A Story of 1644
I pray God to deal gently with my sister Margery Lantine; that the blood of her twin-brother Mark, though it cry out, may not prevail against her on the Day of Judgment.
We three were all the children of Ephraim Lantine, a widower, who owned and farmed (as I do to-day) the little estate of Lawhibbet on the right shore of the Fowey River, above the ford which crosses to St. Veep. The whole of our ground slopes towards the river; as also does the neighbour estate of Lantine, sometime in our family’s possession, but now and for three generations past yielding us only its name. Three miles below us the river opens into Fowey Harbour, with Fowey town beside it and facing across upon the village of Polruan, and a fort on either shore to guard the entrance. Three miles above us lies Lostwithiel, a neat borough, by the bridge of which the tidal water ceases. But the traffic between these two towns passes behind us and out of sight, by the high-road which after climbing out of Lostwithiel runs along a narrow neck of land dividing our valley from Tywardreath Bay. This ridge comes to its highest and narrowest just over the chimneys of Lawhibbet, and there the old Britons once planted an earthwork overlooking the bay on one hand and the river-passage on the other. Castle Dore is its name; a close of short smooth turf set within two circular ramparts and two fosses choked with brambles. Thither we children climbed, whether to be alone with our games–for I do not suppose my father entered the earthwork twice in a year, and no tillage ever disturbed it, though we possessed a drawerful of coins ploughed up from time to time in the field outside–or to watch the sails in the bay and the pack-horses jingling along the ridge, which contracted until it came abreast of us and at once began to widen towards Fowey and the coast; so that it came natural to feign ourselves robbers sitting there in our fastness and waiting to dash out upon the rich convoys as they passed under our noses.
I talk as if we three had played this game with one mind. But indeed I was six years younger than the others, and barely nine years old when my brother Mark tired of it and left me, who hitherto had been his obedient scout, to play at the game alone. For Margery turned to follow Mark in this as in everything, although with her it had been more earnest play. For him the fun began and ended with the ambush, the supposed raid and its swashing deeds of valour; for her all these were but incident to a scheme, long brooded on, by which we were to amass plunder sufficient to buy back the family estate of Lantine with all the consequence due to an ancient name in which the rest of us forgot to feel any pride. But this was my sister Margery’s way; to whom, as honour was her passion, so the very shadows of old repute, dead loyalties, perished greatness, were idols to be worshipped. By a ballad, a story of former daring or devotion, a word even, I have seen her whole frame shaken and her eyes brimmed with bright tears; nay, I have seen tears drop on her clasped hands, in our pew in St. Sampson’s Church, with no more cause than old Parson Kendall’s stuttering through the prayer for the King’s Majesty–and this long before the late trouble had come to distract our country. She walked our fields beside us, but in company with those who walked them no longer; when she looked towards Lantine ’twas with an angry affection. In the household she filled her dead mother’s place, and so wisely that we all relied on her without thinking to wonder or admire; yet had we stayed to think, we had confessed to ourselves that the love in which her care for us was comprehended reached above any love we could repay or even understand–that she walked a path apart from us, obedient to a call we could not hear.