How Mr. John Brimblecombe Understood the Nature of an Oath

“The Kynge of Spayn is a foul paynim,
And lieveth on Mahound;
And pity it were that lady fayre
Should marry a heathen hound.”—Kyng Estmere.

About six weeks after the duel, the miller at Stow had come up to the great house in much tribulation, to borrow the bloodhounds. Rose Salterne had vanished in the night, no man knew whither.

Sir Richard was in Bideford: but the old steward took on himself to send for the keepers, and down went the serving-men to the mill with all the idle lads of the parish at their heels, thinking a maiden-hunt very good sport; and of course taking a view of the case as favorable as possible to Rose.

They reviled the miller and his wife roundly for hard-hearted old heathens; and had no doubt that they had driven the poor maid to throw herself over cliff, or drown herself in the sea; while all the women of Stow, on the other hand, were of unanimous opinion that the hussy had “gone off” with some bad fellow; and that pride was sure to have a fall, and so forth.

The facts of the case were, that all Rose’s trinkets were left behind, so that she had at least gone off honestly; and nothing seemed to be missing, but some of her linen, which old Anthony the steward broadly hinted was likely to be found in other people’s boxes. The only trace was a little footmark under her bedroom window. On that the bloodhound was laid (of course in leash), and after a premonitory whimper, lifted up his mighty voice, and started bell-mouthed through the garden gate, and up the lane, towing behind him the panting keeper, till they reached the downs above, and went straight away for Marslandmouth, where the whole posse comitatus pulled up breathless at the door of Lucy Passmore.

Lucy, as perhaps I should have said before, was now a widow, and found her widowhood not altogether contrary to her interest. Her augury about her old man had been fulfilled; he had never returned since the night on which he put to sea with Eustace and the Jesuits.

“Some natural tears she shed, but dried them soon”—

as many of them, at least, as were not required for purposes of business; and then determined to prevent suspicion by a bold move; she started off to Stow, and told Lady Grenville a most pathetic tale: how her husband had gone out to pollock fishing, and never returned: but how she had heard horsemen gallop past her window in the dead of night, and was sure they must have been the Jesuits, and that they had carried off her old man by main force, and probably, after making use of his services, had killed and salted him down for provision on their voyage back to the Pope at Rome; after which she ended by entreating protection against those “Popish skulkers up to Chapel,” who were sworn to do her a mischief; and by an appeal to Lady Grenville’s sense of justice, as to whether the queen ought not to allow her a pension, for having had her heart’s love turned into a sainted martyr by the hands of idolatrous traitors.

Lady Grenville (who had a great opinion of Lucy’s medical skill, and always sent for her if one of the children had a “housty,” i. e. sore throat) went forth and pleaded the case before Sir Richard with such effect, that Lucy was on the whole better off than ever for the next two or three years. But now—what had she to do with Rose’s disappearance? and, indeed, where was she herself? Her door was fast; and round it her flock of goats stood, crying in vain for her to come and milk them; while from the down above, her donkeys, wandering at their own sweet will, answered the bay of the bloodhound with a burst of harmony.

“They’m laughing at us, keper, they neddies; sure enough, we’m lost our labor here.”

But the bloodhound, after working about the door a while, turned down the glen, and never stopped till he reached the margin of the sea.

“They’m taken water. Let’s go back, and rout out the old witch’s house.”

“’Tis just like that old Lucy, to lock a poor maid into shame.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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