Read The Silver Horse Online

Authors: Kate Forsyth

The Silver Horse

Kate Forsyth is a bestselling author across several genres. Her titles include the Witches of Eileanan series,
The Gypsy Crown
, the first book in the Chain of Charms series,
The Starthorn Tree, Wishing for Trouble
and
Dragon Gold
. Kate lives with her husband, three children and a black cat called Shadow in Sydney.

ALSO BY KATE FORSYTH

The Chain of Charms series:

The Gypsy Crown

The Starthorn Tree

ALSO BY KATE FORSYTH
AND ILLUSTRATED BY MITCH VANE

Ben and Tim's Magical Misadventures:

Wishing for Trouble

Dragon Gold

T
HE
S
ILVER
H
ORSE

First published 2006 in Macmillan by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited
1 Market Street, Sydney

Text copyright © Kate Forsyth 2006
Illustrations copyright © Jeremy Reston 2006

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

National Library of Australia
cataloguing-in-publication data:

Kate, Forsyth, 1966– .
The silver horse.

For primary school aged children.
ISBN-13: 978 1 4050 3779 2.
ISBN-10: 1 4050 3779 2.

1. Gypsies–Juvenile fiction. I. Title.
(Series: Forsyth, Kate, 1966– Chain of charms; 2).

A823.3

Internal text design by Seymour Designs
Typeset in 11/17pt Janson Text by Post Pre-press Group
Printed in Australia by McPherson's Printing Group

The characters and events in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Papers used by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd are natural, recyclable products made from wood grown in sustainable forests. The manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin.

These electronic editions published in 2006 in Macmillan by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited
1 Market Street, Sydney

The moral rights of the creators have been asserted.

Copyright © Kate Forsyth and Jeremy Reston 2006

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

Adobe eReader format: 9781741971224
Online format: 9781741977257
EPUB format: 9781742625416

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KATE FORSYTH

ILLUSTRATED BY JEREMY RESTON

For Emily and Ben, the original cheeky monkeys,
May your names live forever.

CHARACTERS

T
HE
F
INCH
T
RIBE

Luka Finch (13)

Emilia Finch (13) – his cousin

Maggie Finch, called Queen of the Gypsies – their grandmother

Jacob – Luka's father

Silvia – Luka's mother

Lena (14) and Mimi (9) – Luka's sisters

Beatrice (15) – Emilia's sister

Noah (9) – Emilia's brother

Ruben – Luka and Emilia's uncle

Sabina (10) – Ruben's daughter

Alida – a grey Arab pony

Zizi – a monkey

Rollo – a dog

Sweetheart – a brown bear

T
HE
H
EARNE
T
RIBE

Janka Hearne – the tribe's grandmother

Felipe Hearne – her eldest son

Julisa – Felipe's wife

Sebastien (15) – Felipe's son

Cosmo Hearne – Janka's second son

Nadine (15) – Cosmo's daughter

G
ORGIOS

Tom Whitehorse – son of the Squire of Norwood

Pastor Spurgeon – the Puritan minister of the

Kingston-Upon-Thames parish church

Coldham – a thief-taker for Cromwell

Dicky – a stableboy at The Durdans,

a manor house in Epsom

Lord Berkely – owner of The Durdans,

a manor house in Epsom

Hudson – Lord Berkely's servant

Matthew – Lord Berkely's head groom

James Butler, the Duke of Ormonde – a Royalist spy

T
HE STORY SO FAR . . .

E
milia and Luka Finch are gypsy children who camp out in the Great North Wood with their families in the time of Oliver Cromwell. Emilia shares a caravan with her fortune-telling grandmother Maggie, who is called Queen of the Gypsies; her elder sister Beatrice, who sings like an angel; and her younger brother Noah, who is blind and goes everywhere in the company of a big mongrel dog, Rollo. Emilia is a ‘wheedler', having the ability to charm people and animals. She can call rabbits and hedgehogs to her hand, and gallops about on her dapple-grey Arab mare, Alida. Her cousin Luka plays the fiddle, and can turn somersaults and walk on his hands. He has a
mischievous little monkey called Zizi, and shares a caravan with his parents and his two sisters. The other members of the Finch tribe include their uncle Ruben and his dancing bear, Sweetheart.

The turmoil of the Civil War has made the roads dangerous, and so the Finch tribe rarely leave the Great North Wood. It is time for Beatrice to be married, though, and the Finch tribe need to raise some money for her dowry. Although Maggie hears an owl cry, an omen of death, the Finch family nonetheless decide to travel to the local fair to sing, dance and play their fiddles.

What they do not know is that there is a new pastor in Kingston-Upon-Thames, a zealot who sees Beatrice singing outside the church and calls the constables to arrest her. Under the Puritan government, singing, fiddling, and dancing are all outlawed, and it is a hanging offence to be born a gypsy. In the struggle, a constable is accidentally killed. Accused of vagrancy and murder, both capital crimes, the whole Finch family is
thrown into gaol. They have three weeks before the travelling magistrates come to town. Three weeks to live.

Only Emilia and Luka escape back to camp, with the thief-taker Coldham and the town constables hot in pursuit. There Maggie waits, filled with foreboding. Being too old and crippled to escape, she charges Emilia and Luka with an urgent and dangerous task – they must travel to each of the gypsy tribes and beg them for their help. Once, Maggie tells Emilia, there was a gypsy witch who wore on her wrist a chain of six lucky charms. The witch gave each of her six children one of the charms as their lucky talisman, but ever since the chain of charms was broken, the gypsies have been dogged with misfortune. Maggie gives Emilia the first of the charms – a gold coin – and tells her to search for the other five – a silver horse, a sprig of rue called the herb of grace, a cat's eye shell, a lightning bolt forged from the heart of a falling star, and a butterfly caught in amber.

Luka, who is a matter-of-fact boy, thinks this story is a parable about the need to unite the six scattered tribes. Emilia, however, passionately believes in her grandmother's tale of the six charms and is determined to find them all.

Pursued by the thief-taker Coldham, and accompanied by Zizi the monkey, Rollo the dog, Alida the dapple-grey pony and Sweetheart the dancing bear, the two children set out on a daring journey, to bring together the chain of charms again . . .

Up on the Downs

E
PSOM
D
OWNS
, S
URREY
, E
NGLAND
13th August 1658

A
s dusk fell over the high, rolling Downs, Luka and Emilia crept out of a stand of trees and jumped over a ditch full of thistles onto a potholed road. At their heels lumbered a big brown bear, led by a long chain, and a slender dapple-grey pony, free of any rein. A big shaggy dog bounded on ahead, while Zizi the monkey clung to Luka's shoulder as usual.

‘Come on, the coast's clear,' Luka hissed, looking
from side to side. ‘Let's get away from the road while we can.'

‘I'm dying of thirst,' Emilia groaned. ‘And so is Rollo. Look how far his tongue's hanging out. Couldn't we have found somewhere to hide that had a stream or a spring or something?'

She gestured to the shaggy dog by her side, who was panting heavily as he looked up at her with sad brown eyes.

‘Rollo's tongue is always hanging out,' Luka said. ‘Besides, it's not my fault we didn't have anything to drink. I got us food, didn't I?'

‘Well, yes, but you left the bag open, remember, so Rollo got the ham and Sweetheart ate all the apples.'

At the sound of her name, the bear looked around, her chain clanking, and Luka gave it a gentle tug so she would follow him again.

‘Stop whining and come on,' he said. ‘Someone could come past at any moment.'

‘I'm not whining,' Emilia said indignantly. ‘I'm just letting you know I'm hungry again.'

She gave a little cluck with her tongue so Alida, her mare, stopped still beside a way-stone. Bunching her grubby skirts up about her knees, Emilia swung herself up onto the mare's back and grabbed hold of the old bit of rope she used as reins.

‘You're always hungry,' Luka replied. ‘You must have hollow legs. No wonder Baba always complains about how much you eat.'

‘As if she never complains about you,' Emilia retorted, urging Alida forward with a gentle tap of her bare heels. Behind her, the dog stood, one paw raised, looking about him rather forlornly.

‘Rollo!' Emilia called. ‘It's all right, boy. Come on!'

As the dog followed her obediently, she said unhappily, ‘He misses Noah. He can't understand where he's gone.'

Luka nodded grimly.

He and Emilia had spent the afternoon hiding in the copse of trees, hot, bored and tortured by thirst. To the west lay the town of Epsom. To the north ran the road to London, and many carts and carriages had rattled one way or another all afternoon. There was a well beyond the town, the children knew, which was said to have miraculous healing properties so that people came from miles around to drink it. The children had no desire to drink the bitter water, or to go anywhere near the town, but the road had been so busy all afternoon they had not dared travel along it. A party of two children, a bear, a horse, a dog and a monkey was peculiar enough to be talked about for miles, and they knew that Coldham would not have given up searching for them, no matter how cleverly their gypsy kin had led him astray. Felipe, the Big Man of the Hearne tribe, had pointed Coldham in quite the wrong direction, but it would not take long for
the thief-taker to realise he had been tricked, and he would be even angrier and more determined to catch them than before.

It had been awful to lie still when their every instinct was to hurry on and find help for their families. Emilia had found it particularly hard, for she had nothing to do but think about the strange things she had seen when she had looked in her grandmother's old crystal ball at Nonsuch Palace. Her words had caused Colonel Pride, the owner of the palace, to choke and fall into some kind of fit, and she and Luka had been able to escape. Luka thought she had been very clever, but what he did not realise was that Emilia had not chosen to tell the colonel that he was to die soon and that his decomposing body would be dug up from his grave and hung as a traitor's on Tyburn Hill. Although the words had been spoken by her mouth, it was not Emilia's brain that had framed them, and she found this very frightening. She was
glad to be up, and moving again, to leave the memory of the prophecy behind her.

On the northern side of the road stretched a patchwork of rolling fields, brown and green and tawny yellow, edged with stone walls and hedgerows, and studded with quaint timber and stone cottages, each in a little embroidered garden. As the light failed, smoke began to rise from the chimneys.

To the west were many roofs, all clustered close about a village pond, with a little flint church raising its narrow spire to the heavens. The bell was tolling out now, marking the curfew, and lights were glimmering from numerous windows.

On the far side of the road rose the great Downs. All afternoon Emilia had lain on her stomach, her chin propped in her hands, staring at them. They rolled up into the sky like the humped shape of a giant sleeping under a green counterpane. The shadow of clouds drifted over
them and, as the sun had begun to set, they had slowly turned a strange, eerie purple. Now they were black against the translucent sky, and looked very lonely and mysterious.

They hurried along the road, Emilia looking all around them for any sign of pursuit, and Luka keeping his eyes on the road. After a while he gave a joyful exclamation. There, near a bridlepath up to the Downs, was a loose circle of leaves arranged around a reddish-coloured rock, with an arrow formed of sticks pointing away from the road. The leaves were held down with little twigs.

To anyone else, the muddle of old leaves and sticks would have looked like something blown together by the wind, but to the two gypsy children it was a signpost. The Hearne family had gone this way.

Felipe Hearne – the father of the boy Beatrice was to marry – had promised he would leave a patrin for them, to show which way to go. The
gypsies often left such secret messages behind for their kith and kin, to signpost a new direction, to warn of danger, or to pass on news of a friendly farmhouse where a hungry gypsy family might be able to barter for a bit of bacon or some potatoes. Although Emilia and Luka had not travelled the roads since they were little more than babies, they still knew the secret code of the patrins.

‘There's no cover,' Luka said anxiously. ‘Let's just hope no one comes riding by.'

Emilia touched her gold coin for luck.

They left the road and followed the bridlepath, which soon began to climb steeply. Emilia dismounted and walked, to save Alida from having to carry her weight up the hill. Luka saw some deep ruts left by wheels in the grassy verge, and pointed them out to Emilia, who nodded eagerly. They quickened their pace, keen to catch up with the caravans before it grew too dark to see. It was scary being out in the dark by themselves, and
both were eager to huddle by a fire, and eat some hot stew, and tell someone their troubles.

The two children paused on the top of the Downs, the wind blowing back their hair. It felt as though they were on the top of the world. East to west, the Downs ran, with the land falling away sharply before and behind them. The sun was almost set, marking the horizon with carmine and gold, but all else was just shadowy dips and undulations, with the sharp spires of the churches and the tall poplar trees stabbing up into the darkening sky. Then Emilia turned to look back the way they had come, and gasped aloud, for there to the north was a false sunrise, a distant glare of orange light.

‘That must be London,' Luka said beside her.

Emilia was amazed. She could not begin to imagine how many candles and lanterns must be burning to make such a glow in the sky. She wondered how high they were, to be able to see so far.

‘I've always wanted to see London,' she said.

‘Well, now you have,' Luka said with a grin. ‘Come on, I can smell wood smoke. And stew! I'm starving!'

‘You're always starving,' Emilia said, and led Alida along the narrow bridlepath that meandered along the top of the Downs. The huge old bear raised her snout to sniff the air, then quickened her pace, almost knocking Luka over.

‘So is Sweetheart,' he said.

They saw the warm glow of a fire some way ahead of them, illuminating the dark outline of caravans. Stumbling from weariness, Luka and Emilia hurried forward, the animals pressed close about them. Dogs began to bark, and Rollo answered furiously.

It was only a few nights since the two families had shared a feast on Thornton Heath, celebrating the betrothal between Beatrice Finch and Sebastien Hearne, but much had changed
since then. Luka and Emilia could only hope the Hearnes would know how to get the rest of the Finch family out of gaol.

A lantern was held high. ‘Who's there?' a man's voice called.

Luka cleared his throat. ‘It's Luka Finch!' he cried. ‘Jacob Finch's son. And Emilia, my cousin.'

‘If it's not the devils in the shape of children,' Felipe Hearne called, laughter in his voice. ‘So you found your way to us!'

‘Come in to the fire, you poor things,' said his wife Julisa, coming forward with her hands held out. ‘We were all so shocked when Felipe told us your news. Is it true? Are they really all facing the gallows?'

Clutching Alida's lead rein, Emilia nodded. She was, she found to her surprise, very close to tears. She was also unutterably weary. She let Julisa draw her in to the warmth of the flames, Luka close beside her.

‘Look, Mam, they've brought the bear!' a little boy cried.

‘Will it play football with us?' another demanded.

‘Not tonight, darling boy. Hush now,' his mother said, rocking him on her lap.

‘Look, there's the monkey too!' sniggered a sallow girl of about fifteen called Nadine. ‘It's a travelling zoo!'

‘Nice horse,' her father Cosmo said, and ran an expert eye over Alida. Even muddy and exhausted, with her tail and head hanging, the mare's beautiful lines were obvious. Felipe whistled in admiration and stepped forward to run his hand down the mare's curving neck, and lift her lip to examine her teeth.

The Hearnes were well-known horse-traders, which was a polite way of saying horse-thieves, and so Emilia drew Alida a little closer to her. Felipe took no notice, lifting her hoof and then expertly
counting her ribs. When he saw that Alida had only seventeen ribs, one less than most horses, he glanced at his brother Cosmo meaningfully.

‘So, an Arab,' Felipe said. ‘Out of Maja, is she?'

Emilia opened her eyes wide in surprise. Maja had been her mother's horse and was indeed Alida's dam. Emilia's mother, whose name was Elka, had died five years earlier, from the smallpox. She had given Maja to Emilia to care for, but Maja had been confiscated by Roundheads three years ago, when Alida was little more than a foal. They might have taken the filly too, but Emilia had hidden Alida in her own bunk, under a blanket. Cromwell had confiscated many fine horses, wanting to produce a new breed of light cavalry horses for his New Model Army. Horses like Maja and Alida, called hot-bloods since they came from the scorching desert lands of Araby, were particularly desirable for their speed and endurance. The horses of Araby had been made by
God from the fierce desert wind, Elka had once said, because He wanted to make a creature who could fly without wings.

‘How did you know about Maja?' Emilia demanded, keeping a tight grip on Alida's halter.

Felipe grinned, showing a mouthful of crooked teeth. ‘Your mother Elka was my cousin. I grew up with her. They gave Maja as part of her dowry when she married your father. She was a fine mare, descended from the great mare Baz, or so my father said.'

Emilia knew the story, of course. Baz was a horse out of mythology, said to have been captured and tamed by the great-great-grandson of Noah. She was the root stock of all the horses bred by the Bedouins of Araby, famous for their fleetness, grace and beauty. Emilia had always liked knowing her Alida was bred from such magical stock.

‘Look at her dished face,' Cosmo said. He was a thin, scraggy man with a hooked nose and bad
teeth, who looked as if he had won a hard battle with smallpox, for his skin was badly pockmarked. Nadine had unfortunately inherited his nose. ‘Pure Arab, by the look of her. Who was her sire?'

‘A stallion owned by our local squire, Sir Hugh Whitehorse. Some ancestor of his rode to the Crusades and brought back some mares and a stallion, all greys. That's where they get their name from, they say. They're famous for their horses.'

‘So how did ye get a foal out of the squire's stallion?' Nadine demanded. ‘You must have snuck your mare in late at night.' She sniggered.

‘Enough, Nadine,' Felipe said sharply.

She pouted and flicked back her hair, leaning to whisper something into Sebastien's ear. He frowned and shook his head, moving away from her.

‘The Whitehorse family have been good to us,' Emilia said defiantly to Felipe. ‘They let us camp on their land, and give us work. The squire knew
my father and often had him up to the manor to play his fiddle for parties. They had an arrangement over the horses. The squire took any colts and left us the mares. One he bought from us, for gold! And another Papa sold at the market, when I was a baby. Alida I kept.'

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