Chapter 198894169

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Chapter NumberNone
Chapter TitleNone
Chapter Urlhttps://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article198894169
Full Date1895-09-21
Page Number3
Corrections0
Word Count3274
IllustratedN
Last Corrected1970-01-01
Newspaper TitleThe Tasmanian (Launceston, Tas. : 1881 - 1895)
Trove TitleJess: An Old, Old Story
article text

JESS— ^An Old, Old Story

[By A. Jameson Wrainjtord.]

' She exerted her failieg energies, and drawing her shawl more closely round her, Went slowly on j but now the bush with its undergrowth. was full of difficulties for the weary traveller. She tripped over the fallen branches, she tore her clothes, and her hands were scratched and bleeding, when at last she came to an inextricable

tangle of prickly box, and in dismay left the bush and again sought the gravelled read. But now her strength was well nigh spent, and she wondered ia a vague and dreamy way how much longer it would hold out* Presently Ehe sat down on the grassy bank by the road side; it vr;s cold and damp and crisp with frost. A. stupor began to creep over her, a sensation of coming rest, but ere the sleep of exhaustion could overtake the benumbed faculties the pain in her extremities from the intense cold re called her to he- s^lf. She struggled to her feet and stretched her stiffened limbs ; she must not give in, she must make another effort. She picked up a stick which she stumbled upon in the darkness, and leaning heavily on that, continued her weiry way. A light ! Tbank God ! the light (fa candle ia a window. With renewed hope she crept weakly on till she stood abreast with a little cottage, which glimmered whitely in the deep shadow of a fie tree, but from a side window of the same came the bright rays of the frietdly light— the beacon of hope which had Bhone upon her in her despair. She t ttered up to the door and knocked faintly, but meebing - with no, response le^ea'ed it a little louder, wh^n the sound of shuffling feet came to her Rferainari an.ra anrl i:ViA Annr* vraa nnunoA

cautiously, while a wrinkled but bind old face peered over its spectae'es at the girl, the owner of the same trying to throw the light of the fl«ing candle upon the former's face. ' Who b3 tint?' came in the quavering accents of an old woman; 'v^S 'For God's sikp,' said the ou1c*et, brokenly, 'let me come in, I am worn to death. Then the old v\ oman caught sight of the white face and the bii?, mournful eyeF, and seeing tk»m end the pretty simp e features did nob hesitate to open the door. ,? 'Corns in, you poor creatme,' she said, bpsning, wide her door ; ' jojl must be well n'gh frozen this bitter night. Come right ia to the kitchen, where'/s a bit o' fire. I've 3 ? ] s b been areadia'th« ncoza in a paper a neighbour lent me. Dapr! dear! jou do look bad, to be sure.' She settled the swaying figure ia her own old easy cha;r, and then she would have removed the mackintosh, but Je3s put out an arresting, albeit feeble, hand. 'Well! wall!', said the old woman, 'juBfe ps you like; bub tiny are nasty, cl se thiage, and I thought it would hi a relief to yer to be ehut of it.' ' It. keeps me warm,' said Jobs, weak'y, but there was a lock in her faee which if the questioning old eyes had been less dim would surely have betrayed her. 'Keep it. on then, me lasi,' rerponded

the humb'e hostess cheerfully, 'for the night is bitter cold, and though you are right welcome to the ue e of the sofy here and I can lend ye a 'possum rug, I'm no ways flush o' blaukets. But mebb9 ye are faint for a bite and sup. I'll just pet ye a drop o' hot tiy,' which she forthwi h did, and then it was not long before Je83 fell into a sound sleep, though notbefoe she murmured her grateful thanks, wh:ch made the withered face of her benefactress flueh with pleasure as sfce bade her be right welcome! The next morning the old woman would not let he? go till she had breakfasted, and had been furnished with a little parcel of bread a ad meat to sustain her on her fray.

Then, and not till then, did this friend in need wish her God speed. Jess shook hands and faltered tout her gratitude, and stepped over the threshold, bat a few moments after the old woman looked up to' see her standing there. ' Be you wanting anything?' she asked kindly. Jess came a little nearer. ' Will you kiss me before I go ?' she aBked wistfully. ' 'Deed, an' I will that,' re&ponded the other heartily, kissing the pallid cheek held towards her with great goodwill. But Jess threw her arms round the bent figure. ' I can never thank you enough, she said. 'Bless youj Bless you.' She turned to go then, and in a few moments was Io3t to sight in a bend of the road. 'Poor thing,' said the eld woman, 'she io seem to be in trouble ture, but she wou'dn't say nothio.', an* I couldn't well pres3 her. Well, well, I must ju3t g^t the work done, and th-=n mebte 1 will run over and see Mrs Smith, and tell lur all about Jess had not walked many miles at the closs of the day, f.-r the pauses in her jourr-ey for indispensable rest became more and more frequ nt as the time went on, acd a sinking fear that she would never reach her destination continually assayed her ; and now as the sight apptoich d, a thirk white fog began to rise in tie low lands, and as ehe walked she watched it wi*h a fascinated grlance of tenor; creeping on its stealthy way, throw ing itsJmpenetr*ble mantle over hill and dale, forest and plain. But-, she c \me to a farmhouee alrrost c'oss to the miin road, and there she begged for shelter for the night, which was somewhat reluctantly granted her in au outhouse ne^r. The.farmer'a wife out J9cted her to some ^ose questioning, while her daughters l'Okedon. Tteydid int mean to be un kiud, bur.ss the farmer's wife remarked, ib was a bad thins 'o see a young womau like her on the roads, and especially when ahe had no explanation to offer ; for Jess would not tell a lie, and yet could nob tell the

truth, eo refuted to siy anjtbmg beyond that she was obliged to make the journey on foot, was poo-, and almost f riendlesi ; and with 'these assertions her questioners had to be tabisfitd, though they shook their he da and turned away, when, biad indeed though not in word, they brought her food and drink both n'-uzishiner and |.al .table. ' How lmg' she asked herself as she lay down upon tbe stiaw supplied har in the omhouB', 'how )oi-g mat th's l-st?'' How Jong could she continue to o'r.ig herEelf along by da-y, uncerlain of shelter for the night, with do prifr ction save that contained ia her very d^.'eDCilersaeBP, and with some only would that avail he-, with others not ai all. She lay awike for hour.=, her painracked, overtaxed limbB giving her no rest, and a3 fhe lay she looked up at the little chinks of light which etruggled faintly through the numberless holes in the roff. She would try oue more day, and then if her Bufferings did rofc lessen she would make her w-iy toa railway &t tion, aid go the r.-st of the w&y by train. She put h«r h^nd inlerpjcket atd c'elt for^her purf e as the resolution wuti made, and theu fhe s'arted up in dismay. Her purse was uob ttiere. ' Great Heaven !' she cried, and grras drops ro^e.on her forehead. f1 1 am lost.' Thtn a terdble sease of darkness came UDon her; she groped with her poor,

wouaded hands, and fell back on the straw ins?nable. When she agaia opened her eyes it was to find that her head ached with a frightful intensity, while a terrible sense of burning seemed to cover her whole body. She felt almost m though she vsere on fire, and she moaned and tooted from Bile to side; thsn horrible f incies filled her brain. She thought that mockk'g, gibing phan toms were on every side, and that they railed at her and her miseiy. Her suffer ings seemed to increisa e*ery moment; she became delirious, and comm°noed talk ing to herself witb. feverieh. haate. ' I must go on,' she said wildly, ' why am I wast;ng all this time, when I should

be walking, walking, walking? Oh I thist pain ! This awful rain ! Is there no one to' help me ? Father ! Mother ! Come to your little girl ' : With a sudden accession of frenzied strength she rose from her bed of straw, and, opening the shed door, passed' out; into the darkness, cold, and fog. The forest lay very clcso on one side of th9 farmhouse, and *o the girl's disordered brain the most prominent idea was that sbe muet gain its shelter, in order that she might continue her journey. On she walked, tearing her clothes as before., stumbling, and almost falling over many obstacles, causing her poor hands to bleed anew, and inert a?ing the pain of her head and body, till she wied aloud to her God for a little res'-, a little freedom from suf« feriag. At last she paused bareheaded beneath the spreading bra-ches of a great white gnm — on every side her path seeded barred—jhe had entered a clump of thickly1 growing h neysuckles, and had come by * single path whish led to this leafy retreat, but she did not know it. There was a little ?pace quite e'ear in the centre, bub the grass and fallen bark and leaves which covered it were very cold and wet. Still she sank upon them in a helpless, stupefied manner, for the Bbrength of delirium left her as suddenly as it cam?, and her trembl ing 1 mbs refused longer to bsar her weight. ;? The cold damp ground chilled her dread fu'ly, and nuw paroxysms of a new and awful pa'n came on, and she again cried aloud, and tearing up handfuls of the grass and leaves in her agony :put them into her mouth and bit them. This went; on for/a while, and tossing, writhing, and turning from side toe side, she again be came duUtious, and once more pitiful appeals for help and Buccour were wrung from the parohed lips. At last as the tardy winter day began' to break a change anne, the pain left her, and a sense almost of delicious langour filled her bruised and weary frame- - No longer did Bhe fejl the ground hard, the giass cold and web ; no longer did that feeling of burning assail her, but a dew rose upon her forehead and a natural colour glowed faintly in her cheeks. ' The siraiced. esp.ession of her' features relaxed j h?r lips patted in what was almoat a smile. She did not know then that this apparently heiven-sent change was merely a forerunner . of the end, but presently as she lsy and watched the faint light glimmering ia the trees andn»ted the lessening; of the vapour which filled the air a sense or coming separation from it all fiiled her beinsr. She opened her ey«3, large and beautiful as ever, but no longer bearing that mournful, even tragic, expres tijn which they had so long worn. No, clear and soft as in the old iappy days of innocence, they looked towards heaven, and a strange new look as cf a great joy filled the face of the dying girl. ' I thought it hard to die oace/' she said, ' and now I know there is nothing eas.e— only— only my dear old dad and my moth'— they will never know, aid they will br ak th.ir hearts.' Anl row tb.9 tears which had never flowed before came at the thought of the far off loving old couple, to whom she was eo much, and who would never know that their lit.le girl had passed beyond their fiigat for ever. Weeping bitterly, she

ccaaou lu t-pt)a& ior a lew moments, bus: pteseftly bs her strength waned she no longer grieved. ' Father io Heaven,' ahe cried, 'watch over them ; help them.' Her eyes dosed.' 'Father,' came again presently. .' I jan pray now. Why am I no longer afraid t She stretch d out her arms, and a ray o? the pale wintry sun'ight gleaned through, the thick honeysuckle busbes near, and fell softly on ihe Btill pallid face. But now a shudder passed through the aoparently' motionless form, a sigh or two escaped from' the parted lips, and the vital spark had fled. And now, oh ruthless tempter, come and view tho wreck you have been the

means of creating. Enter the wild forest, wet with fog and frost, push your way through tangle of briar and brushwood; jour band.3 — jour whifca and shapely hands — are torn and bleeding, bub they are not eo torn cor do they bleed so much as have done the work-stained one? of your hapleas -victim. Now part the thickly-growing N honeysuckles and traverse the narrow path the partiag makes. What, do you see P Why do you sfcait, why dce3 your cheek turn pale? Why dceB your Bin-stained Boul sicken within ycup Coward* you may well tieinble at the sight cf that re cumbent form, those outstretched rounded lifeless arms, that Mr face of gbaBtly hue, th03e one 3 joyous lipa now silant for ever. And this is your work. You cannot count yours.l? otbo: thaa the deetroje: of the innocent truBtiag girl, who fcr your. Bake forgo b all that she held most dear— her God tn&tnat divinest -'Of., moral at-ri-l butes given to mankind, her purity. 'The terrible wrong you have done can never^be, undone, but if you have ! any powenT'ofj reflection1 aod repentance' lef o, if youhavo; any sense of right and wion'g within you still, then pausvon'the downward pnthj ?which -you (sr4 now so -swiftly traveling' 'and turn back. Turn ha.dk and make the, irest of -your exist nee' blameless ;? devota all' your spare- t:me and'test energi?s{to'fcelp ijng others to do likewise/and so in''f omc measure entfeyvour to a^one for th9' evil yotil have doc e. : ' In the'ivy-covered cottige : I y the ;way Bide tea was almost7 ready/' ' The table' was'i ?laid for \ wo, and row the teapot alonej required fillingj and the neatly dreesed old! -woman, v; ho had been moving about from! table to cupboard, frcm cupboard- to fire, Jb'egan to Bhow-signs of impatience. She mevit to the door and look'ei down ihe muddy roid.in tUe gutters oE which -the ice Btill lay unmelted; -lbut seeing 'nought gave vent. to a sound. be'tween~a l^iwh atda grunt, and retreated to the coay depths of ?Jfer'big armchair. . ^Presently* rugged but iindly ; looking old man came cheerfully through^the mud and up the road to where .the cottage stood, and then 'paused to | BOJfaperhiB-hobpailed bo^ts on the piece of lioop'iron f nailed across the legs of the | IWnch outside.' It was good to tee the old I fellow carefully scraping Mb big heavy boots, while the big hoop iron gave forth^'a I ringing Eound, which could have been! heard far dowmthe road. 7 - f Sam Lucas; is that you ?' came in the VOioeof the woman in the' big armchair. 'It be! it.be?' waB the good-humoured feeiponse. '.Ithought happen tbeir would ? he a. letter .from the little' las?, eo I 'just! calle.d;rpundtothepost-6rfice.' r I r '^And ur there ?-' the good wife asked. ! -. ?:« Nay,'- returned 'her spouse, a trifle j Badly, ' there wurna.' - ? ?:'????] '' Happen- ahe'sigettin' city ways, andj forgettin' us old folks/'' a Baid the' old iwoman, a little crossly. T*'O).d woinani'said her husband, bring-: ing his.closed fist down oh the table with a thump, 'never say that ; never think! that b^the little Ibbs. Her heart's ixi 'the right place, .if ever one was— my little daisy facek' .-?-.-. ;v-v -?' '? « 'Well, well,' said the old woman more softly, ' mebbe I'm a bit hard a' times/but ye see we've brought up a large family, and Bhe'B the only odo left to us, an' the thought of her afallin' off riled me, and made this tongue b' mine a bit too long.' And far away in the dreary forest, on the wet and EOddened ground, the old man's daisy faced lassie slept her last long deep. The nexb night — Tea was over, the ' bitB o' things' were washed up and 'put by,' and the aged pair were seated by the kitchen fire, the man smoking and trying to read a grimy lookingold work on the civilisation of man, ?while hi3 wife dozed over her knitting. A knock at the door caused both to start. It was only a neighbour who had obligingly called with a letter which had come for them by the evening's post. With a cheery word the neighbour went his way, and the old man after peering at the rude charac ters of the strange handwriting broke the seal. Holding it close to the candle that his dim old eye3 might quickly grasp its contents, he started back.

'Oh, missus! ' he said in tones made harsh by mental anguish, ' Oh, missus ! missus!' '?Lord ha' musBy, Sam!' cried ehe, 'trhatisibP' ;!'The little lass!' said her husband hoarsely, ' The little lass ! ' He bowed his grizzled head on his arms, and the great tears rolled down his furrowed cheeks. With trembling hand the woman took the letter and read it. Dere Mister Lukis, — There is bad news for ye about your poor gel, as Ehe's bin found dead in the bush not fur from the road in Mister Smith's forriat, which 'runs long by the road knone as the old Bueh

man's Trajik, will je please to cum eoon as possible'?— Tours1 to iomah'di ''.,., ' ': ?'''?'?'? -E. Bowser. In a little back room in the old farm house, near the spot whsre she tai died, th.9 dead girl had been placed by reverent bands, and there her aged father stood ar.d c a zed his last upon his daisy-faci d lassie. Never io his long life cf fcc.il and hardship had Le known a time of BUjh cruel suffer ing as this. Not only was the darling of his lonely old heart, for whom he had slaved and deciei himself maDy things, for whom he bad pictured what was t) him almost a brilliant future, not only TaB Bhe lcBt to him, bub oh ! bitter blow, |her honour— her honour was lost ako. For a moment the brain of the Outraged father reeled and swam. Did he but know, coiild he but find him, the robber of that priceless virtue, the honour of his child, ?th'ed1 fiat man would surely die. 'Exit pre sently srijf for his 'fltfod daughter Over-? came all murder'oijs'thoughtp, and the old man sink'on'his kneeB byhir side.' Later; so'mec ne knocked at the acor, and receiving no rt~j.lv wert toftly in to find 'tnat 'the separation' ( f f the old man from his daisy-! fa led lassie had been but short; after all; for doath'had*C3aEeit to divide them. ;