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7. The Ghost's Walk
While Esther sleeps, and while Esther wakes, it is still wet weather down at the place in
Lincolnshire. The rain is ever falling--drip, drip, drip--by day and night upon the broad
flagged terrace- pavement, the Ghost's Walk. The weather is so very bad down in
Lincolnshire that the liveliest imagination can scarcely apprehend its ever being fine
again. Not that there is any superabundant life of imagination on the spot, for Sir
Leicester is not here (and, truly, even if he were, would not do much for it in that
particular), but is in Paris with my Lady; and solitude, with dusky wings, sits brooding
upon Chesney Wold.
There may be some motions of fancy among the lower animals at Chesney Wold. The
horses in the stables--the long stables in a barren, red-brick court-yard, where there is a
great bell in a turret, and a clock with a large face, which the pigeons who live near it
and who love to perch upon its shoulders seem to be always consulting--they may
contemplate some mental pictures of fine weather on occasions, and may be better
artists at them than the grooms. The old roan, so famous for cross-country work, turning
his large eyeball to the grated window near his rack, may remember the fresh leaves
that glisten there at other times and the scents that stream in, and may have a fine run
with the hounds, while the human helper, clearing out the next stall, never stirs beyond
his pitchfork and birch-broom. The grey, whose place is opposite the door and who with
an impatient rattle of his halter pricks his ears and turns his head so wistfully when it is
opened, and to whom the opener says, "'Woa grey, then, steady! Noabody wants you
to-day!" may know it quite as well as the man. The whole seemingly monotonous and
uncompanionable half-dozen, stabled together, may pass the long wet hours when the
door is shut in livelier communication than is held in the servants' hall or at the Dedlock
Arms, or may even beguile the time by improving (perhaps corrupting) the pony in the
loose-box in the corner.
So the mastiff, dozing in his kennel in the court-yard with his large head on his paws,
may think of the hot sunshine when the shadows of the stable-buildings tire his patience
out by changing and leave him at one time of the day no broader refuge than the
shadow of his own house, where he sits on end, panting and growling short, and very
much wanting something to worry besides himself and his chain. So now, half-waking
and all-winking, he may recall the house full of company, the coach-houses full of
vehicles, the stables fall of horses, and the out-buildings full of attendants upon horses,
until he is undecided about the present and comes forth to see how it is. Then, with that
impatient shake of himself, he may growl in the spirit, "Rain, rain, rain! Nothing but rain--
and no family here!" as he goes in again and lies down with a gloomy yawn.
So with the dogs in the kennel-buildings across the park, who have their resfless fits
and whose doleful voices when the wind has been very obstinate have even made it
known in the house itself-- upstairs, downstairs, and in my Lady's chamber. They may
hunt the whole country-side, while the raindrops are pattering round their inactivity. So