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Chapter NumberNone
Chapter TitleNone
Chapter Url
Full Date1895-09-14
Page Number3
Word Count2437
Last Corrected1970-01-01
Newspaper TitleThe Tasmanian (Launceston, Tas. : 1881 - 1895)
Trove TitleJess: An Old, Old Story
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JESS— An Old, Old Story

_ — '. + — ? : [By A. Jamieson Wrainford.]

It was only the old story of blind , un reasoning trust, self-abnegation, and drift-, ing, rather than doing ; followed by violated faith, broken promises, and misery. She was a labourer's- daughter, whose father lived in a pretty ivy-covered cottage by the wayside^ but she went to the dity, and took a place : as cook and housemaid somewhere there. He was, or

?ue taougoc ne was, a geniiemiin,iuB uauua were white, though his bouI was not, and he dressed in broadcloth. She was lonely, cast away in the great blty, with few to oare whether she grieved or rejoiced, lived or died. Her loneliness showed itself in her pretty Bimple face, end he saw it ; he offered her diplomatic sympathy, so skilfully, so gently, that she accepted it without question, but, con trasting it with the studied coldness re , ceived from other guests of the house, thought him a marvel of benevolence, goodness, and charity. So nnsuspecting was she, so ignorant of the ways of some, that she accepted flowers from those white hands, and suffered their owner to take her to promenade evening concerts, and sometimes to the theatre, and then ?he began to drift, rather than live. The downward path was flower bestrewn, and full of fair words, and what she . mistook for/ love, and at the end she ?aw not the gulf that actually yawned before her. In her eyes, those eyes which could no longer distinguish truth from falsehood, it assumed the # hape of an altar with life

long happiness to come. He was so good and wise, Bhe thought, he would say nothing that was not true and right, how wonderful It was that he should, love a poor little ignorant country girl like her, who could not always manage to Bpell correctly, and of ten made mistakes in her grammar. Oh! it was a proof of his goodness of heart that he loved her, and had promised to marry her, and they would be so happy— must live in town, because the country would be too dull for him, but father and mother would come

;o stay with them, and how proud the old 'oiks would feel of their little girl, and ler handsome, gentlemanly husband. Father muBt net wear lm moleskins then, ind mother must put aside her red and pellow shawl, but that was all they need do, and it would be pleasant as a noontide dream. And so time passed, and irksome work seemed e.ven pleasurable when per formed with the thought 'of the radiant coming future. , But one day there came a rude, a harsh awakening, and the sun in the young untutored life set forever, and . all joy in the fresh face died away, and a voiceless, tearless misery looked put of the big sad eyes. She went through her daily round of duties uncomplainingly, with a silent dogged persistence, that appealed to the sympathies of her mistress, who was not Blow to see that the girl was ill, though she divined not the cause. This went on for a while, till the white drawn face be came a subject for remark among the guests. . , ' : ' How ill Bhe 'looks,' they said, ' like a living death.' The mistress— a little selfish, albeit Bhe was kind at heart— grew alarmed. The maid would be ill upon her hands, she thought, she must send her home for a little ; the country air, the new milk, and freshly laid eggs would bring the roses back to her cheeks. The mistress had her say, all this and a little more, and the maid with that hopeless, heartbreaking misery In her face, rose to her feet and looked steadily at the lady. 'You wish me to leave?' was all Bhe said, but it made the other feel as though she had struck a wounded animal

—and badly wounded, too. 'Just for a while,' she. said ; 'until you are stronger, Jess.' Everyone called her Jess.except her old father, but to him she was his pet, his7 daisy -faced lassie, and she knew it. ' Have I left any of my work undone ?' she asked dully. . 'No,' faltered her mistress, 'but I have some feeling, girl, and I see you are unfit to. work — besides, the people who come here remark upon your looking so ill.' Then the faintest possible flush dyed her white cheek. 'What does it matter to them,' she asked, ' so long as I do my duty by you ?' . 'But I think it beat for you to have a change,' said rhe mistress. 'You look to me as though something is on your mind, and that something is slowly break ing your heart. Tell me/ and I will help yon.' . . . ; ' There is nothing to tell, ' said Jess slowly, there is no way for you to help me, but perhaps you are right, and I'd better go away for a time,'' she added as though It were an after thought. 'Home of course ' said the lady. 11 Of course,' repeated. Jess drearily. And so she must leave. She rose from her chair, when her mistress left her, and slowly paced her room. She stood before her tiny dressing table and looked into her little glass there, with wide tearless eyes, at the white face that looked back at her, and presently Bhe put her elbows on the table, and leaned her aching head on her hands. ' Ob, God,' she whispered

'I repent. Night and day, awake or asleep, I never forget, my sin has found me out, but oh, God in heaven,! 'did not know, I did not know. In mercy, let me die. ;It is not just the thought of the shame and Borrow that crushes me, 'bat it is the sin, the sin that can never, never be undone. ' She pressed her dry but burning eyes with her cold hands, and again began to move restlessly about the room. 'It is not as if I were the only sufferer,' she moaned to herself, ? 'father's heart would break if he knew, and mother would never hold up her bead again. What right,' she asked herself passionately, ' what right have I to bring such suffering on them ? There is no right, it is all wrong, all one big wrong, ' but oh, I never knew, ' She covered her face, and again she moaned despairingly. ' If girls only knew,' Bhe continued, presently ' when they listen, and believe all they are told, if they only once saw the sin of it all, If they could only see the dreadful fate in store for them, they would save themselves before it was too late. How can I pray?' she asked vehemently, ' am I not degraded in the eyes of God and man ? How can I aBk forgiveness, when, as yet I do not know the extent of my ain ? Oh, I will see him again, I will aBk him on my knees, for the child's sake, to give me his name and pro tection. She did so, she sought the presence of the white-handed tempter, and she begged him with many piteous words of pleading to Bave her and their child. And what did he Bay? He turned from her with an insolent laugh, and taunted her with the cruel fact that she had thrown herself away. When he married his wife must be a pure-minded woman, he said, this man, who had wrecked her life, for whom she had given up that precious thing, which to a woman is the deareBt posses sion on earth, her innocence. She looked at him, and her eyes dilated. She had thought him all that was good, and wise, and great, she knew now that he was bad, mean, contemptible, a thing to be despised, a being so cowardly, bo devoid of right feeling, that he refused to

stand by and protect the woman he had wronged, refused to countenance the helpless little life which owed its very existence to him. She looked at him, now with an intense loathing, so intense that he ceased to deride her and waited in wonder for what she had to say. Presently it. came, and for a moment the ignorant country girl showed herself a thinking, feeling woman. In that short space of time he conceived a sudden respect for her, a new sensation that surprised him self.' 'I see you now,' she said, 'as you really are, an unmanly man — without courage, without principle, without even the strength of mind to stand by the result of your own miserable actions. Were you to ask me a thousand times now I would not marry you. To me it would be a sin far greater than I have already done to marry you and become the mother of the children who would bear the curae of having you for a father. It is awful to think of.' Her big sad eyes were glowing with a wonderful fire, and her deathly white face suddenly flushed. Never had he seen her look so well as now, and listening to her as she spoke a new determination came to him. He would test her resolution, he would sound the depths of her sudden aversion to him. 'Suppose,' he said,looking at her with coarse admiration in his glance, ' suppose I ask you to marry me; what then? I don't aay I do, mind, but suppose I do.' She gave him a look he was not likely to forget, and turned to go.

, But he placed his shapely figure in the way, and smiled so as to show his white regular teeth. The thought that the old fascination still lingered for her was dis« pelled the next moment, when she said in ringing tones of contempt— ' Will you open the door, or move jiBlde that I may open it ?' r,(j.' Neither,' he said, the feeling of reB pect, if respect it can be called, born of such a nature, Increasing, ' Neither. Look here, Jess— what a beautiful creature you are ! Look here, I do ask you to marry me, as soon as possible. There now.' 'And I— ,'Baid Jeas slowly. 'I would sooner Buffer death many timeB than marry a man such as you.' ' Not for another's sake ?' he asked coming towards her, and holding out his white hands. But she turned from him with an overwhelming disgust. ' Don't be silly, Jees,' he said In tones he meant to be persuasive, ' by marrying me you have everything to gain and no thing to lose.' ' I should lose all sense of right and wrong,' she aaid bitterly, ' I should lose my self respect.' 'I thought^ you had forfeited that already,' he said with a sneer. .. . - 'I have been thinking,' she said slowly, ' that if I were a man I would knock you down and tread you uuder my feet, but I think now that I could not bring myself to touch you.' The feeling which has been called res pect grew more rapidly in his breast for her. He drew nearer — ' Come, Jobs,' he Bald, ' give up the fight, and let us be friends.' She gave him a look of withering scorn, and turning quickly opened the door and passed out before he could prevent her. . She did not go home, but Bhe wrote now and then to the old people, and told them that she was busy at her work earn* ing money— that was after she took another situation, where she had more work and less pay than in the. former one. And that she could only keep a few months, she told herself, and then Bhe would an awav down the countrv. to

where an old woman lived, who had known her and been kind to her ever since she was a little child, and that was years ago, for now she was nineteen. She would walk the fifty miles which lay be tween her --nd the haven of refuge she had chosen. She had money sufficient to pay her fare by train, and leave some for the clothes which she must buy, but she would not travel by train and run the risk of being recognised by someone who had known her in happier daya— nor could she bear to meet the rude stare of strangers — no, Bhe muat travel by road on foot, but she muat take easy atages, for of late her strength had greatly waned, and some times her breath came in a very quick and short manner, occasioning her severe dis tress while the attack laated. It was a pity, she thought dearily, that it was winter, because she must needs lie out at night sometimes, but she would carry a warm Bhawl and a little bundle, It must be a very little one, because the lightsat bundle would Boon feel heavy to her now. So she got the warm shawl, and the little bundle, and Bhe wore a mackintosh, which was to serve the double purpose of protecting her from the rain, which fell now almoat daily, and shielding her from the gaze of the unsympathtic and uncul tured, arid thus she started upon her long and weary tramp of fifty miles. The winter day was shortlived, yet the winter sunshine was very trying to that aohing head and those weary, Bwollen feet. She walked slowly, she stopped many times nd rested, and then as . she got furfchW

from the town she grew apprehensive of insult, and leaving the high road walked a little way into the bush, and followed the track there, but though with a wonderful courage both physical and moral, and an endurance of fatigue of which she had previously believed herself inoapable, Bhe kept doggedly on her way, nightfall came, and only six mileB of the fifty were accomplished. She stopped and looked at the darken ing eky, and the Btars which, clear and bright, came twinkling forth from the unfathomable baok ground, and Bhe shivered, for the breath of night was chill in the extreme ; there would be a frost, ahe thought,; how could she live the night through unsheltered ? (To he continued.)