DRESSING UP FOR A GHOST.
And so the mystery was out. And the ghost proved to be no ghost at all—to be no husband of Sibylla—come to disturb the peace of her and of Lionel; but John Massingbird in real flesh and blood.
There was so much explanation to ask and to be given, that Jan was somewhat hindered on his way to Hook’s.
“I can’t stop,” said he, in the midst of a long sentence of John’s. “Alice Hook may be dying. Will you remain here until I come back?”
“If you are not long,” responded John Massingbird. “I intend this to be the last night of my concealment, and I want to go about, terrifying the natives. The fun it has been!”
“Fun, you call it?” remarked Jan. “If Hook’s girl does die, it will lie at your door.”
“She won’t die,” lightly answered John. “I’ll send her a ten-pound note to make amends. Make you haste, Jan, if I am to wait.”
Jan sped off to Hook’s. He found the girl very ill, but not so much so as Cheese had intimated. Some unseemly quarrel had taken place in the cottage, which had agitated her.
“There’s no danger,” mentally soliloquised Jan, “but it has thrown her back a good two days.”
He found John Massingbird—restless John!—restless as ever!—pacing before the trees with hasty strides, and bursting into explosions of laughter.
“Some woman was coming along from one of the cottages by Broom’s and I appeared to her, and sent her on, howling,” he explained to Jan. “I think it was Mother Sykes. The sport this ghost affair has been!”
He sat down on a bench, held his sides, and let his laughter have vent. Laughter is contagious, and Jan laughed with him, but in a quieter way.
“Whatever put it into your head to personate Frederick?” inquired Jan. “Was it done to frighten the people?”
“Not at first,” answered John Massingbird.
“Because, if to frighten had been your motive, you need only have appeared in your own person,” continued Jan. “You were thought to be dead, you know, as much as Fred was. Fred is dead, I suppose?”
“Fred is dead, poor fellow, safe enough. I was supposed to be dead, but I came to life again.”
“Did you catch Fred’s star when he died?” asked Jan, pointing to the cheek.
“No,” replied John Massingbird, with another burst of laughter, “I get that up with Indian-ink.”
Bit by bit, Jan came into possession of the details. At least, of as much of them as John Massingbird deemed it expedient to furnish. It appeared that his being attacked and robbed and left for dead, when travelling down to Melbourne, was perfectly correct. Luke Roy quitted him, believing he was dead. Luke would not have quitted him so hastily, but that he wished to be on the track of the thieves, and he hastened to Melbourne. After Luke’s departure, John Massingbird came, as he phrased it, to life again. He revived from the suspended animation, or swoon, which, prolonged over some hours, had been mistaken for death. The bullet was extracted from his side, and he progressed pretty rapidly towards recovery.