XXIX. A Weird Tale
On an early June evening Rainbow Valley was an entirely delightful place and
the children felt it to be so, as they sat in the open glade where the bells rang
elfishly on the Tree Lovers, and the White Lady shook her green tresses. The
wind was laughing and whistling about them like a leal, glad-hearted comrade.
The young ferns were spicy in the hollow. The wild cherry trees scattered over
the valley, among the dark firs, were mistily white. The robins were whistling over
in the maples behind Ingleside. Beyond, on the slopes of the Glen, were
blossoming orchards, sweet and mystic and wonderful, veiled in dusk. It was
spring, and young things MUST be glad in spring. Everybody was glad in
Rainbow Valley that evening--until Mary Vance froze their blood with the story of
Henry Warren's ghost.
Jem was not there. Jem spent his evenings now studying for his entrance
examination in the Ingleside garret. Jerry was down near the pond, trouting.
Walter had been reading Longfellow's sea poems to the others and they were
steeped in the beauty and mystery of the ships. Then they talked of what they
would do when they were grown up--where they would travel--the far, fair shores
they would see. Nan and Di meant to go to Europe. Walter longed for the Nile
moaning past its Egyptian sands, and a glimpse of the sphinx. Faith opined
rather dismally that she supposed she would have to be a missionary--old Mrs.
Taylor told her she ought to be--and then she would at least see India or China,
those mysterious lands of the Orient. Carl's heart was set on African jungles. Una
said nothing. She thought she would just like to stay at home. It was prettier here
than anywhere else. It would be dreadful when they were all grown up and had to
scatter over the world. The very idea made Una feel lonesome and homesick.
But the others dreamed on delightedly until Mary Vance arrived and vanished
poesy and dreams at one fell swoop.
"Laws, but I'm out of puff," she exclaimed. "I've run down that hill like sixty. I got
an awful scare up there at the old Bailey place."
"What frightened you?" asked Di.
"I dunno. I was poking about under them lilacs in the old garden, trying to see if
there was any lilies-of-the-valley out yet. It was dark as a pocket there--and all at
once I seen something stirring and rustling round at the other side of the garden,
in those cherry bushes. It was WHITE. I tell you I didn't stop for a second look. I
flew over the dyke quicker than quick. I was sure it was Henry Warren's ghost."
"Who was Henry Warren?" asked Di.
"And why should he have a ghost?" asked Nan.
"Laws, did you never hear the story? And you brought up in the Glen. Well, wait a
minute till I get by breath all back and I'll tell you."
Walter shivered delightsomely. He loved ghost stories. Their mystery, their
dramatic climaxes, their eeriness gave him a fearful, exquisite pleasure.
Longfellow instantly grew tame and commonplace. He threw the book aside and
stretched himself out, propped upon his elbows to listen whole-heartedly, fixing
his great luminous eyes on Mary's face. Mary wished he wouldn't look at her so.