“Oh, no!” she said involuntarily—“no!”
“I hope not. I don’t want to die just yet. I want to get married, for one thing.”
He spoke lightly, and she laughed.
“Well, that’s easy enough.”
He shook his head, but said nothing. They walked on till they reached the edge of the hill, when Rachel, out of breath, sat down on a fallen log to rest a little. Below them stretched the hollow upland, with its encircling woods and its white stubble fields. Far below lay the dark square of the farm, with a light in one of its windows.
Rachel pointed to the grass road by which they had come.
“We haven’t seen the ghost!”
He asked her for the story, and she told it. By now she had pieced it all together; and it seemed to Ellesborough that it had a morbid fascination for her.
“He dragged himself down this very path,” she said. “They tracked him by the blood stains; his wounds dripped all along it. And then he fell, just under my cart-shed. It was a horrible, bitter night. Of course the silly people here say they hear groans and dragging steps: That’s all nonsense, but I sometimes wish it hadn’t happened at my farm.”
He couldn’t help laughing gently at her foolishness.
“Why, it’s a great distinction to have a ghost!”
“Any one can have my ghost that wants. I’m awfully easily scared.”
“Are you?” There was a deep note in his voice. “No, I don’t believe that. I’m sure you’re a plucky woman. I know you are!”
She laughed out.
“How do you know?”
“Why, no one but a plucky woman could have taken this farm and be working it as you’re doing.”
“That’s not pluck,” she said, half scornfully. “But if it is—well, I’ve got plenty of pluck of that kind. But I am often scared, downright scared, about nothing. It’s just fear, that’s what it is.”
“Fear of what?”
“I don’t know.”
She spoke in a sombre, shrinking tone, which struck him uncomfortably. But when he tried further to discover what she meant, she would say nothing more. He noticed, indeed, that she would often seem to turn the talk upon herself, only to cut it short again immediately. She offered him openings, and then he could make nothing of them; so that when they reached the outskirts of the farm on their return, he had given her all the main outlines of his own history, and she had said almost nothing of hers.
But all the same the walk had drawn them much nearer.
He stopped her at the little gate to say,—
“I’m going to ask you again—I want you to write to me when I’m in France.”
And this time she said almost eagerly,—
“Yes, I’ll write; indeed I’ll write! But you’ll come over again before you go?”
“Rather,” he said joyously; “rather! Why, there’s a month. You’ll be tired of me before you’ve done.”