In the Wars of the Roses by Evelyn Everett-Green


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Page 1

"O mother, I know. Ralph and Godfrey have been practising
themselves this many a day in tilting and wrestling, and in the use
of the longbow and quarterstaff, that they may hold their own in
the sports on the green before the palace, which they say the king
will deign to watch.

"O mother; why am I not as old and as strong as they? I asked Ralph
to let me shoot with his bow; but he only laughed at me, and bade
me wait till I was as tall and as strong as he. It is very hard to
be the youngest--and so much the youngest, too."

The mother smiled as she passed her hand over the floating curls of
the gallant boy beside her; He was indeed a child of whom any
mother might be proud: beautiful, straight-limbed, active, and
fearless, his blue eyes glowing and shining, his cheek flushed with
excitement, every look and gesture seeming to speak of the bold
soldier spirit that burned within.

And these were times when it appeared indeed as if England's sons
had need of all the warlike instincts of their race. Party faction
had well-nigh overthrown ere this the throne--and the authority of
the meek King Henry, albeit the haughty Duke of York had set forth
no claim for the crown, which his son but two short years later
both claimed and won. But strife and jealousy and evil purposes
were at work in men's minds. The lust of power and of supremacy had
begun to pave the way for the civil war which was soon to devastate
the land. The sword had already been drawn at St. Albans, and the
hearts of many men were full of foreboding as they thought upon the
perilous times in which they lived; though others were ready to
welcome the strife which promised plunder and glory and fame to
those who should distinguish themselves by prowess in field or
counsel in the closet.

The gentle Lady Stukely, however, was not one of these. Her heart
sank sometimes when she heard the talk of her bold husband and
warlike sons. They had all three of them fought for the king at the
first battle, or rather skirmish, at St. Albans four years before,
and were ardent followers and adherents of the Red Rose of
Lancaster. Her husband had received knighthood at the monarch's
hands on the eve of the battle, and was prepared to lay down his
life in the cause if it should become necessary to do so.

But if rumours of strife to come, and terrible pictures of
bloodshed, sometimes made her gentle spirit quail, she had always
one consolation in the thought that her youngest child, her little
Paul, would not be torn from her side to follow the bloody trail of
war. Her two first-born sons, the younger of whom was twenty-two,
had long been very finished young gallants, trained to every
military enterprise, and eager to unsheathe their swords whenever
rumour told of slight to King Henry or his haughty queen from the
proud Protector, who for a time had held the reins of government,
though exercising his powers in the name of the afflicted king.

But Paul was still a child, not yet quite eight years old; and of
the five fair children born to her between him and his brothers,
not one had lived to complete his or her third year, so that the
mother's heart twined itself the more firmly about this last brave
boy, and in the frequent absences of husband and sons upon matters
of business or pleasure, the companionship between the pair was
almost unbroken, and they loved each other with a devotion that may
easily be understood. Paul felt no awe of his gentle mother, but
rather looked upon himself as her champion and defender in his
father's absence. It was no new thing for him to long for manhood
and its privileges; for would not these make him all the stouter
protector to his mother?

But she was wont when he spoke such words to check him by gentle
counsel and motherly sympathy, and now she took his hand in hers
and patted it smilingly as she replied:

"Ah, my little Paul, time flies fast, and you will be a man before
very long now; but be content for these next days to be yet a
child. Perchance the little prince will pay more heed to such as
are of his age.

"You may chance to win a smile from him, even if the nobles and
gentlemen regard not children."

Paul's face brightened instantly.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Fri 5th Jun 2020, 22:41