'Well, I must say, I think you might have let us know before. There's no time now to get any one else, and your mistress is not fit to do heavy housework. Can't you stay till next week?'
'I might be able to come back next week.'
I was now convinced that all she wanted was a brief holiday, which we should have been willing enough to let her have, as soon as we could get a substitute.
'But why must you go this week?' I persisted. 'Come, out with it.'
Mrs. Dorman drew the little shawl, which she always wore, tightly across her bosom, as though she were cold. Then she said, with a sort of effort --
'They say, sir, as this was a big house in Catholic times, and there was a many deeds done here.'
The nature of the 'deeds' might be vaguely inferred from the inflection of Mrs. Dorman's voice -- which was enough to make one's blood run cold. I was glad that Laura was not in the room. She was always nervous, as highly-strung natures are, and I felt that these tales about our house, told by this old peasant woman, with her impressive manner and contagious credulity, might have made our home less dear to my wife.
'Tell me all about it, Mrs. Dorman,' I said; 'you needn't mind about telling me. I'm not like the young people who make fun of such things.'
Which was partly true.
'Well, sir' -- she sank her voice -- 'you may have seen in the church, beside the altar, two shapes.'
'You mean the effigies of the knights in armour,' I said cheerfully.
'I mean them two bodies, drawed out man-size in marble,' she returned, and I had to admit that her description was a thousand times more graphic than mine, to say nothing of a certain weird force and uncanniness about the phrase 'drawed out man-size in marble.'
'They do say, as on All Saints' Eve them two bodies sits up on their slabs, and gets off of them, and then walks down the aisle, in their marble' -- (another good phrase, Mrs. Dorman) -- 'and as the church clock strikes eleven they walks out of the church door, and over the graves, and along the bier-balk, and if it's a wet night there's the marks of their feet in the morning.'
'And where do they go?' I asked, rather fascinated.
'They comes back here to their home, sir, and if any one meets them --'
'Well, what then?' I asked.
But no -- not another word could I get from her, save that her niece was ill and she must go. After what I had heard I scorned to discuss the niece, and tried to get from Mrs. Dorman more details of the legend. I could get nothing but warnings.
'Whatever you do, sir, lock the door early on All Saints' Eve, and make the cross-sign over the doorstep and on the windows.'
'But has any one ever seen these things?' I persisted.
'That's not for me to say. I know what I know, sir.'
'Well, who was here last year?'
'No one, sir; the lady as owned the house only stayed here in summer, and she always went to London a full month afore the night. And I'm sorry to inconvenience you and your lady, but my niece is ill and I must go on Thursday.'
I could have shaken her for her absurd reiteration of that obvious fiction, after she had told me her real reasons.
She was determined to go, nor could our united entreaties move her in the least.
I did not tell Laura the legend of the shapes that 'walked in their marble,' partly because a legend concerning our house might perhaps trouble my wife, and partly, I think, from some more occult reason. This was not quite the same to me as any other story, and I did not want to talk about it till the day was over. I had very soon ceased to think of the legend, however. I was painting a portrait of Laura, against the lattice window, and I could not think of much else. I had got a splendid background of yellow and grey sunset, and was working away with enthusiasm at her lace. On Thursday Mrs. Dorman went. She relented, at parting, so far as to say --
'Don't you put yourself about too much, ma'am, and if there's any little thing I can do next week, I'm sure I shan't mind.'