Chapter 96947518

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Chapter NumberVIII
Chapter TitleA Day at the Crow's Nest.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article96947518
Full Date1900-07-05
Page Number3
Corrections0
Word Count2855
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleSouthern Argus (Port Elliot, SA : 1866 - 1954)
Trove TitleLights and Shadows
article text LIGHTS and SHADOWS BvKyra Keith, Ahthoress of'Patns-and Penalties,' ' DrviOED Lives,' etc All rights reserved 6y authoress. Continued fiwn our last issue. CHAPTER VIIL— ' A Day at the Crow's Nest.' Earth's increase, Barns and gamers never empty, Vines with clustering bunches growing, Plants with g Jolly burden bowing, Spring come to you at tFie farthest, In the very end of harvest.' Shakespeare. ' Oh, M/ibel, it s been such a beautiful, beautiful day, the best I've ever had, I'm not tired, no, not one bit, I do wNh you could have been here, too, all the timi, but n;ver mind, there's all to morro'.v ready waiting, and you can have it all to roam about amonij the hills and over tha gardens. They will let you go anywhere — just anywhere. Oh, I am so hanpy !' and worn out with pleasure little Rric Forester laid his tired head ujion Mabel's shoulder. It had been a day of unus-ial ex citement for hi:n, in ismuch a-= K:ilnh E-nerson who had become a staunch friend- to the little lad, -ha.i drix-en in to the village of Norham in the early morning, while yet the dew was upon the grass, and brought t!ie child out with him to spend th3 Ion:* sum:n;r's day all among the hills an I gir Jens surroin ling his an-J John Gii lien's ho Tie. It was the se;is -n of the vinta-r?. an 1 all up and down the valley men, women, aud chil dren) ve:e busily engaged gathering in Nature's bountiful harvest. The bunches hunj ripe and purple with the misty bloom still upon the berries so soon to be relentlessly crushed between the rollers of- the wine press. Up and down the long iotis of vines the child had been carried in the arms of one or other of the friends, half of his shyness dispelled in the keen interest with which he watched boys and girls no older than himself, but con siderably bigger and more vigorous, deftly snipping off the bunches of grapes and plac ing them in the large baskets which stood here and there among the vines, all handy to the young grape gatherers. Then, when wearied of this novel sight, they took him from the vineyard to the now well-matured and lovely garden surrounding John Gilbert's cottage, and placing him upon a rug beneath the wide spreading branches of a walnut tree, were vastly amused as he laughed heartily in his thin childish treble to see John and Ralph thrash the tree with long poles when the ripe brown nuts fell to the earth by the dozen, Ealph quoting merrily the old (but not untrue) distitch framed by our unenlightened forefathers, which says : ' A woman, a dog, and a walnut tree, The more they're beaten, the better they be.' And such delight as came to ths child's eyes when some nuts fell within reach of his own puny arm, and Ralph held out the basket quite close to him that he might gather them and place them therein himself, gravely thanking; him ;for his timely help ! Then the child's thin face flushed with the pleasure of actually having helped these good friends of his ; oh, it was something unusual, indeed, for him to be of use to anyone, his only occasions of service to Mabel being his adeptness with the needle, for his mother longing to provide him with both employ ment and amusement had early taught him to sew, and now all the kitchen towels and dusters were left tor him to hem. But nicking up nuts and putting them in a basket all ready for market ; this indeed was something like, and such manly wjrk compared to the hemming oi dusters. So his little heart glowed and his breast heaved born of the new satisfaction of having performed this excit ing feat. Oh, what a piece of news would this be for Mabel who was to arrive in the evening preparatory to spending the coming Sunday with the Roberts But even the gathering up of the nuts, which hal continued to fall thick and fast, close to, and upon his rug, was as nothing when B. ilph noticing the keen excitement which this little incident had caused the child went up to the house, and getting a couple of sofa cushions pronpsd him up against the trunk of the tree, a basket on either side, telling him he could remove the shucks from off the nuts, and return the shelled ones to the basket. This was work, and Eric felt he must be equal to the occasion, and so sat perfectly still picking on and on until his tiny, thin fingers ached, and were stained all over with the juice of the skins, and his whole frame felt weary, with the unusual exertion and excitement, but not for worlds would he have confessed so much, not he, was he not the first time in his life actually at work, he who would so soon enter upon his thirteenth year. Bui his friends were quick and keen sighted, and they soon ' discovered his jaded look, and thanked him profusely for his help. Then John Gilbert lifted him up in his strong aims, carrying him off in triumph, saying 'really he must not be allowed to. work any more,' having come out to play and not to work. He would take him now to the big pool at the bottom of the garden, where the spring emptied itself, and introduce him to the tadpoles. Oh, the delight of resting there under the cool shade of bending willow tree, trying to count the little shining minnows as they darted in and out in the dear shallow water all among the sedge grasses, with their queer yellow button like flowers, while the hot sun brought out an incense-like perfume from crushed mint and thyme until all the air was sweet, mellow and balmy And the tadpoles — what funny little fellows they were to be sur-% with their black, shining, round bodies, and their thin, oar-iike tails, which, in some instances, had become so reduced in size their owners began to suspct it was no longer rersjnable to call themselves tadpoles at all, but rather should they admit and confess to being frojrs. Thus one little excitement after another filled up the day's completeness; until the sinking sun flung Ions shadows which fell aslant the garden paths ant! rested upo-i the slope's of the encircling hills, whi'e long shafts of quivering light burnished the tall gunn trec-s until their glossy dark g;e;n leaves shimmered and shivered reflecting ing glwy at every turn, warning weary workers that the day was almost djnc and the darkness near at hand. But the peife^t completeness of this day, unique in the child's history, was accomplish ed. when he found himself comfortably esconscd upon a corner of lhe rough bush sof:i watching his man friends engaged in their, 10 him. no.-e! role of housekeqjers — -t was funny to see them busy with their prepar ations for the evening me.il laying the table for tea in the long, low room which served at once for parlour and for ki'chmi, accustom.; 1 as the child was day l-y d-.iy to w :tch Mil-el in the perfornnnceofher household duties, her pretty, deft «ays, her nimble lingers, and ea^y graceful ci'riairLv makin? even the most m2ni.1l occupation a pleasure to witn -ss. It was distinctly o id to see these two strong young fellows spreading the cloth noon the table, and manipulating cups and saucers ju^s and siigr.1- hnsin, until all the ne'essary picpar agons were cimpleic. even to a s'ice of hot buttered 'oast for ths Iit:le invalid guest, and with it all there was so much light chatter, so many merry jokes, such whistling, and such laughter, that the boy thought to lie a man and ' batch ' for oneself must be the vey happie=t condition in die world. Hut the happiest as we'! as the saddest days do come lo a-\ ending, ami at last, when the green spring-cirt arrived with M-. Roberts and Mal-sl, the child heaved a little sigh uf regret that at leng h this lovely day was really over ; but still, ihere was ton:or rou-, ami Malu:l ready to share tho enjoyment with him and so, settling him=elf upon her knee with his hc.-ii resling upon her shoulder, he gave expression to his f e'ings of delight as Air Rolicrts drove oft, leaving John and Ralph to wave thtir adieus from the slip panel, from which they were s^on lust to view by a sudden U-nd in the ro.ni. After a.vhi!e when Miliel thought !iim sleeping, so quiet had h; become, he sud lenly raised his head, ami looking at her oat of his brig'.U birdlike eyes lie sail ; ' You can't gusss what Mf. Gilbart's house is called, can you, Mab ?'' ' No, dear, ihr.t I can't.' . t' Well, I'll tell vo-J, it is 'The Crow's *fest,' isn't it a funny name ? Ual-ih says it's called so beciuse a ' pair of old birds live in it.' I wonder if tint's true, don't you? And y.m and I, and Mrs. Roberts a'C to go there to tea to-morrow, ami Mrs. Robert's is goi ig to take all lhe cakes and ' goo ly thing.' and n-e are all to ha.'e a ? hig'i old tim-,' (iilph said so, and afterwards either he or Mr. Gilbert will drive us home in their gig. And then — well then— it will all Ik over, and the next day will come, and the next, and I shall still sit in the Iifie parlour looking out upon the same people in the same quiet street, just the same as I have done every day for the ltist livo years, and you, dear, will lie back in that d'l'rk, dingy shop which always smells of bacon and cheese. Oh, dear, I wish -we could live on here forever and ever.' ' Kric ! Eric ! my Jar Httle boy.' said Mabel with quick pain .in her voice at this first expression of dis -onlcnt she . had c-. er heard from the lips »f the afn:c ed child. ' Surely, my pet. y -u are not going to Jet this beautiful d iy spoil all the oihe s. 'that wouM be but a pour return for all tha hajijiine-s yo-.i have h^-i p-esse.1 into this one Drirlit one,' an-t bending down she tenderly kissel tlu boy's wh:te forehead. ' I didn't mean it like tiat, Mali, dear,' he whispered in return, 'only, only, well, never mind, these two good days will ba something to think over for quite a long time, even when they are past an J gone, won't they, dear ?' Just a trifle closer she pressed him in her arms ; ah, how well she knew, and how deeply she sympathised with the hltJe one in his bravely Iwrne privations, never had he been able to enjoy life like othsr childrt-11 necer known what it was to run, and skip, to hop and jump about-in all the free-hearted merriment natural to youth. Caries of the spine had fastened its gruesome fetters upon him from his earliest infancy, and his young life was nothing but a gradual descent to an early tomb'; added to this delicacy was now the irreparable loss of a tender, devoted mother; the long sustained suspense concern ing the absent father, and the descent from a seemingly prosperous home to the back par lour of a smill store with all its environments mean and paltry. Bravely Mabel had sought to be everything to the desolate child, but often were the times when her lips quivered and her heart faltered as she saw the increas ing signs of delicacy in the waxen pallor of the child's face, and his steadily decreasing strength ; but her moments of weakness were witnessed by none save ' Him who seeth in secret.' To the boy and the world at large she was the brave, trui, capable girl devot edly doing an arduous duty— only God and her own heart knew the times of her heart broken despair, times which are bound to come to the bravest of us all. She was glad for the child's sake of this little break in the monotony of their every day life. Good, homely Mrs. Roberts had made her promise to spend the long, sunny hours of the next Sabbath day at their neat little cottage away at the fruit settlement, and when upon the morning preceding the eventful day Ralph Emerson had driven up declaring he must have the wee laddie for that dav. allowing her no refusal, she had given way before his mas terful bearing, and hardly r-a'iizing^ what was happening had seen the child carried off, whirled rapidly away delightedly waving his adieus in token of affectionate farewell. How strange it seemed to turn into ihe empty lonely house — but it was only for a little while and a voice of thankfulnss went up from her heart that it was so- together with 'a be seeching prayer that it might be long— oh, long before the inevitable time should come when that shrunken, deformed little body should be taken away to return never again. CHAPTER IX. ' If lusty love should go in qu*st of beauty, Where should he find it fairer ? If zealous love should go in sea'ch of virtue, Where should he fend it purer'' isHAKESPEAKE. ' Love the beautiful palace of delight.'' There are chords, strange vibrating strings in the human breast which lie dormant year after year, insensible to every passing breeze of sentiment, fancy, or affection, until at last some casual circumstance strikes theni by ac cident, then, responding with o:ie harmonious thrill they are alive for evermore. . It m.-iy be sympathy for some weak, helpless one, or ad miration called forth by noliility of action, or maybe an intuition of affinity of spirit result ing often limes in what is popularly spoken a( at love at first sight, whi.h strikes th^se hidden chords revealing themselves as great truths often do, by chance. Th :n the heart awakens and life's greatest possible tit-s are disclosed to the inner consciousness, light and Jove presently coma in and flood the «oul. Thus miy be seen upon the seashore one long rolling wave which rise-i higher and higher still, lar. in advance of -any previous oni, and for a long time no other cones up to its mirk ; but wait awhile and soon the whole sea is there and aidced far beyond it. It was a casual circumsunce which had resulted in a friendship springing up (-o;ne months previously to the events recor led in our last chapter) between M.ibel Foreitcr, her little crippled brother, and the inmates -Jf the ' Crow's Nest.' A chivalrous feeling of sympathy and pity had been suddenly aroused in Ralph liimrsnn's breast upun witnessing the little shop mistress and her helpless brother in an awkward predicau-.etit, only a feeling of sympathy at first, with a va,*ue desire to protect axd assin two equally help less ones, but the one choid struck had caused others in u ij^on lo vibrate also, and love, !he l-ea!!tifu! palace or cMight, hul i's foundation stone laid that day in Italuh Emer son's heart, although unknown to himself. It hid so happenvd that toiujilei by a Ijeautiful spring morning Mabel had' wheeled the lilt'ci lad in his invalid chair lo Jhe church upon the hill, some mile and a half distant from their home, it was not often that she took him lo any puli'ic place for the vhiKl shrunk from the curious gaze of strangers, but this mirning was so fiir, ami ns they passed along 'he air was fresh -nd s.veet with the scent of the wattle which ' tremWe.l twixt shadow and shine, ' and many of tha native shrubs were weathed either with the rich colouring of the creeping li'ac, or the starry, creamy blossoms of the clematis ; while tiny wrens with sapphire blue heads ami ij. l:lttd tails darted quickly in and out of busli or tree busily engaged in fashioning their long pen dant nests, little Mormon fellows th;s2 wrens with two jsnnies presiding over each swaying establishment. Upon a morning such as this, out in thes2 'plantations or God ' is perfect delight, every step yields some fresh tril-ute of wonder, and whatever' of despair oj despondency m.iy have intervene! l-efor», here we return hi reason ani to faith. Nature is an ever recurring festival and we fed we shou'd never tire of her. for she never wears a niiian or p:iltiy appearance, and in her presence our bitter nature readjusts itself, raisi.ig o-ir eyes to the wide arch of blue expanse above our lieads we feel that it is. go-d lor us 1 3 be here. To be continued. ??