“And so when he disappeared, and was no more seen, you thought you had seen his ghost?”
“Ay, sir, we all knowed it then, sure enough; Madam seemed to know’t from the first. When they told her I’n seen Mr. Melcombe, she fell in a grete faint, and wrung her hands, and went in another faint, and cried out he were dead; but the sperit never walked any more, folks said it came for a token to I, ‘her did ought to look for death by-times,’ said they.”
“That’s all, is it?”
“Ay, sir, that be all.”
“I believe you this time.”
“’E may, sir, and God bless ’e.”
VALENTINE AND LAURA
“The flower out of reach is dedicate to God.”
Some one passing Valentine as he walked home in the gloaming, started, and hurried on. “He came up so still-like,” she said, afterwards, “that I e’en took him for a sperit, he being a Melcombe, and they having a way of walking.”
She did not speak without book, for old Madam Melcombe was already said to haunt the churchyard. Not as a being in human guise, but as a white, widewinged bird, perfectly noiseless in its movements, skimming the grass much as owls do, but having a plaintive voice like that of a little child.
Late in the night again, when all the stars were out sparkling in a moonless sky, and the household should long have been asleep, the same fancy or fear recurred. Two housemaids woke suddenly, and felt as if there was a moaning somewhere outside. They had been sleeping in the heat with their window open, and they looked out and saw a dark shadow moving in the garden, moving away from the house, and seeming to make as if it wrung its hands. After this, still peering out into the starlight, they lost sight of it; but they fancied that they heard it sigh, and then it stood a dark column in their sight, and seemed to fall upon the bed of lilies, and there lie till they were afraid to look any longer, and they shut their window and crept again into their beds.
But the lilies? It might have been true that they saw somewhat, but if a spirit had haunted the dark garden that night, surely no trace of its sojourn would have remained on the bed of lilies; yet in the morning many, very many of their fragrant leaves were crushed and broken, as if in truth some houseless or despairing being had crouched there.
The housemaids told their tale next morning, and it was instantly whispered in the house that the ghost had come again. The maids shook with fear as they went about, even in broad daylight. The gardener alone was incredulous, and made game of the matter.