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- The Children of the New Forest - 30/64 -
Edward and Humphrey exchanged glances and smiles, and then worked away in silence till it was, as they supposed, dinner time. They were not wrong in their supposition, although they had no other clock than their appetites, which, however, tell the time pretty correctly to those who work hard. Alice had the platters on the table, and was looking out to see if they were coming.
"Why, Pablo, have you been at work?" said Edith.
"Yes, little missy, work all the morning."
"Indeed he has, and has worked very well, and been very useful," said Edward.
"It has given you an appetite for your dinner, Pablo, has it not?" said Humphrey.
"Have that without work," replied the boy.
"Pablo, you are a very good gipsy boy," said Edith, patting his head with a patronizing air; "I shall let you walk out with me and carry the basket to put the eggs in when you come home in the evening."
"That is a reward," said Humphrey, laughing.
After dinner they continued their labor, and by supper time had so many trees cut down, that they determined to carry home the next day, and lay them along to see how many more they would want. While they put the trees in the cart and took them home, Pablo contrived to lop off the boughs and prepare the poles for them to take away. As soon as they had cut down sufficient and carted them home, they then selected shorter trees for posts; and when Pablo had cleared them of the boughs, they sawed them out the proper lengths, and then carted them home. This occupied nearly the whole week, and then they proceeded to dig holes and set the posts in. The railing was then to be nailed to the posts, and that occupied them three days more; so that it was altogether a fortnight of hard work before the three acres were inclosed.
"There," said Humphrey, "that's a good job over; many thanks, Edward, for your assistance; and thank you, too, Pablo, for you really have helped us very much indeed, and are a very useful, good boy. Now for raising the bank; that I must do when I can spare time; but my garden is overrun with weeds, and I must get Edith and Alice to help me there."
"If you don't want me any longer, Humphrey," said Edward, "I think I shall go over to see Oswald, and take Pablo with me. I want to know how that fellow Corbould is, and what he says; and whether the intendant has come back; not that I shall go near him or his good little daughter, but I think I may as well go, and it will be a good opportunity of showing Pablo the way to Oswald's cottage."
"I think so too; and when you come back, Edward, one of us must go to Lymington, for I require some tools, and Pablo is very ragged. He must have some better clothes than these old ones of ours, if he is to be sent messages. Don't you think so?"
"Certainly I do."
"And I want a thousand things," said Alice.
"Indeed, mistress, won't less than a thousand content you?"
"Yes, perhaps not quite a thousand, but I really do want a great many, and I will make you a list of them. I have not pans enough for my milk; I want salt; I want tubs; but I will make out a list, and you will find it a very long one."
"Well, I hope you have something to sell to pay for them?"
"Yes; I have plenty of butter salted down."
"What have you, Edith?"
"Oh, my chickens are not large enough yet; as soon as they are Humphrey must get me some ducks and geese; for I mean to keep some; and by-and-by I will have some turkeys, but not yet. I must wait till Humphrey builds me the new house for them he has promised me."
"I think you are right, Edith, about the ducks and geese; they will do well on the water behind the yard, and I will dig you out a bigger pool for them."
"Edith, my dear, your little fingers are just made to weed my onions well, and I wish you would do it to-morrow morning, if you have time."
"Yes, Humphrey, but my little fingers won't smell very nice afterward."
"Not till you have washed them, I guess; but there is soap and water, you know."
"Yes, I know there is; but if I weed the onions, I can not help Alice to make the butter; however, if Alice can do without me, I will do it."
"I want some more seeds sadly," said Humphrey, "and I must make out my list. I must go to Lymington myself this time, Edward, for you will be puzzled with all our wants."
"Not if I know exactly what you do want; but as I really do not, and probably should make mistakes, I think it will be better if you do go. But it is bedtime, and as I shall start early, good-night, sisters; I beg you will let me have something to eat before I start. I shall try for some venison as I come back, and shall take Smoker with me; he is quite well again, and his ribs are as stout as ever."
"And, Edward," said Alice, "I wish, when you kill any venison, that you would bring home some of those parts which you usually throw away, for I assure you, now that we have three dogs, I hardly know how to find enough for them to eat."
"I'll not fail, Alice," replied Edward, "and now once more good- night."
Early the next morning Edward took his gun, and, with Pablo and Smoker, set off for Oswald's cottage.
Edward talked a great deal with Pablo relative to his former life; and, by the answers which the boy gave him, was satisfied that, notwithstanding his doubtful way of bringing up, the lad was not corrupted, but was a well-minded boy. As they walked through a grove of trees, Edward still talking, Pablo stopped and put his hand before Edward's mouth, and then stooping down, at the same time seizing Smoker by the neck, he pointed with his finger. Edward at first could see nothing, but eventually he made out the horns of an animal just rising above a hillock. It was evidently one of the wild cattle. Edward cocked his gun and advanced cautiously, while Pablo remained where he was, holding Smoker. As soon as he was near enough to hit the head of the animal, Edward leveled and fired, and Pablo let Smoker loose, who bounded forward over the hillock. They followed the dog and found him about to seize a calf which stood by a heifer that Edward had shot. Edward called him over and went up to the animal; it was a fine young heifer, and the calf was not more than a fortnight old.
"We can not stop now, Pablo," said Edward. "Humphrey would like to have the calf, and we must take our chance of its remaining by its mother till we come back. I think it will for a day or two, so let us push on."
No further adventure happened, and they arrived a little after noon at Oswald's cottage. He was not at home, his wife saying that she believed that he was with the intendant, who had come back from London the day before.
"But I will put on my hood and see," said the young woman.
In a few minutes she returned with Oswald.
"I am glad that you have come, sir," said Oswald, as Edward extended his hand, "as I have just seen the intendant, and he has been asking many questions about you. I am certain he thinks that you are not the grandson of Jacob Armitage, and that he supposes I know who you are. He asked me where your cottage was, and whether I could take him to it, as he wished to speak to you, and said that he felt great interest about you."
"And what did you say?"
"I said that your cottage was a good day's journey from here, and I was not certain that I knew the exact way, as I had been there but seldom, but that I knew where to find it after I saw the forests of Arnwood; I told him about Corbould and his attempt upon you, and he was very wroth. I never saw him moved before; and young Mistress Patience, she was indeed angry and perplexed, and begged her father to send the assailant away as soon as he could be moved. Master Heatherstone replied, 'Leave it to me, my dear;' and then asked me what account Corbould gave of himself, and his falling into the pit. I told him that Corbould stated that he was following a deer, which he had severely wounded about noonday, and having no dog with him he could not overtake it, although he knew by its bleeding track that it could not hold out much longer. That he followed it until nightfall, and had it in view and close to him, when he fell into the pit."
"Well, the story was not badly made up," said Edward, "only for _a deer_ read _man:_ and what did the intendant say to that?"
"He said that he believed you, and that Corbould's story was false-- as, if it had been a stag that he was following, no one would have known that he had fallen into the pit, and he would have remained there till now. I quite forgot to say, that when the intendant said that he wished to call at your cottage, the young mistress said that she wished to go with him, as you had told her that you had two sisters living with you, and she wished very much to see them and make their acquaintance."
"I am afraid that we shall not be able to prevent this visit, Oswald," replied Edward. "He is in command here, and the forest is in his charge. We must see to it. I only should like, if possible, to have notice of his coming, that we may be prepared."
"You need no preparation, sir, if he should come," replied Oswald.
"Very true," said Edward; "we have nothing to conceal, and if he finds us in a pickle, it is of no consequence."
"Rather the better, sir," replied Oswald. "Let your sisters be at the wash-tub, and you and your brother carting manure; he will then be
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