“Now, look you, Jack,” said he, “if you want your mother to get well, you’ll go there and back as fast as your legs can carry you. I can do little till you bring me what I have sent for. Go past the Willow Pool, and straight across to my house.”
The boy looked aghast at the injunction. “Past the Willow Pool!” echoed he. “I’d not go past there, sir, at night, for all the world.”
“Why not?” questioned Jan.
“I’d see Rachel Frost’s ghost, may be,” returned Jack, his round eyes open with perplexity.
The conceit of seeing a ghost amused Jan beyond everything. He sat down on a high press that was in the kitchen, and grinned at the boy. “What would the ghost do to you?” cried he.
Jack Broom could not say. All he knew was that neither he, nor a good many more, had gone near that pond at night since the report had arisen (which, of course, it had, simultaneously with the death) that Rachel’s ghost was to be seen there.
“Wouldn’t you go to save your mother?” cried Jan.
“I’d—I’d not go to be made winner of the leg of mutton atop of a greased pole,” responded the boy, in a mortal fright lest Jan should send him.
“You are a nice son, Mr. Jack! A brave young man, truly!”
“Jim Hook, he was a-going by the pond one night, and he see’d it,” cried the boy earnestly. “It don’t take two minutes longer to cut down Clay Lane, please, sir.”
“Be off, then,” said Jan, “and see how quick you can be. What has put such a thing into his head?” he presently asked of the gamekeeper, who was hard at work preparing hot water.
“Little fools!” ejaculated the man. “I think the report first took its rise, sir, through Robin Frost’s going to the pond of a moonlight night, and walking about on its brink.”
“Robert Frost did!” cried Jan. “What did he do that for?”
“What indeed, sir! It did no good, as I told him more than once, when I came upon him there. He has not been lately, I think. Folks get up a talk that Robin went there to meet his sister’s spirit, and it put the youngsters into a fright.”
Back came Mr. Jack in an incredibly short time. He could not have come much quicker, had he dashed right through the pool. Jan set himself to his work, and did not leave the woman until she was better. That was the best of Jan Verner. He paid every atom as much attention to the poor as he did to the rich. Jan never considered who or what his patients were: all his object was, to get them well.
His nearest way home lay past the pool, and he took it: he did not fear poor Rachel’s ghost. It was a sharpish night, bright, somewhat of a frost. As Jan neared the pool, he turned his head towards it and half stopped, gazing on its still waters. He had been away when the catastrophe happened; but the circumstances had been detailed to him. “How it would startle Jack and a few of those timid ones,” said he aloud, “if some night—”