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The Butterfly in Amber

Kate Forsyth

  Kate Forsyth is a bestselling author across several genres. Her titles include the Witches of Eileanan series, The Gypsy Crown, The Silver Horse, The Herb of Grace, The Cat’s Eye Shell and The Lightning Bolt, the first five books in the Chain of Charms series, The Starthorn Tree, Wishing for Trouble and Dragon Gold. Kate lives in Sydney with her husband, three children, a black cat called Shadow and a very large and boisterous dog called Jessie.


  The Chain of Charms series:

  The Gypsy Crown

  The Silver Horse

  The Herb of Grace

  The Cat’s Eye Shell

  The Lightning Bolt

  The Starthorn Tree



  Ben and Tim’s Magical Misadventures:

  Dragon Gold

  Wishing for Trouble




  First published 2007 in Macmillan by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited

  1 Market Street, Sydney

  Text copyright © Kate Forsyth 2007

  Illustrations copyright © Jeremy Reston 2007

  The moral right of the author has been asserted.

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, 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:

  Forsyth, Kate, 1966–.

  The butterfly in amber.

  For primary school children.

  ISBN 978 1 4050 3785 3

  1. Gypsies – Juvenile fiction. I. Reston, Jeremy. II. Title.

  (Series: Forsyth, Kate, 1966– Chain of charms; 6)


  Internal text design by Seymour Designs

  Typeset in 11/17 pt Janson Text by Post Pre-press Group

  Printed in Australia by McPherson’s Printing Group

  The characters 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 2007 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd

  1 Market Street, Sydney 2000

  The moral right of the author has been asserted.

  All rights reserved. This publication (or any part of it) may not be reproduced or transmitted, copied, stored, distributed or otherwise made available by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical) or by any means (photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise) without prior written permission from the publisher.

  The Butterfly in Amber

  Kate Forsyth

  Adobe eReader format 978-1-74198-055-4

  Microsoft Reader format 978-1-74198-056-1

  Mobipocket format 978-1-74198-057-8

  Online format 978-1-74198-058-5

  Epub format 978-1-74262-467-9

  Macmillan Digital Australia

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  Pan Macmillan Australia


  Title Page




  The Story So Far . . .

  Falling Down London Bridge

  The Cathedral

  The Cradle and the Coffin


  Death in the Pot

  Rough Justice

  Ham House

  The Countess of Dysart

  Leaving No Shadow

  By Fire Struck Down

  The Mace and Hand Inn

  The Stink of the Prison

  The Last Charm

  The Facts behind the Fiction



  Luka Finch (13)

  Emilia Finch (13) – his cousin

  Maggie Finch, called Queen of the Gypsies – their


  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


  Mala Graylings – an old fortune-teller


  Henry Purefoyle – a lawyer

  Humility Purefoyle – his daughter

  Obedience Purefoyle – his daughter

  Justice Purefoyle – his daughter

  Faith Purefoyle – his wife

  Elizabeth Murray – Countess of Dysart

  Mrs Henderson – her companion

  Mrs Skipton – her cook

  Isaac – her black servant

  Pastor Spurgeon – the Puritan minister of the

  Kingston-Upon-Thames parish church

  Coldham – a thief-taker for Cromwell

  Maloney – a guard at the Stockhouse Gaol


  Luka and Emilia Finch are thirteen-year-old gypsy children who have spent the past two and a half weeks on the run, pursued by the thief-taker Coldham, a cruel man who hates gypsies and wants to see them all hang by the neck until they are dead. The rest of the Finch family are locked up in gaol, and if Luka and Emilia cannot find some way to save them, they will face the gallows in a matter of days.

  Emilia has collected five of the six lucky charms that once belonged to a gypsy witch. Emilia wears the charms on a chain about her wrist – a golden coin, a tiny silver horse, a sprig of rue, a shell that gleams like a cat’s eye, and a lightning bolt forged from the heart of a falling star. The last charm Emilia needs to find is a piece of amber with a butterfly trapped inside. It belongs to the Graylings family, but no one knows where they are. All the children’s grandmother told them was that the Graylings gave up the gypsy roads and went to London.

  In 1658, London is a dangerous city, filled with cutpurses and cutthroats, and stalked by the ever-present threat of plague. Not only must Luka and Emilia try to find one tiny jewel in that huge, crowded city, but they must try not to be seen, no easy task when accompanied by a monkey, a large shaggy dog, and an even larger and shaggier brown bear. For Luka and Emilia know that Coldham would not have given up the chase, nor Pastor Spurgeon, the zealot who threw their families in gaol. The pastor has friends everywhere, but most particularly in London.

  Oliver Cromwell himself is in London, living in the palace of the king he helped to the scaffold. And the Lord Protector is ill, so violently and mysteriously that some believe only witchcraft could be responsible, or the secret hand of an assassin. With every day bringing Old Ironsides closer to death, the land is in turmoil. Cromwell’s spymasters are arresting anyone thought to be plotting against his rule; secret missives are flying across the Channel to the king-in-exile, Charles
II; and everywhere people are wondering what will happen when Cromwell finally dies.

  Time is running out, for Cromwell, for the Protectorate of England, and for the Finch family in gaol . . .

  Falling Down

  London Bridge


  29th August 1658

  ‘There’s London Bridge!’ Luka cried. ‘We’re almost there, at last!’

  A great stone edifice loomed over them. Shops lined the street, each with houses piled on top, higgledy-piggledy with gables and windows and chimneys that filled the air with a brown haze of smoke. On one side of the cart, a man held up dead hens by their feet, shouting, ‘Get your chickens here, young and plump!’

  Beside him a woman shouted, ‘Asparagus, fresh picked!’

  ‘Live eels-o, live eels-o!’

  ‘Rabbits, rabbits!’

  ‘Pots to mend? Kettles and pots?’

  All around their cart, people were walking and talking, running and riding, shouting and cheering, hammering and haranguing. Above it all was the constant churning of the corn-mills built into the arches of the bridge.

  Woken by the noise, Sweetheart stirred and sat up, straw surging away from her bulk. ‘Sssh, Sweetheart, down, Sweetheart,’ Emilia called. Grumpily the old bear lay down again.

  ‘Stupid old bear,’ Luka said. ‘I wish we didn’t have to drag her about with us everywhere.’

  Emilia bit back a sharp retort. She knew they were both exhausted from the last few weeks of constant running and hiding, and weighed down with worry over their families. It was harder for Luka, though. She had all her faith invested in the magic of the chain of charms but Luka had no such comfort. He thought the fate of his family rested solely in his hands and, if he could not come up with some way to rescue them, they would all die.

  We’ll find the butterfly in amber, don’t you worry, Emilia promised her family silently. Somehow . . .

  It was gloomy between the tall buildings, for the sun was already low in the sky, reminding them that yet another day had passed. Emilia had never much noticed the passing of time before – one day had always passed much like another, marked only by the changes in the seasons. Now she was acutely conscious of every minute, every hour. Each evening, as the sun set in bloody streaks in the west, it reminded her cruelly that her family was one day closer to their trial, one day closer to being condemned to death. Hurry, hurry, hurry, her heart told her, and her tired body tried to obey.

  The cart passed under the heavy portcullis. Screeching birds wheeled overhead. Emilia looked up, only to recoil in horror.

  Impaled on long sticks on top of the gate were a number of grotesque human heads, some no more than bone and gaping cavities, others still covered with rotting flesh, their long thin hair blowing in the breeze. The smell was foul. Emilia gagged, and pressed her hand over her mouth.

  ‘Come to London-Town for work, have we, sweetie?’ an impudent young man shouted. ‘I hear the Keeper of the Heads needs a hand. I could recommend you?’

  One of his friends howled with laughter. ‘Bad choice of words! The Keeper of the Heads has too many hands up there already, and legs and feet too. Watch out one doesn’t fall on you!’

  Emilia shuddered, and the young men laughed again. Luka urged the pony on, and Emilia gasped, ‘What did they mean? Hands are up there too, and feet?’

  ‘Traitors are cut into four, and a limb placed on every gate into the city,’ Luka said flatly. ‘Didn’t you know?’

  Emilia shook her head.

  ‘That’s what would have happened to our friend the Duke if they’d caught him,’ Luka said. ‘Hanged, drawn and quartered.’

  ‘Aye, I’d heard that, but I didn’t realise . . . They’d have cut him in four?’

  ‘Eventually,’ Luka said dryly. He would have said more, but one look at Emilia’s face stopped him. ‘Don’t you worry,’ he said consolingly. ‘All our friends got away safely.’

  Emilia thought of the Duke of Ormonde, and Tom Whitehorse, and the other friends they had made on their adventures, many of them working in secret to try to restore the exiled King Charles II to his throne.

  ‘Cromwell’s head will be stuck up like that one day,’ Emilia said, after a long moment. ‘They’ll dig him up and cut off his head and stick it on a stake.’

  ‘Milly,’ Luka said uneasily, half in protest, half in warning.

  ‘Not here,’ she said. ‘At the palace, where they cut off the king’s head.’

  ‘How can you say such things?’ he hissed. ‘Do you want to be taken for a witch? Hush your mouth.’

  ‘It’s true.’

  ‘Maybe so, drabardi, but watch what you say!’

  Emilia shut her mouth up and did not speak again. Luka was right, she thought. She must learn not to blurt out the things she mysteriously knew to be true. She must learn when it was wise to speak, and when it was wiser to hold her tongue.

  The cart moved out into sunshine, crossing a wooden drawbridge that rattled under the hooves of their pony. With nothing but flimsy wooden railings on either side of them, Emilia had her first view of London. It spread as far as the eye could see on the opposite bank of the river, narrow hovels of timber and straw leaning up against great churches and mansions of stone, which in turn jostled against warehouses and wharves with tall peaked roofs. The water of the Thames rushed through the arches, a long way below.

  Then the view of the city was cut off as the cart moved into a narrow, dark tunnel, the buildings on either side leaning together and arm-wrestling for space.

  The hair on Emilia’s neck prickled. ‘I don’t like it. Can’t we go back?’

  Luka glanced over his shoulder. Marching quickly behind them was a company of soldiers.

  He scanned the crowd anxiously and saw with a dreadful jolt of his heart the familiar bulk of Coldham the thief-taker some way ahead, searching the faces of the crowd, with more soldiers at his back. There was no way forward. There was no way back.

  Luka seized their pack and slipped down from the cart, clicking his tongue to Zizi, who leapt to his shoulder.

  Luka seized the ring in Sweetheart’s nose.

  ‘What are we going to do?’ Emilia whispered, slithering to the ground. Rollo leapt down behind her.

  ‘I don’t know,’ Luka said. ‘Hide? If we get into one of those shops maybe …’

  People had begun to exclaim and point at the sight of the huge old bear. Some were frightened, and backed away from her, clearing a space around them. Luka and Emilia glanced around for somewhere to hide, but it was too late. Coldham had seen them.

  ‘There they are!’ he shouted. ‘Seize them!’

  Dragging on Sweetheart’s chain, Luka dodged and weaved through the crowd, Emilia at his heels.

  Hands seized Luka’s coat and almost dragged him off his feet. Zizi leapt out, clawing and biting. The soldier yelped and let go, and Luka ran on, Sweetheart lumbering behind him.

  ‘Stop or I’ll shoot!’ Coldham cried.

  Everyone shrank back against the walls, or threw themselves down. There was nothing between Luka and the tense black mouth of the pistol but a span of air.

  Luka somersaulted over the nearest shop counter. He landed with a thump and was on his feet in an instant. Sweetheart clambered after him, sending vials and bottles of precious spices crashing to the floor. A man in a white turban wrung his hands and wailed. Luka had no time to listen. He looked anxiously for Emilia.

  A pistol shot rang out. Time seemed to slow. No matter how hard Luka tried, he could not force his body to move any faster. Then he was knocked flying by a big, hairy shape.


  An instant later Emilia was diving across the counter, smashing all the bottles Luka had somehow managed to miss.



  ‘Let’s get out of here!’


  Luka glanced around wildly. He saw a long, dark, narrow room, the floor covered in smithereens of glass, dried leaves, flow
ers, bark, dust. The furious face of a dark-skinned merchant, and beyond, a small window out to the river, a trapdoor in the rush-strewn floor, and a ladder to the rooms above.

  Luka ducked the merchant’s flying fist, then seized the handle of the trapdoor and hauled it up. Below, far below, torrents of water raged through the narrow archway.

  He had time only to glance back and see Coldham framed in the dark wood of the shopfront. He had his pistol raised. Luka gulped and looked at Emilia. She shrugged, twisting her mouth in dismay, then jumped through the trapdoor, down, down, down towards the river. Luka heaved Rollo after her, and the big dog went tumbling down, howling in dismay. Luka crossed his arm protectively over Zizi, then jumped, his other arm dragging at Sweetheart’s chain. Sweetheart leapt too, a huge black shadow crashing down upon him.

  Luka could do nothing but fall.

  He smashed into the water, and was driven deep under the wild white rapids. The breath burst out of his lungs. Sweetheart hurtled after him, blotting out all the light and air. Luka saw her go past him in a burst of bubbles. He swam for the surface, feeling the remorseless drag of the tide on his body. His head burst free of the water, and was sucked down again immediately. He fought his way up again and managed a quick gulp of air.

  Zizi scrambled up his body and perched on his head. Her weight, slight as it was, pressed him down into the water. Then Sweetheart burst out beside him, swimming strongly. Luka hauled on her chain and managed to grab her collar. She dragged him clear of the stone arches, water gushing all about. Desperately he looked for Emilia.

  At first Luka saw nothing. Then he saw Rollo’s wet, sleek head, held high. Beside him was Emilia, struggling to keep her head above water, her hand on the dog’s neck. Sweetheart swam towards Emilia who grabbed weakly at the thick collar. The bear turned and swam for the far shore, the two children towed along behind. Rollo dogpaddled behind.