Two children in the wood

These sad fragments are from a 17th century account of the murder of two children. Their parents having died, the children are given over to the custody of their uncle, Mr Truelove, who hires two thugs to dispatch the children so he can claim their fortune.  Only one of the thugs survives, and he is subsequently executed for his crime.

The Ruffians, having got the Babes in their Possession, and the Reward that Truelove promised them, rid some Miles towards London, the little prating Travellers (who now, poor Innocents! were travelling to their long Home) entertaining their Murtherers with such pritty innocent Discourses, as would even have mollified a Heart of Stone, and softened the Breasts of Tygres, but these were far more hard and savage.  At last they came to a great Wood, by which there was a narrow Lane turned out of the Road, into which they went, and there alighting, took the poor Children down, and went into the Wood together, the Children talking to them all the while; which made the milder Villain of the two persuade the other to save their Lives, since they had had already their Reward; and that ’twas best to carry them and leave them near some unfrequented Village were somebody might see them and take them in.  But this the other Relentless Rogue refused; alleging Truelove had paid them largely, and therefore upon Honour they were bound to perform their Word (See what mistaken Notions some Men have of Honour; when nothing can be Honourable, but what is honest, just, and virtuous.)

But in this Contest the Quarrel grew so high, that they from Words fell to their Swords, and he that was for killing of the Children, was first killed himself; whilst the poor Babes stood crying by, frighted to see them quarrel.  The surviving Villain, after the other’s Death, came to the Children, and bid them leave their crying, and go along with him, and he would have them where they should have some Victuals.  And after he had led them about two Miles farther in the Wood, he bid them sit down upon the Grass, and he would bring them presently some Sugar-plumes, and Bread and Butter, with which, the Children being pleased sat down, expecting it accordingly.

And there he left these harmless Babes to perish; as surely (though not so kindly) killing them, as if he had cut their Throats. Tired with their Journey, and their Expectation of the Man’s Return, as it grew dark they fell a crying, which they continued so long till they fell asleep; and waking in the Morning, they got up, and sought to get out of the Wood. Which when they could not do, they searched for Food, and found some Black-berries, and some few wild Apples, which not sustaining Nature, they soon dyed with Hunger; and although they had none to bury them, the kinder Robin-red-breast buried them with Leaves.
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