Fragrance in Literature-Guerndale: An Old Story by Frederic Jesup Stimson

Guerndale: An Old Story (1899)


STILL many minutes Guy lay drowsily, at peace
with the world. The summer day wore on, and
the full sunlight came down into the valley ; the
birds flew low over his head. A dense perfume came
from the crushed grass thick with wild flowers ; the
numberless Alpine insects filled the air with the
beating of their wings. A strange, sweet sound came
to his ears, a low and liquid melody. He listened
dreamily a long time before his curiosity was aroused ;
he was curious a long time before he got up to see
what it was. The melody was well known to him ;
it was an old German song that came to him cool
and sweet, from some wooden instrument, like water
from a wooden pipe.


And so, group after group of snowy pinnacles
turned scarlet, and red, and rosy, and glitter-white ;
and yet the huge chasms yawned below, and the night
brooded in the valleys. At last a sunbeam, glancing
full upon the icy surface of the Matterhorn, fell
down and backward into the long valley like an
arrow from the sun ; and they saw the birth of dawn
below. At first, the deep valleys were shrouded in
a sea of mist ; then, as the sunbeam cleft the cloud,
the gray veil wavered and rose slowly upward. They
felt its chill breath as it rolled by them ; the mists of
the night ascended, like incense, at the rising of the
sun ; and there came the sweet morning smell of the
woods and meadows, and the tinkle of bells and little
rills, far down below.

Guy walked back to look after the horses ; and
when he returned, the two seemed to be getting on
so well together that he did not wish to disturb
them. The windows of the room opened upon a
true oriental patio, walled so high that there was
but a small square of blue sky visible above. The
sides of the house were thick with vines and broad-
leaved plants that threw a green shimmer into the
water of the fountain, plashing in the court-yard.
Here was a basin of clear, cool water, grateful to
one who came from the heat of the open and the
parched roads. In the grass-plots at the corners
grew all manner of fragrant flowers, roses in rich
abundance ; and here Guy threw himself down, lis-
tening to the distant cries of pillage and the tread of
troops, that came scarcely to him through the mas-
sive stone walls which barred him from the street.
Louder sounded the tinkle of the fountain near
him ; and so, thinking of moss-grown pools, and of
cool waters ebbing from lips of stone, or from forest
margins as the little brook used to do in Dale, he
fell asleep.


Then there came long days when it seemed that all
he could do was to lie and drink in the light, and feel
the cool air upon his forehead ; days when he barely
knew that he was alive, before he thought much of
life, or of the world, or what he should do when he
came back to it. Perhaps these were the happiest
It was the dreamy, half-life of convalescence ; he
was just conscious of the color of the hills, of the
fragrance in the air, but was still too weak to think,
too weak even for memory. The white-hooded
woman was always there ; but when she spoke it was
in French, though with some foreign accent, it
seemed ; besides, lie never saw her face, but only her
eyes. And Norton and Bixby, too, were with him by
turns, nearly all the time ; though he rarely cared to
talk much, even with them, and only felt grateful for
their kindness. He would speak when he was stronger.

It seemed years ago, now, that week when they
came down the Danube ; and they had gone into the
cobwebbed cellar with an old monk, and there, from
the midst of the fungus and the dampness, in a vault
like a grave, he had lifted up a jar of wine, and un-
sealed the stone lips, and the wine came pouring out,
cool and bright, like yellow sunlight. Then he had
not thought so much of it, but now he remembered
how the monk had seemed to taste it ! And he
could fancy himself a monk, immured, forgotten,
with all the little that there was of his life behind
him ; and how the wine would bring sweet memories
of long-gone summers, and the fragrance of the vin-
tage time, and the sparkle and the merriment of
life and light, as it gurgled from the cold stone.

Pirate Gold (1896)

A quiet little place the office would have
seemed to us; and yet there was not a sea on
earth, probably, that did not bear its bound-
ing ship sent out from that small office. And
if it was still, in there, it had a cosmopolitan,
aromatic smell; for every strange letter or
foreign sample with which the place was lit-
tered bespoke the business of the bright, blue
world outside. From the street below came
noise enough, and loud voices of sailors and
shipmen in many a foreign tongue. For in
those days we had freedom of the sea and deal-
ings with the world, and had not yet been
taught to cabin all our energies within the
spindle-rooms of cotton-mills. As Mr. James
looked out of the window he saw a full-rigged
ship, whose generous lines and clipper rig be-
spoke the long-voyage liner, warping slowly
up toward the dock, her fair white lower sails,
still wet from the sea, hanging at the yards,
the stiff salt sparkling in the sunlight.

In the car he got some water for his roses,
but dared not smell of them lest their fra-
grance should be diminished. After reaching
Worcester, he had half an hour to wait ; then
the New York train came trundling in. As
the oars rolled by he strained his old eyes to
each window ; the day was hot, and at an
opened one Jamie saw the face of his Mer-
cedes.

One day, some weeks after this, Mr. James
Bowdoin, on coming down to the little office
on the wharf rather later than usual, went up
the stairs, more than ever choky with that
spicy dust that was the mummy -like odor of
departed trade, and divined that the cause
thereof was in the counting-room itself, whence
issued sounds of much bumping and falling,
as if a dozen children were playing leap-frog
on the floor. Jamie McMurtagh was seated
on the stool in the outer den that was called
the bookkeeper's, biting his pen, with even a
sourer face than usual.