And he shall wonder why thou art not here
The solitude with “smiles to entertain,”
And gaze along the reaches of the Mere;
But he shall never see thy face again—
Shall never see upon the reedy shore
Maid Margaret beneath her sycamore.
MARGARET IN THE XEBEC.
["Concerning this man (Robert Delacour), little further is known than that he served in the king’s army, and was wounded in the battle of Marston Moor, being then about twenty-seven years of age. After the battle of Nazeby, finding himself a marked man, he quitted the country, taking with him the child whom he had adopted; and he made many voyages between the different ports of the Mediterranean and Levant.”]
Resting within his tent at turn of day,
A wailing voice his scanty sleep beset:
He started up—it did not flee away—
’Twas no part of his dream, but still did fret
And pine into his heart, “Ah me! ah me!”
Broken with heaving sobs right mournfully.
Then he arose, and, troubled at this thing,
All wearily toward the voice he went
Over the down-trod bracken and the ling,
Until it brought him to a soldier’s tent,
Where, with the tears upon her face, he found
A little maiden weeping on the ground;
And backward in the tent an aged crone
Upbraided her full harshly more and more,
But sunk her chiding to an undertone
When she beheld him standing at the door,
And calmed her voice, and dropped her lifted hand,
And answered him with accent soft and bland.
No, the young child was none of hers, she said,
But she had found her where the ash lay white
About a smouldering tent; her infant head
All shelterless, she through the dewy night
Had slumbered on the field,—ungentle fate
For a lone child so soft and delicate.
“And I,” quoth she, “have tended
her with care,
And thought to be rewarded of her kin,
For by her rich attire and features fair
I know her birth is gentle: yet within
The tent unclaimed she doth but pine and weep,
A burden I would fain no longer keep.”
Still while she spoke the little creature wept,
Till painful pity touched him for the flow
Of all those tears, and to his heart there crept
A yearning as of fatherhood, and lo!
Reaching his arms to her, “My sweet,” quoth he,
“Dear little madam, wilt thou come with me?”
Then she left off her crying, and a look
Of wistful wonder stole into her eyes.
The sullen frown her dimpled face forsook,
She let him take her, and forgot her sighs,
Contented in his alien arms to rest,
And lay her baby head upon his breast.
Ah, sure a stranger trust was never sought
By any soldier on a battle-plain.
He brought her to his tent, and soothed his voice,
Rough with command; and asked, but all in vain,
Her story, while her prattling tongue rang sweet,
She playing, as one at home, about his feet.