he could not secure a mate's berth at first.
Mr. Castleford could not be heard from till the end of the week.
Friday, Saturday came and not a word. That was the climax! When
the consignment of cash, hitherto carried by Clarence to the Bank of
England, was committed to another clerk, the very office boy
sniggered, and the manager demonstratively waited to see him depart.
Unable to bear it any longer, he walked towards Wapping, bought a
Southwester, examined the lists of shipping, and entered into
conversation with one or two sailors about the vessels making up
their crews; intending to go down after dark, to meet the skipper of
a craft bound for Lisbon, who, he heard, was so much in want of a
mate as perhaps to overlook the lack of testimonials, and at any
rate take him on board on Sunday.
Going home to pick up a few necessaries, a book lent to him by Miss
Newton came in his way, and he felt drawn to carry it home, and see
her face for the last time.
All unconscious of his trouble and of his intentions, the good lady
told him of her strong desire to hear a celebrated preacher at a
neighbouring church on the Sunday evening, but said that in her
partial blindness and weakness, she was afraid to venture, unless he
would have the extreme goodness, as she said, to take care of her.
He saw that she wished it so much that he had not the heart to
refuse, and he recollected likewise that very early on Monday
morning would answer his purpose equally well.
It was the 7th of June. The Psalm was the 37th - the supreme lesson
of patience. 'Hold thee still in the Lord; and abide patiently on
Him; and He shall bring it to pass. He shall make thy righteousness
as clear as the light, and thy just dealing as the noonday.'
The awful sense of desolation seemed to pass away under those words,
with that gentle woman beside him. And the sermon was on 'Oh tarry
thou the Lord's leisure; be strong, and He shall comfort thine
heart; and put thou thy trust in the Lord.'
Clarence remembered nothing but the text. But it was borne in upon
him that his purpose of flight was 'the old story,' - cowardice and
virtual distrust of the Lord, as well as absolute cruelty to us who
When he had deposited Miss Newton at her own door, he whispered
thanks, and an entreaty for her prayers.
And then he went home, and fought the battle of his life, with his
own horrible dread of Mr. Castleford's disappointment; of possible
prosecution; of the shame at home; the misery of a life a second
time blighted. He fought it out on his knees, many a time
persuading himself that flight would not be a sin, then returning to
the sense that it was a temptation of his worse self to be overcome.
And by morning he knew that it would be a surrender of himself to
his lower nature, and the evil spirit behind it; while, by facing
the worst that could befall him, he would be falling into the hand
of the Lord.
CHAPTER XXIV - AFTER THE TEMPEST
'Nor deem the irrevocable past
As wholly wasted, wholly vain,
If rising on its wrecks at last
To something nobler we attain.'
All the rest of the family were out, and I was relieved by being
alone with my distress, not forced to hide it, when the door opened
and 'Mr. Castleford' was announced. After one moment's look at me,
one touch of my hand, he must have seen that I was faint with
anxiety, and said, 'It is all right, Edward; I see you know all. I
am come from Bristol to tell your father that he may be proud of his
I don't know what I did. Perhaps I sobbed and cried, but the first
words I could get out were, 'Does he know? Oh! it may be too late.
He may be gone off to sea!' I cried, breaking out with my chief
fear. Mr. Castleford looked astounded, then said, 'I trust not. I
sent off a special messenger last night, as soon as I saw my way - '
Then I breathed a little more freely, and could understand what he
was telling me, namely, that Tooke had accused Clarence of
abstracting 20 pounds from the sum in his charge. The fellow
accounted for it by explaining that young Winslow had been paying
extravagant bills at a tavern, where the barmaid showed his
presents, and boasted of her conquest. All this had been written to
Mr. Castleford by his partner, and he was told that it was out of
deference to himself that his protege was not in custody, nor had
received notice of dismissal; but, no doubt, he would give his
sanction to immediate measures, and communicate with the family.
The effect had been to make the good man hurry at once from the
Giant's Causeway to Bristol, where he had arrived on Sunday, to
investigate the books and examine the underlings. In the midst
Tooke attempted to abscond, but he was brought back as he was
embarking in an American vessel; and he then confessed the whole, -
how speculation had led to dishonesty, and following evil customs
not uncommon in other firms. Then, when the fugitive found that
young Winslow was too acute to be blinded, and that it had been a
still greater mistake to try to overcome his integrity, self-defence
required his ruin, or at any rate his expulsion, before he could
gain Mr. Castleford's ear.
Tooke really believed that the discreditable bills were the young
man's own, and proofs of concealed habits of dissipation; but this
excellent man had gone into the matter, repaired to the tradesfolk,
learnt the date, and whose the accounts really were, and had even
hunted up the barmaid, who was not married after all, and had no
hesitation in avowing that her beau had been the handsome young
Yeomanry lieutenant. Mr. Castleford had spent the greater part of
Monday in this painful task, but had not been clear enough till
quite late in the evening to despatch an express to his partner, and
to Clarence, whom he desired to meet him here.
'He has acted nobly,' said our kind friend. 'His only error seems
to have been in being too good a brother.'
This made me implore that nothing should be said about Griffith's
bills, showing those injunctions of Clarence's which had so puzzled
me, and explaining the circumstances.
Mr. Castleford hummed and hawed, and perhaps wished he had seen my
father before me; but I prevailed at last, and when the others came
in from their drive, there was nothing to alloy the intelligence
that Clarence had shown rare discernment, as well as great
uprightness, steadfastness, and moral courage.
My mother, when she had taken in the fact, actually shed tears of
joy. Emily stood by me, holding my hand. My father said, 'It is
all owing to you, Castleford, and the helping hand you gave the poor
'Nay,' was the answer, 'it seems to me that it was owing to his
having the root of the matter in him to overcome his natural
Still, in all the rejoicing, my heart failed me lest the express
should have come too late, and Clarence should be already on the
high seas, for there had been no letter from him on Sunday morning.
It was doubtful whether Mr. Castleford's messenger could reach
London in time for tidings to come down by the coach - far less did
we expect Clarence - and we had nearly finished the first course at
dinner, when we heard the front door open, and a voice speaking to
the butler. Emily screamed 'It's he! Oh mamma, may I?' and flew
out into the hall, dragging in a pale, worn and weary wight, all
dust and heat, having travelled down outside the coach on a broiling
day, and walked the rest of the way. He looked quite bewildered at
the rush at him; my father's 'Well done, Clarence,' and strong
clasp; and my mother's fervent kiss, and muttered something about
washing his hands.
Formal folks, such as we were, had to sit in our chairs; and when he
came back apologising for not dressing, as he had left his
portmanteau for the carrier, he looked so white and ill that we were
quite shocked, and began to realise what he had suffered. He could
not eat the food that was brought back for him, and allowed that his
head was aching dreadfully; but, after a glass of wine had been
administered, it was extracted that he had met Mr. Frith at the
office door, and been gruffly told that Mr. Castleford was
satisfied, and he might consider himself acquitted.
'And then I had your letter, sir, thank you,' said Clarence,
scarcely restraining his tears.
'The thanks are on our side, my dear boy,' said Mr. Castleford. 'I
must talk it over with you, but not till you have had a night's
rest. You look as if you had not known one for a good while.'
Clarence gave a sort of trembling smile, not trusting himself to
speak. Approbation at home was so new and strange to him that he
could scarcely bear it, worn out as he was by nearly a month of
doubt, distress, apprehension, and self-debate.
My mother went herself to hasten the preparation of his room, and
after she had sent him to bed went again to satisfy herself that he
was comfortable and not feverish. She came back wiping away a tear,
and saying he had looked up at her just as when she had the three of
us in our nursery cribs. In truth these two had seldom been so
happy together since those days, though the dear mother, while
thankful that he had not failed, was little aware of the conflict
his resolution had cost him, and the hot journey and long walk came
in for more blame for his exhaustion than they entirely deserved.
My father perhaps understood more of the trial; for when she came
back, declaring that all that was needed was sleep, and forbidding
me to go to my room before bedtime, he said he must bid the boy
And he spoke as his reserve would have never let him speak at any
other time, telling Clarence how deeply thankful he felt for the
manifestation of such truthfulness and moral courage as he said
showed that the man had conquered the failings of the boy.
Nevertheless, when I retired for the night, it was to find Clarence
asleep indeed, but most uneasily, tossing, moaning, and muttering
broken sentences about 'disgracing his pennant,' 'never bearing to
see mamma's face' - and the like. I thought it a kindness to wake
him, and he started up. 'Ted, is it you? I thought I should never
hear your dear old crutch again! Is it really all right' - then,
sitting up and passing his hand over his face, 'I always mix it up
with the old affair, and think the court-martial is coming again.'
'There's all the difference now.'
'Thank God! yes - He has dragged me through! But it did not seem so
in one's sleep, nor waking neither - though sleep is worst, and
happily there was not much of that! Sit down, Ted; I want to look
at you. I can't believe it is not three weeks since I saw you
We talked it all out, and I came to some perception of the fearful
ordeal it had been - first, in the decision neither to shut his eyes,
nor to conceal that they were open; and then in the lack of presence
of mind and the sense of confusion that always beset him when
browbeaten and talked down, so that, in the critical contest with
Tooke, he felt as if his feet were slipping from under him, and what
had once been clear to him was becoming dim, so that he had only
been assured that he had held his ground by Tooke's redoubled
persuasions and increased anger. And for a clerk, whose years were
only twenty-one, to oppose a manager, who had been in the service
more than the whole of that space, was preposterous insolence, and
likely to result in the utter ruin of his own prospects, and the
character he had begun to retrieve. It was just after this, the
real crisis, that he had the only dream which had not been misery
and distress. In it she - she yonder - yes, the lady with the lamp,
came and stood by him, and said, 'Be steadfast.'
'It was a dream,' said Clarence. 'She was not as she is in the
mullion room, not crying, but with a sweet, sad look, almost like
Miss Fordyce - if Miss Fordyce ever looked sad. It was only a
Yet it had so refreshed and comforted him that we have often since
discussed whether the spirit really visited him, or whether this was
the manner in which conscience and imagination acted on his brain.
Indeed, he always believed that the dream had been either heaven-
sent or heaven-permitted.
The die had been cast in that interview when he had let it be seen
that he was dangerous, and could not be bought over. The after
consequences had been the terrible distress and temptation I have
before described, only most inadequately. 'But that,' said
Clarence, half smiling, 'only came of my being such a wretched
creature as I am. There, dear old Miss Newton saved me - yes, she
did - most unconsciously, dear old soul. Don't you remember how
Griff used to say she maundered over the text. Well, she did it all
the way home in my ear, as she clung to my arm - "Be strong, and He
shall comfort thine heart." And then I knew my despair and
determination to leave it all behind were a temptation - "the old
story," as you told me, and I prayed God to help me, and just
managed to fight it out. Thank God for her!'
If it had not been for that good woman, he would have been out of
reach - already out in the river - before Mr. Castleford's messenger
had reached London! He might call himself a poor creature - and
certainly a man of harder, bolder stuff would not have fared so
badly in the strife; but it always seemed to me in after years that
much of what he called the poor creature - the old, nervous, timid,
diffident self - had been shaken off in that desperate struggle,
perhaps because it had really given him more self-reliance, and
certainly inspired others with confidence in him.
We talked late enough to have horrified my mother, but I did not
leave him till he was sleeping like a child, nor did he wake till I
was leaving the room at the sound of the bell. It was alleged that
it was the first time in his life that he had been late for prayers.
Mr. Castleford said he was very glad, and my mother, looking
severely at me, said she knew we had been talking all night, and
then went off to satisfy herself whether he ought to be getting up.
There was no doubt on that score, for he was quite himself again,
though he was, in looks and in weariness, just as if he had
recovered from a bad illness, or, as he put it himself, he felt as
tired and bruised as if he had been in a stiff gale. Mr. Castleford
was sorry to be obliged to ask him to go through the whole matter
with him in the study, and the result was that he was pronounced to
have an admirable head for business, as well as the higher qualities
that had been put to the test. After that his good friend insisted
that he should have a long and complete holiday, at first proposing
to take him to Ireland, but giving the notion up on hearing of our
projected excursion to the north of Devon. Pending this, Clarence
was, for nearly a week, fit for nothing but lying on the grass in
the shade, playing with the cats and dogs, or with little Anne,
looking over our drawings, listening to Wordsworth, our reigning
idol, - and enjoying, with almost touching gratitude, the first
approach to petting that had ever fallen to his share.
The only trouble on his mind was the Quarter-Session. Mr.
Castleford would hardly have prosecuted an old employe, but Mr.
Frith was furious, and resolved to make an example. Tooke had,
however, so carefully entrenched himself that nothing could be
actually made a subject of prosecution but the abstraction of the 20
pounds of which he had accused Clarence, who had to prove the having
received and delivered it.
It was a very painful affair, and Tooke was sentenced to seven
years' transportation. I believe he became a very rich and
prosperous man in New South Wales, and founded a family. My father
received warm compliments upon his sons, and Clarence had the new
sensation of being honourably coupled with Griffith, though he
laughed at the idea of mere honesty with fierce struggles being
placed beside heroism with no struggle at all.
CHAPTER XXV - HOLIDAY-MAKING
'The child upon the mountain side
Plays fearless and at ease,
While the hush of purple evening
Spreads over earth and seas.
The valley lies in shadow,
But the valley lies afar;
And the mountain is a slope of light
Upreaching to a star.'
How pleasant it was to hear Griffith's cheery voice, as he swung
himself down, out of a cloud of dust, from the top of the coach at
the wayside stage-house, whither Clarence and I had driven in the
new britshka to meet him. While the four fine coach-horses were led
off, and their successors harnessed in almost the twinkling of an
eye, Griff was with us; and we did nothing but laugh and poke fun at
each other all the way home, without a word of graver matters.
I was resolved, however, that Griff should know how terribly his
commission had added to Clarence's danger, and how carefully the
secret had been guarded; and the first time I could get him alone, I
told him the whole.
The effect was one of his most overwhelming fits of laughter. 'Poor
old Bill! To think of his being accused of gallanting about with
barmaids!' (an explosion at every pause) 'and revelling with
officers! Poor old Bill! it was as bad as Malvolio himself.'
When, indignant at the mirth excited by what had nearly cost us so
dear, I observed that these items had nearly turned the scale
against our brother, Griff demanded how we could have been such
idiots as not to have written to him; I might at least have had the
sense to do so. As to its doing him harm at Hillside, Parson Frank
was no fool, and knew what men were made of! Griff would have taken
the risk, come at once, and thrust the story down the fellow's
throat (as indeed he would have done). The idea of Betsy putting up
with a pious young man like Bill, whose only flame had ever been old
Miss Newton! And he roared again at the incongruous pair. 'Oh,
wasn't she married after all, the hussy? She always had a dozen
beaux, and professed to be on the point of putting up her banns; so
if the earrings were not a wedding present, they might have been,
ought to have been, and would be some time or other.'
Then he patted me, and declared there was no occasion for my
disgusted looks, for no one knew better than himself that he had the
best brace of brothers in existence, wanting in nothing but common
sense and knowledge of the world. As to Betsy - faugh! I need not
make myself uneasy about her; she knew what a civil word was worth
much better than I did.
He showed considerable affection for Clarence after a fashion of his
own, which we three perfectly understood, and preferred to anything
more conventional. Griff was always delightful, and he was
especially so on that vacation, when every one was in high spirits;
so that the journey is, as I look back on it, like a spot of
brilliant sunshine in the distant landscape.
Mrs. Fordyce kept house with her father-in-law, little Anne, and
Martyn, whose holidays began a week after we had started. The two
children were allowed to make a desert island and a robbers' cave in
the beech wood; and the adventures which their imaginations
underwent there completely threw ours into the shade.
The three ladies and I started in the big Hillside open carriage,
with my brothers on the box and the two fathers on horseback. Frank
Fordyce was a splendid rider, as indeed was the old rector, who had
followed the hounds, made a leap over a fearful chasm, still known
as the Parson's Stride, and had been an excellent shot. The
renunciation of field sports had been a severe sacrifice to Frank
Fordyce, and showed of what excellent stuff he was made. He used to
say that it was his own fault that he had to give them up; another
man would have been less engrossed by them. Though he only read by
fits and starts when his enthusiasm was excited, he was thorough,
able, and acute, and his intelligence and sympathy were my father's
best compensation for the loss of London society.
The two riders were a great contrast. Mr. Winslow had the
thoroughly well-appointed, somewhat precise, and highly-polished air
of a barrister, and a thin, somewhat worn and colourless face, with
grizzled hair and white whiskers; and though he rode well, with full
command of his horse, he was old enough to have chosen Chancery for
her sterling qualities. Parson Frank, on the other hand, though a
thorough gentleman, was as ruddy and weather-browned as any farmer,
and - albeit his features were handsome and refined, and his figure
well poised and athletic - he lost something of dignity by easiness
of gesture and carelessness of dress, except on state occasions,
when he discarded his beloved rusty old coat and Oxford mixture
trousers, and came out magnificent enough for an archdeacon, if not
an archbishop; while his magnificent horse, Cossack, was an animal
that a sporting duke might have envied.
Nothing ever tired that couple, but my father had stipulated for
exchanges with Griffith. On these occasions it almost invariably
happened that there was a fine view for Ellen to see, so that she
was exalted to the box with Griffith to show it to her, and Chancery
was consigned to Clarence. Griff was wont to say that Chancery
deserved her name, and that he would defy the ninety-ninth part of a
tailor to come to harm with her; but Clarence was utterly
unpractised in riding, did not like it, was tormented lest Cossack's
antics should corrupt Chancery, and was mortally afraid of breaking
the knees of the precious mare. Not all Parson Frank's good advice
and kindly raillery would induce him to risk riding her on a
descent; and as our travels were entirely up and down hill, he was
often left leading her far behind, in hot sun or misty rain, and
then would come cantering hastily up, reckless of parallels with
John Gilpin, and only anxious to be in time to help me out at the
halting-place; but more than once only coming in when the beefsteaks
were losing their first charm, and then good-humouredly serving as
the general butt for his noble horsemanship. Did any one fully
comprehend how much pleasanter our journey was through the presence
of one person entirely at the service of the others? For my own
part, it made an immense difference to have one pair of strong arms
and dextrous well-accustomed hands always at my service, enabling me
to accomplish what no one else, kind as all were, would have
ventured on letting me attempt. Primarily, he was my devoted slave;
but he was at the beck and call of every one, making the inquiries,
managing the bargains, going off in search of whatever was wanting -
taking in fact all the 'must be dones' of the journal. The
contemplation of Cossack and Chancery being rubbed down, and
devouring their oats was so delightful to Frank Fordyce and Griffith
that they seldom wished to shirk it; but if there were any more
pleasing occupation, it was a matter of course that Clarence should
watch to see that the ostlers did their duty by the animals - an
obsolete ceremony, by the bye. He even succeeded in hunting up and
hiring a side saddle when the lovers, with the masterfulness of
their nature, devised appropriating the horses at all the most
beautiful places, in spite of Frank's murmur, 'What will mamma say?'
But, as Griff said, it was a real mercy, for Ellen was infinitely
more at her ease with Chancery than was Clarence. Then Emily had
Clarence to walk up the hills with her, and help her in botany - her
special department in our tour. Mine was sketching, Ellen's,
keeping the journal, though we all shared in each other's work at
times; and Griff, whose line was decidedly love-making, interfered
considerably with us all, especially with our chronicler. I spare
you the tour, young people; it lies before me on the table,
profusely illustrated and written in many hands. As I turn it over,
I see noble Dunster on its rock; Clarence leading Chancery down
Porlock Hill; Parson Frank in vain pursuit of his favourite ancient
hat over that wild and windy waste, the sheep running away from him;
a boat tossing at lovely Minehead; a 'native' bargaining over a crab
with my mother; the wonderful Valley of Rocks, and many another
scene, ludicrous or grand; for, indeed, we were for ever taking the
one step between the sublime and the ridiculous! I am inclined to
believe it is as well worth reading as many that have rushed into
print, and it is full of precious reminiscences to Emily and me; but
the younger generation may judge for itself, and it would be an
interruption here. The country we saw was of utterly unimagined
beauty to the untravelled eyes of most of us. I remember Ellen