“Oh dear! Bumpus; what shall we do?”
“Dun know,” replied Jo, very sternly; for the stout mariner also believed in ghosts, as a matter of course, although he would not admit it; and, being a man of iron mold and powerful will, there was at that moment going on within his capacious breast a terrific struggle between natural courage and supernatural cowardice.
“Let’s go back,” whispered Corrie. “I know another pass over the hills. It’s a longer one, to be sure; but we can run, you know, to make for—”
He was struck dumb and motionless at this point by the recurrence of the dreadful howling, louder than ever, as poor Poopy’s despair deepened.
“Don’t speak to me, boy,” said Bumpus, still more sternly, while a cold sweat stood in large beads on his pale forehead. “Here’s wot I calls somethin’ new; an’ it becomes a man, specially a British seaman, d’ye see, to inquire into new things in a reasonable sort of way.”
Jo caught his breath, and clutched the rock beside him powerfully, as he continued:
“It ain’t a ghost, in course; it can’t be that. Cause why? there’s no sich a thing as a ghost.”
“Ain’t there?” whispered Corrie, hopefully.
The hideous yell that Poopy here set up seemed to give the lie direct to the skeptical seaman; but he went on deliberately, though with a glazed eye and a deathlike pallor on his face—
“No; there ain’t no ghosts,—never wos, an’ never will be. All ghosts is sciencrific dolusions, nothing more; and it’s only the hignorant an’ supercilious as b’lieves in ’em. I don’t; an’, wots more,” added Jo, with tremendous decision, “I won’t!”
At this point, the “sciencrific dolusion” recurred to her former idea of alarming the settlement; and with this view began to retrace her steps, howling as she went.
Of course, as Jo and his small companion had been guided by her footsteps, it followed that Poopy, in retracing them, gradually drew near to the terrified pair. The short twilight of those regions had already deepened into the shades of night; so that the poor girl’s form was not at first visible, as she advanced from among the dark shadows of the overhanging cliffs and the large masses of scattered rock that lay strewn about that wild mountain pass.
Now, although John Bumpus succeeded, by an almost supernatural effort, in calming the tumultuous agitation of his spirit, while the wild cries of the girl were at some distance, he found himself utterly bereft of speech when the dreadful sounds unmistakably approached him. Corrie, too, became livid, and both were rooted to the spot in unutterable horror; but when the ghost at length actually came into view, and (owing to Poopy’s body being dark, and her garments white) presented the appearance of a dimly luminous creature, without head, arms, or legs, the last spark of endurance in man and boy went out. The one gave a roar, the other a shriek of terror, and both turned and fled like the wind over a stretch of country, which, in happier circumstances, they would have crossed with caution.