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come to the worst, I could at least throw my-
self down and end it so.

" Well ?" I said, as if I had only been waiting
for her exposition of the case.

" Well !" she returned. — " Come along then."



THE LEADS. 213

I did go along — like a man to the gallows ;
only I would not have turned back to save my
life. But I should have hailed the slightest
change of purpose in her, with such pleasure as
Daniel must have felt when he found the lions
would rather not eat him. She retraced our
steps a long way — until we reached the middle
of the line of building which divided the two
courts.

" There !" she said, pointing to the top of the
square tower over the entrance to the hall, from
which we had watched the arrival of the guests :
it rose about nine feet only above where we
now stood in the gutter — " I know I left the
door open when we came down. I did it on
purpose. I hate Goody Wilson. Lucky, you
see ! — that is if you have a head. And if you
haven't, it's all the same : I have."

So saying, she pointed to a sort of flying but-
tress which sprung sideways, with a wide span,
across the angle the tower made with the hall,
from an embrasure of the battlement of the hall
to the outer corner of the tower, itself more
solidly buttressed. I think it must have been
made to resist the outward pressure of the roof



214 WILFRID OUMBERMEDE.

of the hall ; but it was one of those puzzling
points which often occur — and oftenest in do-
mestic architecture — where additions and conse-
quent alterations have been made from time to
time. Such will occasion sometimes as much
conjecture towards their explanation as a dis-
puted passage in Shakspere or iEschylus.

Could she mean me to cross that hair-like
bridge ? The mere thought was a terror. But
I would not blench. Fear I confess — cowardice
if you will : — poltroonery, not.

"I see," I answered. "I will try. If I fall,
don't blame me. I will do my best."

" You don't think," she returned, " I'm going
to let you go alone ! I should have to wait
hours before you found a door to let me down —
unless indeed you went and told Goody Wil-
son, and I had rather die where I am. No, no.
Come along. I'll show you how."

With a rush and a scramble, she was up over
the round back of the buttress before I had
time to understand that she meant as usual to
take the lead. If she could but have sent me
back a portion of her skill, or lightness, or nerve,
or whatever it was, just to set me off with a



THE LEADS. 215

rush like that ! But I stood preparing at once
and hesitating. She turned and looked over
the battlements of the tower.

" Never mind, Wilfrid," she said ; " I'll fetch
you presently."

" No, no," I cried. " Wait for me. I'm
coming."

I got astride of the buttress, and painfully
forced my way up. It was like a dream of
leap-frog, prolonged under painfully recurring
difficulties. I shut my eyes, and persuaded my-
self that all I had to do was to go on leap-
frogging. At length, after more trepidation
and brain-turning than I care to dwell upon,
lest even now it should bring back a too keen
realization of itself, I reached the battlement,
seizing which with one shaking hand, and find-
ing the other grasped by Clara, I tumbled on
the leads of the tower.

" Come along !" she said. " You see, when
the girls like, they can beat the boys — even at
their own games. We're all right now."

" I did my best," I returned, mightily relieved.
" Tm not an angel, you know. I can't fly like
you."



216 WILFRID OUMBERMEDE.

She seemed to appreciate the compliment.

" Never mind. I've done it before. It was
game of you to follow."

Her praise elated me. And it was well.

" Come along," she added.

She seemed to be always saying Come along.

I obeyed, full of gratitude and relief. She
skipped to the tiny turret which rose above our
heads, and lifted the door-latch. But, instead
of disappearing within, she turned and looked
at me in white dismay. The door was bolted.
Her look roused what there was of manhood in
me. I felt that, as it had now come to the last
gasp, it was mine to comfort her.

"We are no worse than we were," I said.
" Never mind."

i

" I don't know that," she answered mysteri-
ously. — " Can you go back as you came ? /
can't."

I looked over the edge of the battlement
where I stood. There was the buttress cross-
ing the angle of moonlight, with its shadow
lying far down on the wall. I shuddered at the
thought of renewing my unspeakable dismay.
But what must be must. Besides, Clara had



THE LEADS. 217

praised me for creeping where she could fly :
now I might show her that I could creep where
she could not fly.

" I will try," I returned, putting one leg
through an embrasure, and holding on by the
adjoining battlement.

M Do take care, Wilfrid," she cried, stretching
out her hands, as if to keep me from falling.

A sudden pulse of life rushed through me.
All at once I became not only bold, but ambi-
tious.

" Give me a kiss," I said, " before I go."

" Do you make so much of it ?" she returned,
stepping back a pace. — How much a woman
she was even then !

Her words roused something in me which to
this day I have not been able quite to under-
stand. A sense of wrong had its share in the
feeling ; but what else I can hardly venture to
say. At all events, an inroad of careless cour-
age was the consequence. I stepped at once
upon the buttress, and stood for a moment
looking at her — no doubt with reproach. She
sprang towards me.

"I beg your pardon," she said.



218 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

The end of the buttress was a foot or two
below the level of the leads, where Clara stood.
She bent over the battlement, stooped her face
towards me, and kissed me on the mouth. My
only answer was to turn and walk down the
buttress, erect ; a walk which, as the arch of the
buttress became steeper, ended in a run and a
leap on to the gutter of the hall. There I
turned, and saw her stand like a lady in a bal-
lad leaning after me in the moonlight. I lifted
my cap and sped away, not knowing whither,
but fancying that out of her sight I could make
up my mind better. Nor was I mistaken. The
moment I sat down, my brains began to go
about, and in another moment I saw w T hat might
be attempted.

In going from roof to roof, I had seen the
little gallery along which I had passed with
Mrs. Wilson on my way to the library. It
crossed what might be called an open shaft in
the building. I thought I could manage,
roofed as it was, to get in by the open side.
It was some time before I could find it again ;
but when I did come upon it at last, I saw that
it might be done. By the help of a projecting



THE LEADS. 219

gargoyle, curiously carved iu the days when
the Avail to which it clung had formed part of
the front of the building, I got my feet upon
the wooden rail of the gallery, caught hold of
one of the small pillars which supported the roof,
and slewed myself in. I was almost as glad as
when I had crossed the buttress, for below me
was a paved bottom, between high walls, with-
out any door, like a dry well in the midst of
the building.

My recollection of the way to the armoury, I
found, however, almost obliterated. I knew
that I must pass through a bedroom at the end
of the gallery, and that was all I remembered.
I opened the door, and found myself face to
face with a young girl with wide eyes. She
stood staring and astonished, but not fright-
ened. She was younger than Clara, and not
so pretty. Her eyes looked dark, and also the
hair she had been brushing. Her face would
have been quite pale, but for the rosy tinge of
surprise. She made no exclamation, only
stared with her brush in her hand, and ques-
tions in her eyes. I felt far enough from com-
fortable ; but with a great effort I spoke.



220 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

" I beg your pardon. I had to get off the
roof, and this was the only way. Please do
not tell Mrs. Wilson."

" No," she said at once, very quietly ; " but
you must go away."

" If I could only find the library !" I said. " I
am so afraid of going into more rooms where I
have no business."

" I will show you the way," she returned
with a smile ; and laying down her brush, took
up a candle, and led me from the room.

In a few moments I was safe. My conductor
vanished at once. The g]immer of my own
candle in a further room guided me, and I was
soon at the top of the corkscrew staircase. I
found the door very slightly fastened : Clara
must herself have unwittingly moved the bolt
when she shut it. I found her standing, all
eagerness, waiting me. We hurried back to
the library, and there I told her how I had
effected an entrance, and met with a guide.

"It must have been little Polly Osborne,"
she said. " Her mother is going to stay all
night, I suppose. She's a good-natured little
goose, a.nd won't tell. — Now come along. We'll



THE LEADS. 221

have a peep from the picture-gallery into the
ball-room. That door is sure to be open."

" If you don't mind, Clara, I would rather
stay where I am. I oughtn't to be wandering
over the house when Mrs. Wilson thinks I am
here."

i; Oh, you little coward !" said Clara.

I thought I hardly deserved the word, and it
did not make me more inclined to accompany
her.

"You can go alone," I said. "You did not
expect to find me when you came."

" Of course I can. Of course not. It's quite
as well too. You won't get me into any more
scrapes."

" Did I get you into the scrape, Clara V

" Yes, you did," she answered laughing, and
walked away.

I felt a good deal hurt, but comforted myself
by saying she could not mean it, and sat down
again to the Seven Champions,



222



CHAPTER XIV.



THE GHOST.



F SAW no more of Clara, but sat and read until
■*■ I grew cold and tired, and wished very
much that Mrs. Wilson would come. I thought
she might have forgot me in the hurry, and
there I should have to stay all night. After my
recent escape, however, from a danger so much
worse, I could regard the prospect with some
composure. A full hour more must have passed ;
I was getting sleepy, and my candle had burned
low, when at length Mrs. Wilson did make her
appearance, and I accompanied her gladly.

" I am sure you want your tea, poor boy !"
she said.

"Tea! Mrs. Wilson," I rejoined. "It's bed
I want. But when I think of it, I am rather
hungry."



THE GHOST. 223

" You shall have tea and bed both," she an-
swered kindly. " I'm sorry you've had such a
dull evening, but I could not help it."

" Indeed, I've not been dull at all," I answer-
ed — " till just the last hour or so."

I longed to tell her all I had been about, for
I felt guilty ; but I would not betray Clara.

" Well, here we are !" she said, opening the
door of her own room. u I hope I shall have
peace enough to see you make a good meal."

I did make a good meal. When I had done,
Mrs. Wilson took a rushlight and led the way.
I took my sword and followed her. Into what
quarter of the house she conducted me I could
not tell. There was a nice fire burning in the
room, and my night-apparel was airing before
it. She set the light on the floor, and left me
with a kind good-night. I was soon undressed
and in bed, with my sword beside me on the
coverlet of silk patchwork.

But, from whatever cause, sleepy as I had
been a little while before, I lay wide awake
now, staring about the room. Like many others
in the house, it was hung with tapestry, which
was a good deal worn and patched — notably in



224 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

one place, where limbs of warriors and horses
came to an "untimely end, on all sides of a cer-
tain oblong piece quite different from the rest
in colour and design. I know now that it was
a piece of Gobelins, in the midst of ancient
needlework. It looked the brighter of the two,
but its colours were about three, with a good
deal of white ; whereas that which surrounded
it had had many and brilliant colours, which,
faded and dull and sombre, yet kept their har-
mony. The guard of the rushlight cast deeper
and queerer shadows, as the fire sank lower.
Its holes gave eyes of light to some of the
figures in the tapestry, and as the light
wavered, the eyes wandered about in a ghostly
manner, and the shadows changed and flickered
and heaved uncomfortably.

How long I had lain thus I do not know ; but
at last I found myself watching the rectangular
patch of newer tapestry. Could it be that it
moved? It could be only the effect of the
wavering shadows. And yet I could not con-
vince myself that it did not move. It did move.
It came forward. One side of it did certainly
come forward. A kind of universal cramp



THE GHOST. 225

seized me — a contraction of eveiy fibre of my
body. The patch opened like a door — wider
and wider ; and from behind came a great hel-
met peeping. I was all one terror, but my
nerves held out so far that I lay like a watching
dog — watching for what horror would come
next. The door opened wider, a mailed hand
and arm appeared, and at length a figure, arm-
ed cap-a-pie, stepped slowly down, stood for a
moment peering about, and then began to walk
through the room, as if searching for something.
It came nearer and nearer to the bed. I won-
der now, when I think of it, that the cold horror
did not reach my heart. I cannot have been
so much a coward, surely, after all ! But I
suspect it was only that general paralysis pre-
vented the extreme of terror, just as a man in
the clutch of a wild beast is hardly aware of suf-
fering. At last the figure stooped over my bed,
and stretched out a long arm. I remember
nothing more.

I woke in the grey of the morning. Could a
faint have passed into a sleep f or was it all a
dream ? I lay for some time before I could re-
call what made me so miserable. At length my
VOL. I. Q



226 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

memory awoke, and I gazed fearful about the
room. The white ashes of the burnt-out fire
were lying in the grate ; the stand of the rush-
light was on the floor ; the wall with its tapes-
try was just as it had been ; the cold grey light
had annihilated the fancied visions : I had been
dreaming and was now awake. But I could
not lie longer in bed. I must go out. The
morning air would give me life ; I felt worn and
weak. Vision or dream, the room was hateful
to me. With a great effort I sat up, for I still
feared to move, lest I should catch a glimpse of
the armed figure. Terrible as it had been in
the night, it would be more terrible now. I
peered into every corner. Each was vacant.
Then first I remembered that I had been read-
ing the Castle of Otranto and the Seven Cham-
pions of Christendom the night before. I jump-
ed out of bed and dressed myself, growing
braver and braver as the light of the lovely
Spring morning swelled in the room. Having
dipped my head in cold water, I was myself
again. I opened the lattice and looked out.
The first breath of air was a denial to the
whole thing. I laughed at myself. Earth and



THE GHOST. 227

sky were alive with Spring. The wind was the
breath of the coming Summer: there were
flakes of sunshine and shadow in it. Before me
lay a green bank with a few trees on its top. It
was crowded with primroses growing through
the grass. The dew was lying all about,
shining and sparkling in the first rays of the
level sun, which itself I could not see. The
tide of life rose in my heart and rushed through
my limbs. I would take my sword and go for
a ramble through the park. I went to my bed-
side, and stretched across to find it by the
wall. It must have slipped down at the back
of the bed. No. Where could it be? In a
word, I searched everywhere, but my loved
weapon had vanished. The visions of the night
returned, and for a moment I believed them all.
The night once again closed around me, dark-
ened yet more with the despair of an irrepara-
ble loss. I rushed from the room and through
a long passage, with the blind desire to get out.
The stare of an unwashed maid, already busy
with her pail and brush, brought me to*my
senses.

Q2



228 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

" I beg your pardon," I said ; " I want to get
out."

She left her implements, led me down a stair
close at hand, opened a door at its foot, and led
me out into the high court. I gazed about me.
It was as if I had escaped from a prison-cell in-
to the chamber of torture : I stood the centre
of a multitude of windows — the eyes of the
house all fixed upon me. On one side was the
great gate, through which, from the roof, I had
seen the carriages drive the night before ; but it
was closed. I remembered, however, that Sir
Giles had brought me in by a wicket in that
gate. I hastened to it. There was but a bolt
to withdraw, and I was free.

But all was gloomy within, and genial nature
could no longer enter. Glittering jewels of
sunlight and dew were nothing but drops of
water upon blades of grass. Fresh-bursting
trees were no more than the deadest of winter-
bitten branches. The great eastern window of
the universe, gorgeous with gold and roses, was
but the weary sun making a fuss about nothing.
My sole relief lay in motion. I roamed I knew
not whither, nor how long.



THE GHOST. 229

At length I found myself on a height east-
ward of the Hall, overlooking its gardens,
which lay in deep terraces beneath. Inside a
low wall was the first of them, dark with an
avenue of ancient trees, and below was the large
oriel window in the end of the ball-room. I climb-
ed over the wall, which was built of cunningly fit-
ted stones, with mortar only in the top row ; and
drawn by the gloom, strolled up and down the
avenue for a long time. At length I became
aware of a voice I had heard before. I could
see no one ; but, hearkening about, I found it
must come from the next terrace. Descending
by a deep flight of old mossy steps, I came up-
on a strip of smooth sward, with yew-trees,
dark and trim, on each side of it. At the end
of the walk was an arbour, in which I could see
the glimmer of something white. Too miserable
to be shy, I advanced and peeped in. The girl
who had shown me the way to the library was
talking to her mother.

"Mamma!" she said, without showing any
surprise, " here is the boy who came into our
room last night."

" How do you do !" said the lady kindly,



230 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

making room for me on the bench beside
her.

I answered as politely as I could, and felt a
strange comfort glide from the sweetness of her
countenance.

" What an adventure you had last night I"
she said. " It was well you did not fall."

" That wouldn't have been much worse than
having to stop where we were," I answered.

The conversation thus commenced went on
until I had told them all my history, including
my last adventure.

"You must have dreamed it," said the
lady.

" So I thought, ma'am," I answered, " until I
found that my sword was gone."

" Are you sure you looked everywhere I " she
asked.

" Indeed, I did."

" It does not follow however that the ghost
took it. It is more likely Mrs. Wilson came
in to see you after you were asleep, and carried
it off."

" Oh, yes !" I cried, rejoiced at the suggestion ;
" that must be it. I shall ask her."



THE GHOST. 231

" 1 am sure you will find it so. Are you
going home soon ?"

" Yes — as soon as I've had my breakfast. It's
a good walk from here to Aldwick."

" So it is. — We are going that way too ?" she
added thinkingly.

" Mr. Elder is a great friend of papa's — isn't
he, mamma?" said the girl.

" Yes, my dear. They were friends at college."

" I have heard Mr. Elder speak of Mr. Os-
borne," I said. " Do you live near us ?"

" Not very far off — in the next parish, where
my husband is rector," she answered. " If you
could wait till the afternoon, we should be
happy to take you there. The pony-carriage is
coming for us."

" Thank you, ma'am," I answered ; " but I
ought to go immediately after breakfast. You
won't mention about the roof, will you? I
oughtn't to get Clara into trouble."

" She is a wild girl," said Mrs. Osborne ; " but
I think you are quite right."

" How lucky it was I knew the library !" said
Mary, who had become quite friendly, from un-
der her mother's wing.



232 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

" That it was ! But I daresay you know all
about the place," I answered.

" No, indeed !" she returned. " I know no-
thing about it. As we went to our room,
mamma opened the door and showed me the
library, else I shouldn't have been able to help
you at all."

; ' Then you haven't been here often?"

" No ; and I never shall be again. — I'm going
away to school," she added; and her voice
trembled.

" So am I," I said. " I'm going to Switzer-
land in a month or two. But then I haven't a
mamma to leave behind me."

She broke down at that, and hid her head on
her mother's bosom. I had unawares added to
her grief, for her brother Charley was going to
Switzerland too.

I found afterwards that Mr. Elder, having
been consulted by Mr. Osborne, had arranged
with my uncle that Charley Osborne and I
should go together.

Mary Osborne— I never called her Polly as
Clara did — continued so overcome by her
grief, that her mother turned to me and said,



THE GHOST. 233

" I think you had better go, Master Cumber-
mede."

I bade her good morning, and made my way
to Mrs. Wilson's apartment. I found she had
been to my room, and was expecting me with
some anxiety, fearing I had set off without my
breakfast. Alas ! she knew nothing about the
sword, looked annoyed, and, I thought, rather
mysterious ; said she would have a search, make
inquiries, do what she could, and such like, but
begged I would say nothing about it in the
house. I left her with a suspicion that she be-
lieved the ghost had carried it away, and that
it was of no use to go searching for it.

Two days after, a parcel arrived for me. I
concluded it was my sword ; but, to my grievous
disappointment, found it was only a large ham-
per of apples and cakes, very acceptable in
themselves, but too plainly indicating Mrs.
Wilson's desire to console me for what could
not be helped. Mr. Elder never missed the
sword. I rose high in the estimation of my
schoolfellows because of the adventure, especi-
ally in that of Moberly, who did not believe in
the ghost, but ineffectually tasked his poor



234 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

brains to account for the disappearance of the
weapon. The best light was thrown upon it by
a merry boy of the name of Fisher, who de-
clared his conviction that the steward had car-
ried it off to add to his collection.



235



CHAPTER XV.



AWAY.



[" WILL not linger longer over this part of my
■*• history — already, 1 fear, mnch too extended
for the patience of my readers. My excuse is
that, in looking back, the events I have recorded
appear large and prominent, and that certainly
they have a close relation with my after-history.
The time arrived when I had to leave Eng-
land for Switzerland. I will say nothing of
my leave-taking. It was not a bitter one.
Hope was strong, and rooted in present plea-
sure. I was capable of much happiness — keen-
ly responsive to the smallest agreeable impulse
from without or from within. I had good
health, and life was happiness in itself. The
blowing of the wind, the shining of the sun, or
the glitter of water, was sufficient to make me



236 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

glad; and I had self-consciousness enough to
increase the delight by the knowledge that T
was glad.

The fact is I was coming in for my share in
the spiritual influences of Nature, so largely
poured on the heart and mind of my genera-
tion. The prophets of the new blessing,
Wordsworth and Coleridge, I knew nothing of.
Keats was only beginning to write. I had
read a little of Gowper, but did not care for
him. Yet I was under the same spell as they
all. Nature w r as a power upon me. I was
filled with the vague recognition of a present
soul in Nature — with a sense of the humanity
everywhere diffused through her and operating
upon ours. I was but fourteen, and had only
feelings, but something lay at the heart of the
feelings, which would one day blossom into
thoughts.

At the coach-office in the county-town, I first
met my future companion, with his father, who
was to see us to our destination. My uncle ac-
companied me no further, and I soon found my-
self on the top of a coach, with only one thing
to do — make the acquaintance of Charles Os-



AWAY. 237

borne. His father was on the box-seat, and
we two sat behind ; but we were both shy, and
for some time neither spoke. Charles was about


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