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Margery Of Lawhibbet
by [?]

“Is Mark going to fight?”

She bent down, slipped an arm round my nee’ and caught me to her in a sudden breathless hug.

“But he may be killed,” I objected.

“No, no; we must pray against that.” She said it confidently, and I knew Margery had a firm belief that what was prayed for fitly must be granted. “I will see to that, morning and evening: we will pray together. But you must pray sometimes between whiles, when I am not by to remind you–many times a day–promise me, Jack.”

I promised, and it made me feel better. Margery had a way of managing things, a way which I had learned to trust. We said no more but Good-night: in a little while she left me and I jumped out of bed and punctually started to keep my new promise.

Next morning–Christmas Day–we all attended church together; that is to say, all we of the family, for our guest chose rather to remain in the parlour with the cider-mug. Parson Kendall preached to us at length on Obedience and the authority delegated by God upon kings; and working back to his text, which was I. Samuel, xvii. 42, wound up with some particular commendation of “the young man to-day going forth from amongst us”–which turned all heads towards the Lawhibbet pew and set Mark blushing and me almost as shamefacedly, but Margery, after the first flow of colour, turned towards her brother with bright proud eyes.

That same afternoon between three and four o’clock–so suddenly was all decided–Mark rode away from us on the young sorrel, and the trooper beside him, to join the force Sir Bevill Grenvill was collecting for Sir Ralph Hopton at Liskeard. To his father he said good-bye at the yard-gate, but Margery and I walked beside the horses to the ford and afterwards stood and watched their crossing, waving many times as Mark turned and waved a hand back, and the red sun over behind us blinked on the trooper’s cap and shoulder-piece. Just before they disappeared we turned away together–for it is unlucky to watch anyone out of sight–and I saw that Margery was trembling from head to foot.

“But he will come back,” said I, to comfort her.

“Yes,” she answered, “he will come back.” With that she paused, and broke forth, twisting her handkerchief, “Jack, if I were a man–” and so checked herself.

“Why, you think more of the Cause than Mark does, I believe!” I put in.

“Not more than Mark–not more than Mark! Jack, you mustn’t say that: you mustn’t think it!”

“And a great deal more of our name,” I went on sturdily, disregarding her tone, which I considered vehement beyond reason. “‘Tis a strange thing to me, Margery, that of us three you should be the one to think everything of the name of Lantine, who are a girl and must take another when you marry.”

She halted and turned on me with more anger than I had ever seen on her face. She even stamped her foot. “Never!” she said, and again “Never!”

“Oh, well–” I began; but she had started walking rapidly, and although I caught her up, not another word would she say to me until we reached home.

For a year we saw no more of our brother, and received of him only two letters (for he hated penwork), the both very cheerful. Yet within a month of his going, on a still clear day in January, we listened together to the noise of a pitched battle in which he was fighting, a short six miles from us as the crow flies. I have often admired how men who were happily born too late to witness the troubles of those times will make their own pictures of warfare, as though it changed at once the whole face of the country and tenour of folk’s lives; whereas it would be raging two valleys away and men upon their own farms ploughing to the tune of it, with nothing seen by them then or afterwards; or it would leap suddenly across the hills, filling the roads with cursing weary men, and roll by, leaving a sharp track of ruin for the eye to follow and remember it by. So on this afternoon, when Hopton and the Cornish troops were engaging and defeating Ruthen on Braddock Down, Margery and I counted the rattles of musketry borne down to us on the still reaches of the river and, climbing to the earthwork past the field where old Will Retallack stuck to his ploughing with an army of gulls following and wheeling about him as usual, spied the smoke rolling over the edge of Boconnoc woodland to the north-east; but never a soldier we saw that day or for months after.