“Dan, dear,” said Susan Peckaby insinuatingly—for she had come in along with the rest, ignoring for the moment what might be waiting at her door—“was it in the pound as you saw Rachel’s ghost?”
“’Twarn’t Rachel’s ghost as I did see,” persisted Dan.
“Tell us who it was, then?” asked she, humouring him.
The boy answered. But he answered below his breath; as if he scarcely dared to speak the name aloud. His mother partially caught it.
“Whose?” she exclaimed, in a sharp voice, her tone changing. And Dan spoke a little louder.
“It was Mr. Frederick Massingbird’s!”
MATTHEW FROST’S NIGHT ENCOUNTER.
Old Matthew Frost sat in his room at the back of the kitchen. It was his bedroom and sitting-room combined. Since he had grown feeble, the bustle of the kitchen and of Robin’s family disturbed him, and he sat much in his chamber, they frequently taking his dinner in to him.
A thoroughly comfortable arm-chair had Matthew. It had been the gift of Lionel Verner. At his elbow was a small round table, of very dark wood, rubbed to brightness. On that table Matthew’s large Bible might generally be found open, and Matthew’s spectacled eyes bending over it. But the Bible was closed to-day. He sat in deep thought. His hands clasped upon his stick, something after the manner of old Mr. Verner; and his eyes fixed through the open window at the September sun, as it played on the gooseberry and currant bushes in the cottage garden.
The door opened, and Robin’s wife—her hands and arms white, for she was kneading dough—appeared, showing in Lionel; who had come on after his conversation with Mrs. Duff, as you read of in the last chapter; for it is necessary to go back a few hours. One cannot tell two portions of a history at one and the same time. The old man rose, and stood leaning on his stick.
“Sit down, Matthew,” said Lionel, in a kindly tone. “Don’t let me disturb you.” He made him go into his seat again, and took a chair opposite to him.
“The time’s gone, sir, for me to stand afore you. That time must go for us all.”
“Ay, that it must, Matthew, if we live. I came in to speak to Robin. His wife says she does not know where he is.”
“He’s here and there and everywhere,” was old Matthew’s answer. “One never knows how to take him, sir, or when to see him. My late master’s bounty to me, sir, is keeping us in comfort, but I often ask Robin what he’ll do when I am gone. It gives me many an hour’s care, sir. Robin, he don’t earn the half of a living now.”
“Be easy, Matthew,” was Lionel’s answer. “I am not sure that the annuity, or part of it, will not be continued to Robin. My uncle left it in my charge to do as I should see fit. I have never mentioned it, even to you; and I think it might be as well for you not to speak of it to Robin. It is to be hoped that he will get steady and hard-working again; were he to hear that there was a chance of his being kept without work, he might never become so.”