Narration by Mariel.
(Note: In the previous chapter we learned that the Levellers were planning to burn down the mansion of Arnwood, as the children's father had been a Malignant and the Levellers suspected that Charles I was hiding there. --M.A.)
Nine people lived in the mansion of Arnwood. Three maids: Agatha, the housemaid, the cook and Martha, and then one male servant, Benjamin. Then there was the old lady, Miss Judith Villiers, who was a distant relative of the children. Oh, the children. You must know who the children are. There were four of them, two girls and two boys: the eldest boy, Edward, and then Humphrey, and then Alice and Edith. I need not give you their ages, but know that Edward was the oldest and Edith was the youngest. Jacob was an old man who acted like a servant and a bodyguard for the children, since none of the maids and Benjamin had time for them. Jacob didn’t live with them, he lived in the forest, and acted like a gardener.
Miss Judith Villiers always sat in a high backed chair with her feet on stools all day, and didn’t care for the children, even though she was supposed to be their guardian. She had them sent to her once a day for a short time and then they went away.
Edward was very mad when he heard that his mansion was going to be burnt down because since his father had died, the mansion belonged to him, and he wanted to stay with his aunt, who was demanding to stay. Nothing could be done to change her mind. Agatha had stayed at the door and heard the conversation that the mansion was going to be burned down that night. She ran down and told the cook and Martha, and said, “I’m not staying here to be burned to death. Benjamin,” who was in the kitchen with them, “saddle the horse and go to Lymington, said Agatha.
“Wait for me,” said Martha. “I’m not staying here to be burned to death either. I’ll be only a second getting my things together.”
Just as Jacob came down, the cook was saying, “Well, I’m not going to stay here to be burned to death, either.” And he had finally persuaded Miss Judith to let the children come to his cottage, because they would not be safe there at the mansion. He told Edward about it, and he was very vexed, but Jacob didn’t tell the girls and Humphrey, because they were too young to understand what was about to happen. When Jacob told them that they were going to spend the night in his cottage, they were delighted at the idea, and Edward went up and packed all of his sisters’ and Humphrey’s and his things. Then the time for the journey to the cottage began. Jacob didn’t go with him because he was still trying to persuade Miss Judith to come with him to his cottage, and she still said no, she would not be moved. “I will not be moved from my seat!” she said. “Now leave!” And then Agatha, who had successfully persuaded Miss Villiers to receive Jacob and Jacob in return had promised to carry the cook’s and Agatha’s things to Gossip Allwood, because Martha had gone with Benjamin to Lymington. When they got to Gossip Allwood’s, the troopers were there. They started joking around with the women, and especially Agatha because she was very pretty. Then Jacob suddenly recognized one. Southwold! Southwold recognized him, and came over to him and started asking him questions, and Jacob said, “I know you’re going to burn Arnwood tonight.”
Southwold said, “Yes. Who is there?”
Jacob said, “The children and the maids,” and he was about to say, “And Miss Judith Villiers,” but he knew that she would be saved if he didn’t tell Southwold that he knew where she was, and so he lowered his voice and said, “If you meet an old lady, put her on the back of your horse and carry her to Lymington,” and Southwold squeezed his hand in agreement.
And then on the way home from Gossip Allwood, he saw Arnwood was being surrounded, and then something rushed past him. It was Southwold on his horse! And Miss Judith Villiers, tied on behind, kicking and screaming as much as she could! She must have been a comical sight.
And then he saw everyone getting torches and then a pillar of smoke rose up, and then the flames came, and the place was burned. Soon he reached the house. He knocked and then his dog, Smokey, growled at him until Smokey realized who he was. When the door was opened, Edward greeted him and said, “The girls are fast asleep, and Humphrey has been nodding his head all this past half hour.” Then Jacob motioned to Edward to come outside. They came outside and Edward saw his house burning, and revenge was planted deep in his heart. He was scared also, because his aunt was in there. “My aunt!” he faltered.
“…is safe,” finished Jacob.