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Margery Of Lawhibbet
by [?]

In her was born the spirit which sends men to die for a cause; but since God had fashioned her a girl and condemned her to housework, she took (as it were) her own hope in her hands and laid it all upon her twin brother. They should have been one, not twain. He had the frame to do, and for him she nourished the spirit to impel. With her own high thoughts she clothed him her hero, and made him mine also. And Mark took our homage enough, without doubting he deserved it. He was in truth a fine fellow, tall, upright, and handsome, with the delicate Lantine hands and a face in which you saw his father’s features refined and freshly coloured to the model of the Lantine portraits which hung in the best sitting-room to remind us of our lost glories. For me, I take after my mother, who was a farmer’s daughter of no lineage.

I remember well the Christmas Eve of 1643, when the call came for Mark; a night very clear and crisp, with the stars making a brave show against the broad moon, and a touch of frost against which we wrapped ourselves warmly before the household sallied down to the great Parc an Wollas orchard above the ford, to bless the apple-trees. My father led the way as usual with his fowling-piece under his arm, Mark following with another; after them staggered Lizzie Pascoe, the serving maid, with the great bowl of lamb’s wool; Margery followed, I at her side, and the men after us with their wives, each carrying a cake or a roasted apple on a string. We halted as usual by the bent tree in the centre of the orchard, and there, having hung our offerings on the bough, formed a circle, took hands and chanted, while Lizzie splashed cider against the trunk–

“Here’s to thee, old apple-tree
Whence to bud and whence to blow,
And whence to bear us apples enow–
Hats full, packs full,
Great bushel sacks full,
And every one a pocket full–
With hurrah! and fire off the gun!”

I remember the moment’s wait on the flint-lock and the flame and roar of my father’s piece, shattering echoes across the dark water and far up the creek where the herons roosted. And out of the echoes a voice answered–a man’s voice hailing across the ford.

Mark took a torch, and, running down to the water’s edge, waved it to guide the stranger over. By-and-by we caught sight of him, a tall trooper on horseback with the moonlight and torchlight flaming together on his steel morion and gorget. He picked his way carefully to shore and up the bank and reined up his dripping horse in the midst of us with a laugh.

“Hats full, pockets full, eh? Good-evenin’, naybours, and a merry Christmas, and I’m sure I wish you may get it. Which of ‘ee may happen to be Master Ephr’m Lantine?”

My father announced himself, and the trooper drew out a parchment and handed it.

“‘Tisn’ no proper light here,” said my father, fumbling with the packet, and not caring to own that he could not read. “Come to the house, honest man, and we’ll talk it over; for thou’lt sleep with us, no doubt?”

“Ay, and drink to your apple-trees too,” the trooper answered very heartily. So my father led the way and we followed, Margery gripping my hand tight, and the rest talking in loud whispers. They guessed what the man’s business was.

An hour later, when the ashen faggot had been lit and the cider-drinking and carolling were fairly started in the kitchen, Margery packed me off to bed; and afterwards came and sat beside me for a while, very silent, listening with me to the voices below.

“Where is Mark?” I asked, for I missed his clear tenor.

“In the parlour. He and father and the soldier are talking there.”