|Newspaper Title||Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)|
|Trove Title||Crushed Flowers. Breathing Fragrance All Around Him|
" BREATHING FRAGRANCE ALL AROUND
(Begun in TOWN AND COUNTRY JOURNAL of January 19.)
(SPECIALLY WRITTEN FOR THIS PAPER.)
(BY MRS. A. BLITZ.)
It may be inferred that Blanche, when Jasper left her alone, ran to her faithful friend and adviser, Mrs. Noel, who, hearing a full recital of the interview, given with sundry gasps, knew then that she might speak to Charlie, too, which she did that night when Blanche had retired.
? At breakfast the next morning Jasper did not appear. But it was found from a note left for Charlie that he had gone to the city in an early train, and desired him to come to his chambers there at about ll o'clock. Blanche, having passed a strange, restless night, was now sleeping heavily, and was not to be disturbed. So Mrs. Noel and her son sat at the breakfast table alone. Mrs. Noel was disturbed with conflicting emotions ; sympathy with Uncle Jasper alloy ing a joy which would have made her heart dance otherwise, as Charlie could fairly claim the girl who had won his ardent love-who loved him. But she behoved that Jasper's seniority would be a strength in itself to support his dis appointment. He would get over it, and be happy after all. But Charlie' was but 22 years a lad-impressionable, ardent, and of weaker fibre, maybe-less able to brave the contest.
He, toying with a cutlet on his plate, forgetting its legitimate purpose, exclaimed, moodily
" I wish I had never been born !"
She answered, "You will not say so a few
"I know nothing of the future," he replied. "If I could have forseen what has happened, perhaps, I should not be here now. It seem that I have come all the way from Italy to thrust a sword into the best of men; the man who has been a protector to you, a father to me in .all things., It would have been better that death should have overtaken me to spare him un merited sufferings ; and yet, God knows, we have tried our best to spare him. But his discovery belongs I suppose to the great ' To be.' "
" The discovery is after all the best, Charlie," said his mother, with tears gleaming in her eyes. " Do you think that his suffering does not touch me, and even more than you or Blanche ? Because I am older and should have been wiser. I, who know his character so well, ought to have also known that your reserve and Blanche's changed looks and ways would set him wondering, and seeking for a clue. Why, you have both had that same sword turned to your own throats, reversing, with its bitterness, with the kenness of its edge, your very natures. It is kinder of that ' To be ' to let bim find all out before marriage than when the irrevocable step had been taken; and we have all been wrong, especially myself, in not reasoning this way before."
Charlie pushed his plate away now ; his break fast untouched; his vision misty with unshed tears. He spoke rather huskily though in firm
" Against my will I have brought pain to those I love best in all the world. It shall be my effort to make you all forget it in the future, to compensate you for the misery my presence has unwittingly wrought in the strange, unlooked-for
"My picture/' he continued, "has been rate at a high value by connoisseurs ; though I hav set no price upon it. If it sellB well, it wi establish my claim as an artist 5 and then I aha. work, work, work for an independence, perhapi which shall make uncle think me more worthy t winning and wedding Blanche. Meanwhih mother, I think, out of consideration for uncle,
should find quarters elsewhere than at PeterBhax here under his own roof. With all his affectio: for me, I must appear something like a robber i his sight. I will stop in Sydney until things fin their level a bit. It will be the kindest plan fo him and for me, too."
This proposal was destined to be overthrown however. At ll o'clock precisely he entered hi uncle's chambers. Jasper was sitting at an offic desk. He looked ill 5 but no trace of anger o resentment sat on his features. He was writin) when Charlie appeared at his door. Then he ra: his pen behind his ear, and extended his righ hand to meet his nephew's. (Charlie's hand close« on his with a vice-like grip ; and for a momen neither spoke.
Jasper broke the silence, noting the younj man's agitation, and an evident desire on hi part to say something conciliatory or even self condemning. He was anxious to avoid a subjec which at present was bristling with thorns fo himself and could not be touched with imminity.
" Spare me words," he began, as if with chilling indifference. " I know what you would say. '. would tell you this as a preface, though. I hav< not sent for you to receive censure or to tall about anything but certain plans I have décidée upon. Now, sit down."
Charlie obeyed in silence, holding his hat 01 his knees with both hands, and feeling as if h< were on fire ; while his uncle was apparently cairn, cool, and collected.
With an abrupt rush to the point, Jaspe:
" Old wives tell us that postponed weddings ari unlucky. Nothing unlucky must come neai Blanche. She is to be married, according tc prior arrangements on June 22, married to you."
harlie, fingering his hat nervously, started perceptibly, and could only articulate " Uncle !"
Jasper did not look at his nephew now, but stared at the opposite wall with an 'unreadable expression on his face.
" Yes, that is BO," he continued. " It must be as I wish, you understand. You will get married, and return to Petersham. I am going away for a little time, I can't say how long. But I will ultimately come back to Petersham, too. But it shall be my business and pleasure to furnish you with a home entirely your own before that. You and your wife cannot in existing circumstances,
share mine." .
Charlie, tmable to contain himself longer, jumped up from his chair, and sat down again before he could find words. " Uncle you take my breath away. I ought to thank you j and I don't know how. And perhaps you will think me a churl if I raise any objection to your pleasure ; and yet," he stammered and twirled his hat, and colored, and then went on. " I should, aa I am a man of 22 years, like to have a certain position of my own to offer before I can claim Blanche with due honor to xis both. I should like to be able to make her a fitting marriage present, purchased with a portion of that gold which shall represent niy confirmed reputation as an artist, not a mere
" Get the gold, then, by the second week in June, or before the 23rd," said Jasper, dryly,
" I will persevere to that end, uncle."
"Wo shall see. Now, you know my plans. There is but one thing more to be said. Tell your mother I intend to leave for Melbourne to morrow; and she shall know of my return to Sydney when I know myself. At present it. is difficult to say. I want a change and must take it. And it may extend over months."
" And you will not be at the wedding ?" Charlie exclaimed; his eyes glowing with anticipated happiness; his face flushing like a girl's; his anxiety about the state bf his uncle's feelings appeased by the other's manner.
"Can you expect it?" came Jasper's answer, not as carelessly spoken now as his previous words had been; not as misleading. His. arms were folded on. his chest again ; the crow's feet puckered at his temple corners ; his eyes sinking and darkened with violet pencilled semi-circles beneath them; his lips set in defiance. Por the thorns were pricking him, and he inwardly
"Uncle," cried Charlie, quivering with emotion, seeing him thus, " my more than father. Oh ! do not withhold your blessing now. Bless me, and ask God to make me worthy of the sacred right you transfer to me this day."
He dropped his hat and flung his powerful young arms about Jasper with the ardor of that foreign demonstration to which his long residence in alien cities had habituated him, and fairly
embraced his uncle.
"God bless you, my brother's son," said Jasper, his hands on the young man's shoulders, his voice , choked ; " and make you all I would desire." Thus
Though Jasper said that he intended to leave Sydney on the morrow, he was off in the train that very day to avoid farther interviews with any of the inmates of the Petersham cottage.
When he was gone about ten days Charlie re turned from the city one evening to his mother and Blanche, pale with intense excitement, and related with wild delight how an insignificant looking little man of the name of John Smith had purchased his picture for the unexpected equiva lent of 500 guineas. A " wire" was dispatched to uncle Jasper, bringing a return message convey
On June 22, then, there was a quiet wedding at Petersham ; and Mrs. Noel found herself alone except for the servants-for two or three weeks.
When the young couple came to her again they only wanted Uncle JaBper with them, happy once more, to complete the sunshine of the home. But his home-coming, some four months afterward, was destined to produce a crisis of another order tor him, and much urieasiness and mental distress
Pacing the deck of the steamship Walumatta one night on her way to Sydney, with his arms folded Napoleonwise, with the dark expanse of sea rising gently into waves, and rippling all around, with the glittering dome above, an un bidden thought stirred within him as his eyes were uplifted longingly to the opal-tinted, dia mond-glinting stars, as if they were the inviting portal to another existence.
" Why should I vex that dear child with my presence again ?" he"muttered. " One leap, and maybe her peace would be fixed. And where
would be the sacrifice P For what have I to live?"
He turned from the stars to the sea, and ex tended his arms to it in wild entreaty. But the leap remained in abeyance. As if in that moment his mad wish called down an omnipotent rebuke, there arose a tumult of voices on all sides of him. The stentorian commands of the captain, the oaths of the sailors, a babel of sounds, recalled him to his surroundings, The appalling shadow of death enveloped him and his fellow voyagers alike ; and, with its approach, the insane desire was quelled, while an unspoken second prayer
ascended to revoke the first.
Who are we, to question that way, which is as far above man's as the sky above the earth ? Per haps it is that very way which, when we seek oblivion in death, in unreflective longing, makes us wince at the very first pinch of his scythe, and saves the would-be seK-murderer from flying to the ills he knows not of. It certainly was that inexplicable way which doomed a number to perish that night on board the ill-fated Walu matta, crashed, splintered, shivered, broadsides on colliding with a sister steamboat ; struggling together on the broad bosom of the Pacific, cool and calm. Then the shriek of a crowd went up to heaven as one mournful wail j brave men stood at their post; lifeboats were manned; there were confusion and disaster ; and in the midst of it all ran Jasper hither and thither, helping, re fusing to enter the boats till all the women and children were mustered. And when he could
help normore, he stood, with hands clinging to a mast, the actual presence of that dissolution of soul and body nibing the supposed
remnant of his life with a strange sweetness. I] this position he became half conscious of activ fingers, about his person, and a rough, bu kindly voice at his ear. "Come, you're no going to Davy Jones's locker if I can help it, oh man, Let's get this about you." There was n< time for farther speech; for reeling, quivering groaning, splitting, the "Walumatta parted in th< centre. Down, down, down into the deep sh< went; the waters gurgling a lullaby to th« slowly drifting senses of the drowning, murmur ing a requiem for the spirits returning whence they came. But Jasper, not knowing his pre server, felt himself borne in safety with his life [ belt around him a protecting erirdle. He was.
eventually, picked up by a lifeboat, and conveyed again to Melbourne to be thrown on a sick be<3 through his immersion and a shock to a system already enfeebled. Mrs. Noel, on receipt of this news went to him at once, as nurse and com
It was soon after her departure that Charlie, meeting by accident in the city one morning Jasper's solicitor, an old gentleman, to whom he was inclined to be partial, said
"You have heard that uncle is progressing favorably?"
" Oh, yes. I am just going to his chambers through advice from Melbourne to look up some
_ "I will go with you, if you don't mind. I'd like to see the old rooms again," pleaded Charlie, thinking of his last visit there. The lawyer showing some signs of uneasiness, he added quickly, "Surely you have not heard later
serious news of him !"
" Not at all," was the reply ; " but I am only going there for a minute. There is a business transaction which he intended conducting him self this month, and which can't wait. Fortu nately, he left his keys with me."
Arriving at the chambers, musty and dusty for want of attendance, the lawyer, with the manner of a housewife who wants to conceal an untidy corner, walked quickly to à door leading to a second chamber, where Jasper had been in the habit of executing his designs, and closed it. The action rather amused the young man, who, when the lawyer's back was turned, strode quietly to the door in question, and entered the second apartment, a slight expression of mischief on his face. The old man, having found what he wanted, turned his head, noted Charlie's absence, the open door, and with a "Confound you" hurried to the room. It was decorated with handsome designs hanging on the wall. But away at the farthest end a large-sized, heavy framed picture was resting on the floor and against the wall, presenting its canvas back to the intruder, whose hands at that moment, when I the lawyer came up to him, pounced upon it im petuously. With a sudden right-about-face it was turned ; while an exclamation burst from the young man's lips.
" I hope you are satisfied," snapped the lawyer. 'fWhen you proposed to accompany me here, I 1 thought it discourteous to decline the proposal.
And I think it discourteous of you, BÍT, to enter this room, when you must have known I closed the door on purpose to keep you out."
Charlie wheeled round, and disclosed features depicting the utmost astonishment. Heedless in his excitement bf the lawyer's little speech, he
" What is the meaning of this ? Do you know ?" " Humph !" began the lawyer dryly. " Of course, I know the meaning of it. It is a picture of Arthur and Hubert-very well done too. Have you ever seen it before?"
" It is my own picture," cried Charlie, not catch ing the humor of the . old gentleman, " and was purchased by a Mr. John Smith. How came it
" Pshaw !" came the tart answer. " You ought to wear petticoats for your curiosity. You've pulled the cat clean out of the bag ; and the fault
is not mine."
" Well ?" inquired Charlie with some im patience.
"You were never meant. to know. But John
Smith is one of my clerks," explained the lawyer. " It was he who closed the transaction for me, under the instructions of your very worthy uncle, who was absent, and who commissioned me to set it here until he returned. There it is in a nut shell."
Charlie made no reply. But, reversing sud denly his position , of facing the lawyer, he stood transfixed and dumb before his painting; and something which sounded very much like a sob,
smote the old man's ears.
# # # * #
Christmas was rapidly approaching when Jasper began to feel able to return with Mrs. Noel. So when Sydney streets presented a gar den of bushes, incongruous at ' any other season of the year; when homes were additionally bright with Christmas cheer and reunions, he was received with joyous welcome at the Petersham cottage. His hair was white now ; a silver crown bearing . testimony to the cross. There were deeper lines in his face; and yet, withal, there was a great peace at his heart.
When Blanche threw her arms about him, and sobbed on his shoulder in broken words, " Oh,
thank God, youare. spared to us, dear, dear Uncle Jasper; " when Charlie1 embraced him, too, and could not find voice for emotion,- pr words to ex press his grateful love ; when he looked into the tender eyes of his sister-in-law (who had nursed him back to life), tears filhid his own ; and in his heart he cried, "God forgive me, that I for one moment desired to sever my life from their's, be fore His will demanded it."
The picture, as Charlie had unearthed the secret, went to the Petersham cottage, to adorn its drawing-room; and Mr. and Mrs. Charles Noel went to a pretty little home at Woollahra, provided, according to previous intentions, by Uncle Jasper, his wedding gift to Blanche.
When a two years old Jasper climbed the elder one's knee, rode on his shoulder, mingled in caressing gold and silver tresses, when the tiny arms first made a necklace at his throat, and then were outstretched to prove, with infantile illus tration, the dimensions of his baby affection, with lisping accents, "I love you this much," the grave, sweet smile stole to his face once again.
He was content with the love given and taken, apart from that grand Miltonic flourish, " Hail,
wedded love !"
Being sanctified with love in its sublimest, purest sense, a choir of angels, perhaps, gave forth a jubilant chant ; its divine strain echoing sweet music in his soul, filling him with " a peace above all earthly dignities," and the self-denying love which enriches and exalts erring humanity. He felt as the Bedouin, who sights the oasiB. He knew that he had escaped from the wreck of a hope and body and soul, to land a few more years on a God-sent evergreen flower-strewn spot. Yet he was all unconscious that he himself had created the oasis, or that his own bruised life was as so many CRUSHED FLOWERS, emitting the stronger perfume through pressure, breathing fragrance all around him, ascending as a sweet
savor to heaven.
. DISCOVERY OP ANTIQUATED WATER PIPES. Relics of Old London are getting rarer and rarer. Now and then we see them disclosed accidentally, and for the moment they always command much attention. A short time ago a -portion of London wall was uncovered ; and special provision had to be made by the Chief Commissioner for Works to enable the public to inspect'"it. ' Recently another buried relic was unearthed in the old pipes which furnished London with water a century ago. These pipes were made of straight trees hollowed out, and they served the purpose very well until the city grew, and larger pipes'of modern design had to be used. Some of these pipes, which are now exposed in Old Broad^Street, are as sound as when laid down ; and the condition of them is far better than would be the case with iron pipes which had been buried as long.
HONOR TO THE BRAVE.-Compassionate Wo man : " So you were in. the army, were you ? Well, I always honor the brave. What was your capacity ?" Tramp : " I was a prisoner, mum."'