Chapter 71114769

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Chapter NumberIV
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71114769
Full Date1889-02-02
Page Number33
Corrections0
Word Count2197
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAustralian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)
Trove TitleCrushed Flowers. Breathing Fragrance All Around Him
article text

i CHAPTER IV.

: That; day was a trying one for Mrs. Noel; Jasper and Charlie were away, happily. But Blanche was ever close by ; and she felt her actions strained toward her. Her heart was pal pitating in terror of she knew not what. - Her idea of the result of Jasper's discovery was wilder and harsher than the reality, and made the next few hours heavy with anxiety for all she

knew to be concerned.

When Charlie had met her in Melbourne, a happy, light-hearted fellow, there opened before her quite a vista of delights for the long holiday, with his constant, strong, merry companionship. From the outset he and Blanche became excel lent friends, and kept up a continual badinage from one to the other; she addressing him as ^'Prince Charlie;" he her as his "venerable aunt." This gradually lost its charm somehow ; and how it came about she did not know. - But it struck her all at once that they had quarrelled. She discovered a formal politeness existing between them, and that Blanche, after showing marked signs of renewed health in the brightness of her eyes, and the carnation in her cheeks, was relapsing into her former delicacy and listless

ness.

1 This excited much uneasiness; and,-when she gave her solicitude in words. Baying, " My dear Blanche, you are;uotthè same girl you were some Weeks ago,. How shall I-account tb Uncle Jasper

for my care of you ?" Blanche bit her lip, and ex claimed, with unusual petulance, " I hate Mel bourne. I wish we had never come,"

. Mrs. Noel's countenance betraying a sad sur prise at this seemingly unwarrantable testiness, .made Blanche an immediate prey to remorse ; for she threw her arms round the elder woman's neck,

and cried

" Oh, forgive me; forgive .me. I. am ungrate ful, unkind. I am not myself,"

" Something has vexed you/' guessed Mrs. Noel. "Have l offended you? Has Charlie ?"

"You? Charlie? Ohl no, no," said, Blanche, nestling closer to the'.motherly bosom.

"Then what can it be ? You ought to know that we would spare you every ache and sorrow for your own sake : as well as Uncle Jasper's." Here Mrs. Noel began to stroke the girl's bead tenderly. \ - ,

Then Blanche,, hiding, her"/face', against Mrs,

Noel's shoulder, with a rush of tears, with broken utterance, began a pathetic little .story about plighted troth and broken vows, introducing

Charlie and herself aatheihero and heroine.

" Charlie loves you ?'\ asked Mrs; Noel, in some agitation. " And has told, you so ?'V -

I " Yes. But don't blame, him. The fault is mine. He did not mean-to." : ; . -

: " And you, dear-you <still are true1 to Uncle Jasper??' >,, . _

: " God help and forgive.'me," Blanche replied, " I love Charlie more." Then she went on to say .that, seeing her one day in tears when ' , she thought she , .was* , alone, he had- impulsively declared his ; love, knowing

she was wretched .because she returned the ill-starred attachment.' But'Uncle Jasper, alike dear .to both, his goodness demanding certain sacrifice, they had come to an understanding hiding their pain. So, baring their youthful breasts to the stroke with" a feeble martyr smile Sm their faces, they held.themsëlves distantly one rom the other. Mrs.. Noel cried with Blanche ; said it was a cruel fate ; but all the, same helped them to carry through their resolution, believing she, as well as they, had a right to bear the cross of. self-abnegation. Did she, not owe it-to the man who had been abeñéfáütór to them all ? But she suffered, knowing,CÍíárÍie did,

Y Thus the conspiracy threwits . shadows about Uncle .Jasper,, as we haye .seen; .and. subsequent events gave them substance.], He went torthe city after that interview with his : sÎBterrin-law ; and during his transit he conceived a counter plot.

" They have all been acting a part for my bene fit," he mentally cried. *' I will, I must, give them a little drama, all' my, own. Heaven help me . with strength to carry it, through."

His head went back .against the carriage oushions ; and his eyes closed. . He was rehears in'g/his rôle; , \ ?".;< '»..

' jThere is a story told,of how- some few turkeys

were once made to dance before an audience-a

performance received ^uite/rapturously. But it was not known that the''stage was composed of steel plates over a f urhace,',which was gradually heated from slow to "fierce; the tortured birds being forced to hop from foot to foot, leaping madly with the roar/of] the . fire, and giving a wail in their own cry .as the heat became un bearable. !

Jasper had never he^-rd : this story. But he found himself wondering whether in his determi nation to play with fire, ,in ,a figurative sense, and erect a red-hot platform 'for his own especial acting, he should find thcltask as overpowering as to make him swoon with exhaustion, perhaps leave the play incomplete, , and expose the self inflicted suffering which he, hoped to hide. He was so still, with his closed- eyes and drawn white face, that a lady sitting.,near, thinking he had fainted, applied a tiny phial, of ; smelling-salts to his nostrils, which had the. magical effect of startling him into immediate .activity.

"I beg your pardon," she-said, in answer to his look of astonishment ; " but I really thought you

were ill." ' . '

" I am well enough, thank you," he replied very shortly, and, rising, 'walked to an opposite

seat to be safe from farther molestation.

He did not go home to dinner as usual that night, but arrived- there at a much later hour. An unusual circumstance intensified poor Mrs. Noel's uneasiness. Charlie had been home, and had gone out again. She and Blanche were read ing when Jasper rapped at the door. They looked up from their books as, he entered the drawing room, with a haK-consumed cigar in his hana. He kissed them both ; and, in answer to eager inquiries relative to the matter of having dined or not, he assured them he had. And then, taking Blanche's hand in his, he said quietly, but firmly, " Put a shawl about your shoulders j and come to me on the verandah." .

"Yes, Uncle Jasper," 3he answered, as docile as a child. " I can go as I am."

" No. It is cold for you leaving this heated room; and it is too hot for me here. Go, get your shawl."

She went away for a second or so, during which time Mrs. Noel found opportunity to say, " You are going to tell her ?"

There was an entreaty in her looks which said " Do not." There was a set purpose in his which kept these words suppressed, " I am going to do what I think is right," he muttered ; and, putting his cigar in his mouth, ho walked through a French light on the broad stone verandah.

Presently Blanche enveloped obediently in the warm folds of a pale-pink " cloud," over her head and framing her face, stood by his side. There was a broad shining moon. But he, avoid ing her light, had drawn a chair up in the shadow of a pillar for himself, wh'erè he sat, and another for Blanche opposite, which'she at once appro priated.

" Here I am, Uncle Jasper,,, she began lightly. "Your most obedient slave. You are right. It is a shame to be shut up in a room on such a night as this." -

"You are not cold ?" he asked anxiously hold ing his cigar from him, and, looking on her sweet young face "more in sorrow than anger."

.' "Not at all. Até you feeling" well?" she next said ; his manner to her seeming to imply .in

disposition of some sort. Perhaps she missed his lover-like caresB, that gentle murmuring of sweet

promises in her ear. Certainly he was different.

j "I have had a little shock,". ' he replied, : " but shall soon tide over it. /Don't mind about me. ] j want to talk about you." He paused a moment, ] luffed once at his cigar mechanically, then : cocked the ashes off-over-the verandah, and (?poke again, clearing his throat. The platform 1 ras decidedly hot. "In less than three weeks, < »n June 22, you will be a wife."

"A worthy one, I hope," she said, putting her , ] land affectionately on his resting on the veran dah rail, with the cigar point gleaming between 1 äs fingers. Again he coughed, and paused and

i poke

" Do you remember telling me that a girl's love, as portrayed in novels, was all nonsense i .ccording to your idea ?"

"Yes." She whispered now, while her hand {rembled on hii.

" And can ; you also remember what I said ?'* 1 ie cried. Remember my oath to. your father, Shat I would not; fetter your life to mine unless 3 ou could come' t> me free-hearted-; and loving t but that- your happiness, under all. or any con ations, Bhould be my study p Do y ou,, can-you

remember ?"

j There v* as a sharp ring in his voice with the latter words- .Her hand left hiB, and fell.in her tp, as she exclaimed- -:

" Oh, what have. I said" or done to make ryou think LforgetP Are you angry, wiín;me ?" . . .

i "Angry !" he replied,fin a vower;key.;" God forbid that I should^ be angry' with you, child. If j\ seem to be harsh, it is not because of anger. " It fe with the struggle to keep to that oath ia spirit and letter. I wish you to understand that % release you from your promise to be my wife."

¡ " Why-why-what-" she stammered, catching her breath, and clasping her hands.

¡ " Blanche," he flung the cigar from him, and sjtood before her in his..habitual attitude when Agitated ; with his arms folded on his chest. ''f Blanche, child, listen. I am nearer the grave by many years than you. You have all your Womanhood before you; and yet I asked you to be my wife, * because your girl's heart had never yielded itself to another? ¿nd I firmly believed that my devotion would fnake it all my own in time-that I could fashion it with the power of my love to beat solely in unison with mine. That-is four months and more ago. I have become a wiser man to-day* You would have cometo me urged by mistaken duty, vowing fidelity at the altar with your lips alone; You cannot, dare not, deny this."

i Down on her. knees, like a penitent, Blanche feu r before him. Stricken dumb with emotion | with, hands uplifted ; the shawl falling from her Shoulders unheeded; the moon lending a ghastly light to her pale contorted features.

, His arms unclosed ; and, with a strong wiry : grasp about! her, Bhe was quickly lifted to her feet .again. v

i " Don'tkneel to me," he cried ; his voice broken} his arms encircling her. " If you would spart» me pain, spare me seeing you thus. ' I am not angry with you."

j "I would not-willingly wrong you," she managed to articulate at last. " I do love you, Uncle Jasper."

j " Ay, as Uncle Jasper; and as Uncle Jasper I shall remain. You have not wronged me. A cruelly kind fate he s saved you from that at least.- You are-young, and have been trying td

yield-to a false nobihty-to a faith unfaithful-; - falsely true, yielding with a breaking heart, you poor child. The wave of passion has stirred you* soul ; and for my sake you have been beating it back. Let it flow smoothly-righteously now, for my sake, and for yours." Then he strained her to his breast with the strength of a dying man, who takes his last embrace of the beloved survivor, and kissed her wan face passionately on brow and cheek and lips. With the gentleness of a woman, he let her glide from his arms to her chair, picked up the shawl to wrap around her again, and, leaving her so, walked quickly away to the garden.

Crouching at the foot of a tree, hidden in shadow, his head bared to the chilly night

air, under moon and starshine, with none but the . All-seeing Eye to witness his despair, he might have been a second Enoch Arden, groveling; at the earth, wildly appealing to heaven. . He had

taken a last farewell of his second love ; the love ; of his prime, deeper, stronger, truer than that of ; his youth. . .?,J ?'?.'[ ' ' , So his head bowed to the blast j but his spirit

remained unbroken.

. (TO BB CONTINUED.) .