Church Scarsdale is a very pretty and odd scene. The slightly undulating sheep-walk dips suddenly into a wide glen, in the lap of which, by a bright, winding rill, rise from the sward the ruins of a small abbey, with a few solemn trees scattered round. The crows’ nests hung untenanted in the trees; the birds were foraging far away from their roosts. The very cattle had forsaken the place. It was solitude itself.
Madame drew a long breath and smiled.
‘Come down, come down, cheaile—come down to the churchyard.’
As we descended the slope which shut out the surrounding world, and the scene grew more sad and lonely. Madame’s spirits seemed to rise.
’See ’ow many grave-stones—one, two hundred. Don’t you love the dead, cheaile? I will teach you to love them. You shall see me die here to-day, for half an hour, and be among them. That is what I love.’
We were by this time at the little brook’s side, and the low churchyard wall with a stile, reached by a couple of stepping-stones, across the stream, immediately at the other side.
‘Come, now!’ cried Madame, raising her face, as if to sniff the air; ’we are close to them. You will like them soon as I. You shall see five of them. Ah, ca ira, ca ira, ca ira! Come cross quickily! I am Madame la Morgue—Mrs. Deadhouse! I will present you my friends, Monsieur Cadavre and Monsieur Squelette. Come, come, leetle mortal, let us play. Ouaah!’ And she uttered a horrid yell from her enormous mouth, and pushing her wig and bonnet back, so as to show her great, bald head. She was laughing, and really looked quite mad.
‘No, Madame, I will not go with you,’ I said, disengaging my hand with a violent effort, receding two or three steps.
’Not enter the churchyard! Ma foi—wat mauvais gout! But see, we are already in shade. The sun he is setting soon—where well you remain, cheaile? I will not stay long.’
‘I’ll stay here,’ I said, a little angrily—for I was angry as well as nervous; and through my fear was that indignation at her extravagances which mimicked lunacy so unpleasantly, and were, I knew, designed to frighten me.
Over the stepping-stones, pulling up her dress, she skipped with her long, lank legs, like a witch joining a Walpurgis. Over the stile she strode, and I saw her head wagging, and heard her sing some of her ill-omened rhymes, as she capered solemnly, with many a grin and courtesy, among the graves and headstones, towards the ruin.