Chapter 6 – A Scream in the Night
The boys trot across a field and come to the wall surrounding the house. Finding a tree, they are able to climb it and hop into the grounds just as it begins to rain. As they are picking their way towards the house, they hear the sounds of someone else walking. Then they see a small light at the door of the house. Finally, beams of light are seen inside. In the glare of lightening, Joe is certain that the person with the light is Mr. Dalrymple, but why would he be sneaking into his own house at this hour?
They make their way to a bay window and are about to look inside when light spills from the window as the main chandelier is illuminated. They look in to see who is there and find no one. The dining room is empty but for a ticking grandfather clock. It is them then Frank remembers the note’s warning: “Death while the clock ticks.” Then the lights immediately go black again and the storm begins to unleash torrents of rain.
Suddenly, the boys hear a terrible scream! Thinking someone must be hurt, they race to the front of the house and see a dark figure running from the door. They chase after him and are able to grab him. The figure is revealed to be Hurd Applegate, an eccentric but good-hearted stamp collector from town who the boys have met before. He is very frightened and pleads with the boys to drive him home because he’s had a “terrible experience”. The boys demand to know what is going on, but Applegate is unwilling to talk about it in his hysterical state. The boys relent and walk him to their car.
This chapter is very well written from a suspense stand point. The descriptions of the storm and the dark Purdy grounds set the tone well.
Yet another adult male character is introduced into the story. It seems like it may get hard to keep them all straight. The Applegate character is a strange one. The author helpfully notes that the boys helped him recover a rare stamp collection that was stolen from him in an earlier book in the series.