“Allow no human weakness, no desire to learn
the secrets of another world, to distract your thoughts.
I am only concerned with what I know beyond possibility
of doubt is my duty to be entered upon as
swiftly as possible. I hear my call in the very
voice of the wind shouting round the house to-night.
But beyond my duty I do not seek. Whether information
awaits me, whether some manifestation indicating my
success and valuable to humanity will be granted,
I cannot say. I do not stop now to think about
“Alone I do this thing yet
not alone, for my hand is in my Maker’s hand.
Your part will not be to accompany me. Let each
man and woman be informed of what I do, and let them
lift a petition for me, that my work be crowned with
success. But let them not assume that to-morrow
I shall have anything to impart. The night may
be one of peace within, though so stormy without.
I may pray till dawn with no knowledge how my prayer
prospers, or I may be called to face a being that no
human eye has ever seen and lived. These things
are hidden from us.”
“You are wonderful, and it is
heartening to meet with such mighty faith,”
replied Sir Walter. “You have no fear, no
shadow of hesitation or doubt at the bottom of your
“None. Only an overmastering
desire to obey the message that throbs in my heart.
I will be honest with you, for I recognize that many
might doubt whether you were in the right to let me
face this ordeal. But I am driven by an overwhelming
mandate. Did I fear, or feel one tremor of uncertainty,
I would not proceed; for any wavering might be fatal
and give me helpless into the power of this watchful
spirit; but I am as certain of my duty as I am that
salvation awaits the just man.
“I believe that I shall liberate
this arrested being with cathartic prayer and cleansing
petition to our common Maker. And have I not the
spirit of my dead boy on my side? Could any living
man, however well intentioned, watch with me and over
me as he will? Fear nothing; go to your rest,
and let all who would assist me do so on their knees
before they sleep.”
Even Masters echoed some of this fierce
and absolute faith when he returned to the servants’
“His eyes blaze,” he said.
“He’s about the most steadfast man ever
I saw inside a pulpit, or out of it. You feel
if that man went to the window and told the rain to
stop and the wind to go down, they would. No ghost
that ever walked could best him anyway. They asked
me to talk and say what I felt, and I did; but words
are powerless against such an iron will as he’s
“I doubted first, and Sir Walter
said he doubted likewise; but he’s dead sure
now, and what’s good enough for him is good enough
for us. I’ll bet Caunter, or any man, an
even flyer that he’s going to put the creature
down and out and come off without a scratch himself.
I offered to sit up with him, so did Sir Walter; but
he wouldn’t hear of it. So all we’ve
got to do is to turn in and say our prayers. That’s
simple enough for God-fearing people, and we can’t
do no better than to obey orders.”
It was none the less a nervous and
highly strung household that presently went to bed,
and no woman slept without another woman to keep her
company. Sir Walter found himself worn out in
mind and body. Mary made him take his bromide,
and he slept without a dream, despite the din of the
great “sou’-wester” and the distant,
solemn crash of more than one great tree thrown upon
the lap of mother earth at last.
Before he retired, however, something
in the nature of a procession had escorted the priest
to his ordeal. Mr. May donned biretta, surplice,
and stole, for, as he explained, he was to hold a religious
service as sacred and significant as any other rite.
“Lord send him no congregation then,”
But, with Sir Walter and Mary, he
followed the ministrant, and left him at the open
door of the Grey Room. The electric light shone
steadily; but the storm seemed to beat its fists at
the windows, and the leaded panes shook and chattered.
With no bell and candle, but his Bible alone, Septimus
May entered the room, having first made the sign of
the Cross before him; then he turned and bade good-night
“Be of good faith!” were the last words
he spoke to them.
Having done so he shut the door, and
they heard his voice immediately uplifted in prayer.
They waited a little, and the sound roiled steadily
on. Sir Walter then bade Masters extinguish all
the lights and send the household to bed, though the
time was not more than ten o’clock.
As for Masters, the glamour and appeal
of those strenuous words at the dinner-table had now
passed, and presently, as he prepared to retire, he
found himself far less confident and assured than his
recent words had implied. He sank slowly from
hope to fear, even pictured the worse, and asked himself
what would follow if the worst happened. He believed
that it might mean serious disaster for Sir Walter.
If another life were sacrificed to this unknown peril,
and it transpired that his master had sanctioned what
would amount to suicide in the eyes of reason; then
he began to fear that grave trouble must result.
Already the burning words of Septimus May began to
cool and sound unreal, and Masters suspected that,
if they were repeated in other ears, which had not
heard him utter them, or seen the fervor of religious
earnestness and reverence in which they had been spoken,
this feverish business of exorcising a ghost in the
twentieth century might only awake derision and receive
neither credence nor respect. His entire concern
was for Sir Walter, not Mr. May. He could not
sleep, lighted a pipe, considered whether it was in
his power to do anything, felt a sudden impulse to
take certain steps, yet hesitated from
no fear to himself, but doubt whether action might
not endanger another. Mary did not sleep either,
and she suffered more, for she had never approved,
and now she blamed herself not a little for her weak
opposition. A thousand arguments occurred to her
while she lay awake. Then, for a time, she forgot
present tribulations, and her own grief overwhelmed
her, as it was wont to do by night. For while
the events that had so swiftly followed each other
since her husband’s death banished him now and
again, save from her subconscious mind, when alone
he was swift to return and her sorrow made many a night
sleepless. She was herself ill, but did not know
it. The reaction had yet to come, and could not
be long delayed, for her nervous energy was worn out
now. She wept and lived days with the dead; then
the present returned to her mind, and she fretted
and prayed for Septimus May and for daylight.
She wondered why stormy nights were always the longest.
She heard a thousand unfamiliar sounds, and presently
leaped from her bed, put on a dressing-gown, and crept
out into the house. To know that all was well
with the watcher would hearten her. But then her
feet dragged before she had left the threshold of
her own room, and she stood still and shuddered a
little. For how if all were not well? How
if his voice no longer sounded?
She hesitated to make the experiment,
and balanced the relief of reassurance against the
horror of silence. She remembered a storm at
sea, when through a long night, not lacking danger
to a laboring steamer with weak engines, she had lain
awake and felt her heart warm again when the watch
shouted the hour.
She set out, then, determined to know
if all prospered with her father-in-law. Nor
would she give ear to misgiving or ask herself what
she would do if no voice were steadily uplifted in
the Grey Room.
The great wind seemed to play upon
Chadlands like a harp. It roared and reverberated,
now stilled a moment for another leap, now died away
against the house, yet still sounded with a steady
shout in the neighbor trees. At the casements
it tugged and rattled; against them it flung the rain
fiercely. Every bay and passage of the interior
uttered its own voice, and overhead was creaking of
old timbers, rattling of old slates, and rustling
of mortar fragments dislodged by sudden vibrations.
Mary proceeded on her way, and then,
to her astonishment, heard a footfall, and nearly
ran into an invisible figure approaching from the
direction of the Grey Room. Man and woman startled
each other, but neither exclaimed, and Mrs. May spoke.
“Who is it?” she asked; and Masters answered:
“Oh, my gracious! Terrible sorry, ma’am!
If I didn’t think ”
“What on earth are you doing, Masters?”
“Much the same as you, I expect,
ma’am. I thought just to creep along and
see if the reverend gentleman was all right. And
he is. The light’s burning you
can see it under the door and he’s
praying away, steady as a steam-threshing machine.
I doubt he’s keeping the evil creature at arm’s
length, and I’m a tidy lot more hopeful than
what I was an hour ago. The thing ain’t
strong enough to touch a man praying to God like what
he can. But if prayers keep it harmless, then
it’s got ears and it’s alive!”
“Can you believe that, Masters?” she whispered.
“Got to, ma’am. If
it was just a natural horror beyond the reach of prayer,
it would have knocked his reverence out long before
now, like other people. It settled the police
officer in under an hour, and Mr. May’s been
up against it for three nearly four hours,
so far. He’ll bolt it yet, I shouldn’t
wonder, like a ferret bolts a rat.”
“You really feel more hopeful?”
“Yes, I do, ma’am; and
if he can fire the creature and signal ’All’s
clear’ for Chadlands, it will calm everybody
and be a proper feather in his cap, and he did ought
to be made a bishop, at the least. Not that Scotland
Yard men will believe a word of it to-morrow, all the
same. Ghosts are bang out of their line, and
I never met even a common constable that believed
in ’em, except Bob Parrett, and he had bats in
the belfry, poor chap. No; they’ll reckon
it’s somebody in the house, I expect, who wanted
to kill t’ others, but ain’t got no quarrel
with Mr. May. And you’d be wise to get
back to bed, ma’am, and try to sleep, else you’ll
catch a cold. I’ll look round again in an
hour or to, if I don’t go to sleep my self.”
They parted, while the storm still
ran high, and through the empty corridor, when it
was lulled, a voice rolled steadily on from the Grey
When it suddenly ceased, an hour before
dawn, the storm had already begun to sink, and through
a rack of flying and breaking cloud the “Hunter”
wheeled westerly to his setting.