Chantry House by Charlotte M. Yonge
Chapter XLII--On a Spree
'Her eyes as stars of twilight fair, Like twilight too, her dusky hair, But all things else about her drawn From May-time and the cheerful dawn, A dancing shape, an image gay, To haunt, to startle, and waylay.' WORDSWORTH.
Clarence went to London according to his determination, and as he had for some time been urgent that I should try some newly-invented mechanical appliances, he took me with him, this being the last expedition of the ancient yellow chariot. One of his objects was that I should see St. Paul's, Knightsbridge, which was then the most distinguished church of our school of thought, and where there was to be some special preaching. The Castlefords had a seat there, and I was settled there in good time, looking at the few bits of stained glass then in the east window, when, as the clergy came in from the vestry, I beheld a familiar face, and recognised the fine countenance and bearing of our dear old friend Frank Fordyce.
Then, looking at the row of ladies in front of me, I beheld for a moment an outline of a profile recalling many things. No doubt, Anne Fordyce was there, though instead of barely emulating my stunted stature, she towered above her companions, looking to my mind most fresh and graceful in her pretty summer dress; and I knew that Clarence saw her too.
I had never heard Mr. Fordyce preach before, as in his flying visits his ministrations were due at Hillside; and I certainly should have been struck with the force and beauty of his sermon if I had never known him before. It was curious that it was on the 49th Psalm, meant perhaps for the fashionable congregation, but remarkably chiming in with the feelings of us, who were conscious of an inheritance of evil from one who had 'done well unto himself;' though, no doubt, that was the last thing honest Parson Frank was thinking of.
When the service was over, and Anne turned, she became aware of us, and her face beamed all over. It was a charming face, with a general likeness to dear Ellen's, but without the fragile ethereal look, and all health, bloom, and enjoyment recalling her father's. She was only moving to let her pew-fellows pass out, and was waiting for him to come for her, as he did in a few moments, and he too was all pleasure and cordiality. He told us when we were outside that he had come up to preach, and 'had brought Miss Anne up for a spree.' They were at a hotel, Mrs. Fordyce was at home, and the Lesters were not in town this season--a matter of rejoicing to us. Could we not come home and dine with them at once? We were too much afraid of disappointing Gooch to do so, but they made an appointment to meet us at the Royal Academy as soon as it was open the next morning.
There was a fortnight of enjoyment. Parson Frank was like a boy out for a holiday. He had not spent more than a day or two in town for many years; Anne had not been there since early childhood, and they adopted Clarence as their lioniser, going through such a country- cousin course of delights as in that memorable time with Ellen. They even went down to Eton and Windsor, Frank Fordyce being an old Etonian. I doubt whether Clarence ever had a more thoroughly happy time, not even in the north of Devon, for there was no horse on his mind, and he was not suppressed as in those days. Indeed, I believe, it is the experience of others besides ourselves that there is often more unmixed pleasure on casual holidays like this than in those of early youth; for even if spirits are less high (which is not always the case), anticipations are less eager, there is more readiness to accept whatever comes, more matured appreciation, and less fret and friction at contretemps.
I was not much of a drag, for when I could not be with the others, I had old friends, and the museum was as dear to me as ever, in those recesses that had been the paradise of my youth; but there was a good deal in which we could all share, and as usual they were all kind consideration.
Anne overflowed with minute remembrances of her old home, and 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 his might.
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--'