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 whisper.
'Daniel Ferrar's dead, lad.'
'He has destroyed himself Not more than half-an-hour ago. Hung himself in the grove.'
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 gone.