A gentleman of good account
Whose wealth and riches did surmount
In Norfolk dwelt of late,
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 were near the grave.
No love between these two was lost:
Each to the other kind;
In love they lived, in love they died,
And left two babes behind.
Now if the children chanced to die,
Their uncle should possess their wealth:
Ere they to age should come,
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 friend else have they here.”
Their parents being dead and gone,
The children home he takes,
And brings them both unto his house,
Where much of them he makes.
He had not kept these pretty babes
When, for their wealth, he did devise
A twelvemonth and a day,
To make them both away.
He bargain’d with two ruffians bold,
That they should take the children twain,
Who were of savage mood,
And slay them in a wood.
They prate and prattle pleasantly
While riding on the way,
To those their wicked uncle hired,
These lovely babes to slay:
So that the pretty speech they had,
Made the ruffians’ heart relent;
And they that took the deed to do,
Full sorely did repent.
Yet one of them, more hard of heart,
Because the wretch that hired him
Did vow to do his charge,
Had paid him very large.
The other would not agree thereto,
So here they fell at strife;
With one another they did fight,
About the children’s life:
And he that was of milder mood,
Did slay the other there,
Within an unfrequented wood;
The babes did quake for fear!
He took the children by the hand,
While they for bread complain:
“Stay here,” said he, “I’ll bring ye bread,
When I do come again.”
These pretty babes, with hand in hand,
Went wandering up and down;
But never more they saw the man,
Approaching from the town:
Thus wander’d these two pretty dears,
Till death did end their grief;
In one another’s arms they died,
Poor babes, past all relief:
No burial these innocents
Of any man receives,
But robin red-breast lovingly
Did cover them with leaves.
The fellow that did take in hand
These children for to kill,
Was for a robbery judged to die,
As was God’s blessed will:
And did confess the very truth,
The which is here express’d;
Their uncle died while he for debt
Did long in prison rest.
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