Thus sang Hildegarde as she sat in the west window, busily stringing her currants. She had been thinking a great deal about Bubble Chirk, making plans for his education, and wondering what his sister Pink was like. He reminded her, she could not tell why, of the “lytel boy” who kept fair Alyce’s swine, in her favorite ballad of “Adam Bell, Clym o’ the Clough, and William of Cloudeslee;” and the words of the ballad rose half unconsciously to her lips as she bent over the great yellow bowl, heaped with scarlet and pale-gold clusters.
“Merry it is in
the green forest,
Among the leaves green,
Whenas men hunt east and west
With bows and arrowes keen,
“For to raise
the deer out of their denne,—
Such sights have oft been seen;
As by three yemen of the north countree:
By them it is, I mean.
“The one of them
hight Adam Bell,
The other Clym o’ the Clough;
The third was Willyam of Cloudeslee,—
An archer good enough.
“They were outlawed
These yemen every one.
They swore them brethren on a day
To English wood for to gone.
“Now lythe and
That of myrthes loveth to hear!”
At this moment the door opened, and Farmer Hartley entered, taking off his battered straw hat as he did so, and wiping his forehead with a red bandanna handkerchief. Hilda looked up with a pleasant smile, meaning to thank him for the raspberries which he had gathered for her breakfast; but to her utter astonishment the moment his eyes fell upon her he gave a violent start and turned very pale; then, muttering something under his breath, he turned hastily and left the room.
“Oh! what is the matter?” cried Hilda, jumping up from her chair. “What have I done, Nurse Lucy? I have made the farmer angry, somehow. Is this his chair? I thought—”
“No, no, honey dear!” said Nurse Lucy soothingly. “Sit ye down; sit ye down! You have done nothing. I’m right glad of it,” she added, with a tone of sadness in her pleasant voice. “Seeing as ’tis all in God’s wisdom, Jacob must come to see it so; and ’tis no help, but a deal of hindrance, when folks set aside chairs and the like, and see only them that’s gone sitting in them.” Then, seeing Hilda’s look of bewilderment, she added, laying her hand gently on the girl’s soft hair: “You see, dear, we had a daughter of our own this time last year. Our only one she was, and just about your age,—the light of our eyes, our Faith. She was a good girl, strong and loving and heartsome, and almost as pretty as yourself, Hilda dear; but the Father had need of her, so she was taken from us for a while. It was cruel hard for Jacob; cruel, cruel hard. He can’t seem to see, even now, that it was right, or it wouldn’t have been so. And so I can tell just what he felt, coming in just now, sudden like, and seeing you sitting in Faith’s chair. Like as not he forgot it all for a minute, and thought it was herself. She had a blue dress that he always liked, and she’d sit here and sing, and the sun coming in on her through her own window there, as she always called it: like a pretty picture she was, our Faith.”