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Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (M R James) online
'OH, WHISTLE, AND I'LL COME TO YOU, MY LAD'
So 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 towards 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.
It 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, overworked 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.
The 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.
After 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.
'Oh, if you please,' she said, 'would you like any extra blankets on your bed, sir?'
'Ah! thank you,' said Parkins. 'Yes, I think I should like one. It seems likely to turn rather colder.'
In a very short time the maid was back with the blanket.
'Which 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.
'Oh 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.'
'Really? 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 slept in?'
'Oh 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.'
'Dear 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?'