Part II.—Chapter I.—Berthold.

Seven long years, and a winter:—the planet journeys for ever,1
Wreathed with snow and summer, down the silent abysses ;2
Yet to man come surely newer cares and surprises.3
Add, then, yet a spring : it is the time of the Passion.4
Much is changed and unchanged in the hamlet of Orton.5
New-cut names, new mounds, beside the tower or the chancel.6
Some, long sad, are happy; and some are sad, who were merry.7
Bells of joy, of dole, you thrill’d the air of the valley.8
Feet, now many a day tired of the stones and the plodding,9
Rest at last, and ache not, beneath the green of the hillocks ;10
Feet of small new-comers roam in the green of the meadows.11
Come, and let us look at the little house of the curate.12
Is it hard to find ?  Nay, you, in bloom of the morning,13
See the church-tower shadow softly falling across it.14
Through the holly hedge, into the garden befote it,15
From the garden of God, you slip at once by a wicket.16
Quiet, fronting the road, it looks on all that is passing.17
It is quaint, old-fashion’d : the roof is low ; and the swallows18
Now are busy working, beneath the eaves, by the windows,19
Patching up anew the nests used many a season.20
There are benches set in the rustic porch, and about it21
Shine the emerald leaves and green new wood of the rose-trees.22
Windows, old, once latticed, hide in the gloom of the ivy,23
Framed in square-cut stones, the sombre stone of the quarries;24
Newly glazed into fashion, though it is hardly in keeping.25
Mark the tiny garden, all in a flame with the crocus :—26
Four trim little flower-beds, edged with box; and the hollies,27
Carved to shapes fantastic, as in defiance of nature,28
Quaint as antique pictures made of the garden of Eden.29
Broad and flagg’d is the path between the door and the gateway,30
Fringed with London-pride, and white and red of the daisies.31
Many a passer-by will linger, eyeing the pleasance32
O’er the white wood railing, painted fair for the summer.33
Now the sun is setting and longer growing the shadows.34
Look again ; you see him; yes, in the porch he is sitting :35
It is Berthold Trevor, the curate, idol of Orton.36
Here he lives alone in his little bachelor cottage.37
You would deem him happy; yet, even now, as he muses,38
Grows a lifelong sorrow so all absorbing, so bitter,39
He bends neath his burden, and he is weary to bear it.40
Even as one, unsound, and in the springs of existence41
Hurt, past cure,—who knows not,—little heeds or regards it,42
Feeling pain sometimes; and then is well, and forgets it ;43
Deems life strong within him, and lays his plans, and is merry ;44
Then some keener pang reveals the whole of the danger,45
Speaks the truth too clearly, dashing all his endeavour ;46
So love gnaw’d the life of Berthold Trevor, the scholar.47
Thus in thoughts bewilder’d giving rein to his trouble,48
He arose and lean’d on the little rail of his garden.49
Be unhearten’d for ever :’ “ it was the word of the letter.50
Is it true ?  I think it. All my spirit is broken.51
All my life is empty, and baffled all its ambition.52
Life, how fair, with promise ! and it will be, in the future,53
As a tree, transplanted, from a clime that is sunny,54
Pining, dwarf’d, regretting the old congenial region.55
Were she dead, and I knew it ! or if I knew she were happy !”56
Then the noiseless whisper of reason pleaded within him.57
I am mad,” he mutter’d, “ giving way to the folly58
Of this love, this frenzy, this unreasoning passion.59
What ! again ! sick fancies ! after all the resistance !”60
He heard not the daws, that hover’d nigh in the churchyard,61
Building nests in the tower, and wrangling over the plunder.62
Gentle Rolf, his dog, the tawny friend of the children,63
Squeezing through the doorway to patter silently to him,64
Rubb’d his curly coat against the knee of his master,65
Looking up in vain, with longing tender and human.66
Hurt, he slunk away, to grieve alone in his kennel.67
Then, again, the master thus mutter’d low, in his anguish :—68
Does she give me a thought, there, in her home o’er the water ?69
Is she well ?  Is she happy ?  Then it is strange she has written,70
Yet, no line, no word. Still all the change of the seasons,71
Spring, and summer, and winter ; still the bountiful autumn,72
Adding fruit to blossom; and yet no sign of my sister.73
It is strange ! it is strange ! for she was always good-hearted ;74
Sparing needless sorrow to us who tenderly loved her.75
Yea, God, how we loved her !  Can we be wholly forgotten ?”76
When,” he said, “ at Oxford, so often, morning or even,77
Shone her face with its glory, gleam’d her eyes in their beauty,78
All the page grew dim, and the winged words of the masters,79
Honey-mouth’d by Ilissus, hoarded grain of the ages,80
Were as chaff winds scatter. Yet soft as breezes of August81
Came love’s breath, as airs blow to you over the roses.82
Did I yield ?  Nay, never !  Still I cried, ‘ It is folly.’83
Swallow,” said he, “ flying from the home of the summer,84
Did she greet you kindly, in the land of the poplars,85
With a little sigh to see the eyes of her people ?”86
Now,” he said, “ I feel it : yes, all in vain is the struggle.87
Work ?  Nay, love, I sicken. Love, I can bear it no longer.88
Once I cried, ‘ O soul, I give my all to the mission89
Of the Love Eternal : I will arise, and be girded90
With the zeal of the Lord, and I will go on His errand,91
Nor be slack ; and then, what is this joy of a mortal,92
This weak human passion, to be a grain in the balance ?”93
Ah, can two brief years so quench the zeal of the spirit ?94
Frail is man, at his best : gross is the soul of the people.95
In the name of the Lord I issued forth to the battle.96
Then I seem’d as he, whose lip an angel of heaven97
Touched with coal from the altar ; and all the fire and the wonder98
Of His Truth seem’d, then, to cleave its way, as the flashes99
From the cloud, ere the thunder rends the air with its terror.100
Yea,’ I cried, ‘ they listen : they will turn, and be holy.101
See ! the beautiful Christ !  Now they will cling, in a rapture,102
To His skirts, and follow, as blind of old in Judæa.’103
Yet they hear, and heed not : me they praise, in their folly :104
But the Lord, the Master ?— they have harden’d their faces.105
All is as before,—the sin, the greed, and the meanness.106
Lord, their hearts Thou knowest. When, to the cry of Hosanna,107
Thou didst ride of old to the celestial city,108
Over garments strewn, and with the palms of the people109
Making fair the day, as with the joy of a triumph,—110
What a triumph then, to Thee, who heardest, as ever,111
From the dawn of the ages, another cry they would utter !112
Work ?” he sighed, “ I sicken : work is no longer a passion.113
The old dream comes back, and I am not strong to resist it.”114
Little children three, who wander’d home to the village,115
Bearing osier wands crown’d with the spoil of the woodlands,116
Dropp’d a curtsey quaint, to win the smile of the curate.117
Fondly reason stray’d in magic sandals of dreaming.118
What,” he said, “ have we to match the eyes of the children ?119
What were our sad days without their musical voices,120
Sweeter far to me than songs of birds in the copses ?121
Touch of tiny hands, I think the power of the Master122
Lives on still in you, and a mystic wonder of healing.123
You are dew on the hills, and as the flowers in the chamber124
Of the sick, O children : you again to the aged125
Bring their youth, long lost. You are the verdant oases126
Where the traveller rests, who journeys on in the desert127
Of this bitter world unto the home everlasting.128
Children ?— Where are mine ?  Where do you hide in the darkness ?129
Will you never sit upon my knee in the even ?130
Will you never listen to the wonderful stories131
I so long to tell you, amid the gleam of the embers ?”132
Thus, anew, love’s pain, as a fever raging within him,133
Beat in trembling lip, and breast that heaved as a woman’s,134
I am ill,” he mutter’d, “ and I can bear it no longer.135
I will go away :— a little change :— there is healing136
In new scenes, new faces : yes, I will go on a ramble,137
On through grass and gorse, to heal the wound of the spirit.138
Nature’s touch and look have skill to charm, as a mother’s,139
Evil demons hiding within the souls of her offspring.140
Whither, then ?— no matter. But I will go : it is better.”141
Once to see her,” he sigh’d, “ and but to know she is happy !”142
With a subtle smile, as one who harbours a secret143
None can e’er unravel, he pass’d the homes of the sleepers.144
Greenly gleam’d the graves in dying ray of the sunset.145
In good heart he gain’d the little room of the rector ;146
Call’d his study, still: yet seldom now would he ponder147
Baxter, Taylor, Hall, the gilded tomes of the learned.148
By the fire, burnt low, the two were dreaming together.149
Dimly show’d the room in twilight’s lingering glamour,150
Dim had grown their eyes with age and many a sorrow.151
She had laid her work for a little while in the basket,152
He had closed his book. The curate paused, as he enter’d ;153
What he came to say his heart misgave him to utter.154
They are growing older :” —thus he mused, as the faces155
Turn’d to greet him, lighted with a halo of welcome :—156
She has changed of late ; her face is paler and sadder.157
He has grown more childlike : one sees seldom or never158
Now, the old stern look, which used to frighten the people.159
Now they love him, all, “ and the children gather about him.160
He is twice as gentle as in the days of the trouble.”161
Thus he mused ; then spake, half of his journey repenting :—162
Widow Jolliffe call’d : her son is ill, and the doctor163
Thinks his end is come : and she has no one to look to.”164
But with kindly talk, and helpful plans for the widow,165
He regain’d his ease, and soon unfolded his project.166
I am not so well :— there, aunt, not ill : it is nothing :167
Only tired a little. It is with reading, I fancy,168
Rather too much, lately. Yes, I know I am foolish.169
I get out of spirits. I have not had, since the summer,170
Any change, you know ; and I mean to go on a ramble,171
On through grass and gorse, and breathe the balm of the heather.172
Green has often ask’d me to come and see him in Hampshire.173
With new scenes, new faces, with the sound of the billows,174
I shall soon be right : a chat of times that are vanish’d,175
What could I have better ?— dear old days, by the Isis !176
I may even fancy a little sail in the Channel ;177
Touch the coast of France ; and come back strong as a lion.”178
At the word they started, looking hard at each other :179
Then the rector rose, and would have tried to dissuade him.180
But his sister answer’d, “ Yes, I believe it is better181
He should go. Yes, Edmund. If you will only remember,182
You have said yourself you did not think he was looking183
Half so strong of late.”  “ When do you go ?” said the rector.184
I had thought, to-morrow,” he said. Again at each other185
Look’d the two, but spoke not; and in his soul he was troubled.186
I must do,” he said, “ some little things in the village.”187
Sadly, slowly, he left them, now of his journey repenting.188
What mad scheme is this ?” the rector said ; and she answer’d,189
Softly, sighing inly, “ do not seem to observe him.190
Edmund, do not check him : since it would only confound him,191
If he deem’d we knew the hidden cause of his sadness.192
Now he thinks us blind, he uses guile, as the ostrich193
Puts his head in the sand, and thinks, the while, it is hidden.194
Love must have its way. Now he is full of a longing195
But to set his feet within the land of his cousin.196
Once again to flame bursts up his smouldering passion.”197
She read all, felt all ; and thus advised, in her wisdom.198
But, to hide his weeping, the old man turn’d to the window.199
Mary Trevor watch’d him, grieving over her brother.200
Fast his hair grows gray, and his limbs,” she murmur’d, “ are weaker :201
He begins to stoop,—I have observed it,—a little.”202
When, as morn grew bright, they stood and saw, on the doorstep,203
Him they loved departing, his knapsack over his shoulder,204
Tears were on their faces, and yet in words they were silent :205
Silent not in heart, as each in fervour to heaven206
Breathed a prayer, God heard, that He would guide him and heal him.207