“If he was put into a good hot furnace, sir, and kep’ at a even heat up to biling pint for half an hour—that is, as near biling as his skin could bear it—I know it ’ud do wonders,” spoke up Mrs. Chuff. “It’s a excellent remedy, where there’s a furnace convenient, and water not short.”
“Suppose you allow me to be alone with him for a few minutes,” suggested Mr. Bourne. “We will try and find out what will cure him; won’t we, Dan?”
The women filed out one by one. Mr. Bourne sat down by the boy, and took his hand. In a soothing manner he talked to him, and drew from him by gentle degrees the whole tale, so far as Dan’s memory and belief went. The boy shook in every limb as he told it. He could not boast immunity from ghostly fears as did old Matthew Frost.
“But, my boy, you should know that there are no such things as ghosts,” urged Mr. Bourne. “When once the dead have left this world, they do not come back to it again.”
“I see’d it, sir,” was Dan’s only argument—an all sufficient one with him. “It was stood over the pool, it was, and it turned round right upon me as I went up. I see the porkypine on his cheek, sir, as plain as anything.”
The same account as old Matthew’s!
“How was the person dressed?” asked Mr. Bourne. “Did you notice?”
“It had got on some’at long—a coat or a skirt, or some’at. It was as thin as thin, sir.”
“Dan, shall I tell you what it was—as I believe? It was somebody dressed up to frighten you and other timid persons.”
Dan shook his head. “No, sir, ’twasn’t. ’Twas the ghost of Mr. Frederick Massingbird.”
MASTER CHEESE’S FRIGHT—OTHER FRIGHTS.
Strange rumours began to be rife in Deerham. The extraordinary news told by Dan Duff would have been ascribed to some peculiar hallucination of that gentleman’s brain, and there’s no knowing but that the furnace might have been tried as a cure, had not other testimony arisen to corroborate it. Four or five different people, in the course of as many days—or rather nights—saw, or professed to have seen, the apparition of Frederick Massingbird.
One of them was Master Cheese. He was one night coming home from paying a professional visit—in slight, straightforward cases Jan could trust him—when he saw by the roadside what appeared to be a man standing up under the hedge, as if he had taken his station there to look at the passers-by.
“He’s up to no good,” quoth Master Cheese to himself. “I’ll go and dislodge the fellow.”
Accordingly Master Cheese turned off the path where he was walking, and crossed the waste bit—only a yard or two in breadth—that ran by the side of the road. Master Cheese, it must be confessed, did not want for bravery; he had a great deal rather face danger of any kind than hard work; and the rumour about Fred Massingbird’s ghost had been rare nuts for him to crack. Up he went, having no thought in his head at that moment of ghosts, but rather of poachers.