Part I.—Lost.

Chapter I.—The Rector’s Child.

Edith Trevor closed the door of the rectory gently ;1
Linger’d in the porch, and twirl’d the string of her bonnet ;2
Slowly pluck’d a flower from jasmine near her, by habit ;3
Slowly, lost in dreams, her fingers nervously twitching,4
Leaf by leaf broke off, and did not know that she did it.5
Edith, you, grown sad, the romp and joy of the household ?6
On the right you heard the anvil ring in the village ;7
Heard the ass’s bray, the mastiff’s surly rejoinder ;8
Heard the waggon wheels, and lusty whip of the carter,9
Starting blithe away, refresh’d, from door of the Heron.10
Greenly water-meadows were spread below in the hollow,11
Sweet with new-mown grass ; and cattle, hither and thither,12
Slowly roam’d, at peace, or loved to wade in the water.13
On the left, the garden, in all the glory of summer.14
Now she stood so long, the swallow carelessly twitter’d,15
’Neath the eaves o’erhead, no longer scared with her presence ;16
Then she heard a foot, and quickly, shunning the village,17
Edith slipp’d away, and cross’d the lawn, and was hidden ;18
Yet she still sped on, beneath the arbute and laurel ;19
On by warm South wall, and fruit trees loaded with promise,20
Plum arid sunny peach, until she came to the orchard.21
There the daffodils, by gnarl’d roots yellow with lichen,22
Held and charm’d her eye, when March winds sang in the woodlands.23
Strangely she forgot ; nor slack’d her flight, till the wicket24
Turn’d its ill-hung hinge, and brought the air of the meadows.25
Down the meads she went, amid the joy of the daisies ;26
Buttercups, and clover, red and white, and the grasses ;27
Till she gain’d the bridge and little stream, with its shadows28
Nestling ’mid the cress and weeds that trail on the gravel.29
Then she lean’d and dream’d, with half-shut eyes ; and the minnows30
Gleam’d and glanced in vain ; and you could tell she was weeping.31
She let grief have way, when none were by to behold her ;32
Oozed the bright hot tears beneath the fringe of her eyelids.33
Will the strangers smile ? Sweet is the climate of England !34
Sweet, the English summer, in the woods and the valleys !35
On the hills and uplands, and in the willowy valleys !36
In this spot, if any, the Cheshire hamlet of Orton !37
June ! O June ! how soft, with wood-doves,—why is she weeping ?38
Berthold Trevor, her cousin, she has promised to marry,—39
Him, the old playmate,—but at the word of a father.40
O what dreams she had of lovers’ words and the wooing !41
O what dreams she had ! and are they faded and vanished ?42
Nay, was she not worth the little pain of the winning ?43
Well she loves her friend, but it is pain to be slighted.44
With the golden beams and gentle winds of the summer45
Quickly dry the tears from cheeks and eyes of a maiden.46
Cheeks, so fair, unwrinkled,—soon the wing of the angel,47
Hope, youth’s guardian, crown’d with budding roses and lilies,48
Brushes them as he passes, and strikes a ruddier colour.49
She was but eighteen, and ever gay as a cricket,50
Till, to-day, the rector, from the eyes of his daughter51
Drew sweet fancy’s veil, which tints with colours of Heaven52
Womanhood and manhood and all the shadowy future.53
Still for Edith Trevor, all so used to be happy,54
Dimly shone the eyes of demon care in the darkness.55
Long she could not hear the rippling sound of the water,56
Feel the wind blow on her, and still be heavy and sorry.57
Soon it passed away,—her troubled dream,—as a shadow58
From the hillside passes, when the morning is sunny.59
Things became less strange, and, with a glimmer of humour,60
She could laugh, and say, half pert, “ Who knows what may happen ?”61
So with buoyant foot and with a song, as of old time,62
Past the fields she went, to pluck the flowers on the hillside ;63
Toil’d and climb’d an hour through brushwood up to the beacon ;64
Stay’d to rest awhile ’neath elm more tall than his fellows.65
Locks blown loose and wild, as fresh as wandering Dian,66
Seem’d beneath her, then, the Cheshire plains as a garden ;67
Spread in peace beside the winding silvery river,68
Stretch’d right on to sea or soft blue hills in the distance.69
Then she wander’d down the green hillside by the quarry,70
Down the sandy lane, with sunbeams fair and the shadows,71
Sweet with golden gorse, and with the songs of the linnets.72
Where the high-road meets the road that leads to the village73
Stands a wayside cross ; a clear spring bubbles beside it.74
Pious hands, long since, with love remembered in Heaven,75
Raised the cross for sign, and made a trough for the crystal ;76
Minding Him who cried in Holy Land to the people77
Come to me and drink.” The cross is fallen and broken :78
But the spring flows still ; for He remembers, forgotten.79
He looked from His glory, and, as a woman for pity,80
Led on Edith’s feet to find the poor and the friendless.81
White and still she lay,—the footsore, wandering stranger ;82
White and still she lay, and Edith wept to behold her ;83
White and still she lay, beneath the sign of His passion,84
As the dead, when sadness dies away from their faces,85
Edith, used to aid the sick and poor in their sorrow,86
Gently drew away the sleeping child from her bosom ;87
Laid it soft beside a lad, who, heedless and happy,88
Made a chain with stalks of dandelions and daisies.89
Then she dipp’d her hands, and sprinkled coolly the water90
Over breast and brow, and chafed the palms of the woman.91
She revived at length, but she was slow to recover.92
You must still keep quiet,” Edith said, “you have fainted ;93
You were very tired, and rested here in the shadow ;94
You will soon be strong.” A little can in a bundle,95
In the grass lay near, and Edith saw, and she took it ;96
Raised the cool spring lymph to lips that pined for its freshness.97
Did He smile in Heaven? her whisper’d, “ Where were you going?”98
Surely it was kind ! The woman heard it with wonder.99
Tears well’d in her eyes, and glisten’d bright as she answer’d :—100
We are bound for London, and then are going to Dover,101
There to join my husband, William: he is a soldier.”102
You must come with me,” said Edith, “on to the village ;103
You must rest to-night, for you are tired and exhausted.”104
Strangely smiled her friend, and drew her hand through the ringlets105
Round the sweet brown eyes, that look’d so tenderly on her.106
Soon the weak limbs rallied ; good is kindness at healing ;—107
Soon the heart took hope, the lips a healthier colour.108
Edith mark’d the change, and, neatly folding the bundle,109
Took the child, and rose, and led the way to the village.110
She was glad to feel the chubby hand of the baby111
Touch her neck and mouth, and pull and play with her ringlets.112
’Mid the motley group she glided, fair as an angel,113
Down the dusty road, across the shade and the sunshine.114
Sweetly honeysuckle and bindweed climb’d in the hedgerow ;115
Sweetly sang the birds ; and rustling noise of the poplars116
Seem’d like April showers in leafy gloom of the copses.117
Soon they pass’d the bridge, the pride and glory of Orton,118
Built by Lord de Vaux, the genial lord of the manor.119
She could face the people, not afraid of a duty :120
Stepping bravely on, she did not quail at the glances,121
Old men bared their heads, and women nodded a welcome,122
Children paused, and smiled, and slipp’d behind her and follow’d.123
Bow’d the landlord sleek, with face as round as an apple,124
Idling in his porch, to give the law to a neighbour :125
Grandly raised the smith the smutty cap from his forehead,126
Wiped his sweat-stain’d brow, and stood to gaze with the others ;127
Quite forgot his task, forgot the shoe in the ashes,128
For the sunny face of Edith, friend of the people.129
Tears rose in her eyes, the tears that heal us and help us,130
When for once we gain the meet reward of an action ;131
When, in this sad world, this world so cold and untender,132
We do others good, and feel and know that they love us.133
Down the leafy lane that wound along to the churchyard,134
Past the rectory gate, the children eyed her no longer.135
All at last was still but hum of bees in the lime-trees :136
She was glad to miss the village noise and the gossip.137
Yet, as ship, that braves the rough mid sea and the cyclone,138
Strikes a reef unmapp’d, and drifts a wreck in the harbour,139
Here, when near the house, when safe well nigh in the haven,140
Edith blush’d as red as summer cloud in the sunset.141
Viot Paul de Vaux rode gaily by with his kinsman,142
Foulque Alphonse Dubois, a Frenchman, bearded and handsome.143
Viot saw the blush, but did not show that he mark’d it ;144
Gravely raised his hat, though tickled inly with laughter.145
Who was that ?” Foulque said : “ by Zeus, a girl with a spirit.”146
Laughing, turn’d De Vaux,— “ Yes, you were lucky to see her ;147
That is Edith Trevor, the only child of the rector.”148
Such a face as that,” the other carelessly answered,—149
Show’d his fair white teeth,— “ can linger only in England.150
What a blush to waste and fade away in a village !151
I would give my wolf-hound but to see such another !”152
Nay, then,” answer’d Paul, “ the hound is mine,—you have said it,—153
If your will still hold, for we will call there to-morrow.154
With a blush as sweet she will remember the meeting.”155
Edith grew more sad to hear the sound of their horses156
Echo on the bridge, and die away in the distance.157
Old grief woke anew : she said, in dreamy half-whisper,158
Who was that with Viot ? He had the eye of a soldier.”159
Often fancy’s brush had limn’d the shadowy lover160
Who should woo and win her, and she grew harden’d to Berthold.161