Carnacki the Ghost Finder, No. 3
William Hope Hodgson
(Thomas Carnacki, the famous investigator of "real" ghost
stories, tells here the results of his peculiar and weird
investigations in The Whistling Room)
Carnacki shook a friendly fist at me, as I entered, late. Then,
he opened the door into the dining-room, and ushered the four of
us Jessop, Arkright, Taylor and myself in to dinner.
We dined well, as usual, and, equally as usual,
Carnacki was pretty silent during the meal. At the end, we took
our wine and cigars to our usual positions, and Carnacki having
got himself comfortable in his big chair began without any
"I have just got back from Ireland,
again," he said. "And I thought you chaps would be
interested to hear my news. Besides, I fancy I shall see the thing
clearer, after I have told it all out straight. I must tell you
this, though, at the beginning up to the present moment, I have
been utterly and completely 'stumped.' I have tumbled upon one of
the most peculiar cases of 'haunting' or devilment of some
sort that I have come against. Now listen.
"I have been spending the last few weeks at
Iastrae Castle, about twenty miles north-east of Galway. I got a
letter about a month ago from a Mr. Sid K. Tassoc, who it seemed
had bought the place lately, and moved in, only to find that he had
bought a very peculiar piece of property.
"When I got there, he met me at the station,
driving a jaunting-car, and drove me up to the castle, which, by
the way, he called a 'house-shanty.' I found that he was 'pigging
it' there with his boy brother and another American, who seemed to
be half-servant and half-companion. It seems that all the servants
had left the place, in a body, as you might say; and now they were
managing among themselves, assisted by some day-help.
"The three of them got together a scratch feed,
and Tassoc told me all about the trouble, whilst we were at table.
It is most extraordinary, and different from anything that I have
had to do with; though that Buzzing Case was very queer, too.
"Tassoc began right in the middle of his story.
'We've got a room in this shanty,' he said, 'which has got a most
infernal whistling in it; sort of haunting it. The thing starts
any time; you never know when, and it goes on until it frightens
you. All the servants have gone, as you know. It's not ordinary
whistling, and it isn't the wind. Wait till you hear it.'
" 'We're all carrying guns,' said the boy; and
slapped his coat pocket.
" 'As bad as that?' I said; and the older boy
nodded. 'It may be soft,' he replied; 'but wait till you've heard
it. Sometimes I think it's some infernal thing, and the next
moment, I'm just as sure that someone's playing a trick on me.'
" 'Why?' I asked. 'What is to be gained?'
" 'You mean,' he said, 'that people usually
have some good reason for playing tricks as elaborate as this.
Well, I'll tell you. There's a lady in this province, by the name
of Miss Donnehue, who's going to be my wife, this day two months.
She's more beautiful than they make them, and so far as I can see,
I've just stuck my head into an Irish hornet's nest. There's about
a score of hot young Irishmen been courting her these two years
gone, and now that I'm come along and cut them out, they feel raw
against me. Do you begin to understand the possibilities?'
" 'Yes,' I said. 'Perhaps I do in a vague sort
of way; but I don't see how all this affects the room?'
" 'Like this,' he said. 'When I'd fixed it up
with Miss Donnehue, I looked out for a place, and bought this
little house-shanty. Afterwards, I told her one evening during
dinner, that I'd decided to tie up here. And then she asked me
whether I wasn't afraid of the whistling room. I told her it must
have been thrown in gratis, as I'd heard nothing about it. There
were some of her men friends present, and I saw a smile go round.
I found out, after a bit of questioning, that several people have
bought this place during the last twenty-odd years. And it was
always on the market again, after a trial.
" 'Well, the chaps started to bait me a bit,
and offered to take bets after dinner that I'd not stay six months
in the place. I looked once or twice to Miss Donnehue, so as to be
sure I was "getting the note" of the talkee-talkee; but
I could see that she didn't take it as a joke, at all. Partly, I
think, because there was a bit of a sneer in the way the men were
tackling me, and partly because she really believes there is
something in this yarn of the Whistling Room.
" 'However, after dinner, I did what I could to
even things up with the others. I nailed all their bets, and
screwed them down hard and safe. I guess some of them are going to
be hard hit, unless I lose; which I don't mean to. Well, there you
have practically the whole yarn.'
" 'Not quite,' I told him. 'All that I know,
is that you have bought a castle with a room in it that is in some
way "queer," and that you've been doing some betting.
Also, I know that your servants have got frightened and run away.
Tell me something about the whistling?'
" 'Oh, that!' said Tassoc; 'that started the
second night we were in. I'd had a good look round the room, in
the daytime, as you can understand; for the talk up at
Arlestrae Miss Donnehue's place had made me wonder a bit. But it
seems just as usual as some of the other rooms in the old wing,
only perhaps a bit more lonesome. But that may be only because of
the talk about it, you know.
" 'The whistling started about ten o'clock, on
the second night, as I said. Tom and I were in the library, when
we heard an awfully queer whistling, coming along the East
Corridor The room is in the East Wing, you know.
" ' "That's that blessed ghost!" I
said to Tom, and we collared the lamps off the table, and went up
to have a look. I tell you, even as we dug along the corridor, it
took me a bit in the throat, it was so beastly queer. It was a
sort of tune, in a way; but more as if a devil or some rotten thing
were laughing at you, and going to get round at your back. That's
how it makes you feel.
" 'When we got to the door, we didn't wait; but
rushed it open; and then I tell you the sound of the thing fairly
hit me in the face. Tom said he got it the same way sort of felt
stunned and bewildered. We looked all round, and soon got so
nervous, we just cleared out, and I locked the door.
" 'We came down here, and had a stiff peg each.
Then we got fit again, and began to think we'd been nicely had. So
we took sticks, and went out into the grounds, thinking after all
it must be some of these confounded Irishmen working the
ghost-trick on us. But there was not a leg stirring.
" 'We went back into the house, and walked over
it, and then paid another visit to the room. But we simply
couldn't stand it. We fairly ran out, and locked the door again.
I don't know how to put it into words; but I had a feeling of being
up against something that was rottenly dangerous. You know! We've
carried our guns ever since.
" 'Of course, we had a real turn-out of the
room next day, and the whole house-place; and we even hunted round
the grounds; but there was nothing queer. And now I don't know
what to think; except that the sensible part of me tells me that
it's some plan of these Wild Irishmen to try to take a rise out of
" 'Done anything since?' I asked him.
" 'Yes,' he said 'watched outside of the
door of the room at nights, and chased round the grounds, and
sounded the walls and floor of the room. We've done everything we
could think of; and it's beginning to get on our nerves; so we sent
" By this, we had finished eating. As we rose
from the table, Tassoc suddenly called out: 'Ssh! Hark!'
"We were instantly silent, listening. Then I
heard it, an extraordinary hooning whistle, monstrous and inhuman,
coming from far away through corridors to my right.
" 'By Gd!' said Tassoc; 'and it's scarcely
dark yet! Collar those candles, both of you, and come along.'
"In a few moments, we were all out of the door
and racing up the stairs. Tassoc turned into a long corridor, and
we followed, shielding our candles as we ran. The sound seemed to
fill all the passage as we drew near, until I had the feeling that
the whole air throbbed under the power of some wanton Immense
Force a sense of an actual taint, as you might say, of monstrosity
all about us.
"Tassoc unlocked the door; then, giving it a
push with his foot, jumped back, and drew his revolver. As the
door flew open, the sound beat out at us, with an effect impossible
to explain to one who has not heard it with a certain, horrible
personal note in it; as if in there in the darkness you could
picture the room rocking and creaking in a mad, vile glee to its
own filthy piping and whistling and hooning. To stand there and
listen, was to be stunned by Realisation. It was as if someone
showed you the mouth of a vast pit suddenly, and said: That's
Hell. And you knew that they had spoken the truth. Do
you get it, even a little bit?
"I stepped back a pace into the room, and held
the candle over my head, and looked quickly round. Tassoc and his
brother joined me, and the man came up at the back, and we all held
our candles high. I was deafened with the shrill, piping hoon of
the whistling; and then, clear in my ear, something seemed to be
saying to me: 'Get out of here quick! Quick! Quick!'
"As you chaps know, I never neglect that sort
of thing. Sometimes it may be nothing but nerves; but as you will
remember, it was just such a warning that saved me in the 'Grey
Dog' Case, and in the 'Yellow Finger' Experiments; as well as other
times. Well, I turned sharp round to the others: 'Out!' I said.
'For God's sake, out quick.' And in an instant I had them
into the passage.
"There came an extraordinary yelling scream
into the hideous whistling, and then, like a clap of thunder, an
utter silence. I slammed the door, and locked it. Then, taking
the key, I looked round at the others. They were pretty white, and
I imagine I must have looked that way too. And there we stood a
" 'Come down out of this, and have some
whisky,' said Tassoc, at last, in a voice he tried to make
ordinary; and he led the way. I was the back man, and I know we
all kept looking over our shoulders. When we got downstairs,
Tassoc passed the bottle round. He took a drink, himself, and
slapped his glass down on to the table. Then sat down with a thud.
" 'That's a lovely thing to have in the house
with you, isn't it!' he said. And directly afterwards: 'What on
earth made you hustle us all out like that, Carnacki?'
" 'Something seemed to be telling me to get
out, quick,' I said. 'Sounds a bit silly-superstitious,
I know; but when you are meddling with this sort of thing, you've
got to take notice of queer fancies, and risk being laughed at.'
"I told him then about the 'Grey Dog' business,
and he nodded a lot to that. 'Of course,' I said, 'this may be
nothing more than those would-be rivals of yours playing some funny
game; but, personally, though I'm going to keep an open mind, I
feel that there is something beastly and dangerous about this
"We talked for a while longer, and then Tassoc
suggested billiards, which we played in a pretty half-hearted
fashion, and all the time cocking an ear to the door, as you might
say, for sounds; but none came, and later, after coffee, he
suggested early bed, and a thorough overhaul of the room on the
"My bedroom was in the newer part of the
castle, and the door opened into the picture gallery. At the East
end of the gallery was the entrance to the corridor of the East
Wing; this was shut off from the gallery by two old and heavy oak
doors, which looked rather odd and quaint beside the more modern
doors of the various rooms.
"When I reached my room, I did not go to bed;
but began to unpack my instrument-trunk, of which I had retained
the key. I intended to take one or two preliminary steps at once,
in my investigation of the extraordinary whistling.
"Presently, when the castle had settled into
quietness, I slipped out of my room, and across to the entrance of
the great corridor. I opened one of the low, squat doors, and
threw the beam of my pocket searchlight down the passage. It was
empty, and I went through the doorway, and pushed-to the oak behind
me. Then along the great passage-way, throwing my light before and
behind, and keeping my revolver handy.
"I had hung a 'protection belt' of garlic round
my neck, and the smell of it seemed to fill the corridor and give
me assurance; for, as you all know, it is a wonderful 'protection'
against the more usual Aeiirii forms of semi-materialisation, by
which I supposed the whistling might be produced; though, at that
period of my investigation, I was quite prepared to find it due to
some perfectly natural cause; for it is astonishing the enormous
number of cases that prove to have nothing abnormal in them.
"In addition to wearing the necklet, I had
plugged my ears loosely with garlic, and as I did not intend to
stay more than a few minutes in the room, I hoped to be safe.
"When I reached the door, and put my hand into
my pocket for the key, I had a sudden feeling of sickening funk.
But I was not going to back out, if I could help it. I unlocked the
door and turned the handle. Then I gave the door a sharp push with
my foot, as Tassoc had done, and drew my revolver, though I did not
expect to have any use for it, really.
"I shone the searchlight all round the room,
and then stepped inside, with a disgustingly horrible feeling of
walking slap into a waiting Danger. I stood a few seconds,
waiting, and nothing happened, and the empty room showed bare from
corner to corner. And then, you know, I realised that the room was
full of an abominable silence; can you understand that? A sort of
purposeful silence, just as sickening as any of the filthy noises
the Things have power to make. Do you remember what I told you
about that 'Silent Garden' business? Well, this room had just that
same malevolent silence the beastly quietness of a thing
that is looking at you and not seeable itself, and thinks that it
has got you. Oh, I recognised it instantly, and I whipped the top
off my lantern, so as to have light over the whole room.
"Then I set-to, working like fury, and keeping
my glance all about me. I sealed the two windows with lengths of
human hair, right across, and sealed them at every frame. As I
worked, a queer, scarcely perceptible tenseness stole into the air
of the place, and the silence seemed, if you can understand me, to
grow more solid. I knew then that I had no business there without
'full protection'; for I was practically certain that this was no
mere Aeiirii development; but one of the worst forms, as the
Saiitii; like that 'Grunting Man' case you know.
"I finished the window, and hurried over to the
great fireplace. This is a huge affair, and has a queer
gallows-iron, I think they are called, projecting from the back of
the arch. I sealed the opening with seven human hairs the seventh
crossing the six others.
"Then, just as I was making an end, a low,
mocking whistle grew in the room. A cold, nervous pricking went up
my spine, and round my forehead from the back. The hideous sound
filled all the room with an extraordinary, grotesque parody of
human whistling, too gigantic to be human as if something
gargantuan and monstrous made the sounds softly. As I stood there
a last moment, pressing down the final seal, I had no doubt but
that I had come across one of those rare and horrible cases of the
Inanimate reproducing the functions of the
Animate. I made a grab for my lamp, and went quickly to
the door, looking over my shoulder, and listening for the thing
that I expected. It came, just as I got my hand upon the handle a
squeal of incredible, malevolent anger, piercing through the low
hooning of the whistling. I dashed out, slamming the door and
locking it. I leant a little against the opposite wall of the
corridor, feeling rather funny; for it had been a narrow squeak. .
. . 'Theyr be noe sayfetie to be gained bye gayrds of holieness
when the monyster hath pow'r to speak throe woode and stoene.' So
runs the passage in the Sigsand MS., and I proved it in that
'Nodding Door' business. There is no protection against this
particular form of monster, except, possibly, for a fractional
period of time; for it can reproduce itself in, or take to its
purpose, the very protective material which you may use, and has
the power to 'forme wythine the pentycle'; though not
immediately. There is, of course, the possibility of the Unknown
Last Line of the Saaamaaa Ritual being uttered; but it is too
uncertain to count upon, and the danger is too hideous; and even
then it has no power to protect for more than 'maybee fyve beats of
the harte,' as the Sigsand has it.
"Inside of the room, there was now a constant,
meditative, hooning whistling; but presently this ceased, and the
silence seemed worse; for there is such a sense of hidden mischief
in a silence.
"After a little, I sealed the door with crossed
hairs, and then cleared off down the great passage, and so to bed.
"For a long time I lay awake; but managed
eventually to get some sleep. Yet, about two o'clock I was waked
by the hooning whistling of the room coming to me, even through the
closed doors. The sound was tremendous, and seemed to beat through
the whole house with a presiding sense of terror. As if (I remember
thinking) some monstrous giant had been holding mad carnival with
itself at the end of that great passage.
"I got up and sat on the edge of the bed,
wondering whether to go along and have a look at the seal; and
suddenly there came a thump on my door, and Tassoc walked in, with
his dressing-gown over his pyjamas.
" 'I thought it would have waked you, so I came
along to have a talk,' he said. 'I can't sleep.
Beautiful! Isn't it!'
" 'Extraordinary!' I said, and tossed him my
"He lit a cigarette, and we sat and talked for
about an hour; and all the time that noise went on, down at the end
of the big corridor.
"Suddenly, Tassoc stood up:
" 'Let's take our guns, and go and examine the
brute,' he said, and turned towards the door.
" 'No!' I said. 'By Jove NO! I can't say
anything definite, yet; but I believe that room is about as
dangerous as it well can be.'
" 'Haunted really haunted?' he asked,
keenly and without any of his frequent banter.
"I told him, of course, that I could not say a
definite yes or no to such a question; but that
I hoped to be able to make a statement, soon. Then I gave him a
little lecture on the False Re-Materialisation of the Animate-Force
through the Inanimate-Inert. He began then to see the particular
way in the room might be dangerous, if it were really the subject
of a manifestation.
"About an hour later, the whistling ceased
quite suddenly, and Tassoc went off again to bed. I went back to
mine, also, and eventually got another spell of sleep.
"In the morning, I went along to the room. I
found the seals on the door intact. Then I went in. The window
seals and the hair were all right; but the seventh hair across the
great fireplace was broken. This set me thinking. I knew that it
might, very possibly, have snapped, through my having tensioned it
too highly; but then, again, it might have been broken by something
else. Yet, it was scarcely possible that a man, for instance,
could have passed between the six unbroken hairs; for no one would
ever have noticed them, entering the room that way, you see; but
just walked through them, ignorant of their very existence.
"I removed the other hairs, and the seals.
Then I looked up the chimney. It went up straight, and I could see
blue sky at the top. It was a big, open flue, and free from any
suggestion of hiding places, or corners. Yet, of course, I did not
trust to any such casual examination, and after breakfast, I put on
my overalls, and climbed to the very top, sounding all the way; but
I found nothing.
"Then I came down, and went over the whole of
the room floor, ceiling, and walls, mapping them out in six-inch
squares, and sounding with both hammer and probe. But there was
"Afterwards, I made a three-weeks search of the
whole castle, in the same thorough way; but found nothing. I went
even further, then; for at night, when the whistling commenced, I
made a microphone test. You see, if the whistling were
mechanically produced, this test would have made evident to me the
working of the machinery, if there were any such concealed within
the walls. It certainly was an up-to-date method of examination,
as you must allow.
"Of course, I did not think that any of
Tassoc's rivals had fixed up any mechanical contrivance; but I
thought it just possible that there had been some such thing for
producing the whistling, made away back in the years, perhaps with
the intention of giving the room a reputation that would ensure its
being free of inquisitive folk. You see what I mean? Well, of
course, it was just possible, if this were the case, that someone
knew the secret of the machinery, and was utilizing the knowledge
to play this devil of a prank on Tassoc. The microphone test of
the walls would certainly have made this known to me, as I have
said; but there was nothing of the sort in the castle; so that I
had practically no doubt at all now, but that it was a genuine case
of what is popularly termed 'haunting.'
"All this time, every night, and sometimes most
of each night, the hooning whistling of the Room was intolerable.
It was as if an intelligence there, knew that steps were being
taken against it, and piped and hooned in a sort of mad, mocking
contempt. I tell you, it was as extraordinary as it was horrible.
Time after time, I went along tip-toeing noiselessly on stockinged
feet to the sealed door (for I always kept the Room sealed). I
went at all hours of the night, and often the whistling, inside,
would seem to change to a brutally malignant note, as though the
half-animate monster saw me plainly through the shut door. And all
the time the shrieking, hooning whistling would fill the whole
corridor, so that I used to feel a precious lonely chap, messing
about there with one of Hell's mysteries.
"And every morning, I would enter the room, and
examine the different hairs and seals. You see, after the first
week, I had stretched parallel hairs all along the walls of the
room, and along the ceiling; but over the floor, which was of
polished stone, I had set out little, colourless wafers, tacky-side
uppermost. Each wafer was numbered, and they were arranged after
a definite plan, so that I should be able to trace the exact
movements of any living thing that went across the floor.
"You will see that no material being or
creature could possibly have entered that room, without leaving
many signs to tell me about it. But nothing was ever disturbed,
and I began to think that I should have to risk an attempt to stay
the night in the room, in the Electric Pentacle. Yet, mind you, I
knew that it would be a crazy thing to do; but I was
getting stumped, and ready to do anything.
"Once, about midnight, I did break the seal on
the door, and have a quick look in; but, I tell you, the whole Room
gave one mad yell, and seemed to come towards me in a great belly
of shadows, as if the walls had bellied in towards me. Of course,
that must have been fancy. Anyway, the yell was sufficient, and I
slammed the door, and locked it, feeling a bit weak down my spine.
You know the feeling.
"And then, when I had got to that state of
readiness for anything, I made something of a discovery. It was
about one in the morning, and I was walking slowly round the
castle, keeping in the soft grass. I had come under the shadow of
the East Front, and far above me, I could hear the vile, hooning
whistle of the Room, up in the darkness of the unlit wing. Then,
suddenly, a little in front of me, I heard a man's voice, speaking
low, but evidently in glee:
" 'By George! You Chaps; but I wouldn't care
to bring a wife home in that!' it said, in the tone of the cultured
"Someone started to reply; but there came a
sharp exclamation, and then a rush, and I heard footsteps running
in all directions. Evidently, the men had spotted me.
"For a few seconds, I stood there, feeling an
awful ass. After all, they were at the bottom of the
haunting! Do you see what a big fool it made me seem? I had no
doubt but that they were some of Tassoc's rivals; and here I had
been feeling in every bone that I had hit a real, bad, genuine
Case! And then, you know, there came the memory of hundreds of
details, that made me just as much in doubt again. Anyway, whether
it was natural, or ab-natural, there was a great deal yet to be
"I told Tassoc, next morning, what I had
discovered, and through the whole of every night, for five nights,
we kept a close watch round the East Wing; but there was never a
sign of anyone prowling about; and all the time, almost from
evening to dawn, that grotesque whistling would hoon incredibly,
far above us in the darkness.
"On the morning after the fifth night, I
received a wire from here, which brought me home by the next boat.
I explained to Tassoc that I was simply bound to come away for a
few days; but told him to keep up the watch round the castle. One
thing I was very careful to do, and that was to make him absolutely
promise never to go into the Room, between sunset and sunrise. I
made it clear to him that we knew nothing definite yet, one way or
the other; and if the room were what I had first thought it to be,
it might be a lot better for him to die first, than enter it after
"When I got here, and had finished my business,
I thought you chaps would be interested; and also I wanted to get
it all spread out clear in my mind; so I rung you up. I am going
over again to-morrow, and when I get back, I ought to have
something pretty extraordinary to tell you. By the way, there is
a curious thing I forgot to tell you. I tried to get a
phonographic record of the whistling; but it simply produced no
impression on the wax at all. That is one of the things that has
made me feel queer, I can tell you. Another extraordinary thing is
that the microphone will not magnify the sound will not even
transmit it; seems to take no account of it, and acts as if it were
non-existent. I am absolutely and utterly stumped, up to the
present. I am a wee bit curious to see whether any of your dear
clever heads can make dayling of it. I cannot not
He rose to his feet.
"Good night, all," he said, and began to
usher us out abruptly, but without offence, into the night.
A fortnight later, he dropped each of us a card, and
you can imagine that I was not late this time. When we arrived,
Carnacki took us straight into dinner, and when we had finished,
and all made ourselves comfortable, he began again, where he had
"Now just listen quietly; for I have got
something pretty queer to tell you. I got back late at night, and
I had to walk up to the castle, as I had not warned them that I was
coming. It was bright moonlight; so that the walk was rather a
pleasure, than otherwise. When I got there, the whole place was in
darkness, and I thought I would take a walk round outside, to see
whether Tassoc or his brother was keeping watch. But I could not
find them anywhere, and concluded that they had got tired of it,
and gone off to bed.
"As I returned across the front of the East
Wing, I caught the hooning whistling of the Room, coming down
strangely through the stillness of the night. It had a queer note
in it, I remember low and constant, queerly meditative. I looked
up at the window, bright in the moonlight, and got a sudden thought
to bring a ladder from the stable-yard, and try to get a look into
the Room, through the window.
"With this notion, I hunted round at the back
of the castle, among the straggle of offices, and presently found
a long, fairly light ladder; though it was heavy enough for one,
goodness knows! And I thought at first that I should never get it
reared. I managed at last, and let the ends rest very quietly
against the wall, a little below the sill of the larger window.
Then, going silently, I went up the ladder. Presently, I had my
face above the sill and was looking in alone with the moonlight.
"Of course, the queer whistling sounded louder
up there; but it still conveyed that peculiar sense of something
whistling quietly to itself can you understand? Though, for all
the meditative lowness of the note, the horrible, gargantuan
quality was distinct a mighty parody of the human, as if I stood
there and listened to the whistling from the lips of a monster with
a man's soul.
"And then, you know, I saw something. The
floor in the middle of the huge, empty room, was puckered upwards
in the centre into a strange soft-looking mound, parted at the top
into an ever changing hole, that pulsated to that great, gentle
hooning. At times, as I watched, I saw the heaving of the indented
mound, gap across with a queer, inward suction, as with the drawing
of an enormous breath; then the thing would dilate and pout once
more to the incredible melody. And suddenly, as I stared, dumb, it
came to me that the thing was living. I was looking at two
enormous, blackened lips, blistered and brutal, there in the pale
"Abruptly, they bulged out to a vast, pouting
mound of force and sound, stiffened and swollen, and hugely massive
and clean-cut in the moon-beams. And a great sweat lay heavy on
the vast upper-lip. In the same moment of time, the whistling had
burst into a mad screaming note, that seemed to stun me, even where
I stood, outside of the window. And then, the following moment, I
was staring blankly at the solid, undisturbed floor of the
room smooth, polished stone flooring, from wall to wall; and there
was an absolute silence.
"You can picture me staring into the quiet
Room, and knowing what I knew. I felt like a sick, frightened kid,
and wanted to slide quietly down the ladder, and run away.
But in that very instant, I heard Tassoc's voice calling to me from
within the Room, for help, help. My God! but I got such an awful
dazed feeling; and I had a vague, bewildered notion that, after
all, it was the Irishmen who had got him in there, and were taking
it out of him. And then the call came again, and I burst the
window, and jumped in to help him. I had a confused idea that the
call had come from within the shadow of the great fireplace, and I
raced across to it; but there was no one there.
" 'Tassoc!' I shouted, and my voice went
empty-sounding round the great apartment; and then, in a flash,
I knew that Tassoc had never called. I whirled
round, sick with fear, towards the window, and as I did so, a
frightful, exultant whistling scream burst through the Room. On my
left, the end wall had bellied-in towards me, in a pair of
gargantuan lips, black and utterly monstrous, to within a yard of
my face. I fumbled for a mad instant at my revolver; not for
it, but myself; for the danger was a thousand times worse
than death. And then, suddenly, the Unknown Last Line of the
Saaamaaa Ritual was whispered quite audibly in the room.
Instantly, the thing happened that I have known once before. There
came a sense as of dust falling continually and monotonously, and
I knew that my life hung uncertain and suspended for a flash, in a
brief, reeling vertigo of unseeable things. Then that
ended, and I knew that I might live. My soul and body blended
again, and life and power came to me. I dashed furiously at the
window, and hurled myself out head-foremost; for I can tell you
that I had stopped being afraid of death. I crashed down on to the
ladder, and slithered, grabbing and grabbing; and so came some way
or other alive to the bottom. And there I sat in the soft, wet
grass, with the moonlight all about me; and far above, through the
broken window of the Room, there was a low whistling.
"That is the chief of it. I was not hurt, and
I went round to the front, and knocked Tassoc up. When they let me
in, we had a long yarn, over some good whisky for I was shaken to
pieces , and I explained things as much as I could, I told Tassoc
that the room would have to come down, and every fragment of it
burned in a blast-furnace, erected within a pentacle. He nodded.
There was nothing to say. Then I went to bed.
"We turned a small army on to the work, and
within ten days, that lovely thing had gone up in smoke, and what
was left was calcined, and clean.
"It was when the workmen were stripping the
panelling, that I got hold of a sound notion of the beginnings of
that beastly development. Over the great fireplace, after the
great oak panels had been torn down, I found that there was let
into the masonry a scrollwork of stone, with on it an old
inscription, in ancient Celtic, that here in this room was burned
Dian Tiansav, Jester of King Alzof, who made the Song of
Foolishness upon King Ernore of the Seventh Castle.
"When I got the translation clear, I gave it to
Tassoc. He was tremendously excited; for he knew the old tale, and
took me down to the library to look at an old parchment that gave
the story in detail. Afterwards, I found that the incident was
well-known about the country-side; but always regarded more as a
legend, than as history. And no one seemed ever to have dreamt
that the old East Wing of Iastrae Castle was the remains of the
ancient Seventh Castle.
"From the old parchment, I gathered that there
had been a pretty dirty job done, away back in the years. It seems
that King Alzof and King Ernore had been enemies by birthright, as
you might say truly; but that nothing more than a little raiding
had occurred on either side for years, until Dian Tiansay made the
Song of Foolishness upon King Ernore, and sang it before King
Alzof; and so greatly was it appreciated that King Alzof gave the
jester one of his ladies, to wife.
"Presently, all the people of the land had come
to know the song, and so it came at last to King Ernore, who was so
angered that he made war upon his old enemy, and took and burned
him and his castle; but Dian Tiansay, the jester, he brought with
him to his own place, and having torn his tongue out because of the
song which he had made and sung, he imprisoned him in the Room in
the East Wing (which was evidently used for unpleasant purposes),
and the jester's wife, he kept for himself, having a fancy for her
"But one night, Dian Tiansay's wife was not to
be found, and in the morning they discovered her lying dead in her
husband's arms, and he sitting, whistling the Song of Foolishness,
for he had no longer the power to sing it.
"Then they roasted Dian Tiansay, in the great
fireplace probably from that selfsame 'galley-iron' which I have
already mentioned. And until he died, Dian Tiansay ceased not to
whistle the Song of Foolishness, which he could no longer sing.
But afterwards, 'in that room' there was often heard at night the
sound of something whistling; and there 'grew a power in that
room,' so that none dared to sleep in it. And presently, it would
seem, the King went to another castle; for the whistling troubled
"There you have it all. Of course, that is
only a rough rendering of the translation of the parchment. But it
sounds extraordinarily quaint. Don't you think so?"
"Yes," I said, answering for the lot.
"But how did the thing grow to such a tremendous
"One of those cases of continuity of thought
producing a positive action upon the immediate surrounding
material," replied Carnacki. "The development must have
been going forward through centuries, to have produced such a
monstrosity. It was a true instance of Saiitii manifestation,
which I can best explain by likening it to a living spiritual
fungus, which involves the very structure of the aether-fibre
itself, and, of course, in so doing, acquires an essential control
over the 'material-substance' involved in it. It is impossible to
make it plainer in a few words."
"What broke the seventh hair?" asked
But Carnacki did not know. He thought it was
probably nothing but being too severely tensioned. He also
explained that they found out that the men who had run away, had
not been up to mischief; but had come over secretly, merely to hear
the whistling, which, indeed, had suddenly become the talk of the
"One other thing," said Arkright,
"have you any idea what governs the use of the Unknown Last
Line of the Saaamaaa Ritual? I know, of course, that it was used
by the Ab-human Priests in the Incantation of Raaaee; but what used
it on your behalf, and what made it?"
"You had better read Harzan's Monograph, and my
Addenda to it, on Astral and Astarral Co-ordination and
Interference," said Carnacki. "It is an extraordinary
subject, and I can only say here that the human-vibration may not
be insulated from the astarral (as is always believed to be the
case, in interferences by the Ab-human), without immediate action
being taken by those Forces which govern the spinning of the outer
circle. In other words, it is being proved, time after time, that
there is some inscrutable Protective Force constantly intervening
between the human-soul (not the body, mind you,) and the Outer
Monstrosities. Am I clear?"
"Yes, I think so," I replied. "And
you believe that the Room had become the material expression of the
ancient Jester that his soul, rotten with hatred, had bred into a
monster eh?" I asked.
"Yes," said Carnacki, nodding, "I
think you've put my thought rather neatly. It is a queer
coincidence that Miss Donnehue is supposed to be descended (so I
have heard since) from the same King Ernore. It makes one think
some curious thoughts, doesn't it? The marriage coming on, and the
Room waking to fresh life. If she had gone into that room, ever ..
eh? IT had waited a long time. Sins of the fathers. Yes, I've
thought of that. They're to be married next week, and I am to be
best man, which is a thing I hate. And he won his bets, rather!
Just think, if every she had gone into that room. Pretty
He nodded his head, grimly, and we four nodded back.
Then he rose and took us collectively to the door, and presently
thrust us forth in friendly fashion on the Embankment and into the
fresh night air.
"Good night," we all called back, and went
to our various homes. If she had, eh? If she had? That is what
I kept thinking.