Fragrance in Literature-North, South and Over the Sea by M.E. Francis

North, South and Over the Sea
by M.E. Francis (Mrs. Francis Blundell)




Through the open window a fine view could be had of tall grimy houses,
and sooty roofs, with scarce a glint of sky between the
chimney-stacks, and far down in the street below was the turmoil of
city life; the roar and rush of it came echoing up even to that odd,
peaceful little chamber. The man neither saw nor heard; as he stood
there it seemed to him that he was looking out upon the moorland, with
the smell of the heather strong and spicy and sweet in his nostrils,
and the cry of the peewit in his ears. His chest heaved; then he
turned about and faced the room again. Yes, it was no dream; here was
the house-place of a North Country cottage. The sturdy deal table in
the midst of the sanded floor, the oak dresser with its noble array of
crockery, the big chest in the corner, the screened settle on one side
of the hearth; and there, kneeling on the patchwork rug, the sturdy,
strong-backed old woman, in bedgown and petticoat and frilled white
cap, with lean, vigorous arms half-buried in a shining mass of dough.

Mrs. Rigby stretched out her hand and touched the sprig of heather
wistfully.

"The moor mun be lookin' gradely now," she said; "all one sheet o'
bloom, I reckon. Eh, I mind how I used to leave windows open, summer
an' winter, an let the air come in, soomtimes hot an' soomtimes cowd,
but al'ays wi' the smell o' the moor in it. Dear, when I think on't I
can scarce breathe here."


Mrs. Cross's little garden was, however, a pleasant spot, even on this
glowing, breathless afternoon. She had been watering her borders, and
a delicious smell of damp earth mingled with the fragrance of the
old-fashioned flowers beneath the mellow old walls of her cottage. A
fine array of sweet-williams and larkspurs and hollyhocks stood in a
row before them; jessamine and honeysuckle clung to the old brick and
festooned themselves over the rickety porch. Between the green
tendrils one got a glimpse of the picture within--the dresser with its
wealth of shining crockery, the log-fire leaping merrily on the
hearth, a little brown teapot winking in the glow, the table spread
with a clean white cloth and set out for two.


He followed her into a narrow passage, and thence into an odd, little
three-cornered room; a room furnished in mahogany and green rep, with
a few brightly-bound books on the shining round table in the centre,
framed oleographs on the walls, stuffed birds in glass cases on the
mantel-piece, and a pervading odour of paraffin.

The long warm day was drawing to its close; over the sandhills yonder
the sun was sinking in a great glory of scarlet and purple and gold.
The air was warm still, and yet full of those myriad indescribable
essences that betoken the falling of the dew; and mingling with, yet
without dominating them, was the sweet penetrating odour of newly-cut
hay.


He was skirting the wheat-field now, the tall, green ears stirring
with a pleasant rustling sound; in some distant reeds a bunting was
warbling, a belated lark was circling slowly downwards over his head.
From the village yonder voices and laughter fell faintly on his ear,
and all these mingled sounds served but to accentuate the prevailing
impression of peace and stillness; as John strolled onwards, his heavy
steps crushing out the aromatic perfume of the thyme which grew
profusely along the path, he was insensibly soothed and calmed by the
evening quietude.

He could hear voices and hurrying feet in the road below; people were
beginning to assemble at the church; by-and-by the whole procession,
headed by the band, would go marching down the street and in at the
park gates to be refreshed and complimented at Thornleigh Hall; then
it would take its way across the fields to Upton, turning the big
banner so that the arms of the Squire of that place would be most _en
evidence_ when they halted for similar entertainment before the door
of _his_ mansion. Thence, through Upton village along the lane to the
Thornleigh Arms; then the dinner--mirth and jollity lasting till
evening. Old Bob, with knotted hands clasping the wooden arms of his
high-backed chair, saw it all in fancy, his memory conjuring up each
detail of the well-known scenes. He could see the grassy fields and
the hedges white with bloom; he could smell the fragrance of the
trampled earth; he could feel the sunshine and the brisk air; and then
the warmth, the brightness, the good cheer at the Thornleigh Arms--his
mouth watered at the thought of them.

They would just be about "turnin' in" at the Union, and Jim, laying
himself down on the pallet next to his, would be making the
time-honoured joke about the absence of spring-mattresses and
feather-beds, with which he was usually wont to regale the other
inmates at this hour. As Giles turned down the spotless
lavender-scented sheets he thought longingly of the workhouse twill.