Lucy Fennel, A
Tale of Humble
In a small village near the town of Honiton, in Devonshire, there
lived a widow and her son. The old woman had, till her sight failed
her, not only earned a sufficient livelihood, but had saved a little
money, by making that kind of lace for the manufacture of which
Honiton is so widely famed. When, from the infirmities of age, she
could no longer ply her vocation successfully, it happened
fortunately that her son, by his labour as a farm-servant, was able
to make up the deficiency. He was a fine spirited young fellow, who
went through his laborious occupations with a good-will and
cheerfulness which was so satisfactory to his employer that he
determined to advance, whenever opportunities offered, so assiduous
a servant and good a son.
Some two years before our story opens, it happened that a young
woman, the daughter of a decayed farmer in the southern part of the
county, came to superintend the dairy of Luke Damerel's master. It
was not unnatural that the buxom lass and the young man should form a
mutual attachment. As they were both very well-conducted persons,
their love passages were looked upon with a favourable eye both by
Dame Damerel and by the farmer's wife, Mrs Modbury, though neither
openly sanctioned it, for prudence' sake. Luke and Lucy, however,
loved on, as they thought, in secret, determining not to reveal their
mutual affection till they should be placed in circumstances to get
married. Things remained thus for more than a year and a half, when
Farmer Modbury's wife died, and other circumstances occurred which
induced him to promote Luke to a more lucrative and responsible
situation on the farm. Shortly after the demise of his wife also, he
found it expedient to give Lucy, in addition to her dairy duties, the
sole charge of the housekeeping.
With the rise in his fortunes, Luke's thoughts were directed to the
accomplishment of his dearest hope, and he revealed his passion to
his mother, consulting her on the propriety of the step he wished to
take; which was simply to marry Lucy, and bring her to live in the
cottage. The old dame was not surprised at the proposal, for she
expected it to be made from the day Luke's wages were increased. She
had made up her mind what to advise, and did not shrink from advising
it, although it would not be agreeable to her son. 'Luke,' she said,
'you must still wait. Your earnings are not sufficient to keep Lucy
comfortably; and she, you know, would have to give up her place,
which is now a good one. So you would not only be injuring yourself,
but her also.'
Luke fired up at this, and unkindly hinted that his mother did not
wish to have a companion to share their home. The old dame, though
much hurt, denied that any such feeling swayed her, and advised him
to consult Lucy herself. Dame Damerel had that confidence in the
girl's good sense and prudence, that she was sure even Lucy would not
consent to marry so soon as Luke wished.
In no very amiable mood the lover sought his mistress at the
farmhouse. He went into the kitchen, and not finding Lucy there,
inquired of one of the maids where she was. With a sly ominous
expression the girl replied 'that Miss Lucy was in the best parlour
making tea for master.' This information gave poor Luke a sort of
panic. He trembled, turned pale, and hastily retreated from the
house. Discontented thoughts filled his mind. 'No doubt,' he said
almost aloud, as he walked homewards—'no doubt she'll not consent
when I propose to marry her, though I can keep her. Farmer Modbury
will be a better match for her than a poor hard-working lad like me.
But I'll see about that—it shall be now or never. If she won't marry
me in a week, she never shall!' In truth, Luke had been feeling a
pang of jealousy creep over him ever since Lucy was promoted to be
Modbury's housekeeper; and that she should be admitted alone with him
into the best parlour to make his tea, confirmed what were previously
only suspicions. On entering the cottage, his wild looks almost
frightened his mother; but he was silent as to the cause, and went
sullenly to bed.
Farmer Modbury kept up the good old Devonshire custom of dining with
all the people in his employment; and the day after, when Luke with
the rest of his companions sat at the table, he watched the actions
and countenances of Lucy and her master, to catch new causes for the
tormenting feeling which possessed him. The meal concluded, he
followed the girl to the dairy, as was his custom; for a short and
sweet interview could always be snatched at that time. The present
one was, however, the reverse. In a hard tone of voice, and with an
abrupt manner, Luke inquired if she were ready to have him? The girl
frankly answered, 'Of course I am, Luke; but what should make you ask
the question on such a sudden!'
Luke's jealousy was a little assuaged by Lucy's open and confiding
manner, and becoming more calm, he told her his plans. 'It will never
do, Luke,' she replied.' Besides, my father, whom I must send to
about it, would not consent. No, no, we must wait.'
'Wait! for what, I should like to know? To give master, I suppose,
a chance of—of—'
'Of what, Luke?'
'Why,' said Luke, worked up into a sort of frenzy by the very
thought—' why, of asking you to take poor dead-and-gone missus's
The colour mounted to Lucy Fennel's face. She cast a reproachful look
on her lover, and seemed ready to cry; but woman's pride came to her
aid, and she left the dairy, as if afraid to hear another of Luke's
terrible words. Had the young man not gone out immediately, he might
have heard ill-suppressed sobs issuing from the room into which the
maiden had shut herself. 'She is afraid to face me,' said Luke to
himself as he crossed the courtyard. 'No, no, she can't deceive me,
though she is trying.'
The directions Damerel gave to the workmen that afternoon were so
injudicious, that his master happening to overhear him tell a ditcher
to fill up a drain which ought to have been opened, gave him a severe
reprimand. Luke received what was said with the worst feelings,
continually repeating to himself, 'Ah, he has a spite against me now.
He did not make that girl his housekeeper for nothing. I'm not
wanted here, I can see.'
When work was over, it happened that as Luke was returning to his own
cottage he met young Larkin, a neighbouring farmer's son, who asked
him to accompany him to Honiton, where he was going to 'see the
sodgers,' a regiment being about to pass through the town on its way
to form part of Plymouth garrison. To beguile the care which
tormented him, he gladly consented, and having gone home to put on
his Sunday clothes, was soon equipped for the evening's expedition.
The two friends had to pass Modbury's parlour window, and it was
tea-time. Luke cast an inquisitive glance towards it, and trembled
when he saw the blind being slowly pulled up. Presently it revealed
the figure of Lucy, very nicely dressed with a new and handsome cap.
Something having prevented the blind from being drawn quite to the
top, Lucy mounted on the window-seat to adjust it, and when about to
descend, Luke plainly saw his master come forward, give her one hand,
while with the other he assisted her down by the waist! Damerel
grasped the tree he was resting against for support; a film came over
his eyes; but a few rough jokes from Larkin recovered him, and
hearing the military band in the distance, he endeavoured to forget
his cares, and trudged on towards Honiton.
Meanwhile, the moment Lucy had finished her duties at the tea-table,
she hastened to Damerel's cottage, in the hope, not of seeing her
lover, but his mother, alone. The old dame, perceiving her pale and
in low spirits, thought she divined the cause, by supposing the girl
was sorrowing at the imprudence of the step Luke had proposed to her.
'Well, well,' said the kind old woman, 'things may not be so bad
after all, Lucy. And since Luke has set his heart so much upon it,
and you, I am sure, are nothing loath, we must try and manage it.
I'll tell you what I've been thinking, girl. You see the great
mischief will be your being obliged to give up your place at the
farm; now, I know a plan by which that loss may be mended. You are a
quick, handy maid; and suppose—suppose'—and here the good old woman
took Lucy's hands in hers—'suppose I teach you lace-making?'
These words poured a light into Lucy's heart which seemed to banish
all her grief. The means of rendering herself independent of her
present situation was all she wished for. She loved Luke tenderly,
dearly, and with a fervent, virtuous desire, wished to become his
wife. This wish had grown much stronger since her painful interview
with him, not only because she wished to prove she was ready to
sacrifice everything for his sake, but for another and more
perplexing reason. Her master had paid her attentions that evening
which left no doubt on her mind that he desired her for his wife.
When Mrs Damerel heard the news, she was much distressed. 'Oh, it is
too bad!' she exclaimed, 'to think that my Luke should be the means
of preventing you from marrying so well—you who are worthy of any
'Do not think of that; I could not be happy with one I do not love.
So now, dear mother—for I will always call you so—let me hear what
plan you propose.'
'Well, instead of talking idly, as we always do when you come to see
us, you shall let me teach you the lace-making. Come every night, and
in a month or two I shall be able to put you in a way to earn quite
as much as you do now at Farmer Modbury's. When this is the case, we
must see about getting yourself and Luke asked in church, for surely
both your earnings put together will be enough to keep you
'But will not the farmer bear some enmity to poor Luke?'
'I will answer for him, girl, I have known him longer than he has
known himself. I nursed him, and I can say with truth that a
better-hearted man does not live. Should he again offer you any
civilities, tell him the whole truth, and I'll warrant he will not
That evening Lucy tripped home with a light heart. When she retired
to rest, she built many an air-castle of future happiness.
The next morning, as the home-servants of Modbury's farm were going
to their daily toil, they found a crowd round Damerel's cottage door.
On inquiring into the cause, they were told that Luke had in a fit of
despair enlisted as a soldier, and that the news had wrought so
violently on the feelings of his mother, that it was thought she
could never recover!
The scene inside the cottage was painfully distressing. The old dame
was lying on a bed with her clothes still about her, showing that she
had not gone to rest the whole night. The village doctor was by her
side, having just bled her, whilst everything strewed about the room
indicated that the always revolting operation had but recently been
performed. The neighbours, as they crowded round the door, denounced
Luke's conduct as rash and heartless. In the midst of their
denunciations they were joined by another, to whom every word they
uttered was as a death-wound. It was Lucy.
Whoever has had the misfortune of often seeing women placed in sudden
difficulties, or overtaken by an unforeseen misfortune, must have
remarked that they occasionally act with unexpected firmness. They
frequently show a calmness of manner and a directness of purpose,
forming quite an exception to their every-day demeanour. It is after
the danger is over, or the first crisis past, that they break down,
as it were, and show themselves to belong to the weaker sex. Thus it
was with Lucy. When she entered the cottage, she had a full knowledge
of the death-blow which had been inflicted on her hopes of future
happiness. Still, she seemed calm and collected. When she took the
basin from the surgeon to bathe Mrs Damerel's temples herself, her
hand shook not, and she performed the kindly office as neatly as if
no misfortune had befallen her. When she went to the door to entreat
the neighbours to stand away from it, that sufficient air might be
admitted into the room, her voice, though rather deeper in tone than
usual, was calm and firm. Had she not occasionally pressed her hand
tightly against her brow, as if to cool its burning agony, you would
have thought that she suffered no further anxiety than that which is
usually felt whilst attending the sick.
It was, however, when she was left alone with the exhausted, almost
senseless mother, that the tide of grief took its full course. Lucy
wept like one distraught. Through the deep, black future which lay
before her, she could see no gleam of hope or sunlight. She unjustly
upbraided herself for having, however innocently, given Luke cause of
suspicion. The weight of blame which she took to herself was almost
insupportable. 'I have been his ruin!' she exclaimed, burying her
face in his mother's bosom.
When the old dame had strength to speak, she whispered Lucy not to
give way, but to bear up against it. The past, she wisely said, was
incurable; 'We must keep our senses whole for the future. While we
keep heart, there is no fear of our seeing him again, yet.'
The story reached Farmer Modbury as he was sitting down to breakfast.
He was deeply shocked even when he? knew no more than that Luke had
enlisted; but when, on visiting the cottage, the whole truth was
explained to him by Lucy, he felt both grief and disappointment. He
was, however, determined not to abandon his suit as hopeless, and
returning home, wrote to her father (he was a widower), explaining
what had happened, and giving a frank exposition of his own
honourable views as regarded Lucy. 'No doubt,' he concluded his
epistle, 'she will soon forget this early and unhappy attachment.'
Modbury was a shrewd man, and a clever farmer, but he knew very
little about women's hearts.
From that day he was extremely kind and considerate to Lucy.
Perceiving how much happier the girl was when she returned from
visiting Mrs Damerel than at other times, Modbury diminished her
labours by employing another dairymaid, so that Lucy might have more
leisure, which he had no objection should be spent with the invalid.
One morning while Lucy was preparing the household dinner, a message
arrived from the cottage. Her presence was desired there immediately.
Lucy lost no time, and was soon in her accustomed seat at the
bed-head. Mrs Damerel placed a letter in her hands. It was from her
son. With beating heart Lucy opened it, and after time sufficient to
master the emotions which the sight of Luke's handwriting caused her,
she proceeded to read it aloud. It ran thus:
'MAIDSTONE BARRACKS, KENT.
'MY DEAREST MOTHER—I have at last found enough courage to take up my
pen, hoping this will find you in good health, as it leaves me at
present. I hope you have forgiven me for what I have done. I send you
two pounds, part of the bounty I received for enlisting. Do not be
afraid, my dear mother, that whilst I live you shall want.
'When I went to Honiton, I was persuaded to enlist, after the
soldiers had passed through, by a sergeant of a horse-regiment, and I
took the king's money; so I am now a private in the —th Dragoons. I
am rough-riding every day, and expect to be passed as fit for regular
duty soon, when I shall be draughted off to the Indies, where our
head-quarters are. I should be very comfortable if it was not for
thinking about home, so much. They have found out I am a good judge
of horses, and know all about their complaints, so the sergeant-major
told me yesterday I shall get on very well in the Indies, if I keep a
'Dear mother, I shall see you again when I come back—I know I shall;
and we shall be happy together; for now I have nobody else to care
about upon the earth. I hope she will be happy, for she deserves all
this world can afford, and I have always found Mr Modbury a kind
master, so I am sure he will make her a kind husband. Dear mother,
there is Tom Larkin, who promised me, after I had listed, that he and
his sister Sarah would look in upon you sometimes, and help you. May
God bless you, my dear mother. My heart was well-nigh broken; but my
comrades have been very kind to me, and I want for nothing. Good-bye,
mother, and believe me your ever-affectionate son,
'P.S.—I do not know when we shall sail for the Indies; but in case,
please to direct to Private Damerel, —th Regiment, Light Dragoons,
Maidstone, or elsewhere; and the letter will be sure to come to hand.
Once more, God bless you, and may God bless her too, dear mother.'
To describe Lucy's feelings while she read this simply-worded epistle
would be impossible. All the love and tenderness which she had felt
for Luke during the time she had known him, seemed to be concentrated
within her at that moment. At first she mourned the step he had taken
as hopeless and irreparable; but, casting her eyes upon the lace-work
she had the day before been doing, a sudden thought seized her. By
means of that, something might be eventually accomplished. With
these thoughts she quietly folded the letter, placed it on the table
beside the bed, and resumed the lace-work, scarcely speaking a word.
Mrs Damerel mistook this action for indifference, and in her sincere
desire for the girl's welfare, urged—not for the first time—plans
and sentiments which, though well meant, were utterly revolting to
Lucy. Luke had, she argued, no doubt behaved very ill, by rashly and
without explanation tearing himself not only from her, but from every
person to whom he was dear. On the other hand, Farmer Modbury's
advances were very flattering, and she could hardly blame a girl who
had been so cruelly treated, even by her own son, were she to accept
the good-fortune that lay before her.
Still Lucy went on practising her lace-work, her heart beating, and
her averted eyes swimming with tears. At length she exclaimed: 'Dame,
you will break my heart if you ever talk in this way again. To you I
look for comfort and strength in loving Luke, which I shall never
cease to do. I, whether innocent or not, am the cause of depriving
you of the comfort of his company, and I am determined to restore him
to us both. You may think it impossible, but it is not. I have
thought, and thought, and reckoned up everything, and am quite sure
it can be done.'
'I cannot make out what you mean,' said Mrs Damerel.
'Why, that I intend, as soon as I am able to do it well enough, to
take work from the town, to leave Farmer Modbury, and come and be
with you. We can live on very little, and every spare shilling we
will put into the savings-bank, until it amounts to a sufficient sum
to buy Luke off.' She then industriously resumed her work. It was
some time before Mrs Damerel could comprehend the full intent and
meaning of the sacrifice the girl proposed. At first she thought it
was a mere flighty resolution, that would not hold long; and even
when she was made to understand that it was unshaken, she looked at
the achievement as impossible; for at that time the prices for
lace-work were falling, in consequence of the recent introduction of
About a week after this all her doubts vanished, for, on
Michaelmas-day, when Lucy's term of service with Farmer Modbury
expired, sure enough she brought her box, and declared she had come
to stay with her adopted mother. She had previously been to a
master-manufacturer in Honiton with a specimen of her lace, and it
was so well approved, that she obtained a commission for a large
quantity on the spot. By this time the old dame had completely
recovered from her illness, and was able to move about, so as to
attend to the little domestic concerns of the cottage; Lucy could
therefore give her undivided attention to her work.
Her proceedings were by no means agreeable to her father or to
Modbury. The former wrote enjoining her by no means to leave the
farmer's house; but the letter came too late, for she had already
taken her departure. Modbury, however, in replying to an epistle in
which Fennel had given him free consent to marry his daughter,
expressed a thorough conviction of the firmness of the girl's
purpose, and that at present it was impossible to shake it. Though
she had left his roof he should continue to watch over her, and
hoped, by persevering kindness and attention, eventually to win her
affections. Under these circumstances, Lucy quietly established
herself in Mrs Damerel's cottage.
At first she found it a hard matter to gain sufficient money for her
labour to recompense the dame for her board and lodging, which she
insisted upon doing every time she was paid by her employers. Still
she wrought on, although her savings were small, and at the end of
several months they bore a hopeless proportion to the large sum which
was required. But time seemed a small object to her: she looked
forward to the end, and in it she saw such a world of reward and
happiness, that no toil would be too much to arrive at it. She had
answered Luke's letter with her own hand, assuring him of her
unshaken attachment, in spite of all that had happened; but
unfortunately he had sailed for India, and it was sent thither after
him, in obedience to the vague 'elsewhere' which had been added to
the superscription according to his wish.
Slow progress was not the only trouble Lucy had to contend with.
Modbury's attentions pained her as much as Luke's absence; the more
so because they were so full of consideration for her welfare. She
knew she never could return his kindness, and felt that she did not
deserve it. She often told Dame Damerel that a show of hostility from
the worthy farmer would not have pained her so much as his
Then, when the neighbours came in to gossip, they sometimes spoke
against Luke. They would tell her that a man who would suspect her on
such slight grounds, and act as he did, could never be true to her;
that he would see some other whom he would prefer, and some day send
home word that he was married; neither was it likely that he would
ever come home alive from the Indies. These poisoned arrows, which
were meant as comfort, glanced harmlessly from Lucy, who was
invulnerably shielded by trusting love and hope. She would answer:
'very likely,' or 'it may be,' or 'there is no knowing what may
happen in this world of trouble,' and still rattle about her
lace-pegs over the pillow on which it was made with the quickness of
magic. Amongst her visitors, however, there were two who invariably
offered her better consolation; these were Larkin and his sister. Tom
'stuck up,' as he expressed it, for his friend Luke, and always put
the blame of the enlistment on the wiles and arts of the
recruiting-sergeant, who regularly entrapped him into the deed. Many
a happy winter evening was spent in that humble cottage by Lucy and
her friends. Luke was never forgotten in their conversations; for
there was the lace which was being unweariedly made for his release
to remind them of him. When Modbury made his appearance (and this was
very often) the subject was of course dropped.
A year passed away. Neither Lucy nor Modbury had made much progress
in their several aims; scarcely a tithe of the requisite sum for
Luke's discharge had been saved; neither could Modbury perceive that
his suit advanced. Lucy's conduct sorely perplexed him. She always
seemed delighted when he came in, and received him with every mark of
cordiality; but whenever he dropped the slightest plea in his own
behalf, tears would come into her eyes, and she entreated him to
desist. He began to remark also, that besides the presence of the old
dame, which was surely a sufficient safeguard against any warmth of
manner he might be betrayed into, Lucy always contrived to have Susan
Larkin with her. Should she be absent, Lucy would be telling Modbury
what a good, industrious, excellent girl she was; which, indeed, was
No letter came from Luke, and there was no proof that he had received
hers. Lucy began gradually to despond; for work became slack, and at
times she only got enough to employ her half the day. Not to lose
ground, however, she hired herself to the neighbouring farmers' wives
to sew during her spare time, leaving Dame Damerel to the occasional
care of Susan Larkin. While she was sitting at work during one of
these engagements, she compared her own cheerless lot with the
happiness which surrounded her. The farmer was reading the newspaper,
his wife and daughter assisting her in the work she was doing. As she
made this comparison, and thought of Luke, banished as it were from
his home, and enduring perhaps severe hardships, she could scarcely
refrain from weeping. Now and then the farmer read a paragraph from
the paper, and presently exclaimed: 'Ah, our young squire has got
safe to his regiment in India.' At these words Lucy trembled, but
went on rapidly with her work, lest her emotion should be noticed.
She had previously heard that the son of a neighbouring proprietor
had bought a commission in Luke's regiment, and this was almost like
having news of Luke himself. Presently the reader went on with the
paragraph: '"We understand there has been a fatal disease which has
carried off many of the"'——— The farmer made a pause here, and
Lucy's heart sank within her. 'Oh, I see,' the old gentleman
ejaculated; 'the corner is turned down—"has carried off
many"—yes—"many of the——horses."'
This little incident produced such strong emotions in Lucy's frame,
that though she felt, upon the whole, much gratified by merely
hearing about Luke's regiment and its horses, yet she became too ill
to proceed with her work, and found it necessary to return to the
Lucy soon altered her plan of engaging herself out; for the idea
struck her, that if she were to make lace on a sort of speculation,
and keep it by her till it was wanted, she would in the end make a
greater profit. Having, when her father was in good circumstances,
been partly educated at an Exeter boarding-school, she had acquired
there some knowledge of drawing, and by exercising her pencil, she now
invented some very pretty lace-patterns.
Lucy wrought and hoped on for another year. Still nothing was heard
from Luke. A new calamity had fallen upon Lucy. Her father, a broken
and decayed man, had come to live near her, and was now nearly
dependent on her for support. Both Modbury and Farmer Larkin gave him
little jobs to do, for which they liberally recompensed him. The
quantity of lace Lucy was employed to make was so small, that it just
sufficed to keep her and her father; while her little capital,
instead of increasing, was gradually absorbed by the purchase of
materials for the stock her industry accumulated. Susan Larkin
frequently visited her, and Modbury was seldom absent.
No ill-fortune seemed to depress the persevering girl. Even though
she was working almost night and day, she still kept up her spirits.
Indeed, at every new misfortune, a fresh accession of firmness and
resolution seemed to nerve her. About this time her father died,
invoking blessings on her for having been so good a daughter. After
the first shock of grief had passed, she continued her task amidst
the most hopeless circumstances. The lace-trade sunk lower and
lower; still Lucy wrought on, under a strong presentiment that it
would improve. She did not relax one hour's labour, although she was
now receiving much less for it than when she began. She accumulated
so large a stock, that at last every shilling of her savings was
spent for materials. In exchange, however, she possessed a large
quantity of beautiful lace, that, even if it sold at the present low
prices, would have yielded a small profit. At last things became so
bad, that a sale seemed unavoidable, disadvantageous as it might be.
Lucy, now an object of commiseration amongst the neighbours, still
retained her cheerfulness. That so much patience, modesty, and
firmness of purpose should not meet its reward, seemed almost
impossible; and fortune smiled on Lucy when nearly every hope seemed
to have left her.
It is well known by what trifles in the mercantile world fortunes are
lost and won. The detention of a ship, the non-arrival of a mail, has
ruined hundreds; whilst some equally unforeseen caprice of fashion or
similar accident has made as many fortunes. It happened, when Lucy
had the greatest cause for despondency, that within a short period
two members of the royal family died. Mourning lace was then much in
request, and it happened that most of Lucy's stock was of that kind.
Suddenly, commissions from Honiton flowed in, and Lucy was kept
constantly at work, at wages much higher than before—her own stock
acquiring fresh value while the price continued to rise. Young
Larkin, who was a shrewd fellow, advised her to 'hold' it till the
value increased still more. She took the advice, and at the proper
moment sold it at a price she never hoped to realise. At the end of a
week she found herself in possession of a sum which was, within a few
pounds, sufficient to procure her lover's discharge from the army!
Poor Lucy could hardly believe her eyes when the manufacturer laid
down the bank-notes before her. She pinned them carefully into the
bosom of her frock, and hastened to tell Dame Damerel that all their
troubles were over. The old woman's eyes glistened as Lucy unpinned
her treasure and laid it on the table. It was counted, re-counted,
and wondered over. What was to be done with it till the rest was
procured? Who would take care of it?
This delight was, however, somewhat damped when they came to consider
that, putting aside all uncertainty about his fate, it would be at
least six months before Luke's discharge could reach him; then an
additional half-year would elapse ere he could get back. It was a
long time to wait. 'Never mind, dear mother,' said Lucy, 'the time
that has passed since he left seems scarcely a year, although it is
three. It is only because the twelvemonth is to come that it appears
to be so long. Still,' she said, considering and heaving a deep sigh,
'we have not got his discharge yet, and great as this sum is, some
more must be earned to make up the rest.'
'Leave that to me,' returned Mrs Damerel.
Next day, when Lucy returned from the post-office, where she had
taken a letter for Luke, she found another lying on the table, in
Larkin's handwriting. On reading the superscription, she found it was
addressed to the War-Office. 'Yes,' said Mrs Damerel in answer to her
inquiring glances, 'it is all done now, Lucy; and this letter is to
be sent off to tell the great people that we can have the money ready
to buy our dear Luke off again.'
Larkin had, in truth, gladly supplied the small sum which was
deficient. The letter was sent, and in less than a week an immense
dispatch found its way to the village, which excited universal
wonderment. It was a great oblong missive, with the words 'On His
Majesty's Service' printed at the top. It had an enormous seal, and
was directed to 'Mr Thomas Larkin.' A crowd of idlers followed the
postman with this epistolary phenomenon, in the hope of getting some
knowledge of its contents. Tom, however, when he read it, coolly put
it into his pocket, and walked to the cottage without saying a word
This letter seemed like a climax to Lucy's good-fortune, and 'begged
to inform Mr Larkin that Corporal Farrier Damerel was on his way to
England to superintend the selection of troop-horses, and that his
discharge should be made out when he had arrived and performed that
Scarcely a month after the arrival of the official dispatch, a
corporal of dragoons was seen trespassing on Farmer Modbury's fields,
by crossing them in great haste without any regard to the footpaths.
An old ploughman roughly warned him off, threatening personal
ejection. 'What, Roger Dart!' exclaimed the soldier, 'is this the way
you welcome a man home after a long absence?' The ploughman stared,
and said he did not know him. 'Do you know,' rejoined the corporal
with a trembling voice and anxious countenance—'do you know Lucy
'Of course I do,' returned Roger; 'everybody knows her, and, if I may
make so bold, loves her too! Why, sure enough, there she is
sitting—don't you see?—there, sitting at Dame Damerel's door making
lace for the life of her.'
The stranger flew across the field, and the ploughman saw him bound
over the hedge, take Lucy into his arms, and drag her, bewildered and
enraptured, into the cottage. 'Why, dang me if it bean't Luke
Damerel!' exclaimed the rustic, slapping the thighs of his leather
breeches; 'how main glad the folks will be to see 'un!—I know what
I'll do.' Whereupon Roger trudged across the fields towards the
church. He happened to be one of the parish-ringers, and calling his
mates from the fields, they all trudged off to the bell-tower, and
rang out as merry a peal as ever was heard. The whole country was in
a commotion; the news ran like wild-fire from lip to lip and from ear
to ear, till the cottage was beset with visitors within and without.
But Luke heard no welcome, felt no grasp, but that of Lucy and his
mother. As to Lucy, an intense happiness thrilled through her, which
absorbed all her faculties, except that of feeling the full extent of
This story of patience, endurance, and faith in humble life is almost
ended. Luke's furlough only extended to a week, which he spent as an
inmate of the farm, at Modbury's earnest entreaty; for he now gave up
all hope of Lucy, and determined to help in rewarding her patience by
promoting the match with his rival. At the end of that time, Luke was
obliged to depart for Yorkshire, to meet the veterinary-surgeon and
purchase horses, in which he was found of the utmost use; but this,
together with his excellent character, operated most unfavourably for
his discharge. The authorities were unwilling to lose so good a
soldier. The interest of the 'squire,' however, whose son was a
cornet in Luke's troop, was set to work, the hard-earned money paid,
and the discharge obtained. Damerel got a farm let to him on
advantageous terms, close to his native village, and was married
amidst more noisy demonstrations by Roger and his company of ringers.
Modbury had taken to wife Lucy's friend, Susan Larkin.
The last time I was in Devonshire I called on Mr and Mrs Damerel.
They are an interesting old couple, who have brought up a large
family in comfort and respectability.