They said the house was haunted. He laughed and shook his head. "Tut, tut, I have never heard of such taffle, a ghost that creaks and groans, and drags over the old cold stones, wrapped in its chains! Give me one night to prove you all wrong and I will ease your pains!"
So the man was invited to spend the night in the house, which was a large estate overlooking some grassy parkland and an old forest. The man was a proven skeptic and he wasn't afraid of anything. He was paid handsomely for one night, double in the morning. The estate was a large one and Elizabethan in nature.
The man had eaten with the others before they left; nobody spent more than a day in the estate. He passed the evening amicably enough, smoking, drinking coffee, and reading a few poetry books in the immense library.
Halfway through the evening, it must have struck him as odd that he was the only man in the estate, and every single room which was there was free for him to explore. Nothing was out of bounds. It was a crazy thought which he had never had before, but he shrugged it off. Being an eager man of the law all his life, he had never broken a rule before and would not start now.
The usual noises of the night began floating around the dark empty corridors of the old estate, encroaching around the empty rooms, permeating his senses. How startled he must have been when he looked at the old grandfather clock and saw that after what had seemed like minutes, it was now half eleven!
The smoker sat up in his chair, alert, the pine wood smoke curling round his face, giving him an eerie complexion. He heard nothing apart from the creaks of loose steps upstairs, the wind whistling through half-open windows upstairs, and the beginning of a torrential downpour outside.
He got up after a while and rekindled the fire. He sat back down, drawing his chair a little nearer, and then relaxed again.
The man was expecting nothing, so he was not alarmed when he heard the creaking of the bell chain on the grandfather clock chiming, nor by the heavy footfalls of a loose portrait falling off the wall with a crash.
But the crash was louder, louder than it should be. It echoed on and on, getting closer.
Yes, it was getting closer. He sat up in the chair. One crash, two crashes—it was moving down the hall. He got right to his feet and brandished the pipe like a sword.
The skeptical man believed this to be a prankster, one of the group who had stayed behind to play a prank. But then he remembered that everybody was accounted for and he had seen them off with his own eyes.
So he saw the door open, and standing in the doorway, shrouded by light from the fire, was a tall man, with chains wrapped round his body. The chains trailed off onto the floor two feet behind him.
He said in a deep, cavernous voice, "I am the ghost. Pray, who are you?"
The startled guest fled from the house and ran as fast as he could all the way home.