The Return of Imray, Part 2 of 4, a scary ghost tale

By Rudyard Kipling

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A scary ghost tale such as the one I was to derive from my visit with Strickland seldom begins like this adventure. His fluffy Afghan, Tietjens met me on the verandah with a bay like the boom of the bell of St. Paul’s, putting her paws on my shoulder to show she was glad to see me.

Strickland had clawed together a sort of meal that he called lunch, and immediately after he went out and about his business. I was left alone with Tietjens, and the rain and my own affairs. 

Me
Home so soon? I’m glad, because I have a scary ghost story to relate.
Strickland
Has anyone who’s still living called?
Me
My servant had just summoned me into the drawing-room on a false alarm when some loafer tried to call on you. As if thinking better of it, though, he fled after giving his name. 
Strickland
Dinner is at eight. I will order a real dinner with a white tablecloth attached, and we can sit down and exchange scary ghost stories. **********
Me
Why did Tietjens leave us so suddenly after calmly lying underneath the table for hours, and then swing out onto the verandah as soon as you said you were going to bed? I thought she at least might move to her own bed chamber next to yours. 
Strickland
If a wife had wished to sleep out of doors beside that pelting rain it would not have drawn comment.
Me
But Tietjens is a dog, and thus open to comment without complaint. I looked at you afterward half expecting to see you flay her with a whip. 
Strickland
She has done this ever since I moved in here. Let her go. 
Me
The dog is your dog, so I will say less, but I feel all that you must feel In being thus made light of. 

Tietjens encamped outside my bedroom window, and storm after storm came up, thundered on the thatch, and died away. The lightning spattered the sky pale blue: and, looking through my split bamboo blinds, I could see the great dog standing, not sleeping, in the verandah, the hackles alift on her back and her feet anchored as tensely as the drawn wire-rope of a suspension bridge. 

The thunder ceased, and Tietjens went into the garden and howled at the low moon. I ran into Strickland’s room and asked him whether he was ill, and had been calling for me. He was lying on his bed half dressed, a pipe in his mouth. 

Strickland
I thought you’d come. Have you been walking round the house recently?
Me
You, or someone, has been tramping in the dining-room and the smoking-room and two or three other places.
Strickland
Ho! Huh! Oh, go back to bed.
Me
I shall go back to bed and try to sleep till the morning, but I hope all my dreams will not be haunted by the fear that I am doing someone an injustice. Someone was reproaching me for my slackness in my earlier dreams tonight, and, half awake, I saw Tietjens standing guard amid the endless rain.
Strickland
She dislikes this place. Stay another day, please, and help us find the hidden clue.
Me
I will live in this house, out of friendship, for another day and night, but not more. One must rest up before visiting such a place!

Strickland went to his office daily, leaving me alone for eight or ten hours with Tietjens for my only companion. As long as the full light lasted I was comfortable, and so was Tietjens; but in the twilight she and I moved into the back verandah and cuddled each other for company. 

Me
We are alone in the house, Tietjens, but none the less it is much too fully occupied by a tenant with whom I do not wish to interfere.
Tietjens
Woof-rowl! 
Me
I never see him, but I can see the curtains between rooms quivering where he has passed; I can hear the chairs creaking as the bamboos spring under a weight just lifted; and I feel when I go to get a book from the dining-room that Somebody is waiting in the shadows until I have gone. 
Tietjens
Gr-rowl.
Me
Why are you growling and glaring into the darkened rooms? You see it, eh? I mean, how else could you follow the motions of something in that darkness?
Strickland
What are you doing out here with Tietjens, telling her your scary ghost tale?
Me
Saying goodbye. Unfortunately I shall be deserting her, as I have business at the club, and sad to say I shall be staying there for my convenience. 
Strickland
I see. You admire my hospitality, claim to be pleased with my fishing rods, furnishings and food, but then quarter yourself there!
Me
I did not much care for this house or its moribund atmosphere. Something is restless in here.
Strickland
Stay on, and see what this thing means. All you have talked about I have known since I took the bungalow. Stay on and see it end. Tietjens has left me. Are you going too?
Me
I have seen you through one affair, that small matter connected with the heathen idol, and it brought me to the doors of a lunatic asylum. However I have no desire to help you through further such experiences. You are a man to whom unpleasantnesses arrives as do hot dinners to ordinary people.
Strickland
Thanks so much; old friends are best.
Me
Ha-ha! Please don’t misunderstand me, I like you immensely, and would be happy to see you in the daytime; but I did not care for the atmosphere for sleeping under your rented roof. Already Tietjens has gone out to lie in the verandah, a vote of no confidence. And I agree.
Strickland
‘Pon my soul, I don’t wonder, if you have noticed the ceiling-cloth. Look at that! The tails of two brown snakes are hanging there between the cloth and the cornice of the wall. 
Me
That is merely the final straw in the scary ghost tale of your new house.
Strickland
If you are afraid of snakes of course — 
Me
I hate and fear snakes, because if you look into the eyes of any snake you will see that it knows all and more of the mystery of man’s fall. I believe that it feels all the contempt that the Devil felt when Adam was evicted from Eden. Besides which, the bite of this snake is generally fatal, and it twists up trouser legs.
Strickland
Yet you live here in brown snake country!
Me
You ought to be getting your ceiling repaired, and your thatch overhauled.
Strickland
Give me a mahseer-rod, and we’ll poke  ’em down. They’ll hide among the roof-beams, I can’t stand snakes overhead. I’m going up into the roof. If I shake ’em down, stand by with a cleaning-rod and break their backs.
Me
I will assist you in your work, but I am not anxious to get started.
Strickland
Take the cleaning rod and I will bring a gardener’s ladder from the verandah, and set it against the side of the room.

The snake-tails drew themselves up and disappeared. We could hear the dry rushing scuttle of long bodies running over the baggy ceiling-cloth. Strickland took a lamp with him, while I tried to make clear to him the danger of hunting roof-snakes between a ceiling-cloth and a thatch, apart from the deterioration of property caused by ripping out ceiling-cloths.

//Strickland: Nonsense! The’re sure to hide near the walls by the cloth. The bricks are too cold for em, and the heat of the room is just what they like. I shall just rip this ceiling cloth from the cornice and lift my head up. 

Me
Can you see anything yet?
Strickland
Hm! There’s room for another set of rooms up here, and, by Jove, someone is occupying  em!
Me
Snakes?
Strickland
No. It’s a buffalo. Hand me up the two last joints of a mahseer-rod, and I’ll prod it. It’s lying on the main roof-beam.
Me
I am handing up the rod. Look here it is.
Strickland
What a nest for owls and serpents! No wonder the snakes live here.
Strickland
Come out of that, whoever you are! Heads up, below there! It’s falling.
Me
A shape has dropped and is sagging the ceiling-cloth in the centre of the room, a shape that is pressing it down. I shall rip it out from the walls. There it’s fallen into the table!
Me
It strikes me our friend Imray has come back. But — Oh! you would, would you?

There had been a movement under the cloth, and a little snake had wriggled out, to be back-broken by the butt of the mahseer-rod. I was sufficiently sick to make no remarks worth recording.

Strickland meditated, and helped himself to drinks. The arrangement under the cloth made no more signs of life.

Me
Is it Imray? If so it’s the punchline to our scary ghost tale!
Strickland
Let me see. It is Imray, and his throat is cut from ear to ear.
Me
So that’s why he whispered and stalked about the house.
Tietjens
Rrr, awoo, ow-ow, ooh!
Me. Yes, But Who Killed Him, And Why, And Can Our <a Href="https
//captivatedchat.com/index.php/2019/04/24/the-purloined-letter-part-1/">detective friend prove it?

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