|Newspaper Title||Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)|
|Trove Title||Crushed Flowers. Breathing Fragrance All Around Him|
"BREATHING FRAGRANCE ALL AROUND
(BY MES. A. BLITZ.)
(Begun in TOWN AND COUNTRY JOURNAL of January 19.)
(SPECIALLY WRITTEN FOB THIS PAPER.) CHAPTER II.-(CONTINUED.)
"Yes ; you. Now, supposing that Uncle Jasper had loved you all your life-first as the child, next as the woman-not for your father's* sake alone, not for your utter dependency, not for these things ; but because you are a part of his existence, because you have his happiness in your own keeping. Supposing your father-sup posing I-had discovered this because of our maturer experience in these matters, what be comes of the conspiracy against his happiness ? Would you still set your foot down upon your father's better judgment ?"
" Oh, Mrs. Noel. It can't be so," said Blancho emphatically. ? I know he loves me, but not that way-oh, not that way.' She flushed, and paled, and flushed again, not ready to accept the metamorphosis from the uncle to the actual lover - she who had never yet thought of love and marriage, perhaps from the fact of having never met any gentleman'but her father's friend.
"Blanche," and Mrs. Noel, rising from her chair, spoke quite solemnly, "if you are still heart free-if you think you owe him any love or gratitude-reflect seriously upon what I say. He loves you, I tell you, with all the strength of his great soul. It is for you to mar or make his future life. Why do you think I speak so to you ? It is because I would have him rewarded for all his goodness to us ; because he is worthy even of you. Now,
think it over."
She bent low and kissed the trembling lips, paling now with conflicting emotions, and then
loft Blanche to her own meditation. So she met Jasper as she entered the hall just before break fast ; and he did not know how she had figured as his advocate, and had almost won his cause, or how with it all a disturbing thought of her son's disinheritance swept at her heartstrings one moment to rouse self-condemnation the next.
Blanche kept her word^and came to the draw ing-room that same night, looking fragile and worn in her sombre mourning dress. Jasper met her at the door ; and between him and Mrs. Noel she was escorted to a couch. Again her eyes overflowed ; and her limbs shook. ' How con siderate they are for me !' she thought ; but for a moment she was unable to speak. And when she . did it was only to give forth grateful utterances.
' After a little time, and a little talk, Mrs. Noel, on pretence of some household duty, got up from her chair and left the room. As the door closed on : her, Blanche, finding herself alone with Uncle Jasper, for the first time in his presence, was as denmre and shrinking as the most timid of
" Poor child !" he began, taking her two trem bling hands in his, " how weak you are ! But you shall soon get strong. Would yoii like to travel when you are bettor ; to Melbourne, Tasmania, or Now Zealand-anywhere for a change-with Mrs. Noel? It will bring the roses to your cheeks again ?"
" Yes ; if Icould," she answered innocently, and without a trace of her old saucy humor. " But-I -I ought to go to work."
" Work !" he echoed, with some surprise in his voice. " At what ?"
"OH, a niu-sery governess, lady's help, or something like that."
"You poor' little thing !" he said,' tenderly, still clasping her hands. " You look like work. For me to seo you working for your bread would be to summon the wrathful spirit of your father. , Do you know that he, with his dying breath, made' me your guardian-not legally, so I cannot inf orce the claim-but morally in the sight of God and man ? I have every right to protect you if I can from all priva tion, all hardship. Don't talk to me of work. Fancy these little hands working for hard, un bending strangers while I live !" . He lifted them to his hps, and. pressed them reverently; while they fluttered like the wings of a dove. "Blanche," he went on; "my stories used to please you when you were a child,: especially when they" were true. I. will, tell you a true one now, if you hke. May I ?" A strange light filled his eyes as he bent them upon her ; and he heard her " Yes, « you please, Uncle Jasper," murmur in his
I " It is only a short one," he went on ; while her
head drooped. It was not this way she had listened to the stories of , her childhood's days, lhere was no upturned eager face, with parted hps. Yet she was intent enough. 'It is of a youth, who loved a girl with all his heart and soul when she was the betrothed of another, and that other his friend. Condemning himself, he bore his misery in secret, and fled to a distant city, where he prospered, and did his best to atone. The girl died. Years passed over his head. He was no longer a youth, but a gray liau-ed man, who thought he had done with love. And tins might have been so ; and he might have gone down to the grave, with his secret Btill under lock and key, but for another life ripening into sweet maidenhood under his eyes-a daughter : thehvmg image of the mother, the girl of his
youthful dreams, a second life and love springing irom the first, breathing the same spell, but with a stronger force. Blanche, can you guess that man s name?' His strong hands shook now, still noiding hers; and there was a tremor in his
Son8' But there came no answer to his ques
" You do, child;" he continued, "your silence answers me. You are so young I would have
sealed my hps for months to come but for your : ^protected condition. My little darling, if you
can take a man old enough to be your father ; if i you can give him a tithe- of that deep love he : Dears for you, say so. , If you can't; why, tell ; ae as it is in your heart; and I :
will bear my sorrow unflinchingly, and still be your guardian, faithful to the vow I made your father, for I swore to. him, unless you could come of your free will to my arms, loving and trusting, I would not link your life to mine, yet would guard it zealously to the end. You should be as my daughter, if not my wife. And so his death was robbed of its sting."
"Oh, Uncle Jasper !" cried Blanche, at length finding voice. " I am not good enough ; not worthy. . But I will try to be. I know nothing of being in love, as the novels have it; and per haps it is nonsense where silly, unreflecting girls are concerned, like myself. But I feel this way -that my father and my mother's daughter can have no higher purpose than to devote her life to one like you. I will be your wife."
" Oh, my darling, my love. You shall be my queen !" he exclaimed exultingly,at once releasing her hands; only to clasp her to his breast.
"When all the house slept an hour or so later on Blanche,.' lying wide . awake, reviewed the whole proceeding. She did love Uncle Jasper; with that filial, unselfish affection which inspired her with a longing to render him as happy as he deserved to be ; and, knowing that his offer had no relation to pitv, she was ready to accept it, He was a man worthy of the best of wives ; and to thwart him in his wishes seemed to her almost a crime when it was in her power to grant thein.
With a sense of security, and a perfect trust, she folded her hands in the darkness, and prayed for strength to do the right. But no thrill of i indefinito emotion stirred her young so\ú such as I a first ardent passion evokes.