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Main > English folktales > Fairy tale "The Children in the Wood"

The Children in the Wood

Now ponder well, you parents dear,

These words which I shall write;

A doleful story you shall hear,

In time brought forth to light.

A gentleman of good account,

In Norfolk dwelt of late,

Who did in honour far surmount

Most men of his estate.

Sore sick he was and like to die,

No help his life could save;

His wife by him as sick did lie,

And both possest one grave.

No love between these two was lost,

Each was to other kind;

In love they lived, in love they died,

And left two babes behind.

The one a fine and pretty boy

Not passing three years old,

The other a girl more young than he,

And framed in beauty's mould.

The father left his little son,

As plainly did appear,

When he to perfect age should come,

Three hundred pounds a year;

And to his little daughter Jane

Five hundred pounds in gold,

To be paid down on marriage-day,

Which might not be controlled.

But if the children chanced to die

Ere they to age should come,

Their uncle should possess their wealth;

For so the will did run.

"Now, brother," said the dying man,

"Look to my children dear;

Be good unto my boy and girl,

No friends else have they here;

To God and you I recommend

My children dear this day;

But little while be sure we have

Within this world to stay.

"You must be father and mother both,

And uncle, all in one;

God knows what will become of them

When I am dead and gone."

With that bespake their mother dear:

"O brother kind," quoth she,

"You are the man must bring our babes

To wealth or misery.

"And if you keep them carefully,

Then God will you reward;

But if you otherwise should deal,

God will your deeds regard."

With lips as cold as any stone,

They kissed their children small:

"God bless you both, my children dear!"

With that the tears did fall.

These speeches then their brother spake

To this sick couple there:

"The keeping of your little ones,

Sweet sister, do not fear;

God never prosper me nor mine,

Nor aught else that I have,

If I do wrong your children dear

When you are laid in grave!"

The parents being dead and gone,

The children home he takes,

And brings them straight unto his house

Where much of them he makes.

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