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Edwy And The Echo

from Boys And Girls Bookshelf - OLD-FASHIONED STORIES





It was in the time of good Queen Anne, when none of the trees in the
great forest of Norwood, near London, had begun to be cut down, that a
very rich gentleman and lady lived in that neighborhood. Their name was
Lawley, and they had a fine old house and large garden with a wall all
round it. The woods were so close to this garden that some of the high
trees spread their branches over the top of the wall.

Now this lady and gentleman were very proud and very grand. They
despised all people poorer than themselves, and there were none whom
they despised more than the gypsies, who lived in the forest round about
them.

There was no place in all England then so full of gypsies as the forest
of Norwood.

Mr. and Mrs. Lawley had been married many years without having children.
At length they had a son, whom they called Edwy. They could not make
enough of their only child or dress him too finely.

When he was just old enough to run about without help, he used to wear
his trousers inlaid with the finest lace, with golden studs and laced
robings. He had a plume of feathers in his cap, which was of velvet,
with a button of gold to fasten it up in front under the feathers. He
looked so fine that whoever saw him with the servants who attended him
used to say, "Whose child is that?"

He was a pretty boy, too, and when his first sorrow came he was still
too young to have learned any proud ways.

No one is so rich as to be above the reach of trouble, and when at last
it came to Mr. and Mrs. Lawley it was all the more terrible.

One day the proud parents had been away some hours visiting a friend a
few miles distant. On their return Edwy was nowhere to be found. His
waiting-maid was gone, and had taken away his finest clothes. At least,
these also were missing.

The poor father and mother were almost beside themselves with grief. All
the gentlemen and magistrates round about helped in the search and tried
to discover who had stolen him. But it was all in vain. Of course the
gypsies were suspected and well examined, but nothing could be made of
it.

Nor was it ever found out how the child had been carried off. But
carried off he had been by the gypsies, and taken away to a country
among hills between Worcester and Hereford.

In that country was a valley with a river running deep at the bottom.
There were many trees and bushes, rocks and caves and holes there.
Indeed, it was the best possible place for the haunt of wild people.

To this place the gypsies carried the little boy, and there they kept
him all the following winter, warm in a hut with some of their own
children.

They stripped him of his velvet and feathers and lace and golden clasps
and studs, and clothed him in rags and daubed his fair skin with mud.
But they fed him well, and after a little while he was quite happy and
contented.

Perhaps the cunning gypsies hoped that during the long months of winter
the child would quite forget the few words he had learned to speak
distinctly in his father's house. They thought he would forget to call
himself Edwy, or to cry, "Oh, mamma, mamma, papa, papa! come to little
Edwy!" as he so often did. They taught him that his name was not Edwy,
but Jack, or Tom, or some such name. And they made him say "mam" and
"dad" and call himself the gypsy boy, born in a barn.

But after he had learned all these words, whenever anything hurt or
frightened him, he would cry again, "Mamma, papa, come to Edwy!"

The gypsies could not take him out with them while there was a danger of
his crying like that. So he never went with them on their rounds of
begging and buying rags and telling fortunes. Instead, he was left in
the hut, in the valley, with some big girl or old woman to look after
him.

It happened one day, in the month of May, that Edwy was left as usual in
the hut. He had been up before sunrise to breakfast with those who were
going out for their day's begging and stealing. After they had left, he
had fallen asleep on a bed of dry leaves. Only one old woman, who was
too lame to tramp, was left with him.

He slept long, and when he awoke he sat up on his bed of leaves and
looked about him to see who was with him. He saw no one within the hut,
and no one at the doorway.

Little children do not like to be quite alone. Edwy listened to hear if
there were any voices outside, but he heard nothing but the rush of a
waterfall close by, and the distant cry of sheep and lambs. The next
thing the little one did was to get up and go out at the door of the
hut.

The hut was built of rude rafters in the front of a cave or hole in the
rock. It was low down in the glen, at the edge of the brook, a little
below the waterfall. When the child came out he looked anxiously for
somebody, and was more and more frightened when he could find no one at
all.

The old woman must have been close at hand although out of sight, but
she was deaf, and did not hear the noise made by the child when he came
out of the hut.

Edwy did not remember how long he stood by the brook, but this is
certain, that the longer he felt himself to be alone the more frightened
he became. Then he began to fancy terrible things. At the top of the
rock from which the waters fell there was a huge old yew-tree, or rather
bush, which hung forward over the fall. It looked very black in
comparison with the tender green of the other trees, and the white,
glittering spray of the water.

Edwy looked at it and fancied that it moved. His eye was deceived by the
dancing motion of the water. While he looked and looked, some great
black bird came out from the midst of it, uttering a harsh, croaking
sound.

The little boy could bear no more. He turned away from the terrible bush
and the terrible bird, and ran down the valley, leaving hut and all
behind. And, as he ran, he cried, as he always did when hurt or
frightened, "Papa, mamma! oh, come! oh, come to Edwy!"

He ran and ran while his little bare feet were bruised with pebbles, and
his legs torn with briers. Very soon he came to where the valley became
narrower and the rocks and banks higher on either side. The brook ran
along between, and a path went in a line with the brook; but this path
was only used by the gypsies and a few poor cottagers, and was but a
lonely road.

As Edwy ran he still cried, "Mamma, mamma, papa, papa! oh, come! oh,
come to Edwy!" And he kept up this cry from time to time, till his young
voice began to be returned in a sort of hollow murmur.

When first he noticed this, he was even more frightened than before. He
stood and looked round. Then he turned with his back toward the hut and
ran and ran again until he got deeper in among the rocks. Then he
stopped again, for the high black banks frightened him still more, and
setting up his young voice he called again as he had done before.

He had scarcely finished his cry, when a voice seemed to answer him. It
said, "Come, come to Edwy!" It said it once, it said it twice, it said
it a third time. But it seemed each time more distant.

The child looked up and down, and all around, and in his terror he cried
more loudly, "Oh, papa, mamma! come, come to poor Edwy!"

It was an echo, the echo of the rocks which repeated the words of the
child. The more loudly he spoke, the more perfect was the echo. But he
could only catch the last few words, and this time he only heard, "Poor,
poor Edwy!"

Edwy still dimly remembered a far-away happy home, and kind parents,
and now he believed that what the echo said came from them. They were
calling to him, and saying, "Poor, poor Edwy!" But where could they be?
Were they in the caves, or at the top of the rocks, or in the blue
bright heavens?

He looked at the rocks and the sky, and down among the reeds and sedges
and alders by the side of the brook, but he could find no one.

After a while he called again, and called louder still.

"Come, come," was the cry again, "Edwy is lost! lost! lost!"

Echo repeated the last words as before, "Lost! lost! lost!" and now the
voice sounded from behind him, for he had moved round a corner of a
rock.

The child heard the voice behind, and turned and ran that way. Then he
stopped and heard it again in the opposite direction. Next he shrieked
from fear, and echo returned the shriek, finishing up with broken sounds
which to Edwy's ears seemed as if some one a long way off was mocking
him. His terror was now at its highest, and he did not know what to do,
or where to go. Turning round, he began once more to run down the
valley, and every step took him nearer the mouth of the glen and the
entrance to the great highroad.

And who had been driving along that road, in a fine carriage with four
horses, but Edwy's own papa and mamma!

Mr. and Mrs. Lawley had given up all hopes of finding their little boy
near Norwood, and they had set out in their coach to go all over the
country in search of him. They had come the day before to a town near to
the place where the gypsies had kept Edwy all the winter. There they had
made many inquiries, and asked about the gypsies who were to be found in
that country. But people were afraid of the gypsies, and did not like to
say anything which might bring trouble upon themselves.

The poor father and mother, therefore, could get no news there, and the
next morning they came across the country, and along the road into which
the gypsies' valley opened.

Wherever these unhappy parents saw a wild country full of woods, they
thought, if possible, more than ever of their lost child, and Mrs.
Lawley would begin to weep. Indeed, she had done little else since she
lost her boy.

The travelers first caught sight of the gypsies' valley as the coach
arrived at the top of a high hill. The descent on the other side was so
steep that it was thought right to put a drag on the wheels.

Mr. Lawley suggested that they should get out and walk down the hill, so
the coach stopped and every one got down from it. Mr. Lawley walked
first, followed closely by his servant William, and Mrs. Lawley came
after, leaning on the arm of her favorite little maid Barbara.

"Oh, Barbara!" said Mrs. Lawley, when the others were gone forward,
"when I remember all the pretty ways of my boy, and think of his lovely
face and gentle temper, and of the way in which I lost him, my heart is
ready to break."

"Oh, dear mistress," answered the little maid, "who knows but that our
grief may soon be at an end and we may find him yet and all will be
well."

Mr. Lawley walked on before with the servant. He too was thinking of his
boy as he looked up the wild lonely valley. He saw a raven rise from the
wood and heard its croaking noise--it was perhaps the same black bird
that had frightened Edwy.

William remarked to his master that there was a sound of falling water
and that there must be brooks running into the valley. Mr. Lawley,
however, was too sad to talk to his servant. He could only say, "I don't
doubt it," and then they both walked on in silence.

They came to the bottom of the valley even before the carriage got
there. They found that the brook crossed the road in that place, and
that the road was carried over it by a little stone bridge.

Mr. Lawley stopped upon the bridge. He leaned on the low wall, and
looked upon the dark mouth of the glen, William stood a little behind
him.

William was young, and his sense of hearing was very quick. As he stood
there he thought he heard a voice, but the rattling of the coach-wheels
over the stony road prevented his hearing it distinctly. He heard the
cry again, but the coach was coming nearer, and made it still more
difficult for him to catch the sound.

His master was surprised the next moment to see him jump over the low
parapet of the bridge and run up the narrow path which led to the glen.

It was the voice of Edwy and the answering echo which William had heard.
He had got just far enough away from the sound of the coach-wheels at
the moment when the echo returned poor little Edwy's wildest shriek.

The sound was fearful and unnatural, but William was not easily put out.
He looked back to his master, and his look made Mr. Lawley at once leave
the bridge and follow him, though hardly knowing why.

They both went up the glen, the man being some way in front of his
master. Another cry and another answering echo again reached the ear of
William. The young man once more looked round at his master and ran on.
The last cry had been heard by Mr. Lawley, who followed as quickly as he
could. But, as the valley turned and turned among the rocks, he soon
lost sight of his servant.

Very soon Mr. Lawley came to the very place where the echo had most
astonished Edwy, because the sound had seemed to come from opposite
sides. Here he heard the cry again, and heard it distinctly. It was the
voice of a child crying, "No! no! no! papa! mamma! Oh, come! oh, come!"
and then a fearful shriek or laugh of some wild woman's voice.

Mr. Lawley rushed on, winding in and out between the rocks. Different
voices, all repeated in strange confusion by the echoes, rang in his
ears. But amid all these sounds he thought only of that one sad cry,
"Papa! mamma! Oh, come! oh, come!"

Suddenly he came out to where he saw his servant again, and with him an
old woman who looked like a witch. She held the hand of a little ragged
child very firmly, though the baby struggled hard to get free, crying,
"Papa! mamma! Oh, come! oh, come!"

William was talking earnestly to the woman, and had got hold of the
other hand of the child.

Mr. Lawley rushed on, trembling with hope and fear. Could this boy be
his Edwy? William had entered his service since he had lost his child
and could not therefore know the boy. He himself could not be sure--so
strange, so altered did the baby look.

But Edwy knew his own papa in a moment. He could not run to meet him,
for he was tightly held by the gypsy, but he cried, "Oh, papa! papa is
come to Edwy!"

The old woman knew Mr. Lawley, and saw that the child knew him. She had
been trying to persuade William that the boy was her grandchild. But it
was no use now. She let the child's hand go, and, while he was flying to
his father's arms, she disappeared into some well-known hole or hollow
in the neighboring rocks.

Who can describe the feelings of the father when he felt the arms of his
long-lost boy clinging round his neck, and the little heart beating
against his own? Or who could say what the mother felt when she saw her
husband come out from the mouth of the valley, bearing in his arms the
little ragged child? Could this be her own baby, her Edwy? She could
hardly be sure of her happiness till the boy held out his arms to her
and cried, "Mamma! mamma!"

Before they got into the coach the happy parents knelt down upon the
grass to thank God for his goodness. There was no pride now in their
hearts and they never forgot the lesson they had learned.

In their beautiful home at Norwood they were soon as much loved and
respected as they had been feared and disliked. Even the gypsies in time
became their faithful friends, and Edwy was as safe in the forest as in
his own garden at home.





Next: The Little Old Woman Who Lived In A Vinegar-bottle

Previous: The Twelve Dancing Princesses



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