Art by Fred LeBlanc (Pinterest).
Reality or Delusion?
“Johnny Ludlow”, 1868*
Edited by Sanguine Woods, 2018
First appeared in The Argosy (UK) in December 1868**
People like ghost stories at Christmas, so I’ll tell one. It is every word true. And I don’t mind confessing that for ages afterwards some of us did not care to pass the place alone at night.
We were staying at Crabb Cot. Lena had been ailing during the Autumn, and in October Mrs. Todhetley proposed to the Squire that they should remove her there for a change. Which was done.
The Worcestershire people call North Crabb a village; but one might count the houses in it, little and great, and not find four-and-twenty. South Crabb, half a mile off, is larger; but the church and school are at North Crabb. And I need not have mentioned South Crabb at all, for what there is to tell has nothing to do with it.
John Ferrar had been employed by Squire Todhetley as a kind of over-looker of the estate, or working bailiff. He had died the previous winter; leaving nothing behind him except some debts, for he was not provident, and his handsome son Daniel. Daniel Ferrar disliked work: he used to make a show of helping his father, but it came to little. Old Ferrar had not put him to any trade or particular occupation; and Daniel, who was as proud as Lucifer, would not turn to it himself. He liked to be a gentleman. All he did now was to work in his garden, and feed his fowls, ducks, rabbits, and pigeons, of which he kept a great quantity, selling them to the good houses and sending them to market.
But, as everybody said, poultry would not maintain him. Mrs. Lease, in the pretty cottage hard by, grew tired of saying it. He used to run in and out of there at will since he was a boy, and was now engaged to be married to Maria. She would have a little money, and the Leases were respected in North Crabb. People began to whisper a query as to how Ferrar got his corn for the poultry; he was not known to buy much; and he would have to go out of his house at Christmas, for the owner of it, Mr. Coney, had given him notice. Mrs. Lease, anxious about Maria’s prospects, asked him what he intended to do then, and he answered, “Make his fortune: he should begin to do it as soon as he could turn himself round.” But the time had gone on, and the turning round seemed to be as far off as ever.