(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

It is nearly midnight on October 31, the night before All Saints’ Day. A tiny church is deserted. The beams of the full moon have not yet pierced its darkness directly, but here and there a marble head, a wing tip, a pointing finger gleams coldly.

A stealthy footfall crunches on the rain-soaked gravel, a key is heard turning in a lock, a toy lantern emerges from behind the vestry curtain carried by a small boy. He is shivering from the cold and from qualms and forebodings. He calls low and hoarsely, “Dick, are you there?” When there is no answer, he timidly enters a pew, rapidly repeats a prayer and half-covertly crosses himself. While he is admiring the gilded figure of an angel, he hears a faint shuffle in the vestry. He drops out of sight and wails. No response. He is certain that this must be the friend he is expecting but worries that it is not. He leaps up and flashes the lantern into the glittering eyes of a dwarfish and motionless shape that is wearing a battered black mask. He shudders with rage and terror while Dick roars with laughter.

Philip angrily tells his friend to be quiet and to remember that he is in a church. Dick is at once solemn and contrite. He explains that he is late because he was first waiting for his father to finish reading. Asked if his father would have whacked him much if he had caught him leaving, Dick replies that his mother will not let him punish the boy. Dick then says that his mother came home yesterday with an enormous bundle of old clothes, including a green silk dressing gown, which he is now wearing under his jacket. Philip immediately recognizes it as his own but says loftily that he does not want it now. He suddenly remarks that if Dick’s real father had found him skulking in the church he would whack him hot and strong. Dick stiffens and denies this, adding that his real father leaves him alone although he went rabbiting with him one night last summer until the moon came up. Besides, his father is dead.

Philip immediately contradicts this. He heard his people reading aloud from a newspaper only a few days ago and he knows what has become of the man. He says cruelly that if Dick’s other father...

(The entire section is 892 words.)