BETA

Edith.


Part II.—Chapter III.—Little Ethel.

It is nigh flood tide : fresh comes the breeze from the river :1
Bright the sun looks down on the little harbour of Honfleur.2
Now it yields to Berthold a bitter pleasure to linger3
Still awhile in her land, before he leave it for ever.4
All the morn he wander’d,—and it is pleasant to wander5
In that peaceful region,—along the shore or the hillsides.6
There are winding vales, the wind lulls in, by the orchards7
White with apple bloom, around the homes of the peasant.8
There are shady lanes, the chaffinch loves, and the linnet.9
There are wooded hollows, you may find, and be lost in,10
Where the birds sing best, and wood-doves murmur contented ;11
Where, through some blue gap, as blue as wing of the swallow,12
Ships go by, to bear their freight o’er many a billow.13
There are wind-swept heights, with whin in bloom, and the heather,14
Where you dream, and hear the gray gull’s cry o’er the water.15
Thus awhile there stole a softer humour upon him.16
Nature touch’d his heart ; as sunbeams, falling in winter,17
Touch the ice, and melt it into tears for a season.18
Seem’d his love, for a moment, but as the dream of a dreamer.19
He, but half unhappy, and pleased, returning, to linger,20
Sat to rest awhile, a little tired with his ramble.21
Not a sweeter spot could he have chosen to rest in.22
As you climb from the town, between the rows of the houses,23
Crazy dim old houses, in awhile they are ended :24
Then the road grows steeper, and you must toil in ascending ;25
But fair elm trees keep the heat away, and the hillside26
On the left hand shields you. Thus you climb to the summit,27
Cool with elms and beeches, and dim in glare of the noonday.28
On the level top is fair green sward, and the benches,29
Placed by many a bole, are cut and carved by the pilgrims.30
Many pilgrims seek the little shrine of the Chapel31
Of our Lady of Grace, you see mid green of the branches.32
Women sit here, knitting, by their wares,—for the pious,33
Crosses, rosaries, books, and shells and toys for the children.34
On the steep slope edge, to catch the eye of the seamen,35
As they drop down tide, to fish, or fare o’er the ocean,36
Stands the Calvaire : hither mothers come, with the loved ones ;37
Teach the little hands to make the sign of religion,38
Teach the little knees to kneel awhile in devotion39
To the Lord, the Son, and Mary, Israel’s Lily.40
Here you sit, and watch the sails go by, and the water41
Murmurs far below, and blue and calm is the river ;42
And the sunshine gleams on white cliffs over the Channel,43
And Le Havre, dimly, meets the eye in the distance ;44
Then away to the left, and smooth’d of every ripple,45
Spreads the fair pale light and dim horizon of ocean.46
Here he sat, and dream’d of dim-grown days, and the changes47
Time will bring about ; and, now and then, in his dreaming,48
Mark’d a child of seven, a little girl, by the beeches,49
Peering round for flowers: and she was clad in the homespun50
Which the poor folk wear, but had an air that was gentle.51
By and by, as taking but little heed of his presence,52
To the bench she stole ; and soon spread o’er it her plunder,—53
Violets, windflowers, and primroses, and the treasure54
Which the spring time hoards in woods and shadowy places.55
She began to sort them, and neatly binding together56
Those not soil’d or broken, she laid them where he was seated :57
Then, with voice as sweet as birds that sadden at even,58
Spake, not looking up, as if she knew that he watch’d her :—59
These are for mamma : I am so glad : what a number !60
Violets, of all things ! for you must know that she loves them61
Best of all. How lucky !  Now mamma will be happy.”62
With a glad surprise he bent an ear to the music63
Of his English tongue, heard in the land of the stranger.64
So he took the flowers, and, leaning o’er them, he answer’d,—65
Does she ? so do I.”  “ O yes,” she said, “ and I wonder66
Who does not ! what scent !” then with her delicate fingers67
Pluck’d the heads off many that lay beside her, rejected ;68
Shaping letters with them.  “ There,” she said, “ do you know it ?69
Do you know my name ?  But you be quiet a minute :70
I will make it for you. Letter E,—that begins it :71
T, H, E, then L : but I suppose you can spell it.72
That is all : now read it : there it is : LITTLE ETHEL.”73
Then she left the flowers, and came and lean’d with her elbows74
On his knees, and scann’d his pale face o’er, and was silent,75
With her thoughts, awhile : but he was charm’d with the strangeness76
Of the large brown eyes, so sad and dreamy and absent ;77
All too sad and absent, for a child, for the summers78
She had known, so few. But, with her survey contented,79
Little Ethel smiled : she said— “ I knew you were English.80
So are we. Mamma is. I am, too.—Did I tell you ?81
My papa is dead. Is yours ?”  He tenderly kissd her :82
Yes,” he said ; and, thinking, scarcely seem’ to remember83
When he knew her first, he seem’d so long to have known her.84
That is why you are sad,” with look of sorrow she whisper’d.85
Berthold did not answer, but with his hand, that was gentle86
As a woman’s, softly smoothed away from the forehead87
Of his new-found friend the loose brown hair, for it wander’d88
Wild, and seldom heeded.  “ Yes,” he thought, “ you are pretty,89
Care-worn little face ;” and mused, and seem’d to remember90
Such a face, but could not. And then, because she was silent,91
He began to chatter, asking many a question,92
For he lov’d to hear the sweet low voice, as it murmur’d93
This and that, confiding.  “ Do you know how I like it,94
Talking here?” she said.  “ We are so dull. You have never95
Come before up here, or I should surely have seen you ;96
For I come here often. And, yes, indeed, it is lovely.97
And it makes me well, mamma says. Now, I must tell you,98
I am not so strong, and ill sometimes in the winter.99
I come all myself : she sits at home with her knitting,100
All day long. She paints. O you should look at the pictures101
Which she does : such dear ones : full of roses and lilies !”102
He awhile was happy with the smiles and the prattle103
Of his tiny friend. The bitter load of his burden104
Still a child could lessen. He was not wholly forsaken105
Of the God who keeps His dear ones tender and simple.106
Two figures meet and converse in the outdoors. A man sits on a bench and looks down toward the face of a young girl. The girl’s back is turned toward the viewer. The figures are surrounded by flowers and grasses in the foreground. The background features two varieties of trees and birds flying in the sky. Full-page illustration.