I N the little village of Scrooby in England, three hundred years ago, stood a beautiful old house.
It was the largest one in the village, and its moss-covered roof and great red chimneys rose high above the cottages about it.
The house stood close to the street, but behind it was a large garden where many bright flowers bloomed, and a row of tall trees cast their pleasant shade. On one side of the garden were three round ponds. For a hundred years these ponds had never failed to supply fish for the Friday dinner.
A great rosebush clung to the walls of the house. For years it had climbed and climbed, until now some of its clustering red blossoms peeped into one of the upper windows. The whole room was sweet with their fragrance. This old house had once been a fine palace, but now it was used as an inn where travelers might stay for the night.
In the stables beyond the garden were some horses belonging to the king. When his messengers carried his letters to the North Country, they always stopped here to change horses and rest for an hour.
Only a few miles from Scrooby was a famous old forest. Every child in the village knew the story of Robin Hood and his merry men who had once lived in this forest. They often played "Robin Hood;" it was the game they liked best of all.
Once a party of the king's friends, who were going to the forest to hunt, had stayed all night at the inn. This was a time always remembered by the children of the family. They seemed never to tire of talking about the packs of hounds, the beautiful horses, and the riders in their gay hunting dress.
Then there was the dinner in the great dining hall, and best of all, the long evening when they all had sat about the fireplace, and listened to the stories the hunters told.
The landlord, William Brewster, had not been pleased to have his children hear so much of the gay life at the king's court, and they had been sent to bed much earlier than they wished. The next morning when they awoke, the gay hunting party had gone. Had they really been there at all? Was it not all a bright dream?
One June morning Jonathan Brewster brought into the garden the new boat he had just finished. He was going to sail it upon the fish pond. His little sisters stood near watching the tiny boat make its first trip across the pond. Fear held in her arms a small wooden doll, very ugly, but very dear to the little mother. Jonathan wanted the doll for a passenger, but Fear would not trust her baby to the boat until she was sure it would not tip over.
Fear would not trust her baby to the boat.
The little ship had hardly touched the other side when a distant sound made the children spring to their feet and listen. Again they heard the long, clear sound of the bugle.
"It is the king's messenger! Run and tell Henry to get out a fresh horse!" cried Patience. But Jonathan was already far down the path, calling to the stable boy as he ran.
Patience drew the forgotten ship out of the water and ran into the house to tell her father.
There was a high, stone wall about the house and garden, and, just outside the wall, a ditch filled with water. The bridge over the ditch might be drawn up so none could cross, but this was not often done.
When Master Brewster came out to unlock the great iron gate, Patience and little Fear were close at his side. They always felt afraid of the tall messenger who looked so stern and said so little, but they loved to hear the clatter of swift hoofs, and to see horse and rider dash through the gate into the yard.
They had not long to wait. Again the sound of the bugle was heard, very near this time. Another minute, and into the village street galloped the beautiful black horse bearing the king's messenger.
The stable boy ran to meet him at the gate and held the horse's head while the man sprang to the ground.
"I have a message for you, Master Brewster," he said. "Queen Anne, with her knights and ladies, journeys from her home in the North. They will rest for the night in your house."
Patience waited to hear no more, but flew into the house to tell her mother this wonderful news.
"Mother! Oh, mother!" she called. "Where is mother?"
From room to room she ran until she found her quiet, sweet-faced mother at her spinning wheel.
"Oh, mother, the queen is coming here to stay all night! She has ever so many knights, and ladies, and servants with her. May I help get the best bedroom ready for the queen? The messenger has come, and he is telling father all about it."
"What are you talking about? You are excited, Patience."
"The child is right," said her father, who had just come into the room. The queen is on her way to her new home in England you know, and the party will spend the night here."
"There is little time to prepare for royal guests, but we will make them welcome," said Mistress Brewster, quietly.