'First Love' is a novel by Margracia Loudon. This carefully crafted e-artnow ebook is formatted for your eReader with a functional and detailed table of contents. Extract: 'The evening was cold, approaching to frost; and the sun, though still much above the natural horizon, was just sinking from view behind the lofty chain of western hills: his last rays lingered a while on the most prominent parts of each stupendous height, then, gradually retiring, left point after point, which, like so many beacon lights extinguished by an invisible hand, successively disappeared, till all became shrouded alike in cheerless gloom and volumes of mist rolling down the sides of the mountains, a dense fog settled in the valley like a white and waveless lake.'
CHAPTER V. Table of Contents
To her face looked up, with innocent love,
And she looked fondly on him."
We left the family at Lodore House enjoying, we hope, the refreshment of a good night's rest. The next morning Frances, before she thought of breakfast, repaired to the bedside of Edmund. He had been for some time awake; but, unaccustomed, it would seem, to have any friend or confidant, he had not ventured to speak or stir. The tones of Frances' voice, naming him to the servants as she inquired for him, appeared to bring at once happiness and confidence to his heart. He opened his eyes as she bent over him: he started up, clung round her neck, and wept; though now it was evidently for joy. These first transports, over however, he cast, from time to time, doubting glances on the various sides of the apartment, and especially towards that in which the door was placed, and evinced a great anxiety to retain Frances' hand. She thought him feverish; and with great alarm perceived that his poor little frame was covered with fearful bruises. His neck and hands first drew her attention; and Mrs. Smyth, the housekeeper, soon ascertained that the limbs, concealed by the night-dress, had suffered full as much. Frances sent to Keswick for medical aid, and left her charge with Mrs. Smyth. Mrs. Smyth was a good-natured woman, added to which, the patience and gentleness of the little sufferer had begun to win upon her heart, from the very moment her assistance was first ordered to him. She found it necessary to sit by and encourage him while he breakfasted, for, like a wild animal, driven by hunger nearer to the haunts of man than usual, he started, and desisted from eating, at every sound.
"And what might you have for breakfast yesterday's morn, my dear?" said Mrs. Smyth.
"Nothing," he answered.
"And what had you for dinner, then?"
"Nothing, my dear!" repeated the good woman; "and ye could na ha' less! Ney fault tell the cooking o' sic dinners, to be sure! And wha was it then, that beat and bruised the life and saul out on ye in this shamefoo manner, my dear?" she continued.
Edmund trembled, sighed heavily, and was silent.
"And win't ye tall me wha it was 'at beat ye?"
Tears stood in his eyes, but still he was silent.
"So you win't speak till me! And after the nice breakfast I geed ye, too!"
The tears now flowed, but still he was silent.
"And wha was it then, that droonded ye in the water?"
He looked all round, but did not speak; and Mrs. Smyth soon saw it was vain to persist in questioning him.
Mr. Dixon, the Keswick surgeon, arrived. He inquired of Mrs. Smyth what the child had eaten, and how his food had seemed to agree with him. Having received due replies, he turned to Frances, who by this time was just entering, and addressed her thus:-
"I should not have anticipated, madam-I should not have anticipated, that so great a variety of aliment would have assimilated well in the child's stomach; but, such being the case, I never set my face against facts, madam!-never set my face against facts! I should, therefore, continue the course which has been hitherto pursued, with respect to nutriment."
"Yes, sir; but have you seen his bruises?" asked Frances.
"My practice is very simple, madam," resumed the doctor, without answering her question; "I love to go hand-in-hand with our great instructress, Nature."
"But-these terrible bruises, sir! What is your--"
"It is too much the custom with men of our profession, to oppose the efforts of nature; but I love to assist them, madam-I love to assist them."
"You are quite right, sir. But, do you think those bruises will be of any consequence?"
"Depend upon it, madam, depend upon it, there is always a revulsion, as it were, towards right; a rebounding, a returning, in nature to her usual functions, as first ordained by her all, wise Creator; and our part, is carefully to watch those movements. And when the elasticity of any power is impaired by the forcible, or long continued pressure of adventitious circumstances; first, to remove the weight of such, and then, by gentle stimulants, to restore buoyancy to the injured spring; thus, madam-thus, I ever doff my cap to Nature!"
The doctor having arrived at what seemed a pause, at least, if not a conclusion, Frances had some hopes of being heard; and, by way of exordium, said,
"Your system, sir, is as judicious as it is pious."
"I am not presumptuous, madam!" again interrupted the doctor; "I am not presumptuous-"
"And I should like," persisted Frances, "to have the opinion of one so skilful, respecting the bruises of this poor child."
The doctor's ear at length caught the word. "The bruises, madam! the bruises! They have been inflicted by a cruel and most unsparing hand! No doubt of it, madam-no doubt of it! Who was it that beat you in this shocking manner, my little dear?" he continued, stroking the child's head good-naturedly.
Edmund looked alarmed, but made no attempt at reply.
"There are, I hope, no inward bruises," resumed the doctor: "some of these outward ones are attended with a degree of inflammation, doubtless; but it is very slight and quite local, and may, I hope, be even beneficial: inasmuch as it may divert the attention of the system, and prevent any more vital part becoming the seat of disease; but it is not such as to require any general reduction of a patient already so low."
"I am delighted to hear you say so, sir!" exclaimed Frances; "for I wish so much to give him every thing good, when I think, poor fellow, that perhaps he never had a comfortable meal in his life, before last night! And I long so, too," she added, looking at Edmund, "to see the little creature quite fat and rosy."
"No roses here, madam! doubtless none, nor rotundity of limb, that is most certain. I do not know that I have ever met with a more decided case of emaciation in the whole course of my practice! Look at his fingers, madam! do look at his fingers! Nor do I think that his pulse would warrant me in bleeding him at present, as I should, doubtless, any other patient, labouring under contusions of this nature. I will, therefore, send an emolient and cooling mixture, with which, Mrs. Smyth, you will bathe the parts frequently. Nutriment and quiet will do the rest," he added, turning again to Frances, "for his fever proceeds entirely from irritation of the nervous system, not from general fulness; therefore, as I said before, cannot require general reduction. General opposed to general, you see, madam, in the healing, as well as in the wounding profession! Heigh! heigh! You don't admire puns, I know; but come, that's rather a good one, is it not? Good morning to you." And so saying, though on the wrong side of sixty, the doctor performed an active pirouette at the door, as was his custom; and, with the lightness of a lad of sixteen, made good his retreat, being in great haste to leave the impression of the last good thing he had said fresh on the minds of his hearers. Notwithstanding these little innocent peculiarities, Mr. Dixon was a truly worthy, a kind-hearted, and a skilful man, charitable to the poor, and solicitously attentive to his patients; and, with all, he had not a mercenary thought! Mrs. Montgomery had employed him for many years; and such was her confidence in his abilities, that she would have judged those she regarded, less safe in any other hands.
Frances flew after Mr. Dixon, to entreat his aid for Fairy, her beautiful Italian greyhound, that she had left very ill in the arms of Lord L-. But, alas! the poor little dog was no more: it had expired in convulsions; and the group which presented itself, on entering the breakfast-room, appeared holding a sort of coroner's inquest over the body. Lord L., still faithful to his charge, held the motionless favourite on his knee; Mrs. Montgomery sat near, with a countenance which seemed to say, "all is over!" Frances' maid and the butler stood, one with a saucer of milk, the other with a plate of water, both now become useless; while Henry pinched, first a foot, then the tail, then an ear, to ascertain, as he said, whether the thing were quite dead. Frances gently put his hand aside, and looked in the doctor's face. The doctor shook his head. He was asked if he could say, from the symptoms, what had caused the creature's death?
"Poison, madam! poison!" he replied, without hesitation.
Henry reddened. "It does not admit of a doubt, madam!" continued the doctor, "the animal has died by poison." The servants had their own opinion, as to who had given the poison, but were silent.-Such are the beginnings of crime.
Poor Edmund had now been some days an inmate of Lodore House, but, as yet, no one had been able to discover who or what he was: while from himself no replies could be obtained, but sobs and terrified looks.
One morning Frances sent for him to the breakfast-room, and, after giving him many good things, began a kind of questioning, which she hoped might draw some information from the child, without alarming him: such as, Where was his home? Where was the place where he used always to be? He replied, "No where." Was there any one that used to love him? "Yes," he said. She now thought she had found a clue to some useful discovery, and asked him, who it was that loved him? "You do," he replied. Frances took him on her knee, and put her questions in low whispers; upon which,...