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The Duke’s Reappearance – A Family Tradition
by [?]

Here he slept till quite late in the morning, which was Sunday, the sixth of July, and when he came down in the garments that he had borrowed he met the household with a melancholy smile. Besides Swetman himself, there were only his two daughters, Grace and Leonard (the latter was, oddly enough, a woman’s name here), and both had been enjoined to secrecy. They asked no questions and received no information; though the stranger regarded their fair countenances with an interest almost too deep. Having partaken of their usual breakfast of ham and cider he professed weariness and retired to the chamber whence he had come.

In a couple of hours or thereabout he came down again, the two young women having now gone off to morning service. Seeing Christopher bustling about the house without assistance, he asked if he could do anything to aid his host.

As he seemed anxious to hide all differences and appear as one of themselves, Swetman set him to get vegetables from the garden and fetch water from Buttock’s Spring in the dip near the house (though the spring was not called by that name till years after, by the way).

‘And what can I do next?’ says the stranger when these services had been performed.

His meekness and docility struck Christopher much, and won upon him. ‘Since you be minded to,’ says the latter, ‘you can take down the dishes and spread the table for dinner. Take a pewter plate for thyself, but the trenchers will do for we.’

But the other would not, and took a trencher likewise, in doing which he spoke of the two girls and remarked how comely they were.

This quietude was put an end to by a stir out of doors, which was sufficient to draw Swetman’s attention to it, and he went out. Farm hands who had gone off and joined the Duke on his arrival had begun to come in with news that a midnight battle had been fought on the moors to the north, the Duke’s men, who had attacked, being entirely worsted; the Duke himself, with one or two lords and other friends, had fled, no one knew whither.

‘There has been a battle,’ says Swetman, on coming indoors after these tidings, and looking earnestly at the stranger.

‘May the victory be to the rightful in the end, whatever the issue now,’ says the other, with a sorrowful sigh.

‘Dost really know nothing about it?’ said Christopher. ‘I could have sworn you was one from that very battle!’

‘I was here before three o’ the clock this morning; and these men have only arrived now.’

‘True,’ said the yeoman. ‘But still, I think–‘

‘Do not press your question,’ the stranger urged. ‘I am in a strait, and can refuse a helper nothing; such inquiry is, therefore, unfair.’

‘True again,’ said Swetman, and held his tongue.

The daughters of the house returned from church, where the service had been hurried by reason of the excitement. To their father’s questioning if they had spoken of him who sojourned there they replied that they had said never a word; which, indeed, was true, as events proved.

He bade them serve the dinner; and, as the visitor had withdrawn since the news of the battle, prepared to take a platter to him upstairs. But he preferred to come down and dine with the family.

During the afternoon more fugitives passed through the village, but Christopher Swetman, his visitor, and his family kept indoors. In the evening, however, Swetman came out from his gate, and, harkening in silence to these tidings and more, wondered what might be in store for him for his last night’s work.

He returned homeward by a path across the mead that skirted his own orchard. Passing here, he heard the voice of his daughter Leonard expostulating inside the hedge, her words being: ‘Don’t ye, sir; don’t! I prithee let me go!’

‘Why, sweetheart?’

‘Because I’ve a-promised another!’

Peeping through, as he could not help doing, he saw the girl struggling in the arms of the stranger, who was attempting to kiss her; but finding her resistance to be genuine, and her distress unfeigned, he reluctantly let her go.