Child Christopher - Chapter 2
II. OF THE KING'S SON
As for the King's son, to whom the folk had of late done homage as king, he was at first seen about a corner of the High House with his nurses; and then in a while it was said, and the tale noted, but not much, that he must needs go for his health's sake, and because he was puny, to some stead amongst the fields, and folk heard say that he was gone to the strong house of a knight somewhat stricken in years, who was called Lord Richard the Lean. The said house was some twelve miles from Oakenham, not far from the northern edge of the wild-wood. But in a while, scarce more than a year, Lord Richard brake up house at the said castle, and went southward through the forest. Of this departure was little said, for he was not a man amongst the foremost. As for the King's little son, if any remembered that he was in the hands of the said Lord Richard, none said aught about it; for if any thought of the little babe at all, they said to themselves, Never will he come to be king.
Now as for Lord Richard the Lean, he went far through the wood, and until he was come to another house of his, that stood in a clearing somewhat near to where Oakenrealm marched on another country, which hight Meadham; though the said wild-wood ended not where Oakenrealm ended, but stretched a good way into Meadham; and betwixt one and the other much rough country there was.
It is to be said that amongst those who went to this stronghold of the woods was the little King Christopher, no longer puny, but a stout babe enough: so he was borne amongst the serving men and thralls to the castle of the Outer March; and he was in no wise treated as a great man's son; but there was more than one woman who was kind to him, and as he waxed in strength and beauty month by month, both carle and quean fell to noting him, and, for as little as he was, he began to be well-beloved.
As to the stead where he was nourished, though it were far away amongst the woods, it was no such lonely or savage place: besides the castle and the houses of it, there was a merry thorpe in the clearing, the houses whereof were set down by the side of a clear and pleasant little stream. Moreover the goodmen and swains of the said township were no ill folk, but bold of heart, free of speech, and goodly of favour; and the women of them fair, kind, and trusty. Whiles came folk journeying in to Oakenrealm or out to Meadham, and of these some were minstrels, who had with them tidings of what was astir whereas folk were thicker in the world, and some chapmen, who chaffered with the thorpe-dwellers, and took of them the woodland spoil for such outland goods as those woodmen needed.
So wore the years, and in Oakenham King Christopher was well nigh forgotten, and in the wild-wood had never been known clearly for King's son. At first, by command of Rolf the Marshal, a messenger came every year from Lord Richard with a letter that told of how the lad Christopher did. But when five years were worn, the Marshal bade send him tidings thereof every three years; and by then it was come to the twelfth year, and still the tidings were that the lad throve ever, and meanwhile the Marshal sat fast in his seat with none to gainsay, the word went to Lord Richard that he should send no more, for that he, the Marshal, had heard enough of the boy; and if he throve it were well, and if not, it was no worse. So wore the days and the years.