A WALK IN THE RAIN.
The fine September morning had turned to a rainy afternoon. A heavy mist hung upon the trees, the hedges, the ground—something akin to the mist which had fallen upon Lionel Verner’s spirit. The day had grown more like a November one; the clouds were leaden-coloured, the rain fell. Even the little birds sought the shelter of their nests.
One there was who walked in it, his head uncovered, his brow bared. He was in the height of his fever dream. It is not an inapt name for his state of mind. His veins coursed as with fever; his thoughts took all the vague uncertainty of a dream. Little heeded he that the weather had become chilly, or that the waters fell upon him!
What must be his course? What ought it to be? The more he dwelt on the revelation of that day, the deeper grew his conviction that Frederick Massingbird was alive, breathing the very air that he breathed. What ought to be his course? If this were so, his wife was—not his wife.
It was obvious that his present, immediate course ought to be to solve the doubt—to set it at rest. But how? It could only be done by unearthing Frederick Massingbird; or he who bore so strange a resemblance to him. And where was he to be looked for? To track the hiding-place of a “ghost” is not an easy matter; and Lionel had no clue where to find the track of this one. If staying in the village, he must be concealed in some house; lying perdu by day. It was very strange that it should be so; that he should not openly show himself.
There was another way by which perhaps the doubt might be solved—as it suddenly occurred to Lionel. And that was through Captain Cannonby. If this gentleman really was with Frederick Massingbird when he died, and saw him buried, it was evident that it could not be Frederick come back to life. In that case, who or what it might be, Lionel did not stay to speculate; his business lay in ascertaining by the most direct means in his power, whether it was, or was not, Frederick Massingbird. How was it possible to do this? how could it be possible to set the question at rest?
By a very simple process, it may be answered—the waiting for time and chance. Ay, but do you know what that waiting involves, in a case like this? Think of the state of mind that Lionel Verner must live under during the suspense!
He made no doubt that the man who had been under the tree on the lawn a few nights before, watching his window, whom they had set down as being Roy, was Frederick Massingbird. And yet, it was scarcely believable. Where now was Lionel to look for him? He could not, for Sibylla’s sake, make inquiries in the village in secret or openly; he could not go to the inhabitants and ask—have you seen Frederick Massingbird? or say to each individual, I must send a police officer to search your house, for I suspect Frederick Massingbird is somewhere concealed, and I want to find him. For her sake he could not so much as breathe the name, in connection with his being alive.