This is a ghost story. Every word of it is true. And I don't mind confessing
that for ages afterwards some of us did not care to pass the spot alone at
night. Some people do not care to pass it yet.
It was autumn, and we were at Crabb Cot. Lena had been ailing; and in
October Mrs. Todhetley proposed to the Squire that they should remove with
her there, to see if the change would do her good.
We Worcestershire people call North Crabb a village; but one might count the
houses in it, little and great, and not find four-and-twenty. South Crabb,
half a mile off, is ever so much larger; but the church and school are at
John Ferrar had been employed by Squire Todhetley as a sort of overlooker on
the estate, or working bailiff. He had died the previous winter; leaving
nothing behind him except some debts; for he was not provident; and his
handsome son Daniel. Daniel Ferrar, who was rather superior as far as
education went, disliked work: he would make a show of helping his father,
but it came to little. Old Ferrar had not put him to any particular trade or
occupation, and Daniel, who was as proud as Lucifer, would not turn to it
himself. He liked to be a gentleman. All he did now was to work in his
garden, and feed his fowls, ducks, rabbits, and pigeons, of which he kept a
great quantity, selling them to the houses around and sending them to
But, as every one said, poultry would not maintain him. Mrs. Lease, in the
pretty cottage hard by Ferrar's, grew tired of saying it. This Mrs. Lease
and her daughter, Maria, must not be confounded with Lease the pointsman:
they were in a better condition of life, and not related to him. Daniel
Ferrar used to run in and out of their house at will when a boy, and he was
now engaged to be married to Maria. She would have a little money, and the
Leases were respected in North Crabb. People began to whisper a query as to
how Ferrar got his corn for the poultry: he was not known to buy much: and
he would have to go out of his house at Christmas, for its owner, Mr. Coney,
had given him notice. Mrs. Lease, anxious about Maria's prospects, asked
Daniel what he intended to do then, and he answered, 'Make his fortune: he
should begin to do it as soon as he could turn himself round.' But the time
was going on, and the turning round seemed to be as far off as ever.
After Midsummer, a niece of the schoolmistress's, Miss Timmens, had come to
the school to stay: her name was Harriet Roe. The father, Humphrey Roe, was
half-brother to Miss Timmens. He had married a Frenchwoman, and lived more
in France than in England until his death. The girl had been christened
Henriette; but North Crabb, not understanding much French, converted it into
Harriet. She was a showy, free-mannered, good-looking girl, and made speedy
acquaintance with Daniel Ferrar; or he with her. They improved upon it so
rapidly that Maria Lease grew jealous, and North Crabb began to say he cared
for Harriet more than for Maria. When Tod and I got home the latter end of
October, to spend the Squire's birthday, things were in this state. James
Hill, the bailiff who had been taken on by the Squire in John Ferrar's place
(but a far inferior man to Ferrar; not much better, in fact, than a common
workman, and of whose doings you will hear soon in regard to his little
step-son, David Garth) gave us an account of matters in general. Daniel
Ferrar had been drinking lately, Hill added, and his head was not strong
enough to stand it; and he was also beginning to look as if he had some care
'A nice lot, he, for them two women to be fighting for,' cried Hill, who was
no friend to Ferrar. 'There'll be mischief between 'em if they don't draw in
a bit. Maria Lease is next door to mad over it, I know; and t'other, finding
herself the best liked, crows over her. It's something like the Bible story
of Leah and Rachel, young gents, Dan Ferrar likes the one, and he's bound by
promise to the t'other. As to the French jade,' concluded Hill, giving his
head a toss, 'she'd make a show of liking any man that followed her, she
would; a dozen of 'em on a string.'
It was all very well for surly Hill to call Daniel Ferrar a 'nice lot', but
he was the best-looking fellow in the church on Sunday morning well-dressed
too. But his colour seemed brighter; and his hands shook as they were
raised, often, to push back his hair, that the sun shone upon through the
south-window, turning it to gold. He scarcely looked up, not even at Harriet
Roe, with her dark eyes roving everywhere, and her streaming pink ribbons.
Maria Lease was pale, quiet, and nice, as usual; she had no beauty, but her
face was sensible, and her deep grey eyes had a strange and curious
earnestness. The new parson preached, a young man just appointed to the
parish of Crabb. He went in for great observances of Saints' days, and told
his congregation that he should expect to see them at church on the morrow,
which would be the Feast of All Saints.
Daniel Ferrar walked home with Mrs. Lease and Maria after service, and was
invited to dinner. I ran across to shake hands with the old dame, who had
once nursed me through an illness, and promised to look in and see her
later. We were going back to school on the morrow. As I turned away, Harriet
Roe passed, her pink ribbons and her cheap gay silk dress gleaming in the
sunlight. She stared at me, and I stared back again. And now, the
explanation of matters being over, the real story begins. But I shall have
to tell some of it as it was told by others.
The tea-things waited on Mrs. Lease's table in the afternoon; waited for
Daniel Ferrar. He had left them shortly before to go and attend to his
poultry. Nothing had been said about his coming back for tea: that he would
do so had been looked upon as a matter of course. But he did not make his
appearance, and the tea was taken without him. At half-past five the
church-bell rang out for evening service, and Maria put her things on. Mrs.
Lease did not go out at night.
'You are starting early, Maria. You'll be in church before other people.'
'That won't matter, mother.'
A jealous suspicion lay on Maria----that the secret of Daniel Ferrar's
absence was his having fallen in with Harriet Roe: perhaps he had gone of
his own accord to seek her. She walked slowly along. The gloom of dusk, and
a deep dusk, had stolen over the evening, but the moon would be up later. As
Maria passed the school-house, she halted to glance in at the little
sitting-room window: the shutters were not closed yet, and the room was
lighted by the blazing fire. Harriet was not there. She only saw Miss
Timmens, the mistress, who was putting on her bonnet before a hand-glass
propped upright on the mantelpiece. Without warning, Miss Timmens turned and
threw open the window. It was only for the purpose of pulling-to the
shutters, but Maria thought she must have been observed, and spoke.
'Good evening, Miss Timmens.'
'Who is it?' cried out Miss Timmens, in answer, peering into the dusk. 'Oh,
it's you, Maria Lease! Have you seen anything of Harriet? She went off
somewhere this afternoon, and never came in to tea.'
'I have not seen her.'
'She's gone to the Batleys', I'll be bound. She knows I don't like her to be
with the Batley girls: they make her ten times flightier than she would
Miss Timmens drew in her shutters with a jerk, without which they would not
close, and Maria Lease turned away.
'Not at the Batleys', not at the Batleys', but with him,' she cried, in
bitter rebellion, as she turned away from the church. From the church, not
to it. Was Maria to blame for wishing to see whether she was right or
not?----for walking about a little in the thought of meeting them? At any
rate it is what she did. And had her reward; such as it was.
As she was passing the top of the withy walk, their voices reached her ear.
People often walked there, and it was one of the ways to South Crabb. Maria
drew back amidst the trees, and they came on: Harriet Roe and Daniel Ferrar,
'I think I had better take it off,' Harriet was saying. 'No need to invoke a
storm upon my head. And that would come in a shower of hail from stiff old
The answer seemed one of quick accent, but Ferrar spoke low. Maria Lease had
hard work to control herself: anger, passion, jealousy, all blazed up. With
her arms stretched out to a friendly tree on either side,----with her heart
beating,----with her pulses coursing on to fever-heat, she watched them
across the bit of common to the road. Harriet went one way then; he another,
in the direction of Mrs. Lease's cottage. No doubt to fetch her Maria----to
church, with a plausible excuse of having been detained. Until now she had
had no proof of his falseness; had never perfectly believed in it.
She took her arms from the trees and went forward, a sharp faint cry of
despair breaking forth on the night air. Maria Lease was one of those
silent-natured girls who can never speak of a wrong like this. She had to
bury it within her; down, down, out of sight and show; and she went into
church with her usual quiet step. Harriet Roe with Miss Timmens came next,
quite demure, as if she had been singing some of the infant scholars to
sleep at their own homes. Daniel Ferrar did not go to church at all: he
stayed, as was found afterwards, with Mrs. Lease.
Maria might as well have been at home as at church: better perhaps that she
had been. Not a syllable of the service did she hear: her brain was a sea of
confusion; the tumult within it rising higher and higher. She did not hear
even the text, 'Peace, be still', or the sermon; both so singularly
appropriate. The passions in men's minds, the preacher said, raged and
foamed just like the angry waves of the sea in a storm, until Jesus came to
I ran after Maria when church was over, and went in to pay the promised
visit to old Mother Lease. Daniel Ferrar was sitting in the parlour. He got
up and offered Maria a chair at the fire, but she turned her back and stood
at the table under the window, taking off her gloves. An open Bible was
before Mrs. Lease: I wondered whether she had been reading aloud to Daniel.
'What was the text, child?' asked the old lady.
'Do you hear, Maria! What was the text?'
Maria turned at that, as if suddenly awakened. Her face was white; her eyes
had in them an uncertain terror.
'The text?' she stammered. 'I----I forget it, mother. It was from Genesis, I
'Was it, Master Johnny?'
'It was from the fourth chapter of St. Mark, 'Peace, be still.''
Mrs. Lease stared at me. 'Why, that is the very chapter I've been reading.
Well now, that's curious. But there's never a better in the Bible, and never
a better text was taken from it than those three words. I have been telling
Daniel here, Master Johnny, that when once that peace, Christ's peace, is
got into the heart, storms can't hurt us much. And you are going away again
tomorrow, sir?' she added, after a pause. 'It's a short stay?'
I was not going away on the morrow. Tod and I, taking the Squire in a genial
moment after dinner, had pressed to be let stay until Tuesday, Tod using the
argument, and laughing while he did it, that it must be wrong to travel on
All Saints' Day, when the parson had specially enjoined us to be at church.
The Squire told us we were a couple of encroaching rascals, and if he did
let us stay it should be upon condition that we did go to church. This I
said to them.
'He may send you all the same, sir, when the morning comes,' remarked Daniel
'Knowing Mr. Todhetley as you do Ferrar, you may remember that he never
breaks his promises.'
Daniel laughed. 'He grumbles over them, though, Master Johnny.'
'Well, he may grumble tomorrow about our staying, say it is wasting time
that ought to be spent in study, but he will not send us back until
Until Tuesday! If I could have foreseen then what would have happened before
Tuesday! If all of us could have foreseen! Seen the few hours between now
and then depicted, as in a mirror, event by event! Would it have saved the
calamity, the dreadful sin that could never be redeemed? Why, yes; surely it
would. Daniel Ferrar turned and looked at Maria.
'Why don't you come to the fire?'
'I am very well here, thank you.'
She had sat down where she was, her bonnet touching the curtain. Mrs. Lease,
not noticing that anything was wrong, had begun talking about Lena, whose
illness was turning to low fever, when the house door opened and Harriet Roe
'What a lovely night it is!' she said, taking of own accord the chair I had
not cared to take, for I kept saying I must go. 'Maria, what went with you
after church? I hunted for you everywhere.'
Maria gave no answer. She looked black and angry, and her bosom heaved as if
a storm were brewing. Harriet Roe slightly laughed.
'Do you intend to take holiday tomorrow, Mrs. Lease?'
'Me take holiday! what is there in tomorrow to take holiday for?' returned
'I shall,' continued Harriet, not answering the question: 'I have been used
to it in France. All Saints' Day is a grand holiday there; we go to church
in our best clothes, and pay visits afterwards. Following it, like a dark
shadow, comes the gloomy Jour des Morts.'
'The what?' cried Mrs. Lease, bending her ear.
'The day of the dead. All Souls' Day. But you English don't go to the
cemeteries to pray.'
Mrs. Lease put on her spectacles, which lay upon the open pages of the
Bible, and stared at Harriet. Perhaps she thought they might help her to
understand. The girl laughed.
'On All Souls' Day, whether it be wet or dry, the French cemeteries are full
of kneeling women draped in black; all praying for the repose of their dead
relatives, after the manner of the Roman Catholics.'
Daniel Ferrar, who had not spoken a word since she came in, but sat with his
face to the fire, turned and looked at her. Upon which she tossed back her
head and her pink ribbons, and smiled till all her teeth were seen. Good
teeth they were. As to reverence in her tone, there was none.
'I have seen them kneeling when the slosh and wet have been ankle-deep. Did
you ever see a ghost?' added she, with energy. 'The French believe that the
spirits of the dead come abroad on the night of All Saints' Day. You'd
scarcely get a French woman to go out of her house after dark. It is their
'What is the superstition?' questioned Mrs. Lease.
'Why, that,' said Harriet. 'They believe that the dead are allowed to
revisit the world after dark on the Eve of All Souls; that they hover in the
air, waiting to appear to any of their living relatives, who may venture
out, lest they should forget to pray on the morrow for the rest of their
(1) A superstition obtaining amongst some of the lower orders in France.
'Well, I never!' cried Mrs. Lease, staring excessively. 'Did you ever hear
the like of that, sir?' turning to me.
'Yes; I have heard of it.'
Harriet Roe looked up at me; I was standing at the corner of the
mantelpiece. She laughed a free laugh.
'I say, wouldn't it be fun to go out tomorrow night, and meet the ghosts?
Only, perhaps they don't visit this country, as it is not under Rome.'
'Now just you behave yourself before your betters, Harriet Roe, put in Mrs.
Lease, sharply. 'That gentleman is young Mr. Ludlow of Crabb Cot.'
'And very happy I am to make young Mr. Ludlow's acquaintance,' returned easy
Harriet, flinging back her mantle from her shoulders. 'How hot your parlour
is, Mrs. Lease.'
The hook of the cloak had caught in a thin chain of twisted gold that she
wore round her neck, displaying it to view. She hurriedly folded her cloak
together, as if wishing to conceal the chain. But Mrs. Lease's spectacles
had seen it.
'What's that you've got on, Harriet? A gold chain?'
A moment's pause, and then Harriet Roe flung back her mantle again, defiance
upon her face, and touched the chain with her hand.
'That's what it is, Mrs. Lease: a gold chain. And a very pretty one, too.'
'Was it your mother's?'
'It was never anybody's but mine. I had it made a present to me this
afternoon; for a keepsake.'
Happening to look at Maria, I was startled at her face, it was so white and
dark: white with emotion, dark with an angry despair that I for one did not
comprehend. Harriet Roe, throwing at her a look of saucy triumph, went out
with as little ceremony as she had come in, just calling back a general good
night; and we heard her footsteps outside getting gradually fainter in the
distance. Daniel Ferrar rose.
'I'll take my departure too, I think. You are very unsociable tonight,
'Perhaps I am. Perhaps I have cause to be.'
She flung his hand back when he held it out; and in another moment, as if a
thought struck her, ran after him into the passage to speak. I, standing
near the door in the small room, caught the words.
'I must have an explanation with you, Daniel Ferrar. Now. Tonight. We cannot
go on thus for a single hour longer.'
'Not tonight, Maria; I have no time to spare. And I don't know what you
'You do know. Listen. I will not go to my rest, no, though it were for
twenty nights to come, until we have had it out. I vow I will not. There.
You are playing with me. Others have long said so, and I know it now.'
He seemed to speak some quieting words to her, for the tone was low and
soothing; and then went out, closing the door behind him. Maria came back
and stood with her face and its ghastliness turned from us. And still the
old mother noticed nothing.
'Why don't you take your things off, Maria?' she asked.
'Presently,' was the answer.
I said good night in my turn, and went away. Half-way home I met Tod with
the two young Lexoms. The Lexoms made us go in and stay to supper, and it
was ten o'clock before we left them.
'We shall catch it,' said Tod, setting off at a run. They never let us stay
out late on a Sunday evening, on account of the reading.
But, as it happened, we escaped scot-free this time, for the house was in a
commotion about Lena. She had been better in the afternoon, but at nine
o'clock the fever returned worse than ever. Her little cheeks and lips were
scarlet as she lay on the bed, her wide-open eyes were bright and
glistening. The Squire had gone up to look at her, and was fuming and
fretting in his usual fashion.
'The doctor has never sent the medicine,' said patient Mrs. Todhetley, who
must have been worn out with nursing. 'She ought to take it; I am sure she
'These boys are good to run over to Cole's for that,' cried the Squire. 'It
won't hurt them; it's a fine night.'
Of course we were good for it. And we got our caps again; being charged to
enjoin Mr. Cole to come over the first thing in the morning.
'Do you care much about my going with you, Johnny?' Tod asked as we were
turning out at the door. 'I am awfully tired.'
'Not a bit. I'd as soon go alone as not. You'll see me back in
I took the nearest way; flying across the fields at a canter, and startling
the hares. Mr. Cole lived near South Crabb, and I don't believe more than
ten minutes had gone by when I knocked at his door. But to get back as
quickly was another thing. The doctor was not at home. He had been called
out to a patient at eight o'clock, and had not yet returned.
I went in to wait: the servant said he might be expected to come in from
minute to minute. It was of no use to go away without the medicine; and I
sat down in the surgery in front of the shelves, and fell asleep counting
the white jars and physic bottles. The doctor's entrance awoke me.
'I am sorry you should have had to come over and to wait,' he said. 'When my
other patient, with whom I was detained a considerable time, was done with,
I went on to Crabb Cot with the child's medicine, which I had in my pocket.'
'They think her very ill tonight, sir.'
'I left her better, and going quietly to sleep. She will soon be well again,
'Why! is that the time?' I exclaimed, happening to catch sight of the clock
as I was crossing the hall. It was nearly twelve. Mr. Cole laughed, saying
time passed quickly when folk were asleep.
I went back slowly. The sleep, or the canter before it, had made me feel as
tired as Tod had said he was. It was a night to be abroad in and to enjoy;
calm, warm, light. The moon, high in the sky, illumined every blade of
grass; sparkled on the water of the little rivulet; brought out the moss on
the grey walls of the old church; played on its round-faced clock, then
Twelve o'clock at night at North Crabb answers to about three in the morning
in London, for country people are mostly in bed and asleep at ten.
Therefore, when loud and angry voices struck up in dispute, just as the last
stroke of the hour was dying away on the midnight air, I stood still and
doubted my ears.
I was getting near home then. The sounds came from the back of a building
standing alone in a solitary place on the left-hand side of the road. It
belonged to the Squire, and was called the yellow barn, its walls being
covered with a yellow wash; but it was in fact used as a storehouse for
corn. I was passing in front of it when the voices rose upon the air. Round
the building I ran, and saw - Maria Lease: and something else that I could
not at first comprehend. In the pursuit of her vow, not to go to rest until
she had 'had it out' with Daniel Ferrar, Maria had been abroad searching for
him. What ill fate brought her looking for him up near our barn?----perhaps
because she had fruitlessly searched in every other spot.
At the back of this barn, up some steps, was an unused door. Unused partly
because it was not required, the principal entrance being in front; partly
because the key of it had been for a long time missing. Stealing out at this
door, a bag of corn upon his shoulders, had come Daniel Ferrar in a
smock-frock. Maria saw him, and stood back in the shade. She watched him
lock the door and put the key in his pocket; she watched him give the heavy
bag a jerk as he turned to come down the steps. Then she burst out. Her loud
reproaches petrified him, and he stood there as one suddenly turned to
stone. It was at that moment that I appeared.
I understood it all soon; it needed not Maria's words to enlighten me.
Daniel Ferrar possessed the lost key and could come in and out at will in
the midnight hours when the world was sleeping, and help himself to the
corn. No wonder his poultry throve; no wonder there had been grumblings at
Crabb Cot at the mysterious disappearance of the good grain.
Maria Lease was decidedly mad in those few first moments. Stealing is looked
upon in an honest village as an awful thing; a disgrace, a crime; and there
was the night's earlier misery besides. Daniel Ferrar was a thief! Daniel
Ferrar was false to her! A storm of words and reproaches poured forth from
her in confusion, none of it very distinct. 'Living upon theft! Convicted
felon! Transportation for life! Squire Todhetley's corn! Fattening poultry
on stolen goods! Buying gold chains with the profits for that bold,
flaunting French girl, Harriet Roe! Taking his stealthy walks with her!'
My going up to them stopped the charge. There was a pause; and then Maria,
in her mad passion, denounced him to me, as representative (so she put it)
of the Squire----the breaker-in upon our premises! the robber of our stored
Daniel Ferrar came down the steps; he had remained there still as a statue,
immovable; and turned his white face to me. Never a word in defence said he:
the blow had crushed him; he was a proud man (if any one can understand
that), and to be discovered in this ill-doing was worse than death to him.
'Don't think of me more hardly than you can help, Master Johnny,' he said in
a quiet tone. 'I have been almost tired of my life this long while.'
Putting down the bag of corn near the steps, he took the key from his pocket
and handed it to me. The man's aspect had so changed; there was something so
grievously subdued and sad about him altogether, that I felt as sorry for
him as if he had not been guilty. Maria Lease went on in her fiery passion.
'You'll be more tired of it tomorrow when the police are taking you to
Worcester gaol. Squire Todhetley will not spare you, though your father was
his many-years bailiff. He could not, you know, if he wished; Master Ludlow
has seen you in the act.'
'Let me have the key again for a minute, sir,' he said, as quietly as though
he had not heard a word. And I gave it to him. I'm not sure but I should
have given him my head had he asked for it.
He swung the bag on his shoulders, unlocked the granary door, and put the
bag beside the other sacks. The bag was his own, as we found afterwards, but
he left it there. Locking the door again, he gave me the key, and went away
with a weary step.
'Good-bye, Master Johnny.'
I answered back good night civilly, though he had been stealing. When he was
out of sight, Maria Lease, her passion full upon her still, dashed off
towards her mother's cottage, a strange cry of despair breaking from her
'Where have you been lingering, Johnny?' roared the Squire, who was sitting
up for me. 'You have been throwing at the owls, sir, that's what you've been
at; you have been scudding after the hares.'
I said I had waited for Mr. Cole, and had come back slower than I went; but
I said no more, and went up to my room at once. And the Squire went to his.
I know I am only a muff; people tell me so, often: but I can't help it; I
did not make myself. I lay awake till nearly daylight, first wishing Daniel
Ferrar could be screened, and then thinking it might perhaps be done. If he
would only take the lesson to heart and go straight for the future, what a
capital thing it would be. We had liked old Ferrar; he had done me and Tod
many a good turn: and, for the matter of that, we liked Daniel. So I never
said a word when morning came of the past night's work.
'Is Daniel at home?' I asked, going to Ferrar's the first thing before
breakfast. I meant to tell him that if he would keep right, I would keep
'He went out at dawn, sir,' answered the old woman who did for him, and sold
his poultry at market. 'He'll be in presently: he have had no breakfast
'Then tell him when he comes, to wait in, and see me: tell him it's all
right. Can you remember, Goody? 'It is all right.''
'I'll remember, safe enough, Master Ludlow.'
Tod and I, being on our honour, went to church, and found about ten people
in the pews. Harriet Roe was one, with her pink ribbons, the twisted gold
chain showing outside a short-cut velvet jacket.
'No, sir; he has not been home yet; I can't think where he can have got to,'
was the old Goody's reply when I went again to Ferrar's. And so I wrote a
word in pencil, and told her to give it him when he came in, for I could not
go dodging there every hour of the day.
After luncheon, strolling by the back of the barn: a certain reminiscence I
suppose taking me there, for it was not a frequented spot: I saw Maria Lease
Well, it was a change! The passionate woman of the previous night had
subsided into a poor, wild-looking, sorrow-stricken thing, ready to die of
remorse. Excessive passion had wrought its usual consequences; a reaction: a
reaction in favour of Daniel Ferrar. She came up to me, clasping her hands
in agony----beseeching that I would spare him; that I would not tell of him;
that I would give him a chance for the future: and her lips quivered and
trembled, and there were dark circles round her hollow eyes.
I said that I had not told and did not intend to tell. Upon which she was
going to fall down on her knees, but I rushed off.
'Do you know where he is?' I asked, when she came to her sober senses.
'Oh, I wish I did know! Master Johnny, he is just the man to go and do
something desperate. He would never face shame; and I was a mad,
hard-hearted, wicked girl to do what I did last night. He might run away to
sea; he might go and enlist for a soldier.'
'I dare say he is at home by this time. I have left a word for him there,
and promised to go in and see him tonight. If he will undertake not to be up
to wrong things again, no one shall ever know of this from me.'
She went away easier, and I sauntered on towards South Crabb. Eager as Tod
and I had been for the day's holiday, it did not seem to be turning out much
of a boon. In going home again----there was nothing worth staying out
for----I had come to the spot by the three-cornered grove where I saw Maria,
when a galloping policeman overtook me. My heart stood still; for I thought
he must have come after Daniel Ferrar.
'Can you tell me if I am near to Crabb Cot----Squire Todhetley's?' he asked,
reining-in his horse.
'You will reach it in a minute or two. I live there. Squire Todhetley is not
at home. What do you want with him?'
'It's only to give in an official paper, sir. I have to leave one personally
upon all the county magistrates.'
He rode on. When I got in I saw the folded paper upon the hall-table; the
man and horse had already gone onwards. It was worse indoors than out; less
to be done. Tod had disappeared after church; the Squire was abroad; Mrs.
Todhetley sat upstairs with Lena: and I strolled out again. It was only
three o'clock then.
An hour, or more, was got through somehow; meeting one, talking to another,
throwing at the ducks and geese; anything. Mrs. Lease had her head,
smothered in a yellow shawl, stretched out over the palings as I passed her
'Don't catch cold, mother.'
'I am looking for Maria, sir. I can't think what has come to her today,
Master Johnny,' she added, dropping her voice to a confidential tone. 'The
girl seems demented: she has been going in and out ever since daylight like
a dog in a fair.'
'If I meet her I will send her home.'
And in another minute I did meet her. For she was coming out of Daniel
Ferrar's yard. I supposed he was at home again.
'No,' she said looking more wild, worn, haggard than before; 'that's what I
have been to ask. I am just out of my senses, sir. He has gone for certain.
I did not think it. He would not be likely to go away without clothes.
'Well, I know he is, Master Johnny; something tells me. I've been all about
everywhere. There's a great dread upon me, sir; I never felt anything like
'Wait until night, Maria; I dare say he will go home then. Your mother is
looking out for you; I said if I met you I'd send you in.'
Mechanically she turned towards the cottage, and I went on. Presently, as I
was sitting on a gate watching the sunset, Harriet Roe passed towards the
withy walk, and gave me a nod in her free but good-natured way.
'Are you going there to look out for the ghosts this evening?' I asked: and
I wished not long afterwards I had not said it. 'It will soon be dark.'
'So it will,' she said, turning to the red sky in the west. 'But I have no
time to give to the ghosts tonight.'
'Have you seen Ferrar today?' I cried, an idea occurring to me.
'No. And I can't think where he has got to; unless he is off to Worcester.
He told me he should have to go there some day this week.'
She evidently knew nothing about him, and went on her way with another
free-and-easy nod. I sat on the gate till the sun had gone down, and then
thought it was time to be getting homewards.
Close against the yellow barn, the scene of last night's trouble, whom
should I come upon but Maria Lease. She was standing still, and turned
quickly at the sound of my footsteps. Her face was bright again, but had a
puzzled look upon it.
'I have just seen him: he has not gone,' she said in a happy whisper. 'You
were right, Master Johnny, and I was wrong.'
'Where did you see him?'
'Here; not a minute ago. I saw him twice. He is angry, very, and will not
let me speak to him; both times he got away before I could reach him. He is
close by somewhere.'
I looked round, naturally; but Ferrar was nowhere to be seen. There was
nothing to conceal him except the barn, and that was locked up. The account
she gave was this - and her face grew puzzled again as she related it.
Unable to rest indoors, she had wandered up here again, and saw Ferrar
standing at the corner of the barn, looking very hard at her. She thought he
was waiting for her to come up, but before she got close to him he had
disappeared, and she did not see which way. She hastened past the front of
the barn, ran round to the back, and there he was. He stood near the steps
looking out for her; waiting for her, as it again seemed; and was gazing at
her with the same fixed stare. But again she missed him before she could get
quite up; and it was at that moment that I arrived on the scene.
I went all round the barn, but could see nothing of Ferrar. It was an
extraordinary thing where he could have got to. Inside the barn he could not
be: it was securely locked; and there was no appearance of him in the open
country. It was, so to say, broad daylight yet, or at least not far short of
it; the red light was still in the west. Beyond the field at the back of the
barn, was a grove of trees in the form of a triangle; and this grove was
flanked by Crabb Ravine, which ran right and left. Crabb Ravine had the
reputation of being haunted; for a light was sometimes seen dodging about
its deep descending banks at night that no one could account for. A lively
spot altogether for those who liked gloom.
'Are you sure it was Ferrar, Maria?'
'Sure!' she returned in surprise. 'You don't think I could mistake him
Master Johnny, do you? He wore that ugly seal-skin winter-cap of his tied
over his ears, and his thick grey coat. The coat was buttoned closely round
him. I have not seen him wear either since last winter.'
That Ferrar must have gone into hiding somewhere seemed quite evident; and
yet there was nothing but the ground to receive him. Maria said she lost
sight of him the last time in a moment; both times in fact; and it was
absolutely impossible that he could have made off to the triangle or
elsewhere, as she must have seen him cross the open land. For that matter I
must have seen him also.
On the whole, not two minutes had elapsed since I came up, though it seems
to have been longer in telling it: when, before we could look further,
voices were heard approaching from the direction of Crabb Cot; and Maria,
not caring to be seen, went away quickly. I was still puzzling about
Ferrar's hiding-place, when they reached me----the Squire, Tod, and two or
three men. Tod came slowly up, his face dark and grave.
'I say, Johnny, what a shocking thing this is!'
'What is a shocking thing?'
'You have not heard of it?----But I don't see how you could hear it. '
I had heard nothing. I did not know what there was to hear. Tod told me in a
'Daniel Ferrar's dead, lad.'
'He has destroyed himself Not more than half-an-hour ago. Hung himself in
I turned sick, taking one thing with another, comparing this recollection
with that; which I dare say you will think no one but a muff would do.
Ferrar was indeed dead. He had been hiding all day in the three-cornered
grove: perhaps waiting for night to get away----perhaps only waiting for
night to go home again. Who can tell? About half-past two, Luke Macintosh, a
man who sometimes worked for us, sometimes for old Coney happening to go
through the grove, saw him there, and talked with him. The same man, passing
back a little before sunset, found him hanging from a tree, dead. Macintosh
ran with the news to Crabb Cot, and they were now flocking to the scene.
When facts came to be examined there appeared only too much reason to think
that the unfortunate appearance of the galloping policeman had terrified
Ferrar into the act; perhaps----we all hoped it!----had scared his senses
quite away. Look at it as we would, it was very dreadful.
But what of the appearance Maria Lease saw? At that time, Ferrar had been
dead at least half-an-hour. Was it reality or delusion? That is (as the
Squire put it), did her eyes see a real, spectral Daniel Ferrar; or were
they deceived by some imagination of the brain? Opinions were divided.
Nothing can shake her own steadfast belief in its reality; to her it remains
an awful certainty, true and sure as heaven.
If I say that I believe in it too, I shall be called a muff and a double
muff. But there is no stumbling-block difficult to be got over. Ferrar, when
found, was wearing the seal-skin cap tied over the ears and the thick grey
coat buttoned up round him, just as Maria Lease had described to me; and he
had never worn them since the previous winter, or taken them out of the
chest where they were kept. The old woman at his home did not know he had
done it then. When told that he had died in these things, she protested that
they were in the chest, and ran up to look for them. But the things were