A thought came over him that he would go and pay a visit to his mother. He knew how exacting of attention from him she was, how jealous, so to speak, of Sibylla’s having taken him from her. Lionel hoped by degrees to reduce the breach. Nothing should be wanting on his part to effect it; he trusted that nothing would be wanting on Sibylla’s. He really wished to see his mother after his month’s absence; and he knew she would be pleased at his going there on this, the first morning of his return. As he turned into the high road, he met the vicar of Deerham, the Reverend James Bourne.
They shook hands, and the conversation turned, not unnaturally, on the Mormon flight. As they were talking of it, Roy, the ex-bailiff, was observed crossing the opposite field.
“My brother tells me the report runs that Mrs. Roy contemplated being of the company, but was overtaken by her husband and brought back,” remarked Lionel.
“How it may have been, about his bringing her back, or whether she actually started, I don’t know,” replied Mr. Bourne, who was a man with a large pale face and iron-gray hair. “That she intended to go, I have reason to believe.”
He spoke the last words significantly, lowering his voice. Lionel looked at him.
“She paid me a mysterious visit at the vicarage the night before the start,” continued the clergyman. “A very mysterious visit, indeed, taken in conjunction with her words. I was in my study, reading by candle-light, when somebody came tapping at the glass door, and stole in. It was Mrs. Roy. She was in a state of tremor, as I have heard it said she appeared the night the inquiry was held at Verner’s Pride, touching the death of Rachel Frost. She spoke to me in ambiguous terms of a journey she was about to take—that she should probably be away for her whole life—and then she proceeded to speak of that night.”
“The night of the inquiry?” echoed Lionel.
“The night of the inquiry—that is, the night of the accident,” returned Mr. Bourne. “She said she wished to confide a secret to me, which she had not liked to touch upon before, but which she could not leave the place without confiding to some one responsible, who might use it in case of need. The secret she proceeded to tell me was—that it was Frederick Massingbird who had been quarrelling with Rachel that night by the Willow Pool. She could swear it to me, she said, if necessary.”
“But—if that were true—why did she not proclaim it at the time?” asked Lionel, after a pause.
“It was all she said. And she would not be questioned. ‘In case o’ need, sir, in case anybody else should ever be brought up for it, tell ’em that Dinah Roy asserted to you with her last breath in Deerham, that Mr. Fred Massingbird was the one that was with Rachel.’ Those were the words she used to me; I dotted them down after she left. As I tell you, she would not be questioned, and glided out again almost immediately.”