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What The Shepherd Saw: A Tale Of Four Moonlight Nights
by [?]


‘That was all of it. Now, of course I ought have gone, as it turned out, but that I did not think of then. I remembered his impetuous temper, and feared that something grievous was impending over his head, while he had not a friend in the world to help him, or any one except myself to whom he would care to make his trouble known. So I wrapped myself up and went to Marlbury Downs at the time he had named. Don’t you think I was courageous?’


‘When I got there–but shall we not walk on; it is getting cold?’ The Duke, however, did not move. ‘When I got there he came, of course, as a full grown man and officer, and not as the lad that I had known him. When I saw him I was sorry I had come. I can hardly tell you how he behaved. What he wanted I don’t know even now; it seemed to be no more than the mere meeting with me. He held me by the hand and waist–O so tight–and would not let me go till I had promised to meet him again. His manner was so strange and passionate that I was afraid of him in such a lonely place, and I promised to come. Then I escaped–then I ran home–and that’s all. When the time drew on this evening for the appointment–which, of course, I never intended to keep, I felt uneasy, lest when he found I meant to disappoint him he would come on to the house; and that’s why I could not sleep. But you are so silent!’

‘I have had a long journey.’

‘Then let us get into the house. Why did you come alone and unattended like this?’

‘It was my humour.’

After a moment’s silence, during which they moved on, she said, ‘I have thought of something which I hardly like to suggest to you. He said that if I failed to come to-night he would wait again to-morrow night. Now, shall we to-morrow night go to the hill together–just to see if he is there; and if he is, read him a lesson on his foolishness in nourishing this old passion, and sending for me so oddly, instead of coming to the house?’

‘Why should we see if he’s there?’ said her husband moodily.

‘Because I think we ought to do something in it. Poor Fred! He would listen to you if you reasoned with him, and set our positions in their true light before him. It would be no more than Christian kindness to a man who unquestionably is very miserable from some cause or other. His head seems quite turned.’

By this time they had reached the door, rung the bell, and waited. All the house seemed to be asleep; but soon a man came to them, the horse was taken away, and the Duke and Duchess went in.


There was no help for it. Bill Mills was obliged to stay on duty, in the old shepherd’s absence, this evening as before, or give up his post and living. He thought as bravely as he could of what lay behind the Devil’s Door, but with no great success, and was therefore in a measure relieved, even if awe-stricken, when he saw the forms of the Duke and Duchess strolling across the frosted greensward. The Duchess was a few yards in front of her husband and tripped on lightly.

‘I tell you he has not thought it worth while to come again!’ the Duke insisted, as he stood still, reluctant to walk further.

‘He is more likely to come and wait all night; and it would be harsh treatment to let him do it a second time.’

‘He is not here; so turn and come home.’

‘He seems not to be here, certainly; I wonder if anything has happened to him. If it has, I shall never forgive myself!’

The Duke, uneasily, ‘O, no. He has some other engagement.’