grandpapa believes it, just a little. Have you seen her?'
'Only Clarence has, and he knew the picture directly.'
She was much impressed, and on slight persuasion related the story,
which she had heard from an elder sister of her grandfather's, and
which had perhaps been the more impressed on her by her mother's
consternation at 'such folly' having been communicated to her.
Peggy, who was much older than her brother, had died only four years
ago, at eighty-eight, having kept her faculties to the last, and
handed down many traditions to her great-niece. The old lady's
father had been contemporary with the Margaret of ghostly fame, so
that the stages had been few through which it had come down from
1708 to 1830.
I wrote it down at once, as it here stands.
Margaret was the only daughter of the elder branch of the Fordyces.
Her father had intended her to marry her cousin, the male heir on
whom the Hillside estates and the advowson of that living were
entailed; but before the contract had been formally made, the father
was killed by accident, and through some folly and ambition of her
mother's (such seemed to be the Fordyce belief), the poor heiress
was married to Sir James Winslow, one of the successful intriguers
of the days of the later Stewarts, and with a family nearly as old,
if not older, than herself. Her own children died almost at their
birth, and she was left a young widow. Being meek and gentle, her
step-sons and daughters still ruled over Chantry House. They
prevented her Hillside relations from having access to her whilst in
a languishing state of health, and when she died unexpectedly, she
was found to have bequeathed all her property to her step-son,
Philip Winslow, instead of to her blood relations, the Fordyces.
This was certain, but the Fordyce tradition was that she had been
kept shut up in the mullion chambers, where she had often been heard
weeping bitterly. One night in the winter, when the gentlemen of
the family had gone out to a Christmas carousal, she had endeavoured
to escape by the steps leading to the garden from the door now
bricked up, but had been met by them and dragged back with violence,
of which she died in the course of a few days; and, what was very
suspicious, she had been entirely attended by her step-daughter and
an old nurse, who never would let her own woman come near her.
The Fordyces had thought of a prosecution, but the Winslows had
powerful interest at Court in those corrupt times, and contrived to
hush up the matter, as well as to win the suit in which the Fordyces
attempted to prove that there was no right to will the property
away. Bitter enmity remained between the families; they were always
opposed in politics, and their animosity was fed by the belief which
arose that at the anniversaries of her death the poor lady haunted
the rooms, lamp in hand, wailing and lamenting. A duel had been
fought on the subject between the heirs of the two families,
resulting in the death of the young Winslow.
'And now,' cried Ellen Fordyce, 'the feud is so beautifully ended;
the doom must be appeased, now that the head of one hostile line has
come to the rescue of the other, and saved all our lives.'
My suggestion that these would hardly have been destroyed, even
without our interposition, fell very flat, for romance must have its
swing. Ellen told us how, on the news of our kinsman's death and
our inheritance, the ancestral story had been discussed, and her
grandfather had said he believed there were letters about it in the
iron deed-box, and how he hoped to be on better terms with the new
The ghost story had always been hushed up in the family, especially
since the duel, and we all knew the resemblance of the picture would
be scouted by our elders; but perhaps this gave us the more pleasure
in dwelling upon it, while we agreed that poor Margaret ought to be
appeased by Griffith's prowess on behalf of the Fordyces.
The two young ladies went off to inspect the mullion chamber, which
they found so crammed with Hillside furniture that they could
scarcely enter, and returned disappointed, except for having
inspected and admired all Griff's weapons, especially what Miss
Fordyce called the sword of her rescue.
She had been learning German - rather an unusual study in those days,
and she narrated to us most effectively the story of Die Weisse
Frau, working herself up to such a pitch that she would have
actually volunteered to spend a night in the room, to see whether
Margaret would hold any communication with a descendant, after the
example of the White Woman and Lady Bertha, if there had been either
fire or accommodation, and if the only entrance had not been through
Griff's private sitting-room.
CHAPTER XIX - THE WHITE FEATHER
'The white doe's milk is not out of his mouth.'
Clarence had come home free from all blots. His summer holiday had
been prevented by the illness of one of the other clerks, whose
place, Mr. Castleford wrote, he had so well supplied that ere long
he would be sure to earn his promotion. That kind friend had
several times taken him to spend a Sunday in the country, and, as we
afterwards had reason to think, would have taken more notice of him
but for the rooted belief of Mr. Frith that it was a case of
favouritism, and that piety and strictness were assumed to throw
dust in the eyes of his patron.
Such distrust had tended to render Clarence more reserved than ever,
and it was quite by the accident of finding him studying one of Mrs.
Trimmer's Manuals that I discovered that, at the request of his good
Rector, he had become a Sunday-school teacher, and was as much
interested as the enthusiastic girls; but I was immediately
forbidden to utter a word on the subject, even to Emily, lest she
should tell any one.
Such reserve was no doubt an outcome of his natural timidity. He
had to bear a certain amount of scorn and derision among some of his
fellow-clerks for the stricter habits and observances that could not
be concealed, and he dreaded any fresh revelation of them, partly
because of the cruel imputation of hypocrisy, partly because he
feared the bringing a scandal on religion by his weakness and
Nor did our lady visitors' ways reassure him, though they meant to
be kind. They could not help being formal and stiff, not as they
were with Griff and me. The two gentlemen were thoroughly friendly
and hearty; Parson Frank could hardly have helped being so towards
any one in the same house with himself; and as to little Anne, she
found in the new-comer a carpenter and upholsterer superior even to
Martyn; but her candour revealed a great deal which I overheard one
afternoon, when the two children were sitting together on the
hearth-rug in the bookroom in the twilight.
'I want to see Mr. Clarence's white feather,' observed Anne.
'Griff has a white plume in his Yeomanry helmet,' replied Martyn;
'Clarence hasn't one.'
'Oh, I saw Mr. Griffith's!' she answered; 'but Cousin Horace said
Mr. Clarence showed the white feather.'
'Cousin Horace is an ape!' cried Martyn.
'I don't think he is so nice as an ape,' said Anne. 'He is more
like a monkey. He tries the dolls by court-martial, and he shot
Arabella with a pea-shooter, and broke her eye; only grandpapa made
him have it put in again with his own money, and then he said I was
a little sneak, and if I ever did it again he would shoot me.'
'Mind you don't tell Clarence what he said,' said Martyn.
'Oh, no! I think Mr. Clarence very nice indeed; but Horace did
tease so about that day when he carried poor Amos Bell home. He
said Ellen had gone and made friends with the worst of all the
wicked Winslows, who had shown the white feather and disgraced his
flag. No; I know you are not wicked. And Mr. Griff came all
glittering, like Richard Coeur de Lion, and saved us all that night.
But Ellen cried to think what she had done, and mamma said it showed
what it was to speak to a strange young man; and she has never let
Ellen and me go out of the grounds by ourselves since that day.'
'It is a horrid shame,' exclaimed Martyn, 'that a fellow can't get
into a scrape without its being for ever cast up to him.'
'_I_ like him,' said Anne. 'He gave Mary Bell a nice pair of boots,
and he made a new pair of legs for poor old Arabella, and she can
really sit down! Oh, he is VERY nice; but' - in an awful whisper -
'does he tell stories? I mean fibs - falsehoods.'
'Who told you that?' exclaimed Martyn.
'Mamma said it. Ellen was telling them something about the picture
of the white-satin lady, and mamma said, "Oh, if it is only that
young man, no doubt it is a mere mystification;" and papa said,
"Poor young fellow, he seems very amiable and well disposed;" and
mamma said, "If he can invent such a story it shows that Horace was
right, and he is not to be believed." Then they stopped, but I
asked Ellen who it was, and she said it was Mr. Clarence, and it was
a sad thing for Emily and all of you to have such a brother.'
Martyn began to stammer with indignation, and I thought it time to
interfere; so I called the little maid, and gravely explained the
facts, adding that poor Clarence's punishment had been terrible, but
that he was doing his best to make up for what was past; and that,
as to anything he might have told, though he might be mistaken, he
never said anything NOW but what he believed to be true. She raised
her brown eyes to mine full of gravity, and said, 'I DO like him.'
Moreover, I privately made Martyn understand that if he told her
what had been said about the white-satin lady, he would never be
forgiven; the others would be sure to find it out, and it might
shorten their stay.
That was a dreadful idea, for the presence of those two creatures,
to say nothing of their parents, was an unspeakable charm and
novelty to us all. We all worshipped the elder, and the little one
was like a new discovery and toy to us, who had never been used to
such a presence. She was not a commonplace child; but even if she
had been, she would have been as charming a study as a kitten; and
she had all the four of us at her feet, though her mother was
constantly protesting against our spoiling her, and really kept up
so much wholesome discipline that the little maid never exceeded the
bounds of being charming to us. After that explanation there was
the same sweet wistful gentleness in her manner towards Clarence as
she showed to me; while he, who never dreamt of such a child knowing
his history was brighter and freer with her than with any one else,
played with her and Martyn, and could be heard laughing merrily with
them. Perhaps her mother and sister did not fully like this, but
they could not interfere before our faces. And Parson Frank was
really kind to him; took him out walking when going to Hillside, and
talked to him so as to draw him out; certifying, perhaps, that he
would do no harm, although, indeed, the family looked on dear good
Frank as a sort of boy, too kind-hearted and genial for his approval
to be worth as much as that of the more severe.
These were our only Christmas visitors, for the state of the country
did not invite Londoners; but we did not want them. The suppression
of Clarence was the only flaw in a singularly happy time; and, after
all I believe I felt the pity of it more than he did, who expected
nothing, and was accustomed to being in the background.
For instance, one afternoon in the course of one of the grave
discussions that used to grow up between Miss Fordyce, Emily, and
me, over subjects trite to the better-instructed younger generation,
we got quite out of our shallow depths. I think it was on the
meaning of the 'Communion of Saints,' for the two girls were both
reading in preparation for a Confirmation at Bristol, and Miss
Fordyce knew more than we did on these subjects. All the time
Clarence had sat in the window, carving a bit of doll's furniture,
and quite forgotten; but at night he showed me the exposition copied
from Pearson on the Creed, a bit of Hooker, and extracts from one or
two sermons. I found these were notes written out in a blank book,
which he had had in hand ever since his Confirmation - his logbook as
he called it; but he would not hear of their being mentioned even to
Emily, and only consented to hunt up the books on condition I would
not bring him forward as the finder. It was of no use to urge that
it was a deprivation to us all that he should not aid us with his
more thorough knowledge and deeper thought. 'He could not do so,'
he said, in a quiet decisive manner; 'it was enough for him to watch
and listen to Miss Fordyce, when she could forget his presence.'
She often did forget it in her eagerness. She was by nature one of
the most ardent beings that I ever saw, yet with enthusiasm kept in
check by the self-control inculcated as a primary duty. It would
kindle in those wonderful light brown eyes, glow in the clear
delicate cheek, quiver in the voice even when the words were only
half adequate to the feeling. She was not what is now called
gushing. Oh, no! not in the least! She was too reticent and had
too much dignity for anything of the kind. Emily had always been
reckoned as our romantic young lady, and teased accordingly, but her
enthusiasm beside Ellen's was
'As moonlight is to sunlight, as water is to wine,' -
a mere reflection of the tone of the period, compared with a real
element in the character. At least so my sister tells me, though at
the time all the difference I saw was that Miss Fordyce had the most
originality, and unconsciously became the leader. The bookroom was
given up to us, and there in the morning we drew, worked, read,
copied and practised music, wrote out extracts, and delivered our
youthful minds to one another on all imaginable topics from 'slea
silk to predestination.'
Religious subjects occupied us more than might have been held
likely. A spirit of reflection and revival was silently working in
many a heart. Evangelicalism had stirred old-fashioned orthodoxy,
and we felt its action. The Christian Year was Ellen's guiding
star - as it was ours, nay, doubly so in proportion to the ardour of
her nature. Certain poems are dearer and more eloquent to me still,
because the verses recall to me the thrill of her sweet tones as she
repeated them. We were all very ignorant alike of Church doctrine
and history, but talking out and comparing our discoveries and
impressions was as useful as it was pleasant to us.
What the Christian Year was in religion to us Scott was in history.
We read to verify or illustrate him, and we had little raving fits
over his characters, and jokes founded on them. Indeed, Ellen saw
life almost through that medium; and the siege of Hillside,
dispersed by the splendid prowess of Griffith, the champion with
silver helm and flashing sword, was precious to her as a renewal of
the days of Ivanhoe or Damian de Lacy.
As may be believed, these quiet mornings were those when that true
knight was employed in field sports or yeomanry duties, such as the
state of the country called for. When he was at home, all was fun
and merriment and noise - walks and rides on fine days, battledore
and shuttlecock on wet ones, music, singing, paper games, giggling
and making giggle, and sometimes dancing in the hall - Mr. Frank
Fordyce joining with all his heart and drollery in many of these,
like the boy he was.
I could play quadrilles and country dances, and now and then a reel-
-nobody thought of waltzes - and the three couples changed and
counterchanged partners. Clarence had the sailor's foot, and did
his part when needed; Emily generally fell to his share, and their
silence and gravity contrasted with the mirth of the other pairs.
He knew very well he was the pis aller of the party, and only danced
when Parson Frank was not dragged out, nothing loth, by his little
daughter. With Miss Fordyce, Clarence never had the chance of
dancing; she was always claimed by Griff, or pounced upon by Martyn.
Miss Fordyce she always was to us in those days, and those pretty
lips scrupulously 'Mistered' and 'Winslowed' us. I don't think she
would have been more to us, if we had called her Nell, and had been
Griff, Bill, and Ted to her, or if there had not been all the little
formalities of avoiding tete a tetes and the like. They were
essentials of propriety then - natural, and never viewed as prudish.
Nor did it detract from the sweet dignity of maidenhood that there
was none of the familiarity which breeds something one would rather
not mention in conjunction with a lady.
Altogether there was a sunshine around Miss Fordyce by which we all
seemed illuminated, even the least favoured and least demonstrative;
we were all her willing slaves, and thought her smile and thanks
One day, when Griff and Martyn were assisting at the turn out of an
isolated barn at Hillside, where Frank Fordyce declared, all the
burnt-out rats and mice had taken refuge, the young ladies went out
to cater for house decorations for Christmas under Clarence's
escort. Nobody but the clerk ever thought of touching the church,
where there were holes in all the pews to receive the holly boughs.
The girls came back, telling in eager scared voices how, while
gathering butcher's broom in Farmer Hodges' home copse, a savage dog
had flown out at them, but had been kept at bay by Mr. Clarence
Winslow with an umbrella, while they escaped over the stile.
Clarence had not come into the drawing-room with them, and while my
mother, who had a great objection to people standing about in out-
door garments, sent them up to doff their bonnets and furs, I
repaired to our room, and was horrified to find him on my bed, white
'Bitten?' I cried in dismay.
'Yes; but not much. Only I'm such a fool. I turned off when I
began taking off my boots. No, no - don't! Don't call any one. It
He was springing up to stop me, but was forced to drop back, and I
made my way to the drawing-room, where my mother happened to be
alone. She was much alarmed, but a glass of wine restored Clarence;
and inspection showed that the thick trowser and winter stocking had
so protected him that little blood had been drawn, and there was
bruise rather than bite in the calf of the leg, where the brute had
caught him as he was getting over the stile as the rear-guard. It
was painful, though the faintness was chiefly from tension of nerve,
for he had kept behind all the way home, and no one had guessed at
the hurt. My mother doctored it tenderly, and he begged that
nothing should be said about it; he wanted no fuss about such a
trifle. My mother agreed, with the proud feeling of not enhancing
the obligations of the Fordyce family; but she absolutely kissed
Clarence's forehead as she bade him lie quiet till dinner-time.
We kept silence at table while the girls described the horrors of
the monster. 'A tawny creature, with a hideous black muzzle,' said
Emily. 'Like a bad dream,' said Miss Fordyce. The two fathers
expressed their intention of remonstrating with the farmer, and
Griff declared that it would be lucky if he did not shoot it. Miss
Fordyce generously took its part, saying the poor dog was doing its
duty, and Griff ejaculated, 'If I had been there!'
'It would not have dared to show its teeth, eh?' said my father,
when there was a good deal of banter.
My father, however, came at night with mamma to inspect the hurt and
ask details, and he ended with, 'Well done, Clarence, boy; I am
gratified to see you are acquiring presence of mind, and can act
like a man.'
Clarence smiled when they were gone, saying, 'That would have been
an insult to any one else.'
Emily perceived that he had not come off unscathed, and was much
aggrieved at being bound to silence. 'Well,' she broke out, 'if the
dog goes mad, and Clarence has the hydrophobia, I suppose I may
'In that pleasing contingency,' said Clarence smiling. 'Don't you
see, Emily, it is the worst compliment you can pay me not to treat
this as a matter of course?' Still, he was the happier for not
having failed. Whatever strengthened his self-respect and gave him
trust in himself was a stepping-stone.
As to rivalry or competition with Griff, the idea seemingly never
crossed his mind, and envy or jealousy were equally aloof from it.
One subject of thankfulness runs through these recollections -
namely, that nothing broke the tie of strong affection between us
three brothers. Griffith might figure as the 'vary parfite knight,'
the St. George of the piece, glittering in the halo shed round him
by the bright eyes of the rescued damsel; while Clarence might drag
himself along as the poor recreant to be contemned and tolerated,
and he would accept the position meekly as only his desert, without
a thought of bitterness. Indeed, he himself seemed to have imbibed
Nurse Gooch's original opinion, that his genuine love for sacred
things was a sort of impertinence and pretension in such as he - a
kind of hypocrisy even when they were the realities and helps to
which he clung with all his heart. Still, this depression was only
shown by reserve, and troubled no one save myself, who knew him best
guessed what was lost by his silence, and burned in spirit at seeing
him merely endured as one unworthy.
In one of our varieties of Waverley discussions the crystal hardness
and inexperienced intolerance of youth made Miss Fordyce declare
that had she been Edith Plantagenet, she would never, never have
forgiven Sir Kenneth. 'How could she, when he had forsaken the
king's banner? Unpardonable!'
Then came a sudden, awful silence, as she recollected her audience,
and blushed crimson with the misery of perceiving where her random
shaft had struck, nor did either of us know what to say; but to our
surprise it was Clarence who first spoke to relieve the desperate
embarrassment. 'Is forgiven quite the right word, when the offence
was not personal? I know that such things can neither be repaired
nor overlooked, and I think that is what Miss Fordyce meant.'
'Oh, Mr. Winslow,' she exclaimed, 'I am very sorry - I don't think I
quite meant' - and then, as her eyes for one moment fell on his
subdued face, she added, 'No, I said what I ought not. If there is
sorrow' - her voice trembled - 'and pardon above, no one below has any
right to say unpardonable.'
Clarence bowed his head, and his lips framed, but he did not utter,
'Thank you.' Emily nervously began reading aloud the page before
her, full of the jingling recurring rhymes about Sir Thomas of Kent;
but I saw Ellen surreptitiously wipe away a tear, and from that time
she was more kind and friendly with Clarence.
CHAPTER XX - VENI, VIDI, VICI
'None but the brave,
None but the brave,
None but the brave deserve the fair.'
Christmas trees were not yet heard of beyond the Fatherland, and
both the mothers held that Christmas parties were not good for
little children, since Mrs. Winslow's strong common sense had
arrived at the same conclusion as Mrs. Fordyce had derived from
Hannah More and Richard Lovell Edgeworth. Besides, rick-burning and
mobs were far too recent for our neighbours to venture out at night.
But as we were all resolved that little Anne should have a memorable
Christmas at Chantry House, we begged an innocent, though iced cake,
from the cook, painted a set of characters ourselves, including all
the dolls, and bespoke the presence of Frank Fordyce at a feast in
the outer mullion room - Griff's apartment, of course. The locality
was chosen as allowing more opportunity for high jinks than the
bookroom, and also because the swords and pistols in trophy over the
mantelpiece had a great fascination for the two sisters, and to
'drink tea with Mr. Griffith' was always known to be a great
ambition of the little queen of the festival. As to the mullion
chamber legends, they had nearly gone out of our heads, though
Clarence did once observe, 'You remember, it will be the 26th of
December;' but we did not think this worthy of consideration,
especially as Anne's entertainment, at its latest, could not last
beyond nine o'clock; and the ghostly performances - now entirely laid
to the account of the departed stable-boy - never began before
Nor did anything interfere with our merriment. The fun of fifty
years ago must be intrinsically exquisite to bear being handed down
to another generation, so I will attempt no repetition, though some
of those Twelfth Day characters still remain, pasted into my diary.