romps. The sports led them to the great home-field on the opposite
slope of the ridge from our own. The new farm-buildings were on the
level ground at the bottom to the right, where the declivity was
much more gradual than to the left, which was very steep, and ended
in furze bushes and low copsewood. It was voted a splendid place
for hide-and-seek, and the game was soon in such full career that
Ellen, who had had quite running enough, could fall out of it, and
with her, the other two elder girls. Emily felt Fanny Reynolds'
presence a sort of protection, 'little guessing what she was up to,'
to use her own expression. Perhaps the girl had not earlier made
out who Emily was, or she had been too much absorbed in her cares;
but, as the three sat resting on a stump overlooking the hill, she
was prompted by the singular inopportuneness of precocious fourteen
to observe, 'I ought to have congratulated you, Miss Winslow.'
Emily gabbled out, 'Thank you, never mind,' hoping thus to put a
stop to whatever might be coming; but there was no such good
fortune. 'We saw it in the paper. It is your brother, isn't it?'
'What?' asked unsuspicious Ellen, thinking, no doubt, of some fresh
glory to Griffith.
And before Emily could utter a word, if there were any she could
have uttered, out it came. 'The marriage - John Griffith Winslow,
Esquire, eldest son of John Edward Winslow of Chantry House, to
Selina, relict of Sir Henry Peacock and daughter of George Clarkson,
Esquire, Q.C. I didn't think it could be you at first, because you
would have been at the wedding.'
Emily had not even time to meet Ellen's eyes before they were
startled by a shriek that was not the merry 'whoop' and 'I spy' of
the game, and, springing up, the girls saw little Anne Fordyce
rushing headlong down the very steepest part of the slope, just
where it ended in an extremely muddy pool, the watering-place of the
cattle. The child was totally unable to stop herself, and so was
Martyn, who was dashing after her. Not a word was said, though,
perhaps, there was a shriek or two, but the elder sisters flew with
one accord towards the pond. They also were some way above it, but
at some distance off, so that the descent was not so perpendicular,
and they could guard against over-running themselves. Ellen,
perhaps from knowing the ground better, was far before the other
two; but already poor little Anne had gone straight down, and fallen
flat on her face in the water, Martyn after her, perhaps with a
little more free will, for, though he too fell, he was already
struggling to lift Anne up, and had her head above water, when Ellen
arrived and dashed in to assist.
The pond began by being shallow, but the bottom sloped down into a
deep hollow, and was besides covered several feet deep with heavy
cattle-trodden mire and weeds, in which it was almost impossible to
gain a footing, or to move. By the time Emily and Miss Reynolds had
come to the brink, Ellen and Martyn were standing up in the water,
leaning against one another, and holding poor little Anne's head up-
-all they could do. Ellen called out, 'Don't! don't come in! Call
some one! The farm! We are sinking in! You can't help! Call - '
The danger was really terrible of their sinking in the mud and
weeds, and being sucked into the deep part of the pool, and they
were too far in to be reached from the bank. Emily perceived this,
and ran as she had never run before, happily meeting on the way with
the gentlemen, who had been inspecting the new model farm-buildings,
and had already taken alarm from the screams.
They found the three still with their heads above water, but no
more, for every struggle to get up the slope only plunged them
deeper in the horrible mud. Moreover, Fanny Reynolds was up to her
ankles in the mud, holding by one of her brothers, but unable to
reach Martyn. It seems she had had some idea of forming a chain of
hands to pull the others out.
Even now the rescue was not too easy. Mr. Fordyce hurried in, and
took Anne in his arms; but, even with his height and strength, he
found his feet slipping away under him, and could only hand the
little insensible girl to Mr. Reynolds, bidding him carry her at
once to the house, while he lifted Martyn up only just in time, and
Ellen clung to him. Thus weighted, he could not get out, till the
bailiff and another man had brought some faggots and a gate that
were happily near at hand, and helped him to drag the two out,
perfectly exhausted, and Martyn hardly conscious. They both were
carried to the Rectory, - Ellen by her father, Martyn by the
foreman, - and they were met at the door by the tidings that little
Anne was coming to herself.
Indeed, by the time Mr. Fordyce had put on dry clothes, all three
were safe in warm beds, and quite themselves again, so that he
trusted that no mischief was done; though he decided upon fetching
my mother to satisfy herself about Martyn. However, a ducking was
not much to a healthy fellow like Martyn, and my mother found him
quite fit to dress himself in the clothes she brought, and to return
home with her. Both the girls were asleep, but Ellen had had a
shivering fit, and her mother was with her, and was anxious. Emily
told her mother of Fanny Reynolds' unfortunate speech, and it was
thought right to mention it. Mrs. Fordyce listened kindly, kissed
Emily, and told her not to be distressed, for possibly it might turn
out to have been the best thing for Ellen to have learnt the fact at
such a moment; and, at any rate, it had spared her parents some
doubt and difficulty as to the communication.
CHAPTER XXXII - WALY, WALY
'And am I then forgot, forgot?
It broke the heart of Ellen!'
Clarence and Martyn walked over to Hillside the first thing the next
morning to inquire for the two sisters. As to one, they were
quickly reassured, for Anne was in the porch feeding the doves, and
no sooner did she see them than out she flew, and was clinging round
Martyn's neck, her hat falling back as she kissed him on both
cheeks, with an eagerness that made him, as Clarence reported, turn
the colour of a lobster, and look shy, not to say sheepish, while
she exclaimed, ' Oh, Martyn! mamma says she never thanked you, for
you really and truly did save my life, and I am so glad it was you -
'It was not I, it was Ellen,' gruffly muttered Martyn.
'Oh yes! but papa says I should have been smothered in that horrid
mud, before Ellen could get to me if you had not pulled me up
The elders came out by this time, and Clarence was able to get in
his inquiry. Ellen had had a feverish night, and her chest seemed
oppressed, but her mother did not think her seriously ill. Once she
had asked, 'Is it true, what Fanny Reynolds said?' and on being
answered, 'Yes, my dear, I am afraid it is,' she had said no more;
and as the Fordyce habit of treating colds was with sedatives, her
mother thought her scarcely awake to the full meaning of the
tidings, and hoped to prevent her dwelling on them till she had
recovered the physical shock. Having answered these inquiries, the
two parents turned upon Martyn, who, in an access of shamefacedness,
had crept behind Clarence and a great orange-tree, and was thence
pulled out by Anne's vigorous efforts. The full story had come to
light. The Reynolds' boys had grown boisterous as soon as the
restraint of the young ladies' participation had been removed, and
had, whether intentionally or not, terrified little Anne in the
chases of hide-and-seek. Finally, one of them had probably been
unable to withstand the temptation of seeing her timid nervous way
of peeping and prying about; and had, without waiting to be properly
found, leapt out of his lair with a roar that scared the little girl
nearly out of her wits, and sent her flying, she knew not whither.
Martyn was a few steps behind, only not holding her hand, because
the other children had derided her for clinging to his protection.
He had instantly seen where she was going, and shouted to her to
stop and take care; but she was past attending to him, and he had no
choice but to dart after her, seeing what was inevitable; while
George Reynolds had sense to stop in time, and seek a safer descent.
Had Martyn not been there to raise the child instantly from the
stifling mud, her sister could hardly have been in time to save her.
Mrs. Fordyce tearfully kissed him; her husband called him a little
hero, as if in joke, then gravely blessed him; and he looked,
Clarence related, as if he had been in the greatest possible
It was the second time that one of us had saved a life from
drowning, but there was none of the exultation we had felt that time
before in London. It was a much graver feeling, where the danger
had really been greater, and the rescue had been of one so dear to
us. It was tempered likewise by anxiety about our dear Ellen - ours,
alas, no longer! She was laid up for several days, and it was
thought better that she should not see Emily till she had recovered;
but after a week had passed, her father drove over to discuss some
plans for the Poor-Law arrangements, and begged my sister to go back
in the carriage and spend the day with his daughter.
We brothers could now look forward to some real intelligence; we
became restless; and in the afternoon Clarence and I set out with
the donkey-chair on the woodland path to meet Emily. We gained more
than we had hoped, for as we came round one of the turns in the
winding path, up the hanging beech-wood, we came on the two friends-
-Ellen, a truly Una-like figure, in her white dress with her black
scarf making a sable stole. Perhaps we betrayed some confusion, for
there was a bright flush on her cheeks as she came towards us, and,
standing straight up, said, 'Clarence, Edward, I am so glad you are
here; I wanted to see you. I wanted - to say - I know he could not
help it. It was his generosity - helping those that need it; and -
and - I'm not angry. And though that's all over, you'll always be my
brothers, won't you?'
She held her outstretched hands to us both. I could not help it, I
drew her down, and kissed her brow; Clarence clasped her other hand
and held it to his lips, but neither of us could utter a word.
She turned back and went quietly away through the wood, while Emily
sank down under the beech-tree in a paroxysm of grief. You may see
which it was, for Clarence cut out 'E. M. F., 1835' upon the bark.
He soothed and caressed poor Emily as in old nursery troubles; and
presently she told us that it would be long before we saw that dear
one again, for Mrs. Fordyce was going to take her away on the
Mrs. Fordyce had seen Emily in private, before letting her go to
Ellen. There was evidently a great wish to be kind. Mrs. Fordyce
said she could never forget what she owed to us all, and could not
think of blaming any of us. 'But,' she said, 'you are a sensible
girl, Emily,' - 'how I hate being called a sensible girl,' observed
the poor child, in parenthesis, - 'and you must see that it is
desirable not to encourage her to indulge in needless discussion
after she once understands the facts.' She added that she thought a
cessation of present intercourse would be wise till the sore was in
some degree healed. She had not been satisfied about her daughter's
health for some time, and meant to take her to Bath the next day to
consult a physician, and then decide what would be best. 'And, my
dear,' she said, 'if there should be a slackening of correspondence,
do not take it as unkindness, but as a token that my poor child is
recovering her tone. Do not discontinue writing to her, but be
guarded, and perhaps less rapid, in replying.'
It was for her friendship that poor Emily wept so bitterly - the
first friendship that had been an enthusiasm to her; looking at it
as a cruel injustice that Griff's misdoing should separate them.
The prediction that all might be lived down and forgotten was too
vague and distant to be much consolation; indeed, we were too young
to take it in.
We had it all over again in a somewhat grotesque form when, at
another turn in the wood, we came upon Martyn and Anne, loaded with
treasures from their robbers' cave, some of which were bestowed in
my chair, the others carried off between Anne and her not very
Anne kissed us all round, and augured cheerfully that she should lay
up a store of shells and rocks by the seaside to make 'a perfect
Robinson Crusoe cavern,' she said, 'and then Clarence can come and
be the Spaniards and the savages. But that won't be till next
summer,' she added, shaking her head. 'I shall get Ellen to tell
Emily what shells I find, and then she can tell Martyn; for mamma
says girls never write to boys unless they are their brothers! And
now Martyn will never be my brother,' she added ruefully.
'You will always be our darling,' I said.
'That's not the same as your sister,' she answered. However, amid
auguries of the combination of robbers and Robinson Crusoe, the
parting was effected, and Anne borne off by the maid; while we had
Martyn on our hands, stamping about and declaring that it was very
hard that because Griff chose to be a faithless, inconstant ruffian,
all his pleasure and comfort in life should be stopped! He said
such outrageous things that, between scolding him and laughing at
him, Emily had been somewhat cheered by the time we reached the
My father had written to Griffith, in his first displeasure, curt
wishes that he might not have reason to repent of the step he had
taken, though he had not gone the right way to obtain a blessing.
As it was not suitable that a man should be totally dependent on his
wife, his allowance should be continued; but under present
circumstances he must perceive that he and Lady Peacock could not be
received at Chantry House. We were shown the letter, and thought it
terribly brief and cold; but my mother said it would be weak to
offer forgiveness that was not sought, and my father was specially
exasperated at the absence of all contrition as to the treatment of
Ellen. All Griff had vouchsafed on that head was - the rupture had
been the Fordyces' doing; he was not bound. As to intercourse with
him, Clarence and I might act as we saw fit.
'Only,' said my father, as Clarence was leaving home, 'I trust you
not to get yourself involved in this set.'
Clarence gave a queer smile, 'They would not take me as a gift,
And as my father turned from the hall door, he laid his hand on his
wife's arm, and said, 'Who would have told us what that young fellow
would be to us.'
She sighed, and said, 'He is not twenty-three; he has plenty of
money, and is very fond of Griff.'
CHAPTER XXXIII - THE RIVER'S BANK
'And my friend rose up in the shadows,
And turned to me,
"Be of good cheer," I said faintly,
For He called thee.'
Mr. Fordyce waited at Hillside till after Sunday, and then went to
Bath to hear the verdict of the physician. He returned as much
depressed as it was in his sanguine nature to be, for great delicacy
of the lungs had been detected; and to prevent the recent chill from
leaving permanent injury, Ellen must have a winter abroad, and warm
sea or mountain air at once. Whether the disease were
constitutional and would have come on at all events no one could
Consumption was much less understood half a century ago; codliver
oil was unknown; and stethoscopes were new inventions, only used by
the more advanced of the faculty. The only escape poor Parson Frank
had from accepting the doom was in disbelieving that a thing like a
trumpet could really reveal the condition of the chest. Moreover,
Mrs. Fordyce had had a brother who had, under the famous cowhouse
cure, recovered enough to return home, and be killed by the
upsetting of a stage coach.
Mrs. Fordyce took her daughter to Lyme, and waited there till her
husband had found a curate and made all arrangements. It must have
been very inconvenient not to come home; but, no doubt, she wanted
to prevent any more partings. Then they went abroad, travelling
slowly, and seeing all the sights that came in their way, to
distract Ellen's thoughts. She was not allowed to hear what ailed
her; but believed her languor and want of interest in everything to
be the effect of the blow she had received, struggling to exert
herself, and to enter gratefully into the enjoyments provided for
her. She was not prevented from writing to Emily; indeed, no one
liked to hinder anything she wished, but they were guide-book
letters, describing all she saw as a kind of duty, but scarcely
concealing the trouble it was to look. Such sentences would slip
out as 'This is a nice quiet place, and I am happy to say there is
nothing that one ought to see.' Or, 'I sat in the cathedral at
Lucerne while the others were going round. The organ was playing,
and it was such rest!' Or, again, after a day on the Lago di Como,
'It was glorious, and if you and Edward were here, perhaps the
beauty would penetrate my sluggish soul!'
Ellen's sluggish soul! - when we remembered her keen ecstasy at the
Valley of Rocks.
Those letters were our chief interest in an autumn which seemed
dreary to us, in spite of friendly visitors; for had not our family
hope and joy been extinguished? There was no direct communication
with Griffith after his unpleasant reply to my father's letter; but
Clarence saw the newly married pair on their return to Lady
Peacock's house in London, and reported that they were very kind and
friendly to him, and gave him more invitations than he could accept.
Being cross-examined when he came home for Christmas, he declared
his conviction that Lady Peacock had married Griff entirely from
affection, and that he had been - well - flattered into it. They
seemed very fond of each other now, and were launching out into all
sorts of gaieties; but though he did not tell my father, he confided
to me that he feared that Griffith had been disappointed in the
amount of fortune at his wife's disposal.
It was at that Christmas time, one night, having found an intrusive
cat upon my bed, Clarence carried her out at the back door close to
his room, and came back in haste and rather pale. 'It is quite true
about the lady and the light being seen out of doors,' he said in an
awe-stricken voice, 'I have just seen her flit from the mullion room
to the ruin.'
We only noted the fact in that ghost-diary of ours - we told nobody,
and looked no more. We already believed that these appearances on
the lawn must be the cause that every window, up to the attics on
the garden side of the house, were so heavily shuttered and barred
that there was no opening them without noise. Indeed, those on the
ground floor had in addition bells attached to them. No doubt the
former inhabitants had done their best to prevent any one from
seeing or inquiring into what was unacknowledged and unaccountable.
It might be only a coincidence, but we could not help remarking that
we had seen and heard nothing of her during the engagement which
might have united the two families; though, of course, it would be
ridiculous to suppose her cognisant of it, like the White Lady of
Avenel, dancing for joy at Mary's marriage with Halbert Glendinning.
The Fordyces had settled at Florence, where they suffered a great
deal more from cold than they would have done at Hillside; and there
was such a cessation of Ellen's letters that Emily feared that Mrs.
Fordyce had attained her wish and separated the friends effectually.
However, Frank Fordyce beguiled his enforced leisure with long
letters to my father on home business, Austrian misgovernment, and
the Italian Church and people, full of shrewd observations and new
lights; and one of these ended thus, 'My poor lassie has been in bed
for ten days with a severe cold. She begs me to say that she has
begun a letter to Emily, and hopes soon to finish it. We had
thought her gaining ground, but she is sadly pulled down. Fiat
The letter, which had been begun, never came; but, after three long
weeks, there was one from the dear patient herself, mentioning her
illness, and declaring that it was so comfortable to be allowed to
be tired, and to go nowhere and see nothing except the fragment of
beautiful blue sky, and the corner of a campanile, and the flowers
Anne brought in daily.
As soon as she could be moved, they took her to Genoa, where she
revived enough to believe that she should be well if she were at
home again, and to win from her parents a promise to take her to
Hillside as soon as the spring winds were over. So anxious was she
that, as soon as there was any safety in travelling, the party began
moving northwards, going by sea to Marseilles to avoid the Corniche,
so early in the year. There were many fluctuations, and it was only
her earnest yearning for home and strong resolution that could have
made her parents persevere; but at last they were at Hillside, just
after Whitsuntide, in the last week of May.
Frank Fordyce walked over to see us on the very evening after their
arrival. He was much altered, his kindly handsome face looked
almost as if he had gone through an illness; and, indeed, apart from
all his anxiety and sorrow, he had pined in foreign parts for his
human flock, as well as his bullocks and his turnips. He had also
read, thought, and observed a great deal, and had left his long
boyhood behind him, during a space for study and meditation such as
he had never had before.
He was quite hopeless of his daughter's recovery, and made no secret
of it. In passing through London the best advice had been taken,
but only to obtain the verdict that the case was beyond all skill,
and that it was only a matter of weeks, when all that could be done
was to give as much gratification as possible. The one thing that
Ellen did care about was to be at home - to have Emily with her, and
once more see her school children, her church, and her garden.
Tired as she was she had sprung up in the carriage at the first
glimpse of Hillside spire, and had leant forward at the window,
nodding and smiling her greetings to all the villagers.
She had been taken at once to her room and her bed, but her father
had promised to beg Emily to come up by noon on the morrow. Then he
sat talking of local matters, not able to help showing what infinite
relief it was to him to be at home, and what music to his ears was
the Somersetshire dialect and deep English voice 'after all those
thin, shrill, screeching foreigners.'
Poor Emily! It was in mingled grief and gladness that she set off
the next day, with the trepidation of one to whom sickness and decay
were hitherto unknown. When she returned, it was in a different
mood, unable to believe the doctors could be right, and in the
delight of having her own bright, sweet Ellen back again, all
herself. They had talked, but more of home and village than of
foreign experiences; and though Ellen did not herself assist, she
had much enjoyed watching the unpacking of the numerous gifts which
had cost a perfect fortune at the Custom House. No one seemed
forgotten - villagers, children, servants, friends. Some of these
tokens are before me still. The Florentine mosaic paper-weight she
brought me presses this very sheet; the antique lamp she gave my
father is on the mantelpiece; Clarence's engraving of Raffaelle's
St. Michael hangs opposite to me on the wall. Most precious in our
eyes was the collection of plants, dried and labelled by herself,
which she brought to Emily and me - poor mummies now, but redolent of
undying affection. Her desire was to bestow all her keepsakes with
her own hands, and in most cases she actually did so - a few daily,
as her strength served her. The little figures in costume, coloured
prints, Swiss carvings, French knicknacks, are preserved in many a
Hillside cottage as treasured relics of 'our young lady.' Many
years later, Martyn recognised a Hillside native in a back street in
London by a little purple-blue picture of Vesuvius, and thereby
reached the soft spot in a nearly dried-up heart.
So bright and playful was the dear girl over all her old familiar
interests that we inexperienced beings believed not only that the
wound to her affections was healed, but that she either did not know
or did not realise the sentence that had been pronounced on her; but
when this was repeated to her mother, it was met by a sad smile and
the reply that we only saw her in her best hours. Still, through
the summer, it was impossible to us to accept the truth; she looked