'You must try, we beg you. It is a matter of life and death. You shall have thirty
'It's not a matter of money, sir; that wouldn't be much good to me if I were to be killed,
would it? However, since you are so urgent, I will go on.'
He closed the door, and climbed back on to the box. But through the mist he saw that
someone else was already sitting there and had taken up the reins.
'Why, Nance,' he said. 'So you've kept your promise!'
She smiled at him, shook the reins and the horses broke at once into a gallop. For the next
seven miles, through the swirling mist they kept up their mad pace.
From time to time Tom could hear the cries of alarm coming from inside the carriage as it
swayed from side to side on the uneven road. But he grinned to himself, feeling no fear, having
absolute faith in the driver who sat beside him.
There was even thicker fog enveloping York, but the horses abated their speed not one bit
as they writhed and turned through the narrow cobbled streets of the ancient city, until they pulled
up at last before the Black Swan Inn in Coney Lane.
Smiling at Tom again, Nance passed him the reins and vanished.
When he went to the carriage, he found his passengers still almost speechless with fright.
'You asked for it, gentlemen,' he laughed. 'But come, cheer up. It is five minutes to
eight. I have kept my bargain, and it is all over now.'
'We never thought,' said the spokesman, 'that when we urged you to go on you would
drive through thick fog at such breakneck speed. I'll wager no other gentleman in the North or
South of England has ever had such an experience.'
'No other gentleman in the North or South of England,' Tom replied, 'have ever had such
This was but the first of many appearances that Nance made to Tom before he retired,
always coming when he stood in special need. When he handed over the private business he had
acquired when he grew too old for the long journeys with the mail-coaches, he told his son the
story of Nance.
'She has come to my aid many a time,' he said. 'She promised to come to your aid, too,
and to the aid of your son. Whenever she comes, you must do exactly as she tells you. Even if
she wishes to take the reins, you must let her.'
There is no record that Nance ever appeared to Tom's son, but there is one account of an
appearance she made to his grandson.
Peter Jackson and his brother John one day took the coach, driven by Robert Driffield,
from Pickering to York. As it was a fine night, the brothers took seats outside. Before they had
set off from Pickering, Robert Driffield, who knew the Jackson brothers, had taken them privately
on one side.
'I'm a bit anxious,' he told them. 'I've got a feeling about the man who's sitting beside
me on the box. I don't know anything mind, but it won't surprise me if he's up to no good. So be
ready for anything that happens.'
Nothing happened, however, until they were approaching Malton the horses suddenly
swerved to avoid a woman standing in the middle of the roadway. Although it was bright
moonlight, it was clear from their exclamations that none of the passengers had seen her but the
Driffield stopped the coach, and getting down made an inspection of the wheels and axles.
While he was doing so, Peter Jackson went to him and said quietly, 'Is there anything wrong,
'With the coach? No,' Driffield replied. 'But I've been warned.'
'You mean the woman?'
'You saw her?'
'Yes. So did John. Where is she now?'
'I'll tell you about her presently,' Driffield promised. 'But now I'm going to drive back
to the village on the excuse that something is wrong with the springs. Play up with me.'
So they turned about, and when they came back to the village inn, he made another
inspection, and then announced to the passengers that he regretted that they would have to pass
the night at the inn as there was damage to the coach, and it would be dangerous to go on until it
was put right.
All agreed that this was wise, except the man who had been riding on the box. He
protested loudly that he must go on, as he had very important business in York early the next
morning. He did not protest for long, however, for the Jackson brothers seized him, and the
innkeeper, who had previously been taken into Driffield's confidence, showed them to one of the
attics of the inn, where they locked their prisoner in.
When the passengers had gone to their rooms, Driffield, with the innkeeper's help once
more, rounded up a party of stout villagers, and presently the coach, with the Jackson brothers the
only outside passengers, set out again for York.
As they reached the spot where the horses had swerved they saw the woman still there.
This time, however, she was at the roadside, and made no attempt to stop them, but waved them
'But who is she?' Peter Jackson begged Driffield to tell them.
'Do you believe in ghosts?' he asked.
'No, of course not,' John Jackson replied shortly.
'Well, you've just seen one,' Driffield laughed, and told them the story of Nance.
As he came to the end of his account they were approaching Barton Corner.
'Watch out here!' Driffield warned them, and had scarcely spoken when three masked
men rode out of the trees and barred the road.
As one of them pointed his pistol at the men outside his two companions opened the
'Is he in there?' the leader called, but his question went unanswered, for before they knew
what was happening the laborers concealed inside the coach had leapt out and overpowered them.
Putting his spurs to his horse, their leader was clearly intending to leave them to their fate, when
Peter Jackson drew the pistol he had been holding under the cloak and took aim.
'He's out of range!' his brother exclaimed. 'You're too slow.'
Nevertheless, Peter fired, the fleeing horse stumbled, throwing his rider over his head, and
leaving him lying motionless on the ground, galloped on.
'I hit him!' Peter Jackson cried triumphantly.
'No, you scared him,' his brother corrected.
'Or Nance did,' Driffield remarked. 'Didn't you see her there, under the trees?'