Times are changed. Now that I am an elderly woman I hear people
discuss what used to be called ghost stories, with grave faces. Books
are written in explanation of them, and people hold serious arguments
about the possibility of occurrences which in my young days would have
been dismissed with a laugh, or put down with a scolding. They write to
the papers about them, and publish their experiences. They talk about
them at dinner-parties, and no one seems to think it either silly or
profane to do so. If I had ever looked behind the veil I do not think I
should publish what I saw. But, then, I never did. I do not
believe that anything ever happened to me. I am not sure if
anything ever really happened to any one. If these expertsthese men
of sciencecould explain what did happen, I wonder if I should be
impelled to ask them, as people go to a doctor or to a confessor to get
their bodies or their souls explained to them? But you cannot tell to
another soul the thing that dazzles and astounds your own. She
could never tell me. But I think I will write down the outside
story for my own satisfaction. I should like to read it over and see
what it looks like put into definite words. I have left off wanting to
forget it. I should like to understand it if I could. Ah, well, that
shows that one's point of view does change with that of other people.
But it is rather like the man who would peep and botanize upon his
mother's grave, as Wordsworth says. I suppose it was the discussion
about haunted houses and thought-transference and suggestions at
the dinner-party last night that has stirred up the notion. There can
be no other reason why my thoughts should have gone back to Hilton just
now. But I felt inclined to echo that brown old gentlemanI did not
catch his namewho sat silent all through the discussion, and then,
when he was asked if he had any experiences to contribute to the
conversation, said that he thought the subject mischievous, in a tone
that made our hostess change the conversation at once. I wonder what
his name was?
The agency for the Hilton estate had been in my family for two or
three generations. My father and grandfather were country solicitors of
high reputation, who transacted the business of the county. They knew a
great many family secrets, and could, if they would, have told many ins
and outs of family history. My father and the last Mr. Hilton were
close friends, and when Alice was left an orphan and the last direct
representative of her family, we came to live at Hilton Grange in order
to take care of her. My father was her sole guardian and trustee, and
the arrangement was made with all due regard to her interests.
I was very fond of Hilton; it seemed to be almost as much mine as it
was Alice's. I was also very fond of her, and we had a very happy,
common-place sort of girlhood. We had a governess, and went to Wanbury,
the nearest town, for dancing and singing lessons, visited the families
round, and filled up our time as most young ladies did in the middle of
the century. My brothers, who were all younger than we were, went, of
course, to school.
I was a year older than Mice, and I was taller and stronger, and
also, I may say, prettierat least at first sight. I was fair and
rosy, and full of spirits, and I always took the lead. I admired Alice
myself very much. She was a little soft, round thing all in shades of
brown, and I used to call her Squirrel, and sometimes Scug. She had
brown hair and eyes and a pale, fine skin. She was shy and idle and
dreamy, and did her lessons badly, though she was not at all stupid.
She used to wear a brown hat with brown feathers and a red cloak, and I
can see her now, that autumn, running about in the woods at Hilton. We
were both to come out at the Wanbury Christmas ball. Miss Hilton and
Miss Mary Curtis meant to enjoy that occasion, and we talked much about
our dresses, and about the Hilton pearls which my father meant to allow
Alice to wear for the first time at the ball.
How disjointed all this is, and how little to the point! Now, I will
tell the story in a proper way, beginning with a description.
Hilton Grange had been partly rebuilt in the time of Alice's
great-grandfather. The rooms in this part were large and comfortable,
but of a very ordinary sortthose at the back were much older and
smaller, with low ceilings and steps up and down, and odd little gables
and balconies. In these Alice and I slept, and our school-room was a
queer little place, with a corner window of which we were fond.
The lawns were smooth and sloping with beautiful trees on them, and
there were walled kitchen-gardens and hot-houses. My father kept the
place in nice order, and sold some of the fruit and vegetables. The
farms were all let, and so was the park for grazing purposes.
The house was about half-a-mile from the village of Greenstoke, where
we went to church and taught in the Sunday school.
There was only one remarkable thing about Hilton. Beyond the park,
and across a wide field, there was a little wood, and in this wood
there had once stood a church or chapel, every stone of which had been
taken away, but the floor and, I suppose, the foundations remained,
outlined by trees and by the undergrowth of the copse. You could see
the stone pavement, the slabs with defaced inscriptions, could trace
the broken steps which went up to the altar, and the space where the
altar had stood. There were one or two raised tombs with mutilated
figures on them. Here and there the turf had grown over the pavement,
and in spring daffodilsHilton copse was full of daffodilspushed up
heir heads in between.
The consecrated space was kept neat and smooth, and the gate to the
little copse was always locked.
No one seemed to know anything about the church or its fate, and we
thought that it had been the private chapel of the place when Hilton
was an old manor, and had been done away with at the Reformation.
Another view was that this had once been the parish church of Wanbury,
but hat a new one had been built in the village, and his had been taken
down and the stones used to build the present one. Then again there
were deep pools in the wood, and some people thought they had been
fish-ponds, and that there had been monks there in old days.
It all began with the ceiling tumbling down in the school-room and in
our bedroom one day in September, so that Alice and I had to move into
the new part of the house, and we took up our abode in some rooms that
looked across the fields to Hilton copse, with its chapel that had
I think it must have been on the second evening after we had
established ourselves there that, as we were putting on our white
muslins and blue sashes in readiness for our half-past-six dinner,
Alice said suddenly
Mary, do you know if we have got a ghost?
Alice was a very quiet little person, and she said it exactly as she
might have said, Have you got a pocket-handkerchief? I started.
Ghost? I said. Here? Do you mean a ghost story? I never heard one.
What made you think of such a thing?
Well, she said, there are stories about a great many old
houses, and it came into my head. last night that there might be one
I don't think mamma would like us to think about such a thing, I
Oh, why not? said Alice; of course we shouldn't believe it.
We went down to dinner, and presently Alice said quite coolly
Mr. Curtis, is Hilton Manor haunted? I mean, she added, were there
ever any stories told about it? Of course, I know they couldn't be
true, and she laughed lightly and cheerfully.
There was a longer pause than 1 expected, and then papa said
I am unable to say if any foolish stories of that description were
ever told in former times, but I should never allow any such to be
repeated. Such a reputation in a house is a direct incentive to fraud.
We were a good deal afraid of my father, and Alice said, Yes, so it
might be, in a meek voice, and went on eating roast chicken.
Mr. Curtis, she said again in a minute, which of the Hiltons was
that girl with the pearl necklace opposite to me?
Why, Alice, said my mother, how many questions you are asking!
I thought I ought to know about our own pictures, said Alice, still
in her simple, cheerful voice. I think it struck my father for the
first time that she certainly had a right to ask questions, for he
answered at once
I think that girl was your great-grandfather's sister, and I believe
she married foolishly, and died when her first child was born.
Ah! said Alice, she is the prettiest of them all.
She was. The picture was of a girl with a pearl necklace, and brown
hair turned back over a cushion. She was very like Sir Joshua's
well-known Nelly O'Brien. She was like Alice too.
The next morning as we were dressing, Alice said
If there is a ghost, I think it is the girl who married foolishly,
and I think Hilton chapel has something to do with it.
Why? I said.
I don't know, I thought of it in the night, she answered. I
thought how the chapel used to look. You could see it from this
That morning my father came into the schoolroom and said Alice, I
think it is time that you did know something about your own property.
If you will come into the study, I will show you the list of the
pictures, and explain a few things to you.
Alice jumped up. Oh, come, Mary, she said. Never mind smudging
that sky you are doing.
It does not concern Mary, said my father, but she can come if you
like. We went, and papa showed Alice some papers about the letting of
her farms and the control of the estate, and also lists of the pictures
and ornaments in the house. There were some leather cases on the table
which I had never seen, and papa opened them and showed Alice the old-fashioned jewels and the plate which they contained. There were some
beautiful pearls, and among them a necklace which we supposed as the
original of that in the girl's picture.
The girl's name was Alicia, my father said, and she ran away and
married a musician. Alice clasped the pearls round her neck, and seemed
unwilling to part with them, when my father proposed to put them away
in an iron safe in one of the panels, which he now showed us for the
That afternoon I went to the Rectory, and Alice for some reason
stayed behind. I did the business about the school for which I went
there, and then played croquet with Ellen and Ethel Graves. Their
brother Jack was there, and a friend of his, a Mr. Ashford, a handsome,
pleasant young man who had come to read with the Rector. We had a
capital game, and they asked us both to come for another on the next
As I came back I met Alice just by the gate that led into the fields.
She looked serious.
Mary, she said, I got the key from the farm, and went into the
All by yourself? I said. Why did you do that?
I felt as if I wished to, she said. I thought a great deal about
Alicia Hilton who had the pearls. Don't you think she met her lover
down there by the chapel? It would be so quiet.
Really I don't know, I said. I suppose she was a naughty girl, or
she wouldn't have run away.
I think I should run away, said Alice, if Mr. Curtis stopped me
from marrying the man I loved.
Good gracious, Squirrel! I exclaimed What are you thinking of?
She laughed a little.
I've got the key still, she said. Come and have another look
Well, I went. It was a perfectly still evening, not a breath stirring.
The air was warm and misty, with the low sun shining through a haze.
We went into the little wood, and into the clear space that had been
the chapel. It had a dreamy look.
Alice looked all round.
Yes, she said, there were walls standing here then, and she came
here to meet him. She had a red cloak and a hood over her hair. He sat
on that tombstone with a woman's figure. He came in at the west
Alice! Alice! I cried. Are you making up a story about her? What
do you mean? Alice started.
It came into my head, she said. You shouldn't talk so loud, Mary.
This is a church still. I felt worried, and I insisted on going back,
and dragged Alice away.
I suppose that was how it began.
We went to the Rectory and played croquet, and the Rectory party came
to us, and Frank Ashford certainly paid Alice attention. There were a
good many little engagements, and we met often. There was nothing
unusual about it; I need not tell it in detail. We had what girls now
call a good time. Alice said no more about the chapel, but I know she
went there now and again, and she did not tell me. She said nothing
about Alicia Hilton. I did not know then that she dreamed of her often.
After about a fortnight, my mother said to me Mary, there mustn't
be too much intercourse with the Rectory. It wouldn't do at all to have
anything between Alice and the pupil. I believe he is the son of a
clergyman, and is perhaps going to take Orders; but of course he is not
a match for Alice. Mind you are careful. I coloured up. It was the
first time anything of the kind had come before us.
You know, Mary, my mother said, the time is coming when we must
remember that Miss Hilton is an important person. It is a great
responsibility. But don't say anything to her.
I was very silly. I went up into our room and cried, because the idea
seemed to separate Alice from me.
Presently she came in and sat down in the window. It was beautiful
clear twilight, with the young moon hanging over the chapel wood.
Mary, she said, I've been down to the chapel. I sat down on the
tombstone, and perhaps I went to sleepfor I fancied I saw Alicia
quite close to me in her red hood. She looked right into my eyes, and
made me think inside her instead of in myself, I know all about her.
Alice, I cried, you will catch cold! How could you be so silly
about Alicia Hilton!
When I came back, said Alice, Mr. Frank Ashford came into
the chapel. He had found the door open, and we talked for a little
Alice! How very improper! I said angrily. Mamma wouldn't like it.
I couldn't help it, said Alice. She stood up and looked out of the
window, then she spoke again.
Mary, she said, I was not asleep when Alicia came. She did come.
Nonsense! I said. You did not really see her.
She was there, said Alice. But I don't now if she was outside me
or inside me. She was me!
I found fault with her grammar. I scolded her, I laughed at her; but
I do not know why I never told my mother, either about Alicia or Mr.
All this time the rooms with the fallen ceiling were being done up;
they needed a great deal of repair, and, in new papering them, a little
cupboard was found in the thick wall, and in it an old portfolio. It so
happened that the workmen who found it gave it to Alice, and she began
to open and examine it at once. Of course she could, it was hers; but
last year she would have run with it to papa at once.
It contained a plan of the old house, annotated. Where our new rooms
now stood there had been a bedroom with a balcony looking down to the
wood, and with a stair down to the garden, which was called Alicia's
room. At the side was written in a stiff old handHere she was
seen, and lower downIt is but a Dream, but I could think I
heard her play on the Spinet, Unhappy child!
She doesn't do that now, at any rate, I said sharply.
I don't know, said Alice; I heard music once here when I woke in
the morning, hut you said it was that organ with a monkey we saw
in Queen Street.
Nonsense! I said sharply.
There was also a plan of our new rooms, and we thought that the old
ones had been pulled down that the lost Alicia might be forgotten.
I don't know why the weeks after this till the day of the ball were
so odd to me. We did not see quite so much of the Rectory people; but
of course we met Frank Ashford occasionally.
He was full of life and go. You could not forget him. Alice
left off talking about Alicia; but sometimes she puzzled me. My mother
said she was growing up, and coming out very much. Now and then there
was a spirit and force about her, and a sparkle in her face quite new
But then, as we knew afterwards, she was in love, and that does alter
people. The night of the ball came. We had our white dresses, and I had
a snowdrop wreath; but Alice would have some of her pearls twisted in
her hair. She turned it back in front, as was then the fashion, and as
she clasped the pearl necklace round her throat, she looked very like
She practised curtseys before the looking-glass, spread out her fan,
and bridled, with smiles, and with a bright colour in her cheeks. I
cannot describe it, but she looked at me with eyes that were not her
When we came to the ball, some of the great ladies took marked notice
of Alice. People were always kind to me, and I had plenty of partners,
but for the first time I was made to feel that she was Miss Hilton of
Hilton, and of more consequence than Mary Curtis.
Frank Ashford was at the ball, and at first he had to look on, and
could see Alice dancing with the most eligible young men in her county;
but after the first hour or two, somehow, he got possession of her, and
danced with her over and over again. My mother was greatly annoyed, and
made many attempts to part them; but she was a shy and unready person,
and Alice practically defied her. She looked lovely, but so strange!
I watched her even when I was dancing myself. And when I was coming
up from supper, I caught sight of her, in a little side-room off the
stairs, where formerly people played at cards. She was alone with Frank
Ashford, and I saw him take her in his arms and kiss her.
I suppose the fuss that ensued after this ball was just what might
have been expected. My father and the Rector acted together. Alice was
told that the thing was impossible, and Frank Ashford was sent away to
another tutor. Alice cried a great deal. She said little, and my
parents thought she gave in. They were much distressed, but they were
her sole guardians and responsible to no one for her.
They said very little to me. There was a distance and reserve in
their relations with me, perhaps helped by the fact that my companion
was not their child, and that they made it a point of honour to treat
us both alike.
I did not think that Alice had given in. She did not talk to me, and
she did not seem very unhappy; but I knew that she sometimes went to
Hilton chapel. One afternoon, when the daffodils were coming out, I was
looking for some at the top of the field, and I saw her in her red
cloak flit along the bottom of it and disappear through the little gate
into the wood.
When I came in, she was in our room, sewing. I asked her what she had
been doing in the Chapel wood.
I haven't been there, she said; I haven't been out. She blushed
all over her face, and then she turned pale.
Alice! I exclaimed, I saw you! There is no other red cloak in the
place. You went into the gate. How can you deny it?
I did not, Mary, indeed I did not, she said. It was not
I was so angry with her that I turned my back, and would not speak to
her. She got up, put on her red cloak and hat, and was out of the room
and out of the house in a second, and I saw her run down the field
towards the chapel, and I followed her. She was standing alone in the
empty space in the soft, bright spring evening. She looked at me with
her own eyes, and then she threw herself into my arms and cried.
And yet, of courseof courseit was Alice that I saw
in the fields.
I had written so far, sitting in my little drawing-room, when I
stopped, for my eyes were full of tears. I had not yet resolved to go
on, when a visitor, whose name I did not catch, was announced, and as I
started up I saw the handsome, brown-faced, elderly gentleman whom I
had met at dinner on the night before.
Miss Curtis, he said, you don't remember me?
Frank Ashford! I exclaimed, for suddenly I did remember him. I
don't know how we got over the meeting, or what he said, except that he
told me that he had been abroad, had made money, had married, and had
But when I saw you, Miss Curtis, I recalled that one brief winter at
Greenstoke, when we were all so young and so foolishthat boy and girl
dreammade sacred by its sad conclusion.
I had been very angry with him, or rather with his memory; but
somehow as he sat there with his bronzed face and his grey moustaches,
the long years between seemed to soften the old feelings. I answered
We went awayafterwards, I said. You know her distant cousin,
Eustace Hilton, sold the place. Since my parents died I have travelled,
and then I settled here.
I really do not know, said Mr. Ashford, mildly and sadly, how the
sad end came.
When my parents knew that you still met her at the chapel, they
settled to take us abroad.
I only met her once at the chapel, after the ball, he said. We
parted, and I told her that I would wait and win her. I was not
Only once! I said; she went there very often, and at last
Yes, at last? What happened at last?
When we were going away she once made a scene. She spoke as Alice
never used to speak, and told them that it was in vain to try to change
her. Then she went, as she often did in the evening, to the wood. I ran
after her. She was not there, and I went on and called her. I went to
the edge of the poolI thought as I went I saw her before me, through
the trees. I saw her red cloak, as I thought, flitting along.
Thenthen I saw itreallyin the water But she had been
reaching after the daffodils. They were scattered on the water. That
was all we knew. She fell in, you know, trying to pick them.
He looked infinitely troubled and sad, with the distant sadness of a
by-gone grief. And I too! Till yesterday I had not really thought often
of Alice. Forty years is a very long time.
It was sad and mad, he said presently, and very sweet, but it was
not very bad. We were over head and ears in loveand her death was an
awful blow. We met certainly sometimes, before I left the Rectory.
Sometimes she was shysometimes full of play and mischief. Sweet
Alice! Poor Alice! The pool made a tragedy of the idyll.
I am glad she told me the truth about you, I said. What else did
she tell you? he said.
I think she must have told me the truth, I repeated. What
did she tell you?
We had a talk once. She declared that she saw Alicia Hilton. She
thought so much of her. She looked so like her. After she began to go
to the chapel, there were times when she was so differentfrom Alice.
I suppose it was being in love. She saidstrange things. I do not know
what she meant
I stopped, and he did not answer. I don't know if he at all
understoodif she had told him. I think not. He told me nothing, and I
had nothing more to tell him, for she never told me. Perhaps she
inherited a rash spirit from Alicia. If such did enter into herI
mean, come out in herit deserted her at last. It was just like my
Alice to pick the flowers for remembrance. She would never really
have run away.
Alice, said Frank Ashford as he went away, was as pure as crystal
and as good as gold. Yes, I think she always told the truth. I don't
think it was Alice that I saw in the red cloak that evening in