The Children of the New Forest by Captain Marryat

The Children of the New Forest by Captain Marryat

Captain Frederick Marryat was an English writer well known for his adventure novels. He wrote “The Children of the New Forest”, one of the first historical books for children. The story takes us to the England of 1647. Cromwell’s soldiers have sent the King to prison and everybody who takes his side becomes their enemy. Colonel Beverley was a brave man and died fighting for the King. Now his house is burnt and his four children are in danger. Luckily, they manage to escape to the New Forest, where they live with their father’s old friend Jacob. The children have to forget about their noble origin and learn to run the household. They live a quiet but poor life and secretly dream not only to survive, but also to restore justice.

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The Children of the New Forest by Captain Marryat

One day in November 1647, Jacob Armitage hurried through the New Forest to the house of Arnwood.

‘You must leave this house immediately,’ he said to Edward Beverley. ‘Come with me to pack your things. You must come to my home and stay there.’

‘But why, Jacob?’ Edward asked the old man. ‘Why?’

‘The King has escaped from his prison at Hampton Court,’ Jacob explained. ‘He’s riding south through the forest, and Cromwell’s soldiers are searching for him. And I’ve just heard a group of soldiers in the forest – they were talking about Arnwood. They know that your father was the King’s friend, and they’re planning to burn Arnwood tonight, because they think the King is hiding here.’

The Children of the New Forest by Captain Marryat

‘Burn Arnwood! They can’t do that! It’s my house, and I’m staying here!’ Edward said angrily. He was fourteen years old, the oldest of the four Beverley children.

The Beverley children lived alone at Arnwood, with an old woman who did the cooking and all the work of the house. Their father, Colonel Beverley, was killed while fighting for King Charles I at Naseby in 1645. Before he left home, he asked Jacob, a poor forester who lived near Arnwood, to look after his family. Jacob knew the family well and was happy to do this. And when the children’s mother died a few months later, Jacob came every day to visit the children and to help them.

‘My dear boy,’ Jacob said, ‘remember your sisters and brother. The soldiers will shoot them, or burn them in the house. No, no, you must all come with me.’

In the end, Edward agreed. He and his brother Humphrey, who was twelve, packed their things. Then they put them on Jacob’s horse, White Billy, who was waiting outside.

Jacob told Alice, who was eleven, and Edith, who was eight, that they were going to visit his home in the forest. He did not tell them about the soldiers.

‘Edward, here is my key,’ said Jacob quietly. ‘Lock the door of the house, and take my gun from the wall. Don’t leave your brother and sisters. I’ll help the cook to pack her things, and then I’ll follow you…

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