The Hermit was an old friend of ours, as I have already told you. He was a very peculiar person. Far out on the marshes he lived in a little bit of a shack—all alone except for his brindle bulldog. No one knew where he came from—not even his name, just “Luke the Hermit” folks called him. He never came into the town; never seemed to want to see or talk to people. His dog, Bob, drove them away if they came near his hut. When you asked anyone in Puddleby who he was or why he lived out in that lonely place by himself, the only answer you got was, “Oh, Luke the Hermit? Well, there’s some mystery about him. Nobody knows what it is. But there’s a mystery. Don’t go near him. He’ll set the dog on you.”
Nevertheless there were two people who often went out to that little shack on the fens: the Doctor and myself. And Bob, the bulldog, never barked when he heard us coming. For we liked Luke; and Luke liked us.
This afternoon, crossing the marshes we faced a cold wind blowing from the East. As we approached the hut Jip put up his ears and said,
“What’s funny?” asked the Doctor.
“That Bob hasn’t come out to meet us. He should have heard us long ago—or smelt us. What’s that queer noise?”
“Sounds to me like a gate creaking,” said the Doctor. “Maybe it’s Luke’s door, only we can’t see the door from here; it’s on the far side of the shack.”
“I hope Bob isn’t sick,” said Jip; and he let out a bark to see if that would call him. But the only answer he got was the wailing of the wind across the wide, salt fen.