Charlotte Mary Yonge.

The Pigeon Pie online

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Transcribed from the 1905 A. R. Mowbray & Co. edition by David Price,
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[Picture: Book cover]


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_Author of_ “_The Heir of Redclyffe_”

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OXFORD: 106, S. Aldate’s Street
LONDON: 34, Great Castle Street, Oxford Circus, W




EARLY in the September of the year 1651 the afternoon sun was shining
pleasantly into the dining-hall of Forest Lea House. The sunshine came
through a large bay-window, glazed in diamonds, and with long branches of
a vine trailing across it, but in parts the glass had been broken and had
never been mended. The walls were wainscoted with dark oak, as well as
the floor, which shone bright with rubbing, and stag’s antlers projected
from them, on which hung a sword in its sheath, one or two odd gauntlets,
an old-fashioned helmet, a gun, some bows and arrows, and two of the
broad shady hats then in use, one with a drooping black feather, the
other plainer and a good deal the worse for wear, both of a small size,
as if belonging to a young boy.

An oaken screen crossed the hall, close to the front door, and there was
a large open fireplace, a settle on each side under the great yawning
chimney, where however at present no fire was burning. Before it was a
long dining-table covered towards the upper end with a delicately white
cloth, on which stood, however, a few trenchers, plain drinking-horns,
and a large old-fashioned black-jack, that is to say, a pitcher formed of
leather. An armchair was at the head of the table, and heavy oaken
benches along the side.

A little boy of six years old sat astride on the end of one of the
benches, round which he had thrown a bridle of plaited rushes, and, with
a switch in his other hand, was springing himself up and down, calling
out, “Come, Eleanor, come, Lucy; come and ride on a pillion behind me to
Worcester, to see King Charles and brother Edmund.”

“I’ll come, I am coming!” cried Eleanor, a little girl about a year
older, her hair put tightly away under a plain round cap, and she was
soon perched sideways behind her brother.

“Oh, fie, Mistress Eleanor; why, you would not ride to the wars?” This
was said by a woman of about four or five-and-twenty, tall, thin and
spare, with a high colour, sharp black eyes, and a waist which the long
stiff stays, laced in front, had pinched in till it was not much bigger
than a wasp’s, while her quilted green petticoat, standing out full below
it, showed a very trim pair of ankles encased in scarlet stockings, and a
pair of bony red arms came forth from the full short sleeves of a sort of
white jacket, gathered in at the waist. She was clattering backwards and
forwards, removing the dinner things, and talking to the children as she
did so in a sharp shrill tone: “Such a racket as you make, to be sure,
and how you can have the heart to do so I can’t guess, not I, considering
what may be doing this very moment.”

“Oh, but Walter says they will all come back again, brother Edmund, and
Diggory, and all,” said little Eleanor, “and then we shall be merry.”

“Yes,” said Lucy, who, though two years older, wore the same prim round
cap and long frock as her little sister, “then we shall have Edmund here
again. You can’t remember him at all, Eleanor and Charlie, for we have
not seen him these six years!”

“No,” said Deborah, the maid. “Ah! these be weary wars, what won’t let a
gentleman live at home in peace, nor his poor servants, who have no call
to them.”

“For shame, Deb!” cried Lucy; “are not you the King’s own subject?”

But Deborah maundered on, “It is all very well for gentlefolks, but now
it had all got quiet again, ’tis mortal hard it should be stirred up
afresh, and a poor soul marched off, he don’t know where, to fight with
he don’t know who, for he don’t know what.”

“He ought to know what!” exclaimed Lucy, growing very angry. “I tell
you, Deb, I only wish I was a man! I would take the great two-handled
sword, and fight in the very front rank for our Church and our King! You
would soon see what a brave cavalier’s daughter—son I mean,” said Lucy,
getting into a puzzle, “could do.”

The more eager Lucy grew, the more unhappy Deborah was, and putting her
apron to her eyes, she said in a dismal voice, “Ah! ’tis little poor
Diggory wots of kings and cavaliers!”

What Lucy’s indignation would have led her to say next can never be
known, for at this moment in bounced a tall slim boy of thirteen, his
long curling locks streaming tangled behind him. “Hollo!” he shouted,
“what is the matter now? Dainty Deborah in the dumps? Cheer up, my
lass! I’ll warrant that doughty Diggory is discreet enough to encounter
no more bullets than he can reasonably avoid!”

This made Deborah throw down her apron and reply, with a toss of the
head, “None of your nonsense, Master Walter, unless you would have me
speak to my lady. Cry for Diggory, indeed!”

“She was really crying for him, Walter,” interposed Lucy.

“Mistress Lucy!” exclaimed Deborah, angrily, “the life I lead among you
is enough—”

“Not enough to teach you good temper,” said Walter. “Do you want a
little more?”

“I wish someone was here to teach you good manners,” answered the
tormented Deborah. “As if it was not enough for one poor girl to have
the work of ten servants on her hands, here must you be mock, mock, jeer,
jeer, worrit, worrit, all day long! I had rather be a mark for all the
musketeers in the Parliamentary army.”

This Deborah always said when she was out of temper, and it therefore
made Walter and Lucy laugh the more; but in the midst of their merriment
in came a girl of sixteen or seventeen, tall and graceful. Her head was
bare, her hair fastened in a knot behind, and in little curls round her
face; she had an open bodice of green silk, and a white dress under it,
very plain and neat; her step was quick and active, but her large dark
eyes had a grave thoughtful look, as if she was one who would naturally
have loved to sit still and think, better than to bustle about and be
busy. Eleanor ran up to her at once, complaining that Walter was teasing
Deborah shamefully. She was going to speak, but Deborah cut her short.

“No Mistress Rose, I will not have even you excuse him, I’ll go and tell
my lady how a poor faithful wench is served;” and away she flounced,
followed by Rose.

“Will she tell mamma?” asked little Charlie.

“Oh no, Rose will pacify her,” said Lucy.

“I am sure I wish she would tell,” said Eleanor, a much graver little
person than Lucy; “Walter is too bad.”

“It is only to save Diggory the trouble of taking a crabstick to her when
he returns from the wars,” said Walter. “Heigh ho!” and he threw himself
on the bench, and drummed on the table. “I wish I was there! I wonder
what is doing at Worcester this minute!”

“When will brother Edmund come?” asked Charlie for about the hundredth

“When the battle is fought, and the battle is won, and King Charles
enjoys his own again! Hurrah!” shouted Walter, jumping up, and beginning
to sing—

“For forty years our royal throne
Has been his father’s and his own.”

Lucy joined in with—

“Nor is there anyone but he
With right can there a sharer be.”

“How can you make such a noise?” said Eleanor, stopping her ears, by
which she provoked Walter to go on roaring into them, while he pulled
down her hand—

“For who better may
The right sceptre sway
Than he whose right it is to reign;
Then look for no peace,
For the war will never cease
Till the King enjoys his own again.”

As he came to the last line, Rose returning exclaimed, “Oh, hush, Lucy.
Pray don’t, Walter!”

“Ha! Rose turned Roundhead?” cried Walter. “You don’t deserve to hear
the good news from Worcester.”

“O, what?” cried the girls, eagerly.

“When it comes,” said Walter, delighted to have taken in Rose herself;
but Rose, going up to him gently, implored him to be quiet, and listen to

“All this noisy rejoicing grieves our mother,” said she. “If you could
but have seen her yesterday evening, when she heard your loyal songs.
She sighed, and said, ‘Poor fellow, how high his hopes are!’ and then she
talked of our father and that evening before the fight at Naseby.”

Walter looked grave and said, “I remember! My father lifted me on the
table to drink King Charles’s health, and Prince Rupert—I remember his
scarlet mantle and white plume—patted my head, and called me his little

“We sat apart with mother,” said Rose, “and heard the loud cheers and
songs till we were half frightened at the noise.”

“I can’t recollect all that,” said Lucy.

“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

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

“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

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 very well for Rose, but when some
really important matter came, that would be his time for distinguishing

In the meantime Charles II. had been invited to Scotland, and had brought
with him, as an attendant, Edmund Woodley, the eldest son. As soon as he
was known to have entered England, some of the loyal gentlemen of the
neighbourhood of Forest Lea went to join the King, and among their
followers went Farmer Ewins, who had fought bravely in the former war
under Edmund Mowbray, several other of the men of the village, and
lastly, Diggory Stokes, Lady Woodley’s serving man, who had lately shown
symptoms of discontent with his place, and fancied that as a soldier he
might fare better, make his fortune, and come home prosperously to marry
his sweetheart, Deborah.


WALTER ran down to the village at full speed. He first bent his steps
towards the “Half-Moon,” the little public-house, where news was sure to
be met with. As he came towards it, however, he heard the loud sound of
a man’s voice going steadily on as if with some discourse. “Some
preachment,” said he to himself: “they’ve got a thorough-going Roundhead,
I can hear his twang through his nose! Shall I go in or not?”

While he was asking himself this question, an old peasant in a round
frock came towards him.

“Hollo, Will!” shouted Walter, “what prick-eared rogue have you got

“Hush, hush, Master Walter!” said the old man, taking off his hat very
respectfully. “Best take care what you say, there be plenty of red-coats
about. There’s one of them now preaching away in marvellous pied words.
It is downright shocking to hear the Bible hollaed out after that sort,
so I came away. Don’t you go nigh him, sir, ’specially with your hat set
on in that—”

“Never mind my hat,” said Walter, impatiently, “it is no business of
yours, and I’ll wear it as I please in spite of old Noll and all his

For his forefathers’ sake, and for the love of his mother and sister, the
good village people bore with Walter’s haughtiness and discourtesy far
more than was good for him, and the old man did not show how much he was
hurt by his rough reception of his good advice. Walter was not reminded
that he ought to rise up before the hoary head, and reverence the old
man, and went on hastily, “But tell me, Will, what do you hear of the

“The battle, sir! why, they say it is lost. That’s what the fellow there
is preaching about.”

“And where was it? Did you hear? Don’t you know?”

“Don’t be so hasty, don’t ye, sir!” said the old slow-spoken man, growing
confused. “Where was it? At some town—some town, they said, but I don’t
know rightly the name of it.”

“And the King? Who was it? Not Cromwell? Had Lord Derby joined?” cried
Walter, hurrying on his questions so as to puzzle and confuse the old man
more and more, till at last he grew angry at getting no explanation, and
vowed it was no use to talk to such an old fool. At that moment a sound
as of feet and horses came along the road. “’Tis the soldiers!” said

“Ay, sir, best get out of sight.”

Walter thought so too, and, springing over a hedge, ran off into a
neighbouring wood, resolving to take a turn, and come back by the longer
way to the house, so as to avoid the road. He walked across the wood,
looking up at the ripening nuts, and now and then springing up to reach
one, telling himself all the time that it was untrue, and that the King
could not, and should not be defeated. The wood grew less thick after a
time, and ended in low brushwood, upon an open common. Just as Walter

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