I would carry my darling back to my father's house in Applethwaite; where, if we lived humbly, we lived at peace. I said I had been frightened enough with the old lord's organ-playing; but now that I had seen for myself this little moaning child, all decked out as no child in the neighbourhood could be, beating and battering to get in, yet always without any sound or noise--with the dark wound on its right shoulder; and that Miss Rosamond had known it again for the phantom that had nearly lured her to death (which Dorothy knew was true); I would stand it no longer.

The above short story is written in 1852. (The Old Nurse's Story by E. Gaskell)

In dictionary, 'deck out' means 'put on special clothes to appear particularly appealing and attractive' means, which is completely out of question in the above sentence.

Then, what is the real meaning in the above sentence?

Many thanks in advance.

  • Why do you think the dictionary meaning of putting on specially attractive clothes is completely out of question? Dec 3, 2016 at 2:31
  • Because the girl was clothed not properly in the snow, which showed she was poorly dressed for cold weather.
    – Lee Jay
    Dec 3, 2016 at 3:36
  • That's not included in the context given, and it's also not terribly clear why you assume that "attractive clothing" and "warm clothing for snow" are always going to be the same…. Dec 3, 2016 at 4:18
  • Yes, you are right. Now it becomes more clear to me. Thanks.
    – Lee Jay
    Dec 4, 2016 at 5:17

2 Answers 2


To be

decked out

is to be very dressed up in a fancy sort of way.

The passage is used to describe the "little girl" whom Rosamond finds as a friend and whom Rosamond describes as

being very pretty

The little girl is the secret daughter of one of the daughters, Miss Maude, of the estate so given the context it makes sense that the little girl was "decked out". The Furnivalls were a proud and rich family which ultimately fell apart, "Pride will have its fall".

  • I have heavily editted my answer after reading the story (a very good story BTW). The posted question is deceiving without knowing the context of the story.
    – Peter
    Dec 3, 2016 at 7:54
  • I was not purposefully deceiving. I misunderstood the exact situation momentarily. Anyway, thanks.
    – Lee Jay
    Dec 4, 2016 at 5:19

"Deck out" means exactly the definition that you have; however if I understand the context correctly, this is a ghost story and the child is one that haunts the building.

In this case the child is wearing very fancy clothing that no other child in that area would wear, possibly because it's too old-fashioned? Also the noiseless "beating and battering", and the "dark wound" in his shoulder -- not to mention the author calls it a phantom -- all point to it being a tale about a creepy child ghost.

It's meant to be scary.

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