Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- The Children of the New Forest - 5/64 -
"Why, it seems that Southwold thought that she was King Charles dressed up as an old woman, so he seized her and strapped her fast behind him, and galloped away with her to Lymington; but she struggled and kicked so manfully, that he could not hold on, and off they went together, and he broke his neck."
"Indeed! A judgment--a judgment upon a traitor," said Jacob.
"They were picked up, strapped together as they were, by the other troopers, and carried to Lymington."
"Well, and where is the old lady, then? Did you see and speak to her?"
"I saw her, Jacob, but I did not speak to her. I forgot to say that, when she broke Southwold's neck, she broke her own too."
"Then the old lady is dead?"
"Yes, that she is," replied Benjamin; "but who cares about her? it's the poor children that I pity. Martha has been crying ever since."
"I don't wonder."
"I was at the Cavalier, and the troopers were there, and they were boasting of what they had done, and called it a righteous work. I could not stand that, and I asked one of them if it were a righteous work to burn poor children in their beds? So he turned round, and struck his sword upon the floor, and asked me whether I was one of them--'Who are you, then?' and I--all my courage went away, and I answered, I was a poor rat-catcher. 'A rat-catcher; are you? Well, then, Mr. Ratcatcher, when you are killing rats, if you find a nest of young ones, don't you kill them too? or do you leave them to grow, and become mischievous, eh?' 'I kill the young ones, of course,' replied I. 'Well, so do we Malignants whenever we find them.' I didn't say a word more, so I went out of the house as fast as I could."
"Have you heard any thing about the king?" inquired Jacob.
"No, nothing; but the troopers are all out again, and, I hear, are gone to the forest."
"Well, Benjamin, good-by, I shall be off from this part of the country--it's no use my staying here. Where's Agatha and cook?"
"They came to Lymington early this morning."
"Wish them good-by for me, Benjamin."
"Where are you going, then?"
"I can't exactly say, but I think London way. I only staid here to watch over the children; and now that they are gone, I shall leave Arnwood forever."
Jacob, who was anxious, on account of the intelligence he had received of the troopers being in the forest, to return to the cottage, shook hands with Benjamin, and hastened away. "Well," thought Jacob, as he wended his way, "I'm sorry for the poor old lady, but still, perhaps, it's all for the best. Who knows what they might do with these children! Destroy the nest as well as the rats, indeed! they must find the nest first." And the old forester continued his journey in deep thought.
We may here observe that, blood-thirsty as many of the Levelers were, we do not think that Jacob Armitage had grounds for the fears which he expressed and felt; that is to say, we believe that he might have made known the existence of the children to the Villiers family, and that they would never have been harmed by any body. That by the burning of the mansion they might have perished in the flames, had they been in bed, as they would have been at that hour, had he not obtained intelligence of what was about to be done, is true; but that there was any danger to them on account of their father having been such a stanch supporter of the king's cause, is very unlikely, and not borne out by the history of the times: but the old forester thought otherwise; he had a hatred of the Puritans, and their deeds had been so exaggerated by rumor, that he fully believed that the lives of the children were not safe. Under this conviction, and feeling himself bound by his promise to Colonel Beverley to protect them, Jacob resolved that they should live with him in the forest, and be brought up as his own grandchildren. He knew that there could be no better place for concealment; for, except the keepers, few people knew where his cottage was; and it was so out of the usual paths, and so imbosomed in lofty trees, that there was little chance of its being seen, or being known to exist. He resolved, therefore, that they should remain with him till better times; and then he would make known their existence to the other branches of the family, but not before. "I can hunt for them, and provide for them," thought he, "and I have a little money, when it is required; and I will teach them to be useful; they must learn to provide for themselves. There's the garden, and the patch of land: in two or three years, the boys will be able to do something. I can't teach them much; but I can teach them to fear God. We must get on how we can, and put our trust in Him who is a father to the fatherless."
With such thoughts running in his head, Jacob arrived at the cottage, and found the children outside the door, watching for him. They all hastened to him, and the dog rushed before them, to welcome his master. "Down, Smoker, good dog! Well, Mr. Edward, I have been as quick as I could. How have Mr. Humphrey and your sisters behaved I But we must not remain outside to-day, for the troopers are scouring the forest, and may see you. Let us come in directly, for it would not do that they should come here."
"Will they burn the cottage down?" inquired Alice, as she took Jacob's hand.
"Yes, my dear, I think they would, if they found that you and your brothers were in it; but we must not let them see you."
They all entered the cottage, which consisted of one large room in front, and two back rooms for bedrooms. There was also a third bedroom, which was behind the other two, but which had not any furniture in it.
"Now, let's see what we can have for dinner--there's venison left, I know," said Jacob; "come, we must all be useful. Who will be cook?"
"I will be cook," said Alice, "if you will show me how."
"So you shall, my dear," said Jacob, and I will show you how. There's some potatoes in the basket in the corner, and some onions hanging on the string; we must have some water--who will fetch it?"
"I will," said Edward, who took a pail, and went out to the spring.
The potatoes were peeled and washed by the children--Jacob and Edward cut the venison into pieces--the iron pot was cleaned; and then the meat and potatoes put with water into the pot, and placed on the fire.
"Now I'll cut up the onions, for they will make your eyes water."
"I don't care," said Humphrey, "I'll cut and cry at the same time."
And Humphrey took up a knife, and cut away most manfully, although he was obliged to wipe his eyes with his sleeve very often.
"You are a fine fellow, Humphrey," said Jacob. "Now we'll put the onions in, and let it all boil up together. Now you see, you have cooked your own dinner; ain't that pleasant?"
"Yes," cried they all; "and we will eat our own dinners as soon as it is ready."
"Then, Humphrey, you must get some of the platters down which are on the drawer; and, Alice, you will find some knives in the drawer. And let me see, what can little Edith do? Oh, she can go to the cupboard and find the salt-cellar. Edward, just look out, and if you see any body coming or passing, let me know. We must put you on guard till the troopers leave the forest."
The children set about their tasks, and Humphrey cried out, as he very often did, "Now, this is jolly!"
While the dinner was cooking, Jacob amused the children by showing them how to put things in order; the floor was swept, the hearth was made tidy. He shewed Alice how to wash out a cloth, and Humphrey how to dust the chairs. They all worked merrily, while little Edith stood and clapped her hands.
But just before dinner was ready, Edward came in and said, "Here are troopers galloping in the forest!" Jacob went out, and observed that they were coming in a direction that would lead near to the cottage.
He walked in, and, after a moment's thought, he said, "My dear children, those men may come and search the cottage; you must do as I tell you, and mind that you are very quiet. Humphrey, you and your sisters must go to bed, and pretend to be very ill. Edward, take off your coat and put on this old hunting-frock of mine. You must be in the bedroom attending your sick brother and sisters. Come, Edith, dear, you must play at going to bed, and have your dinner afterward."
Jacob took the children into the bedroom, and, removing the upper dress, which would have betrayed that they were not the children of poor people, put them in bed, and covered them up to the chins with the clothes. Edward had put on the old hunting-shirt, which came below his knees, and stood with a mug of water in his hand by the bedside of the two girls. Jacob went to the outer room, to remove the platters laid out for dinner; and he had hardly done so when he heard the noise of the troopers, and soon afterward a knock at the cottage-door.
"Come in," said Jacob.
"Who are you, my friend?" said the leader of the troop, entering the door.
"A poor forester, sir," replied Jacob, "under great trouble."
"What trouble, my man?"
"I have the children all in bed with the small-pox."
"Nevertheless, we must search your cottage."
"You are welcome," replied Jacob; "only don't frighten the children, if you can help it."
The man, who was now joined by others, commenced his search. Jacob opened all the doors of the rooms, and they passed through. Little Edith shrieked when she saw them; but Edward patted her, and told her not to be frightened. The troopers, however, took no notice of the
Previous Page Next Page
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 20 30 40 50 60 64
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything