"The atmosphere is just right for listening to a ghost story," I suggested looking outside at the dark wet sky.
The college student wriggled his nose and said, "I don't believe in ghosts."
The middle-aged head clerk said, "I believe. I am scared of ghosts; I have a weak heart and it pounds whenever I listen to ghost stories."
The gray-haired school teacher said, "I like to listen to ghost stories; but they have to be true stories."
Sachin was gazing at the head clerk with unblinking eyes busy in his own thoughts. He spoke now, "I can tell a true story; I had seen the ghost with my own eyes. But, he says he has a weak heart and is scared of ghosts."
The head clerk ran his hand over his chest and said, "Yes, I have had this problem for quite a long time now; I might faint if I listen to a ghost story."
The college student looked at the head clerk scornfully and repeated, "I don't believe in ghosts; I don't mind listening to a ghost story if only to pass the time."
The teacher said, "It seems the majority is in favour of listening to the story; let's hear your true story."
The hotel attendant came and lighted the lamp. The head clerk looked at us helplessly and then pulled his chair nearer to the lamp.
Sachin started telling his story. The dark sky, rain and thunder created just the right ambience.
"Well, I am the hero of the story. But I will not tell you where this incident actually occurred; in a true ghost story, the place must never be mentioned. However, let me inform you that I had seen the ghost in a hotel similar to this one."
"Is that so?" the head clerk stirred in his chair in alarm.
"Yes; on that occasion too I was on vacation and had taken a room in that hotel. The room was quite big and had five windows and two doors. The room was on the first floor of the hotel and situated to the right of the landing.
"On the first floor of the hotel and to the right of the landing!" the head clerk muttered to himself.
"Yes. Since it is a true story, I must briefly describe the interior as well. Inside the room and to the south was an iron bed. There were two wall cupboards on one side, and on the other side was a square dressing table fitted with a long mirror and a chair in front of it. There was also an easy chair in the room. Over one of the doors was a picture of Queen Victoria; there were no other pictures in the room."
The teacher was getting impatient. "Where is the ghost, mister? Where is the need for describing the room in so much detail?"
"Although I have not mentioned the place, you must remember the details of the room so that you can be on you guard when you take up accommodation in an unfamiliar hotel. Now listen; I spent a pleasant afternoon in the room but the moment dusk fell, I felt a sudden misgiving for no apparent reason. Some strange fear seemed to have crept into the room in the evening; it was as though an invisible horrific shadow began lurking behind me. I could not see but I could feel two unblinking eyes staring at me all the time."
"I am not a coward but somehow I could not shrug off the fear. I tried to reassure myself; I sang at the top of my voice to drive away the fear but it clung to me. I had my dinner and went to bed early hoping that sleep would be the appropriate antidote for this strange fear."
"I did fall into a cosy sleep but not for long. In the dead of the night I suddenly woke up; I realized my sleep had been disturbed not because of natural circumstances. There was some danger lurking in the room - this though came to my mind immediately upon waking."
Sachin paused in his narration at this point. Outside, the rain continued to beat incessantly; thunder rolled; the wind which blew fiercely sometimes forced its way into the dining hall bringing in its wake a spray of cold water; and the sound of the angry sea reached our ears.