|Chapter Title||THE BRIDGE AMONG THE FERNS.|
|Newspaper Title||Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)|
|Trove Title||Dark or Fair. A Story of Town and Country|
. ? 1 \ THE NOVELIST^
u Dark or "Fair."
A STOEY OP TOWN AND COTJNTEY.
(BY "JENNY WEEN/')
(WHITTEN FOB THE " TOWN AND COUNTRY JOURNAL.") .
THE BRIDGE AMONG THE FERNS.
Between the shadows of the gleaming hours, when the golden tints of sunset' had scarcely faded from the cloud-flecked sky, a young girl stood upon a bridge which crossed a small creek, where "ferns in wild luxuriance grew, and shaded Nature's lovely charms," where the tui sang his even-song of praise, and the little creek went gurgling on over the mossy stones which served as a stepping place for fern-gathering wanderers in that secluded spot. Polly Rennick, standing there, in the lengthening shadows, with her large chip hat festooned with nativo creepers, poised gracefully on her golden wealth of curls, sug gested a picture of rustic beauty which would dwell in the poet's mind for many a year, and bring with it many a tender memory of home and homely pleasures, when his spirit should have grown weary of contact with the great world of labor, and the struggle for a name.
" What more natural than for Paul to gallantly offer to recover the fallen basket." " ' ' (See tole entitled "Dark or Fair.")
She did not see him sitting there beneath the tall fern-palm, or she might have hastily retired from the scene she was so intensely enjoying. She was not thinking of Paul Fizzele, with his dreamy eyes, and handsome features, his broad, clear brow, and long, dark : hair. No ; Polly was thinking of life, its changing scenes, its various circumstances, and the friends or foes, the.joys or sorrows it might hold for her. - For to-morrow ; yes, to-morrow, she must leave this lonely spot in quiet, peaceful Parawai ; and it might be that she would never see her lovely New Zealand home again ; or it might be after years of patient
toil that she would be allowed to visit the beloved
spot, endeared to her by a thousand tender asso ciations of childhood, of girlhood's dreams, and friendship's golden hours. Her mother's grave lay yonder 'mid the waving grass on the green hill side; and there was the little church beside the river where she had first listened to the voice
of love, calling her. to higher, joys and nobler ideals than those of earth. .
And now Bhe must go away; and life to her appeared a .mysterious mingling of unknown trials, unforeseen temptations. These -were the thoughts, which wrapt her face in such deep con templative shadows, as Paul watched her standing there on the bridge among the ferns.
He thought, "How fair, how sweet she is ! How childlike, yet how womanly she grows ! One scarcely knows how to approach her changing moods. Yet this I feel; no man could bring himself to utter an impure thought in her presence. Her quiet dignity would re buke bis presumption; her' beautiful purity restrain, if not entirely vanquish, every thought of evil. Temptation passes her by unscathed; for she is a true child of Nature, one over whom the Father has given his angels charge, lest at anytime her feet might stumble. Sweet maiden; she seems like an inspiration to my soul. What is this strange influence she possesses over me and my life?"
The last lmgering ray bf sunset beauty fades from the horizon ; and Polly turns away with one long, lingering look of love at the beautiful spot. Then she takes up her cross, and goes forth to noble duty,
Paul remained there, among the ferns, till the stars came out, and flashed their clear, soft rays athwart the fair, blue heavens. And there he registered a vow that henceforth his life should be governed by pure motives, that he, too, would seek the inspiration of the good, the beautiful, the true, and find whate'er was good or god-like
in himself or others.
Paul Fizzele, with all the world before him, a poet artist, with a wide chance of wealth and fame ever lingering in his thoughts, and a weak, vacillating spirit ever advancing or retreating, as surrounding circumstances influenced his sensi tive nature, had wandered hither in searoh of beautiful scenery, and found it to his heart's con-' tent. The Thames goldfield, in its rugged grandeur of mountain scenery, its wüd gorges, and lofty precipices, where golden spoil lay hidden in a mass of quartz, like saintly souls! within a mortal casket ; where stalwart diggers; pitched their tents, and toiled patiently in the, deep shafts or long drives for the precious metal ;J where the heavy clash of massive machinery broke the stillness of the midnight. hours, and mon toiled day and night to obtain the glittering
dust or golden nuggets which should give them name and competence-all i these things provided Paul with ample food for pen .and pencil, and enabled him to enrich the pages of the papers in the old world with poems and sketches, which brought their meed of praise.
And now, there had come to him ásense of worthiness, a higher thought of noble effort, not only to enrich himself, but bénefit others, by his work ; and this had grown out of an acquaintance with Polly and her people. He had taken a fancy to roving among the ferny creeks, and sketching here and'there, a scene bf beauty. And one day, just as he was finishing a piece of work, Polly suddenly ? appeared on the bridge, her favorite resting place, and thus entered his sphere of
labor. She carried a small basket of straw berries in one hand, and some crochet work in the other; and, as she crossed the bridge, her cotton became entangled in the bushes near ; and away rolled the crochet basket into the creek. "What more natural than for Paul to gallantly offer to recover the fallen work, and then linger on the bridge with Polly to receive her simple thanks ? She charmed him,.this child of Nature, so simple, truthful, and intelligent. , After that they often met; and Polly took him home to. her father's garden to gather strawberries, and brought him sweet, fresh cream from the dairy to eat with them. She manifested an interest which was refreshing as it was original in his little sketches, and actually consented to sit for him, basket and all, that he might carry the picture with him to Britain as a souv enir of New Zealand's happy hours. She did not think of love. Her time was occupied in caring for her father, and the two little children whom her dying mother had committed to her charge. And she did not stay to chatter frivolously or nirtingly to the young man she admired as well as pitied. She knew that he was weak ; for had not her father seen him stumbling home at night after a banquet ; and playing wildly against fate
and fortune at ithetbilliard table? She pitied him, because he had said that his mother was a widow, and he her only son ; that he had come to New Zealand in search of health and occupation, and intended shortly to return home to settle down quietly with his mother, and never allow her to know sorrow or anxiety again. Polly saw how unstable he was ; and it grieved her loving spirit to think of that mother's anxious Care ; and she strove, in her simple way, to influence him to return by the next mail boat. But she did not dream that Paul Fizzele loved her. He caine to say "good-bye,"when he heard that Mr. Rennick intended to take his family to Sydney ; and Polly accepted a little picture he had painted for her of the dear .New Zealand homestead, and the bridge among the ferns. She did not know that he carried with him to the old country a" little crochet-pattern, wrought by her hand, which he had found among the tangled thread'in the bushes after the strawberry basket was emptied,