The starling flew to his mother’s window stane,
It whistled and it sang,
And aye, the ower word of the tune
Was ’Johnnie tarries lang.’—JOHNNIE OF BREDISLEE
There had been distrust and dissatisfaction at home for many a day past. Berenger could hardly be censured for loving his own wife, and yet his family were by not means gratified by the prospect of his bringing home a little French Papist, of whom Lady Thistlewood remembered nothing good.
Lucy was indignantly fetched home by her stepmother, who insisted on treating her with extreme pity as a deserted maiden, and thus counteracting Aunt Cecily’s wise representations, that there never should, and therefore never could, have been anything save fraternal affection between the young people, and that pity was almost an insult to Lucy. The good girl herself was made very uncomfortable by there demonstrations, and avoided them as much as possible, chiefly striving in her own gentle way to prepare her little sisters to expect numerous charms in brother Berenger’s wife, and heartily agreeing with Philip that Berenger knew his own mind best.
‘And at any rate,’ quoth Philip, ’we’ll have the best bonfire that ever was seen in the country! Lucy, you’ll coax my father to give us a tar-barrel!’
The tar-barrel presided over a monstrous pile of fagots, and the fisher-boys were promised a tester to whoever should first bring word to Master Philip that the young lord and lady were in the creek.
Philip gave his pony no rest, between the lock-out on the downs and the borders of the creek; but day after day passed, and still the smacks from Jersey held no person worth mentioning; and still the sense of expectation kept Lucy starting at every sound, and hating herself for her own folly.
At last Philip burst into Combe Manor, fiery red with riding and consternation. ’Oh! father, father, Paul Duval’s boat is come in, and he says that the villain Papists have butchered every Protestant in France.’
Sir Marmaduke’s asseveration was of the strongest, that he did not believe a word of it. Nevertheless, he took his horse and rode down to interrogate Paul Duval, and charge him not to spread the report was in the air. He went to the Hall, and the butler met him with a grave face, and took him to the study, where Lord Walwyn was sitting over letter newly received from London, giving hints from the Low Countries of bloody work in France. And when he returned to his home, his wife burst out upon him in despair. Here had they been certainly killing her poor buy. Not a doubt that he was dead. All from this miserable going to France, that had been quite against her will.