A story from “Twixt Moor and Mead” written by Rev James Dodd Jackson in 1887. The stories are based on those told by his grandparents when he came to stay at Slack Cottage in Garsdale in the mid-1800s, and some places and characters are deliberately made easy to identify.
The White Dove of Mossgill [easily identified as Low House, the property of the Inman family in Garsdale since around 1710]
The “short and simple annals” inscribed upon these pages have as yet concerned events happening in our own time. The following story is from a more stirring period of our England’s history, when, even in secluded Rowansdale [Garsdale], there were rumours of great things occurring in the world. Of the life of that time among the silent hills it gives us glimpses — glimpses showing that in most features it was like our own, for changes come but slowly in our wild glens, and human nature is ever the same.
It was Edgar Allan [Garsdale’s schoolmaster, William Edmondson, whose wife was related to the author] who brought a document from its hiding of two centuries to the light of day, and that in the course of searching in an old chest containing, with this one exception, legal instruments treasured by the Inwood [Inman] family. Among other strange tastes, the schoolmaster had those of an antiquary, and was never happier than when prying and peering into the forgotten past. It was a great day for him when Doctor Inwood [Dr William Inman of Badger Dub] gave him permission to explore the records of his ancestors [the Inman family still has old records stored in chests], but a greater still when he found enfolded in a musty fusty deed the paper copied out below. Its very existence had been forgotten, though of the events it chronicled, one, in the form of tradition known by the title heading this page, was still current in the dale, and others are part of the story of our nation. Its reading to a select company in the School-house gave a fillip to superstitions — you would call them — scarcely yet on the decline amongst us. These same “superstitions” die hard in Rowansdale. The fact is, the place is formed of Nature to be their sure abiding-place. Amid these hills and woods, among these crags and torrents old belief will linger long — linger until perhaps they become fashionable again in the world which would fain suppose them vanished for ever. The dalesman’s mind unfolded in these grand and solitary scenes, and still possessing imagination and the power to realise awe in the presence of mystery, will not readily consent to renounce the convictions of his “forbears”, or treat all they told him as he sat, a boy, in the ingle on the winter evenings, as idle tales. The “Folk Lore Society” might do worse than turn its attention to our dale, though they would find difficulties in their path — the Rowansdale man will not tell all he knows to strangers. They think him, therefore, dull — he is certainly reticent.
To return to the document that was found, as we have said, among legal instruments in the Inwood chest, and the Inwoods, it is hardly needful to say, were an old family in the dale. Dr Inwood was the fifth Inwood of his profession, and more than once or twice the vicarage had had an Inwood for its tenant [not in Garsdale, but Richard Inman was Rector of Todwick for many years]. The family had at one time owned most [?] of the land in the valley, and though, for reasons in no way connected with the events to be now presented, they have somewhat declined in point of substance, they were still well-to-do. It had been characteristic that they had always lived modestly — farming their own land and neighbouring with the dalesfolk without pride or show. Tories they were of the old sort of politics, and Churchmen from generation to generation in religion, and perhaps some of the views expresses hereafter will not be universally popular today, but they were a family of use and service, and the dale was ever poorer when an Inwood passed to his fathers. [This is a fair summary of the Inman family who have always been well-respected in Garsdale} Mossgill [Low House] their home of old, [since about 1710 in reality] was a house, half mansion, half farmstead, standing a little back from the high-road from which it was screened by the walls of a garden so high as to hide a large part of the house, but not high enough to prevent the fragrance of roses escaping on summer evenings. The house was approached through a gateway, and it was significant of family hospitality that the gate stood always open. On the other side of the road ran the Rowan [Clough River], crossed opposite the gate by a stone bridge [still there] which carried a path leading to farms across the water [Ivy Hall, High & Low Cowpergill]. Just over the little viaduct stood a ruined cottage — a ruin treated tenderly of Time, for there were ferns and flowers in the crannies and moss on the stones, while a mountain ash grew where once the hearthstone had been. [no trace left now?] The road as it passed the house was arched over by branches of tall trees leaning from each side to embrace each other in the air. These cast an abiding gloom upon the quiet path, giving a touch of solemnity to a spot lonely at the best. [The author came as a child to stay with his grandparents at nearby Slack Cottage, and he would have walked these paths.]
Here shall follow a copy of the document, the only alterations being the modernising of the spelling:—
The story of Margery Inwood of Mossgill, in Rowansdale, written by me, the said Margery, at the request of members of my family — especially of my beloved son William, with whom I now dwell in an old age without infirmities; so gracious has God been unto me after days of much pain and trial.
I was born in the year of Our Lord 1615, at Leansyke in Rowansdale; my father, Septimus Taylor, being a shepherd in the employment of Rowland Inwood the elder. [This and the remainder of the story seems to be entirely fictional, unless the Inmans brought the story with them when they came to Garsdale around 1710] My father was an honest man, and feared God and honoured the king. Truly he was poor, but so have been some of the best of God’s saints, and the holy Apostles themselves were poor men, while our Blessed Redeemer had not where to lay His head. But of my father’s poverty what matters it now? For these forty years he hath been on the shores of Immortality. My mother I never knew, for in giving birth to poor me, she passed away. But I have heard of her that her name was Margery, and that she was of fair form and comely face and much skilled in song, so that she knew all the ballads of our land. My father would tell me often, as he wept for her going, that it was like hearing the lark to hear her sing. Through all his life he mourned her, and brought no other wife to fill her place. When he died, full of years, it was in the speaking of her name.
Of my childhood not much need here be written, nor need I say aught of what happened in England in my early youth. Those were quiet times under good King James, although my father used to say that he was not so glorious a sovereign as the great Elizabeth, who had died twelve years before I was born. But of kings and queens I thought but little, except to wonder what they were like, and what raiment they wore, and about the places in which they dwelt. As for the weightier matters I cared not, so long as all went well with me and mine. After my mother’s death a sister of my father’s — my aunt Alice — came to manage the household, and with my father she abode so long as he lived, dying after him but one short year. My aunt was an old maid — so it is the custom to call such as she — that is, she had never married and professed to us a great disdain for men. With us there dwelt also my cousin Annie, whose parents were both dead. She was one year and six months and two days older than I, so that we were children together and grew up side by side, and loved each other greatly. She was dark of complexion and of hair, with long tresses like the night, and I was fair. Truly, I tell it not in vanity, from which I may well have been purged long ago, when I say that they called us “The Belles of Rowansdale”.
So, without anything of note, the years passed away until one day, when, Annie being twenty-one and I twenty years of age, we went together to cut brackens and rushes in the pasture, dor bedding the pony “Daisy”, which my father kept. Then there came upon us as we laboured, singing together at the work, Rowland Inwood the younger and Luke Linthwaite his man. [John Garthwaite lived at the farm over the bridge in 1706, and it was sometimes called “Garthwaite’s”.] Though they were master and servant, yet were they more like brothers — so close was their friendship. They were shooting birds and had only just come out [not in the modern sense!] But that day they did no more shooting, neither did we, I fear, do much more cutting of rushes and brackens.
Now I will try to say what manner of man was Rowland Inwood the younger, when I saw him that morning, though I fear to make the attempt. For while I can even now, fifty years afterwards, by closing my eyes, see him as I then saw him, yet it is not easy sometimes to speak of what you see, let alone to write thereof. But I will set down that he was twenty and three years of age, and all and straight as the poplar tree. He was dark of face, as were all the Inwoods, but his cheeks were ruddy as an apple, and his eyes were bright and sharp. His hair had a trick of curling, and was like a raven’s wing for blackness. His voice was music, and it made my heart leap up to hear his laughter. Luke Linthwaite I did not notice greatly; but it seemed to me that he was homely [plain, as in modern American usage], and in no wise to be compared to Rowland Inwood. This I said, afterwards, to Annie, and the saying thereof well-nigh brought a quarrel between us. She said I was altogether wrong, as Rowland was in no wise to be compared with Like, and she wondered what kind of eyes I had if such was my seeing. I answered her not, but marvelled at her foolishness and also at her anger. The following day, as we had not completed our task, we went to the pasture again, and it so happened that once more these two young men came seeking for birds. I asked them if they had found any, and Rowland Inwood said they had found two very pretty ones, but would not for all my pleading show them unto us. After this they made as if they would tarry as before; but this time we told them that if they lingered it must be to help us in our toil, and so they did or else — perhaps, for I am not sure whether Annie would have been as stern as I — we would have bidden them be gone.
The next day but one was Sunday — the sixth after Trinity — and I went to church, and with me, Annie and our aunt, though my father tarried at home. That Sunday I remember well, for I had gotten a new gown and hood, and wore them for the first time. I could see the neighbour-women glance at me as I passed up to my seat beside old Godfrey’s tomb. In those times, being vain and thoughtless, I cared but little for the church, but on that morning the parson discoursed of Ruth and Boaz, and told how the rich man loved the poor woman, and I felt it good to listen. The parson of those days was Oliver Inwood, an uncle of the Rowland of whom I am now writing. As he preached I happened by chance to glance across the church, and that same Rowland, glancing my way, also by chance, at the same moment, smiled, yet so that none should see but I. When we came out of the church he was waiting in the garth, and so was Luke Linthwaite, but aunt being with us, they only said “Good-morrow”, and we came homeward. As we walked, aunt, who seemed mightily offended, spoke to us about Ruth. She said that she wondered such stories were in the Bible, and was certain they were not placed there to be discoursed upon. We said, both of us, that we had found pleasure in the sermon, and felt that it would do us good. Whereupon she replied that she would have thought more highly of Ruth if she had known her place better, and kept it. My aunt was old-fashioned, and had strict ideas.
In the following week came Redbergh Fair, [Sedbergh Fair used to be a major event for people in Garsdale] and Annie and I conferred together that we would go. At first my father said, “No”, but we spake nicely unto him and promised to return early, and at last he gave his consent, and also a little money to spend. Early in the morning we arose and set forth to walk. As we went along, whom should we see again but Rowland Inwood and his companion, and they too were going to Redbergh, so that we walked on together, or rather two by two, that we might converse with the less confusion — for I have always found “two for a talk, more for a babel” to be a true saying. Rowland Inwood walked with me and Luke Linthwaite walked with Annie, and they walked first, and so quickly as to get far before us. Then Rowland asked me what I had thought of the Sunday morning’s sermon, and, when I answered not for bashfulness, but walked looking down upon the road, he said he liked it well, and if I would but be Ruth, he would be Boaz. When I looked up into his face and saw that he was surely not jesting, and that his eye was bright, then I cried, and he put his arm around me with such tenderness that I made him a promise.
At last we came to Redbergh, and found Luke and Annie, to our surprise, but just arrived, though we had thought them far before us, but the road has many turns, and it is not easy to see far ahead. We had started early, nevertheless it was so far into the day when we arrived that we had but an hour to spend before returning. So our company brought us within sight of my father’s house, and he was pleased that we had so well kept our word to return soon. But he knew not that had found companionship by the way. As Annie and I lay that night in bed together I told her all, and she well-nigh broke my heart by saying, “Ruth and Boaz are in the Bible, cousin, but Boaz to-day has his friends and family who verily will not hear of his taking Ruth to wife as of old. Think of old Rowland Inwood and of his wife, and remember that thy father is but a shepherd on their land.” At first I was angry, but thinking on these words I felt soon that she saw more wisely than I, and I wept through all the long night, for I knew then that I truly loved my lover.
So the next evening in the gloaming, when we trysted down by the Rowan, I told my beloved all this, and begged him to go his own way, and I would go mine. But no, he would not. He had thought of these things, he said, and he told me of a place over the border in Scotland. “Let us fly thither, my dear one”, he pleaded, “and once there, a few moments will make us one for ever”, and I, greatly trembling at the thought, but overcome of love and his ardent wooing, promised that I would go even as he wished. Afterwards, as Rowland was all for haste, we chose the next Sabbath night. We appointed this night because, commonly, on Sundays I spent the evening with a friend, so that my absence would not be noticed until too late, and also because there being no moon, the night would be dark. “Should I tell Annie?” I asked, and Rowland said I might.
That night, therefore, I told my cousin of my plans, and she greatly astonished and dismayed me by saying that she, too, would go with me and be bridesmaid. And when I protested, she said so firmly that she would then prevent my going, that I was fain to yield. The night came, and I went out of the house, and Annie with me, as if to visit Agnes, the friend I went every Sunday in the evening to see. I can see my father now as I left him sitting by the fire, and something moved me that I kissed him, and also my aunt, who said that she did not approve of such vanity, especially between man and woman. When we reached the trysting-place after darkness had fallen, I saw, and thereupon marvelled much, that Luke Linthwaite was there as well as my Rowland. There was a carriage and two horses, and without many words, for we were in haste, we stepped in, the two men sitting up to drive. After we were gone, my heart failed, and I would have returned, but that we had travelled already too far, and Rowland would in no wise hear of such a thing. Away we went all the night — past Appleby in Westmorland, where morning began to dawn upon us — the time being summer the dawn was early — past Penrith, where we changed horses — past Lowther Castle and Eden Hall, and on to merrie Carlisle, and then over the Border as the Monday evening fell. So we came to the place of our appointment, and none had pursued, and in a few moments Rowland became my Rowland indeed. Then saw I the depth of my cousin Annie, for Luke Linthwaite and she were found ready to be wedded, too, and wedded they were — so that a pretty bridesmaiden she made for all her speeches. Afterwards, although my soul was heavy about the home-going, we had much merriment together.
Well, to make a long story short — my son William says that none of the foregoing needed to be written; what is yet to come being the record he desired to have preserved. But he does not understand the soul of an old woman. To make a long story short, I say, we came home to Rownasdale, and as Rowland was ever bold-spirited, he would insist that we drove up to the door of Mossgill, and all together claim forgiveness. So we drove up to the door, striving to appear merry, though our hearts — mine, at least — were beating wildly. What should happen but this — that when the old gentleman had looked into my face — I write not in vanity — as I knelt before him, he, despite his sternness, forgave us freely, and even praised my beauty, upon which circumstance it would ill become me to write, but that those who write history should write truly. My own father was harder to be won. Nevertheless he at last granted the pardon I did not cease to ask. Annie, my cousin, had less need to be anxious, for both herself and Luke Linthwaite being orphans, there were none to be offended or pleased, saving my father, who was glad, perhaps, to see her so well settled. After these things Luke, continuing his service, abode with his wife in the cottage across the stone bridge, and we lived at Mossgill. Then the years passed, five of them, and during that time Rowland Inwood the elder, and Bertha, his wife, were gathered to the blessed saints, and my Rowland and I became master and mistress of Mossgill. At the end of those five years my first child was born, but, being weakly, lived only so long as to make me willig for the Lord to take him, which He did. Then when seven years had passed came William, who is now the consolation of my happy age. Surely no home could be happier than was ours, and no husband more tender and noble than was mine. To think that he should take poor me from lowliness and poverty, and, finding me ignorant, teach me to read and write! To think that he should bear with me in so many things wherein I fell short of his style and learning! Oh, those were glorious days! What joys came with every summer! What comfort with every winter! What gladness and riches with every spring and autumn! The swallows building their nests under the eaves of our dwelling were not more free from care than we. The lambs sporting in the fields in April sunlight knew not so sweet a joy. Did we not love each other, and loving each other did we not feel kindly towards all men? Verily me path was strewn with rose-leaves, and the fragrance of them haunts me still. Oh, why did the evil days come, and the times when I had no pleasure in them? Lord, Thou knowest. “Thy will be done.”
It was the year of Our Lord 1644, and for some time doleful tidings had been brought unto us of strange doings in the great world around. We had heard from London of bitter strife between the King and the Parliament, then we heard of fighting here and there, and now came the news of near war; and war of the sorriest — namely, that between brethren. As for me, when these tidings came I was too happy and too busy to feel more than a passing sadness therefor. But my husband heard with other ears. The motto of his family had always been “For Church and King”, and I had often applauded the words, little recking that one day they would mean so much to me — not but what I do applaud them still and have so counselled my son. “Margery,” said my Rowland one day, “they say the King hath done wrong, and forsooth they tell of his being a tyrant. But, Margery, the King can do no wrong, for is he not God’s anointed, and doth not the Holy Scriptures, even by the Apostle Paul, say ‘Honour the King’? ” These words he spake in the evening as we retired to rest. The next morning when he arose, his first breath was used to tell me that he was going to fight for Charles Stewart against the king’s enemies, and going that very day so soon as he could saddle his black mare “Sybil”, that he might not have time to repent his purpose. Nor would he be turned from his resolve, though I clung about him and wept from the great fear that was in my heart. “These are not the days”, he said, “for strong men to dally after women’s apron-strings.” As he thus spoke, Luke Linthwaite came into the room below, and at once, on hearing my husband’s intention — they twain still being as brothers — said he too would go to the wars, if so be that the master would provide him with a horse. This was done, for Rowland was fiery for the cause. So it came to pass that while it was still morning they rode out of the gate, and Annie Linthwaite and I, sitting each on horseback behind our husbands, went with them to the top of Whiteston Fell [Langst’n Fell] where, arriving all to soon, we alighted to be left behind. As we parted they both said to cheer us, “Never fear, little sweethearts, but you shall see us ere long, and with the laurel leaf in our bonnets, ride up again to the gate of Mossgill”, and so kissing their hands, they rode away. Ah! But my mind’s eye can see them now, as on that summer morning they cantered further and further along the road, my cousins and I watching from the summit of the hill. Twice they turned them round in their saddles and waved kerchiefs to us. When we faced us homeward you may know there was little speech between us. It was a bright, sweet morning, and gladsome, indeed, seemed all things save ourselves. But to us all the gladness was a mockery. Then I knew how much I loved him — my Boaz who had found me gleaning brackens and rushes on the green hillside! Yet with all my woe I could not but feel that Annie’s was the harder lot. For while I was rich she was poor, and while I had but one child, she had four and another soon to come. So I told her, for the sake of her loneliness and mine, that she must come from her cottage and sleep with me as of old, and we would have the children in the next chamber, and fare together until in God’s good time our true loves returned. And she, dear soul, was grateful, and came with her little ones and we settled down to work and wait and pray.
Then the days passed, one by one, so wearily that it seemed an age ere the sixth morning came and brought us news that our warriers had joined the King’s forces under the brave Prince Rupert at York. That very day being Sabbath we went to Church, and it consoled our hearts a little to hear the parson, after reading the prayer for the Royal family, for he was still staunch, go on to make mention of “Thy dear servants, our neighbours under arms”. That evening we felt more lightsome, and beholding the children play we could laugh together at their merry ways.
And so it was with us the next day until evening. The morning was bright and glorious, and all nature seemed to smile. The men and maidens were in the hay-fields at work, and Annie Linthwaite and I went out to help them, while the children romped among the hay as if there were no such thing as war. But as the night drew near, a spirit of fear came upon both my cousin and me. As we watched the sun go down it seemed to us that he set in blood, and sad at heart, we went early to bed, and despite our doubts, being weary with our labour in the fields, soon slept.
But our sleep was not of a long lasting. It was Annie’s voice that woke me — Annie’s voice and the clock upon the stair striking twelve. “Hist, cousin!” she said; “what is yon tapping at the casement?” So I hearkened and heard, as it were, a gentle knocking upon the pane. As I listened it ceased, but soon came again. “Some bird”, I said, “drawn by the light, woman! I prithee, sleep.” But I looked at Annie and saw her face was white, and for what seemed an hour we lay there listening, and the tapping still continued, whereupon I too fell into some dismay. At last Annie could lie still no longer. “Bird or spirit, I will see it”, she whispered, and stole to the window and lifted the blind. “Cousin”, she cried, “it is a dove, and white as snow, and it has flown away over the road.”
On this she came back to bed and lay down, and for a few moments we heard no sound but the breathing of the children in the next chamber. Then, again, we heard the tapping, and once more Annie Linthwaite stole to the window and the bird flew away as before. “Cousin”, said Annie, “verily this bird calls us out to follow. Come, we must go.” So, as there was no denying her, we stole downstairs and undid the door. As we went out, taking with us only the dog, we found that the moon hung above us half-filled, and the heavens were clear, save that to the west were clouds whence came ever and anon flashes of white lightening followed by rumblings of distant thunder. All else was silent, saving the rippling waters of the Rowan, and a slight rustling of leaves in a gentle wind, and the hooting of an owl far off in the woods. With hearts beating, it seemed, more loud than all these sounds, we reached the gate and stood there holding each other by the hand.
We had not waited a moment before, by the moonlight and the lightning, we saw that sight we had been summoned to behold — the sight that I shall never forget. A few yards along the road toward Whiteston Fell, were two horsemen advancing rapidly towards us. They came silently we afterwards remembered, not even the falling of a hoof nor the clanking of a bridle-chain did we hear. At once we knew them for our husbands and lifted up a cry of joy as they approached. On they came, but as they drew nearer, the dog, with a howl as of terror, ran from us back into the house. They reined up their horses at the gate, and as they alighted we rushed forth to meet them, and even as we sped, lo! they vanished from our sight. Yet something like a kiss fell upon my forehead, and the lips that gave it seemed oh! So cold. There was the road still and silent, and there the quivering lightning, but of horses and men never a sign. Then, screaming, we fled indoors. As we entered, a white dove — Annie said afterwards there were two — fluttered over us, and then wheeling upward, was lost in the night.
As for the rest of
the story, I will pass over the agony of that night, and how the thunder broke
over the house, and how Annie Linthwaite was brought to bed before her
time. Suffice it to write that that was
the day of the battle of Marston Moor, and that in the field of calamity my
husband and Annie Linthwaite’s were both slain. After that day, as all men know, the enemies of the king won
victory after victory, and, having
triumphed in rebellion, brought at last his sacred Majesty to the block. Verily, if indeed he had done ill, I
and my child were innocent therein. But
none the less we were deprived of our all, and the day came when we went out of
the gates of Mossgill, and were glad to find harbour in the little cottage
across the stream — sheltered of Annie; who, being but a serving-man’s wife,
was suffered to abide in peace. Thus
came upon us years of struggling and poverty, when but for thee, my William,
toiling in service on the lands which had been thy father’s, we had perished
from very want. But the day of the
wicked soon passeth, and at last a morning dawned bringing great tidings. The King had come to his own again, and soon
to my son were restored our lands, and quickly taking with him a fair bride,
daughter of Annie my cousin, he entered into the homestead of old times. So here I will lay down my pen, having
written these things for the satisfaction of the curious and for a record and
for my son’s son before I go to meet him — my beloved — where war is known no
more. “Unto Thee, O Lord, be glory for