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- The Pigeon Pie - 2/16 -
"At least you ought not to forget how our dear father came in with Edmund, and kissed us, and bade mother keep up a good heart. Don't you remember that, Lucy?"
"I do," said Walter; "it was the last time we ever saw him."
And Walter sat on the table, resting one foot on the bench, while the other dangled down, and leaning his elbow on his knee and his head on his hand; Rose sat on the bench close by him, with Charlie on her lap, and the two little girls pressing close against her, all earnest to hear from her the story of the great fight of Naseby, where they had all been in a farmhouse about a mile from the field of battle.
"I don't forget how the cannon roared all day," said Lucy.
"Ah! that dismal day!" said Rose. "Then by came our troopers, blood- stained and disorderly, riding so fast that scarcely one waited to tell my mother that the day was lost and she had better fly. But not a step did she stir from the gate, where she stood with you, Charlie, in her arms; she only asked of each as he passed if he had seen my father or Edmund, and ever her cheek grew whiter and whiter. At last came a Parliament officer on horseback--it was Mr. Enderby, who had been a college mate of my father's, and he told us that my dear father was wounded, and had sent him to fetch her."
"But I never knew where Edmund was then," said Eleanor. "No one ever told me."
"Edmund lifted up my father when he fell," said Walter, "and was trying to bind his wound; but when Colonel Enderby's troop was close upon them, my father charged him upon his duty to fly, saying that he should fall into the hands of an old friend, and it was Edmund's duty to save himself to fight for the King another time."
"So Edmund followed Prince Rupert?" said Eleanor.
"Yes," said Lucy; "you know my father once saved Prince Rupert's life in the skirmish where his horse was killed, so for his sake the Prince made Edmund his page, and has had him with him in all his voyages and wanderings. But go on about our father, Rose. Did we go to see him?"
"No; Mr. Enderby said he was too far off, so he left a trooper to guard us, and my mother only took her little babe with her. Don't you remember, Walter, how Eleanor screamed after her, as she rode away on the colonel's horse; and how we could not comfort the little ones, till they had cried themselves to sleep, poor little things? And in the morning she came back, and told us our dear father was dead! O Walter, how can we look back to that day, and rejoice in a new war? How can you wonder her heart should sink at sounds of joy which have so often ended in tears?"
Walter twisted about and muttered, but he could not resist his sister's earnest face and tearful eyes, and said something about not making so much noise in the house.
"There's my own dear brother," said Rose. "And you won't tease Deborah?"
"That is too much, Rose. It is all the sport I have, to see the faces she makes when I plague her about Diggory. Besides, it serves her right for having such a temper."
"She has not a good temper, poor thing!" said Rose; "but if you would only think how true and honest she is, how hard she toils, and how ill she fares, and yet how steadily she holds to us, you would surely not plague and torment her."
Rose was interrupted by a great outcry, and in rushed Deborah, screaming out, "Lack-a-day! Mistress Rose! O Master Walter! what will become of us? The fight is lost, the King fled, and a whole regiment of red-coats burning and plundering the whole country. Our throats will be cut, every one of them!"
"You'll have a chance of being a mark for all the musketeers in the Parliament army," said Walter, who even then could not miss a piece of mischief.
"Joking now, Master Walter!" cried Deborah, very much shocked. "That is what I call downright sinful. I hope you'll be made a mark of yourself, that I do."
The children were running off to tell their mother, when Rose stopped them, and desired to know how Deborah had heard the tidings. It was from two little children from the village who had come to bring a present of some pigeons to my lady. Rose went herself to examine the children, but she could only learn that a packman had come into the village and brought the report that the King had been defeated, and had fled from the field. They knew no more, and Walter pronouncing it to be all a cock-and-bull story of some rascally prick-eared pedlar, declared he would go down to the village and enquire into the rights of it.
These were the saddest times of English history, when the wrong cause had been permitted for a time to triumph, and the true and rightful side was persecuted; and among those who endured affliction for the sake of their Church and their King, none suffered more, or more patiently, than Lady Woodley, or, as she was called in the old English fashion, Dame Mary Woodley, of Forest Lea.
When first the war broke out she was living happily in her pleasant home with her husband and children; but when King Charles raised his standard at Nottingham, all this comfort and happiness had to be given up. Sir Walter Woodley joined the royal army, and it soon became unsafe for his wife and children to remain at home, so that they were forced to go about with him, and suffer all the hardships of the sieges and battles. Lady Woodley was never strong, and her health was very much hurt by all she went through; she was almost always unwell, and if Rose, though then quite a child, had not shown care and sense beyond her years for the little ones, it would be hard to say what would have become of them.
Yet all she endured while dragging about her little babies through the country, with bad or insufficient food, uncomfortable lodgings, pain, weariness and anxiety, would have been as nothing but for the heavy sorrows that came upon her also. First she lost her only brother, Edmund Mowbray, and in the battle of Naseby her husband was killed; besides which there were the sorrows of the whole nation in seeing the King sold, insulted, misused, and finally slain, by his own subjects. After Sir Walter's death, Lady Woodley went home with her five younger children to her father's house at Forest Lea; for her husband's estate, Edmund's own inheritance, had been seized and sequestrated by the rebels. She was the heiress of Forest Lea since the loss of her brother, but the old Mr. Mowbray, her father, had given almost all his wealth for the royal cause, and had been oppressed by the exactions of the rebels, so that he had nothing to leave his daughter but the desolate old house and a few bare acres of land. For the shelter, however, Lady Woodley was very thankful; and there she lived with her children and a faithful servant, Deborah, whose family had always served the Mowbrays, and who would not desert their daughter now.
The neighbours in the village loved, and were sorry for, their lady, and used to send her little presents; there was a large garden in which Diggory Stokes, who had also served her father, raised vegetables for her use; the cow wandered in the deserted park, and so they contrived to find food; while all the work of the house was done by Rose and Deborah. Rose was her mother's great comfort, nursing her, cheering her, taking care of the little ones, teaching them, working for them, and making light of all her exertions. Everyone in the village loved Rose Woodley, for everyone had in some way been helped or cheered by her. Her mother was only sometimes afraid she worked too hard, and would try her strength too much; but she was always bright and cheerful, and when the day's work was done no one was more gay and lively and ready for play with the little ones.
Rose had more trial than anyone knew with Deborah. Deborah was as faithful as possible, and bore a great deal for the sake of her mistress, worked hard day and night, had little to eat and no wages, yet lived on with them rather than forsake her dear lady and the children. One thing, however, Deborah would not do, and that was to learn to rule her tongue and her temper. She did not know, nor do many excellent servants, how much trial and discomfort she gave to those she loved so earnestly, by her constant bursting out into hasty words whenever she was vexed--her grumbling about whatever she disliked, and her ill-judged scolding of the children. Servants in those days were allowed to speak more freely to their masters and mistresses than at present, so that Deborah had more opportunity of making such speeches, and it was Rose's continual work to try to keep her temper from being fretted, or Lady Woodley from being teased with her complaints. Rose was very forbearing, and but for this there would have been little peace in the house.
Walter was thirteen, an age when it is not easy to keep boys in order, unless they will do so for themselves. Though a brave generous boy, he was often unruly and inconsiderate, apt not to obey, and to do what he knew to be unkind or wrong, just for the sake of present amusement. He was thus his mother's great anxiety, for she knew that she was not fit either to teach or to restrain him, and she feared that his present wild disobedient ways might hurt his character for ever, and lead to dispositions which would in time swallow up all the good about him, and make him what he would now tremble to think of.
She used to talk of her anxieties to Doctor Bathurst, the good old clergyman who had been driven away from his parish, but used to come in secret to help, teach, and use his ministry for the faithful ones of his flock. He would tell her that while she did her best for her son, she must trust the rest to his FATHER above, and she might do so hopefully, since it had been in His own cause that the boy had been made fatherless. Then he would speak to Walter, showing him how wrong and how cruel were his overbearing, disobedient ways. Walter was grieved, and resolved to improve and become steadier, that he might be a comfort and blessing to his mother; but in his love of fun and mischief he was apt to forget himself, and then drove away what might have been in time repentance and improvement, by fancying he did no harm. Teasing Deborah served her right, he would tell himself, she was so ill-tempered and foolish; Diggory was a clod, and would do nothing without scolding; it was a good joke to tease Charlie; Eleanor was a vexatious little thing, and he would not be ordered by her; so he went his own way, and taught the merry chattering Lucy to be very nearly as bad as himself, neglected his duties, set a bad example, tormented a faithful servant, and seriously distressed his mother. Give him some great cause, he thought, and he would be the first and the best, bring back the King, protect his mother and sisters, and perform glorious deeds, such as would make his name be remembered for ever. Then it would be seen what he was worth; in the meantime he lived a dull life, with nothing to do, and he must have some fun. It did not signify if he was not particular about little things, they were women's affairs, and all
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