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- The Pigeon Pie - 4/16 -
"Delicious!" said the tired soldier, kneeling over the spring, scooping it up in his hand to drink, opening his collar, and bathing hands and face in the clear cool fountain, till his long black hair hung straight, saturated with wet.
"Now, Bayard, it is your turn," and he patted the good steed as it sucked up the refreshing water, and Walter proceeded to release it from saddle and bridle. Edmund, meanwhile, stretched himself out on the mossy bank, asked a few questions about his mother, Rose, and the other children, but was too tired to say much, and presently fell sound asleep, while Walter sat by watching him, grieving for the battle lost, but proud and important in being the guardian of his brother's safety, and delighting himself with the thought of bringing him home at night.
More was happening at home than Walter guessed. The time of his absence seemed very long, more especially when the twilight began to close in, and Lady Woodley began to fear that he might, with his rashness, have involved himself in some quarrel with the troopers in the village. Lady Woodley and her children had closed around the wood fire which had been lighted on the hearth at the approach of evening, and Rose was trying by the bad light to continue her darning of stockings, when a loud hasty knocking was heard at the door, and all, in a general vague impression of dread, started and drew together.
"Oh my lady!" cried Deborah, "don't bid me go to the door, I could not if you offered me fifty gold caroluses! I had rather stand up to be a mark--"
"Then I will," said Rose, advancing.
"No, no, Mistress Rose," said Deborah, running forward. "Don't I know what is fit for the like of you? You go opening the door to rogues and vagabonds, indeed!" and with these words she undrew the bolts and opened the door.
"Is this the way you keep us waiting?" said an impatient voice; and a tall youth, handsomely accoutred, advanced authoritatively into the room. "Prepare to--" but as he saw himself alone with women and children, and his eyes fell on the pale face, mourning dress, and graceful air of the lady of the house, he changed his tone, removed his hat, and said, "Your pardon, madam, I came to ask a night's lodging for my father, who has been thrown from his horse, and badly bruised."
"I cannot refuse you, sir," said Lady Woodley, who instantly perceived that this was an officer of the Parliamentary force, and was only thankful to see that he was a gentleman, and enforced with courtesy a request which was in effect a command.
The youth turned and went out, while Lady Woodley hastily directed her daughters and servant. "Deborah, set the blue chamber in order; Rose, take the key of the oak press, Eleanor will help you to take out the holland sheets. Lucy, run down to old Margery, and bid her kill a couple of fowls for supper."
As the girls obeyed there entered at the front door the young officer and a soldier, supporting between them an elderly man in the dress of an officer of rank. Lady Woodley, ready of course to give her help to any person who had suffered an injury, came forward to set a chair, and at the same moment she exclaimed, in a tone of recognition, "Mr. Enderby! I am grieved to see you so much hurt."
"My Lady Woodley," he returned, recognising her at the same time, as he seated himself in the chair, "I am sorry thus to have broken in on your ladyship, but my son, Sylvester, would have me halt here."
"This gentleman is your son, then?" and a courteous greeting passed between Lady Woodley and young Sylvester Enderby, after which she again enquired after his father's accident.
"No great matter," was the reply; "a blow on the head, and a twist of the knee, that is all. Thanks to a stumbling horse, wearied out with work, I have little mind to--the pursuit of this poor young man."
"Not the King?" exclaimed Lady Woodley, breathless with alarm.
It was with no apparent satisfaction that the rebel colonel replied, "Even so, madam. Cromwell's fortune has not forsaken him; he has driven the Scots and their allies out of Worcester."
Lady Woodley was too much accustomed to evil tidings to be as much overcome by them as her young son had been; she only turned somewhat paler, and asked, "The King lives?"
"He was last seen on Worcester bridge. Troops are sent to every port whence he might attempt an escape."
"May the GOD of his father protect him," said the lady, fervently. "And my son?" she added, faintly, scarcely daring to ask the question.
"Safe, I hope," replied the colonel. "I saw him, and I could have thought him my dear old friend himself, as he joined Charles in his last desperate attempt to rally his forces, and then charged down Sidbury Street with a few bold spirits who were resolved to cover their master's retreat. He is not among the slain; he was not a prisoner when I left the headquarters. I trust he may have escaped, for Cromwell is fearfully incensed against your party."
Colonel Enderby was interrupted by Lucy's running in calling out, "Mother, mother! there are no fowls but Partlet and the sitting hen, and the old cock, and I won't have my dear old Partlet killed to be eaten by wicked Roundheads."
"Come here, my little lady," said the colonel, holding out his hand, amused by her vehemence.
"I won't speak to a Roundhead," returned Lucy, with a droll air of petulance, pleased at being courted.
Her mother spoke gravely. "You forget yourself, Lucy. This is Mr. Enderby, a friend of your dear father."
Lucy's cheeks glowed, and she looked down as she gave her hand to the colonel; but as he spoke kindly to her, her forward spirit revived, and she returned to the charge.
"You won't have Partlet killed?"
Her mother would have silenced her, but the colonel smiled and said, "No, no, little lady; I would rather go without supper than let one feather of Dame Partlet be touched."
"Nay, you need not do that either, sir," said the little chatter-box, confidentially, "for we are to have a pie made of little Jenny's pigeons; and I'll tell you what, sir, no one makes raised crust half so well as sister Rose."
Lady Woodley was not sorry to stop the current of her little girl's communications by despatching her on another message, and asking Colonel Enderby whether he would not prefer taking a little rest in his room before supper-time, offering, at the same time all the remedies for bruises and wounds that every good housekeeper of the time was sure to possess.
She had a real regard for Mr. Enderby, who had been a great friend of her husband before the unhappy divisions of the period arrayed them on opposite sides, and even then, though true friendship could not last, a kindly feeling had always existed.
Mr. Enderby was a conscientious man, but those were difficult times; and he had regarded loyalty to the King less than what he considered the rights of the people. He had been an admirer of Hampden and his principles, and had taken up arms on the same side, becoming a rebel on political, not on religious, grounds. When, as time went on, the evils of the rebellion developed themselves more fully, he was already high in command, and so involved with his own party that he had not the resolution requisite for a change of course and renunciation of his associates. He would willingly have come to terms with the King, and was earnest in the attempt at the time of the conferences at Hampden Court. He strongly disapproved of the usurpation of power by the army, and was struck with horror, grief, and dismay, at the execution of King Charles; but still he would not, or fancied that he could not, separate himself from the cause of the Parliament, and continued in their service, following Cromwell to Scotland, and fighting at Worcester on the rebel side, disliking Cromwell all the time, and with a certain inclination to the young King, and desire to see the old constitution restored.
He was just one of those men who cause such great evil by giving a sort of respectability to the wrong cause, "following a multitude to do evil," and doubtless bringing a fearful responsibility on their own heads; yet with many good qualities and excellent principles, that make those on the right side have a certain esteem for them, and grieve to see them thus perverted.
Lady Woodley, who knew him well, though sorry to have a rebel in her house at such a time, was sure that in him she had a kind and considerate guest, who would do his utmost to protect her and her children.
On his side, Colonel Enderby was much grieved and shocked at the pale, altered looks of the fair young bride he remembered, as well as the evidences of poverty throughout her house, and perhaps he had a secret wish that he was as well assured as his friend, Sir Walter, that his blood had been shed for the maintenance of the right.
Rose Woodley ran up and down indefatigably, preparing everything for the accommodation of the guests, smoothing down Deborah's petulance, and keeping her mother from over-exertion or anxiety. Much contrivance was indeed required, for besides the colonel and his son, two soldiers had to be lodged, and four horses, which, to the consternation of old Margery, seemed likely to devour the cow's winter store of hay, while the troopers grumbled at the desolate, half-ruined, empty stables, and at the want of corn.
Rose had to look to everything; to provide blankets from the bed of the two little girls, send Eleanor to sleep with her mother, and take Lucy to her own room; despatch them on messages to the nearest cottage to borrow some eggs, and to gather vegetables in the garden, whilst she herself made the pigeon pie with the standing crust, much wishing that the soldiers were out of the way. It was a pretty thing
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