“I saw him trailing along last night in the moonlight, sir. I saw his old father come up and talk to him, urging him to go home, as it seemed to me. But he couldn’t get him; and the old man had to hobble back without Robin. Robin stopped in his cold berth on the ground.”
“I did not think old Matthew was capable of going out at night.”
“He did last night, sir; that’s for certain. It was not far; only down away by the brick-kilns. There’s a tale going abroad that Dan Duff was sent into mortal fright by seeing something that he took to be Rachel’s ghost; my opinion is, that he must have met old Frost in his white smock-frock, and took him for a ghost. The moon did cast an uncommon white shade last night. Though old Frost wasn’t a-nigh the Willow Pool, nor Robin neither, and that’s where they say Dan Duff got his fright. Formerly, Robin was always round that pool, but lately he has changed his beat. Anyhow, sir, perhaps you’d be so good as drop a warning to Robin of the risk he runs. He may mind you.”
“I will,” said Lionel.
The gamekeeper touched his hat, and walked away. Lionel considered that he might as well give Robin the warning then; and he turned towards the village. Before fairly entering it, he had met twenty talkative persons, who gave him twenty different versions of the previous night’s doings, touching Dan Duff.
Mrs. Duff was at her door when Lionel went by. She generally was at her door, unless she was serving customers. He stopped to accost her.
“What’s the truth of this affair, Mrs. Duff?” asked he. “I have heard many reports of it?”
Mrs. Duff gave as succinct an account as it was in her nature to give. Some would have told it in a third of the time: but Lionel had patience; he was in no particular hurry.
“I have been one of them to laugh at the ghost, sir a-saying that it never was Rachel’s, and that it never walked,” she added. “But I’ll never do so again. Roy, he see it, as well as Dan.”
“Oh! he saw it, too, did he,” responded Lionel, with a good-natured smile of mockery. “Mrs. Duff, you ought to be too old to believe in ghosts,” he more seriously resumed. “I am sure Roy is, whatever he may choose to say.”
“If it was no ghost, sir, what could have put our Dan into that awful fright? Mr. Jan doesn’t know as he’ll overget it at all. He’s a-lying without a bit of conscientiousness on my bed, his eyes shut, and his breath a-coming hard.”
“Something frightened him, no doubt. The belief in poor Rachel’s ghost has been so popular, that every night fright is attributed to that. Who was it went into a fainting fit in the road, fancying Rachel’s ghost was walking down upon them; and it proved afterwards to have been only the miller’s man with a sack of flour on his back?”
“Oh, that!” slightingly returned Mrs. Duff. “It was that stupid Mother Grind, before they went off with the Mormons. She’d drop at her shadder, sir, she would.”