[Illustration: “Tell me that it is not true!”]
He could not tell her so. He wound his arms tenderly round her and held her face to his breast, and laid his own down upon it. “Strive for calmness,” he murmured, his heart aching for her. “I will protect you so long as I shall have the power.”
MISS DEB’S DISBELIEF.
Miss Deborah West did not believe in ghosts. Miss Deb, setting aside a few personal weaknesses and vanities, was a strong-minded female, and no more believed in ghosts than she did in Master Cheese’s delicate constitution, which required to be supplied with an unlimited quantity of tarts and other dainties to keep up his strength between meals. The commotion respecting Frederick Massingbird, that his ghost had arrived from Australia, and “walked,” reached the ears of Miss Deb. It reached them in this way.
Miss Deb and her sister, compelled to economy by the scanty allowance afforded by Dr. West, had no more helpmates in the household department than were absolutely necessary, and the surgery boy, Bob, found himself sometimes pressed into aiding in the domestic service. One evening Miss Deb entered the surgery, and caught Master Cheese revelling in a hatful of walnuts by gaslight. This was the evening of the storm, previously mentioned.
“Where’s Bob?” asked she. “I want a message taken to Mrs. Broom’s about those pickled mushrooms that she is doing for me.”
“Bob’s out,” responded Master Cheese. “Have a walnut, Miss Deb?”
“I don’t mind. Are they ripe?” answered Miss Deb.
Master Cheese, the greediest chap alive, picked out the smallest he could find, politely cracked it with his teeth, and handed it to her.
“You’ll not get Bob over to Broom’s at this hour,” cried he. “Jan can’t get him to Mother Hook’s with her medicine after dark. Unless it’s made up so that he can take it by daylight, they have to send for it.”
“What’s that for?” asked Miss Deb.
Master Cheese cracked on at his walnuts. “You have not heard the tale that’s going about, I suppose, Miss Deb?” he presently said.
“I have not heard any tale,” she answered.
“And I don’t know that I must tell it you,” continued Master Cheese, filling his mouth with five or six quarters at once, unpeeled. “Jan ordered me to hold my tongue indoors.”
“It would be more respectful, Master Cheese, if you said Mr. Jan,” rebuked Miss Deborah. “I have told you so often.”
“Who cares?” returned Master Cheese. “Jan doesn’t. The fact is, Miss Deb, that there’s a ghost about at night just now.”
“Have they got up that folly again? Rachel Frost rests a great deal quieter in her grave than some of you do in your beds.”
“Ah, but it’s not Rachel’s this time,” significantly responded Master Cheese. “It’s somebody else’s.”