A Narrow Escape
A S soon as he was out of the Intendant's house, Edward hastened to the cottage of Oswald Partridge, whom he found waiting for him; for the verderer had not failed to deliver his message.
"You have had a long talk with Mistress Patience," said
Oswald, after the first greeting; "and I am glad of it,
as it gives you consequence here. The Roundhead rascal
whom you met was inclined to be very precise about
doing his duty, and insisted that he was certain that
you were on the
"Many thanks; but I do not think I can take advantage of your offer. Let them catch me if they can, and if they do catch me, let them take me if they can."
"I see, sir, that you will accept no favour from the Roundheads," replied Oswald; "however, as I am now head keeper, I shall take care that my men do not interfere with you, if I can help it; all I wish is to prevent any insult or indignity being offered to you: they not being aware who you are, as I am."
"Many thanks, Oswald; I must take my chance."
Edward then told Oswald of their having taken the gipsy boy in the pit, at which he appeared much amused.
"What is the name of the verderer whom I met in the forest?" inquired Edward.
"James Corbould; he was discharged from the army," replied Oswald.
"I do not like his appearance," said Edward.
"No; his face tells against him," replied Oswald; "but I know nothing of him; he has been here little more than a fortnight."
"Can you give me a corner to put my head in
"You may command all I have, sir," replied Oswald; "but I fear there is little more than a hearty welcome; I have no doubt that you could be lodged at the Intendant's house if you choose."
"No, Oswald, the young lady is alone, and I will not trust to Phoebe's accommodation again; I will stay here, if you will permit me."
"And welcome, sir: I will put your puppy in the kennel at once."
Edward remained that night at Oswald's, and at daylight he rose, and having taken a slight breakfast, throwing his gun over his shoulder, went to the kennel for Holdfast, and set off on his return home.
"That's a very nice little girl," were the words which
Edward found himself constantly saying to himself as he
walked along; "and she is of a grateful disposition, or
she would not have behaved as she has done towards
me—supposing me to be of mean birth;" and then he
thought of what she had told him relative to her
father, and Edward felt his animosity against a
Roundhead wasting fast away. "I am not likely to see
her again very soon," thought Edward, "unless, indeed,
I am brought to the Intendant as a prisoner." Thus
thinking upon one subject or another, Edward had gained
above eight miles of his journey across the forest,
when he thought that he was sufficiently far away to
venture to look out for some venison. Remembering there
was a thicket not far from him, in which there was a
clear pool of water, Edward thought it very likely that
he might find a stag there cooling himself, for the
weather was now very warm at
Edward waited for a short time, and not perceiving that
Corbould made his appearance, continued on his way
home, having now given up all thoughts of killing any
venison. He walked fast, and was within six miles of
the cottage, when he stopped to drink at a small rill
of water, and then sat down to rest himself for a short
time. While so doing, he fell into one of his usual
reveries, and forgot how time passed away. He was,
however, aroused by a low growl on the part of
Holdfast, and it immediately occurred to him that
Corbould must have followed him. Thinking it as well to
be prepared, he quietly loaded his gun, and then rose
up to reconnoitre. Holdfast sprang forward, and Edward
looking in the direction, perceived Corbould partly
hidden behind a tree, with his gun levelled at him. He
heard the trigger pulled, and snap of the lock, but the
gun did not go off; and then Corbould made his
appearance, striking at Holdfast with the
"Indeed, younker! it may be the worse for you," cried Corbould.
"It might have been if your gun had gone off," replied Edward.
"I did not aim at you. I aimed at the dog, and I will kill the brute, if I can."
"Not without danger to yourself; but it was not him that you aimed at—your gun was not pointed low enough to hit the dog—it was levelled at me, you sneaking wretch; and I have only to thank my own prudence and your sleepy head for having escaped with my life. I tell you candidly that I threw the powder out of your pan while you were asleep. If I served you as you deserve, I should now put my bullet into you, but I cannot kill a man who is defenceless—and that saves your life; but set off as fast as you can away from me, for if you follow me, I will show no more forbearance. Away with you directly," continued Edward, raising his gun to his shoulder and pointing it to Corbould; "if you do not be off, I'll fire."
Corbould saw that Edward was resolute, and thought
proper to comply with his request: he walked away till
he considered himself out of gunshot, and then
commenced a torrent of oaths and abusive language, with
which we shall not offend our readers. Before he went
farther, he swore that he would have Edward's life
before many days had passed, and then shaking his fist
he went away. Edward remained where he was standing
till the man was fairly out of sight, and then
proceeded on his journey. It was now about four o'clock
in the afternoon, and Edward, as he walked on, said to
himself, "That man must be of a very wicked
disposition, for I have offended him in nothing except
in not submitting to be made his prisoner; and is that
an offence to take a man's life for? He is a dangerous
man, and will be more dangerous after being again
foiled by me as he has been
As soon as Edward had satisfied his craving appetite—for he had not, as my readers must recollect, eaten anything since his departure early in the morning from the house of Oswald Partridge—he entered into a narrative of the events of the day. They all listened with great interest; and when Edward had finished, Pablo, the gipsy boy, jumped up, and said:
"Now he is in the pit,
"No, no, Pablo, you must not do that," replied Edward, laughing.
"Pablo," said little Edith, "go and sit down; you must not shoot people."
"He shoot master then," said Pablo; "he very bad man."
"But if you shoot him, you will be a bad boy, Pablo," replied Edith, who appeared to have assumed an authority over him. Pablo did not appear to understand this, but he obeyed the order of his little mistress, and resumed his seat at the chimney-corner.
"But, Edward," said Humphrey, "what do you propose to do?"
"I hardly know; my idea was to let him remain there for a day or two, and then send to Oswald to let him know where the fellow was."
"The only objection to that is," replied Humphrey, "that you say his gun went off as he fell into the pit; it may be probable that he is wounded, and if so, he might die if he is left there."
"You are right, Humphrey, that is possible; and I would not have the life of a fellow-creature on my conscience."
"I think it would be advisable, Edward, that I should
set off early
"I believe that would be the best plan, Humphrey."
"Yes," said Alice, "it would be dreadful that a man should die in so wicked a state; let him be taken out, and perhaps he will repent."
"Won't God punish him, brother?" said Edith.
"Yes, my dear, sooner or later, the vengeance of Heaven overtakes the wicked. But I am very tired after so long a walk; let us go to prayers, and then to bed."
The danger that Edward had incurred that day was felt strongly by the whole party; and, with the exception of Pablo, there was earnest devotion and gratitude to Heaven when their orisons were offered up.
Humphrey was off before daybreak, and, at nine o'clock,
had arrived at the cottage of Oswald, by whom he was
warmly greeted before the cause of his unexpected
arrival was made known. Oswald was greatly annoyed at
Humphrey's narration, and appeared to be very much of
the opinion of Pablo, which was, to leave the scoundrel
where he was; but on the remonstrance of Humphrey, he
set off, with two of the other verderers, and before
nightfall Humphrey arrived at the
"Who's there?" said Oswald, looking into the pit.
"It's me—it's Corbould," replied the man.
"Are you hurt?"
"Yes, badly," replied Corbould; "when I fell, my gun went off, and the ball has gone through my thigh. I have almost bled to death."
Humphrey went for the ladder, which was at hand, and, with much exertion on the part of the whole four of them, they contrived to drag out Corbould, who groaned heavily with pain. A handkerchief was tied tightly round his leg, to prevent any further bleeding, and they gave him some water, which revived him.
"Now, what's to be done?" said Oswald; "we can never get him home."
"I will tell you," said Humphrey, walking with him aside. "It will not do for any of these men to know our cottage, and we cannot take them there. Desire them to remain with the man, while you go for a cart to carry him home. We will go to the cottage, give Billy his supper, and then return with him in the cart, and bring your men something to eat. Then I will go with you, and bring the cart back again before daylight. It will be a night's walk, but it will be the safest plan."
"I think so too," replied Oswald, who desired the men to wait till his return, as he was going to borrow a cart; and then set off with Humphrey.
As soon as they arrived at the cottage, Humphrey gave the pony to Pablo to put into the stable and feed, and then communicated to Edward the state of Corbould.
"It's almost a pity that he had not killed himself outright," observed Oswald; "it would have been justice to him for attempting your life without any cause; he is a bloodthirsty scoundrel, and I wish he was anywhere but where he is. However, the Intendant shall know of it, and I have no doubt that he will be discharged."
"Do nothing in a hurry, Oswald," replied Edward; "at present let him give his own version of the affair; for he may prove more dangerous when discharged than when under your control. Now sit down and take your supper. Billy must have an hour to get his, and therefore there is no hurry for you."
"That is your gipsy lad, Edward, is he not?" said Oswald.
"I like the boy's looks; but they are a queer race. You must not trust him too much," continued Oswald, in an under tone, "until you have tried him, and are satisfied of his fidelity. They are very excitable, and capable of strong attachment if well treated, that I know; for I did a gipsy a good turn once, and it proved to be the saving of my life afterwards."
"Oh, tell us how, Oswald," said Alice.
"It is too long a story now, my dear little lady," replied Oswald; "but I will another time. Whatever he may do, do not strike him; for they never forgive a blow, I am told by those who know them, and it never does them any good; as I said before, they are a queer race."
"He will not be beaten by us," replied Humphrey, "depend upon it, unless Edith slaps him; for she is the one who takes most pains with him, and I presume he would not care much about her little hand."
"No, no," replied Oswald, laughing, "Edith may do as she pleases. What does he do for you?"
"Oh, nothing as yet, for he is hardly recovered, poor fellow," replied Humphrey. "He follows Edith, and helps her to look for the eggs; and last night he set some springes after his own fashion, and certainly beat me, for he took three rabbits and a hare, while I, with all my traps, only took one rabbit."
"I think you had better leave that part of your livelihood entirely to him; he has been bred up to it, Humphrey, and it will be his amusement. You must not expect him to work very hard; they are not accustomed to it. They live a roving life, and never work if they can help it; still, if you make him fond of you, he may be very useful, for they are very clever and handy."
"I hope to make him useful," replied Humphrey, "but still I will not force him to do what he does not like. He is very fond of the pony already, and likes to take care of him."
"Bring him over to me, one of these days, so that he may know where to find me. It may prove of consequence if you have a message to send, and cannot come yourselves."
"That is very true," replied Edward; "I will not forget it. Humphrey, shall you or I go with the cart?"
"Humphrey, by all means; it will not do for them to suppose I had the cart from you, Edward; they do not know Humphrey, and he will be off again in the morning before they are up."
"Very true," replied Edward.
"And it is time for us to set off," replied Oswald. "Will Mistress Alice oblige me with something for my men to eat? for they have fasted the whole day."
"Yes," replied Alice, "I will have it ready before the pony is in the cart. Edith, dear, come with me."
Humphrey then went out to harness the pony, and when all was ready, he and Oswald set off again.
When they arrived at the
"I will let you know how he gets on, Humphrey, and what account he gives of his falling into the pit; but you must not expect me for a fortnight at least."
Humphrey wished Oswald
Thus thought Humphrey as he went along; he was all for
the farm and improvements, and was always calculating
when he should have another calf or a fresh litter of
pigs. His first idea was, that he would make Pablo work
hard; but the advice he had received from Oswald was
not forgotten; and he now was thinking how he should
coax Pablo into standing below in the
"You're just come in time, Humphrey; I have some provision for Alice's larder. I took my gun and came out on the path which I knew you would return on, and I have killed a young buck. He is good meat, and we are scarce of provisions."
Humphrey helped Edward to put the venison in the cart, and they returned to the cottage, which was not more than three miles off. Humphrey told Edward the result of his journey, and then proposed that Edward should stop at home for a few days and help him with the new enclosure. To this Edward cheerfully consented; and as soon as they arrived at the cottage, and Humphrey had had his breakfast, they took their axes and went out to fell at a cluster of small spruce firs about a mile off.