|Newspaper Title||Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)|
|Trove Title||Crushed Flowers. Breathing Fragrance All Around Him|
, CHAPTER III.
"When tho betrothal was a fortnight old, there was some, commotion, within the Petersham Cot tage; for Mrs. Noel, who had never taken a pleasure trip in her life, was now in full prepara tion for one. It was quite a wonderful episode. She was going with Blanche Clavere to Tasmania and Melbourne for a four months' flitting; while Jasper, thinking it more conventional to remain behind, was content to be consigned to the care of Martha and' an under maid, who were to superintend his personal comforts.
The Paderno Viaduct.
He knew that Blanche would be in trustworthy keeping; and he believed that freedom.'from household and monetary vexations-the thorough change of habit and clime-would soon restore that vivacious health which was naturally hers. And, perhaps, in his heart-hunger for tho return love which he craved, and which she, with inno cent.candor, had confessed not to' have fully felt for him, there existed an unacknowledged wiBh that a four months' absence might-true to the well known lines - add to the warmth of
her affection for him. His nephew,, Charlie, was on his way (home ; and part of the programme was for Mrs. Noel to meet him in Melbourne, upon her return from a few weeks' sojourn in Tasmania. This was faithfully carried through, while letters came to him once a week containing full information of the people met, and the places visited-sometimes from Mrs. Noel, but always from Blanche, in a free running hand, and a happy racy style, which were " as cold waters to a thirsty soul" for the recipient.
Then, after eight weeks' stay in Hobart, they were in Melbourne ; and Mrs. Noel, who was busy there under his instructions with the gathering bf a fitting trosseau for the expectant bride, wrote to apprise him of her son's safe arrival. Her letter was full bf Charlie. How handsome he was ! How like his father ; how clever ; how full of fun and frolic ; and how much nicer it was now, having his escort everywhere, and his constant companionship. Blanche was getting, rosy, as he desired; and she and Charlie were very good friends, and always teazing. each- other it seemed to her. But they were very : happy«
And so forth. The next mail Charlie wrote to
his uncle, congratulating him upon his engage ment; giving one flowing eulogy of his future aunt's merits, and another about his dear mother. He next expressed, with gratitude and real genuine feeling, his anxiety to compensate, him by making à name for himself in the world of art ; and, farther, he was about bringing over to Sydney one of his paintings for exhibition in the Academy, 'and for sale, if possible, wnereby he hoped to establish his claim as.an artist. The picture had already been pronounced upon in favorable terms in Milan and elsewhere. But he would say no more about it till he (his uncle) could judge it with a free unbiassed opinion. . "
Then eight more weeks glided by, filled in with letters from the three absentees; within which period Blanche's correspondence began to flag a. bit, lacking raciness, and often betraying a play ful humor forced. At last a hurried note came from Mrs.. Noel, saying that the climate was disagreeing with Blanche. It was too cold now in May in Melbourne; and they were coming home. Blanche added a postscript^ say that she was sick of Melbourne; and longed for Peter sham air again. Jasper hailed the sickness and
the longing ( both a's the joyful harbingers of a crowned hope. She longed for him, perhaps. The note was speedily- foUowed by a "wire," announcing their departure by train, and he thought that his home would be home again on the morrow. He did not intend his marriage to interfere greatly with his sister's and nephew's prospect of future affluence; though it might be expected that new ties would exclude Charlie from becoming his sole heir. His idea was that after his return from the honeymoon trip, which he contemplated taking place about a month or
five weeks hence, they were all to live together in the Petersham cottage. In his child-like faith and innocence their united lives would be quite of the Utopian order, he thought.
So he cherished this belief, which was after all the mere reflection of desire. Alas for human desire ! He was rejuvenated, his step was elastic, his eye kindling. . He was not that Jasper who, with head and body somewhat bent, had been about stepping across that threshold of existence leading to the " sear and yellow leaf" stage. The j advance was temporarily arrested by happy force
of present circumstance. There was a royal welcome awaiting them all at the cottage ; hearth fires glowing, and a. sumptuous meal in prepara tion. . Mrs. Noel was not looking as bright as might have been expected. Blanche was still pale, and slightly thinner; and Charlie, who did not belie his mother's judgment respecting his personal appearance, certainly failed in reaching that standard of youthful light-heartedness which
she had lauded.
He was handsome, with his fresh colored oval face, set with a pair of dark, full, gem-like eyes; adorned with a soft, dainty moustache, and a pointed short beard ; and crowned with a wavy fall of hair, conspicuous for length, and all alike, nearly black and of glossy and silky texture. With a Vandyke collar upon him, his portrait could have been taken to represent one of the youthful cavaliers of the Stuart period. Indeed, this peculiar likeness had established for him among his fellow ; students the sobriquet of " Prince Charlie." But his manner was the per sonification of staid gravity. Where were the fun and frolic? , \' ^
" I hope he is not frightened to laugh, and be merry before me," thought Uncle Jasper.
His picture-Jasper considered, excellent, por traying, with vivid coloring, as it did, that scene from "King John," where the youthful Prince Arthur pleads for his eyes at the feet of Hubert. It declared real genius, and roused quite a paternal pride in his bosom. Yet he was con scious of disappointment in his nephew; who treated him with filial respect and tenderness enough, but held himself so aloof; whose days were mostly spent in the academy, where he was
busy, copying a landscape which had taken,his fancy; while at night he more often that not, , shut himself up in hisToom to
When a full fortnight had thus passed, and Blanche was still pale and thin, though doubly affectionate ' with Jasper, and showing no trace of her saucy, enchanting smiles and speeches, he began to realise that he was not drinking his fill of antici pated bliss. EvenMrs. Noel was strangly quiet and reserved, and
¡the three of .them, ' instead of joining hands with him in a happy merry-go-round sort of ring, as he desired-metaphorically speak ing-seemed to be afraid of him, fearing to jostle him in the dance, or tread on his toes perhaps ; and, yet they were all gentleness and affectionate consideration. He could not complain at this " something " which was felt rather than seen-like the thin night fog which invisibly assails us, and sits heavily on the chest. Anxious to clear the . mist, he drew Blanche aside one morning before he started for the city; and, lifting up her face by the chin, he looked at it steadily for a moment, and said :
" Blanche, dear, you are suffering ; and you will not tell me. Something worries you and my sister, too. Now what is it ?"
"Suffering-?" she replied,'with her pallor in creasing if possible as he spoke, and watched her. " Why should you think so ? -Indeed, I am quite well, Uncle Jasper." /
" You are not the same Blanche I once knew," he insisted. " I want my little witch backagain.
Where is she ?" ? - ' *
"Would you love me quite the same?" she argued, tossing her chin from his hold, and avert ing her head. " I have been a heedless girl. I
want to be a woman now. It is because--because
I doubt my own strength to do the right that you find me changed." .
" And you begin to love me, 'child, more than the old Uncle Jasper ?" He took her . head be tween his hands, and once more ' turned her face to his. Her eyes were blinded with tears.
) " Oh, my darling, why, why do you cry ? Is it hard a thing to do ?" .
'fl do more than love you, Uncle Jasper," she said at last, with difficulty controlling her agita tion. " I would let my heart break to. save yours a moment's pain."
"Ah !" he cried, letting his hands fall to his side, perhaps perceiving a cloudy light through the mist. A spasm crossed his countenance which she did not see; and he only said, "This is a sacrifice you shall never know." And he was
The evening of that day, when the 6 train was due at Petersham from Sydney, Charlie sittingby a French light in the drawing-room, with an arm swinging over the chair back, and his . body so twisted that his feet trailed inelegantly on the carpet, looked most inartistic, and the picture of discontented indolence. He was roused very soon, however, by the entrance of his mother and Blanche. For the latter, by one of those trivial accidents, catching her foot in a fancy fleecy rug -one corner of which had been playfully tossed by a kitten-with a little scream lost her balance, and might have fallen but for Charlie's hasty stride to the rescue, as he with a " Good heaven " caught her in his arms. In that -second their eyes met; and Uncle Jasper himself stood at the French light, not waiting for admission at the hall door. He was just in time to witness the threatened fall, but not near enough to help. He went up to her, and led her to a chair, kissing
her " on the brow. But it seemed as if his own face had caught the', bloodless tint of hers, as he said-- . :. '
"We are indebted to Charlie, are we not?" He did not address-his nephew directly with any word of thanks for all that; while "Charlie, in clined to moroseness, kicked the offending rug,
dived his hands into his pockets, and walked out '
of the room ; Jasper watching him. . He was sur prised the following morning, immediately after breakfast, when his uncle tapped him on the
shoulder, and said
" Come into the drawing-room for a while ; I have something to say to you particularly/*
Arriving there, they sat down facing each other ; and Jasper began quite abruptly, almost
" I want to know what is the matter with you ? I have a right to ask." His eyes were Bunken and dark beneath, but they were fixed in scrutiny on Charlie. . .. -
" What should be the matter with me, uncle ?" replied - Charlie evasively, and slightly coloring under his uncle's look. " You are too solicitous
" Can you bethinking," continued Jasper as if he had not heard the answer, " that my projected marriage can materially affect your prospects ?"
" Uncle !" and the young man started to his feet with something like indignation in the action, adding reproachfully, " Am 1 such a stranger to you, then, that you can consider me base enough to harbor such a thought ?" , . 'v
" Sit down," said Jasper rather hoarsely. "Nb; I don't think that way of you, heaven knows. You are my brother's son, the soul of honor. But you are unhappy., Perhaps you are in debt ; and I wish you to know that I have your interests quite as much at heart now as ever they were. Are you in debt ?"
" How can one so generously allowanced as I am be in such a strait," answered Charlie, sitting down again, and beginning to twirl the ring on his little finger, nervously. "No; uncle. lam full of faults probably. But prodigal waste is not one of them. I am not in debt. If I were, I should work to repay it. I mean my profession to maintain me. That is fair to you, and tho wisest and most honorable course for me."
" You are right," said Jasper. " Such work aa yours is ennobling, but"-here the gaze on him was renewed-"it does not satisfy you. leay you are unhappy; and I, I am wretched." His gray head went down on his hands in dejection j
and Charlie started up once again, and began to.
walk the room.
" Uncle, for heaven's sake, don't say that. Am I the cause of your wretchedness? Tell me. Tell me how can I reverse matters P . I will do it. God bless you, uncle, for the noblest and best. He knows that I would let my own heart break before one wilful act of mine should disturb your' peace." Then came a catch in thé young man's voice; and Jasper started. These were.Blanche'a own sentiments, though differently expressed. " What do you wish of me?" Charlie continued.'
" Command me ; and you shall. have &. son's
" Leave me," cried Jasper,"without raising his
(TO BE CONTINUED.)