Then turning again to the young noble, he poured out his love, devotion and gratitude for being able to serve his beloved lord’s noble son; while poor Hal stood under the discomfort of being surrounded with friends who knew exactly what to say and do to him, their superior, while he himself was entirely at a loss how to show himself gracious or grateful as he knew he ought to do. It was a relief when Sir Lancelot said ’Enough, good Simon! Forget his nobility for the present while he goes with thee to Derwentside as herd boy to Halbert Halstead here; only thou must forget both their names, and know them only as Hal and Hob.’
With a gesture of obedience, Simon listened to the further directions, and how he was to explain that these south country folks had been sent up in charge of an especial flock of my lady’s which she wished to have on the comparatively sheltered valley of the Derwent. Perhaps further directions as to the training of the young Baron were added later, but Hal did not hear them. He was glad to be dismissed to find Piers and gather the sheep together in preparation for the journey to their new quarters. Yet he did not fail to hear the sigh with which his stepfather noted that his parting salutation was far too much in the character of the herd boy.
When under cloud of fear he lay
A shepherd clad in homely grey.—Wordsworth.
Simon Bunce came himself to conduct his new tenants to their abode. It was a pleasant spot, a ravine, down which the clear stream rushed on its course to mingle its waters with those of the ocean. The rocks and brushwood veiled the approach to an open glade where stood a rude stone hovel, rough enough, but possessing two rooms, a hearth and a chimney, and thus superior to the hut that had been left on the moor. There were sheds for the cattle around, and the grass was fresh and green so that the sheep, the goat and the cow began eagerly feeding, as did the pony which Hal and Piers were unloading.
On one side stretched the open moor rising into the purple hills, just touched with snow. On the other was the wooded valley of the Derwent, growing wider ever before it debouched amid rocks into the sea. The goodwife at once discovered that there had been recent habitation, and asked what had become of the former dwellers there.
‘The woman fretted for company,’ said Simon, ’and vowed she was in fear of the Scots, so I even let her have her way and go down to the town.’
The town in north country parlance only meant a small village, and Hob asked where it lay.
It was near the junction of the two streams, where Simon lived himself in a slightly fortified farmhouse, just high up enough to be fairly safe from flood tides. He did not advise his newly arrived tenants to be much seen at this place, where there were people who might talk. They were almost able to provide for their daily needs themselves, excepting for meal and for ale, and he would himself see to this being supplied from a more distant farm on the coast, which Hob and Piers might visit from time to time with the pony.