Fragrance in Literature -Maria Thompson Daviess

Maria Thompson Daviess, artist and author, was born in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, in 1872 to an uprfumr-middle-class family. Before she was eight years old, her sister and her father died, and her mother moved the family to Nashville. Daviess became active in Nashville society and studied art at Peabody College. After graduation she traveled to Europe and continued her artistic endeavors, visiting museums and meeting famous people including Pope Leo XIII, Auguste Rodin, and French Empress Eugenie. Michelangelo's magnificent art so overwhelmed Daviess that she resigned herself to photography and miniatures. She excelled at both and displayed her miniatures at a Paris salon.
In 1904 Daviess returned to America to teach art. She developed an interest in literature and eventually put aside visual art for writing. She wrote thirteen novels and an autobiography during her fifteen-year career. Her most famous novel, Miss Selma Lue, typifies her style of the excessive optimism associated with the Pollyanna school.
As Daviess wrote her novels, she adapted them to the stage. Phyllis played in Boston and was optioned for film, though there is no evidence it was produced. Some of her work developed from her devotion to woman suffrage, a cause she helped to win in Tennessee. Daviess was a charter member of the Nashville woman suffrage organization and founded the Madison organization after moving to Sweetbriar farm in 1915. She was living at her home in Madison when she wrote her autobiography, Seven Times Seven (1923). At the time, Daviess was fighting severe articular rheumatism. She died as a result of the disease in 1924.
Gary Wake, Henderson
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Works on and by Maria Thompson Daviess


The Golden Bird, by Maria Thompson Daviess

"We'll keep that faith with Mr. Bird to-night, and then I can take you with me before daylight," said Pan as he collected his Romney bundle with his left hand and me with his right and began to pad up the path from the spring-house towards the barn under a shower of the white locust-blossoms, which were giving forth their last breath of perfume in a gorgeous volume.

"Branded, and I don't even know the initials on the brand," I said to myself as I stood on the front steps under a honeysuckle vine that was twining with a musky rose in a death struggle as to the strength of their perfumes, and watched Adam go padding swiftly and silently away from me down the long avenue of elms. A mocking-bird in a tree over by the fence was pouring out showers of notes of liquid love, and ringdoves cooed and softly nestled up under the eaves above my head. "I'm a woman and I've found my mate. I am going to be part of it all," I said to myself as I sank to the step and began to brood with the night around me.

"Well, well, what sort of city farming is going on to-day amongst all these stylish folks?" she asked as she skirted the two cars at what she considered a safe and respectful distance, and handed me a bunch of sweet clover-pinks with a spring perfume that made me think of the breath of Pan O'Woods as I buried my lips in them. "You, Polly, go right home and take off that linen dress, get into a gingham apron, and begin to help Bud milk. I believe in gavots at parties only if they strengthen muscles for milking time."

Long after the twin fathers had had supper and were settled safely by their candles, which were beacons that led them back into past ages, I sat by myself on the front doorstep in the perfumed darkness that was only faintly lit by stars that seemed so near the earth that they were like flowers of light blossoming on the twigs of the roof elms. In a lovely dream I had just gone into the arms of Pan when I heard out beyond the orchard a soft moo of a cow, and with it came a weak little calf echo.
"Somebody's cow has strayed—I wish she belonged to me and could help me with this nutrition job," I said to myself as I rose and ran down under the branches of the gnarled old apple-trees, which sifted down perfumed blow upon my head as I ran. Then I stopped and listened again. Over the old stone wall that separated the orchard from the pasture I heard footsteps and soft panting, also a weak little cow-baby protest of fatigue.

"That, Ann, is the salt of the earth, and I don't see how I consumed life so long without it," said father as he turned, and looked at me with a sparkle in his mystic gray eyes that I had never seen there when we were seated at table with the mighty or making our bow in broadcloth and fine linen in some of the palaces of the world. I didn't know what it was then, but I do now; it is a land-love that lies deep in the heart of every man who is born out in meadows and fields. They never get over it and sometimes transmit it even to the second generation. I felt it stir and run in my blood as we rumbled and bumped up the long avenue of tall old elm-trees that led through deep fields which were even then greening with blue-grass and from which arose a rich loamy fragrance, and finally arrived at the most wonderful old brick house that I had ever seen in all of my life; it seemed to even my much traveled eyes in some ways the most wonderful abode for human beings I had ever beheld. It was not the traditional white-pillared mansion. It was more wonderful. The bricks had aged a rich, red purple, and were rimmed and splotched with soft green and gray moss under traceries of vines that were beginning to put out rich russet buds. The windows were filled with tiny diamond panes of glass, which glittered in the gables from the last rays of the sun setting over Old Harpeth, and the broad, gray shingled roof hovered down over the wide porch which would have sheltered fifty people safely. A flagstone walk and stone steps led up from the drive, seemingly right into the wide front door, which had small, diamond-paned, heavily shuttered windows in it, and queer holes on each side.

If I had discovered the shadow of tradition in the rest of the old house, I walked into the very depths of them as I entered the bedroom of my foremothers. Deep crimson coals of fire were in a squat fireplace, and a last smoldering log of some kind of fragrant wood broke into fragments and sent up a little gust of blue and gold flame as if in celebration of my arrival. There was the remnant of a candle burning on a small table beside a bed that was very near, if not quite, five feet high, beside which were steps for the purposes of ascension. All the rest of the room was in a blur of lavender-scented darkness, and I only saw that both side walls folded down and were lit with the deep old gables, through the open windows of which young moon rays were struggling to help light the situation for me. As I looked at that wide, puffy old bed, with a blur of soft colors in its quilt and the valance around its posts and tester, I suddenly became as utterly weary as a child who sees its mother's arms outstretched at retiring time. I don't know how I got out of my clothes and into my lace and ribbons, with only the flickering candle and the dying log to see by, but in less time than I ever could have dreamed might be consumed in the processes of going to bed I climbed the little steps and dived into the soft bosom of the old four-poster.

At his heels I toiled along with the sheep babies hugged close to my breast until at last we deposited all three on a bed of fragrant hay in a corner of the barn.
"What'll I feed 'em?" I questioned anxiously. "There isn't a bit of any kind of food on this place but the ribs of a hog and a muffin and a cup of coffee."
"We'll give her a quart of hot water with a few drops of this heart stimulant I have in my pocket, and she'll do the rest for the family as soon as she warms up. She's got plenty of milk and needs to have it drawn badly. There you are—go to it, youngsters. She is revived by just being out of the wind and in the warmth, and I don't believe she needs any medicine. She wouldn't let them to her udder if she wasn't all right. Now we can leave them alone for a time, and I'll give her a warm mash in a little while." As he spoke Adam calmly walked away from the interesting small family, which was just beginning a repast with great vigor, and paused at the feed-room door. With more pride than I had ever felt when entering a ball-room with a Voudaine gown upon me and a bunch of orchids, I followed and stood at his side.

"I've got two apples and a double handful of black walnut kernels. The drinks from the spring are on you," he answered as he led me down through a thicket of slim trees that were sending out a queer fragrance to a huge old stone spring-house from which gushed a stream of water. "Just these two spring days are bringing out the locust buds almost before time. Smell 'em!" he said as he looked up into the tops of the slim trees, which were showing a pink-green tinge of color in the red sunset rays.

As I sat and gazed from the dark room through a large old window, which was swung open on heavy hinges to allow the sap-scented breeze to drift in and fan the fire of lingering winter, out into an old garden with brick-outlined walks and climbing bare rose vines upon which was beginning to be poured the silver enchantment of a young moon, Uncle Cradd, in his deep old voice, which was like the notes given out by an ancient violin, began to read a chapter from his old Book which began with the exhortation, "Let brotherly love continue," and laid down a course of moral conduct that seemed so impossible that I sat spellbound to the last words, "Grace be with you all. Ahmen."

"Child, if you attempt to do the things that Adam wants you to do for and with live stock you may see miracles being hatched out and born, but you'll be too worn out to notice 'em. Trap nests indeed! I've got to have some time to make my water waves and offer daily prayer!" And with this ejaculation of good-natured indignation, evidently at the memory of sundry and various poultry prods, Mrs. Silas betook herself to the house with a beautiful and serene dignity. As she went she stopped to break a sprig from a huge old lilac that was beginning to burst its brown buds and to put up half a yard of rambler that trailed across the path with its treacherous thorns.
"Your lilacs are breaking scent already," she called back to me over her shoulder.
A woman can experience no greater sensation of joy than that which she feels when she first realizes that she is the mistress of a lilac bush. Neither her début dance nor her first proposal of sentiment equals it. It is the same way about the first egg she gathers with her own hands; the sensation is indescribable.

I really did have a thrill of pure joy in that old barn. It wasn't like anything I had ever seen before, and was as far removed from a garage as is a brown-hearted chestnut burr from a soufflé of maroons served on a silver dish. I could hear the moth-eaten string of steeds munching noisily over at one end of the huge darkness, and the odor that arose from their repast was of corn and not of suffocating gasoline. Tall weeds and long frames with teeth in them, which gave them the appearance of huge alligator mouths yawning from the dusk to snap me, pressed close on each side. Straps and ropes and harness were draped from the beams and along the walls, and the combined aroma of corn and hay and leather and horses seemed an inspiration to a lusty breath.