It is well-known that there are several pages missing from Samuel Pepys’ famous diary: pages, moreover, that he himself seems to have removed before the various volumes were bound under his direction. Two years ago, the following excerpt was found at Christ’s College Library inside a bible that was known to have been owned by Pepys. By a happy coincidence, the discoverer of the pages is Mr. John Rawlinson, a fellow of Cambridge College and a collateral descendant of the Rawlinson mentioned in this excerpt.
Two years have been taken up by exhaustive tests by paper experts, specialists in Pepys’ handwriting and in the shorthand code Pepys used for his diary. After all this, the pages have been pronounced genuine!
Because St. Cuthbert’s Church, Bedlington, has undergone extensive renovation since the time of Samuel Pepys, no trace of the carving mentioned has survived. There are no known tellings of the story in records of local folklore.
As to the subject matter, it is extremely curious. Pepys, while certainly a collector of anecdotes, some of which were spurious, was never known to be either gullible or to have written any fiction. And these facts lead us to the obvious question: Why were the pages removed? Perhaps we will never know, but a reasonable surmise is that publication of this material might have held Pepys open to a charge of falling for a well-told tale. However, the second portion of the manuscript, dealing with Pepys’s own excursion to Bedlington, is even more remarkable.
There are, incidentally, in all the records of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, no records of a family named either Rawlinson or Kent or of a group of Lollard families.
We, the Fellows of Cambridge University, are publishing these missing pages for the first time, and have taken the liberty of naming them the Pepys-Rawlinson Fragment.
29th. In the morning to Westminster-hall to see to some business for my Lord. Afterwards to the house of Wm. Joyce for some coffee, this drink being newly popular in London. It was most excellent and refreshing. Back again to White-hall. At noon my father dined with me upon a good capon with beans and bacon. Afterwards I to Mrs. Alders. She being gone from the house, her maid Miss Clayon and I had a very nice bout, wherein I rattled her up somewhat in her bed. And so home to my own bed.
30th. Up by seven o’clock, and so to work. But before I went out, calling, as I have of late done, for my new boy’s copybook, I found that he had not done his work. So I beat him, and then went to fetch my tarred starting rope to beat him further. This article I learned to use for punishments from visits to Navy vessels. But before I got it the boy was fled. I searched the cellars with a lantern. Could not find him. So by water to the Temple, to my cozen Roger; who, I perceive, is a deadly high man in the Parliament against the Court. He shewed me how they have computed that the King hath spended, or at least hath received, about four millions of money since he came in. This is most shocking.
This evening dined at The Crab with a gentleman, a Mr. Coombs, who has business with the Admiralty. Along came his daughter, a perfectly pretty, but quite short and somewhat stout, young lady that lately came up out of the country, particularly Berks. So all by coach to my house, where I found my wife, and we all drank, and then they went away. After, with my wife, to the King’s house to see “The Queene at Rest,” a new play of Mr. Codgehill, a new playwright. This is a comedy with a goodly part done by that pretty, witty Nel Gwyn. I have never seen such good performing. The Queen and Duchess of York were at the play and seemed to enjoy it with some degree of pleasure. Then we home, and to bed.
31st. Up betimes and at the office all that day, with scarcely a moment to dine. My work being done, that it can ever be done, I walked in the garden of White-h with Captn. Shrewton, where he began to tell me a strange story, which he got on a recent trip to Newcastle. Then there comes into the garden to me Mr. Sleak, that I once knew at Cambridge, and I took him in. Over at the Cheshire Cheese, I called for a surloyne of rost beefe, which we had for dinner. I must note that the Cheese, rebuilt since the Restoration and the Fire, has service as fine as in earlier years. Then we three to the Dolphin, and therewith a quart or two of sacke. Then Captn. Shrewton began us this discourse, which did please us much.
Dining one eve at the Nevyll Inne in Newcastle, a year ago, the Captn. met a prosperous farmer and Justice of the Peace, a Mr. Pepper, who was down in town to deliver a load of hay for the victualling y’rds. And after a shared bottle of Sack, Mr. Pepper told this amazing story, scarce to be believed, but well-known in the country ‘round Bedlington, where Mr. Pepper hailed from. Mr. Pepper said these happenings ran their course during the time of his great-grandfather, who delighted in telling this story to whomever would have their ear bent.
According to Mr. Pepper, some eighty years or so before, during the reign of Her Majesty Elizabeth I, a great stone fell from the sky on a farm owned by a Mr. Bowey. The landing of the stone was accompanied by loud claps of thunder and a shaking of the earth around Bedlington. (An account of this stone falling, so says Mr. Pepper, was at one time in the Parish Record for Bedlington.) And when Mr. Bowey and one of his sonnes came out to the fields, they found a great pit in the earth several yards deep. And in the pit was a great hot stone, the size of two large ale butts.
At this time, it being late, after some more ale, and promises to meet next eve to continue this tale, went we home. My wife being still up, I played for her on my flageolette. She did sing finely. And thence to bed.
1st. Early to wait on my Lord. A day of much urgency. The Commissioners of Parliament met this day to make policy over the Fleet. There is some fear of the power of the seamen, who are highly incensed against them because of past wages due. By and by comes in my Lord. We went by water to the Tower. There we dined on a good chine of beef. And he and I did talke of many things in the Navy, one from another, in general, to see how many great things are committed to very ordinary men, as to parts and experience, to do. This doth not please us.
In the evening, to The Dolphin with much anticipation, to hear the story of the events at Bedlington from Mr. Pepper per Captn. Shrewton. We first had a peck of oysters, and then cuts from the tender part of a baron of Scots beef. And after some ale, the Captn. began, to our delight.
So after approaching the pit, Mr. Bowey and his sonne poked the great stone with shovels, and they were amazed. The stone easily broke apart into two halves. And even more dramatick there was within an object very like a brass church bell, but rounded on both ends, like what is called in geometrie a rounded cylinder. This was a thing of beauty and delight. But so hot that Mr. Rawlinson and his sonne could not touch it.
Mr. Bowey spread word by his sonne, and the next day came many townsfolk to stare at the thing. It was agreed by the local folk, by the suggestion of Rev. Rawlinson, the Vicar of St. Cuthbert’s in Bedlington, that it should be took over to the churchyard. So, as the stone and the cylinder had cool’d, some local miners made a rigging. The two halves of the stone still warm to the touch was raised. They was placed on a dray, along with the cylinder, and pulled by four mighty horses to the yard. There the parts of the stone and the cylinder lay until nearly the whole parish was gathered to see this wonder. Even the Bishop came rushing over from Newcastle to see it. And there was talk of perhaps bringing the things, by stages, to London, perhaps by barge.
I remarked that should this have happened in our day, the Royal Society, which I have recently had the honour of being elected to, would have sought this thing out. But the Society had not yet been born at the time.
We then spoke briefly of some of the newest revelations from the Royal Society. Including Robert Hooke’s Book of the Microscope. None of which seemed pertinent to the business of Mr. Rawlinson’s cylinder. I proposed a toast to the Royal Society. Whereupon Captn. Shrewton continued Mr. Pepper’s tale.
With the arrival of the Bishop, whose name Mr. Pepper could not recall, the news of the stones and the cylinder was spread even wider. The Bishop sprinkled the cylinder with holy water, and then departed. That evening, the Parish Council decided to employ several miners to break open the cylinder. The effort to begin the next day.
All the next morning, three miners from one of the collieries bashed at the cylinder, that was hanging from a set of blocks. Suddenly, there came a great cracking sound. The watching crowd gave a great exclamation as the cylinder broke open. Mr. Rawlinson led the townspeople in a rousing cheer. Looking inside the lower part of the cylinder, the miners saw a strange box. One of them reached in and brought it out. He having no difficulty lifting it. The box was a gleaming black. And it measured about a yard by eighteen inch, by eighteen inch.
Having listened to this tale, herein shortened considerably, for several hours, and having enlivened ourselves with some good porter, I suddenly began to feel sleepy. And so I gave my excuses to the company and invited them to meet on to-morrow at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese at Fleet Street. Then Captn. Shrewton and I walked into the City. We parted, he to go to the inne where he is lodging, and I home to Seething Lane and to bed.
2nd. Early with a Mr. Heatherton about Sir Wm. Penn’s concerns in reference to Fleet victualing. The details are many and will involve much time. Dined with Mr. H at Mr. Crew’s, on my favourite venison pasty. After dinner I went to the Cheese, where I found Captn. Shrewton and Mr. Sleak waiting for me, they having supped. The Cheese held but few people, which I thought strange, wondering if there was some event that night at Court.
And so, after a glass or two of a good sack, Captn. S continued the story of the events at Bedlington. So, said Captn. Shrewton, whose Christian name is Wm., like my Lord, the miners shewed the box, which was of black metal, to the Vicar, Mr. Rawlinson. The box seemed all of one piece. And no way was there to open it. One of the miners suggested that he try to breake open the box with his sledgehammer, but this was objected to by Mr. Bowey. He asserted that the box, being found on his land, was his property. Some words were said about this and some small monies were exchanged. A message was sent out, instead, to reach a certain Thom Woodcoke, from a nearby hamlet, which was a smithe of great skill. It took near an hour to fetch this Woodcoke with his tooles, who came only on a promise of a good payment.
Woodcoke used his smallest hammer and chisel to tap about, just below the rim of the box. And, suddenly, with the tiniest hissing sound, a split appeared, and it became apparent that the box had a lid. Gingerly, Woodcoke lifted the lid, and a great wonder was seen by those standing around him. Inside the box was a Babe! An ordinary Babe, naked, but wrapped in blankets. It appeared to be asleep, but after a moment the Child opened its eyes and gave out a lusty cry.
Mrs. Rawlinson, she the Vicar’s wife, took up the little one in its blanket and cooed and cuddled it. Whereupon, the Child reached up and poked at the good woman’s nose and broke it! This causing a flow of blood onto her face Mrs. Rawlinson shrieked, and her husband took the Child from her. He held it at arm’s length and shook it angrily.
The Babe gave another cry and shrugged the Vicar’s hands away with a strong shake of its shoulders. This caused Mr. Rawlinson to let go. But instead of falling to the ground and hurting itself, the Child, wonder of wonders, floated in the middle of the air. It slowly rotated itself around, and flew into the air: first up perhaps thirty feet. And then it flew away to the steps of the church ab’t one hundred feet away.
The Vicar and his wife, followed by the parishioners, ran over to where the Babe had come down. Mrs. Rawlinson, goodwife if there ever be such, lifted it up again. The Babe then began first to cry and then to coo. She wrapped it up again in its blanket and held it against her breast. And declared that she would raise the Child as her own. At the time, all could see that around the Babe’s neck on a wire was a large and intricate amulet, covering almost half its chest.
There is a carving on the church wall that shows the Child leaping into the air, but some say this is an old carving of an angel in flight. Some say it is a demon.
Afterwards, the great rock was pounded up by the miners and the residuum dumped in a pit. The cylinder was brought into the church, but it was melted down for cannon during the Civil War. And the box and robes of the Babe were kept for many years in St. Cuthbert’s. Until one night thieves broke in the Church and stole the box along with a pair of silver candlesticks. (These were candlesticks that the Vicar, not Mr. Rawlinson but one of his successors, had saved from looting by some troopers calling themselves Soldiers of His Majesty but ‘twere mere looters.) The thieves had also started a fire to burn down the Church. But it had been put out. But not before the Parish Record and many old documents of the Parish and the Church had been consumed as well as the vestry.
“And that’s the end of this tale,” said Mr. Captn. Shrewton loudly. He had become red in his face with the ale he had drunk. Mr. Sleak and I questioned him closely about this marvelous event. What color was the great stone? How heavy the cylinder, &c. But the Captn. recalled to us that this was a story he had got from Mr. Pepper, who had got it from his grandsire, who had got it from his father. Who it was by no means clear had been a witness. And anyway it was a tale of Mr. Rawlinson and his wife, not of Mr. Pepper’s family. I thought this remark to be a naif one. And one which, with the missing rock, and the cylinder, and the Parish Record also missing, cast a pale light on the tale. This might have been a fanciful story gotten up to explain the carving on the church like many monsters on our old cathedrals from which many olde tales have arisen.
So home by carriage, and I with my head full of thoughts of Mr. Rawlinson’s great stone, and the cylinder, the box and the Babe. I ate a bit of bread and cheese. And so to bed.
3rd. Up early but then lay pretty long in bed gaining pleasure with my wife, and then to Westminster, where the Commons is sitting. Here I met with various mediocre folk, who did give me petitions for preferment. Thence to ye Cheshire Cheese, but I found myself not willing to speak to any of my friends there. Having Capn. Shrewton’s tale much on my mind. Then to finish my letter for Sir W. Batten, himself Surveyor of the Navy, on errors in the methode of procurement of stores for the Navy and rumors of peculation.
It being three o’clock ere I had done, when I come to Sir W. Batten, he was already in a huffe, which I made light of. To my distress, he found displeasure with my letter. But he signed it, though he would not go to my Lord Chancellor’s. So I, myself, presented it to My Lord’s Secretary. The rest of the day, at White Hall, I hoped to hear further news about the letter, but nothing, and then home to supper, and they we sat together very lovingly, and then we to bed. Even so, I was much disturbed in my sleepe.
4th. Up early and by carriage to White Hall, and there I worked again my letter criticizing the whole business of Navie procurement. That eve, I came to Sir W. Batten to further discuss the letter, though he now liked the letter well. I down to the Tower Wharf, and there got a sculler, and to White Hall, and so I delivered it to Sir W. Coventry, in the cabinet, where I leave it to its fortune. And I by water home again, and to my chamber, to even my Journall. And then comes Captain Cocke to me, and he and I drink a measure of sack and have a great deal of melancholy discourse of the times, giving all over for gone, though now the Parliament will soon finish the Navy Bill for money. He being gone, I again to my Journall and finished it, and so to supper and to bed.
4th. Up and to the W-Hall and amazed to discover preparation of a coach and four to be put at my disposal. Because of my letter, I am dispatched to Newcastle there to uncover the state of the Navy procurement. It is now being said that peculation and theft have wrecked the condition of foodstuffs and shipbuilding there. At noon to the Three Tuns, where D. Gawden did feast us all with a chine of beef and other good things, and an infinite dish of fowl. Thence to W-H. The coach being ready, it took me home for my kit, whereupon I am off to Newcastle for the inspection. The coach departed from my home at 6 in the evening with the weather being on a sudden set in to be very cold.
7th. Arrived at New Castle this morning at 8. We arrived there just as it commenced to rain hard, and the horses to fail, which was our great care to prevent. Thus ending a cold, hard journey. To sum, nothing but cold and wet and some of the most miserable innes I haf ever slept in. As we proceeded north, the food became worse and the wenches uglier, with the weather. Entering the Yard, the coach brought me to the offices of Sir Donald Dulking, Adm. of the Yard. I then dismissed the coach and instructed the driver to return to L, expecting to journey home by packet boat.
I was soon informed that the Adm. was onboard one of the ships, inspecting a cargo consignment. (Strange actions for an Admiral, I think.) I was exhausted and was urged by the Adm’s adjutant to partake of the regular Navy (not Naval officers’) mess. I found the provender to be disgusting, but I was assured by my escort, a young Midshipman named Davis, that the Admiral himself regularly partakes of the regular mess. I left the table wholly unsatisfied. A half-bottle of inferior claret did not mollify me.
After a long wait, I finally met with Sir Don’ld Dulking, Rear Adm. We discussed the issue and he agreed there may be some corruption present, but it is of a trivial nature. He invited me to tour the Yard and even board some of the ships, which apparently is his wont. But I preferred to review the accountables. After some hesitation, I made the acquaintance of three of the Yard’s bookkeepers, non-Naval men. These three affected a very casual demeanor which, in ordinary, would have offended me greatly. But in their stances, along with the behavior of the Adm., I have become suspicious.
That eve, after finishing the first few hours’ work with the bookkeepers, I expected to be formally received by Admiral Dulking or one of his senior staff. But no such event took place, which, again, I took ill. Young Midshipman Davis approached me rather timidly and said that he had been instructed that I was to be housed at the Senior Officer’s Quarters. I asked if there were a good inn nearby. And the lad said there was, just outside the Yard gate. It was called the Old Charles. We walked over there just as it began to rain hard. We sat and talked about the Yard. Then there came to us an aged sea captain, a summat foolish man named Captain Seabright. And he and I entered into a great but humourous dispute concerning whether the Navy were better now than during the Protectorate. This discourse took us much time, till it was time to go to bed, but we being merry, we bade the Midshipman goodnight, and continued to drink.
As a stab in the dark, I asked Cap’n Seabright if he had ever heard of Captain Shrewton. He said he had, but had not seen him for several years. I then asked of him if he knew of a Mr. Pepper, a farmer from the vicinitee of Bedlington. To my surprise, he told me that Mr. Pepper is a cozen of his on his mother’s side. And he had just come in to New Castle. After a quart or two of wine, the good Cap’n agreed to bring Mr Pepper for breakfast in the morning so I might speak to him, and I to bed.
8th. I had a strange dream and having kicked my night clothes off, I got very cold, and in the morning had a good deal of pain. This and the rain made me very melancholy. But when I went down for breakfast, I found Cn Seabright at table with the gentleman Mr. Pepper. This was the manne who first recounted the tale of the Babe to Cn Shrewton (who repeated the tale to me and my friends); he being exactly the manner of stout and redd-faced farmer you might think of. The pain that I had got last night by cold had not yet gone, and troubled me at the time. Captain S, Mr. Pepper and I enjoyed a breakfast of a fresh halibut and small beere.
In short, Mr. Pepper confirmed to me the main of the story of the Babe of Bedlington, as he had heard it from his grandsire. There were still, he said, some remnants of the storie, including the pitt when the Greate Stone had been broken up. He told me that he would be returning to Bedlington on the morrow, and if I cared to join him, the journey would be but 16 mile. I could rest over at his farme which, he swore was large and cozy. I agreed and we will depart from this inne tomorrow afternoon, after I hope to have concluded the Navy business here in Newc’le.
So up and to the Navy Yarde and about business. I examined people as to what they could swear concerning the vittles, cordage, Etc., that is being supplied. And I can only, when joined with the worke of the Acc’ts, conclude that the whole is become the business of cheating rogues and peculating knaves. For part of my examinations, Admiral Dulking sat with me. I conceive that he was uncomfortable as some of the blame for this criminal behavior must fall towards him for which we hope he can give explanation. Thence after the examination, it being too soon to go to dinner, I walked up and down the Yarde, not helping but to notice what I felt to be an overall melancholie.
At last got back to the inne and dined well on another halibut, which was very welle prepared with a mustard sauce. I being cold to my bones, to bed presently, and had a very bad night of it.
9th Sabbath. I slept till 7 o’clock, it raining mighty hard. I know not what will become of the corn harvest this year, as we have had but four fair days this month.
After breakfasting alone on some cold oysters, soup and a half of claret, I was hailed from my table by a voice from the inne y’rd, it being Mr. Pepper. I joined him on his handsome hay cart and greatly enjoyed the trip to Bedlington, as the rain stopped almost as we set out.
Arriving in Bedlington, Mr. Pepper invited me to his home where we sat and talked, and drank, and ate an hour or so. He gave me directions away to the Church of St. Cuthbert’s and lent me a horse. He begged me to ride it to Newcastle and leave it at the stables in the Navy Yarde whence he would retrieve it the next week. I replied that I would and parted with Mr. Pepper, resolving to myself that I would do him some preferment when I returned to Newcastle. It took but a half hour to reach the Church, whereupon I searched about for the vicar. And finally, having encountered some ancient natural, I was led to a small building, barely more than a shadde, behind the Church proper.
This lowly place was the vicarage, and to my delight, the current holder of the parsonage, Rev. Mr. Johnson, was at home. He received me cordially and delighted me with a second breakfast. It so turned out that Mr. Johnson is a close friend of my cozen, Angier, at Cambridge and knew, slightly, my brother John. Mr. Johnson being a bachelor, I was introduced to his only housemate, a terrier dog that closely resembles a lamb, but Mr. Johnson assured me, is of both a gentle and powerful nature. I learnt that the reason for his modest way of living was that the former vestry had been burnt by the Protector’s men during the Civil War and that it had never been rebuilt. He himself, he declared, was of simple taste and required nothing more although he said the shadde doth need a new roof. This pleased me much, and I resolved upon return to London to speak of this gentleman and perhaps obtain funds for a more adequate home for him. I reminded that the Member of Parliament for Morpeth, Mr. Dowling, is an old associate and I could no doubt catch his ear in this matter.
I begg’d of Mr Johnson if he knew anything of the story of the Childe or Babe of Bedlington. And at that he seemed summat uneasy. I pressed him as far as decency allowed, and, at fin, he took me to see the carving on the wall of the church of which I had heard. This effigy is on the northwest wall of the church. While Captain Shrewton recounted that it demonstrates the Child in the air, this is not clear. Mr. Johnson said that the image was damaged by the same Soldiers who had stole the box with the Babe’s clothes. They had hammered at the statue, hurting it much on grounds it were idolatrous.
Then Mr. Johnson showed me the pit where the residuum from the great rock was put. There was not much to see but a dark set of rock, slightly below the level of the ground. (I took up a small piece to present to the Royal Society.) I then asked the Rev. if he knew anything more of the Babe itself and of the Rawlinson family. He said to me that the subject was so long ago, it was still of great pain to the village and people did not discuss it. I took this as a sign that he would speak no more of this and so I bid him farewell.
I was ready to take my leave of Bedlington. However, after I left the vestry for my horse, the same ancient natural I had seen before accosted me, seizing me by the arm. He asked me, if I wished, if it pleased me, to see something marvelous concerning the Babe of Bedlington as he called the Child. He said he had listen’d at the doorway to the vestry and overheard some of the words I had had with Rev. Johns’n. I did not desire to traffick with this creature, but he importuned me several times. Half speaking, half mumbling. I was almost ready to strike this lout, but his constant talk of the Babe halted me. He signed to me that he wished to drink and pointed to an establishment a few furlongs away. We walked there together, but I bade him walk behind me as his stench was very great. He also carried on his shoulder a sack which seemed quite heavy. I went into the inn and brought out for him a pot of small beere, which he drank in one swallow. He signaled for more, which I brought him. Soon, he talked a great while about my going down with him to Newminster Abbey, which were, he said, six or seven mile from Bedlington. I was anxious to start back to Newcastle and from there back to London, but each time the ancient mentioned the Babe, I felt my stummick stir. And he promised if I went with him, he would shew me something that would astonish me.
So, a certain madness took over me, and we set off for Newminster Abbey, the ancient walking and I riding. He told me his name was Raulph Kent, and he claimed to be near one hundred years old. I doubted this as it would make him much the oldest man in Britain. But I noticed that the beere he had consumed made his discourse more reasonable. I asked him how he came to know the story of the Babe of Bedlington. He said to me that now he and I had left the towne, he would tell me his story. Most remarkably he claimed to be Raulph Rawlinson, the sonne of the Reverend Rawlinson, he who adopted the Babe, which I scarcely believed. And I thought he might be a rogue who was playing a trick on me to get money of me. But I said to him that I thought it wonderful that he had lived so long. I begged him to recount the story of the Babe after his father and mother took the Childe to be their own.
As we proceeded on this short journey, which he promised me would be but an hour but which turned out to be nearer two, this was his story. He had no hesitation nor was he a man of few words. And despite his gruffness and foul appearance, he spoke in a kindly and gentle manner with even some education. He told me that he was only in the towne fortnightly to see Rev. Johnson who gave provisions to him. He had just left the vestry when he first saw me. Then he begun telling me the Tale of the Babe, as I have called his story.
As Raulph Rawlinson told me, soon after the Reverend and his wife declared at the churchyard that they would adopt the Babe as their own, within a very few days, they were visited by one Rev. Exton, a dependent of Lord Tankerville. Mr. Exton told them they must either give the Babe up to him or leave the parish forthwith and that he, Rev. Exton, would take over the parish. Raulph’s father declared it was his Christian duty to shelter the Babe. And so after all things were ready, with much sadness, his father and mother, he, his sister Elspeth, and the Babe, who they named Willielmus, left the Living of Bedlington and moved to Morpeth where they rented a farm with a dairy herd of Chillingham cattle. Raulph, who was being educated in a school in Bedlington, with hopes of attending university some day, and enter the ministry, saw his education end suddenly.
Life was very hard for the family as their neighbors did shun them and few would buy from them, either milk or cheese. However, they were soon secretly aided by a community of five Lollard families in Morpeth. Eventually, they joined this community, and Rev. Rawlinson became the community’s leader. The families soon decided that they would all go to the Roanoke colony due to continued persecution of the Lollards.
It was decided by the Rev. Rawlinson that it would not be possible for them to take the Babe, Willielmus, with them to the New World. The Babe was too well known and ‘twould be hard to travel with him.
Raulph said that the Lollards, including his father, decided that if the Babe was on a shippe it would probably mean mutinee. So it was sadly decided that Raulph, who was the oldest son and was twenty years of age, would stay on with the Babe, who was then ten years old. Also, Rev. Rawlinson decided to change the family name to Kent, whence the Rawlinsons had originally come from during the time of King Henry VIII.
Raulph said he felt that the events had weakened his father’s and mother’s mind, and he still could not countenance what they had done. After they departed with the five Lollard families, in great haste, George had one letter of them from Barbados. In this letter, which he shewed me, it promised that they would find a way to bring him and Willielmus to Roanoke to join them. And then nothing. He presumed that they had been lost when the inhabitants of the colony had been attacked by the red Indians. After this, the man was quiet for a while.
We finally reached the Abbey, it being very dark in the woods there. We walked thence amongst the great trees that had grown up in the ruins of the Abbey, and in and out of the fallen buildings themselves. And there Raulph Rawlinson finished for me the Tale of the Babe. That he being but twenty years of age was left behind with Willielmus, who was but ten but who had the strength of a grown man and more.
And, he could fly like a bird, Raulph whispered to me. So, he told me, when his brother was frightened, he would leap into the air and fly to the top of any tree nearby. I felt amazed by this but I remembered how the Babe had flown from Rev. Rawlinson’s hands to the nearby church steps. T’was a moment before I could speak and then I gave out to Raulph Rawlinson to continue.
The farm, he said, did not thrive. Raulph had no gift for dairying and a few years later, he, even with the help of his brother, could no longer sustain the herd and they quit the rental of the animals and the farm. So he and Willielmus became vagabonds, never straying too far from Morpeth and Bedlington. Willielmus’s strength let them be able to maintain themselves. In the spring and summer and in the autumn, they worked on the farms. However, in winter without a house, they lived in the Abbey but in a very poor situation, so that they nearly froze or starved.
Towards the end of one colde season, Raulph went alone to Bedlington and begged some food of the new rector, who gave him some of the new vegetable called the potato, which sustained them till the spring. But labour was plentiful and despite Willielmus’s strength, they could get no work. One day the two went to Morpeth for the market, perhaps to pick up some work carting, and there was a local faire with a wrestling shew. There was a champion named Wild Bull Boggy. And there were a prize of £1 for any man who could remain in the ring with him for but five minutes. £1 was more than Raulph and Willielmus could earn in a fortnight.
So, Willielmus urged Raulph to let him fight although he was but sixteen. And he, Raulph, was afraid not that his brother would be hurt or even lose, but that with his strength, something would needs happen, and his identity as the Babe would be revealed. But Willielmus, whom Raulph called Willie, wanted much to fight. And so he went to the ring. Wild Bull, Raulph said, was a truly enormous manne, weighing perhaps twenty stone and above six and a half feet tall. Some said he were the tallest manne in Britain.
After some ado, Willielmus climbed into the ring with this gigantic manne. And, Raulph said, his brother beat the other in less than a minute by the glass. But then, came calamity! After Willielmus threw the giant down and the manne could not rise, Willielmus lifted Wild Bull above his head in triumph and shewed him to the crowd. But then, Boggy twisted in Willielmus’s arms and punch’d him in the face. And before Willielmus did realize what he did, he smash’d Wild Bull Boggy to the ring, killing him. And then, in great fear, the lad (nought but sixteen, recall) leaped into the air and flew off!
There were, so Raulph described, screams and panick. And someone yelled out that that was the Babe, the Bedlington Babe, grown to be a man. Without waiting to see what would happen, Raulph said that he fled back to the Abbey and hid in a dry well in one of the cellars. He stayed there hidden through the day, all through the night and the next day. Not till the next night did he venture out. Past midnight he heard a crashing sound nearby. Raulph said it is not imaginable how frightened he was as he thought wildly that some from Morpeth were still out for him. But blessed be God, he said, it was Willielmus crashing down from the skye. Then his brother came and spoke to him and said he had been far away in London. That in but a day he had flew from Morpeth to London and back to Morpeth. And Raulph said he could not close his mouth for astonishment and in fear.
Willielmus then said to Raulph that he was determined to fly first to Ireland and then to Iceland, to Greenland and thence to the New World to find their parents. (Raulph added that he had given Willielmus as much education as he could including in geographie.) He had experienced and learnt much flying to London and back. And that he thought he would leave when the sun rose. Raulph told him this was madness. But Willielmus said no, that he must go.
He then spoke to Raulph of the mother’s amulet that had been found on him when he was discovered. The amulet, Raulph told me, was about the size of a grown man’s hand. Large as it was, Mrs. Rawlinson had insisted that Willielmus wear it round his necke. But when the Babe was but three years of age, to the amazement of all, he had insisted in his baby voice that his mother should wear it always.
Raulph said that once his mother put the amulet on, Willielemus could always sense where she was. And even across the sea, he always had a vague feeling of her whereabouts. And as he was grown older, that feeling had grown. But until he had taken actual flight, he had no notion to seek out their mother and, hopefully, their father and sister.
Willielmus told Raulph that he was determined to go at dawn. Raulph packed some food for him, of what they had. And, true to his word, after much sobbing and embracing and brotherly kissing, Willielmus leaped into the skie and was gone. Raulph never heard from him or the rest of the family.
In the many, many years that passed, Raulph told me he made a life for himself, as before, wandering about and working and living in the Abbey. About ten years after Willielmus flew off, he approached the Rector of St. Cuthbert’s, the man who had replaced his father and begged the man for alms. Rev. Exton had become very old, but still hale. He told Raulph that he felt the Church had done poorly with his family. And that he was willing to give him a weekly pittance. And that was continued for several rectors to this day, including the Reverend Johnson. This explained to me why the Reverend had seemed so unwilling to speak to me.
Then Raulph opened an olde wooden boxe and shewed me what he had brought me to see. It seemed nothing but a piece of cloth perhaps an ell squared in size. It were, he said, one of the wrappings that Willielmus was covered in when he were found. And what a piece of cloth it proofed to be! It was of a dull blue and seemed to be some kind of blanket or robe, but small, for a child. Raulph took it up and told me to try to tear it a-pieces. So strong it was, I could not do it. He said it neither burnt nor did it fade or take dirt. I begged him to let me take it back to London to shew to the Royal Society, but he refused, even after I offer’d him a goodly sum. He said he wished to be buried with this cloth as his shroud.
Soon after that, I left Raulph Rawlinson. I gave him a sum of money to help him. And he thanked me. I arrived quickly back in Bedlington, early enough to set out for and reach Newcastle in time for a fine dinner of a capon and some small fish and a bottle of sack. In the morning into London on the mail packet.
12th. At home after a terrible passage, New Castle to London. The weather were foule and I sickened almost as soon as we left the Tyne. And the young cap’n being inexperienced on this run. He brought us perilous close to the Godwin Sands which he laughingly called the Eater of Shippes. Greeted at 6 in the evening at the door by my sweetling, I being more dead than alive. She fed me on some good brothe, which I managed to hold down. She importuned me to tell her some of my journie, which I did. We dined late on some goode beef and claret. And so to bed.