Behold, it was a Dream!
by Rhoda Broughton
YESTERDAY morning I received the
Weston House, Caulfield, ------shire.
must come: I scorn all your excuses, and see
through their flimsiness. I have no doubt that you are much
better amused in Dublin, frolicking round ball rooms with a
succession of horse-soldiers, and watching her
Majesty's household troops play Polo in the Phoenix Park,
but no matter--you must come. We have no particular
inducements to hold out. We lead an exclusively bucolic,
cow-milking, pig-fattening, roast-mutton-eating and
to-bed-at-ten-o'clock-going life; but no
matter--you must come. I want you to see how happy two dull
elderly people may be, with no special brightness in their
lot to make them so. My old man--he is surprisingly ugly at
the first glance, but grows upon one afterwards--sends
you his respects, and bids me say that he will meet you at
any station on any day at any
hour of the day or night. If you succeed in evading our
persistence this time, you will be a cleverer woman than I
take you for.
"Ever yours affectionately,
"P.S.--We will invite our little
scarlet-headed curate to dinner to meet you, so as to soften
your fall from the society of the Plungers."
This is my answer:
the fat calf in all haste, and put the bake meats into the
oven, for I will come. Do not, however, imagine that I am
moved thereunto by the prospect of the bright-headed curate.
Believe me, my dear, I am as yet at a distance of ten long
good years from an addiction to the minor clergy. If I
survive the crossing of that seething, heaving, tumbling
abomination, St. George's Channel, you may expect me on
Tuesday next. I have been groping for hours in 'Bradshaw's'
darkness that may be felt, and I have arrived at length at
this twilight result, that I may arrive at your station at
6.55 P.M. But the ways of 'Bradshaw'
are not our ways, and I may either rush violently
past or never attain it. If I do, and if on my arrival I see
some rustic vehicle, guided by a startlingly ugly gentleman,
awaiting me, I shall know from your wifely description that
it is your 'old man.' Till Tuesday, then,
I am as good as my word; on Tuesday I set
off. For four mortal hours and a half I am disastrously,
hideously, diabolically sick. For four hours and a half I
curse the day on which I was born, the day on which Jane
Watson was born, the day on which her old man was born, and
lastly--but oh! not, not leastly--the day and the
dock on which and in which the Leinster's plunging,
courtseying, throbbing body was born. On arriving at
Holyhead, feeling convinced from my sensations that, as the
French say, I touch my last hour, I indistinctly request to
be allowed to stay on board and die, then and
there; but as the stewardess and my maid take a different
view of my situation, and insist upon forcing my cloak and
bonnet on my dying body and limp head, I at length succeed
in staggering on deck and off the accursed boat. I am then
well shaken up for two or three hours in the Irish mail, and
after crawling along a slow by-line for two or three hours
more, am at length, at 6:55, landed, battered, tired,
dust-blacked and qualmish, at the little roadside station of
Caulfield. My maid and I are the only passengers who
descend. The train snorts its slow way onwards, and I am
left gazing at the calm crimson death of the August sun, and
smelling the sweet peas in the station-master's garden
border. I look round in search of Jane's promised tax-cart,
and steel my nerves for the contemplation of her old man's
unlovely features. But the only vehicle which I see is a
tiny two-wheeled pony carriage, drawn by a small and
tub-shaped bay pony and driven by a lady in a hat, whose
face is turned expectantly towards me. I go up and recognise
my friend, whom I have not seen for two years--not since
before she fell in with her old man and espoused him.
"I thought it safest, after all, to come
myself," she says with a bright laugh. "My old man
looked so handsome this morning, that I thought you would
never recognise him from my description. Get in, dear, and
let us trot home as quickly as we can."
I comply, and for the next half hour sit
(while the cool evening wind is blowing the dust off my hot
and jaded face) stealing amazed glances at my companion's
cheery features. Cheery! That is the very last word
that, excepting in an ironical sense, any one would have
applied to my friend Jane two years ago. Two years ago Jane
was thirty-five, the elderly eldest daughter of a large
family, hustled into obscurity, jostled, shelved, by half a
dozen younger, fresher sisters; an elderly girl addicted to
lachrymose verse about the gone and the dead and the
for-ever-lost. Apparently the gone has come back, the dead
resuscitated, the for-ever-lost been found again. The peaky
sour virgin is transformed into a gracious matron with a
kindly, comely face, pleasure making and pleasure feeling.
Oh, Happiness, what powder, or paste, or milk of roses, can
make old cheeks young again in the cunning way that you do?
If you would but bide steadily with us we might live for
ever, always young and always handsome.
My musings on Jane's metamorphosis, combined
with a tired headache, make me somewhat silent, and indeed
there is mostly a slackness of conversation between the two
dearest allies on first meeting after absence--a sort of
hesitating shiver before plunging into the sea of talk that
both know to lie in readiness for them.
"Have you got your harvest in yet?"
I ask, more for the sake of not utterly holding my tongue
than from any profound interest in the subject, as we jog
briskly along between the yellow cornfields, where the dry
bound sheaves are standing in golden rows in the red sunset
"Not yet," answers Jane; "we
have only just begun to cut some of it. However, thank God,
the weather looks as settled as possible; there is not a
streak of watery lilac in the west."
My headache is almost gone and I am beginning
to think kindly of dinner--a subject from which all day
until now my mind has hastily turned with a sensation of
hideous inward revolt--by the time that the fat pony pulls
up before the old-world dark porch of a modest little house,
which has bashfully hidden its original face under a veil of
crowded clematis flowers and stalwart ivy. Set as in a
picture-frame by the large drooped ivy-leaves, I see a tall
and moderately hard-featured gentleman of middle age,
perhaps, of the two, rather inclining towards elderly,
smiling at us a little shyly.
"This is my old man," cries Jane,
stepping gaily out, and giving him a friendly introductory
pat on the shoulder. "Old man, this is Dinah."
Having thus been made known to each other we
shake hands, but neither of us can arrive at anything pretty
to say. Then I follow Jane into her little house, the little
house for which she has so happily exchanged her tenth part
of the large and noisy paternal mansion. It is an old house,
and everything about it has the moderate shabbiness of old
age and long and careful wear. Little thick-walled rooms,
dark and cool, with flowers and flower scents lying in wait
for you everywhere--a silent, fragrant, childless house. To
me, who have had oily locomotives snorting and racing
through my head all day, its dumb sweetness seems like
"And now that we have, secured you, we
do not mean to let you go in a hurry," says Jane
hospitably that night at bedtime, lighting the candles on my
"You are determined to make my mouth
water, I see," say I, interrupting a yawn to laugh.
"Lone, lorn me, who have neither old man, nor dear
little house, nor any prospect of ultimately attaining
"But if you honestly are not bored you
will stay with us a good bit?" she says, laying her
hand with kind entreaty on my sleeve.
"St. George's Channel is not lightly to
be faced again."
"Perhaps I shall stay until you are
obliged to go away yourselves to get rid of me," return
I, smiling. "Such things have happened. Yes, without
joking, I will stay a month. Then, by the end of a month, if
you have not found me out thoroughly, I think I may pass
among men for a more amiable woman than I have ever yet had
the reputation of."
A quarter of an hour later I am laying down
my head among soft and snow-white pillows, and saying to
myself that this delicious sensation of utter drowsy repose,
of soft darkness and odorous quiet, is cheaply purchased
even by the ridiculous anguish which my own sufferings
and--hardly less than my own sufferings--the demoniac sights
and sounds afforded by my fellow passengers, caused me on
board the accursed Leinster,
"Built in the eclipse,
and rigged with curses dark."
"WELL, I cannot say that you
look much rested," says Jane next morning, coming in to
greet me, smiling and fresh--(yes, sceptic of eighteen, even
a woman of thirty-seven may look fresh in a print gown on an
August morning, when she has a well of lasting quiet
happiness inside her,)--coming in with a bunch of creamy
gloire de Dijons in her hand for the breakfast table.
"You look infinitely more fagged than you did when I
left you last night!"
"Do I?" say I rather faintly.
"I am afraid you did not sleep
much?" suggests Jane, a little crestfallen at the
insult to her feather beds implied by my wakefulness.
"Some people never can sleep the first night in a
strange bed, and I stupidly forgot to ask whether you liked
the feather bed or mattress at the top."
"Yes, I did sleep," I answer
gloomily. "I wish to heaven I had not."
repeats Jane slowly, with a slight astonished pause between
each word. "My dear child, for what other purpose did
you go to bed?"
"I--I--had bad dreams," say I,
shuddering a little and then taking her hand, roses and all,
in mine. "Dear Jane, do not think me quite run mad,
but--but--have you got a 'Bradshaw' in the house?"
"A 'Bradshaw?' What on earth do you want
with 'Bradshaw?'" says my hostess, her face lengthening
considerably and a slight tincture of natural coldness
coming into her tone.
"I know it seems rude--insultingly
rude," say I, still holding her hand and speaking
almost lachrymosely; "but do you know, my dear, I
really am afraid that--that--I shall have to leave
"To leave us?" repeats she,
withdrawing her hand and growing angrily red. "What!
when not twenty-four hours ago you settled to stay a
month with us? What have we done between then and
now to disgust you with us?"
"Nothing--nothing," cry I eagerly;
"how can you suggest such a thing? I never had a kinder
welcome nor ever saw a place that charmed me more;
"But what?" asks June, her colour
subsiding and looking a little mollified.
"It is best to tell the truth, I
suppose," say I sighing, "even though I know that
you will laugh at me--will call me vapourish--sottishly
superstitious; but I had an awful and hideous dream last
"Is that all?" she says, looking
relieved, and beginning to arrange her roses in an old china
bowl. "And do you think that all dreams are confined to
this house? I never heard before of their affecting any one
special place more than another. Perhaps no sooner are you
back in Dublin, in your own room and your own bed, than you
will have a still worse and uglier one."
I shake my head. "But it was about this
"About me?" she says, with
an accent of a little aroused interest.
"About you and your husband," I
answer earnestly. "Shall I tell it you? Whether you say
'Yes' or 'No' I must. Perhaps it came as a warning; such
things have happened. Yes, say what you will, I cannot
believe that any vision so consistent--so tangibly real and
utterly free from the jumbled incongruities and
unlikelinesses of ordinary dreams--could have meant nothing.
Shall I begin?"
"By all means," answers Mrs.
Watson, sitting down in an arm-chair and smiling easily.
"I am quite prepared to listen--and
"You know," say I, narratively,
coming and standing close before her, "how utterly
tired out I was when you left me last night. I could hardly
answer your questions for yawning. I do not think that I was
ten minutes in getting into bed, and it seemed like heaven
when I laid my head down on the pillow. I felt as if I
should sleep till the Day of Judgment. Well, you know, when
one is asleep one has of course no measure of time, and I
have no idea what hour it was really; but at some
time, in the blackest and darkest of the night, I seemed to
wake. It appeared as if a noise had woke me--a noise which
at first neither frightened nor surprised me in the least,
but which seemed quite natural, and which I accounted for in
the muddled drowsy way in which one does account for things
when half asleep. But as I gradually grew to fuller
consciousness I found out, with a cold shudder, that the
noise I heard was not one that belonged to the night;
nothing that one could lay on wind in the chimney, or mice
behind the wainscot, or ill-fitting boards. It was a sound
of muffled struggling, and once I heard a sort of choked
strangled cry. I sat up in bed, perfectly numbed with
fright, and for a moment could hear nothing for the singing
of the blood in my head and the loud battering of my heart
against my side. Then I thought that if it were anything
bad--if I were going to be murdered--I had at least rather
be in the light than the dark, and see in what sort of shape
my fate was coming, so I slid out of bed and threw my
dressing-gown over my shoulders. I had stupidly forgotten,
in my weariness over night, to put the matches by the
bedside, and could not for the life of me recollect where
they were. Also, my knowledge of the geography of the room
was so small that in the utter blackness, without even the
palest, greyest ray from the window to help me, I was by no
means sure in which direction the door lay. I can feel now
the pain of the blow I gave this right side against the
sharp corner of the table in passing; I was quite surprised
this morning not to find the mark of a bruise there. At
last, in my groping I came upon the handle and turned the
key in the lock. It gave a little squeak, and again I
stopped for a moment, overcome by ungovernable fear. Then I
silently opened the door and looked out. You know that your
door is exactly opposite mine. By the line of red light
underneath it, I could see that at all events some one was
awake and astir within, for the light was brighter than that
given by a night-light. By the broader band of red light on
the right side of it I could also perceive that the door was
ajar. I stood stock still and listened. The two sounds of
struggling and chokedly crying had both ceased. All the
noise that remained was that as of some person quietly
moving about on unbooted feet. 'Perhaps Jane's dog Smut is
ill and she is sitting up with it; she was saying last
night, I remember, that she was afraid it was beginning with
the distemper. Perhaps either she or her old man have been
taken with some trifling temporary sickness. Perhaps the
noise of crying out that I certainly heard was one of them
fighting with a nightmare.' Trying, by such like
suggestions, to hearten myself up, I stole across the
passage and peeped in"----
I pause in my narrative.
"Well?" says Jane, a little
She has dropped her flowers. They lie in
odorous dewy confusion in her lap. She is listening rather
eagerly. I cover my face with my hands. "Oh! My
dear," I cry, "I do not think I can go on. It was
too dreadful! Now that I am telling it I seem to be
doing and hearing it over again"----
"I do not call it very kind to keep me
on the rack," she says, with a rather forced laugh.
"Probably I am imagining something much worse than the
reality. For heaven's sake speak up! What did you see?"
I take hold of her hand and continue
"You know that in your room the bed exactly faces the
door. Well, when I looked in, looked in with eyes blinking
at first, and dazzled by the long darkness they had been in,
it seemed to me as if that bed were only one horrible sheet
of crimson; but as my sight grew clearer I saw what it was
that caused that frightful impression of universal
red"--again I pause with a gasp and feeling of
"Go on! go on!" cries my companion,
leaning forward, and speaking with some petulance. "Are
you never going to get to the point?"
"Jane," say I solemnly, "do
not laugh at me, nor poohpooh me, for it is God's truth--as
clearly and vividly as I see you now, strong, flourishing,
and alive, so clearly, so vividly, with no more of dream
haziness nor of contradiction in details than there is in
the view I now have of this room and of you--I saw you
both--you and your husband, lying
dead--murdered--drowned in your own blood!"
"What, both of us?" she says,
trying to laugh, but her healthy cheek has rather paled.
"Both of you," I answer, with
growing excitement. "You, Jane, had evidently been the
one first attacked--taken off in your sleep--for you were
lying just as you would have lain in slumber, only that
across your throat from there to there" (touching first
one ear and then the other), "there was a huge and
"Pleasant," replies she, with a
"I never saw any one dead,"
continue I earnestly, "never until last night. I had
not the faintest idea how dead people looked, even people
who died quietly, nor has any picture ever given me at all a
clear conception of death's dread look. How then could I
have imagined the hideous contraction and
distortion of feature, the staring starting open
eyes--glazed yet agonised--the tightly clenched teeth that
go to make up the picture, that is now, this very
minute standing out in ugly vividness before my mind's
eye?" I stop, but she does not avail herself of the
pause to make any remark, neither does she look any longer
at all laughingly inclined. "And yet," continue I,
with a voice shaken by emotion, "it was you,
very you, not partly you and partly some one else, as
is mostly the case in dreams, but as much you, as
the you I am touching now" laying my finger on
her arm as I speak).
"And my old man, Robin," says poor
Jane, rather tearfully, after a moment's silence, "what
about him? Did you see him? Was he dead too?"
"It was evidently he whom I had heard
struggling and crying," I answer with a strong shudder,
which I cannot keep down, "for it was clear that he had
fought for his life. He was lying half on the bed and half
on the floor, and one clenched hand was grasping a great
piece of the sheet; he was lying head downwards, as if,
after his last struggle, he had fallen forwards. All his
grey hair was reddened and stained, and I could see that the
rift in his throat was as deep as that in yours."
"I wish you would stop," cries
Jane, pale as ashes, and speaking with an accent of
unwilling, terror; "you are making me quite sick!"
"I must finish," I answer
earnestly, "since it has come in time I am sure it has
come for some purpose. Listen to me till the end; it is very
near." She does not speak, and I take her silence for
assent. "I was staring at you both in a stony
way," I go on, "feeling--if I felt at all--that I
was turning idiotic with horror--standing in exactly the
same spot, with my neck craned to look round the door, and
my eyes unable to stir from that hideous scarlet bed, when a
slight noise, as of some one cautiously stepping on the
carpet, turned my stony terror into a living quivering
agony. I looked and saw a man with his back towards me
walking across the room from the bed to the dressing-table.
He was dressed in the dirty fustian of an ordinary workman,
and in his hand he held a red wet sickle. When he reached
the dressing-table he laid it down on the floor beside him,
and began to collect all the rings, open the cases of the
bracelets, and hurry the trinkets of all sorts into his
pockets. While he was thus busy I caught a full view of the
reflection of the face in the glass"-- I stop for
breath, my heart is panting almost as hardly as it seemed to
pant during the awful moments I am describing.
"What was he like--what was he
like?" cries Jane, greatly excited. "Did you see
him distinctly enough to recollect his features again? Would
you know him again if you saw him?"
"Should I know my own face if I saw it
in the glass?" I ask scornfully. "I see every line
of it now more clearly than I do yours, though that
is before my eyes, and the other only before my
"Well, what was he like?--be quick, for
"The first moment that I caught sight of
him," continue I, speaking quickly, "I felt
certain that he was Irish; to no other nationality could
such a type of face have belonged. His wild rough hair fell
down over his forehead, reaching his shagged and overhanging
brows. He had the wide grinning slit of a mouth--the long
nose, the cunningly twinkling eyes--that one so often sees,
in combination with a shambling gait and ragged tail-coat,
at the railway stations or in the harvest fields at this
time of year." A pause. "I do not know how it came
to me," I go on presently; "but I felt as
convinced as if I had been told--as if I had known it for a
positive fact--that he was one of your own labourers--one of
your own harvest men. Have you any Irishmen working for
"Of course we have," answers Jane,
rather sharply, "but that proves nothing. Do not they,
as you observed just now, come over in droves at this time
of year for the harvest?"
"I am sorry," say I, sighing.
"I wish you had not. Well, let me finish; I have just
done--I had been holding the door-handle mechanically in my
hand; I suppose I pulled it unconsciously towards me, for
the door hinge creaked a little, but quite audibly. To my
unspeakable horror the man turned round and saw me. Good
God! he would cut my throat too with that red, red
reaping hook! I tried to get into the passage and lock the
door, but the key was on the inside. I tried to scream, I
tried to run; but voice and legs disobeyed me. The bed and
room and man began to dance before me; a black earthquake
seemed to swallow me up, and I suppose I fell down in a
swoon. When I awoke really the blessed morning had
come, and a robin was singing outside my window on an apple
bough. There--you have it all, and now let me look for a
'Bradshaw,' for I am so frightened and unhinged that go I
"I MUST own that it
has taken away appetite," I say, with rather a sickly
smile, as we sit round the breakfast table. "I assure
you that I mean no insult to your fresh eggs and
bread-and-butter, but I simply cannot
"It certainly was an exceptionally
dreadful dream," says Jane, whose colour has returned,
and who is a good deal fortified and reassured by the
influences of breakfast and of her husband's scepticism; for
a condensed and shortened version of my dream has been told
to him, and he has easily laughed it to scorn.
"Exceptionally dreadful, chiefly from its extreme
consistency and precision of detail. But still, you know,
dear, one has had hideous dreams oneself times out of mind
and they never came, to anything. I remember once I dreamt
that all my teeth came out in my mouth at once--double ones
and all; but that was ten years ago, and they still keep
their situations, nor did I about that time lose any friend,
which they say such a dream is a sign of."
"You say that some unaccountable
instinct told you that the hero of your dream was one of my
own men," says Robin, turning towards me with a covert
smile of benevolent contempt for my superstitiousness;
"did not I understand you to say so?"
"Yes," reply I, not in the least
shaken by his hardly-veiled disbelief.
"I do not know how it came to me, but I
was as much persuaded of that, and am so still, as I am of
my own identity."
"I will tell you of a plan then to prove
the truth of your vision," returns he, smiling. "I
will take you through the fields this morning and you shall
see all my men at work, both the ordinary staff and the
harvest casuals, Irish and all. If amongst them you find the
counterpart of Jane's and my murderer (a smile) I will
promise then--no, not even then can I
promise to believe you, for there is such a family likeness
between all Irishmen, at all events between all the Irishmen
that one sees out of Ireland."
"Take me," I say eagerly, jumping
up; "now, this minute! You cannot be more anxious nor
half so anxious to prove me a false prophet as I am to be
"I am quite at your service," he
answers, "as soon as you please. Jenny, get your hat
and come too."
"And if we do not find
him," says Jane, smiling playfully--" I think I am
growing pretty easy on that head--you will promise to eat a
great deal of luncheon and never mention 'Bradshaw'
"I promise," reply I gravely.
"And if, on the other hand, we do find him,
you will promise to put no more obstacles in the way of my
going, but will let me depart in peace without taking any
"It is a bargain," she says gaily.
So we set off in the bright dewiness of the
morning; on our walk over Robin's farm. It is a grand
harvest day, and the whitened sheaves are everywhere,
drying, drying in the genial sun. We have been walking for
an hour and both Jane and I are rather tired. The sun beats
with all his late-summer strength on our heads and takes the
force and spring out of our hot limbs.
"The hour of triumph is
approaching," says Robin, with a quiet smile, as we
draw near an open gate through which a loaded wain,
shedding, ripe wheat ears from its abundance as it crawls
along, is passing. "And time for it too; it is a
quarter past twelve and you have been on your legs for fully
an hour. Miss Bellairs, you must make haste and find the
murderer, for there is only one more field to do it
"Is not there?" I cry eagerly.
"Oh, I am glad! Thank God, I begin to breathe
We pass through the open gate and begin to
tread across the stubble for almost the last load has
"We must get nearer the hedge,"
says Robin, "or you will not see their faces; they are
all at dinner."
We do as he suggests. In the shadow of the
hedge we walk close in front of the row of heated labourers,
who, sitting or lying on the hedge bank, are eating
unattractive looking dinners. I scan one face after
another--honest bovine English faces. I have seen a
hundred thousand faces like each one of the faces
now before me--very like but the exact counterpart of none.
We are getting to the end of the row, I beginning to feel
rather ashamed, though infinitely relieved, and to smile at
my own expense. I look again, and my heart suddenly stands
still and turns to stone within me. He is
there!--not a handsbreadth from me! Great God!
how well I have remembered his face, even to the unsightly
smallpox seams, the shagged locks, the grinning slit mouth,
the little sly base eyes. He is employed in no murderous
occupation now; he is harmlessly cutting hunks of
coarse bread and fat cold bacon with a clasp knife; but yet
I have no more doubt that it is he--he whom I saw
with the crimsoned sickle in his stained
hand--than I have that it is I who am stonily, shiveringly,
staring at him.
"Well, Miss Bellairs, who was
right?" asks Robin's cheery voice at my elbow.
"Perish Bradshaw and all his labyrinths! Are you
satisfied now? Good heavens!" (catching a sudden sight
of my face) "How white you are! Do you mean to say that
you have found him at last? Impossible!"
"Yes, I have found him," I answer
in a low and unsteady tone. "I knew I should. Look,
there he is!--close to us, the third from the end."
I turn away my head, unable to bear the
hideous recollections and associations that the sight of the
man calls up, and I suppose that they both look.
"Are you sure that you are not letting
your imagination carry you away?" asks he presently, in
a tone of gentle kindly remonstrance. "As I said
before, these fellows are all so much alike, they have all
the same look of debased squalid cunning. Oblige me by
looking once again, so as to be quite sure."
I obey. Reluctantly I look at him once again.
Apparently becoming aware that he is the object of our
notice, he lifts his small dull eyes and looks back at me.
It is the same face--they are the same eyes that turned from
the plundered dressing-table to catch sight of me last
night. "There is no mistake," I answer, shuddering
from head to foot. "Take me away, please--as quick as
you can--out of the field--home!"
They comply, and over the hot fields and
through the hot noon air we step silently homewards. As we
reach the cool and ivied porch of the house I speak for the
first time. "You believe me now?"
He hesitates. "I was staggered for a
moment, I will own," he answers, with candid gravity;
"but I have been thinking it over and on reflection I
have come to the conclusion that the highly excited state of
your imagination is answerable for the heightening of the
resemblance which exists between all the Irish of that class
into an identity with the particular Irishman you dreamed
of, and whose face (by your own showing) you only saw dimly
reflected in the glass."
"Not dimly," repeat I,
emphatically, "unless I now see that Sun dimly"
(pointing to him as he gloriously, blindingly, blazes from
the sky). You will not be warned by me, then?" I
continue passionately, after an interval. "You will run
the risk of my dream coming true--you will stay on here in
spite of it? Oh, if I could persuade you to go from
home--anywhere--anywhere--for a time, until the danger was
"And leave the harvest to itself?"
answers he, with a smile of quiet sarcasm; "be a loser
of two hundred or three hundred pounds, probably, and a
laughing-stock to my acquaintance into the bargain, and
all for--what? A dream a fancy--a nightmare!"
"But do you know anything of the
man?--of his antecedents?--of his character?" I
He shrugs he shoulders.
"Nothing whatever; nothing to his
disadvantage, certainly. He came over with a lot of others a
fortnight ago, and I engaged him for the harvesting. For
anything I have heard to the contrary, he is a simple
inoffensive fellow enough."
I am silenced, but not convinced. I turn to
Jane. "You remember your promise: you will now put no
more hindrances in the way of my going?"
"You do not mean to say that you are
going, really?" says Jane, who is looking rather awed
by what she calls the surprising coincidence but is still a
good deal heartened up by her husband's want of faith.
"I do," reply I, emphatically.
"I should go stark staring mad if I were to sleep
another night in that room. I shall go to Chester to-night,
and cross to-morrow from Holyhead."
I do as I say. I make my maid, to her extreme
surprise, repack my just unpacked wardrobe and take an
afternoon train to Chester. As I drive away with bag and
baggage down the leafy lane, I look back and see my two
friends standing at their gate. Jane is leaning her head on
her old man's shoulder, and looking rather wistfully after
me: an expression of mingled regret for my departure and
vexation at my folly clouding their kind and happy faces. At
least my last living recollection of them is a pleasant one.
THE joy with which my family welcome
my return is largely mingled with surprise, but still more
largely with curiosity, as to the cause of my so sudden
reappearance. But I keep my own counsel. I have a reluctance
to give the real reason, and possess no inventive faculty in
the way of lying, so I give none. I say, "I am
back: is not that enough for you? Set your minds at rest,
for that is as much as you will ever know about the
For one thing, I am occasionally rather
ashamed of my conduct. It is not that the impression
produced by my dream is effaced, but that absence
and distance from the scene and the persons of it have
produced their natural weakening effect. Once or twice
during the voyage, when writhing in laughable torments in
the ladies' cabin of the steam~boat, I said to myself,
"Most likely you are a fool!" I therefore
continually ward off the cross-questionings of my
family with what defensive armour of silence and evasion I
"I feel convinced it was the
husband," says one of my sisters, after a long
catechism, which, as usual, has resulted in nothing.
"You are too loyal to your friend to own it, but I
always felt sure that any man who could take compassion on
that poor peevish old Jane must be some wonderful freak of
nature. Come, confess. Is not he a cross between an
orang-outang and a Methodist parson?"
"He is nothing of the kind," reply
I, in some heat, recalling the libelled Robin's clean
fresh-coloured human face. "You will be very
lucky if you ever secure any one half so kind, pleasant, and
Three days after my return, I receive a
letter from Jane:
Weston House, Caulfield.
"MY DEAR DINAH,--I hope you are safe home again, and
that you have made up your mind that two crossings of St.
George's Channel within forty-eight hours are almost as bad
as having your throat cut, according to the programme you
laid out for us. I have good news for you. Our
murderer elect is gone. After hearing of the
connection that there was to lie between us, Robin naturally
was rather interested in him, and found out his name, which
is the melodious one of Watty Doolan After asking his name
he asked other things about him, and finding that he never
did a stroke of work and was inclined to be tipsy and
quarrelsome he paid and packed him off at once. He is now on
hi way back to his native shores, and if he murder anybody
it will be you my dear. Good-bye, Dinah. Hardly yet
have I forgiven you for the way in which you frightened me
with your graphic description of poor Robin and me, with our
heads loose and waggling.
"Ever yours affectionately,
I fold up this note with a feeling of
exceeding relief, and a thorough faith that I have been a
superstitious hysterical fool. More resolved than ever am I
to keep the reason for my return profoundly secret from my
family. The next morning but one we are all in the
breakfast-room after breakfast, hanging about, and
looking at the papers. My sister has just thrown down the
Times, with a pettish exclamation that there is
nothing in it and that it really is not worthwhile paying
threepence a day to see nothing but advertisements and
police reports. I pick it up as she throws it down, and look
listlessly over its tall columns from top to bottom.
Suddenly my listlessness vanishes. What is this that I am
reading?--this in staring capitals?
I am in the middle of the paragraph before I
realise what it is.
"From an early hour of the morning this
village has been the scene of deep and painful excitement in
consequence of the discovery of the atrocious murder of Mr.
and Mrs. watson, of Weston House, two of its most respected
inhabitants. It appears that the deceased had retired to
rest on Tuesday night at their usual hour, and in their
usual health and spirits. The housemaid, on going to call
them at the accustomed hour on Wednesday morning, received
no answer, in spite of repeated knocking. She therefore at
length opened the door and entered. The rest of the
servants, attracted by her cries, rushed to the spot, and
found the unfortunate gentleman and lady lying on the bed
with their throats cut from ear to ear. Life must have been
extinct for some hours, as they were both perfectly cold.
The room presented a hideous spectacle, being literally
swimming in blood. A reaping hook, evidently the instrument
with which the crime was perpetrated, was picked up near the
door. An Irish labourer of the name of Watty Doolan,
discharged by the lamented gentleman a few days ago on
account of misconduct, has already been arrested on strong
suspicion, as at an early hour on Wednesday morning he was
seen by a farm labourer, who was going to his work, washing
his waistcoat at a retired spot in the stream which flows
through the meadows below the scene of the murder. On being
apprehended and searched, several small articles of jewelry,
identified as having belonged to Mr. Watson, were discovered
in his possession."
I drop the paper and sink into a chair,
feeling deadly sick.
So you see that my dream came true, after
The facts narrated in the above story
occurred in Ireland. The only liberty I have taken with them
is in transplanting them to England.