The clock struck ten. Mrs. Hare took her customary sup of brandy and water, a small tumbler three parts full. Without it she believed she could never get to sleep; it deadened unhappy thought, she said. Barbara, after making it, had turned again to the window, but she did not resume her seat. She stood right in front of it, her forehead bent forward against its middle pane. The lamp, casting a bright light, was behind her, so that her figure might be distinctly observable from the lawn, had any one been there to look upon it.
She stood there in the midst of dreamland, giving way to all its enchanting and most delusive fascinations. She saw herself, in anticipation, the wife of Mr. Carlyle, the envied, thrice envied, of all West Lynne; for, like as he was the dearest on earth to her heart, so was he the greatest match in the neighborhood around. Not a mother but what coveted him for her child, and not a daughter but would have said, “Yes, and thank you,” to an offer from the attractive Archibald Carlyle. “I never was sure, quite sure of it till to-night,” murmured Barbara, caressing the locket, and holding it to her cheek. “I always thought he meant something, or he might mean nothing: but to give me this—to kiss me—oh Archibald!”
A pause. Barbara’s eyes were fixed upon the moonlight.
“If he would but say he loved me! If he would but save the suspense of my aching heart! But it must come; I know it will; and if that cantankerous toad of a Corny—”
Barbara Hare stopped. What was that, at the far end of the lawn, just in advance of the shade of the thick trees? Their leaves were not causing the movement, for it was a still night. It had been there some minutes; it was evidently a human form. What was it? Surely it was making signs to her!
Or else it looked as though it was. That was certainly its arm moving, and now it advanced a pace nearer, and raised something which it wore on its head—a battered hat with a broad brim, a “wide-awake,” encircled with a wisp of straw.
Barbara Hare’s heart leaped, as the saying runs, into her mouth, and her face became deadly white in the moonlight. Her first thought was to alarm the servants; her second, to be still; for she remembered the fear and mystery that attached to the house. She went into the hall, shutting her mamma in the parlor, and stood in the shade of the portico, gazing still. But the figure evidently followed her movement with its sight, and the hat was again taken off, and waved violently.
Barbara Hare turned sick with utter terror. She must fathom it; she must see who, and what it was; for the servants she dared not call, and those movements were imperative, and might not be disregarded. But she possessed more innate courage than falls to the lot of some young ladies.
“Mamma,” she said, returning to the parlor and catching up her shawl, while striving to speak without emotion. “I shall just walk down the path and see if papa is coming.”