“Has anybody got a match?” he asked.
One of the Verner’s Pride servants had a whole boxful, and two or three were lighted at a time, and held so that the doctor could see the drowned face better than he could in the uncertain moonlight. It was a strange scene. The lonely, weird character of the place; the dark trees scattered about; the dull pond with its bending willows; the swaying, murmuring crowd collected round the doctor and what he was bending over; the bright flickering flame of the match-light; with the pale moon overhead, getting higher and higher as the night went on, and struggling her way through passing clouds.
“How did it happen?” asked Dr. West.
Before any answer could be given, a man came tearing up at the top of his speed; several men, indeed, it may be said. The first was Roy, the bailiff. Upon Roy’s leaving Verner’s Pride, after the rebuke bestowed upon him by its heir, he had gone straight down to the George and Dragon, a roadside inn, situated on the outskirts of the village, on the road from Verner’s Pride. Here he had remained, consorting with droppers-in from Deerham, and soothing his mortification with a pipe and sundry cans of ale. When the news was brought in that Rachel Frost was drowned in the Willow-pond, Roy, the landlord, and the company collectively, started off to see.
“Why, it is her!” uttered Roy, taking a hasty view of poor Rachel. “I said it wasn’t possible. I saw her and talked to her up at the house but two or three hours ago. How did she get in?”
The same question always; from all alike: how did she get in? Dr. West rose.
“You can move her,” he said.
“Is she dead, sir?”
Frederick Massingbird—who had been the one to hold the matches—caught the doctor’s arm.
“Not dead!” he uttered. “Not dead beyond hope of restoration?”
“She will never be restored in this world,” was the reply of Dr. West. “She is quite dead.”
“Measures should be tried, at any rate,” said Frederick Massingbird warmly.
“By all means,” acquiesced Dr. West. “It will afford satisfaction, though it should do nothing else.”
They raised her once more, her clothes dripping, and turned with quiet, measured steps towards Verner’s Pride. Of course the whole assemblage attended. They were eagerly curious, boiling over with excitement; but, to give them their due, they were earnestly anxious to afford any aid in their power, and contended who should take turn at bearing that wet burden. Not one but felt sorely grieved for Rachel. Even Nancy was subdued to meekness, as she sped on to be one of the busiest in preparing remedies; and old Roy, though somewhat inclined to regard it in the light of a judgment upon proud Rachel for slighting his son, felt some twinges of pitying regret.
“I have knowed cases where people, dead from drownding, have been restored to life,” said Roy, as they walked along.