Presently a figure approached, and Charles Archfield’s voice said, “Is that you, Anne? Did I hear my wife’s voice?”
“Yes, she is there.”
“And with that imp of evil! I would his own folk had him!” muttered Charles, dashing forward with “How now, madam? you were not to leave the coach!”
She laughed exultingly. “Ha, sir! see what comes of leaving me to better cavaliers, while you run after your fire! I should have seen nothing but for Master Oakshott.”
“Come with me now,” said Charles; “you ought not to be standing here in the dew.”
“Ha, ha! what a jealous master,” she said; but she put her arm into his, saying with a courtesy, “Thank you, Master Oakshott, lords must be obeyed. I should have been still buried in the old coach but for you.”
Peregrine fell back to Anne. “That blaze is at St. Helen’s,” he began. “That—what! will you not wait a moment?”
“No, no! They will want to be going home.”
“And have you forgotten that it is only just over Midsummer? This is the week of my third seventh—the moment for change. O Anne! make it a change for the better. Say the word, and the die will be cast. All is ready! Come!”
He tried to take her hand, but the vehemence of his words, spoken under his breath, terrified her, and with a hasty “No, no! you know not what you talk of,” she hastened after her friends, and was glad to find herself in the safe haven of the interior of the coach.
Ere long they drove down the hill, and at the place of parting were set down, the last words in Anne’s ears being Mrs. Archfield’s injunctions not to forget the orange flower-water at the sign of the Flower Pot, drowning Lucy’s tearful farewells.
As they walked away in the moonlight a figure was seen in the distance.
“Is that Peregrine Oakshott?” asked the Doctor. “That young man is in a desperate mood, ready to put a quarrel on any one. I hope no harm will come of it.”
“I heard the groans, I marked the tears,
I saw the wound his bosom bore.”
After such an evening it was not easy to fall asleep, and Anne tossed about, heated, restless, and uneasy, feeling that to remain at home was impossible, yet less satisfied about her future prospects, and doubtful whether she had not done herself harm by attending last night’s rejoicings, and hoping that nothing would happen to reveal her presence there.
She was glad that the night was not longer, and resolved to take advantage of the early morning to fulfil a commission of Lady Oglethorpe, whose elder children, Lewis and Theophilus, had the whooping-cough. Mouse-ear, namely, the little sulphur-coloured hawk-weed, was, and still is, accounted a specific, and Anne had been requested to bring a supply—a thing easily done, since it grew plentifully in the court of the castle.