“Your ancestral home,” Mr. Mangan observed, as the car turned the first bend in the grass-grown avenue and Dominey Hall came into sight. “Damned fine house, too!”
His companion made no reply. A storm had come up during the last few minutes, and, as though he felt the cold, he had dragged his hat over his eyes and turned his coat collar up to his ears. The house, with its great double front, was now clearly visible—the time-worn, Elizabethan, red brick outline that faced the park southwards, and the stone-supported, grim and weather-stained back which confronted the marshes and the sea. Mr. Mangan continued to make amiable conversation.
“We have kept the old place weathertight, somehow or other,” he said, “and I don’t think you’ll miss the timber much. We’ve taken it as far as possible from the outlying woods.”
“Any from the Black Wood?” Dominey asked, without turning his head.
“Not a stump,” he replied, “and for a very excellent reason. Not one of the woodmen would ever go near the place.”
“The superstition remains then?”
“The villagers are absolutely rabid about it. There are at least a dozen who declare that they have seen the ghost of Roger Unthank, and a score or more who will swear by all that is holy that they have heard his call at night.”
“Does he still select the park and the terrace outside the house for his midnight perambulations?” Dominey enquired.
The lawyer hesitated.
“The idea is, I believe,” he said, “that the ghost makes his way out from the wood and sits on the terrace underneath Lady Dominey’s window. All bunkum, of course, but I can assure you that every servant and caretaker we’ve had there has given notice within a month. That is the sole reason why I haven’t ventured to recommend long ago that you should get rid of Mrs. Unthank.”
“She is still in attendance upon Lady Dominey, then?”
“Simply because we couldn’t get any one else to stay there,” the lawyer explained, “and her ladyship positively declines to leave the Hall. Between ourselves, I think it’s time a change was made. We’ll have a chat after dinner, if you’ve no objection.—You see, we’ve left all the trees in the park,” he went on, with an air of satisfaction. “Beautiful place, this, in the springtime. I was down last May for a night, and I never saw such buttercups in my life. The cows here were almost up to their knees in pasture, and the bluebells in the home woods were wonderful. The whole of the little painting colony down at Flankney turned themselves loose upon the place last spring.”
“Some of the old wall is down, I see,” Dominey remarked with a frown, as he gazed towards the enclosed kitchen garden.
Mr. Mangan was momentarily surprised.
“That wall has been down, to my knowledge, for twenty years,” he reminded his companion.