Edwy And The Echo

: Boys And Girls Bookshelf

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.

ow 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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.