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, Maria.'
'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 mean.'
'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 ought.'
'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 half-an-hour.'
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.