|Chapter Title||SWEET IS THE AIR NOW AND FOR EVER; HEART WHISPERS LOW, CHANGE WILL COME NEVER!|
|Newspaper Title||Mercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. : 1878 - 1903)|
|Trove Title||The King of No-Land|
THE KING OF NO-LAND. BY B. L. FARJEON. CHAPTER X. SWEET IS THE AIR NOW AND FOR EVER; HEART WHISPERS LOW, CHANGE WILL COME NEVER I The old country lane is sweet with the fragrance of a bright midsummer. The hedgerows are beautiful in their luxuriance of wild rose, bluebell, and honeysuckle. Myriad tiny blossoms, with eyes of. scarlet and purple and gold, are peeping out beneath the richly-laden thickets, and smiling in the face of the drowsy clouds. Here and there are clusters of tiny silver eyes. At a little distance they look like pure white tears. They might be, for before the sun rose this morning the rain fell. And as it fell it stirred everything into life, and brought out the most precious odours of all the sweet-smelling plants. When the fragrant air, on its way to the clouds, reached the nests of the waking birds, they stretched their wings and bathed in it, piping their blithest notes. In a very small and very old cottage, so covered with ivy and moss as to warrant the fancy that it must have grown out of the earth as the flowers and trees do, sits an old woman shelling peas. Every now and then she looks out of window. A yellow basin is in her lap, and the freshly-gathered young peas are in a wicker basket by her side; her brown bony fingers never cease from their task. The window by which she is sitting is open, and she is almost within arm's reach of a young girl, who sits in the cottage porch in a framework of creeping honeysuckle. The twining plants bend about her and above her wooingly. She is as fair as the summer day, as sweet as the air which steals through the porch to kiss her, and then wanders on rejoicing. Her pretty lips are parted, so that you may catch a glimpse of her pearly teeth ; the light in her soft and lumin ous eyes seems to be turned inwards, as though she is looking on her soul; a happy sigh escapes her bosom now and then. She is day-dreaming, but it would not be possible to picture her dreams. Say that they are composeJ of sweet warm color, which makes the present and the future beautiful and peaceful ; say that summer is in her soul, and all is said that can be said. Her name is Bluebell. Dame Endive is the name of the old woman. In this rustic cottage dwell four persons: Spring and Winter in the persons of Bluebell and Dame Endive; Colt-foot, Dame Endive's son; and Ragged Robin, Bluebell's brother. There are four rooms in the cottage -two above, two below. The room above the porch, the window of which, with its closely-latticed panes, you see peeping out of its green nest, is the bedroom occupied by Bluebell and Dame Endive. The room behind that, which looks down upon a small kitchen garden from which the peas have been gathered, is the sleeping room of Rag ged Robin. . Coltsfoot sleeps in a little room behind his schoolhouse, which is not at a great distance from the cottage. Bluebell is making baskets with slender reeds and willows and differ ently coloured grasses ; she is very cunning and clever in the weaving of them, and seems to invest them with something of her own glare and beauty and freshne-s. They are very fragile, and require delicate handling ; but they are so pretty that Dame Endive finds a ready sale for them in the market that is held once a week about two miles distant from the cottage. Ladies buy them as well as country women, and they grace many a drawing room round about. Dame Endive, who ha= led a hard-working industrious life, is very happy to have something to do in her old age-something, too, that brings in money towards the expenses of the household. The b:;-kets are light, and easy to carry, and on the market-day Bluebell hangs them about the old woman's breast and shoulhers, and she starts in the early morning, a living network of brighL moving color. The baskets are of various shapes-very fantastic some of them-and as the old woman moves slowly along, assisted by her crutch stick, she makes quite a picture \When she stops to rest, the birds hover about her, and some who have grown familiar with her are bold enough to perch upon the baskets that hang from the old woman's back, and enjoy a ride without paying for it. 'The day is beautiful, my dear,' pipes Dame Endive from her windEow. Bluebell awakes from her dream, and nods and smiles, She is as beauti ful and as happy as the day. She wears a light cotton dress, with a small lilac sprig; her hair has escaped from its confinement, and garlands her neck. Dame Endive's cotton dress is of a darker hue, and her white hair is enclosed in a cap as white. This, although it is the middle of the week, is a gala day. Eighteen years ago Bluebell was born. 'Coltsfoot will give his school children a half-holiday,' says Dame Endive, in her shrill voice. 'How do you know, mother ?' asks Bluebell. 'Did he tell you ?' 'No, my dear; but he'll do it. I don't need my son to tell me things. I can read him though I can't read print, and though my old eyes are not as good as they were.' Her old eyes are now, in fact, peer ing down the road for her so,n who is not due for a long time yet. It wants an hour to noon, and half an hour after noon the dinner will be ready, and then the rest of the day will be spent in quiet holiday fashion in honor of Bluebell. Soon Bluebell gathers up her work, and goes into the cottage to look after the dinner. Before she quits the porch, she also looks down the lane. 'Do you see him coming, my dear ?' asks the old woman. Bluebell - blushes, and shakes her head. When she is inside the cottage, Dame Endive grows garrulous over the virtues and accomplishments of her son, and dilates with pardonable pride upon the estimation in which he is held by all who know him. Bluebell listins, and says 'Ye-, yes,' to every thing the old woman advances, and Dame Endive gazes on her with secret delight and pleasure.
Coltsfoot and Robin come. Each has flowers for Bluebell. She selects two of the prettiest, one from each bunch, ahd twines them in her hair. Robin is a strong sun-burnt man now. Woodman as he is, he belongs to the thinking -classes, for he has his griev ance-that two shillings a week more, which is to set everything right. He gives Bluebell a sounding kiss, and wipes his lips afterwards. A strong yearning comes into Coltsfoot's face as he takes Bluebell's hand in his, and wishes her joy. As he stands thus, his old mother calls out, 'What ! and not kiss her on such a day as this ? Well, if I was a man !' Whereupon Bluebell holds up her face, and he touches her cheek with his lips. The old woman cackles and laughs. 'May your life contain much bright ness, Bluebell !' says Coltsfoot ten derly. She answers sweetly, and bustles about to hide a tear. Joy and melan. .choly hold subtle relationship with each other. Along the fragrant country lane, in the direction of the cottage, Sassafras is strolling. When he is within hail of it he pauses and looks fondly about him. The beauty of nature sinks into his soul, and breathes peace into it. He sighs with sense of relief, as he thinks that he is here, unknown and free, away from the cares and griefs which weigh so heavily upon him. 'Has any other man,' he murmurs, 'ever so fully appreciated the pleasures of obscurity ?' The reflection inspires the shadow of serious thought. He shakes it off. 'Thank God,' he says, 'to-day I am not a king !' He approaches nearer to the cottage; enters the porch. They within see his face at the window, and they all smile a welcome. Bluebell runs to open the door for him. He also has a flower for her; it is a rosebud with a small piece of rosemary attached. She places it in her bosom, and in a few moments they are all sitting down to dinner, and Sassafras is declaring that the peas are the sweetest that he has ever tasted. 'And I'll wager,' he says, 'that I know who gathered them.' 'Yes, ye',' cackles the old woman, 'Bluebell gathered them. My old joints are stiff. I can't stoop as I used to.' Robin is full of a subject which interests him hugely. For some time past there had been rumours that the laborers in No-land-those who tilled and plougheid-were becoming dis satisfied with their condition, and that every week news had come that in a village hard by thirty of them had refused to do any more work for their masters, the farmers, unless they had two shillings a week more. Robin shows himself to be quite a politician as he descants upon this theme, but the others decline to be drawn into conversation upon the subject. Sassa fras certainly says that for his part he thinks he should like to be a woodman. Bluebell's eyes sparkle. 'Eh,' says Robin, 'but your hands are too soft.' 'They would soon grow hard,' replies Sassafras. Then Robin recalls the day on which they had first met, and tells, for the hundredth time, what a queer chap he thought Sassafras was. 'Ho did'nt know naught,' cries Robin, with a snap of his fingrs ; 'ti was the ignorantest chap lever clapped eyes on !' After dinner they sat in the porch, talking. Sassafras listens and says very little. He sits next to B!ueh:lI, and this for him is sufficient happiness. There is to him something sacred in the very touch of this young giri's cotton dress ; and if their fingers meet -as they do s?metimnes-v, ry nerve iii him thrill. Rob.ia succ-ee1s in drawing Coltsfoot out upon his lPet theme. Colt:-fi~ot, who knows the exact state of affairs, sympathises with the men, and wi hes that their reason able demands had been complied with. Their condition he describes as lamentable. 'They are waking up now though,' shouts Robin triumphautly. 'But notwithstanding that. they have reason and justice on their side,' ob serves C.t-.to!bt, 'they have a hard battle to fight. The issue in the end cannot be doubted, but they will have to suffer. One does not need much for comfort and happiness in this world, and a man can do very well on a little; but these men certainly have not enough, and certainly are most un fairly paid for their labor. We'll say no more on the subject; this is not the day for its discussion.' In the afternoon they stroll through the fields and the woods, and Robin and Bluebell point out many wonders by the way. They are the happiest of the happy. Coltsfoot's usually grave face breaks into smiles, and he joins in the innocent merriment with the light spirits of a boy. 'I know where there is an echo,' says Sassafras. 'Let us go there,' cries Bluebell, clapping her hands. (To be continued). A pair of gloves is due to the magistrates for attending at the Heidelberg Court on Wednesday. A blank charge-sheet was presented. The Fermanagh Farmer's Journal of July 15tb, gives the following instance of the love of litigation with vwhich some of the Irish peasantry are numbered. "The case of Johnston against Moore and Alexander is a sample of the troubles of the law. The subject of dispute is a piece of heathery good-for-nothing land, 162 acres in extent, at present by ordnance survey placed in the county Fermangh, andtherefore claimed by Mr. E. E. Johnston as belonging to his lands of Derrynacrannog; but it is occa pied and claimed by Messrs. Moore and Alexander as being part of their townland of Carricknahorna in the county of Done gal, and their contention is that' the toan dary was wrongly represented on the maps by the Ordnance Sarvey in 1829, that old maps place the ground in the barony of Tyrhugh instead cf the barony of Lurg; and that since the Ordnance Survey the Donegal men contested it and claimed the ground now called the Dispute Hill. About £1,000 has been already spent on the case, which has gone through the Landed Estates, Appeal, and two assizes courts, and a decision has not been yet made on it, for the juries could not agreea. And the public will be surprised tohear that the annual value of the whole 16 aceres of mountain is not worth more than three pounds a year.