"Don't tell her what HE says," cried Raby, with a sudden fury that made Grace start and open her eyes. "I know the puppy. He is what is called a divine nowadays; but used to be called a skeptic. There never was so infidel an age. Socinus was content to prove Jesus Christ a man; but Renan has gone and proved him a Frenchman. Nothing is so gullible as an unbeliever. The right reverend father in God, Cocker, has gnawed away the Old Testament: the Oxford doctors are nibbling away the New: nothing escapes but the apocrypha: yet these same skeptics believe the impudent lies, and monstrous arithmetic of geology, which babbles about a million years, a period actually beyond the comprehension of the human intellect; and takes up a jaw-bone, that some sly navvy has transplanted over-night from the churchyard into Lord knows what stratum, fees the navvy, gloats over the bone, and knocks the Bible down with it. No, Mr. Coventry, your story is a good one, and well told; don't let us defile it with the comments of a skeptical credulous pedant. Fill your glass, sir. Here's to old religion, old stories, old songs, old houses, old wine, old friends, or" (recovering himself with admirable grace) "to new friends that are to be old ones ere we die. Come, let the stronger vessel drink, and the weaker vessel sip, and all say together, after me--
"Well may we all be, Ill may we never see, That make good company, Beneath the roof of Raby."
When this rude rhyme had been repeated in chorus, there was a little silence, and the conversation took a somewhat deeper tone. It began through Grace asking Mr. Raby, with all the simplicity of youth, whether he had ever seen anything supernatural with his own eyes. "For instance," said she, "this deserted church of yours, that you say the shepherd said he saw on fire--did YOU see that?"
"Not I. Indeed, the church is not in sight from here. No, Grace, I never saw any thing supernatural: and I am sorry for it, for I laugh at people's notion that a dead man has any power to injure the living; how can a cold wind come from a disembodied spirit? I am all that a ghost is, and something more; and I only wish I COULD call the dead from their graves; I'd soon have a dozen gentlemen and ladies out of that old church-yard into this very room. And, if they would only come, you would see me converse with them as civilly and as calmly as I am doing with you. The fact is, I have some questions to put, which only the dead can answer--passages in the family correspondence, referring to things I can't make out for the life of me."
"Oh, Mr. Raby, pray don't talk in this dreadful way, for fear they should be angry and come." And Grace looked fearfully round over her shoulder.
Mr. Raby shook his head; and there was a dead silence.
Mr. Raby broke it rather unexpectedly. "But," said he, gravely, "if I have seen nothing, I've heard something. Whether it was supernatural, I can't say; but, at least, it was unaccountable and terrible. I have heard THE GABRIEL HOUNDS."
Mr. Coventry and Grace looked at one another, and then inquired, almost in a breath, what the Gabriel hounds were.