Crown and Sceptre - A West Country Story
191 Pages
English
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Crown and Sceptre - A West Country Story

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191 Pages
English

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Published 08 December 2010
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Language English

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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Crown and Sceptre, by George Manville Fenn This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Crown and Sceptre A West Country Story Author: George Manville Fenn Illustrator: J. Nash Release Date: November 6, 2007 [EBook #23382] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK CROWN AND SCEPTRE *** Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England George Manville Fenn "Crown and Sceptre" Chapter One. In the West Countree. “Derry down, derry down, derry down!” A cheery voice rolling out the chorus of an old west-country ditty. Then there was a run of a few yards, a sudden stoppage, and a round, red missile was thrown with considerable force after a blackcock, which rose on whirring wings from among the heather, his violet-black plumage glistening in the autumn sun, as he skimmed over the moor, and disappeared down the side of a hollow coombe. “Missed him,” said the thrower, thrusting his hand into his pocket, and bringing out a similar object to that which he had used as a missile, but putting it to a far different purpose; for he raised it to his mouth, drew back his red lips, and with one sharp crunch drove two rows of white teeth through the ruddy skin, cut out a great circular piece of apple, spat it out, and threw the rest away. “What a sour one!” he cried, as he dived after another, which proved to be more satisfactory, for he went on munching, as he made his short cut over the moor towards where, in a sheltered hollow, a stone building peeped from a grove of huge oaks. The sun shone brightly as, with elastic tread, the singer, a lad of about sixteen, walked swiftly over the elevated moorland, now descending into a hollow, now climbing a stiff slope, at whose top he could look over the sea, which spread away to north and west, one dazzling plain of damasked silver, dotted with red-sailed boats. Then down another slope facing the south, where for a moment the boy paused to deliver a sharp kick at something on the short fine grass. “Ah, would you!” he exclaimed, following up the kick by a jump which landed him upon a little writhing object, which repeated its first attack, striking with lightning rapidity at the lad’s boot, before lying crushed and helpless, never to bask in the bright sun again. “Serve you right, you nasty poisonous little beast!” cried the boy, crushing his assailant’s head beneath his heel. “You got the worst of it. Think the moor belonged to you? Lucky I had on my boots.” He dropped upon the ground, drew off a deer-skin boot, and, with his good-looking, fair boyish face all in wrinkles, proceeded to examine the toe, removing therefrom a couple of tiny points with his knife. “What sharp teeth adders have!” he muttered. “Not long enough to go through.” The next minute he had drawn on his boot, and set off at a trot, which took him down to the bottom of the slope, and half up the other side of the coombe, at whose bottom he had had to leap a tiny stream. Then, walking slowly, he climbed the steeper slope; and there was a double astonishment for a moment, the boy staring hard at a noble-looking stag, the avant-guard of a little herd of red deer, which was grazing in the hollow below. The boy came so suddenly upon the stag, that the great fellow stood at gaze, his branching antlers spreading wide. Then there was a rush, and the little herd was off at full speed, bucks, does, and fawns, seeming almost to fly, till they disappeared over a ridge. “That’s the way!” said the lad. “Now, if Scar and I had been out with our bows, we might have walked all day and never seen a horn.” As the lad trudged on, munching apples and breaking out from time to time into scraps of song, the surroundings of his walk changed, for he passed over a rough stone wall, provided with projections to act as a stile, and left the moorland behind, to enter upon a lovely park-like expanse, dotted with grand oaks and firs, among which he had not journeyed long before, surrounded on three sides by trees, he came in full sight of the fine-looking, ruddy stone hall, glimpses of which he had before seen, while its windows and a wide-spreading lake in front flashed in the bright sunshine. “Whoa hoo! whoa hoo! Drop it! Hoi!” shouted the boy; but the object addressed, a great grey heron, paid no heed, but went flapping slowly away on its widespread wings, its long legs stretched straight out behind to act as balance, and a small eel writhing and twisting itself into knots as it strove in vain to escape from the scissor-like bill. “That’s where the eels go,” muttered the boy, as he hurried on, descending till he reached the shores of the lake, and then skirting it, with eyes searching its sunlit depths, to see here some golden-bronze pike half-hidden among lily leaves, shoals of roach flashing their silver sides in the shallows, and among the denser growth of weeds broad-backed carp basking in the hot sunshine, and at times lazily rolling over to display their golden sides. “Oh yes, you’re big and old enough, but you don’t half bite. I’d rather have a day at our moat any time than here, proud as old Scar is of his big pond.” As the lad reached the head of the lake, where the brown, clear waters of a rocky stream drained into it from the moor above, he caught sight of a few small trout, and, after crossing a little rough stone bridge, startled a couple of moor-hens, who in turn roused up some bald coots, the whole party fluttering away with drooping legs towards the other end of the lake. Here they swam about, twitching their tails, and dividing their time between watching the now distant intruder and keeping a sharp look-out for the great pike, which at times sought a change of diet from constant fish, and swallowed moor-hen or duckling, or even, preferring fourfooted meat to fowl, seized upon some unfortunate rat. “Hi, Nat!” shouted the boy, as he neared the grassy terrace in front of the hall, and caught sight of