Then they began to talk of people who grew tall in their coffins, of others who had been buried alive, and of others who walked after death. Stories as true as holy writ.
“Were you ever down by Hawarth, Mrs. Bligh—hard by Dalworth Moss?” asked crook-backed Mrs. Wale, holding her spoon suspended over her cup.
“Neea whaar sooa far south, Mrs. Wale, ma’am; but ma father was off times down thar cuttin’ peat.”
“Ah, then ye’ll not a kenned farmer Dykes that lived by the Lin-tree Scaur. ’Tweer I that laid him out, poor aad fellow, and a dow man he was when aught went cross wi’ him; and he cursed and sweared, twad gar ye dodder to hear him. They said he was a hard man wi’ some folk; but he kep a good house, and liked to see plenty, and many a time when I was swaimous about my food, he’d clap t’ meat on ma plate, and mak’ me eat ma fill. Na, na—there was good as well as bad in farmer Dykes. It was a year after he deed, and Tom Ettles was walking home, down by the Birken Stoop one night, and not a soul nigh, when he sees a big ball, as high as his knee, whirlin’ and spangin’ away before him on the road. What it wer he could not think; but he never consayted there was a freet or a bo thereaway; so he kep near it, watching every spang and turn it took, till it ran into the gripe by the roadside. There was a gravel pit just there, and Tom Ettles wished to take another gliff at it before he went on. But when he keeked into the pit, what should he see but a man attoppa a horse that could not get up or on: and says he, ’I think ye be at a dead-lift there, gaffer.’ And wi’ the word, up looks the man, and who sud it be but farmer Dykes himsel; and Tom Ettles saw him plain eneugh, and kenned the horse too for Black Captain, the farmer’s aad beast, that broke his leg and was shot two years and more before the farmer died. ‘Ay,’ says farmer Dykes, lookin’ very bad; ’forsett-and-backsett, ye’ll tak me oot, Tom Ettles, and clap ye doun behint me quick, or I’ll claw ho’d o’ thee.’ Tom felt his hair risin’ stiff on his heed, and his tongue so fast to the roof o’ his mouth he could scarce get oot a word; but says he, ‘If Black Jack can’t do it o’ noo, he’ll ne’er do’t and carry double.’ ‘I ken my ain business best,’ says Dykes. ’If ye gar me gie ye a look, ’twill gie ye the creepin’s while ye live; so git ye doun, Tom;’ and with that the dobby lifts its neaf, and Tom saw there was a red light round horse and man, like the glow of a peat fire. And says Tom, ‘In the name o’ God, ye’ll let me pass;’ and with the word the gooast draws itsel’ doun, all a-creaked, like a man wi’ a sudden pain; and Tom Ettles took to his heels more deed than alive.”
They had approached their heads, and the story had sunk to that mysterious murmur that thrills the listener, when in the brief silence that followed they heard a low odd laugh near the door.
In that direction each lady looked aghast, and saw Feltram sitting straight up in the bed, with the white bandage in his hand, and as it seemed, for one foot was below the coverlet, near the floor, about to glide forth.