Fragrance in Literature-Jacob William Wright




Books by or about Jacob William Wright


The Long Ago
by Jacob William Wright


It was the spirit of the garden that crept into my boy-heart and left its fragrance, to endure through the years. What the garden stood for—what it expressed—left a mysterious but certain impress. Grandmother's touch hallowed it and made it a thing apart, and the rare soul of her seemed to be reflected in the Lilies of the Valley that bloomed sweetly year by year in the shady plot under her favorite window in the sitting-room. Because the garden was her special province, it expressed her own sturdy, kindly nature. Little wonder, then, that we cherished it; that I loved to roam idly there feeling the enfoldment of that same protection and loving-kindness which drew me to the shelter of her gingham-aproned lap when the griefs of Boyhood pressed too hard upon me; and that we walked in it so contentedly in the cool of the evening, after the Four O'clocks had folded their purple petals for the night.

To be sure, I loved the bright-faced Pansies which smiled cheerily up at me from their round bed—and the dear old Pinks, of a strange fragrance all their own—and the Sweet William, and even the grewsome Bleeding Heart that drooped so sad and forlorn in its alloted corner. Yet it is significant that last night's orchid took me straight back over memory's pathway to that simple yellow rosebush by the fence!

And shining clear and true through the mist I see her who was the Spirit of the Garden. There she stands, on the broad step beside the bed where the Lilies of the Valley grew, leaning firmly upon her one crutch, looking out across her garden to each loved group of her flower-friends—smiling out upon them as she did each day through fifty years—turning at last into the house and taking with her, in her heart, the glory of the Hollyhocks against the brick wall, the perfume of the Narcissus in the border, the wing-song of the humming-bird among, the Honey-suckle, and the warmth of the glad June sunshine.

Once more, in the cool of the late twilight, we'll sit with chin in hand on grandfather's front steps and watch the stars come out ... and hear the loon calling weirdly across the water ... and catch the perfume of the lilacs and narcissus from the garden ... and gather at grandmother's knee to feel her soft fingers in our curls and hear her bedtime story. Half asleep, but ever reluctant, we will trudge stumblingly to the little room with its deep feather bed, and get into our red-flannel nightie. Down on our knees, with our face in the soft edges of the mattress and tiny hands uplifted, we will say our prayers, and end them in the same old way: "God bless father and mother, and grandfather and grandmother ... and ev-ery-body ... else in ... the ... world .. amen ..." and feel those strong mother-arms lifting our sleepy form into the downy depths!

Above the town, just beyond the red iron bridge, the river made a great bend and widened into a lake where the banks were willow-grown, and reeds and rushes and grasses and lily-pads pushed far out into mid-stream, leaving only a narrow channel of clear water.
To the Big Bend our canoe glided often, paddling lazily along and going far up-stream to drift back with the current.
Arms bared to the shoulder, we reached deep beneath the surface to bring up the long-stemmed water-lilies—the great white blossoms, and the queer little yellow-and-black ones.
Like a blight-eyed sprite the tiny marsh-wren flitted among the rushes, and the musk-rat built strange reed-castles at the water's edge.
The lace-winged dragon-fly following our boat darted from side to side, or poised in air, or alighted on the dripping blade of our paddle when it rested for a moment across our knees.
Among the grasses the wind-harps played weird melodies which only Boyhood could interpret.
In this place The River sang its love-songs, and sent forth an answering note to the vast harmonious blending of blue sky and golden day and incense-heavy air and the glad songs of birds.
And here at this tranquil bend The River seemed to be the self-same river of the old, loved hymn we sang so often in the Little Church With The White Steeple—that river which "flows by the throne of God"; fulfilling the promise of the ancient prophet of prophets and bringing "peace ... like a river, and glory ... like a flowing stream."

Somehow, Old Pete seemed more real than most men you knew—except grandfather, of course. There was something unexplainable in the man and his work that rang true—something that was so wholesome and sound. He wasn't like old Hawkins, the grocer—he'd as lief give you a rotten apple as not if he could smuggle it into the bag without you seeing him; and Kline the candy-man sometimes sold you old hard stuff mixed with the fresh. But Old Pete here—he just worked honest and steady—out in the open—at a fixed wage—and he did an honest job and was proud of it even if it was only sawing wood. He worked faithfully until it was done, and then he got a good word and a bowl of coffee and his wages in gold and silver—and went his way rejoicing, leaving behind him the glory of labor well performed blending with the refreshing fragrance of new-cut logs that sifted through the cracks of the old barn.

Grandfather and grandmother, and the garden, and the river, and the song of the robin in the appletree, and all the myriad experiences of the boy-time, are glorified now as never before. In the halcyon Then they were but incidents of the day; in the mellowed Now we learn the truth of them, and catch their wondrous meaning.
The flower blossoms are gleaming as colorful and fragrant today as they did in the Long Ago. The bird-songs are as tuneful now as they were then. The sun is shining just as golden and as genial this moment as it did when we sat on the beams of the mill-race and felt on our faces the spray of tumbling waters sun-warmed in the air.
We need only open our hearts and let the sunshine in!
And Youth and Age, blended and rejoicing, will go hand in hand along the path of life to its far goal bestowing upon us all the freshness of the dew-damp morning, all the vigor of the strenuous noon, and all the peace and calm assurance of the star-lit night.

And when the sun is low we'll wind our poles, at the end of a rare and great day—one that cannot die with the sunset, but that will live so long as Memory is. Tonight we need not trudge over the fields toward home, in happy weariness, to Her who waited and watched for us at the window, peering through the gathering dusk until the anxious heart was stilled by the sight of tired little legs dragging down the street past the postoffice. We'll stay here in the twilight, and watch the fire-flies light their fitful lamps, and the first stars blinking through the afterglow; and when the night drops down see the black bats careening weirdly across the moon.... And we'll stretch out again on the wild grass—soothed by the fragrance of the Mayapple and the violets, and the touch of the night-wind... How still it is ... and The River doesn't seem to sound so loud when your head's on the ground—and your eyes are closed—and you're listening to the far, far, far-off lullaby of tumbling waters—and you're a bit tired, Perhaps ... a bit tired....