“Mrs. Verner has been talking to you about some ponies, she tells me,” began Lionel. “What are they?”
“A very handsome pair, sir. Just the thing for a lady to drive. They are to be sold for a hundred and fifty pounds. It’s under their value.”
“Yes. They have their mettle about them. Good horses always have, you know, sir. Mrs. Verner has given me the commission.”
“Which I am come to rescind,” replied Lionel, calling up a light smile to his face. “I cannot have my wife’s neck risked by her attempting to drive spirited ponies, Poynton. She knows nothing of driving, is constitutionally timid, and—in short, I do not wish the order executed.”
“Very well, sir,” was the man’s reply. “There’s no harm done. I was at Verner’s Pride with that horse that’s ill, and Mrs. Verner spoke to me about some ponies. It was only to-day I heard these were in the market, and I mentioned them to her. But, for all I know, they may be already sold.”
Lionel turned to walk out of the yard. “After Mrs. Verner shall have learned to drive, then we shall see; perhaps we may buy a pair,” he remarked. “My opinion is that she will not learn. After a trial or two she will give it up.”
“All right, sir.”
A LIFE HOVERING IN THE BALANCE.
Jan was coming up the road from Deerham with long strides, as Lionel turned out of Poynton’s yard. Lionel advanced leisurely to meet him.
“One would think you were walking for a wager, Jan!”
“Ay,” said Jan. “This is my first round to-day. Bitterworths have sent for me in desperate haste. Folks always get ill at the wrong time.”
“Why don’t you ride?” asked Lionel, turning with Jan, and stepping out at the same pace.
“There was no time to get the horse ready. I can walk it nearly as fast. I have had no breakfast yet.”
“No breakfast!” echoed Lionel.
“I dived into the kitchen and caught up a piece of bread out of the basket. Half my patients must do without me to-day. I have only just got away from Hook’s.”
“How is the girl?”
“In great danger,” replied Jan.
“She is ill, then?”
“So ill, that I don’t think she’ll last the day out. The child’s dead. I must cut across the fields back there again, after I have seen what’s amiss at Bitterworth’s.”
The words touching Alice Hook caused quite a shock to Lionel. “It will be a sad thing, Jan, if she should die!”
“I don’t think I can save her. This comes of the ghost. I wonder how many more folks will get frightened to death.”
Lionel paused. “Was it really that alone that frightened the girl, and caused her illness? How very absurd the thing sounds! And yet serious.”
“I can’t make it out,” remarked Jan. “Here’s Bourne now, says he saw it. There’s only one solution of the riddle that I can come to.”