''Dolly, my Dolly!' Without another word my father rushed away without his hat, leaped into the post-chaise that was waiting, and drove off
''Edmond!' I gasped.
''My poor little girl -- my own Dorothy!'
'By the tenderness of his embrace, not lover-like, but brotherlike -- by his tears, for I could feel them on my neck -- I knew, as well as if he had told me, that I should never see my dear mother any more.'
'She had died in childbirth,' continued the old lady after a long pause -- 'died at night, at the very hour and minute when I had heard the tapping on the window-pane, and my father had thought he saw her coming into his room with a baby on her arm.'
'Was the baby dead, too?'
'They thought so then, but it afterwards revived.'
'What a strange story!'
'I do not ask you to believe in it. How and why and what it was I cannot tell; I only know that it assuredly was so.'
'And Mr Everest?' I enquired, after some hesitation.
The old lady shook her head. 'Ah, my dear, you will soon learn how very, very seldom one marries one's first love. After that day, I did not see Mr Everest for twenty years.'
'How wrong -- how --'
'Don't blame him; it was not his fault. You see, after that time my father took a prejudice against him -- not unnatural, perhaps; and she was not there to make things straight. Besides, my own conscience was very sore, and there were the six children at home, and the little baby had no mother: so at last I made up my mind. I should have loved him just the same if we had waited twenty years: but he could not see things so. Don't blame him -- my dear -- don't blame him. It was as well, perhaps, as things turned out.'
'Did he marry?'
'Yes, after a few years; and loved his wife dearly. When I was about one-and-thirty, I married Mr MacArthur. So neither of us was unhappy, you see -- at least, not more so than most people; and we became sincere friends afterwards. Mr and Mrs Everest come to see me, almost every Sunday. Why you foolish child, you are not crying?'
Ay, I was -- but scarcely at the ghost story.