Poor Dan’s senses appeared to be wandering somewhere yet; they certainly were not in him. He shook and moaned, and finally fell into the same sort of stupor as before. Roy could make nothing further of him, and he went down.
“Well,” said he to the assemblage, “I’ve got it out of him. The minute he saw me, he stretched his arm out—’Mr. Roy,’ says he, ’I’m sick to unburden myself to somebody’; and he up and told. He’s fell off again now, like one senseless, and I question if he’d remember telling me.”
“And what was it? And what was it?” questioned the chorus. “Rachel’s ghost?”
“It was nothing less, you may be sure,” replied Roy, his tone expressive of contempt that they should have thought it could be anything less. “The young idiot must take and go by the pond on this bright night, and in course he saw it. Right again’ his face, he says, it appeared; there wasn’t no mistaking of it. It was a-walking round and round the pool.”
Considerable shivering in the assembly. Polly Dawson, who was on its outskirts, shrieked, and pushed into its midst, as if it were a safer place. The women drew into a closer circle, and glanced round at an imaginary ghost behind their shoulders.
“Was it that as you saw yourself to-night, Mr. Roy?”
“Never mind me,” was Roy’s answer. “I ain’t one to be startled to death at sight of a sperit, like boys and women is. I had my pill in what I saw, I can tell ye. And my advice to ye all is, keep within your own doors after nightfall.”
Without further salutation, Roy departed. The women, with one accord, began to make for the staircase. To contemplate one who had just been in actual contact with the ghost—which some infidels had persistently asserted throughout was nothing but a myth—was a sight not to be missed. But they were driven back again. With a succession of yells, the like of which had never been heard, save at the Willow Pond that night, Dan appeared leaping down upon them, his legs naked and his short shirt flying behind him. To be left alone, a prey to ghosts or their remembrances, was more than the boy, with his consciousness upon him, could bear. The women yelled also, and fell back one upon another; not a few being under the impression that it was the ghost itself.
What was to be done with him? Before the question was finally decided, Mrs. Bascroft, the landlady of the Plough and Harrow, who had made one of the company, went off to her bar, whence she hastened back again with an immense hot tumbler, three parts brandy, one part water, the whole of which was poured down the throat of Dan.
“There’s nothing like it for restoring folks after a fright,” remarked Mrs. Bascroft.
The result of the dose was, that Dan Duff subsided into a state of real stupor, so profound and prolonged that even Jan began to doubt whether he would awake from it.