BETA

Isabel.

There, with her Father, by the lonely moor,1
Dwelt Isabel—her opening girlhood knew2
No Mother’s care, nor owned the tender love3
That Sisters give ; within that old Farm-house4
No merry voices woke at morn or eve,5
To stir the old man’s pulses with the sound6
That gives Age back its Youth again to hear ;7
Yet was the Father happy, in the kind8
And duteous solace of his daughter’s care,9
Who grew up silently, a thoughtful child,10
That in her yearning for companionship11
Took to herself for friends the sky, the stars12
That looked upon her with pure, loving eyes,13
And spoke a silent language to her ear ;14
The living things it was her care to tend,15
The Birds, that with sharp cry among the heath16
Called to each other, had a voice for her17
Of tones familiar, apprehended half,18
That made her feel herself the less alone ;19
The moorland flowers, minutely beautiful,20
Star-like, looked on Her like the stars, and smiled21
And the clear stream that welled upon its way22
From cool green cells, o’ergrown with mosses old,23
Above its pebbles lifted up a sound24
Of soothing—murmuring an endless tale.25
Wide stretched the level moor, nor lacked its range26
A soft and pastoral charm, with many herds27
Of grazing kine, that wandered there at will :28
Far on its verge the flush of morning broke,29
In crimson splendours tracing out a chain30
Of hills, upon whose broad and sun-lit slopes31
Were villages with glittering spires, and halls32
In folding woods embosomed from the view ;_33
While far athwart, a line of gleaming sands.34
Lay northward, and low boomings of the sea35
Rose on the ear ; and in the golden eve36
Slow sailing past, went by the shining ships,37
Like phantom vessels pictured in the sky.38
Here, in a quiet that was more than mirth,39
Grew Isabel from childhood to the age40
When Youth is beautiful as in the morn,41
Whose changeful glory fleets from sun to shade,42
As if it owned its short-abiding stay,43
And knew it fading to the silent noon :44
So she grew on, until the hour when Youth45
Owns, half unconsciously, the deepening shade46
Flung on Life’s dial from the years to come,47
With trace of change and trial that they know.48
And thus the maiden owned within herself49
More earnest thought, more perfect consciousness,50
The yearning for a tenderer sympathy51
Than youth had craved, and in the flowers, the
stream,
52
There seemed to rise a tale more eloquent53
Than they had spoken to her girlish ear.54
So time wore on, and in his age again55
Her Father wed, yet made a prudent choice56
Of one who gave to Isabel the love57
A faithful elder Sister might have shown ;58
And they went forth together to their work,59
And in the labours of the house and field60
Each found a helpmate, strong in heart and hand,61
To lighten and to sweeten daily toil ;62
And as they lived in quiet and in peace,63
A child was born unto the house, and he64
The old man, blessed the son that to his age65
Brought gladness, and a hope for years to come,66
And now within the farm-house, where of old67
Had quiet brooded with unruffled wing,68
Lulled by the slow, dull tickings of the clock,69
That seemed a household genius sedate,70
That told, oracular, its drowsy tale71
Awoke the echoes of the heart’s first songs,72
A kneeling girl embraces another girl who lies with her eyes closed on a bed. The girl on the bed wears a crown of flowers. The bed curtain is pulled back. 1/2 page.
Endearing words of playfulness, that strove73
In vain to measure forth their tender wealth,74
To One whose look of infant wonderment75
Seemed half to question how it were that He,76
Lying in very helplessness, should prove77
The common centre of all hearts, the joy78
Of all within, of all without the house;79
The light of his qld Father’s eyes which dwelt80
On him with anxious watchfulness, as if81
He were some fairy favour, or a boon82
That Heaven had lent, and might again reclaim.83
But unto Isabel the child became84
A holy ark, wherein the vague, sweet thoughts85
That stirred her heart with troubled tenderness,86
And sent it forth to find no resting-place,87
Might centre and expand in perfect Love.88
When the long summer came, it was her joy89
To wander with the baby in her arms,90
And when the mid-day steeped the hills in light91
And streamed a silver flood upon the sea,92
To lay him in his slumber on the grass,93
And wrapt him from the sun in heath and thyme,94
Until he looked a Fairy child, to sleep,95
Lulled by the droning murmurs of the Bee.96
And in the night, when all the house had gone97
Unto their beds, would Isabel arise,98
And, ere she slept herself, would go to kiss99
Her little Brother as he sleeping lay,100
Safe pillowed to his warm and rosy rest.101
And as the baby grew unto a child,102
He seemed to grow in infant graciousness,103
As if the love that met his dawning life104
With welcome, owned a fostering power to bless,105
And wrought unseen the gentle infiuence106
Through which the vernal Flower, dew-nourishèd,107
Unfolds to the warm sun its opening breast.108
So grew the child of many prayers, like Him *109
Who proved how sweet the holiness of youth,†110
In favour growing both with God and man ;111
And soon the sweetness of his lisping tones,112
With thoughtful meaning fraught beyond his years,113
Would seem to whisper forth a fond excuse114
For all their deep idolatry of love ;115
And in his play a tender gaiety116
That wayward childhood knows not, seemed to
dwell,
117
With innocence, and in the angel-eyes118
So liquid, beautiful, a well of light,119
Abode a cloudless lustre, that would speak120
Of things a world like ours hath never known.121
So years stole on, and found that Family122
Abiding still in quiet and in love ;123
Until one year, when yellow Autumn brought124
Again its message of decay and change,125
The Father, who all day within the field126
Had bound his sheaves, and looked upon the store127
That the good season brought, with thankful eye,128
Came home to sicken, and before those sheaves129
With joy were garnered at the harvest home,130
Death gathered him, like Israel of old,131
A shock of wheat in fulness of his time,132
Well ripened for the harvest of the grave.133
And ere the newness of their grief found rest134
In the strange apathy we feel, as days135
Roll on, and bring not them we love again ;136
And ere they learned to look no more, with eve137
To see his stooping form come burthened home ;138
Or ceased, within the twilight, by the fire139
To see the white hair shining in the gloom,140
And aged hands spread forth unto the blaze—141
Ere time had yet returned to the course142
He must hold on, whate’er he takes away,143
The mother and her son together struck144
With fever, lay upon a bed that proved145
Of death to one, and she was carried forth146
To rest beside her husband in his grave.147
And must he follow too ?” thought Isabel,148
The trembling watcher o’er a doubtful strife ;149
Must he too follow ?” then her heart gave way150
In one long burst of agony and pain,151
That called on them who might return no more ;152
And on the bed she flung herself, and said,153
We two are left alone ; oh, little one !154
And they that loved us rest within their graves ;”155
But as she raised her head, she heard his breath156
Come soft and regular, and now his lip,157
Half parted, reddened with the dew of health ;158
Then Isabel knelt down, and prayed to God159
With many tears, and gave Him thanks, and said,160

* 1 Sam. i. 17.
† “ Sweet is the holiness of youth.” Chaucer.
I bless thee, Father, in that thou hast left161
A comfort to my spirit in its grief”162
Then as her heart grew strong within itself.163
She looked around with heedful care, and took,164
Account of all that might remain to them ;165
And when she found that now, her father gone,166
They could not hold the farm, then Isabel167
Took earnest counsel with herself, and said,168
My brother shall not have to labour on,169
Like him that is departed, all his life170
Rating the bread of carefulness and toil,171
With early rising, and late taking rest,172
And all to keep off iron-handed want,173
But I will work both for myself and Him,174
And hold together what is left, that when175
He comes to man’s estate, his hand may find.176
Its labour not his only portion here ;”177
And so she gave the child, with many prayers,178
With blessings, and with kisses, and with tears,179
Unto the keeping of an aged pair,180
Who dwelt beside the Farm, from youth till now181
In kindness living with her Father’s house :182
And Isabel went forth to eat the bread183
Of service, that some wealthier kindred gave,184
And she, who like the Shunamite of old,185
Had dwelt among her own, and done her work186
Unbidden, as it liked her, now became187
Obsequious, with eye that strove to catch188
The import of a wish before it rose,189
Anticipating duty ere command,190
In all things studious to show herself191
A servant careful for her master’s good,192
In singleness of heart, as one who owned193
The service of a Master in the heavens ;194
And they were kind, and she was well content,195
Or would have been, but for the haunting thoughts196
That flung the shadow of the face she loved197
Across her way, and to her quiet toil198
Brought troubling echoes of a childish voice.199
But with the early Spring, there eame a day,200
With leave for her to spend a little space201
Beside her little brother on the moor,202
And there she found him happy, growing still,203
As he had grown, in favour and in love ;204
And they went forth together on the moor,205
And looked upon the lambs that pastured there,206
And saw the sun light up the distant hills,207
And stream, a silver flood, upon the sea ;208
Then on the furrowed shore they stood, and saw209
The shining ships, slow sailing, pass them by,210
And heard the mighty tumult, as the tide211
Brought the slow curling wave unto their feet,212
And the boy clapped his little hands, and held213
His sister by the gown, and screamed aloud,214
In the strange gladness of a fearful joy ;215
And as they wandered home with footsteps slow,216
She sang to him, and told him many tales217
Of Saints and holy children dear to God ;218
And time fled past on swift unsullied wing,219
That quickly brought the hour of parting round,220
Then she arose, and took her leave with prayers,221
With blessings, and with kisses, and with tears,222
And went back to her work with thankful mind.223
But now as months wore on o’er Isabel224
A sadness stole, a trouble without name225
That in the labours of the house and field226
Stirred her with flutterings of vague unrest,227
And thrilled her pulse with unembodied fears ;228
And her soul sickened with a deep desire,229
A longing like to that the Switzer feels230
To see once more his mountain home, to hear231
The dashing of the torrent from the rock,232
And drink the ice-cool breeze before he dies ;233
And in the quiet house, and in the field234
Her ear was quick to catch unreal sounds,235
And seeming voices calling her by name ;236
And when she slept, a little arm was drawn237
Around her neck, a hand was clasped in hers,238
A soft cheek pillowtd upon her own,—239
And when she woke her face was wet with tears,240
And rest forsook her through the livelong night—241
So she besought her mistress, that once more,242
Although so distant from the promised day,243
Her step might lead her where her heart abode244
With the sole treasure that it owned on earth.245
So Isabel set forth before the dawn,246
A patient pilgrim, and the summer’s day247
Found her unwearied on her onward path,248
Upborne by feelings lightened, though perturbed,249
And all unconscious of the tedious way250
In fervent onward-lookings to its end.251
Once, when the mid-day sun was high in heaven,252
She met a glad refreshment in the looks253
Of one she knew, a neighbour and a friend,254
Who stayed his horse, and looked at her surprised,255
And said,  “ Where go you, Isabel ? I go256
To L—, and thought that I should find you
there ;”
257
And she replied,  “ I go unto the moor258
To see my brother ; tell me, is he well ?259
How was he looking when you saw him last ?”260
But the man answered hastily and strange :261
I have not seen the child of late,—farewell !262
Heaven prosper you upon your onward way !”263
And paused awhile, but ere her voice arose264
In further greeting, hastened on his way.265
And Isabel, in walking onwards, thought266
It strange that He, her old companion,267
Should pass her thus, but soon all thought gave
way
268
All thought, all feeling merging into one ;269
For now as daylight’s soft decline drew on,270
She stood, and heard the murmur of the waves,271
And saw the sunset glow upon. the hills,272
And stream, a silver flood, upon the sea ;273
She saw, yet marked them not, for now her eye274
Dwelt where her heart had dwelt with him so
long.
275
And as she drew unto the house, her pulse276
Grew quick with joy, as with light foot she stole277
On towards the open door, with thought to reach278
Its portal unperceived, perchance to hear279
Her name repeated in his evening prayer :280
But all was silent !  and she heard the clock,281
Her Father’s clock, creep on its drowsy tale,282
Far, far behind the beatings of her heart ;283
She looked within, and saw the aged pair284
That sat together silent by the fire,285
With eyes that rested vacant on the flame,286
As if they sought to trace out meanings there ;287
And now they heard her enter, and looked round288
Without a gesture of surprise or joy,289
To give an answer to her greeting words.290
A strange misgiving seized her, and the words,291
Oh, hath aught, happened !  is my brother ill ?”292
Broke quickly from her lips, but with a slow293
Perturbed utterance the answer fell ;294
Oh, Isabel, did you not meet our friend ?295
And did not He ?”  . . . .  “ Oh !  tell me all,” she
cried,
296
In agony, “ Oh, tell me what is this !”297
And their lips trembled, yet no sound arose,298
And their eyes fixed themselves on hers, and then299
Turned, as by instinct, on the curtained bed.300
There lay her little brother as to sleep,301
And on his waxen, brow, his lip, and eye,302
Abode the peace of a serene repose.303
Around his forehead lay a living wreath,304
The Summer Rose and bright Geranium,305
That shed a solemn halo round his rest ;306
And gathered closely round his form, and drawn307
Unto his chin, were garments whose strange white308
Smote on her spirit, when she saw their folds309
Unstirred by any breath, then Isabel310
Fell on her face, and knew her brother dead ;311
And through the stillness of that quiet room312
Arose a sound of agony and pain,313
A voice of lamentation, whose wild tones314
Called on His name who might return no more,315
‘But to have seen thee once !— yet once again !” ”316
And all was silent in the heart that mourned317
Its hope and treasure taken from the Earth.318
Then Isabel arose with thought to kiss319
Her brother in his slumber, as of yore,320
But as she bent above Him, on those lips321
So wan and ashen, and upon his brow,322
Abode the spirit of a deep repose ;323
And, as he lay, his sunken features wore324
The look they wore upon his mother’s knee ;325
Of something that this world hath never known,326
Of peace its troubled course can neither give327
Nor take away—of love unspeakable,328
Of perfect rest, and of a blest return329
Unto a home where they had smiled before.330
Then Isabel knelt down and prayed to God,331
With many tears, and gave him thanks, and said,332
I thank thee, Father, in that thou hast left333
A comfort to my spirit in its grief.”334