Clarence so basked in her sunshine that it began to strike me that
here might be the solution of all the perplexities especially after
the first evening, when he had shown his strange discovery to Mr.
Fordyce, who simply laughed and said we need not trouble ourselves
about it. Illegible was it? He was heartily glad to hear that it
was. Even otherwise, forty years' possession was quite enough, and
then he pointed to the grate, and said that was the best place for
such things. There was no fire, but Clarence could hardly rescue
the paper from being torn up.
As to the ghost, he knew much less than his daughter Ellen had done.
He said his old aunt had some stories about Chantry House being
haunted, and had thought it incumbent on her to hate the Winslows,
but he had thought it all nonsense, and such stories were much
better forgotten. 'Would he not see if there were any letters?'
There might be, perhaps in the solicitor's office at Bath, but if he
ever got hold of them, he should certainly burn them. What was the
use of being Christians, if such quarrels were to be remembered?
Anne knew nothing. Aunt Peggy had died before she could remember,
and even Martyn had been discreet. Clarence said no more after that
one conversation, and seemed to me engrossed between his necessary
business at the office, and the pleasant expeditions with the
Fordyces. Only when they were on the point of returning home, did
he tell me that the will had been pronounced utterly past
deciphering, and that he thought he saw a way of setting all
straight. 'So do I,' was my rejoinder, and there must have been a
foolishly sagacious expression about me that made him colour up, and
say, 'No such thing, Edward. Don't put that into my head.'
'Isn't it there already?'
'It ought not to be. It would be mere treachery in these sweet,
fresh, young, innocent, days of hers, knowing too what her mother
would think of it and of me. Didn't you observe in old Frank's
unguarded way of reading letters aloud, and then trying to suppress
bits, that Mrs. Fordyce was not at all happy at our being so much
about with them, poor woman. No wonder! the child is too young,' he
added, showing how much, after all, he was thinking of it. 'It
would be taking a base advantage of them NOW.'
'But by and by?'
'If she should be still free when the great end is achieved and the
evil repaired, then I might dare.'
He broke off with a look of glad hope, and I could see it was
forbearance rather than constitutional diffidence that withheld him
from awakening the maiden's feelings. He was a very fine looking
man, in his prime - tall, strong, and well made, with a singularly
grave, thoughtful expression, and a rare but most winning smile; and
Anne was overflowing with affectionate gladness at intercourse with
one who belonged to the golden age of her childhood. I could
scarcely believe but that in the friction of the parting the spark
would be elicited, and I should even have liked to kindle it for
them myself, being tolerably certain that warm-hearted, unguarded
Parson Frank would forget all about his lady and blow it with all
We dined with the Fordyces at their hotel, and sat in the twilight
with the windows open, and we made Anne and Clarence sing, as both
could do without notes, but he would not undertake to remember
anything with an atom of sentiment in it, and when Anne did sing,
'Auld lang syne,' with all her heart, he went and got into a dark
corner, and barely said, 'Thank you.'
Not a definite answer could be extracted from him in reply to all
the warm invitations to Beachharbour that were lavished on us by the
father, while the daughter expatiated on its charms; the rocks I
might sketch, the waves and the delicious boating, and above all the
fisher children and the church. Nothing was wanting but to have us
all there! Why had we not brought Mrs. Winslow, and Emily, and
Martyn, instead of going to Dawlish?
Good creatures, they little knew the chill that had been cast upon
Martyn. They even bemoaned the having seen so little of him. And
we knew all the time that they were mice at play in the absence of
their excellent and cautious cat.
'Now mind you do come!' said Anne, as we were in the act of taking
leave. 'It would be as good as Hillside to have you by my Lion
rock. He has a nose just like old Chapman's, and you must sketch it
before it crumbles off. Yes, and I want to show you all the dear
old things you made for my baby-house after the fire, your dear
little wardrobe and all.'
She was coming out with us, oblivious that a London hotel was not
like her own free sea-side house. Her father was out at the
carriage door, prepared to help me in, Clarence halted a moment -
'Please, pray, go back, Anne,' he said, and his voice trembled.
'This is not home you know.'
She started back, but paused. 'You'll not forget.'
'Oh no; no fear of my forgetting.'
And when seated beside me, he leant back with a sigh.
'How could you help?' I said.
'How? Why the perfect, innocent, childish, unconsciousness of the
thing,' he said, and became silent except for one murmur on the way.
'Consequences must be borne - '
CHAPTER XLIII - THE PRICE
'With thee, my bark, I'll swiftly go
Athwart the foaming brine.'
Clarence would not tell me his purpose, he said, till he had
considered it more fully; nor could we have much conversation on the
way home, as my mother had arranged that we should bring an old
friend of hers back with us to pay her a visit. So I had to sit
inside and make myself agreeable to Mrs. Wrightson, while Clarence
had plenty of leisure for meditation outside on the box seat. The
good lady said much on the desirableness of marriage for Clarence,
and the comfort it would be to my mother to see Emily settled.
We had heard much in town of railway shares; and the fortunes of
Hudson, the railway king, were under discussion. I suspected
Clarence of cogitating the using his capital in this manner; and
hoped that when he saw his way, he might not think it dishonourable
to come into further contact with Anne, and reveal his hopes. He
allowed that he was considering of such investments, but would not
say any more.
My mother and Emily had, in the meantime, been escorted home by
Martyn. The first thing Clarence did was to bespeak Emily's company
in a turn in the garden. What passed then I never knew nor guessed
for years after. He consulted her whether, in case he were absent
from England for five, seven, or ten years, she would be equal to
the care of my mother and me. Martyn, when ordained, would have
duties elsewhere, and could only be reckoned upon in emergencies.
My mother, though vigorous and practical, had shown symptoms of
gout, and if she were ill, I could hardly have done much for her;
and on the other hand, though my health and powers of moving were at
their best, and I was capable of the headwork of the estate, I was
scarcely fit to be the representative member of the family.
Moreover, these good creatures took into consideration that poor
mamma and I would have been rather at a loss as each other's sole
companions. I could sort shades for her Berlin work, and even solve
problems of intricate knitting, and I could read to her in the
evening; but I could not trot after her to her garden, poultry-yard,
and cottages; nor could she enter into the pursuits that Emily had
shared with me for so many years. Our connecting link, that dear
sister, knew how sorely she would be missed, and she told Clarence
that she felt fully competent to undertake, conjointly with us, all
that would be incumbent on Chantry House, if he really wanted to be
absent. For the rest, Clarence believed my mother would be the
happier for being left regent over the estate; and his scheme broke
upon me that very forenoon, when my mother and he were settling some
executor's business together, and he told her that Mr. Castleford
wished him to go out to Hong Kong, which was then newly ceded to the
English, and where the firm wished to establish a house of business.
'You can't think of it,' she exclaimed, and the sound fell like a
knell on my ears.
'I think I must,' was his answer. 'We shall be cut out if we do not
get a footing there, and there is no one who can quite answer the
'Not that young Frith - '
'Ten to one but he is on his way home. Besides, if not, he has his
own work at Canton. We see our way to very considerable advantages,
if - '
'Advantages!' she interrupted. 'I hate speculation. I should have
thought you might be contented with your station; but that is the
worst of merchants, - they never know when to stop. I suppose your
ambition is to make this a great overgrown mansion, so that your
father would not know it again.'
'Certainly not that, mamma,' said Clarence smiling; 'it is the last
thing I should think of; but stopping would in this case mean going
'Why can't Mr. Castleford send one of his own sons?'
'Probably Walter may come out by and by, but he has not experience
enough for this.'
Clarence had not in the least anticipated my mother's opposition,
for he had come to underestimate her affection for and reliance on
him. He had us all against him, for not only could we not bear to
part with him; but the climate of Hong-Kong was in evil repute, and
I had become persuaded that, with his knowledge of business, railway
shares and scrip might be made to realise the amount needed, but he
said, 'That is what _I_ call speculation. The other matter is trade
in which, with Heaven's blessing, I can hope to prosper.'
He explained that Mr. Castleford had received him on his coming to
London with almost a request that he would undertake this
expedition; but with fears whether, in his new position, he could or
would do so, although his presence in China would be very important
to the firm at this juncture; and there would be opportunities which
would probably result in very considerable profits after a few
years. If Clarence had been, as before, a mere younger brother, it
would have been thought an excellent chance; and he would almost
have felt bound by his obligations to Mr. Castleford to undertake
the first starting of the enterprise, if it had not been for our
recent loss, and the doubt whether he could he spared from home.
He made light of the dangers of climate. He had never suffered in
that way in his naval days, and scarcely knew what serious illness
meant. Indeed, he had outgrown much of that sensibility of nerve
which had made him so curiously open to spiritual or semi-spiritual
'Any way,' he said, 'the thing is right to be done, provided my
mother does not make an absolute point of my giving it up; and
whether she does or not depends a good deal on how you others put it
'Right on Mr. Castleford's account?' I asked.
'That is one side of it. To refuse would put him in a serious
difficulty; but I could perhaps come home sooner if it were not for
this other matter. I told him so far as that it was an object with
me to raise this sum in a few years, and he showed me how there is
every likelihood of my being able to do so out there. So now I feel
in your hands. If you all, and Edward chiefly, set to and persuade
my mother that this undertaking is a dangerous business, and that I
can only be led to it by inordinate love of riches - '
'No, no - '
'That's what she thinks,' pursued Clarence, 'and that I want to be a
grander man than my father. That's at the bottom of her mind, I
see. Well, if you deplore this, and let her think the place can't
do without me, she will come out in her strength and make it my duty
to stay at home.'
'It is very tempting,' said Emily.
'We all undertook to give up something.'
'We never thought it would come in this way!'
'We never do,' said Clarence.
'Tell me,' said Martyn, 'is this to content that ghost, poor thing?
For it is very hard to believe in her, except in the mullion room in
'Exactly so, Martyn,' he answered. 'Impressions fade, and the
intellect fails to accept them. But I do not think that is my
motive. We know that a wicked deed was done by our ancestor, and we
hardly have the right to pray, "Remember not the sins of our
forefathers," unless, now that we know the crime, we attempt what
restitution in us lies.'
There was no resisting after this appeal, and after the first shock,
my mother was ready to admit that as Clarence owed everything to Mr.
Castleford, he could not well desert the firm, if it were really
needful for its welfare that he should go out. We got her to look
on Mr. Castleford as captain of the ship, and Clarence as first
lieutenant; and when she was once convinced that he did not want to
aggrandise the family, but to do his duty, she dropped her
objections; and we soon saw that the occupations that his absence
would impose on her would be a fresh interest in life.
Just as the decision was thus ratified, a packet from Canton arrived
for Clarence from Bristol. It was the first reply of young Frith to
the tidings of the bequest which had changed the poor clerk to a
wealthy man, owning a large proportion of the shares of the
I asked if he were coming home, and Clarence briefly replied that he
did not know, - 'it depended - '
'Is he going to wed a fair Chinese with lily feet?' asked Martyn, to
which the reply was an unusually discourteous 'Bosh,' as Clarence
escaped with his letter. He was so reticent about it that I
required a solemn assurance that poor Lawrence's head had not been
turned by his fortune, and that there was nothing wrong with him.
Indeed, there was great stupidity in never guessing the purport of
that thick letter, nor that it contained one for Emily, where
Lawrence Frith laid himself, and all that he had, at her feet,
ascribing to her all the resolution with which he had kept from
evil, and entreating permission to come home and endeavour to win
her heart. We lived so constantly together that it is surprising
that Clarence contrived to give the letter to Emily in private. She
implored him to say nothing to us, and brought him the next day her
letter of uncompromising refusal.
He asked whether it would have been the same if he had intended to
remain at home.
'As if you were a woman, you conceited fellow,' was all the answer
she vouchsafed him.
Nor could he ascertain, nor perhaps would she herself examine, on
which side lay her heart of hearts. The proof had come whether she
would abide by her pledge to him to accept the care of us in his
absence. When he asked it, it had not occurred to him that it might
be a renunciation of marriage. Now he perceived that so it had
been, but she kept her counsel and so did he. We others never
guessed at what was going on between those two.
CHAPTER XLIV - PAYING THE COST
'But oh! the difference to me.'
So Clarence was gone, and our new life begun in its changed aspect.
Emily showed an almost feverish eagerness to make it busy and
cheerful, getting up a sewing class in the village, resuming the
study of Greek, grappling with the natural system in botany, all of
which had been fitfully proposed but hindered by interruptions and
my father's feebleness.
On a suggestion of Mr. Stafford's, we set to work on that History of
Letter Writing which, what with collecting materials, and making
translations, lasted us three years altogether, and was a great
resource and pleasure, besides ultimately bringing in a fraction
towards the great purpose. Emily has confessed that she worked away
a good deal of vague, weary depression, and sense of monotony into
those Greek choruses: but to us she was always a sunbeam, with her
ever ready attention, and the playfulness which resumed more of
genuine mirth after the first effort and strain of spirits were
Then journal-letters on either side began to bridge the gulf of
separation, - those which, minus all the specially interesting
portions, are to be seen in the volume we culled from them, and
which had considerable success in its day.
Martyn worked in the parish and read with Mr. Henderson till he was
old enough for Ordination, and then took the curacy of St.
Wulstan's, under a hardworking London vicar, and thenceforth his
holidays were our festivals. Our old London friends pitied us for
what they viewed as a fearfully dull life, and in the visits they
occasionally paid us thought they were doing us a great favour by
bringing us new ideas and shooting our partridges.
We hardly deserved their compassion: our lives were full of
interest to ourselves - that interest which comes of doing ever so
feeble a stroke of work in one great cause; and there was much keen
participation in the general life of the Church in the crisis
through which she was passing. We found that, what with drawing
pictures, writing little books, preparing lessons for teachers, and
much besides which is now ready done by the National Society and
Sunday School Institute, we could do a good deal to assist Martyn in
his London work, and our own grew upon us.
For the first year of her widowhood, my mother shrank from society,
and afterwards had only spasmodic fits of doubt whether it were not
her duty to make my sister go out more. So that now and then Emily
did go to a party, or to make a visit of some days or weeks from
home, and then we knew how valuable she was. It would be hard to
say whether my mother were relieved or disappointed when Emily
refused James Eastwood, in spite of many persuasions, not only from
himself, but his family. I believe mamma thought it selfish to be
glad, and that it was a failure in duty not to have performed that
weighty matter of marrying her daughter; feeling in some way
inferior to ladies who had disposed of a whole flock under five and
twenty, whereas she had not been able to get rid of a single one!
Of Clarence's doings in China I need not speak; you have read of
them in the book for yourselves, and you know how his work
prospered, so that the results more than fulfilled his expectations,
and raised the firm to the pitch of greatness and reputation which
it has ever since preserved, and this without soiling his hands with
the miserable opium traffic. Some of the subordinates were so set
on the gains to be thus obtained, that he and Lawrence Frith had a
severe struggle with them to prevent it, and were forced conjointly
to use all their authority as principals to make it impossible.
Those two were the greatest of friends. Their chief relaxation was
one another's company, and their earnest aim was to support the
Christian mission, and to keep up the tone of their English
dependants, a terribly difficult matter, and one that made the time
of their return somewhat doubtful, even when Walter Castleford was
gone out to relieve them. Their health had kept up so well that we
had ceased to be anxious on that point, and it was through the
Castlefords that we received the first hint that Clarence might not
be as well as his absence of complaint had led us to believe.
In fact he had never been well since a terrible tempest, when he had
worked hard and exposed himself to save life. I never could hear
the particulars, for Lawrence was away, and Clarence could not write
about it himself, having been prostrated by one of those chills so
perilous in hot countries; but from all I have heard, no resident in
Hong-Kong would have believed that Mr. Winslow's courage could ever
have been called in question. He ought to have come home
immediately after that attack of fever; for the five years were
over, and his work nearly done; but there was need to consolidate
his achievements, and a strong man is only too apt to trifle with
his health. We might have guessed something by the languor and
brevity of his letters, but we thought the absence of detail owing
to his expectation of soon seeing us; and had gone on for months
expecting the announcement of a speedy return, when an unexpected
shock fell on us. Our dear mother was still an active woman, with
few signs of age about her, when, in her sixty-seventh year, she was
almost suddenly taken from us by an attack of gout in the stomach.
I feel as if I had not done her justice, and as if she might seem
stern, unsympathising, and lacking in tenderness. Yet nothing could
be further from the truth. She was an old-fashioned mother, who
held it her duty to keep up her authority, and counted over-
familiarity and indulgence as sins. To her 'the holy spirit of
discipline was the beginning of wisdom,' and to make her children
godly, truthful, and honourable was a much greater object than to
win their love. And their love she had, and kept to a far higher
degree than seems to be the case with those who court affection by
caresses and indulgence. We knew that her approval was of a
generous kind, we prized enthusiastically her rare betrayals of her
motherly tenderness, and we depended on her in a manner we only
realised in the desolation, dreariness, and helplessness that fell
upon us, when we knew that she was gone. She had not, nor had any
of us, understood that she was dying, and she had uttered only a few
words that could imply any such thought. On hearing that there was
a letter from Clarence, she said, 'Poor Clarence! I should like to
have seen him. He is a good boy after all. I've been hard on him,
but it will all be right now. God Almighty bless him!'
That was the only formal blessing she left among us. Indeed, the
last time I saw her was with an ordinary good-night at the foot of
the stairs. Emily said she was glad that I had not to carry with me
the remembrance of those paroxysms of suffering. My dear Emily had
alone the whole force of that trial - or shall I call it privilege?
Martyn did not reach home till some hours after all was over, poor
And in the midst of our desolateness, just as we had let the
daylight in again upon our diminished numbers round the table, came
a letter from Hong-Kong, addressed to me in Lawrence Frith's
writing, and the first thing I saw was a scrawl, as follows:-
'DEAREST TED - All is in your hands. You can do IT. God bless you
all. W. C. W.'
When I came to myself, and could see and hear, Martyn was impressing
on me that where there is life there is hope, though indeed,
according to poor Lawrence's letter, there was little of either. He
feared our hearing indirectly, and therefore wrote to prepare us.
He had been summoned to Hong-Kong to find Clarence lying desperately
ill, for the most part semi-delirious, holding converse with
invisible forms, or entreating some one to let him alone - he had
done his best. In one of his more lucid intervals he had made
Lawrence find that note in a case that lay near him, and promise to
send it; and he had tried to send some messages, but they had become
confused, and he was too weak to speak further.
The next mail was sure to bring the last tidings of one who had
given his life for right and justice. It was only a reprieve that
what it actually brought was the intelligence that he was still
alive, and more sensible, and had been able to take much pleasure in
seeing the friend of his youth, Captain Coles, who was there with
his ship, the Douro. Then there had been a relapse. Captain Coles
had brought his doctor to see him, and it had been pronounced that
the best chance of saving him was a sea-voyage. The Douro had just
received orders to return to England, and Coles had offered to take
home both the friends as guests, though there was evidently little
hope that our brother would reach any earthly home. As we knew
afterwards, he had smiled and said it was like rehabilitation to
have the chance of dying on board one of H.M. ships. And he was
held in such respect, and was so entirely one of the leading men of
the little growing colony, and had been known as such a friend to
the naval men, and had so gallantly aided a Queen's ship in that
hurricane, that his passage home in this manner only seemed a
natural tribute of respect. A few last words from Lawrence told us
that he was safely on board, all unconscious of the silent, almost
weeping, procession that had escorted his litter to the Douro's
boat, only too much as if it were his bier. In fact, Captain Coles
actually promised him that if he died at sea he should be buried
with the old flag.
We could not hope to hear more for at least six weeks, since our
letter had come by overland mail, and the Douro would take her time.