BETA

Edith.


Part I.—Lost. Chapter II.—Home.

When the rector saw the troop arrive, from the window,1
All his heart was stirred to speak in praise of his daughter.2
She is brave,” he said, to Mary Trevor, his sister ;3
Yes, a brave true girl ; I would she were not so wayward.”4
Impulse leads her still,” his sister soothingly answer’d ;5
Leads, and looks a grace, nor is it always a danger.6
Impulse leads her still, as Lot was led by the angels.7
She will ’s cape the snares, and still be wise in the issue.”8
Quickly both arose, and met them all in the doorway.9
See what guests I bring,” said Edith : “ claim on your shelter,10
For my footsore friends will not be hard to establish.11
They will rest to-night, and wake with eyes that are brighter :12
Be more fit to bear a longer journey to-morrow.”13
Still the old gay smile, too soon to fade and be darkened !14
Pleased the elders looked, and softly murmur’d approval.15
Gentle Mary Trevor,—it was a boon to behold her ;16
Locks now touch’d with gray, and fingers tender for pity ;17
Eyes as stars at dusk, that glitter clear in the heaven ;18
Mother, nurse, physician, in the hamlet of Orton.19
When she took the child, she kiss’d it, bending as kindly20
As the Master, once, o’er little ones, when He blessed them ;21
To the housekeeper’s room : the rector stole to his study.22
He was not adept at handling, save in a sermon,23
Griefs that love the touch and healing eye of a woman.24
Kind and soft at heart, and yearning over his people,25
He was stiff and cold, and somewhat hard in his manner.26
He stole back to read the musty lore of his volumes.27
Soon the matron spread a grateful table before them,—28
Butter, cheese and ale, and milk new-drawn from the udder.29
Restless grew the hands and eager eyes of the children :30
She had little heart to touch the food that was offered.31
She had swooned,” said Edith, speaking low to the sister.32
Come,” the hostess said, “ and rest awhile from your journey :33
We will make a couch in easy chair in the corner.34
You will wake refresh’d ; and soon the day will be cooler :35
Pleased shall we be then to hear the whole of your story.”36
When the meal was done, her head propp’d up with a pillow,37
She was lulled to sleep in little more than a minute.38
Now, to please the two, did Edith find in the larder39
Apples, ripe, and yellow as primroses by the water.40
Then she tripp’d away, and still the hand of the elder41
Closed as pleased in hers as in the hand of a sister.42
In the orchard grass, which, for the boagi of the fruit trees,43
Fear’d no heat all day, the harmless darlings were happy.44
Edith lay and dream’d : she read the words of the singer,45
Writ in golden book of women, noble as any ;46
Loved of all, and crown’d of singing women the highest ;47
Hid ’neath Florence flowers, to leave us lonely for ever.48
Edith lay and dream’d ; and as at times on her dreaming49
Broke the children’s laugh or happy sound of their prattle,50
Strangely stray’d her thoughts to afterdays and to Berthold ;51
Strangely gleam’d through all the look and eyes of the Frenchman.52
Come away, on wings of song and fancy to wander ;53
Soar we high in air, across the lands and the rivers ;54
O’er snug hamlets still, and busy noise of the cities.55
Over heath-spread hills, and ceaseless ring of the quarry ;56
O’er the sad black country, grim gehenna of labour,—57
Stars with glare made dark, day with the grime, ofthe terror ;58
Over streams how gracious, in the dells and the meadows ;59
Over many a lawn, and oak and deer in the woodlands ;60
O’er the million-peopled, ruling, merciless city ;61
Over sleepy Kent, to cliffs and harbour of Dover.62
Who is that,—a speck, high up,—who gazes to seaward ?63
Does he see the gulls that wheel or ride on the billow ?64
Does he think of foes in harbours over the Channel ?65
Does he watch the buoy dip with the aim of the gunners ?66
No ; the white sails glide before his eyes, as a vision,67
While he dreams and sighs, and thinks of those that are absent.68
In the orchard now how sweetly twilight is falling.69
Sunbeams, slanting, climb the knotted stems of the fruit trees.70
Now the lichen’s frond is beaten gold, and the even71
Softer, cool, more still: dumb is the lay of the linet.72
Now the nightingale, alert, his song is beginning :73
Holding night awake, and lovers silent, to listen.74
Would he sang more often !  He sings but seldom in Cheshire.75
They are met together, the children quietly sleeping :76
Softly watchful steps move to and fro in the chamber.77
See the rustic seat,—oak branches, gnarl’d and entwisted78
Into quaint device, the leisure-toil of the master.79
By the soldier’s wife is seated kindly the hostess :80
Fast the socks she knits that will be worn in the morning.81
Like some gipsy’s joy, the sunbeams falling upon her,82
Musing Edith lies, vex’d with the gaze of her cousin.83
Laughs the soft brown hair, that ripples down on her shoulder,84
In the gold sunlight, and he is charm’d with her beauty.85
He, lean’d on the bough, mid apple-leaves,—he is happy,86
In his sweet brunette, nor thinks of anger and mischief.87
Well she knows he dreams of blissful days and a wedding.88
Near, with book, apart,—do you believe he is reading ?—89
Solemn, ill at ease, the rector carefully listens.90
Now, with smile or sigh, the woman labours her story.91
We were fourteen years in India ; he is a soldier.92
He was kind and good, and life was easy and welcome.93
Clothes were dear enough, but then you wanted but little.94
I was sadly in health, when he was order’d to England.95
Parting, then, seem’d hard, when he must go with the others :96
We were left to follow: there was no room in the vessel.97
In Bombay we stay’d ;— our ship was slow with its lading ;—98
Will, my first, and Ann, the little boy, and the baby.99
Will, he sail’d before : a captain, friend of my husband,100
Found us in the port, and took him on for the voyage.101
Sailing bravely thro’ the blue and beautiful water,102
All at first went well, though it was far in the season.103
There are sunny isles, made green and gay with the palm trees ;104
Flowers of all the colours of a rainbow in heaven.105
Soon the strange-shaped hills were lost in haze of the distance :106
Blew the wind North-East, and fast we plow’d through the billows,107
No mishap I fear’d; and Ann, my girl, she was ailing ;108
With the heat made ill, and with the roll of the ocean.109
All at first went well : but when we came to the Channel,—110
Names so soon go by me,—winds arose from the Southward :111
Still they beat us back, and night and day they were howling112
Like the roar of cannon, and we were blind with the lightning.113
Toss’d and beat and whirl’d, and drifting on to the breakers,114
We could bear no sail, and we despair’d of the vessel.115
Then with tears and shrieking did I pray the Almighty :116
But He took the child, He took the child He had given.117
Now I heard no more the rush and roar of the water :118
I had died, I know, but for the aid of the others.119
All to me grew vain, and all that I can remember120
Was the poor thin body going down in the water.121
Days, weeks, months,—but all, a blank !  To me it was only122
Still the dull, dead woe, and helpless blindness of anguish.123
What will William say ?’ my heart was crying and asking ;124
What will William say ?’ But he will not blame me, he will not.125
So when I grew strong the ship was toiling and sailing126
On through bright green weeds, that stretch’d for miles o’er the ocean.127
Loud the sailors cheer’d to greet the shadowy mountains,128
As the ship drew home, and we had favouring weather.129
Oh ! it seem’d a dream to anchor there in the Mersey !130
Five long months and more the ship had been on the voyage.131
We have friends in London, and we are going to find them :132
Miss ; the kind God bless you ; and you, too, lady, her mother.”133
She is my brother’s daughter,” sweetly answer’d the hostess.134
Much, indeed, you suffered, and you have borne it with patience.135
We are very glad that we were able to help you.”136
Stars were peering forth, as, looking round her, she added,—137
It is chilly, Edmund ; you can see in the valley ;138
How the mists curl up and wander over the hillside.139
Do you think it wise to linger here in the orchard ?”140
She arose, and took the rector’s arm, as she ended :141
Moving toward the house, they chatted kindly together.142