“He’d wait, wouldn’t he?” sarcastically rejoined Polly Dawson. “He’d——”
A prolonged hush—sh—sh! from the rest restored silence. Something was rustling the trees at a distance. They huddled closer together, and caught hold one of another.
Nothing appeared. The alarm went off. And they waited, without result, until the clock struck nine. The artificial strength within them had cooled by that time, their ardour had cooled, and they were feeling chill and tired. Susan Peckaby was upon thorns, she said, and urged their departure.
“You can go if you like,” was the answer. “Nobody wants to keep you.”
Susan Peckaby measured the distance between the pond and the way she had to go, and came to the determination to risk it.
“I’ll make a rush for it, I think,” said she. “I sha’n’t see nothing. For all I know, that quadruple may be right afore our door now. If he——”
Susan Peckaby stopped, her voice subsiding into a shriek. She, and those with her, became simultaneously aware that some white figure was bearing down upon them. The shrieks grew awful.
It proved to be Roy in his white fustian jacket. Roy had never had the privilege of hearing a dozen women shriek in concert before; at least, like this. His loud derisive laugh was excessively aggravating. What with that, what with the fright his appearance had really put them in, they all tore off, leaving some hard words for him; and never stopped to take breath until they burst into the shop of Mrs. Duff.
It was rather an ignominious way of returning, and Mrs. Duff did not spare her comments. If she had went out to meet the ghost, sh’d ha’ stopped till the ghost came, she would! Mrs. Jones rejoined that them watched-for ghosts, as she had heered, never did come—which she had said so afore she went out!
Master Dan, considerably recovered, was downstairs then. Rather pale and shaky, and accommodated with a chair and pillow, in front of the kitchen fire. The expedition pressed into the kitchen, and five hundred questions were lavished upon the boy.
“What was it dressed in, Dan? Did you get a good sight of her face, Dan? Did it look just as Rachel used to look? Speak up, Dan.”
“It warn’t Rachel at all,” replied Dan.
This unexpected assertion brought a pause of discomfiture. “He’s head ain’t right yet,” observed Mrs. Duff apologetically; “and that’s why I’ve not asked him nothing.”
“Yes, it is right, mother,” said Dan. “I never see Rachel last night. I never said as I did.”
Another pause—spent in contemplating Dan. “I knowed a case like this, once afore,” observed old Miss Till, who carried round the milk to Deerham. “A boy got a fright, and they couldn’t bring him to at all. Epsum salts did it at last. Three pints of ’em they give, I think it was, and that brought his mind round.”
“It’s a good remedy,” acquiesced Mrs. Jones. “There’s nothing like plenty of Epsum salts for boys. I’d try ’em on him, Mother Duff.”