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Edward Of Lancaster, The Boy Whose Life A Robber Saved
by [?]

A terrible scene might have been witnessed near the small town of Hexham, in Northumberland, one May afternoon in the year 1464. A great battle had just been fought and won. Civil war, with all its hideous accompaniments, had laid desolate those fair fields where once cattle were wont to browse and peasants to follow their peaceful toil. But now all was confusion and tumult. On the ground in heaps lay men and horses, dead and dying–the vanquished were crying for mercy, the victors were shouting for vengeance. The country for miles round was alive with fugitives and their pursuers. Women, children, and old men, as well as soldiers, joined in that panic flight; and shrieks, and shouts, and groans told only too plainly of the slaughter and terror of the pursuit. To slaughter the victors added robbery and outrage. Far and wide they scoured the country in quest of victims and booty; houses were burned, villages were desolated, fields were laid bare, nor till night mercifully fell over the land did that scene of terror end. War is indeed a terrible scourge, and civil war the most terrible of all.

But while many of those who pursued did so in a blind thirst after plunder and blood, there were others more determined in their going, whose object was rather to capture than to slay, who passed without heeding the common fugitives, and gave chase only to such parties as seemed to be covering the flight of persons of distinction from the scene of their disaster. Of such parties one was known to contain the King of England, nobles, and officers, whom the victors desired to make captive and get into their power; while it was also rumoured that the Queen herself, with her youthful son, was among the fugitives. The soldiers of the Duke of York would indeed have been elated, had they succeeded in getting into their power the king and his son, whose throne they had seized for their own leader, and so they followed hard after the flying host in all directions.

That same evening, as the sun was sinking, and the distant sounds of battle were growing faint in the air, a tall, stately woman, leading by the hand a boy of scarcely six years, walked hastily in the direction of a wood which skirted the banks of the River Tyne. It was evident from her dress and the jewels she wore that she was a lady of no ordinary importance, and a certain imperious look in her worn face seemed to suggest that she was one of those more used to ruling than obeying, to receiving honour rather than rendering it. The boy who accompanied her was also richly dressed, and reflected in his handsome face the proud nature of his mother, as this lady seemed to be. Just at present, however, his expression was one of terror. He clung eagerly to the hand of his protectress, and once and again cast a frightened look behind, as if expecting to get sight of the pursuers, from whose clutches they were even now seeking shelter.

“Mother,” said the lad, as they entered the wood, and for the first time abated somewhat of their hurried progress, “I am weary and hungry. May we not rest here awhile and eat something?”

“My child,” said the lady, “there is naught here to eat, and we must go farther ere we are safe from our cruel foes.”

So they went on, deep into the gloomy shade of the wood, till they were far beyond the sight of the outer world, and where the rays of the setting sun scarce gave the feeblest light.

“Mother,” said the boy presently, “this is an awful place; we shall die here.”