Barber come running up the dusty road in his black, and passed me as I stood by the churchyard gate, and up towards the church; but sudden in the path he stopped short, his eyes seeming starting out of his head as he looked at Ellen’s grave—not that he could see her name, the headstone being turned the other way,—and he put his hands before his eyes and stood still a-trembling, like a rabbit when the dogs are on it, and it can’t find no way out. Then he cried out, ‘No, no, cover her face, for God’s sake!’ and crouched down against the footstone, and father, coming swift behind him, passed me at the gate, and he ran his knife through Barber’s back twice as he crouched, and they rolled on the path together.
Then all the folks in church that had heard the scream, they come out like ants when you walk through an ant-heap. Young Barber was holding on to the headstone, the blood running out through his new broadcloth, and death written on his face in big letters.
I ran to lift up father, who had fallen with his face on the grave, and as I stooped over him, young Barber he turned his head towards me, and he says in a voice I could hardly catch, such a whisper it was, ’Was there a child? I didn’t know there was a child—a little child in her arm, and flowers all round.’
‘Your child,’ says I; ‘and may God forgive you!’
And I knew that he had seen her as I see her when my hands had dressed her for her sleep through the long night.
I never have believed in ghosts, but there is no knowing what the good Lord will allow.
So vengeance overtook him, and they carried him away to die with the blood dropping on the gravel; and he never spoke a word again.
And when they lifted father up with the red knife still fast in his hand, they found that he was dead, and his face was white and his lips were blue, like as I had seen them before. And they all said father must have been mad; and so he lies where he wished to lie, and there’s a place there where I shall lie some day, where father lies, and mother, and my dear with her little baby in the hollow of her arm.
I was promised to William, in a manner of speaking, close upon seven year. What I mean to say is, when he was nigh upon fourteen, and was to go away to his uncle in Somerset to learn farming, he gave me a kiss and half of a broken sixpence, and said—
’Kate, I shall never think of any girl but you, and you must never think of any chap but me.’
And the Lord in His goodness knows that I never did.