AS the clock upon the schoolroom chimney-piece struck the hour, Arctura entered, and at once took her seat at the table with Davie -- much to the boy's wonder and pleasure. Donal gave her a Euclid, and set her a task: she began at once to learn it -- and after a while so brief that Davie stared incredulous, said,
|If you please, Mr. Grant, I think I could be questioned upon it now.|
Less than a minute sufficed to show Donal that she thoroughly understood what she had been learning, and he set her then a little more. By the time their work was over he had not a doubt left that suchlike intellectual occupation would greatly subserve all phases of her health. With entireness she gave herself to the thing she had to do; and Donal thought how strong must be her nature, to work so calmly, and think so clearly, after what she had gone through that morning.
School over, and Davie gone to his rabbits.
|Mistress Brookes invites us to supper with her,| said lady Arctura. |I asked her to ask us. I don't want to go to bed till I am quite sleepy. You don't mind, do you?|
|I am very glad, my lady,| responded Donal.
|Don't you think we had better tell her all about it?|
|As you think fit. The secret is in no sense mine; it is only yours; and the sooner it ceases to be a secret the better for all of us!|
|I have but one reason for keeping it,| she returned.
|Yes; I know he will be annoyed. But there may be other reasons why I should reveal the thing.|
|There may indeed!| said Donal.
|Still, I should be sorry to offend him more than I cannot help. If he were a man like my father, I should never dream of going against him; I should in fact leave everything to him he cared to attend to. But seeing he is the man he is, it would be absurd. I dare not let him manage my affairs for me much longer. I must understand for myself how things are going.|
|You will not, I hope, arrange anything without the presence of a lawyer! I fear I have less confidence in your uncle than you have!|
Arctura made no reply, and Donal was afraid he had hurt her; but the next moment she looked up with a sad smile, and said,
|Well, poor man! we will not compare our opinions of him: he is my father's brother, and I shall be glad not to offend him. But my father would have reason to be dissatisfied if I left everything to my uncle as if he had not left everything to me. If he had been another sort of man, my father would surely have left the estate to him!|
At nine o'clock they met in the housekeeper's room -- low-ceiled, large, lined almost round with oak presses, which were mistress Brookes's delight. She welcomed them as to her own house, and made an excellent hostess.
But Donal would not mix the tumbler of toddy she would have had him take. For one thing he did not like his higher to be operated upon from his lower: it made him feel as if possessed by a not altogether real self. But the root of his objection lay in the teaching of his mother. The things he had learned of his parents were to him his patent of nobility, vouchers that he was honourably descended: of his birth he was as proud as any man. And hence this night he was led to talk of his father and mother, and the things of his childhood. He told Arctura all about the life he had led; how at one time he kept cattle in the fields, at another sheep on the mountains; how it came that he was sent to college, and all the story of sir Gibbie. The night wore on. Arctura listened -- did nothing but listen; she was enchanted. And it surprised Donal himself to find how calmly he could now look back upon what had seemed to threaten an everlasting winter of the soul. It was indeed the better thing that Ginevra should be Gibbie's wife!
A pause had come, and he had fallen into a brooding memory of things gone by, when a sudden succession of quick knocks fell on his ear. He started -- strangely affected. Neither of his companions took notice of it, though it was now past one o'clock. It was like a knocking with knuckles against the other side of the wall of the room.
|What can that be?| he said, listening for more.
|H'ard ye never that 'afore, maister Grant?| said the housekeeper. |I hae grown sae used til't my ears hardly tak notice o' 't!|
|What is it?| asked Donal.
|Ay, what is't? Tell ye me that gien ye can!| she returned |It's jist a chappin', an' God's trowth it's a' I ken aboot the same! It comes, I believe I'm safe to say, ilka nicht; but I couldna tak my aith upo' 't, I hae sae entirely drappit peyin' ony attention til't. There's things aboot mony an auld hoose, maister Grant, 'at'll tak the day o' judgment to explain them. But sae lang as they keep to their ain side o' the wa', I dinna see I need trible my heid aboot them. Efter the experrience I had as a yoong lass, awa' doon in Englan' yon'er, at a place my auntie got me intil -- for she kenned a heap o' gran' fowk throuw bein' hersel' sae near conneckit wi' them as hoosekeeper i' the castel here -- efter that, I'm sayin,' I wadna need to be that easy scaret?|
|What was it?| said lady Arctura. |I don't think you ever told me.|
|No, my dear lady; I wud never hae thocht o' tellin' ye ony sic story sae lang as ye was ower yoong no to be frichtit at it; for 'deed I think they're muckle to blame 'at tells bairns the varra things they're no fit to hear, an' fix the dreid 'afore the sense. But I s' tell ye the noo, gien ye care to hear. It's a some awsome story, but there's something unco fulish-like intil't as weel. I canna say I think muckle 'o craturs 'at trible their heids aboot their heids! -- But that's tellin' 'aforehan'!|
Here the good woman paused thoughtful.
|I am longing to hear your story, mistress Brookes,| said Donal, supposing she needed encouragement.
|I'm but thinkin' hoo to begin,| she returned, |sae as to gie ye a richt haud o' the thing. -- I'm thinkin' I canna do better nor jist tell 't as it cam to mysel'! -- Weel, ye see, I was but a yoong lass, aboot -- weel, I micht be twenty, mair or less, whan I gaed til the place I speak o'. It was awa' upo' the borders o' Wales, like as gien folk ower there i' Perth war doobtfu' whether sic or sic a place was i' the hielan's or the lowlan's. The maister o' the hoose was a yoong man awa' upo' 's traivels, I kenna whaur -- somewhaur upo' the continent, but that's a mickle word; an' as he had the intention o' bein' awa' for some time to come, no carin' to settle doon aff han' an' luik efter his ain, there was but ane gey auld wuman to hoosekeep, an' me to help her, an' a man or twa aboot the place to luik efter the gairden -- an' that was a'. Hoose an' gairden was to let, an' was intil the han's o' ane o' thae agents, as they ca' them, for that same purpose -- to let, that is, for a term o' years. Weel, ae day there cam a gentleman to luik at the place, an' he was sae weel pleased wi' 't -- as weel he micht, for eh, it was a bonny place! -- aye lauchin' like, whaur this place is aye i' the sulks! -- na, no aye! I dinna mean that, my lady, forgettin' at it's yours! -- but ye maun own it taks a heap o' sun to gar this auld hoose here luik onything but some dour -- an' I beg yer pardon, my lady!|
|You are quite right, mistress Brookes!| said Arctura with a smile. |If it were not for you it would be dour dour. -- You do not know, Mr. Grant -- mistress Brookes herself does not know how much I owe her! I should have gone out of my mind for very dreariness a hundred times but for her.|
|The short an' the lang o' 't was,| resumed mistress Brookes, |that the place was let an' the place was ta'en, mickle to the satisfaction o' a' pairties concernt. The auld hoosekeeper, she bein' a fixtur like, was to bide, an' I was to bide as weel, under the hoosekeeper, an' haein' nothing to do wi' the stranger servan's.
|They cam. There was a gentleman o' a middle age, an' his leddy some yoonger nor himsel', han'some but no bonnie -- but that has naething to do wi' my tale 'at I should tak up yer time wi' 't, an' it growin' some late.|
|Never mind the time, mistress Brookes,| said Arctura; we can do just as we please about that! One time is as good as another -- isn't it, Mr. Grant?|
|I sometimes sit up half the night myself,| said Donal. |I like to know God's night. Only it won't do often, lest we make the brain, which is God's too, like a watch that won't go.|
|It's sair upsettin' to the wark!| said the housekeeper. |What would the house be like if I was to do that!|
|Do go on, please, mistress Brookes,| said Arctura.
|Please do,| echoed Donal.
|Sir, an' my lady, I'm ready to sit till the cock's be dune crawin', an' the day dune dawin', to pleasur the ane or the twa o' ye! -- an' sae for my true tale! -- They war varra dacent, weel-behavet fowk, wi' a fine faimly, some grown an' some growin'. It was jist a fawvour to see sic a halesome clan -- frae auchteen or thereawa' doon tu the wee toddlin' lassie was the varra aipple o' the e'e to a' the e'en aboot the place! But that's naither here nor yet there! A' gaed on as a' should gang on whaur the servan's are no ower gran' for their ain wark, nor ower meddlesome wi' the wark o' their neebours; naething was negleckit, nor onything girned aboot; but a' was peace an' hermony, as quo' the auld sang about out bonny Kilmeny -- that is, till ae nicht. -- You see I'm tellin' ye as it cam' to mysel' an' no til anither!
|As I lay i' my bed that nicht -- an' ye may be sure at my age I lay nae langer nor jist to turn me ower ance, an' in general no that ance -- jist as I was fa'in' asleep, up gat sic a romage i' the servan' ha', straucht 'aneth whaur I was lyin', that I thoucht to mysel', what upo' earth's come to the place! -- 'Gien it bena the day o' judgment, troth it's no the day o' sma' things!' I said. It was as gien a' the cheirs an' tables thegither war bein' routit oot o' their places, an' syne set back again, an' the tables turnt heels ower heid, an' a' the glaiss an' a' the plate for the denner knockit aboot as gien they had been sae mony hailstanes that warna wantit ony mair, but micht jist lie whaur they fell. I couldna for the life o' me think what it micht betoken, save an' excep' a general frenzy had seized upo' man an' wuman i' the hoose! I got up in a hurry: whatever was gaein' on, I wudna wullin'ly gang wantin' my share o' the sicht! An' jist as I opened my door, wha should I hear but the maister cryin' at the heid o' the stair, -- 'What, i' the name o' a' that's holy,' says he, 'is the meanin' o' this?' An' I ran til him, oot o' the passage, an' through the swing-door, into the great corridor; an' says I, -- ''Deed, sir, I was won'erin'! an' wi' yer leave, sir, I'll gang an' see,' I said, gaitherin' my shawl aboot me as weel as I could to hide what was 'aneth it, or raither what wasna 'aneth it, for I hadna that mickle on. But says he, 'No, no, you must not go; who knows what it may be? I'll go myself. They may be robbers, and the men fighting them. You stop where you are.' Sayin' that, he was half-ways doon the stair. I stood whaur I was, lookin' doon an' hearkenin', an' the noise still goin' on. But he could but hae won the len'th o' the hall, whan it stoppit a' at ance an' a'thegither. Ye may think what a din it maun hae been, whan I tell ye the quaiet that cam upo' the heels o' 't jist seemed to sting my twa lugs. The same moment I h'ard the maister cryin' til me to come doon. I ran, an' whan I reached the servan's ha', whaur he stood jist inside the door, I stood aside him an' glowered. For, wad ye believe me! the place was as dacent an' still as ony kirkyard i' the munelicht! There wasna a thing oot o' it's place, nor an air o' dist, nor the sma'est disorder to be seen! A' the things luikit as gien they had sattlet themsel's to sleep as usual, an' had sleepit till we cam an' waukit them. The maister glowert at me, an' I glowert at the maister. But a' he said was, -- 'A false alarm, ye see, Rose!' What he thoucht I canna tell, but withoot anither word we turnt, an' gaed up the stair again thegither.
|At the tap o' the stair, the lang corridor ran awa' intil the dark afore 's, for the can'le the maister carried flangna licht half to the en' o' 't; an' frae oot o' the mirk on a suddent cam to meet 's a rampaugin' an' a rattlin' like o' a score o' nowt rinnin' awa' wi' their iron tethers aboot their necks -- sic a rattlin' o' iron chains as ye never h'ard! an' a groanin' an' a gruntin' jist fearsome. Again we stood an' luikit at ane anither; an' my word! but the maister's face was eneuch to fricht a body o' 'tsel', lat alane the thing we h'ard an' saw naething til accoont for! 'Gang awa' back to yer bed, Rose,' he said; 'this'll never do!' 'An' hoo are ye to help it, sir?' said I. 'That I cannot tell,' answered he; but I wouldn't for the world your mistress heard it! I left her fast asleep, and I hope she'll sleep through it. -- Did you ever hear anything strange about the house before we came?' 'Never, sir,' said I, 'as sure as I stan' here shiverin'!' -- for the nicht was i' the simmer, an' warm to that degree! an' yet I was shiverin' as i' the cauld fit o' a fivver; an' my moo' wud hardly consent to mak the words I soucht to frame!
|We stood like mice 'afore the cat for a minute or twa, but there cam naething mair; an' by degrees we grew a kin' o' ashamet, like as gien we had been doobtfu' as to whether we had h'ard onything; an' whan again he said to me gang to my bed, I gaed to my bed, an' wasna lang upo' the ro'd, for fear I wud hear onything mair -- an' intil my bed, an' my heid 'aneth the claes, an' lay trim'lin'. But there was nane mair o' 't that nicht, an' I wasna ower sair owercome to fa' asleep.
|I' the mornin' I tellt the hoosekeeper a' aboot it; but she held her tongue in a mainner that was, to say the least o' 't, varra strange. She didna lauch, nor she didna grue nor yet glower, nor yet she didna say the thing was nonsense, but she jist h'ard an' h'ard an' saidna a word. I thoucht wi' mysel', is't possible she disna believe me? but I couldna mak that oot aither. Sae as she heild her tongue, I jist pu'd the bridle o' mine, an' vooed there should be never anither word said by me till ance she spak hersel'. An' I wud sune hae had eneuch o' haudin' my tongue, but I hadna to haud it to onybody but her; an' I cam to the conclusion that she was feart o' bein' speirt questons by them 'at had a richt to speir them, for that she had h'ard o' something 'afore, an' kenned mair nor she was at leeberty to speak aboot.
|But that was only the beginnin', an' little to what followed! For frae that nicht there was na ae nicht passed but some ane or twa disturbit, an' whiles it was past a' bidin.' The noises, an' the rum'lin's, an' abune a' the clankin' o' chains, that gaed on i' that hoose, an' the groans, an' the cries, an' whiles the whustlin', an' what was 'maist waur nor a', the lauchin', was something dreidfu', an' 'ayont believin' to ony but them 'at was intil't. I sometimes think maybe the terror o' 't maks it luik waur i' the recollection nor it was; but I canna keep my senses an' no believe there was something a'thegither by ord'nar i' the affair. An' whan, or lang, it cam to the knowledge o' the lady, an' she was waukit up at nicht, an' h'ard the thing, whatever it was, an' syne whan the bairns war waukit up, an' aye the romage, noo i' this room, noo i' that, sae that the leevin' wud be cryin' as lood as the deid, though they could ill mak sic a din, it was beyond a' beirin', an' the maister made up his min' to flit at ance, come o' 't what micht!
|For, as I oucht to hae tellt ye, he had written to the owner o' the hoose, that was my ain maister -- for it wasna a hair o' use sayin' onything further to the agent; he only leuch, an' declaret it maun be some o' his ain folk was playin' tricks upon him -- which it angert him to hear, bein' as impossible as it was fause; sae straucht awa' to his lan'lord he wrote, as I say; but as he was travellin' aboot on the continent, he supposed either the letter had not reached him, an' never wud reach him or he was shelterin' himsel' under the idea they wud think he had never had it, no wantin' to move in the matter. But the varra day he had made up his min' that nothing should make him spend another week in the house, for Monday nights were always the worst, there cam a letter from the gentleman, sayin' that only that same hoor that he was writin' had he received the maister's letter; an' he was sorry he had not had it before, but prayed him to put up with things till he got to him, and he would start at the farthest in two days more, and would set the thing right in less time than it would take to tell him what was amiss. -- A strange enough letter to be sure! Mr. Harper, that was their butler, told me he had read every word of it! And so, as, not to mention the terrors of the nicht, the want of rest was like to ruin us altogether, we were all on the outlook for the appearance of oor promised deliverer, sae cock-sure o' settin' things straucht again!
|Weel, at last, an' that was in a varra feow days, though they luikit lang to some i' that hoose, he appearit -- a nice luikin' gentleman, wi' sae sweet a smile it wasna hard to believe whate'er he tellt ye. An' he had a licht airy w'y wi' him, that was to us oppresst craturs strangely comfortin', ill as it was to believe he could ken what had been goin' on, an' treat it i' that fashion! Hooever, -- an' noo, my lady, an' Mr. Grant, I hae to tell ye what the butler told me, for I wasna present to hear for mysel'. Maybe he wouldn't have told me, but that he wasn't an old man, though twice my age, an' seemt to have taken a likin' to me, though it never came to anything; an' as I was always ceevil to any person that was ceevil to me, an' never went farther than was becomin', he made me the return o' talkin' to me at times, an' tellin' me what he knew.
|The young gentleman was to stop an' lunch with the master, an' i' the meantime would have a glass o' wine an' a biscuit; an' pullin' a bunch o' keys from his pocket, he desired Mr. Harper to take a certain one and go to the door that was locked inside the wine-cellar, and bring a bottle from a certain bin. Harper took the key, an' was just goin' from the room, when he h'ard the visitor -- though in truth he was more at hame there than any of us -- h'ard him say, 'I'll tell you what you've been doing, sir, and you'll tell me whether I'm not right!' Hearin' that, the butler drew the door to, but not that close, and made no haste to leave it, and so h'ard what followed.
|'I'll tell you what you've been doin',' says he. 'Didn't you find a man's head -- a skull, I mean, upon the premises?' 'Well, yes, I believe we did, when I think of it!' says the master; 'for my butler' -- an' there was the butler outside a listenin' to the whole tale! -- 'my butler came to me one mornin', sayin', |Look here, sir! that is what I found in a little box, close by the door of the wine-cellar! It's a skull!| |Oh,| said I ' -- it was the master that was speakin' -- '|it'll be some medical student has brought it home to the house!| So he asked me what he had better do with it.' 'And you told him,' interrupted the gentleman, 'to bury it!' 'I did; it seemed the proper thing to do.' 'I hadn't a doubt of it!' said the gentleman: 'that is the cause of all the disturbance.' 'That?' says the master. 'That, and nothing else!' answers the gentleman. And with that, as Harper confessed when he told me, there cam ower him such a horror, that he daured nae longer stan' at the door; but for goin' doon to the cellar to fetch the bottle o' wine, that was merely beyond his human faculty. As it happed, I met him on the stair, as white as a sheet, an' ready to drop. 'What's the matter, Mr. Harper?' said I; and he told me all about it. 'Come along,' I said; 'we'll go to the cellar together! It's broad daylight, an' there's nothing to hurt us!' So he went down.
|'There, that's the box the thing was lyin' in!' said he, as we cam oot o' the wine-cellar. An' wi' that cam a groan oot o' the varra ground at oor feet! We both h'ard it, an' stood shakin' an' dumb, grippin' ane anither. 'I'm sure I don't know what in the name o' heaven it can all mean!' said he -- but that was when we were on the way up again. 'Did ye show 't ony disrespec'?' said I. 'No,' said he; 'I but buried it, as I would anything else that had to be putten out o' sight,' An' as we wur talkin' together -- that was at the top o' the cellar-stair -- there cam a great ringin' at the bell, an' said he, 'They're won'erin' what's come o' me an' their wine, an' weel they may! I maun rin.' As soon as he entered the room -- an' this again, ye may see, my leddy an' maister Grant, he tellt me efterwards -- 'Whaur did ye bury the heid ye tuik frae the cellar?' said his master til him, an' speiredna a word as to hoo he had been sae lang gane for the wine. 'I buried it i' the garden,' answered he. 'I hope you know the spot!' said the strange gentleman. 'Yes, sir, I do,' said Harper. 'Then come and show me,' said he.
|So the three of them went oot thegither, an' got a spade; an' luckily the butler was able to show them at once the varra spot. An' the gentleman he howkit up the skull wi' his ain han's, carefu' not to touch it with the spade, an' broucht it back in his han' to the hoose, knockin' the earth aff it with his rouch traivellin' gluves. But whan Harper lookit to be told to take it back to the place where he found it, an' trembled at the thoucht, wonderin' hoo he was to get haud o' me an' naebody the wiser, for he didna want to show fricht i' the day-time, to his grit surprise an' no sma' pleesur, the gentleman set the skull on the chimley-piece. An' as lunch had been laid i' the meantime, for Mr. Heywood -- I hae jist gotten a grup o' his name -- had to be awa' again direckly, he h'ard the whole story as he waitit upo' them. I suppose they thoucht it better he should hear an' tell the rest, the sooner to gar them forget the terrors we had come throuw.
|Said the gentleman, 'Now you'll have no more trouble. If you do, write to me, to the care o' -- so an' so -- an' I'll release you from your agreement. But please to remember that you brought it on yourself by interfering, I can't exackly say with my property, but with the property of one who knows how to defend it without calling in the aid of the law -- which indeed would probably give him little satisfaction. -- It was the burying of that skull that brought on you all the annoyance.' 'I always thought,' said the master, 'the dead preferred having their bones buried. Their ghosts indeed, according to Cocker, either wouldna or couldna lie quiet until their bodies were properly buried: where then could be our offence?' 'You may say what you will,' answered Mr. Heywood, 'and I cannot answer you, or preten' to explain the thing; I only know that when that head is buried, these same disagreeables always begin.' 'Then is the head in the way of being buried and dug up again?' asked the master. 'I will tell you the whole story, if you like,' answered his landlord. 'I would gladly hear it,' says he, 'for I would fain see daylight on the affair!' 'That I cannot promise you,' he said; 'but the story, as it is handed down in the family, you shall hear.'
|You may be sure, my leddy, Harper was wide awake to hearken, an' the more that he might tell it again in the hall!
|'Somewhere about a hundred and fifty years ago,' Mr. Heywood began, 'on a cold, stormy night, there came to the hall-door a poor pedlar,' -- a travelling merchant, you know, my leddy -- 'with his pack on his back, and would fain have parted with some of his goods to the folk of the hall. The butler, who must have been a rough sort of man -- they were rough times those -- told him they wanted nothing he could give them, and to go about his business. But the man, who was something obstinate, I dare say, and, it may weel be, anxious to get shelter, as much for the nicht bein' gurly as to sell his goods, keepit on beggin' an' implorin' to lat the women-folk at the least luik at what he had broucht. At last the butler, oot o' a' patience wi' the man, ga'e him a great shove awa' frae the door, sae that the poor man fell doon the steps, an' bangt the door to, nor ever lookit to see whether the man gat up again or no.
|'I' the mornin' the pedlar they faund him lyin' deid in a little wud or shaw, no far frae the hoose. An' wi' that up got the cry, an' what said they but that the butler had murdert him! Sae up he was ta'en an' put upo' 's trial for't. An' whether the man was not likit i' the country-side, I cannot tell,' said the gentleman, 'but the cry was against him, and things went the wrong way for him -- and that though no one aboot the hoose believed he had done the deed, more than he micht hae caused his death by pushin' him doon the steps. An' even that he could hardly have intendit, but only to get quit o' him; an' likely enough the man was weak, perhaps ill, an' the weicht o' his pack on his back pulled him as he pushed.' Still, efter an' a' -- an' its mysel' 'at's sayin' this, no the gentleman, my lady -- in a pairt o' the country like that, gey an' lanely, it was not the nicht to turn a fallow cratur oot in! 'The butler was, at the same time, an old and trusty servan',' said Mr. Heywood, 'an' his master was greatly concernt aboot the thing. It is impossible at this time o' day,' he said, 'to un'erstan' hoo such a thing could be -- i' the total absence o' direc' evidence, but the short an' the weary lang o' 't was, that the man was hangt, an' hung in irons for the deed.
|'An' noo ye may be thinkin' the ghaist o' the puir pedlar began to haunt the hoose; but naething o' the kin'! There was nae disturbance o' that, or ony ither sort. The man was deid an' buried, whaever did or didna kill him, an' the body o' him that was said to hae killed him, hung danglin' i' the win', an' naither o' them said a word for or again the thing.
|'But the hert o' the man's maister was sair. He couldna help aye thinkin' that maybe he was to blame, an' micht hae done something mair nor he thoucht o' at the time to get the puir man aff; for he was absolutely certain that, hooever rouch he micht hae been; an' hooever he micht hae been the cause o' deith to the troublesome pedlar, he hadna meant to kill him; it was, in pairt at least, an accident, an' he thoucht the hangin' o' 'im for 't was hard lines. The maister was an auld man, nearhan' auchty, an' tuik things the mair seriously, I daursay, that he wasna that far frae the grave they had sent the puir butler til afore his time -- gien that could be said o' ane whause grave was wi' the weather-cock! An' aye he tuik himsel' to task as to whether he ouchtna to hae dune something mair -- gane to the king maybe -- for he couldna bide the thoucht o' the puir man that had waitit upon him sae lang an' faithfu', hingin' an' swingin' up there, an' the flesh drappin' aff the banes o' 'im, an' still the banes hingin' there, an' swingin' an' creakin' an' cryin'! The thoucht, I say, was sair upo' the auld man. But the time passed, an' I kenna hoo lang or hoo short it may tak for a body in sic a position to come asun'er, but at last the banes began to drap, an' as they drappit, there they lay -- at the fut o' the gallows, for naebody caret to meddle wi' them. An' whan that cam to the knowledge o' the auld gentleman, he sent his fowk to gether them up an' bury them oot o' sicht. An' what was left o' the body, the upper pairt, hauden thegither wi' the irons, maybe -- I kenna weel hoo, hung an' swung there still, in ilk win' that blew. But at the last, oot o' sorrow, an' respec' for the deid, hooever he dee'd, his auld maister sent quaietly ae mirk nicht, an' had the lave o' the banes taen doon an' laid i' the earth.
|'But frae that moment, think ye there was ony peace i' the hoose? A clankin' o' chains got up, an' a howlin', an' a compleenin' an' a creakin' like i' the win' -- sic a stramash a'thegither, that the hoose was no fit to be leevit in whiles, though it was sometimes waur nor ither times, an' some thoucht it had to do wi' the airt the win' blew: aboot that I ken naething. But it gaed on like that for months, maybe years,' -- Mr. Harper wasna sure hoo lang the gentleman said -- 'till the auld man 'maist wished himsel' in o' the grave an' oot o' the trouble.
|'At last ae day cam an auld man to see him -- no sae auld as himsel', but ane he had kenned whan they wur at the college thegither. An' this was a man that had travelled greatly, an' was weel learnt in a heap o' things ordinar' fowk, that gies themsel's to the lan', an' the growin' o' corn, an' beasts, ir no likely to ken mickle aboot. He saw his auld freen' was in trouble, an' didna carry his age calm-like as was nat'ral, an' sae speirt him what was the matter. An' he told him the whole story, frae the hangin' to the bangin'. |Weel,| said the learnit man, whan he had h'ard a', |gien ye'll tak my advice, ye'll jist sen' an' howk up the heid, an' tak it intil the hoose wi' ye, an' lat it bide there whaur it was used sae lang to be; -- do that, an' it's my opinion ye'll hear nae mair o' sic unruly gangin's on.| The auld gentleman tuik the advice, kennin' no better. But it was the richt advice, for frae that moment the romour was ower, they had nae mair o' 't. They laid the heid in a decent bit box i' the cellar, an' there it remaint, weel content there to abide the day o' that jeedgment that'll set mony anither jeedgment to the richt-aboot; though what pleesur could be intil that cellar mair nor intil a hole i' the earth, is a thing no for me to say! So wi' that generation there was nae mair trouble.
|'But i' the coorse o' time cam first ane an' syne anither, wha forgot, maybe leuch at, the haill affair, an' didna believe a word o' the same. But they're but fules that gang again the experrience o' their forbeirs! -- what wud ye hae but they wud beery the heid! An' what wud come o' that but an auld dismay het up again! Up gat the din, the rampaugin', the clankin', an' a', jist the same as 'afore! But the minute that, frichtit at the consequences o' their folly, they acknowledged the property o' the ghaist in his ain heid, an' tuik it oot o' the earth an' intil the hoose again, a' was quaiet direc'ly -- quaiet as hert could desire.'
|Sae that was the story!
|An' whan the lunch was ower, an' Mr. Harper was thinkin' the moment come whan they would order him to tak the heid, an' him trimlin' at the thoucht o' touchin' 't, an' lay't whaur it was -- an' whaur it had sae aften been whan it had a sowl intil 't, the gentleman got up, an' says he til him, 'Be so good,' says he, 'as fetch me my hat-box from the hall.' Harper went an' got it as desired, an' the gentleman took an' unlockit it, an' roon' he turnt whaur he stood, an' up he tuik the skull frae the chimley-piece, neither as gien he lo'ed it nor feared it -- as what reason had he to do either? -- an' han'let it neither rouchly, nor wi' ony show o' mickle care, but intil the hat-box it gaed, willy, nilly, an' the lid shutten doon upo' 't, an' the key turnt i' the lock o' 't; an' as gien he wad mak the thing richt sure o' no bein' putten again whaur it had sic an objection to gang, up he tuik in his han' the hat-box, an' the contrairy heid i' the inside o' 't, an' awa' wi' him on his traivels, here awa' an' there awa' ower the face o' the globe: he was on his w'y to Spain, he said, at the moment; an' we saw nae mair o' him nor the heid, nor h'ard ever a soon' mair o' clankin', nor girnin', nor ony ither oonholy din.
|An' that's the trowth, mak o' 't what ye like, my leddy an' maister Grant!|
Mistress Brookes was silent, and for some time not a syllable was uttered by either listener. At last Donal spoke.
|It is a strange story, mistress Brookes,| he said; |and the stranger that it would show some of the inhabitants of the other world apparently as silly after a hundred and fifty years as when first they arrived there.|
|I can say naething anent that, sir,| answered mistress Brookes; |I'm no accoontable for ony inference 'at's to be drawn frae my ower true tale; an' doobtless, sir, ye ken far better nor me; -- but whaur ye see sae mony folk draw oot the threid o' a lang life, an' never ae sensible thing, that they could help, done or said, what for should ye won'er gien noo an' than ane i' the ither warl' shaw himsel' siclike. Whan ye consider the heap o' folk that dees, an' hoo there maun be sae mony mair i' the ither warl' nor i' this, I confess for my pairt I won'er mair 'at we're left at peace at a', an' that they comena swarmin' aboot 's i' the nicht, like black doos. Ye'll maybe say they canna, an' ye'll maybe say they come; but sae lang as they plague me nae waur nor oor freen' upo' the tither side o' the wa', I canna say I care that mickle. But I think whiles hoo thae ghaists maun lauch at them that lauchs as gien there was nae sic craturs i' the warl'! For my pairt I naither fear them nor seek til them: I'll be ane wi' them mysel' afore lang! -- only I wad sair wuss an' houp to gang in amo' better behavet anes nor them 'at gangs aboot plaguin' folk.|
|You speak the best of sense, mistress Brookes,| said Donal; |but I should like to understand why the poor hanged fellow should have such an objection to having his skull laid in the ground! Why had he such a fancy for his old bones? Could he be so closely associated with them that he could not get on without the plenty of fresh air they got him used to when they hung on the gallows? And why did it content him to have only his head above ground? It is bewildering! We couldn't believe our bones rise again, even if Paul hadn't as good as told us they don't! Why should the dead haunt their bones as if to make sure of having their own again?|
|But,| said mistress Brookes, |beggin' yer pardon, sir, what ken ye as to what they think? Ye may ken better, but maybe they dinna; for haena ye jist allooed that sic conduc' as I hae describit is no fit, whaever be guilty o' the same, whether rowdy laddies i' the streets, or craturs ye canna see i' the hoose? They may think they'll want their banes by an' by though ye ken better; an' whatever you wise folk may think the noo, ye ken it's no that lang sin' a' body, ay, the best o' folk, thoucht the same; an' there's no a doobt they a' did at the time that man was hangt. An' ye maun min' 'at i' the hoose the heid o' 'im wudna waste as it wud i' the yerd!|
|But why bother about his heid more than the rest of his bones?|
|Weel, sir, I'm thinking a ghaist, ghaist though he be, canna surely be i' twa places at ance. He could never think to plague til ilk bane o' finger an' tae was gethert i' the cellar! That wud be houpless! An' thinkin' onything o' his banes, he micht weel think maist o' 's heid, an' keep an e'e upo' that. Nae mony ghaists hae the chance o' seein' sae muckle o' their banes as this ane, or sayin' to themsel's, 'Yon's mine, whaur it swings!' Some ghaists hae a cat-like natur for places, an' what for no for banes? Mony's the story that hoosekeeper, honest wuman, telled me: whan what had come was gane, it set her openin' oot her pack! I could haud ye there a' nicht tellin' ye ane efter anither o' them. But it's time to gang to oor beds.|
|It is our turn to tell you something,| said lady Arctura; | -- only you must not mention it just yet: Mr. Grant has found the lost room!|
For a moment Mrs. Brookes said nothing, but neither paled nor looked incredulous; her face was only fixed and still, as if she were finding explanation in the discovery.
|I was aye o' the min' it was,| she said, |an' mony's the time I thoucht I wud luik for't to please mysel'! It's sma' won'er -- the soon's, an' the raps, an' siclike!|
|You will not change your mind when you hear all,| said Arctura. |I asked you to give us our supper because I was afraid to go to bed.|
|You shouldn't have told her, sir!|
|I've seen it with my own eyes!|
|You've been into it, my lady? -- What -- what -- ?|
|It is a chapel -- the old castle-chapel -- mentioned, I know, somewhere in the history of the place, though no one, I suppose, ever dreamed the missing room could be that! -- And in the chapel,| continued Arctura, hardly able to bring out the words, for a kind of cramping of the muscles of speech, |there was a bed! and in the bed the crumbling dust of a woman! and on the altar what was hardly more than the dusty shadow of a baby?|
|The Lord be aboot us!| cried the housekeeper, her well-seasoned composure giving way; |ye saw that wi' yer ain e'en, my lady! -- Mr. Grant! hoo could ye lat her leddyship luik upo' sic things!|
|I am her ladyship's servant,| answered Donal.
|That's varra true! But eh, my bonny bairn, sic sichts is no for you!|
|I ought to know what is in the house!| said Arctura, with a shudder. |But already I feel more comfortable that you know too. Mr. Grant would like to have your advice as to what -- . -- You'll come and see them, won't you?|
|When you please, my lady. -- To-night?|
|No, no! not to-night. -- Was that the knocking again? -- Some ghosts want their bodies to be buried, though your butler -- |
|I wouldna wonder!| responded mistress Brookes, thoughtfully.
|Where shall we bury them?| asked Donal.
|In Englan',| said the housekeeper, |I used to hear a heap aboot consecrated ground; but to my min' it was the bodies o' God's handiwark, no the bishop, that consecrated the ground. Whaur the Lord lays doon what he has done wi', wad aye be a sacred place to me. I daursay Moses, whan he cam upo' 't again i' the desert, luikit upo' the ground whaur stood the buss that had burned, as a sacred place though the fire was lang oot! -- Thinkna ye, Mr. Grant?|
|I do,| answered Donal. |But I do not believe the Lord Jesus thought one spot on the face of the earth more holy than another: every dust of it was his father's, neither more nor less, existing only by the thought of that father! and I think that is what we must come to. -- But where shall we bury them? -- where they lie, or in the garden?|
|Some wud doobtless hae dist laid to dist i' the kirkyard; but I wudna wullin'ly raise a clash i' the country-side. Them that did it was yer ain forbeirs, my leddy; an' sic things are weel forgotten. An' syne what wud the earl say? It micht upset him mair nor a bit! I'll consider o' 't.|
Donal accompanied them to the door of the chamber which again they shared, and then betook himself to his own high nest. There more than once in what remained of the night, he woke, fancying he heard the ghost-music sounding its coronach over the dead below.