books, the inconsistent little sister changed sides, and declared it
narrow and evangelical to renounce what was innocent. Clarence
argued that what might be harmless for others might be dangerous for
such as himself, and that his real difficulty in making even a
mental vow was that, if broken, there was an additional sin.
'It is not oneself that one trusts,' I said.
'No,' said Clarence emphatically; 'and setting up a vow seems as if
it might be sticking up the reed of one's own word, and leaning on
THAT - when it breaks, at least mine does. If I could always get the
grasp of Him that I felt to-day, there would be no more bewildered
heart and failing spirit, which are worse than the actual falls they
cause.' And as Emily said she did not understand, he replied in
words I wrote down and thought over, 'What we ARE is the point, more
than even what we DO. We DO as we ARE; and yet we form ourselves by
what we DO.'
'And,' I put in, 'I know somebody who won a victory last night over
himself and his two brothers. Surely DOING that is a sign that he
IS more than he used to be.'
'If he were, it would not have been an effort at all,' said
Clarence, but with his rare sweet smile.
Just then Griff called him away, and Emily sat pondering and
impressed. 'It did seem so odd,' she said, 'that Clarry should be
so much the best, and yet so much the worst of us.'
I agreed. His insight into spiritual things, and his enjoyment of
them, always humiliated us both, yet he fell so much lower in
practice, - 'But then we had not his temptations.'
'Yes,' said Emily; 'but look at Griff! He goes about like other
young men, and keeps all right, and yet he doesn't care about
religious things a bit more than he can help.'
It was quite true. Religion was life to the one and an insurance to
the other, and this had been a mystery to us all our young lives, as
far as we had ever reflected on the contrast between the practical
failure and success of each. Our mother, on the other hand, viewed
Clarence's tendencies as part of an unreal, self-deceptive nature,
and regretted his intimacy with Miss Newton, who, she said, had
fostered 'that kind of thing' in his childhood - made him fancy talk,
feeling, and preaching were more than truth and honour - and might
lead him to run after Irving, Rowland Hill, or Baptist Noel, about
whose tenets she was rather confused. It would be an additional
misfortune if he became a fanatical Evangelical light, and he was
just the character to be worked upon.
My father held that she might be thankful for any good influence or
safe resort for a young man in lodgings in London, and he merely
bade Clarence never resort to any variety of dissenting preacher.
We were of the school called - a little later - high and dry, but were
strictly orthodox according to our lights, and held it a prime duty
to attend our parish church, whatever it might be; nor, indeed, had
Clarence swerved from these traditions.
Poor Mrs. Sophia was baulked of the game at whist, which she viewed
as a legitimate part of the Christmas pleasures; and after we had
eaten our turkey, we found the evening long, except that Martyn
escaped to snapdragon with the servants; and, by and by, Chapman,
magnificent in patronage, ushered in the church singers into the
hall, and clarionet, bassoon, and fiddle astonished our ears.
CHAPTER XIV - THE MULLION CHAMBER
'A lady with a lamp I see,
Pass through the glimmering gloom,
And flit from room to room.'
For want of being able to take exercise, the first part of the night
had always been sleepless with me, though my dear mother thought it
wrong to recognise the habit or allow me a lamp. A fire, however, I
had, and by its light, on the second night after Christmas, I saw my
door noiselessly opened, and Clarence creeping in half-dressed and
barefooted. To my frightened interrogation the answer came, through
chattering teeth, 'It's I - only I - Ted - no - nothing's the matter,
only I can't stand it any longer!'
His hands were cold as ice when he grasped mine, as if to get hold
of something substantial, and he trembled so as to shake the bed.
'That room,' he faltered. ''Tis not only the moans! I've seen
'I don't know. There she stands with her lamp, crying!' I could
scarcely distinguish the words through the clashing of his teeth,
and as I threw my arms round him the shudder seemed to pass to me;
but I did my best to warm him by drawing the clothes over him, and
he began to gather himself together, and speak intelligibly. There
had been sounds the first night as of wailing, but he had been too
much preoccupied to attend to them till, soon after one o'clock,
they ended in a heavy fall and long shriek, after which all was
still. Christmas night had been undisturbed, but on this the voices
had begun again at eleven, and had a strangely human sound; but as
it was windy, sleety weather, and he had learnt at sea to disregard
noises in the rigging, he drew the sheet over his head and went to
sleep. 'I was dreaming that I was at sea,' he said, 'as I always do
on a noisy night, but this was not a dream. I was wakened by a
light in the room, and there stood a woman with a lamp, moaning and
sobbing. My first notion was that one of the maids had come to call
me, and I sat up; but I could not speak, and she gave another awful
suppressed cry, and moved towards that walled-up door. Then I saw
it was none of the servants, for it was an antique dress like an old
picture. So I knew what it must be, and an unbearable horror came
over me, and I rushed into the outer room, where there was a little
fire left; but I heard her going on still, and I could endure it no
longer. I knew you would be awake and would bear with me, so I came
down to you.'
Then this was what Chapman and the maids had meant. This was Mrs.
Sophia Selby's vulgar superstition! I found that Clarence had heard
none of the mysterious whispers afloat, and only knew that Griff had
deserted the room after his own return to London. I related what I
had learnt from the old lady, and in that midnight hour we agreed
that it could be no mere fancy or rumour, but that cruel wrong must
have been done in that chamber. Our feeling was that all ought to
be made known, and in that impression we fell asleep, Clarence
By and by I found him moving. He had heard the clock strike four,
and thought it wiser to repair to his own quarters, where he
believed the disturbance was over. Lucifer matches as yet were not,
but he had always been a noiseless being, with a sailor's foot, so
that, by the help of the moonlight through the hall windows, he
regained his room.
And when morning had come, the nocturnal visitation wore such a
different aspect to both our minds that we decided to say nothing to
our parents, who, said Clarence, would simply disbelieve him; and,
indeed, I inclined to suppose it had been an uncommonly vivid dream,
produced in that sensitive nature by the uncanny sounds of the wind
in the chinks and crannies of the ancient chamber. Had not Scott's
Demonology and Witchcraft, which we studied hard on that day, proved
all such phantoms to be explicable? The only person we told was
Griff, who was amused and incredulous. He had heard the noises - oh
yes! and objected to having his sleep broken by them. It was too
had to expose Clarence to them - poor Bill - on whom they worked such
He interrogated Chapman, however, but probably in that bantering way
which is apt to produce reserve. Chapman never 'gave heed to them
fictious tales,' he said; but, when hard pressed, he allowed that he
had 'heerd that a lady do walk o' winter nights,' and that was why
the garden door of the old rooms was walled up. Griff asked if this
was done for fear she should catch cold, and this somewhat affronted
him, so that he averred that he knew nought about it, and gave no
thought to such like.
Just then they arrived at the Winslow Arms, and took each a glass of
ale, when Griff, partly to tease Chapman, asked the landlady - an old
Chantry House servant - whether she had ever met the ghost. She
turned rather pale, which seemed to have impressed him, and demanded
if he had seen it. 'It always walked at Christmas time - between
then and the New Year.' She had once seen a light in the garden by
the ruin in winter-time, and once last spring it came along the
passage, but that was just before the old Squire was took for
death, - folks said that was always the way before any of the family
died - 'if you'll excuse it, sir.' Oh no, she thought nothing of
such things, but she had heard tell that the noises were such at all
times of the year that no one could sleep in the rooms, but the
light wasn't to be seen except at Christmas.
Griff with the philosophy of a university man, was certain that all
was explained by Clarence having imbibed the impression of the place
being haunted; and going to sleep nervous at the noises, his brain
had shaped a phantom in accordance. Let Clarence declare as he
might that the legends were new to him, Griff only smiled to think
how easily people forgot, and he talked earnestly about catching
ideas without conscious information.
However, he volunteered to sit up that night to ascertain the exact
causes of the strange noises and convince Clarence that they were
nothing but the effects of draughts. The fire in his gunroom was
surreptitiously kept up to serve for the vigil, which I ardently
desired to share. It was an enterprise; it would gratify my
curiosity; and besides, though Griffith was good-natured and
forbearing in a general way towards Clarence, I detected a spirit of
mockery about him which might break out unpleasantly when poor
Clarry was convicted of one of his unreasonable panics.
Both brothers were willing to gratify me, the only difficulty being
that the tap of my crutches would warn the entire household of the
expedition. However, they had - all unknown to my mother - several
times carried me about queen's cushion fashion, as, being always
much of a size, they could do most handily; and as both were now
fine, strong, well-made youths of twenty and nineteen, they had no
doubt of easily and silently conveying me up the shallow-stepped
staircase when all was quiet for the night.
Emily, with her sharp ears, guessed that something was in hand, but
we promised her that she should know all in time. I believe Griff,
being a little afraid of her quickness, led her to suppose he was
going to hold what he called a symposium in his rooms, and to think
it a mystery of college life not intended for young ladies.
He really had prepared a sort of supper for us when, after my
father's resounding turn of the key of the drawing-room door, my
brothers, in their stocking soles, bore me upstairs, the fun of the
achievement for the moment overpowering all sense of eeriness.
Griff said he could not receive me in his apartment without doing
honour to the occasion, and that Dutch courage was requisite for us
both; but I suspect it was more in accordance with Oxford habits
that he had provided a bottle of sherry and another of ale, some
brandy cherries, bread, cheese, and biscuits, by what means I do not
know, for my mother always locked up the wine. He was disappointed
that Clarence would touch nothing, and declared that inanition was
the preparation for ghost-seeing or imagining. I drank his health
in a glass of sherry as I looked round at the curious old room, with
its panelled roof, the heraldic devices and badges of the Power
family, and the trophy of swords, dirks, daggers, and pistols,
chiefly relics of our naval grandfather, but reinforced by the
sword, helmet, and spurs of the county Yeomanry which Griff had
Griff proposed cards to drive away fancies, especially as the sounds
were beginning; but though we generally yielded to him we COULD not
give our attention to anything but these. There was first a low
moan. 'No great harm in that,' said Griff; 'it comes through that
crack in the wainscot where there is a sham window. Some putty will
put a stop to that.'
Then came a more decided wail and sob much nearer to us. Griff
hastily swallowed the ale in his tumbler, and, striking a theatrical
attitude, exclaimed, 'Angels and ministers of grace defend us!'
Clarence held up his hand in deprecation. The door into his bedroom
was open, and Griff, taking up one of the flat candlesticks, pursued
his researches, holding the flame to all chinks or cracks in the
wainscotting to detect draughts which might cause the dreary sounds,
which were much more like suppressed weeping than any senseless gust
of wind. Of draughts there were many, and he tried holding his hand
against each crevice to endeavour to silence the wails; but these
became more human and more distressful. Presently Clarence
exclaimed, 'There!' and on his face there was a whiteness and an
expression which always recurs to me on reading those words of
Eliphaz the Temanite, 'Then a spirit passed before my face, and the
hair of my flesh stood up.' Even Griff was awestruck as we cried,
'Don't you see her? There! By the press - look!'
'I see a patch of moonlight on the wall,' said Griff.
'Moonlight - her lamp. Edward, don't you see her?'
I could see nothing but a spot of light on the wall. Griff (plainly
putting a force on himself) came back and gave him a good-natured
shake. 'Dreaming again, old Bill. Wake up and come to your
'I am as much in my senses as you are,' said Clarence. 'I see her
as plainly as I see you.'
Nor could any one doubt either the reality of the awe in his voice
and countenance, nor of the light - a kind of hazy ball - nor of the
'What is she like?' I asked, holding his hand, for, though infected
by his dread, my fears were chiefly for the effect on him; but he
was much calmer and less horror-struck than on the previous night,
though still he shuddered as he answered in a low voice, as if loth
to describe a lady in her presence, 'A dark cloak with the hood
fallen back, a kind of lace headdress loosely fastened, brown hair,
thin white face, eyes - oh, poor thing! - staring with fright, dark -
oh, how swollen the lids! all red below with crying - black dress
with white about it - a widow kind of look - a glove on the arm with
the lamp. Is she beckoning - looking at us? Oh, you poor thing, if
I could tell what you mean!'
I felt the motion of his muscles in act to rise, and grasped him.
Griff held him with a strong hand, hoarsely crying, 'Don't! - don't -
don't follow the thing, whatever you do!'
Clarence hid his face. It was very awful and strange. Once the
thought of conjuring her to speak by the Holy Name crossed me, but
then I saw no figure; and with incredulous Griffith standing by, it
would have been like playing, nor perhaps could I have spoken. How
long this lasted there is no knowing; but presently the light moved
towards the walled-up door and seemed to pass into it. Clarence
raised his head and said she was gone. We breathed freely.
'The farce is over,' said Griff. 'Mr. Edward Winslow's carriage
stops the way!'
I was hoisted up, candle in hand, between the two, and had nearly
reached the stairs when there came up on the garden side a sound as
of tipsy revellers in the garden. 'The scoundrels! how can they
have got in?' cried Griff, looking towards the window; but all the
windows on that side had peculiarly heavy shutters and bars, with
only a tiny heart-shaped aperture very high up, so they somewhat
hurried their steps downstairs, intending to rush out on the
intruders from the back door. But suddenly, in the middle of the
staircase, we heard a terrible heartrending woman's shriek, making
us all start and have a general fall. My brothers managed to seat
me safely on a step without much damage to themselves, but the
candle fell and was extinguished, and we made too heavy a weight to
fall without real noise enough to bring the household together
before we could pick ourselves up in the dark.
We heard doors opening and hurried calls, and something about
pistols, impelling Griff to call out, 'It's nothing, papa; but there
are some drunken rascals in the garden.'
A light had come by this time, and we were detected. There was a
general sally upon the enemy in the garden before any one thought of
me, except a 'You here!' when they nearly fell over me. And there I
was left sitting on the stair, helpless without my crutches, till in
a few minutes all returned declaring there was nothing - no signs of
anything; and then as Clarence ran up to me with my crutches my
father demanded the meaning of my being there at that time of night.
'Well, sir,' said Griff, 'it is only that we have been sitting up to
investigate the ghost.'
'Ghost! Arrant stuff and nonsense! What induced you to be dragging
Edward about in this dangerous way?'
'I wished it,' said I.
'You are all mad together, I think. I won't have the house
disturbed for this ridiculous folly. I shall look into it to-
CHAPTER XV - RATIONAL THEORIES
'These are the reasons, they are natural.'
If anything could have made our adventure more unpleasant to Mr. and
Mrs. Winslow, it would have been the presence of guests. However,
inquiry was suppressed at breakfast, in deference to the signs my
mother made to enjoin silence before the children, all unaware that
Emily was nearly frantic with suppressed curiosity, and Martyn knew
more about the popular version of the legend than any of us.
Clarence looked wan and heavy-eyed. His head was aching from a bump
against the edge of a step, and his cold was much worse; no wonder,
said my mother; but she was always softened by any ailment, and
feared that the phantoms were the effect of coming illness. I have
always thought that if Clarence could have come home from his court-
martial with a brain fever he would have earned immediate
forgiveness; but unluckily for him, he was a very healthy person.
All three of us were summoned to the tribunal in the study, where my
father and my mother sat in judgment on what they termed 'this
preposterous business.' In our morning senses our impressions were
much more vague than at midnight, and we betrayed some confusion;
but Griff and I had a strong instinct of sheltering Clarence, and we
stoutly declared the noises to be beyond the capacities of wind,
rats, or cats; that the light was visible and inexplicable; and that
though we had seen nothing else, we could not doubt that Clarence
'Thought he did,' corrected my father.
'Without discussing the word,' said Griff, 'I mean that the effect
on his senses was the same as the actual sight. You could not look
at him without being certain.'
'Exactly so,' returned my mother. 'I wish Dr. Fellowes were near.'
Indeed nothing saved Clarence from being consigned to medical
treatment but the distance from Bath or Bristol, and the
contradictory advice that had been received from our county
neighbours as to our family doctor. However, she formed her theory
that his nervous imaginings - whether involuntary or acted, she hoped
the former, and wished she could be sure - had infected us; and, as
she was really uneasy about him, she would not let him sleep in the
mullion room, but having nowhere else to bestow him, she turned out
the man-servant and put him into the little room beyond mine, and
she also forbade any mention of the subject to him that day.
This was a sore prohibition to Emily, who had been discussing it
with the other ladies, and was in a mingled state of elation at the
romance, and terror at the supernatural, which found vent in excited
giggle, and moved Griff to cram her with raw-head and bloody-bone
horrors, conventional enough to be suspicious, and send her to me
tearfully to entreat to know the truth. If by day she exulted in a
haunted chamber, in the evening she paid for it by terrors at
walking about the house alone, and, when sent on an errand by my
mother, looked piteous enough to be laughed at or scolded on all
The gentlemen had more serious colloquies, and the upshot was a
determination to sit up together and discover the origin of the
annoyance. Mr. Stafford's antiquarian researches had made him
familiar with such mysteries, and enough of them had been explained
by natural causes to convince him that there was a key to all the
rest. Owls, coiners, and smugglers had all been convicted of
simulating ghosts. In one venerable mansion, behind the wainscot,
there had been discovered nine skeletons of cats in different stages
of decay, having trapped themselves at various intervals of time,
and during the gradual extinction of their eighty-one lives having
emitted cries enough to establish the ghastly reputation of the
place. Perhaps Mr. Henderson was inclined to believe there were
more things in heaven and earth than were dreamt of in even an
antiquary's philosophy. He owned himself perplexed, but reserved
At breakfast Clarence was quite well, except for the remains of his
sore throat, and the two seniors were gruff and brief as to their
watch. They had heard odd noises, and should discover the cause;
the carpenter had already been sent for, and they had seen a light
which was certainly due to reflection or refraction. Mr. Henderson
committed himself to nothing but that 'it was very extraordinary;'
and there was a wicked look of diversion on Griff's face, and an
exchange of glances. Afterwards, in our own domain, we extracted a
good deal more from them.
Griff told us how the two elders started on politics, and denounced
Brougham and O'Connell loud enough to terrify any save the most
undaunted ghost, till Henderson said 'Hush!' and they paused at the
moan with which the performance always commenced, making Mr.
Stafford turn, as Griff said, 'white in the gills,' though he talked
of the wind on the stillest of frosty nights. Then came the sobbing
and wailing, which certainly overawed them all; Henderson called
them 'agonising,' but Griff was in a manner inured to this, and felt
as if master of the ceremonies. Let them say what they would by
daylight about owls, cats, and rats, they owned the human element
then, and were far from comfortable, though they would not
compromise their good sense by owning what both their younger
companions had perceived - their feeling of some undefinable
presence. Vain attempts had been made to account for the light or
get rid of it by changing the position of candles or bright objects
in the outer room; and Henderson had shut himself into the bedroom
with it; but there he still only saw the hazy light - though all was
otherwise pitch dark, except the keyhole and the small gray patch of
sky at the top of the window-shutters. 'You saw nothing else?' said
Griff. 'I thought I heard you break out as Clarence did, just
before my father opened the door.'
'Perhaps I did so. I had the sense strongly on me of some being in
grievous distress very near me.'
'And you should have power over it,' suggested Emily.
'I am afraid,' he said, 'that more thorough conviction and
comprehension are needed before I could address the thing with
authority. I should like to have stayed longer and heard the
For Mr. Stafford had grown impatient and weary, and my father having
satisfied himself that there was something to be detected, would not
remain to the end, and not only carried his companions off, but
locked the doors, perhaps expecting to imprison some agent in a
trick, and find him in the morning.
Indeed Clarence had a dim remembrance of having been half wakened by
some one looking in on him in the night, when he was sleeping
heavily after his cold and the previous night's disturbance, and we
suspected, though we would not say, that our father might have
wished to ascertain that he had no share in producing these
appearances. He was, however, fully acquitted of all wilful
deception in the case, and he was not surprised, though he was
disappointed, that his vision of the lady was supposed to be the
consequence of excited imagination.
'I can't help it,' he said to me in private. 'I have always seen or
felt, or whatever you may call it, things that others do not. Don't
you remember how nobody would believe that I saw Lucy Brooke?'
'That was in the beginning of the measles.'
' I know; and I will tell you something curious. When I was at
Gibraltar I met Mrs. Emmott - '
'Yes; I spent a very happy Sunday with her. We talked over old