Brian and Beatrice had left the house with James in the gig provided by Mike Jenkins. Edward, the boy, had stayed to keep the girls company, as instructed. He was expecting there to be more people at the farmhouse, as he knew the Dennis family had five daughters, not to mention the other two labourers. Gloria explained that Natalie was at the house of the family of her beau for the evening, and the other girls, Ann, Maisie and Alexandra, were at the house of an old school friend in Ashton, and would be staying overnight. Edward was relieved. The thought of the burden of responsibility for six young women had weighed heavily on his shoulders as he had dashed to the farm. The knowledge that he only had two to protect, and that the labourers were only a stone's throw away, strengthened his resolve.
Gloria and Lucy were feeding the household animals, with the help of Edward. The other two men were feeding and bedding down the outside animals.
The two dogs and the three cats sat patiently waiting for their meal, apart from the young puppy who wound himself around Lucy's legs. She and the puppy had bonded from her arrival and he was often to be seen accompanying the girls on their walks across the fields. In the evenings he usually laid by Lucy's feet, more often than not with his chin resting on her foot or her knee, depending on her pursuit. If she was sewing, then he settled on her foot; if she was just chatting then he would lay his chin on her knee and stare longingly at her, hoping for a stroke.
Lucy liked all the animals, but she loved the puppy. He was a great help in her healing process. So much so that when she asked to name him the Dennis family were content for him to be named Charlie. Little Charlie, as he came to be known, was Lucy's constant companion, seeming to know, in that animal sixth sense, that she needed some comfort she couldn't get from humans; an unconditional love.
As the food went down on the floor and Little Charlie bounded over to find his bowl, there was a loud cracking noise. The girls looked at one another, and Edward got up hastily from the table.
'Stay here,' he commanded. 'And stay together.'
And with that he picked up a poker from the range, left the kitchen and went into the main house. The door swung shut behind him. In a split second, the yard door blew open and Gloria rushed to shut it. Her outstretched hand froze as a familiar figure walked into the yard, eerily lit by the carriage lantern over the stable.
'Ph..Ph..Philip,' she stammered. Lucy appeared at her shoulder and squinted out into the dark of the yard.
'Philip!' she exclaimed.
Gloria and Lucy looked at one another, and then both turned to look at the ghostly figure.
'Hello girls,' boomed a voice that filled the yard. 'I see you have met. Mrs Mantell meets Mrs Mantell.'
He strode out of the gloom and waited by the door for Gloria to move aside. She did so without a murmur, still looking at Lucy. Philip marched into the kitchen and sat on the edge of the table, his coat swathed around him. His face looked darker and more handsome than ever.
Lucy looked out into the yard, and then threw a glance at the kitchen door.
'Oh,' laughed Philip. 'They won't come.'
Gloria pushed her way in front of him.
'What have you done?'
'Well, the two luggoons in the barn? They won't bother you again, or me for that matter! And the child sent to protect you? Well, you can holler and scream all you want, but he can neither hear you or reach you!'
Lucy ran to the kitchen door and tugged on the handle. The door was stuck fast. She yelled as loud as she could muster, but there was no answering cry from the other side of the door. Edward was certainly not able to help.
As the girls clustered together, Little Charlie had been trying to get up the nerve to protect his new human friend, starting with some very threatening growling. Upon hearing Lucy yell, he lunged at Philip, teeth bared. Philip raised one hand, as if to ward off the blow. Charlie stopped in mid-lunge and was catapulted backwards and hit the wall, sliding down to the floor, concussed and very confused. Lucy rushed over to see to her canine friend, while Gloria approached Philip.
'Who are you?' she demanded. She looked into his eyes as if trying to read his very soul. His dark eyes burned with intensity - and something else she couldn't quite read.
'You'll find out,' he sneered. 'Actually, you'll find out sooner than you think!'
He raised a hand and the older dog fell over, frothing at the mouth. The cats were stricken and rushed to cluster and hide behind the range. The older dog heaved and struggled to breathe.
'Stop!' cried Lucy, who was still sitting with Little Charlie and watching the other dog suffer. She made to go to the dog, but as suddenly as it came on, the fit passed and the old dog got up shaking his grizzled muzzle in a confused fashion.
'Do you see yet, dear wives,' coaxed Philip. 'What I can do?'
Gloria and Lucy looked fearful. What on earth was this creature in their kitchen; this creature they had both so innocently married?
'I have to go and sort out the rest of this sweet family,' Philip said suddenly, rising from his temporary seat on the table. The cats hissed and the dogs growled. The yard door flew open and Philip strode out into the darkness, his coat swirling around his calves. He turned and frowned. In an instant all the lights in the house and yard blinked out, leaving the girls in complete darkness.
Lucy and Gloria huddled together, feeling the sensation of silk as the cats rushed past them into the black night and to freedom. Little Charlie was shaking his head, but seemed unharmed. The old dog was resolutely eating again, as though the temporary interruption was past.
'Bye, girls,' came a sibilant whisper and then they had the uncanny sensation they were alone. No footfalls dictated Philip's departure, but they were absolutely sure in the knowledge that he had gone.
Lucy groped around for the lantern and opened the range to light a spill, while Gloria tried the kitchen door again. This time it opened freely to reveal Edward in the hallway. He looked disconcerted.
'Have all the lights gone out? How is that possible?' he asked as he walked into the kitchen.
'Edward!' Gloria tugged on his sleeve. 'Did you hear Lucy call out?'
Edward shook his head. 'Nope. I just went out to see what made that banging noise, the lights went out and you opened the door. How on earth did the lights go out?' he mused peering up into the light mantles.
Lucy and Gloria looked worriedly at each other.
'You wouldn't believe us if we told you,' said Lucy.