|Chapter Title||IN THE TWILIGHT.|
|Newspaper Title||Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)|
IN THE TWILIGHT.
" In paths sun proef With purple of the trellis roof,
That through the jealous leaves escapes
From Cadenabbia's purple grapes"
Cadenabbia had in the early days of its history been the homestead of an old German farmer, who had planted a vineyard of many acres across a gently sloping hill that caught the first beams of the morning sun, and was full in the last rays that slowly declined in
A vineyard which when planted was to produce wine that should rival Hochheimer, beloved of mankind—be mentioned in the same breath with immortal Johannisberg, and finally fight its dauntless way into the
sacred cellars of crowned heads.
Honest Traugott Körner, who loved God and reverenced his conscience to the last day of his life, worked early and late delving
deep into Australia's virgin soil, and saw with pardonable pride how his labour was rewarded by the magnificent vines which bent lower summer by summer with their burden of enormous pear-shaped bunches of Muscatel and many other wine pro ducing grapes. He would sit in the evening by his cottage door, smoking pipe after pipe as ne looked across at his well-beloved vineyard, till a dreamy, far-away expression settled on his placid face and ne heard not a word of the chance remarks made by his wife Cornelia as she sat knitting beside him. What visions had he of rare and matchless wines that should make glad the hearts of gods
and men in the years to come? What
splendid hopes of a divine vintage that would make merry without stupefy ing—that would strengthen the frame and cast down the narrow enclosures of the soul, and restore something of the glory and aspiration of unpolluted youth, to men grown dull and hard and selfish in the sordid pur suit of filthy lucre ?
The vines throve apace, and a great cellar was ready, but before he could know the bitterness of failure or the triumph of vic tory, Traugott Körner died.
Dig deep," he murmnred, looking out through the old-fashioned casement of his room, which commanded a view of the vine yard. A little while afterwards he said in a low clear voice, " I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine until that day that I drink it
. new in the Kingdom of God.
The place was sold after the old man's death; it was purchased by Algernon West lake's father, who had a large freehold estate adjoining the farm. All that is left of the vineyard is a long trellis path covered from end to end with great vines, which in winter are gnarled and naked, and convulsively twisted, like legions of wrestling adversaries turned by enchantment into a motionless forestry. In spring the tendrils shoot forth, creeping round posts and arches in unre strained play, the soft, tenderly green leaves uncurl in countless flocks; by-and-by be neath these come timidly peeping clusters upon clusters of baby grapes, which day by day swell out, till in fulness of time they hang, ripe and splendid, gleaming in the sunlight, of a most royal purple. Yearly the miracle is repeated.
Of the old house not a vestige now re mained. In its place stood a hauasome pile of buildings, fronted by a wide lawn, fringed here and there by a noble old gumtree, beneath which seats were fixed— very rustic in appearance, but cunningly comfortable to sit upon* Some one remarked that these seats had a benevolent air, as if
they had been purposely designed for "talk ing age and whispering lovers." But it was not a pair of either who sat in the lengthen ing shadows under ons of those dignified and stately trees at the far end of the lawn, close to a fountain whicb sent up a slender silvery spray of water into the still warm atmos phere. It is two young women who are sit ting there in close converse. One of them, the elder by three years or so, is a small, slight, graceful woman, with somewhat irregular features, but a pair of most beautiful dark brown eyes. They lit up her face and some how dominated it by their depth and bril liancy, and swiftly changing expression.
" But, Gen," she is saying, •' what is one to do? I feel I am losing my position with yon in sitting like this at your feet, metaphori cally speaking. In the old days you were my admiring and obedient satellite; consider yourself so still, only that through sheer ennvi I abdicate for a little while. But to go back
" Oh, but dou't imagine that I presume to bring yon to task."
"res, yes, anything yon will, only say exactly what you think. It is so refreshing to see you quite in earnest about so many things. Mon Dieu, it is so forlorn to feel one's self gradually getting to be a bit of fur niture in 'Vanity Fair—like a China cabinet, let ns say, on which one day you arrange Satsuma and rare bits from the East, and replace them next week by Dresden transparencies and conceits _ from Fiance. You say, whyget so bored and impatient with my friends? Because I am a shallow stream waitingfor bright reflections. For a time oneis thrilled with the wonder and beauty of it all: there are great white doable - blossomed
flowers, Hellenic heads, crowned with ever- ' lasting laurel, the sob of the unresting sea, the strange splendours of dawn, the far shining stars set in the measureless heavens, and
there are the triumphant songs of poets, ! But after a time, ah—what an ending ; ail the wonder and splendour and mysterious promise have faded away, and the shallow little stream lies stagnant, and its shores are
invaded by an unending procession of ducks ' and geese. Bah ! what evil genius tempts me to use metaphor. I always get into a hopeless hog, and Gen, you actually have the audacity to laugh."
"No, 1 am not disrespectful," returned Genevitve, though her lips were parted in a mischievous smile. " 1 am only wondering to which class I belong. I am hardly lively enough for a goose, and a duck has deep rooted habits of industry in which 1 am totally wanting."
Mrs. Westlake smiled, but vouchsafed no j
answer, and there was a silence, broken onlv by the distant cry of a curlew and the plash of the falling water.
"The stars, I think, and the flowers always remain," said Genevieve, breaking
1 "Yes, and the flowers wither, the Btars too mostly shine when we sleep or are too wearied to look at them," responded Mrs. Westlake quickly.
"Well, Clarice, suppose we all take up the cry of the King of old, i
, and eome to the conclusion that the whole routine of our lives is a miserable and insnc
"Ah, dear child, Goa forbid I should wish any one to come to such a conclusion. But if the truth is forced upon one—Do you hear the weird mournfulness of that bird's cry? Yon can imagine two passionate lovers hear ing it, and - finding the suggestion of mourn fulness a kind of delightful antidote to their overwhelming happiness. But a desolate wanderer finds in it a terrible echo of his own despair. So I find it with life. One can take the good and bad of it pleasantly, equably while some treasure is secure, but when the desolation of sorrow comes Or, to make
my meaning plainer, take a study of scenery from a master hand Rembrandt's for instance. I remember a drawing of his in sepia of a windmill and a few cottages stand ing 011 the verge of a broad river. For in dication of water there was only the rough reflected image of the objects upou the banks, but put in with such per fect calculation of the right depth of tone that the broad expanse of untouched paper was transformed at once, and as if by magic, into a mirror of motionless water. Now, efface the lines, in place of the deep broad river you have a piece of paper rather smudged. Rut come, Gen, let us talk of something else. I have a thousand questions to ask you about yourself. Do you know there is one thing I am dying to know ? The other day, Mrs. Morton—you know the dear old flabby, affectionate creature wbo loves every
body so much, and has always a bit of scandal, or, at the very least, a word of gossip to relate of everyone—well she mentioned mci
me very much. In fact, at i
declined to believe it—it seemed like a wrong that anything so important should have hap pened in your life,without my knowing it. Though, of course, how should I, flitting about from one unknown spot to tne other without ever writing a stroke or getting even a postcard!? Algernon, I believe, got a letter occasionally, but in a secret sort or way, as if it were an accident of which he was heartily ashamed. You know the absurd way in which be always humours my whims; and
when we sailed I vowed that we were neither to write nor receive letters."
" I think I cangness what Mrs. Morton told you. Indeed, Clarice, believe me, it was nothing but the impossibility of writing to you that prevented me from telling yon all."
"Then you really were?"
" Yes; I was engaged to John Drummond," said Geneviive in a very low voice.
" For the space of one month ?" " Oh, Clarice 1"
" Why, one would imagine I was in league with Mrs. Grundy, and held it to be woman's chief aim in life to achieve an operatic catas trophe in orange blossom."
''But, Clarice, you must know that the whole affair was verv painful and humiiiat
Well, Gen, I must confess that I feel a little curious; but if you would rather not sneak of the matter, why, there is always the glory of silence to fall back upon."
"No; I meant to tell you of it. You re member how John Drummond in our old
schooldays used to be perpetually with
" Ah, yes! I bave often noticed that gen tlemen who had attractive daughters are frequently the victims of young men's en thusiastic admiration."
"Indeed, lam sure John Drummond had no such attraction in those days."
" It was later, then, that his love for your father's society took a Icbs disinterested
Genevieve looked away across the darkling woods, where in the pale light of retreating day and approaching night a crescent moon was dimly visible. She was tall and straight, with a lithe buoyantfigore, and that splendidly pure kind of complexion—clear and delicately fair—but opaque rather than transparent, which is never fonnd save with almost perfect health. Her bair was bright brown, approach ing to golden, and her eyes were large and radiant, of the deep true violet hue bo rarely seen. Thus, though her face was by no means faultless) judged by a severe standard of beauty, there was something essentially noble and winning in her appearance. But at this moment there is a cloud on her brow, and her eyes-are downcast, and Mrs. West lake, seeing this, is smitten with remorse.
"How, Carissima, don't don that inner garment of hair, and produce the corded scourge so dear to the heart of innocent culprits. I can guess—I know how it all came about. John was silent and sombre for a time, yonr dear mother meditative and un wearied in throwing ont kindly suggestions as to John's goodness, his friendship, &c., &c.j or did your parents simply look at you with mute entreaty, like the mother in • Auld Robin Gray' ?
" Of course, they always liked John very much," answered Genevifeve slowly. " Bnt I am sure they did not influence me in any way. It came about rather suddenly, just i before Mr.Drummond was to start for his new
Eroperty in the north of Queensland. I had
ardly realized it all when my father's
alarming illness came on the day we reached Sydney on our way to Hew Zealand."
" Dia you fancy yon were in love with him, Gen? Tell me candidly."
"I don't know about being in love in an intense or sudden way. but I knew I had seen no one else I liked so mnch or trusted so entirely. And be, be was so humble and —oh, you know the way in which a genuine man regards the woman he loves, as if she were a sort of minor divinity with a visible aureole. I was humbled, grateful, and, thonch my first feeling was. instant and emphatic denial, I faltered, was irresolute, tasked my mother one morning whether she thought one ought to be irretrievably in love
befcic becoming aged. And then my I mother told me the story of her otvn wooing j aod marriage. She did not, 1 aai sure, wil fully bias me in any way. Do you know, Clarice, tliat even now I wonder why I rushed out of my engagement with almost a feeling of fright."
" But what I am most curious to know is
the real reason of your doing so. How did j you discover that you dared not mari-y ! 3ohn?"
Genevieve looked down, and then, taking courage from the gathering gloom, replied— .
" I think it was through seeing an absurd little melodramaat the —-Theatre. Indeed, I have forgotten the name. I went under protest with the Milmans. but my mother in sisted it would do me good to go out, as I had been taking my tnrn as nurse as often as she would allow me. I really think I must have gone to sleep during the first act. The prin cipal actor was a rather burly man—pro foundly egotistical I thought him. His great speciality was the masterly way in which he smoked-a cigar. A smile-of rapture used to spread on the countenances\>f the audience when they saw him'striking a lueifer. Well, he got engaged to .the 'heroine, who thought
Bhe loved him—till near the end of the second act." .
" Well, why didn't she love him throngh the third act, or at least till the curtain felif"
" Oh,"Clarice, 1'fefel that you'are laughing at roe. Indeed I feelinclinea to' laugh at my self ; I hardly know anvthiifg of the play. I am like the Irishman who declared that the most interesting book he ever read in his life was one lenttohim by a cousin. He didn't remember the title of the work nor what it was about, but it was a, 'delightful book. Well; the heroine somehow near the end of the seconcLact burst into a torrent of'tears, and declared she could never forgive' herself, but she knew now she did not love the hero as she ought. She could not] look forward with any rapture to Blending' her whole lifo with him. rib doubt it was the apotheosis of commonplace, but the words struck some electric chain; I looked forward into the
years to come, and for the first time I realized the grim desolation that must fall on the woman who makes a mistake in marriage.
That very night I wrote to Mr. Drummond, . and the next day I told mother. They all have been so very good to me, but I have not been able to forgive myself so easily."
" Well, now for the missine link?"
"I am not sure that I understand you, Clarice."
"Lord, what hypocrites we women are. You do understand me, Gen. If not I'll put my meaning beyond doubt. Three years ago when we spent some weeks at Moreton, Algernon said to me one night, " Will Gen marry Drummond think you ?" " Perhajis," I replied; " if she meets no one in the mean time who touches the deepest chords of her nature, I think it is highly probable." "Now, yon don't really mean to ask me to believe that the foolish woman in the foolish play, of which you have forgotten even the name, was the person who reached down to those dangerous depths which nature has so cunningly overlaid in most of us, that we are often half a lifetime placidly unconscious of them ?'
There was a long pause. Then Genevieve
drew closer to her mend.
" I may be deceiving yon as much by what else I have to tell as by witholding it. But as you are so remorseless a vivisectionist I have no alternative. All I can say is that at the time I was honestly unconscious of being in any way influenced by what I am going to tell you. When my father was taken ill, we were staving at Mrs. Western's. It was a kind of seizure, you know, and. of course, wo were dreadfully alarmed. My mother sent me direct for Dr. Hainbidge, father's old friend. I hurried out, hardly knowing where I went. My only coherent idea was to take a cab and drive to the doctor's, No. 12, Royal Crescent Espla nade. I went along, walking as rapidly as possible—indeed, almoatrunuing. You know Mrs. Western's is in a very qniet suburb, and for a bit I saw no cab anywhere—at least, not disengaged. At last I saw a conveyance approaching at a slow pace. I hailed it, though it hardly looked like a cab, and to my relief the driver came np at once. I bounded in and gave him the address. I found Dr. Hambidge was not in, but ex pected every moment,' so I left an urgent message, and then drove home. The cabman's charge astonishedme tit was about one-fourth of what I should have expected. But then I had no personal experience to fall back upon, and the man seemed satisfied that his charge was sufficiently high, as he said he was often in the neighbourhood of Bideford House, and would be happy to put bis cab at my service any time I required it. The very
next day I bad occasion to go for something
... ? ....
mother needed at once. You know what it is when a gentlewoman with no qualification but poverty keeps a painfully select boarding house. v Well, the next day I was more collected, and when at a little distance from Mrs. Western's I saw the cab, I was struck
with the unusual appearance of the driver. His clothes were not much better than that worn by the average run of his kind, and the cab itself was in no ways remarkable; indeed,
it jolted considerably, and I could not help thinking how completely oblivious we be come of externals in great emotion, for I could not remember that on the previous day the cab had been anything but smooth-going and very comfortable. Then the horse was a sorry nag enough, but there, I knew my memory did not play me false. ' Did you not have two borses yesterday ?' I asked, but the man's whip got entangled in the home's harness somehow, and I did not think it worth while repeating the question. I could not help, however, noticing the man closely. The more I looked at him the more I became convinced that he was a gentleman. Every thing about him, except his clothes and occu pation, confirmed the impression ; his voice and accent were especially unmistakable. He was quite young, not more that 24,1 should imagine. I felt so dreadfully sorry for him, feeling sure that it must be some great misfortune which had reduced him to such a position. And somehow I could not imagine that it was through any fault of his own, I recalled .numberless stories I had
beard of yonng men of good birth coming oat
to Australia under the mistaken idea that it is an El Dorado in which a fortune can be
picked up without any trouble to speak of. The third time I was ru his cab, I could not help saying to him—'Do you like your calling?' and he answered 'Oh, yes— immensely.' I was rather taken aback, you know, for he really looked as if he meant it, quite bright and smiling. He had rather a striking face. That web .the last time I saw him, for the next time I had occasion to go into town he was nowhere to be seen. I thought about him a good deal, imagining the set of circUmBtanceB that might have reduced him, the sort of people his friends were; indeed, I made up quite a little story in my own mind about nim—how he became engaged to some one in England, and came ' out here to make his way, but had an illness and lost all his money, and took to cab driving because be waa determined to keep his head above water somehowt though in
deed, be -would hardly do so if he charged jioonle eo moderately as ho did ine."
''But didu't you conclude the story of bis engagement?"
*' Clarice, you had better laugh outright. I don't blame you, however, for being amused. There is something grotesque in being so much interested in a, person one has seen only three times—and under such circum stances. I admit, however, that your in satiable talent- for getting to the root of things has probably not misled you in this instance.- I have myself speculated that the mere fact of getting outside myself and fol lowing,-or trying to follow, the hypothetical love-story of a mere stranger may have had something to do with discovering to me the tremendous mistake I might mako. Well, are yen sticking a pin through me in your specimen book? Clarice, when will you write that long-promised novel ?"
" Perhaps nevfer, or, at the earliest, at the close of my days, when every light is dim, and every guest departed. But, on the other band/|rcontinued Mrs. Westlake, in accents'-bob-free fromNmalieioijs fun. " I may take'a thought , and .'attempt an idyll on a line'hot hithertoBttempted in modern litera ture." fi. >
. Had i Geneyit've eeen her friend's face at that moment—they 'had risen, and were picking theirv.way across the lawn—she might haVe WondCred what set of new thoughts or "old recollections had so amused and lit up Mrs. WeBtlake's face.